Feb

01

2012

Justin Taylor|10:52 am CT

The Elephant Room: What Really Happened, and How Things Could Have Been Different

This is going to be a long post.

If you’re a critic of the Gospel Coalition’s response—or seeming lack of response—to the Elephant Room controversy, or if you’re a critic of the Elephant Room and its repercussions, I hope you’ll slow down and read the whole thing. I am under no illusions that it will answer all the questions or satisfy everyone—I’m sure it won’t—but perhaps it will clarify at least a few things.

(For other points and complementary analysis, see also this post from Kevin DeYoung.)

Two Preliminary Points

Before I try to highlight a few of the key things that happened (and didn’t happen), I think it’s important to put two points front and center.

1. Leaders don’t just pontificate and discuss and analyze, but eventually have to make a choice between two imperfect options.

I have seen these countless times in the context of the gloriously messy world of church life. Two options are before a leader: A and B. Both have pros and cons. Both could produce benefits, and both could have unintended consequences. The decision is complicated by competing principles at play, and in light of the fact that some of the consequences have to do with how people will act and react in light of them—which cannot be known with certainty in advance. And so a leader must weigh the options in light of God’s word, in light of the gift of wisdom and discernment, and in light of wise counsel. Then choose. Criticism is often inevitable, especially if those negative consequences result from choosing one path over another. And often times the criticism is valid, so far as it goes—but just as often, the critic doesn’t consider the alternatives. Millard Erickson makes this point in his Christian Theology:

In criticism it is not sufficient to find flaws in a given view. One must always ask, “What is the alternative?” and, “Does the alternative have fewer difficulties?” John Baillie tells of writing a paper in which he severely criticized a particular view. His professor commented, “Every theory has its difficulties, but you have not considered whether any other theory has less difficulties than the one you have criticized.” (p. 61)

Thus far I am simply identifying a principle at play in virtually all criticisms of major decisions. I think it has some relevance here, for both those who criticized the Elephant Room and its defense—and for those who criticized the Gospel Coalition’s relative lack of public response.

2. The new version of the question, “If a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” is “If a conversation happens in private and there’s no one there to blog or tweet it, does it still count?”

All of us—me included—want the inside scoop, the down low on who said what to whom in what tone and where. Sometimes the impulse is busybody gossip; but sometimes knowing this can chasten our conclusions, provide context, nuance, correction, etc. Socrates was expressing the humility that comes from common grace when he repeatedly said, “I do not think that I know what I do not know.” Most of us do not know all that was said to T.D. Jakes before and after the event. Most of us do not know all of the conversations between the Gospel Coalition and James MacDonald prior to the event—or how he responded. But some critics have assumed that since they haven’t read a public statement on the web about X, then there are not hours of conversations—some winsome and careful, and some neither of those—happening behind the scenes.

Let’s understand that the world clamors for the simultaneous strength and weakness of this medium: insta-responses. Sometimes people go the extra mile to have behind-the-scenes private conversations, waiting to see how things turn out. Sometimes they get burned for doing so. Sometimes patience will be interpreted as cowardice. Sometimes taking a risk for a relationship will be seen only as recklessness. It’s not always easy to get the balance right. TGC was criticized for saying too much too soon about Rob Bell, and criticized for saying too little too late about T.D. Jakes. Perhaps both sets of critics have a point.

Elephant Room Timeline

I cannot attempt an exhaustive timeline, but with multiple issues on the table, sometimes it’s important to review where we’ve been. Let me try to highlight some key events, with key points.

The initial participants for the Elephant Room: Round 2 were announced in late September, 2011. The event was planned for late January, 2012.

Bishop Jakes, of course, stood out on the list—not because he was the best known of the group (he was), but because of what he was known for.

The two most controversial aspects of inviting Bishop Jakes have to do with modalism with regard to the Godhead, and prosperity teaching with regard to the gospel.

Jakes on Modalism and Trinitarianism

Bishop Jakes, who was spiritually nurtured in the Oneness Pentecostal tradition, had never given a clear affirmation of Trinitarian orthodoxy, even though he had been pressed on this from Christian apologists (most notably 12 years ago in the year 2000). The issue is important because modalism—the idea that there is one God, not in three eternal persons, but in three manifestations or forms—is historically considered to be a heretical teaching in the church. This issue is intimately tied to the gospel, for the god of modalism is incompatible with propitiation (among other aspects of salvation). In other words, modalism can save no one.

