Deceptive Dust – A Response to Paul Zahl

Tullian Tchividjian is, by all outward appearances, an unrepentant and recalcitrant sinner who is still attempting to paint himself as the humble prodigal son.

Tullian, you know how to get ahold of me. Please, seek reconciliation and true repentance, not this saccharine substitute of your own making. The good news is that it isn’t too late for you. You can still be reconciled to God and to his people, but not if you continue to live apart from God’s covenant promises by justifying your self with your pithy turns of phrase. I said long ago that I pray for you daily, and I still do. Please reach out to me, or Kevin, or Chris Rosebrough. Seek the actual reconciliation that comes through God’s people and his discipline. Shut your website down today, and seek to be restored to real genuine fellowship with God and his family.


For anyone who has followed my writing for any amount of time, it is clear that my blog is intimately tied up with the saga of Tullian Tchividjian. Things have been relatively quiet over the past year or so on this front, but it seems like Tullian has finally decided to restore himself to Christian ministry. He has recently launched, which so far has been more of the same antinomian drivel from Tullian, and features a couple of articles which amount to stroking Tullian on the back and pretending everything is going to be okay.

Paul Zahl (Which come on, that’s just fun to say), recently added to the mix with an article called Dust became Mercy: A Word about my friend Tullian. Zahl opens with a discussion of a Twilight Zone in which a condemned criminal magically spreads a handful of dust through the town which acts as a contagion and spreads forgiveness. He likens Tullian’s downfall and life to that dust, with the implication that Tullian will now spread forgiveness.

I’m not going to respond to the article point by point, but let me take my own example from popular culture. Spoiler Alert.

Who is the Better Doctor?

On April 23, 1997 the Episode Real Life aired on Star Trek: Voyager. The episode centers around the holographic Doctor. This doctor serves a common Star Trek trope of the character learning how to be human (compare with Mister Spock from the Original Series, Lt. Commander Data from the Next Generation, and in some ways Constable Odo from Deep Space Nine. We don’t talk about Star Trek: Enterprise on this blog… if I pretend it never happened, my childhood can’t be ruined). In an attempt to further understand what it is like to be human, the Doctor creates a fictional family on the ship’s holodeck (a three-dimensional holographic simulation). He invites some of his friends over for dinner, and they note that his family is too perfect. After some adjustments, the Doctor returns to a family full of conflict, difficulty, and pain. Toward the end of the scene, the Doctor’s holographic daughter suffers an injury which will ultimately prove fatal. Another common trope is that when someone is dying, you tell them that everything is going to be fine. Reversing the expectation, when his now blind daughter with irreparable brain hemorrhages asks “Daddy, am I going to die?” In what I think is the climax of the episode, and one that causes me to cry real tears which match the Doctor’s holographic ones, chokes out “You’re too sick to get better.”

Let me put this bluntly. Paul Zahl is lying to everyone around him, to himself, and most destructively… to Tullian and his family. He is the lying doctor telling the patient who is moments from death that it is going to be just fine.

Ask yourself, who is the better doctor? The one who lies to the dying patient, or the one who comforts them with the truth? The one who tells the patient the cancer isn’t a big deal, or the one who cuts the cancer out?

I have said it before, I would rejoice with the angels in heaven at the repentance of Tullian Tchividjian. I would welcome him as a brother with open arms. But contrary to whatever Paul Zahl claims, I love Tullian too much to lie to him about something much more harmful than a head injury.

Tullian Tchividjian is, by all outward appearances, an unrepentant and recalcitrant sinner who is still attempting to paint himself as the humble prodigal son. Let me provide three points of evidence to establish that claim.

Ongoing Adultery

Tullian is living in unrepentant adultery due to his remarriage to Stacie Phillips. I would not advocate further compounding his sin (or hers) by divorcing her, but I cannot believe that Tullian is repentant for a sin that he will not even acknowledge was a sin. Furthermore, as a husband, he is supposed to love his wife as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). What did that look like in the case of Kim? Tullian sinned against her, and then when he got caught he threw her out to the crowd as a distraction. Fathers are to love their children and not provoke them to wrath (Ephesians 6:4). Cheating on their mother, publicly humiliating her and them, and then moving on with life as though it didn’t happen is the opposite of that.

Abandoning Church Discipline

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