We need to be better Bereans than the Bereans were. These are scary times in the market place of worldviews. We live in an era where many are determined to blur the theological lines of distinction between biblical Christianity and all the other bogus brands. Christians with a public profile must be extra vigilant in guarding against Gospel compromise and, unfortunately, I continually find a distinct lack of vigilance from far too many people. History shows that the fundamentalists veered into the ditch of separating from anything and everything that showed the slightest sign of disagreement or friendship with anyone who showed the slightest sign of disagreement. But just lately I find myself thinking that that is a better ditch to fall into than the ecumenical chasm that lies on the other side of the road.
The Greek word used for church in the New Testament is ekklesia and it means "called out ones". If we are Christians then we are a part of Christ's Ekklesia and are meant to be distinct and set apart from the world. The last thing we need right now is a blurring of these lines of distinction and I am convicted that I need to be willing to raise these issues with all concerned in my wider circle of friends. I say this as a matter of conscience rather than as a delusion of my own theological clout. What is not needed right now is a witch hunt and burning at the stake of all those who are dancing on the edges of dangerous liaisons. But true Christians with zeal for the once for all delivered faith need to be loving and gracious enough to call on our vulnerable brethren to repair their fences.
There is a gate into the sheepfold and a gate is useless without a fence!
Cleaner than a Mark Driscoll sermon, just like a Michael Moore documentary (except for the truth part), more powerful than global warming and Al Gore combined, more realistic than Avatar, more historical than Back to the Future, more patriotic than Barack Obama, Monumental is truly Monumental.
Ok, jokes aside, I really believe this is a movie worth supporting. Wherever you stand on the nationalism spectrum, I think we will all benefit by revisiting the fact that God is the hero of history and throughout history God has used fallen men for His glorious purposes. I don't think we should buy into efforts to Christianize every founding father of America, but neither should we bury the fact that many of them were Christians with a biblical worldview who landed in the New World for reasons driven by this worldview. History is His Story and that is reason enough to join me tomorrow on one of my extremely rare cinematic experiences. Some theaters still have tickets available. And hey, when was the last time you saw a movie with this censorship warning:
Very strong Christian, Pro-American and patriotic, moral worldview about the search for the values that made America great; no foul language; no violence; no sex; no nudity; no alcohol; no smoking or drugs; and, nothing else objectionable.
Amidst all the contending for the truth that goes on here, it is important to remember the truth we contend for, and why it is so worth contending for. At the heart of the Gospel lies the truth of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. A doctrine disdained and despised by many who cannot reconcile God's love with His wrath. But God is not a sociopath! It is precisely because of God's immense love that His wrath against wickedness is also so great. And the highness of His character demands that He deal with the smallest of sins.
And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty (Exodus 34:5-7a)
A Holy God cannot just clear the guilty or He would violate His Holy character. God had to find a way to demonstrate His reconciling love toward sinners without violating His character and nature. This is one of my favorite ever songs (perhaps my favorite) because in it, Steve Camp captures the only solution God had for this great problem - Penal Substitutionary Atonement. There is only one way because Jesus is the only way! Christ had to die for God!
Christ died for God and God was satisfied with Christ Pure, unblemished sacrifice Oh, Son of Grace
For who are we to boast not of works that we have done But by faith in God's own Son We are saved
And we cry, Holy Worthy is the Lamb God's love revealed to man In the earth And we cry, Holy Glory to the King Through Whom salvation brings The new birth
Christ died for God and God has made Him Lord of all For He drank the bitter gall The cup of wrath
But He rose in majesty that grace might reign through righteousness Blessed obedience Our Sabbath rest
And we cry, Holy Worthy is the Lamb God's love revealed to man In the earth And we cry, Holy Glory to the King Through Whom salvation brings The new birth
My head has been spinning over the last two years at the shocking decisions made by so many people I respect. Who would have ever thought that John Piper would invite Rick Warren to Desiring God, or that The Gospel Coalition would say almost nothing publicly about their member Mark Driscoll's inexcusable behavior, or that James MacDonald would put his stamp of approval on the ministry of TD Jakes. Am I in the matrix? Has modern evagelicalism built a portal into an alternate reality? Have the real James MacDonald and John Piper been abducted by aliens and are currently being impersonated by shape shifting imposters? My friends still laugh at these theories but not too much anymore.