If you read Bishop Jakes response to criticism in 2000, you’ll note several themes, which are very important to note for when we later turn to the question of whether or not he has changed his mind or is saying something new.

First, he wants to distance himself (though not deny his historical association with) Onenness Pentecostalism. “My association with Oneness people does not constitute assimilation into their ranks any more than my association with the homeless in our city makes me one of them.”

Second, he wants to distance himself from modalism while maintaining the language of “manifestations.” Specifically, he says that the use of “manifestations” in his church’s doctrinal statement “does not derive from modalism.”

Third, he believes that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have “distinct and separate functions . . . each has individual attributes.”

Fourth, he appeals to mystery, referring to this discussion as “splitting hairs” and “semantics” and saying that no one is dying in the world for “lack of theology,” but for “lack of love.”

Jakes on the Prosperity Gospel

With respect to the prosperity gospel, the idea is an over-realized eschatology—over-promising the end-time blessings in the here and now, with the implication that God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and happy, as evidenced by material prosperity. (For a recent description and critique, see Health, Wealth & Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Christ? by David Jones and Russell Woodbridge.)

Whereas the old-school health-and-wealthers spent their time guaranteeing all of these benefits if you just had enough faith and shilling for donations, the newer generation of such teachers (represented by Jakes and Osteen and Myers) still focus inordinately on the earthly benefits ostensibly promised by God. This can be seen in many YouTube clips of Jakes preaching, but also as a theme in his writings.

Two Types of Onenness Preachers

It’s important to pause at this point to observe that not all Onenness Pentecostals are created equal. An interview with a former Onenness pastor (now turned evangelical) draws a distinction between the hardcore and the seeker-sensitive:

There are two types of Oneness Pentecostals. There are the hardcore, doctrinally dogmatic types who care nothing for popularity or mega-church growth. These openly assert Oneness theology and declare the doctrine of the Trinity as heresy (from their viewpoint) and an aberration of the apostles’ doctrine. They are not out to make friends but win people over to what they see as the true gospel. They are genuine and sincere though totally wrong and if ever converted they would make great Trinitarians.

The other type (like Jakes) have adopted the seeker-sensitive approach which really guides all that they do. They are out to be successful, sell books, buy TBN time slots, and gain a national following. They see success as the end-game which justifies any and all means. That model is above all things, including truth or doctrinal purity. They see their small Oneness church pastor colleagues and know that it is precisely Oneness doctrine that keeps their congregations from growing and decide to abandon theology altogether. Anything that divides people they avoid no matter how central a tenet of Christian doctrine it is. They become de facto prosperity preachers because weak Christians enjoy hearing man-centered sermons that speak to their itching ears.

If you want to see an example of the hardcore kind, see this piece by a Onenness pastor in reaction to Jakes and the Elephant Room.

The Elephant Room Pre-Game

In late September of 2011, after announcing the ER2 participants, James MacDonald wrote a blog post seeking to address a number of questions that were being raised about the issues of association, endorsement, and separation.

Although MacDonald has been a strong critic of the “health-and-wealth gospel” from his pulpit, he seemed eager for us to hear Jakes’s perspective. He wrote, “I am also excited to hear him state his views on money, which may be closer to Scripture than the monasticism currently touring reformed world.” (The latter was a reference to those like David Platt, Francis Chan, John Piper, and Randy Alcorn’s arguments for a “wartime lifestyle.”)

MacDonald addressed the issue of modalism. He later updated his post with new wording, but originally he wrote:

I do not agree that T.D. Jakes is a Modalist.

I affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as I find it in Scripture. I believe it is clearly presented but not detailed or nuanced. I believe God is very happy with His Word as given to us and does not wish to update or clarify anything that He has purposefully left opaque. Somethings are stark and immensely clear, such as the deity of Jesus Christ; others are taught but shrouded in mystery, such as the Trinity. I do not trace my beliefs to creedal statements that seek clarity on things the Bible clouds with mystery. I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might. His [Jakes's] website states clearly that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations.

This comment was very surprising, in a number of ways. MacDonald indicated he did not believe Jakes was a modalist, but to prove that he quotes Jakes’s statement that uses the classical modalistic language of “manifestations!” (As Driscoll put it in a subsequent blog post on this, “In its simplest form, this is the language of Modalism.”) Further, MacDonald seemed to denigrate the purpose and function of creedal statements as trying to be more clear than the Bible. Finally, he stress the intentional opaqueness of the biblical doctrine, and discouraged people from insisting on defining the details of Trinitarianism.

