I recently had the privilege of reading Tullian Tchividjian’s Jesus + Nothing = Everything (Wheaton: Crossway, 2011). This book is basically a 200 page account of Tchividjian’s ‘discovery’ of the doctrines of grace over the past few years. Though he does mention some of his church struggles, most of the book is dedicated to explaining what sovereign and amazing grace is as well as what God’s grace means in the Christian life. The main point of the book, obviously, is that Jesus plus nothing equals everything.
I have to admit I’m annoyed by trendy bumper sticker, church marquee, or twitter theology – aka “one liners.” Sometimes they are dangerous because 1) they tend to become the lens by which people think about all things (i.e. Warren’s purpose driven this or that, which is essentially semi-pelagian) and 2) they are often unclear and unhelpful (i.e. Piper’s “God is the Gospel” – God is not the gospel, the gospel is the good news and announcement of Christ’s work for sinners [1 Cor 15.1-5]). But I do think Tchividjian’s “Jesus + Nothing = Everything“ is a helpful way to explain the gospel of grace.
The basic structure of the book goes like this: 1) Everything. Here he discusses how everything this world has to offer doesn’t fulfill the heart and soul’s deepest longing. Only God in Christ can do that. 2) Nothing. Here Tchividjian talks about idolatry, addictions, and adding to the gospel. He also explains how moralism and legalism are traps we fall into. 3) Jesus. In this section he explains the gospel, utilizing Colossians 1 and other texts. He says, “Jesus is everything, and therefore, for mankind the gospel is everything.” 4) Nothing. This part of the book is sort of a repeat of the second part (#2 above), only with more depth. 5) Everything. Again, this part of the book is an in depth review of the first part of the book (#1 above).
I like these quotes:
“Behavior modification cannot change the human heart. Outside cleanup never leads to inside cleanup. Only inside cleanup leads to outside cleanup – and there’s only One who can do that” (p. 55).
“The gospel is good news – wonderful, positive, invigorating, wholesome, nurturing news – precisely because our relationship to God does not depend on our zeal, our efforts, and our generosity, but on Christ’s” (p. 140).
There are two mild critiques I have of this book. First, the overall structure seemed random and tough to follow. There was so much restating and repetition I was frustrated by the end of the book. The writing style didn’t “flow” for me. The book would have been much better if it were half as long with no repetition. Second, this book is exactly like quite a bit of other material out there today. It is something like a greatest hits album including stuff by Tim Keller, Michael Horton, Jerry Bridges, Gerhard Forde, John Piper, and Modern Reformation. Please note this is good, solid, and biblical material that we should be reading! I’m not saying Tchividjian is plagiarizing at all. And I have absolutely no theological quibbles with this book; I think it is an outstanding explanation of amazing grace. But you may not want to purchase it if you’re very familiar with the above named resources. If you’ve read/heard the above resources, Jesus + Nothing = Everything might be too much of a review for you. It was for me.
Though I do have those two minor critiques, I recommend and appreciate this book. It’d be perfect for Christians who are just learning about grace – about what the gospel means in our daily life. I may loan it out to a few newer members of the church I’m at, those who are just discovering the beauty of the doctrines of grace. Jesus + Nothing = Everything is a great introduction to a gospel-centered, grace-full view of Christianity and life.