What is going on? I don't know the answer to that, but in the midst of all of this mayhem I have become greatly encouraged by the number of godly men in this country who have been galvanized to action and enlisted in the truth war. Perhaps Rob Bell fully removing his sheep suit was the catalyst for all this combativeness and I finally have something to thank him for. Whatever it is, the growing clamor of zeal by men who desire to earnestly contend for the "Once for all delivered faith", and oppose all other "gospels" is probably the most exciting development in the last twelve months.
One great example of this is Pastor Arvid Svendsen (sounds very Scandinavian) who has withdrawn his mega-church from James MacDonald's Harvest network and given a lengthy public statement as to why. Thank God for men like Arvid, may God bless his congregation for the stand he has taken, may godly men rally around him, and may his stand be an integral part of the much needed correction needed to good preachers who start to go maverick. Read on and be greatly encouraged . . .
March 7, 2012
An Important Message from the Elder Board of Harvest Bible Chapel New Lenox:
Our church began on January 1, 2003 as "Cornerstone Church" with the purpose to glorify God by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our community. On October 2, 2005, we joined with Harvest Bible Fellowship (HBF) and became Harvest Bible Chapel New Lenox (HBCNL). We were excited to be HBF's first "transition church".
By God's grace, we have enjoyed many good times of fellowship and growth since our partnership with HBF. God has worked in our midst as we have determined to preach the Word of God, to call men and women to faith and repentance by the enablement of the Holy Spirit, and to trust God to do His work of drawing them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ by His grace and for His glory.
Decision to Disassociate with Harvest Bible Chapel Fellowship
As the Elder Board of HBCNL, we now come to a significant moment of change in regards to our affiliation with HBF. Over the past year and a half the elders of HBCNL have sensed an increasing shift away from the convictions and philosophy of ministry that were in place when we joined HBF in October, 2005. In light of these concerns, we are disassociating from Harvest Bible Fellowship, effective March 31, 2012. We will then assume our previous name (held from January 1, 2003 to October 2, 2005), "Cornerstone Church", and continue to serve the Lord together as an independent church.
Harvest Bible Chapel Ministry new distinctives that we oppose:
In order to be clear, greater detail concerning our differences with Harvest Bible Fellowship is necessary. Though we are not accusing Harvest Bible Fellowship or Pastor James MacDonald of abandoning the faith, we are convinced that they have drifted into error in a number of key ministry areas. That drift can be evidenced by at least three major changes in their convictions and philosophy of ministry:
1. A Growing Personality/Celebrity Pastor Centered Ministry
The Elder Board of HBCNL is troubled by HBF's commitment to the establishment of "multi-sites", also called "video campuses", in Chicagoland with Pastor MacDonald projected weekly on the video screen as the lead preacher. Multi-sites minimize the gifting of the Holy Spirit for vocational pastor/teachers to exercise "live" teaching and preaching, personally shepherding the flock, and directly practicing spiritual oversight. The multi-site model is foreign to the biblical model of ministry in the New Testament, as pastors and elders are told by Peter to "…shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight…" (I Peter 5:2a). Our observations of HBF indicate that a corporate mentality is in place that seeks to promote Pastor MacDonald in a way we cannot support.
2. Pastor MacDonald's associations with "pastors" who hold to errant theologies
We do not oppose pastors having friendships with those who are not genuinely regenerate, as long as the goal is be a strong voice of the Gospel to the unregenerate minister. However, we are deeply concerned that HBF has been disrupted by associations and influences of men who hold to errant theologies and ministry distinctives.