The damage had been done: What could have been a call for a discussion between a trinitarian and a modalist became a pre-announcement that Jakes is not a modalist and that it doesn’t really matter that much anyway.

(For a thoughtful response on MacDonald’s original version of this post, see Carl Trueman’s thoughts here. You can read MacDonald’s attempt to walk-back some of the implications from his post here.)

A couple of days later Driscoll followed this up with a post defining modalism and the Trinity, and giving a historical and biblical sketch of the doctrine. He affirmed that as a staunch Trinitarian he regards the Trinity as “a closed-handed issue that is necessary for Christian orthodoxy.”  With regard to Jakes, his main point was that we should listen to what he has to say:

Regarding Bishop Jakes, my preference is to simply let the man speak for himself and see what he says. As moderator, I assure you, I don’t want to do anything but let the men speak for themselves without being disrespected, set-up, or pushed into an unfair position—and I know this is MacDonald’s stance too. The Bible is clear about loving people and truth telling. Our plan is to have both.

He warned against pre-judging how this would turn out:

I want to encourage folks to wait until the event before making any final judgments about anyone or anything.

Is This a Conversation among Gospel-Loving Brothers?

It’s important to note that the Elephant Room’s purpose/vision page were changed at least three times during the course of the controversy. When the Elephant Room: Round 1 took place in the spring of 2011, the whole purpose was to unite brothers in the gospel who agreed on the essentials (gospel, Trinity, authority of Scripture) but disagreed on the non-essentials (ministry philosophy, methodology, music, etc.). To use Driscoll’s helpful analogy, there are “national” and “state” borders. You fight wars over the national borders, not state borders. State borders provide distinctions and even separation, but we’ll all a part of the same country.

But note very carefully the original purpose for the Elephant Room: Room 2:

Getting brothers together who believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone but normally don’t interact, is what the Elephant Room is all about. (my emphasis)

In other words, the clear message was that everyone of the participants is united in the gospel as brothers—despite the fact that one of the participants has historically held to modalism, which is inherently incompatible with the gospel as presented in the Bible. Also despite the fact of health-and-wealth themes, incompatible with a theology of the cross. In other words, this became not just  a conversation with someone from a different “tribe,” but a public conversation under the banner of “We Are United in the Gospel.”

Unless you understand this, you won’t get a sense of why this was so controversial. The issue simply was not whether or not we should talk face to face with those who have different theological convictions than we do. Let me say that again: it was not about whether or not you should love, respect, listen to, and interact with those outside of our so-called tribe. The problem was in how the entire thing was set up, and the assurances that were offered.

(MacDonald at some point in the controversy removed this statement from the purpose statement and sought to broaden the purpose statement to include conversations among anyone—though it still says that they want to be “a tribe that holds the essential tenets of the faith with a ferocious intensity and is open handed with everything else.”)

Pre-Game Predictions: What Would Bishop Jakes Say? What Would Be the Result?

Virtually everyone I talked to prior to the event had the same prediction: Bishop Jakes would not be asked difficult questions, but would vaguely affirm Trinitarianism, say something against modalism, and also be careful not to say that modalism was unorthodox—and that in the end, the Elephant Room would feel vindicated against the mounting criticism and encouraged that their forum allowed for Bishop Jakes to come out as a Trinitarian once and for all.

Anthony Carter, writing three months before the event, put it like this:

Jakes is no dummy.  He will be careful not to say anything that would indict him as a false teacher. He is a smart man. You don’t get to his position being stupid.  Therefore, I fear that by the end of the discussion, when all the rounds have been fired, and the dust has settled, the elephant in the room will be Mr. Jakes himself.  He will be standing tall shaking everyone’s hand and thanking them for giving him another platform on which to promote himself. No matter what is said, unless Jakes denounces his previous teachings or is exposed as a false teacher, it’s a win for team Jakes and a loss for those of us left to clean up after the elephant has done his business.

Thabiti Anyabwile predicted something similar:

If Jakes could be won over and would publicly teach orthodox Trinitarian views, that could be huge.  If the discussion turns warm and fuzzy, “aren’t we all brothers in the end,” the damage could be irreparable—to everyone.

So What Did Bishop Jakes Say?

You can read here the full transcript of the conversation between MacDonald, Jakes, and Driscoll.

