This is a review of the book "Do I Know God?" by Tullian Tchividjian. It was provided to me by the author and publisher and I am receiving no remuneration for this review (although Tullian was kind enough to sign the book for me!).
I could see this as the "go-to" book for people who are struggling with doubts about their faith or maybe for a hypothetical seeker who I am imagining in my mind who has heard and is wrestling with the gospel and wants to know more about what commitment to Christ will look like.
What I appreciate about this book is that it is a book on assurance but it doesn't follow the "assurance at all costs" approach that I have sometimes seen. What I mean is that on more than one occasion I have heard evangelists and others tell people that once they have prayed a sinners prayer or something of the like that they should "nail down" the date and never doubt their salvation again.
Tullian doesn't do this. In fact, though he doesn't quote him, Tullian in some ways follows the pattern of Jonathan Edwards in "The Religious Affections." Edwards divides his book into two sections - the first one showing signs that are no certain proof that one's conversion is genuine, and the second showing those things which are distinguishing marks of genuine conversion. Tullian does roughly the same thing here.
Now if you are a theologian wanting the full orbed treatment of assurance in excruciating detail by all means read Edwards - I myself hope to finish the Religious Affections some day - I've tried numerous times and can't make quite make it (henceforth I will call the Religious Affections my own personal literary Mt. Everest).
But if you want a book that is biblically and theologically sound that you can put in the hands of a normal person (that's right, by implication, theologians are not "normal" in the normal sense of that word) then I doubt you could do any better than this book.
As I say, I appreciate the way Tullian laid it out here. Not only Edwards, but the Puritans and others in the past were far more concerned to distinguish true conversion from false, and I think this is something we've neglected in our day and to our peril. He lays out six things that are no certain evidence of salvation:
1. It's not enough just to pray the sinners prayer or walk forward during an evangelistic invitation.
2. It's not enough to simply remember a time in your life when you made a decision for Jesus Christ.
3. It's not enough just to attend church, tithe, teach Sunday school, preach sermons, or commit yourself to religious activities.
4. It's not enough to dive into spiritual experiences apart from a relationship with the living God.
5. It's not enough to live a good life or be a good person.
6. It's not enough to profess that you have faith in Christ if your life never shows any evidence of new life.
On the other hand, the distinguishing marks by which we can find assurance are:
1. Reliance on the character and promises of God.
2. A change in our affections.
3. A new desire for obedience.
When discussing assurance I think it is healthy to mention just what we mean by assurance, and what level of certainty we get in our assurance of salvation. I am a bit aware of some of the philosophical debates about certainty, but here I am just thinking of how the average man or woman thinks of certainty.
I think that the notion that assurance is based on a prayer or walking an aisle or some other form of decisional regeneration looks at assurance from a contractual standpoint. It is as if we can be certain of our salvation because we have "signed the contract" in a sense. This is one of the notions that Tullian does a nice job of dispelling.
But I think that people often want something akin to mathematical certainty - they want to be as assured of their salvation as they are that 2 + 2 = 4. In my humble opinion, this drives some of the discussion on assurance - what are the sure signs I can point to in order to be certain I am saved?
But Christian assurance is not like that. It is possible that I have been deceived and am a false professor. A change in my affections so that I desire Christ more than anything adds to my assurance, and obedience does also. But from a purely subjective standpoint it is the common experience of the Christian that the longer he walks with the Lord the more aware he becomes of his sin. Thus, there can be a sense in which his affections are becoming stronger and his obedience more consistent, yet he is more sensitive to the corruption of his heart and feels that his affections and obedience are less than they have ever been.
So in that regard I think we need to give the greatest weight for assurance and certainty to the first item - reliance on the character and promises of God - trust that when we are faithless, He is faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
And we need to keep our coldness of heart and lack of obedience in proper perspective. Tullian helpfully points out that we will become aware of these things and offers what is now one of my new favorite quotes to help us keep the proper perspective on our affections and obedience. This is from John Murray:
It is one thing for the enemy to occupy the capital, it is another for his defeated hosts to harass the garrisons of the Kingdom.
I think this puts affections and obedience in proper perspective, and that angst we feel over the coldness of our affections and our disobedience is actually a sign that the enemy probably isn't occupying the capital of our hearts.
So, all in all, this is a great book that is highly recommended.