A number of those associations include "pastors" given over to a hybrid prosperity/empowerment/love-over-doctrinal-precision posture. The resultant troubling actions, decisions, and statements from Pastor MacDonald demonstrate the negative impact of those associations. For example, Pastor MacDonald allowing prosperity teacher Steven Furtick to preach at HBC Rolling Meadows in August of 2011 is something that would not have happened five years ago at Harvest. Another example of influence was Pastor MacDonald's statement, "I am also excited to hear him (T.D. Jakes) state his views on money, which may be closer to Scripture than the monasticism currently touring reformed world". T. D. Jakes is an empowerment/prosperity gospel preacher. Associations like these have brought about harmful influence. Further, despite Pastor MacDonald's claims to the contrary, the large majority of the public's perception of associations with errant pastors is that there is endorsement in belief and mission.
3. Lack of Discernment in the Elephant Room Discussions
It was learned in the Fall of 2011 that the January 25, 2012, "Elephant Room 2" (ER2) conference would host T.D. Jakes as one of the seven pastors invited to form a discussion panel. The conference was intended to address difficult ministry topics with the seven pastor panel. The announcement of T.D. Jakes' appearance at ER2 was publicly criticized by a number of godly pastors and evangelical leaders. The elder board of HBCNL was also unanimous in our strong disagreement with the Jakes ER2 invitation. As referenced above, Jakes is clearly associated with many TV stations and ministries that are steeped in the false teaching of the Prosperity Gospel/Word Faith Movement. That reality in itself made the ER2 invitation alarming.
Equally alarming is the fact that Jakes is ordained in the Oneness Pentecostal Church, which denies the Trinity. Rather than believing in the biblically correct view of God as one God eternally existing as three "persons", the Oneness Pentecostal church holds to the errant view that God is one God existing as three "manifestations". The Oneness Pentecostal view denies the biblical view of the Trinity, denies the co-eternality, co-existence, and co-equality of the Son and the Holy Spirit with God the Father, and instead claims that one God shows up in history in three different "manifestations".
When given the opportunity, the orthodox pastor must confront unbiblical teachings and doctrines:
"I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
A large segment of the "evangelical church" has drifted away from strong adherence to biblical doctrines, sadly denigrating the precise and clear explanation of those doctrines. The current thinking among many preachers is that doctrinal precision should be laid aside, and love should be the priority in the church of Jesus Christ so that unity would be attained. The opposite is true. A high regard for biblical truth and the guarding of doctrinal precision is the basis of unity, as the Lord Jesus Christ prayed, "…sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth…" (John 17:17). The truth of the Scriptures clearly defined is the highest expression of love for the listener. Strict adherence to Biblical truth and doctrine, not doctrinal leniency, brings about the unity for which the Lord prayed.
Both Pastor Driscoll and Pastor MacDonald failed to address Jakes' prosperity gospel teaching at ER2. In fact, Jakes' prosperity gospel teaching was not publicly questioned or addressed at all. The reason for ignoring that entire area of false teaching at the ER2 is unknown, since we were told that we would be hearing about Jakes' views on the subject.
During the ER2 session with Pastor MacDonald and Pastor Driscoll, Jakes stated that he was not comfortable with the orthodox term "persons" or the modalistic term "manifestations". Specifically, Jakes stated, "My doctrinal statement is no different from yours except the word… 'manifest' instead of 'persons', which you describe as 'modalist', but I describe it as 'Pauline'."
Jakes then proceeded to make a case for the validity of the term "manifestations" to describe the Godhead based on I Timothy 3:16. However, the phrase Jakes referred to, "He was manifested in the flesh" found in I Timothy 3:16 is not referring to the essence of the Triune Godhead, but rather explains the incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ. It was deeply troubling that none of the other six pastors on the ER2 panel challenged Jakes' incorrect interpretation of I Timothy 3:16.