It is encouraging on one level, and and discouraging on another.

It seems that Bishop Jakes now prefers the language of Trinitarianism, though he doesn’t want to functionally abandon the language of modalism (in particular, “manifestations” over “persons”). Furthermore, if you go back to the response he wrote 12 years ago (linked and summarized above), you will find the exact same points reiterated at the Elephant Room.

Now some critics of Bishop Jakes would be satisfied no matter what he did. He could have revealed a tattoo of the Nicene Creed in Latin while holding a dog-earred copy of Robert Letham’s The Holy Trinity in one hand and Fred Sanders’s The Deep Things of God: Why the Trinity Changes Everything in the other—and some people would still say that he doesn’t mean it.

But here’s the problem, as I see it: at the end of the day, we just don’t know precisely what he believes. This should chasten both sides. For those who say “he’s still a full-fledged modalist”—I’m not sure. For those who are convinced “he has come out as an orthodox Trinitarian”—I’m not sure. As Trevin Wax points out, the proof will not be in whether Jakes can check a certain number of boxes, but in what he will teach his people.

Questions such as the following would have been more illuminating: Did God the Son preexist before the incarnation? How do you define Modalism? Is it false teaching?  Can someone preach the biblical gospel if they affirm Modalism? When it comes to the doctrine of God, what would be some false teachings that you need to protect your flock from?

Without questions like these, the discussion did not genuinely advance beyond what Bishop Jakes wrote 12 years ago. And as many have pointed out, the issue of the prosperity gospel did not come up, so we do not have a better sense of his stance on that crucial issue, either.

Elephant Room: The Post-Game

The event is now over. James MacDonald voluntarily resigned from the council of the Gospel Coalition, after several private conversations. The race issue has been played against African American critics of the Elephant Room, in deeply disturbing ways. And it’s easy in the blogosphere for “both sides” to assume the worst about one another.

But I think the whole thing could have been better if conceived in a different way.

The Elephant Room could have achieved virtually of the same results, perhaps better ones, without any of the negative relational repercussions and doctrinal confusion.

How? By holding the conversations offline.

Very few would have objected if a couple of brothers arranged a day or two to spend with Bishop Jakes, getting to know one other, listening to each other, searching the Scriptures together. Outside of a controlled environment with limited time-frames and an event-setup and public pressure, who knows what the results might have been? On one level, the Elephant Room might encourage local pastors to get together and talk through some differences, so the public event may inspire some people to do that. But why not instead choose a more efficient and effective route without the confusion to the church and the relational fallout?

The criticism of the critics has largely been framed in binary terms: courage vs. cowardliness; truth vs. love; talking vs. shouting. The missing item from the discussion? Wisdom.

What’s Next?

My final thought (for an already long post): We should not assume that these discussions are over. Perhaps the public-event conversation—whether it should have happened or not—will lead to private conversations, where theology can be explored, where questions can be asked, and where answers can be given.

Let’s pray toward this end. Who knows what God might do?

108 Comments

  1. It’s good to see the GC bloggers beginning to write their entries, and this is another good one.

    I was reading Ed Stetzer’s blog and someone wrote this comment:

    ” The Holy Spirit had/has only ONE(1) intended meaning for each passage of Scripture. ”

    The first deep thought of my rather shallow mind was that, while I would agree this is true how come when ever ( or most times ) when we read, or reread, or reread again, a chapter or verse of Scripture God shows us something new? or that with a bit more theological maturity and age/wisdom maturity that while we aren’t ready for the meat of the Word God gives us the milk of the Word.

    Not that, that, makes a whole lot of sense, but, I think after all the shouting and blogging is done we’ll see a bit more wisdom than we thought we did through these conversations.

    What are we all worth anyway aside from the imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ?

  2. Thanks, Justin. Helpful.

  3. Thank you for the post. A very clear telling of what happened.

  4. Thank you Justin.

  5. oh phew, he’s the good kind of false-gospel prosperity teacher

  6. I believe James White at Alpha and Omega ministries in his almost 2 hour review nailed it. Jakes really said nothing with many words. Which anyone who has read or seen him when challenged he has done very well. Neither MacDonald or Driscoll in my opinion made any real attempt to go into any real substance to get him to clarify what he was was saying. These matters have eternal consequences , great men of the past would die or suffer great hardship fighting for the truth and how one views the God head will distort that persons gospel.

    Jake’s prosperity is gospel is abhorrent and another gospel and the Jesus he has preached is another Jesus . If had have come put and said I repent and recant then I think most would be satisfied many but really , he said no such thing . He has built a vast and gross ministry that has made him a millionaire , he knows that if he changes his message it will drastically effect his empire . Sorry but as far as I’m concerned the ball was dropped huge here and it is to MacDonald and Driscoll’s shame .

  7. Thanks, Justin. This is one of the few good posts on the issue.

    However, you said that James MacDonald “voluntarily resigned … after several private conversations”. Though this may be true, it looks like he was pressurized by some leaders to “cancel Bishop Jakes.” And this was what led to James’ resignation. At least, that’s what this article says: http://tiny.cc/drkje.

  8. [...] Justin Taylor has added his commentary, and he gives a history of the Elephant Room debacle from September 2011 [...]

  9. TGC did not say too much about Rob Bell it just said little about TD Jakes. I believe it’s just because the majority of TGC were just not simply informed of the heresy of Jakes and the damage he is to the black community. Most black Christians don’t know who Rob Bell is and don’t care because Bell does not influence the black community. Jakes does. Most of the TGC was poorly informed of Jakes. TGC could have avoided this fiasco by consulting its black members of TGC council before inviting Jakes for the ER. It did not. Because if they did they would have told them don’t do it. Which tells me the TGC has a long ways to go with understanding issues that affect the black and other minority Christian issues.

    • CR, TGC doesn’t run Elephant Room. It is something James MacDonald organizes and hosts himself. So your comments about TGC not understanding the black community because of Jakes attending ER2 are misdirected.

      • I was referring to TGC response to ER run by MacDonald who was in TGC. I apologize for being unclear. My criticism of the TGC on blacks in the Christian community still stands. TGC would have never tolerated and interview with Rob Bell in any forum by one of its coalition members. It did for TD Jakes.

      • I also don’t think TGC responsibility isn’t restricted to responses or damage control which is where I was getting at in my first post. Granted I know these forums don’t need the council’s approval, that’s just not it’s structure. But it could have prevented this before the forum. Again, just substitute Rob Bell for TD Jakes if macDonald had announced an interview for the ER. TGC would have been on top of this right away. TGC black council members should have been consulted.

  10. [...] The Elephant Room: What Really Happened, and How Things Could Have Been Different, by Justin Taylor Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Categories: Church, Gospel, Ministry Comments (0) Trackbacks (0) Leave a comment Trackback [...]

  11. Thank you for this post.Although I haven’t seen the Elephant room and being British I don’t know anything about the Bishop, I understand when It was said that he spoke a lot and said nothing.So many with dodgy theology are very good at this.I’m really sorry this has happened as I have great respect for Mark Driscoll and love listening to him preaching and will be praying for all concerned.

  12. Thanks for the helpful summation. I do believe that God is sovereign over everything but there is human responsibility. Therefore,it was an about time that there was some cry from the ‘Body of Christ’ to call attention to a harmful teaching and its (many) teacher. May God have mercy on us all.

  13. Thanks for this Justin. This brings some much needed clarity to the controversy.

  14. McDonald is trying to clarify his position. I would like to see/hear what Driscoll has to say at this point.

  15. Mark Driscoll’s reflections on The Elephant Room are available here

    http://pastormark.tv/2012/01/31/10-reflections-on-the-elephant-room

    Particularly telling in his response is this

    “While I can and do learn a lot theologically from my tribe, the truth is there are not many evangelistically fruitful churches in my tribe and there are not any churches larger than ours I can learn from. So, I have to go outside of my theological tribe to learn certain things”

    Now I’m not sure if by “my tribe” he’s referring to Acts 29 or The Gospel Coalition or Reformed churches, but whatever the case, it’s a rather bold thing to say.

    • Thanks for linking to that. I do appreciate his sense of humility, and his looking to those outside his camp, but I am not sure he added much to clarify his views of the ER2 controversy.

      In regards to the quote from him, I hope he does not mean to indicate that the only pastors he wants to learn from are those from larger churches than his.

      • Having heard Driscoll speak at other occasions, I wouldn’t be at all suprised if that’s exactly what he meant. I recently read the transcript of another interview he did with a radio host in England, and it seems as if he believes the only indicator of a church’s “effectiveness” is numerical growth.