Jakes' view on the Trinity, is not only deficient, it is outside the realm of orthodoxy, and can only be labeled as heresy. Jakes urged that we not be too caught in those issues which were surrounded in mystery. Yet we read in Scripture that we must "…contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints..." (Jude 3).
Though we are called to speak to the lost, the church is warned to never welcome the false teacher into any gathering so that his words are given any type of legitimacy:
"If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." (2 John 10,11)
The Bible is clear about the stance one should take towards false teachers. T.D. Jakes' stated position on the Godhead is not an orthodox view of the Trinity. Jakes attempted to defend his position of the Trinity using language that is unique to the modalist who denies the Trinity. Unlike T.D. Jakes, no Trinitarian is uncomfortable with the word "persons" to describe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the one God of the Bible.
Ultimately, Jakes' position on the Trinity is not the issue. Rather, the problem is HBF and Pastor MacDonald's not correcting or rebuking the false teaching presented in ER2. Pastor MacDonald's doctrinal tolerance and leniency before, during, and after the ER2 is at the heart of our departure from HBF. Pastor MacDonald's subsequent defenses of the ER2 on his website and on Moody Radio lead us to conclude that this change in direction established is part of the future ministry of HBF. Grievously, doctrinal leniency and disregard for proper theological examination from the pastors present marked the event.
We have addressed our concerns with the leadership of HBF
We addressed our concerns with Kent Shaw and Bill Molinari on two separate occasions, and also had additional conversations. We expressed to them our deep disappointment with ER2. We repeatedly expressed the clear violation of Scripture that was taking place by giving T.D. Jakes a platform to espouse his errant theology concerning the Trinity and the false gospel and prosperity and empowerment that marks his ministry. During all meetings, both Kent Shaw and Bill Molinari were gracious and brotherly. Although the desire to work out our difficulties with HBF was present, it became clear that we could not continue to partner with HBF as directed by Pastor MacDonald.
What is our future direction?
In light of the decision to withdraw from Harvest Bible Fellowship, what is our direction for the future?
1. Independent Church
Our conviction is that we remain independent, with no denominational affiliation at this point. That decision does not mean that we will never form any association with a fellowship of churches in the future, but at this time, we will remain an independent church.
2. A "new" name
Our new name will be "Cornerstone Church", our original name when we began the ministry in 2003. The belief and mission of Cornerstone Church will be given over to the authority of the inspired Word of God, the grace of our Lord, and the n We are deeply committed to declaring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. we will through the ministry of the word, prayer, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we will inform the community that we have changed our name, and will continue to meet in the same place, continuing to seek to obediently minister the word and reach out to the lost for the sake of the glory of Christ.
A new constitution
Legally, we must craft a new constitution, and make necessary legal requirements for the name change. Most of that work has been accomplished, our goal is to have all our necessary obligations completed by March 31, 2012. However, we are not dissolving as a church, we are simply dropping our affiliation. Transition to Cornerstone Church will take place during March 2012.
Please pray for our church as we continue to minister, and that God will be glorified in all that we do and say. Pray also for Pastor James MacDonald and HBF, that they would be attentive to the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Sincerely in Christ,
Pastor Arvid Svendsen
Elder Board: Carl Pignotti, Don Howley, Steve Long, Dean Porter, Jim Schwab, Rex Stouffer
This jaw dropping interview took place after the Elephant Room conference where James MacDonald interviews three African American pastors. And the reason for people who criticize TD Jakes is because of his heretical teaching? No!!! It would appear that Jakes' skin color gives him diplomatic immunity from theological scrutiny . . .
It is beyond me why James MacDonald would post this video. Amidst the true points made here there is a lot to be disturbed about. If James MacDonald really wants to help the African American community then a good place to start would be to stop affirming those who plunder this very community with their outrageously heretical prosperity teaching. How about sitting down and discussing the gospel they preach rather than the color of their skin. Is it just possible that the content of TD Jakes' teaching could have anything to do with those Christian leaders who are critical of him? It would seem that another elephant just entered the room.