    • Driscoll said exactly what I thought he would: “When you’re church is bigger than mine, then I’ll listen to what you have to say. Until then, I don’t want to hear from you.” Because, of course, if our churches were as good as his, ours would be bigger.

  16. [...] Justin Taylor [...]

  17. Thank you, Justin.

  18. It’s been really interesting to observe leaders, bloggers, pastors, etc. respond to ER2. It says a lot about where our focus is, our hearts are, and priorities lie as not just a Christian “nation,” but a Reformed “state.”

    The fact remains that both “sides” of this conversation have valid points on most things. At the end of the day, there were differences in opinion – some would say “wisdom” – regarding how to engage a public figure with a big following and a history of, not just bad, but heretical theology.

    I’m honestly disappointed that MacDonald felt that it would be best to part ways with TGC. While the private conversations that took place are obviously off record, it seems fairly evident from the posts here at TGC (those both directly addressing and indirectly pointing to ER2) that there was a lot of pressure on MacDonald coming from at least some of TGC members.

    I can’t help but wonder how much – if any – folks with TGC made absolutes out of wisdom, opinion, or method, particularly for an event that’s not tied to TGC as a whole but rather linked to a few individuals. Conversations are great and sharpening one another is better, but a perceived “line in the sand” between TGC members over approach doesn’t seem to demonstrate the unity of the gospel that all of the members clearly uphold.

    Whether esteemed to be wise or not, it’s saddening and honestly a bit concerning that the general atmosphere created mostly by bloggers – both TGC and others – was one of division and distinction. Praying and hoping for healing and reconciliation.

  19. [...] can Justin Taylor’s full article here … or I have posted it [...]

  20. Wenatchee The Hatchet on Wed, Feb 01 2012 at 02:11 pm
    Interesting, folks are speaking without pseudonyms and on the record this time. Jeff Bettger, Paul Petry, Bent Meyer, and Dusty Wisniew are all guys I knew in my Mars days. Actually I used to help deliver offering to the central campus with Dusty years ago so I know exactly what he described. We were both former members who decided not to renew when in late 2007 MH cancelled out all membeership and essentially asked everyone to re-apply for membership like they were new members. There were about 1,000 who didn’t renew. As Mark told the Gospel Coalition in 2008 1,000 members “left” during the process of the Doctrine series and the new demands of membership. The doctrinal statement was not really revised at that point and what was changed were the by-laws. Members were also advised that they needed to sign that they agreed with the by-laws as part of membership renewal. More than a few of us, including me, refused to do that. So it’s not that we “left”, it’s that the elders ended the covenant/contract; asked us to renew; and some of us decided that was that. Driscoll’s account to the Gospel Coalition fits the Ben Kenobi criteria of honesty (“What I told you was true from a certain point of view”) but it doesn’t fit the point of view I and other former members had during that period.

  21. [...] Kevin DeYoung’s thoughts on The Elephant Room can be found here, Justin Taylor’s are here, and Timothy Raymond’s here. Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailLike this:LikeBe the first to [...]

  22. Hi Justin — these are, in fact, helpful comments. Here a week after ER2, they seem very sage. I wonder how one might have come to these conclusions much earlier and delivered them so that the events could have been avoided? Could these insights have been in-sight three weeks or three months ago? Because that would have also been even more helpful, in my view.

    I think someone did say so about 3 months ago. How do we take your post-game analysis and implement it the next time there is a Todd Bentley or a T.D. Jakes living large on the evangelical stage?

    I’m also concerned that Acts29 has all of these problems now as well since their president has embraced Jakes’ confessions as wholly-suitable for a pastor and ecumenical leader. What can they do to avoid a further car wreck on this matter?

  23. Thank you for writing this. Very helpful.

  24. Thank you Justin. Your blog is invariably a great resource to me.

  25. Although Trinitarianism is clear from scripture, it would be very welcome if the following questions were answered:

    1)

    On what biblical basis (not appealing to ancient creeds, a la Trueman) does one argue that those who are fuzzy on the Trinity must be unsaved heretics who should be cut off from fellowship?

    Many people we accept today as Christians have some patently unbiblical beliefs on issues much more explicit than the Trinity in scripture (e.g Arminians, egalitarians etc…).

    2)

    The Fred Sanders article Justin Taylor linked to approvingly a while back said:

    “there are people in Oneness churches who are saved by trusting in Jesus Christ, but who are laboring under starkly unbiblical teaching about who he is…”

    If this is so, then is is quite possible TD Jakes is a real brother in the Lord. Thus rather than cutting ourselves off from him should we not be treating him as Aquila and Priscilla did Appollos? At the very least giving the man a chance? Passing up a rare possible opportunity for unity is also a sin.