I cannot think of a better combination than the combined apologetic superpowers of Dr. Voddie Baucham and Dr. James White to discuss this issue. This discussion is gold - please check it out!
Most readers would be aware of my fondness for the teaching/apologetics ministry of Voddie Baucham. It was the reason we invited him to come and minister at our Reformation Resurrection conference in Denmark last year. Voddie is a breath of fresh air on the evangelical landscape not only because of his theological expertise and apologetic ability to defend the Christian worldview, but also because of his combativeness against false worldviews and willingness call an elephant "an elephant". Amidst the fog and mystery of the behind the scenes machinations at work in preparation for James MacDonald's "Elephant in the Room" conference, Voddie wrote this article of wonderful clarity and frankness over what really went on and his connection to the whole process. If you have not already read this please do:
The Elephant in the Room by Voddie Baucham (January 30, 2012)
This past week a firestorm erupted over the recent “Elephant Room 2.” The controversy centers around the decision to invite Bishop T.D. Jakes to participate in the event. The central questions in the debate are 1) whether or not Bishop Jakes holds to the historic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, 2) whether it was appropriate to invite (and feature) him without first having clarified his position on this cardinal doctrine, and 3) whether he cleared up the matter.
I was scheduled to speak at Harvest Bible Chapel on the weekend following ER2 which raised significant questions about my stance on the matter. While I do not consider it my responsibility to comment on every controversy, I do recognize my duty to clarify matters with which I am involved directly, and/or those that impact the congregation I am called to shepherd. Hence, my explanation now.
My Invitation to ER2
In October of 2011, I was invited to participate in The Elephant Room 2. The invitation followed Mark Dever’s decision to pull out. James MacDonald called me and asked me to take his place. He also informed me of the controversy at that time surrounding the invitation to Jakes and Dever’s decision to pull out, and that Crawford Loritts had agreed to fill in. I knew James MacDonald only indirectly, and I had only recently heard of the Elephant Room.
Initially, it sounded like a very good idea to “pin Jakes down” on the Trinity. My area of emphasis in my theological training is Evangelism/Apologetics. Moreover, I addressed Jakes’s modalism in my first book in 2004, so I am well aware of the issues in question, and believed I could make a contribution. Also, to my delight, James indicated that Jakes had abandoned Oneness Pentecostalism, rejected Modalism, and, he believed, Jakes would make that clear at ER2.
I called my fellow elders to make them aware of the invitation (we usually meet monthly to review and consider invitations, but this was an urgent matter, and MacDonald had asked for a decision by the next day). We agreed that I should 1) find out more about the Elephant Room (specifically, was this an apologetics forum, or a forum that would assume Jakes’s orthodoxy), and 2) find out why Dever had backed out.
After investigating the matter, I decided to decline the invitation. My decision was based on four major areas of concern (Note: I voiced these four concerns to James MacDonald during our phone conversation the next day):
1. T.D. Jakes has a history of holding to, teaching, and associating with modalism, and ER2 was a forum wherein he would be assumed to be a “brother”.
I was already on record concerning Bishop Jakes’s modalism (see: The Ever Loving Truth, LifeWay, 2004), and I have kept up with the matter. Jakes had never repudiated Oneness Pentecostalism. Nor had he come out with an unambiguous, credal/confessional statement on the doctrine of the Trinity. There was absolutely no basis for me to assume that Jakes was suddenly orthodox, and therefore, no basis for me to welcome him as a brother.
2. The “Word of Faith” gospel he preaches is heterodox and harmful.
Even if Jakes had come out with a statement on the doctrine of the Trinity, it would not have done anything to change the fact that he preaches “another gospel.” (Gal 1:8–9) Having studied the “Word of Faith” movement, and seen the devastation it leaves in its wake, I was disinclined to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the man who has been this country’s most popular purveyor of this heresy in the past two decades (Note: James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll had both preached against the Word of Faith movement and called it heresy, so I did not believe I was informing James of anything he did not know already).
3. Jakes’s influence in the Dallas Metroplex has been negative, at best.
My wife is from Dallas, and my in-laws still live there (her parents and five siblings). I have preached in Dallas on many occasions, and at numerous churches, and have many acquaintances in the city. I know firsthand what kind of influence T.D. Jakes has had on the evangelical community, and broader Christian witness there. Suffice to say that he has not brought greater gospel clarity and fidelity. He has, however, brought a charismatic, theatrical, excessive, “Word of Faith” flavor to the city that permeates many churches (especially black churches).
4. Bishop Jakes is an example of the worst the black church has to offer.
One of the goals of ER2 was to address the issue of “racial” unity. Thus, Bishop Jakes was there (at least in part) as a representative of the “black church.” In light of the aforementioned issues, I was disinclined to participate in such an event. You see, Jakes was an invited guest; an invited ‘black’ guest. If he were mistreated, he had the race card; if he was accepted, he had entree into a new audience. It was a win-win for Jakes, and a lose-lose for evangelicalism. Obviously, he was not going to spout unadulterated modalism. Nor was he going to repudiate his roots (remember, this is his “heritage,” both ethnically and theologically). He had a perfect opportunity to find a middle ground and show “humility” in an environment that would be portrayed as “hostile” even though hostility was forbidden in light of the unwritten rules surrounding his blackness. Thus, his opponents had to choose between outright defeat and pyrrhic victory.
Moreover, I rejected the invitation because I did not want to give even the appearance of tokenism. The participants in the Elephant Room (and ER2), though they disagree methodologically on how we “get there,” are all virtually identical in their general profile. They are all successful mega-church pastors who have leveraged innovative and/or controversial methodologies to grow their churches, media empires, and/or pare-church ministries. I, on the other hand, am a pastor serving at a church with less than five hundred members; I’m not on television or radio; and my books aren’t best sellers. I don’t fit the profile! Whether MacDonald meant to or not, he was painting a picture of tokenism. If he meant it, I didn’t want to be used, and if he didn’t mean it, I didn’t want to be the source of misunderstanding. While Pastor MacDonald said he “respected” my decision, he made it clear that he did not agree with me. We agreed to disagree and he moved on. At this time, I made two important decisions. First, I decided not to get involved in the public furor over ER2. I had spoken my piece to James, and saw no advantage in getting involved any further. There were others who were making many of the same points, and I did not want to pile on (James White, Phil Johnson, Thabiti Anyabwile, Anthony Carter, and others were pressing the issue, and bringing the pertinent points to light). I do not regret this decision. My second decision, however, is another story altogether. My second decision was to move forward with the scheduled Men’s Conference. That was unwise.
The Men’s Conference
I was naive to think that there would be no fallout if I decided to go forward with the Men’s Conference. The Men’s Conference was scheduled to take place two days after ER2. Once my worst fears were realized at ER2 (i.e., Jakes equivocated on modalism, was not even challenged on WOF gospel, etc. see here for a detailed analysis), there was no way for me to 1) keep silent on this growing controversy, and 2) attend the Men’s Conference, without giving tacit approval to ER2. The decision to go public was inevitable. The only question was how.
I have a regular practice of posting notices of upcoming events in my monthly newsletter, and on my Facebook fan page. These have been invaluable tools that keep people apprised of when I’m coming to their area (or the area of friends and family whom they’d like to invite to one of our events), how they can pray for me, and what kind of doors the Lord is opening for the ministry.
As per my practice, I posted a link to the Men’s Conference and asked, “Any fan page members planning to attend...” As you can imagine, there were more than a few questions about my position on ER2, my relationship with James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel, and a whole host of other things. I answered those questions as honestly as I could. I made it clear that I opposed the decision to invite Bishop Jakes; pointed out what I saw as his masterful ‘dodge’ on the trinitarian question (and subsequent affirmation of modalist language), and gave a brief explanation of my reasoning for keeping this prior commitment (see here for a recap).