    I am open to the possibility that we should treat him as a heretic, but these 2 fundamental points above need to be addressed first.

    • Henry: Good questions. Very quick responses here: (1) modalism denies the eternality of God the Son; so I think the warnings of 1 John would apply; (2) we must remember that Jakes is a teacher in the church, and has been so for years, and therefore will be held more accountable; (3) Frank Turk also had a post, I believe, pointing to the idea that Jakes could still be saved despite these teachings; (4) there are teachings all throughout the Pastorals regarding warnings against false teaching/teachers and associating with them; (5) I was trying to make the point that ER should have been an Aquila and Priscilla moment—not an event-before-the-cameras moment. Hope that helps just a little bit.

      • Thanks for the response Justin,

        I think I don’t have much problem with most of your points, except the most important ones :)

        Regarding (1) It seems to me that the warning in 1 John is specifically directed at those who deny that Jesus is the Christ (1 John 2:22-23). And the warnings in 2 John 7-11 are directed at those who deny ‘the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.’ I’d be very interested to see someone spell out exactly how that applies to Jakes?

        Regarding (4) What classes as a ‘false teacher’? Obviously not Appollos, despite his inaccuracy. What about arminians and egalitarians? Roger Nicole? Every teacher has some flaw in their theology, sometimes glaring. C.S. Lewis? Biblically, where is the line to be drawn, w/out depending on creeds and councils? I think the salient point about false teachers is their wilful subversiveness, having been patiently taught they persistently reject the truth. With Jakes, I’m unsure that I can say this of him. People raised in those circles are often clueless when it comes to articulating theology and the history of the Trinitarian debates, they are from a whole different world of thinking.

        p.s. Chandler’s video at Furticks revival is now back up:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJLLT4NF3bc&feature=related

        • graham and nicola

          The key issue regarding the Trinity is the love of God. If the three Person’s do not exist in genuinely loving relationships from all eternity, love is not eternal. It also means something less than what most evangelicals mean when they say “God is love”. We radically change the meaning of John 3v16 – it would mean something else for the Father to give the Son. And so the entire nature of the Gospel would be changed.
          The Christian doctrine of Creation would be altered also; God did not need to create to love according to Christian teaching.
          It is not that modalism necessarily means damnation. But modalism is, necessarily, dangerous teaching. It impugns the character of God, and it leads to another worldview entirely.

          An appeal to “mystery” to evade a fully trintarian confession does not help; we doubt that Mr Jakes has heard of negative theology, but in any case, the idea that we cannot access every important truth about God does not mean that we cannot access any important truths about God. Our books on the God-head might not be read in heaven; but that does not mean that heaven doesn’t agree with anything in those books. The God-head might be quite happy with some of the things that we say and write.

          If anything, the appeal to mystery questions the adequacy of revelation. If the Trinity can be undermined in this way then so can Justification by Faith Alone, Penal Substitution, Original Sin, the whole sheebang. It was a little disoncerting to see theologically educated Pastors, at least one of whom is quite proud if the footnotes in his Systematic Theology, cheering on Mr Jakes unwitting appeal to Negative theology.

          G&N

          BTW It’s wonderful to see hip-hop half way down this page!

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “there are people in Oneness churches who are saved by trusting in Jesus Christ, but who are laboring under starkly unbiblical teaching about who he is…”

      “If this is so, then i[t] is quite possible TD Jakes is a real brother in the Lord. Thus rather than cutting ourselves off from him should we not be treating him as Aquila and Priscilla did Appollos? At the very least giving the man a chance?”

      ———–

      Frank Turk of Pyro said the same thing: “I mentioned that if you pressed, me, I might be willing to say that T.D. Jakes is possibly a brother in Christ. I’m sure that rattles a lot of cages, so let me line out what I mean by that….” (from his post titled “Coupla-Five Additional Thoughts on the Events of the Week”)

      Coincidentally, I just led a study on 1st John this past Friday and we read these passages:

      “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

      Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”

      When applying the whole counsel of Scripture, these verses also have to be given consideration.

      Pax.

  26. Thank you Justin. ER2 was a real disappointment. Expecting dialog on issues that separate us, instead I saw the “narrow road” widened.