This did not go over well with James MacDonald. Upon my arrival at the church the next day, he and I sat down (along with my assistant and several members of his staff) and had a candid conversation about my decision to answer questions in a public forum. Ultimately, we agreed that it was not a good idea for me to speak at the conference. We prayed, shook hands, embraced, and ended the meeting as brothers. James also insisted on paying the agreed honorarium (Added 1/31/12). MacDonald had already made arrangements for a replacement speaker. My assistant and I were escorted to a waiting car and taken back to the airport.
Looking back on the incident, I realize that I put myself in an untenable position. As I see it, I had three choices once ER2 went down the way it did. I could remain silent indefinitely, which would have given tacit approval of Jakes, etc.. I could have held my comments until after the Men’s Conference, which would have been deceptive to James MacDonald, HBC, and those who showed up to hear me. Or I could answer the questions honestly ahead of time leaving no doubt as to both my decision to honor my commitment to the Men’s Conference, and my disapproval of ER2. Obviously, I chose the latter.
In hindsight, I should have canceled the event when I declined the ER2 invitation. But remember, there were many ‘moving parts’ at that time. There were private, internal discussions within The Gospel Coalition. There was public pressure from all corners of the evangelical community, and there were private conversations (I’ve already alluded to my own discussion, and that of Mark Dever, but there were others). There was also a possibility that Jakes had truly repented, and these guys (specifically MacDonald, Driscoll, and Jack Graham) were privy to things the rest of us simply didn’t, or couldn’t know at the time.
As I look ahead, I think two things are very important. First, I believe T.D. Jakes is wrong on the doctrine of the Trinity, and wrong on the gospel. I am also involved directly in a matter (the ER2 controversy) that has brought discussion of those facts to light. Consequently, my mandate to “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9) obligates me to be on record in the matter. I have done that.
Second, the racial overtones of this matter have gotten out of hand (see here, for example), and must be addressed. The ER2 controversy is now pitting black evangelicals against white evangelicals, and against each other with T.D. Jakes as the centerpiece. This is an opportunity to pull back the curtain on the awkward racial dynamic in evangelical circles. Race is a convenient ‘dodge’ for those with weak arguments, and an inconvenient truth for those who harbor prejudice. Beyond that, it is an absolutely confusing subject for myriad evangelicals who simply love Christ, love his church, and want desperately not to offend their brothers and sisters in the Lord by using “black” when they should have used “African American,” or vice versa!
The irony is that this issue is most pronounced when heterodoxy is in play. For example, when a white evangelical disagrees with a solid, Reformed, black pastor on a technical theological issue, there is rarely a charge of racism. However, let that black brother be part of a heterodox or heretical group (i.e., Oneness Pentecostalism, Word of Faith, Black Liberation Theology, etc.), and suddenly the white brother who makes the argument against him faces charges of racism! Why? Partly because of... RACISM!
You see, some of this boils down to what has sometimes been called, “the soft bigotry of lowered expectations.” Asking black people to adopt orthodox theology (when Lord knows they don’t have access to the same schools, books, opportunities, and, in the minds of some... lack sufficient intelligence) is asking them to negate their blackness. While, on the other hand, the solid, Reformed, well-educated black pastor is NOT REALLY BLACK. Therefore, he’s fair game. Irony of Ironies... that is racist! And that’s what has to be dragged out of the shadows.
I’m not angry with James MacDonald. He’s my brother, and I love him. We disagree. We both understand that. Ironically, that’s what The Elephant Room is supposedly all about. Brothers should be able to disagree with one another and still be brothers. There’s just one problem: Embracing Jakes while rejecting others because we question his history of modalism and Word of Faith teaching... that’s the real “Elephant in the Room”?