  27. It really boils down to a simple analysis.
    1. Was TD Jakes a Modalist?
    2. Is Modalism heresy?
    3. If Jakes has converted to Biblical Trinitarianism, did he clearly renounce his old, sinful ways?

    You can’t be a Mormon (or JW, etc.) for 20 years, say you’re suddenly an evangelical Christian while at the same time refusing to renounce the sins of Mormonism.

  28. Theology Samurai

    In other words, MacDonald is pig-headed, didn’t listen to the godly counsel of his TGC brothers, and rather than do this privately had to promote his oh so big hearted desire to listen to those who differ on a public stage with as many pay-per-view as possible. Nice and admirable. Also, those comments you quotes from the converted former Oneness pastor were eye opening with regard to Jakes. Why would you give him a platform without repentance at all? He worked ER2 over quite well.

    Thankfully, our forefathers in the faith were not afraid to ask the hard questions, step on some toes, and risked being considered “insensitive” to others who differ. I’m certainly glad they were not as squemish as today’s “champions of the faith”.

    Lastly, Driscoll doesn’t seem to have a clue. He just sweeps the criticism right under the rug of his pollyanna happiness, way way out in the meadows with butterflies and flowers. He should join MacDonald on the “resigned from TGC” list.

    • ‘our forefathers in the faith were not afraid to ask the hard questions, step on some toes, and risked being considered “insensitive” to others who differ.’
      AND they didn’t sell tickets to the Synod of Dordt or charge for a live feed of the Westminster Assembly proceedings.

      • Theology Samurai

        Good point.

        Can you imagine if Paul’s response to Hymenaeus and Philetus was similar to the response to Jakes? “Not sure what they believe, maybe we should have a good old fashioned sit down and hash this out”

        Seems like a spade was called a spade for the Christians of old. Now, it’s insensitive and harsh…

        • graham and nicola

          To be honest, we think that ER2 was a terrible idea. And we’re not great fans of the focus on mega-pastors, and so forth. (It is becoming clear to we Brits that an evangelical in the US can achieve public recognition; a pastor can be a big name in British or Irish evangelicalism, but they will be a complete non-entity in the wider public sphere. Seeing Rob Bell interviewed by Bashir on Prime Time TV was something of a shock!)
          But we wouldn’t want to accuse Pr MacDonald of obstinacy or hubris, or what have you. We think that we should confine criticism to his judgments. He remains a brother, and we should not insult our siblings in public unless they really deserve it. It’s bad manners.

          G&N

  29. Is it not clear yet that Mark Driscoll needs to be disciplined and discipled? Who will do it?

  30. Dr. James White has the best review of this conversation on his podcast, “The Dividing Line”.

  31. Mr Taylor,

    You say: “The Elephant Room could have achieved virtually of the same results, perhaps better ones, without any of the negative relational repercussions and doctrinal confusion. How? By holding the conversations offline.”

    But then they’d've been unable to charge voyeurs $349 on-site & $99 online to watch the proceedings! The DVDs of ERs 1 & 2 were listed @ $70 prior to the melee. Now they are $90 for the collective wisdom of Messrs Driscoll, MacDonald & guests.

    Q: Did ER2 lack the tacky game-show up & down thumb lights?

  32. Hip Hop Theologian

    Yo, if I can summarize this with a RHYME
    and say that more is at risk than a DIME.
    Theology debates are always hot and HEAVY.
    So debate in love, don’t flood the LEVEE.

    When it comes to our brother T.D. JAKES
    He can be summed up as Mister MISTAKES
    because he thinks that that whole TRINITY
    is nothing more than just one ENTITY.
    God is not just one but also THREE
    characters in one and He is FREE
    to exist in a way that we can’t COMPREHEND.
    So on that debate we have reached the END.

    Let me discuss the racist charge and ALLEGATION
    and insist that Christ is not about SEGREGATION.
    He is the one that brings us in UNITY
    and removes every single kind of IMPUNITY.

    Dear Pastor Driscoll, making Christianity COOL.
    Just be wise in Christ and don’t act a FOOL
    and forget that unity is not to be very FAR
    from the truth, or else you will just MAR
    the holy CONGREGATION
    with some SEPARATION.
    No, not God’s NATION
    this is DEVASTATION
    End the CONFLATION.
    Have the REALIZATION
    that unity, Christ and LOVE
    takes the shape of the DOVE
    and comes down to MAN
    carrying God’s holy PLAN.

    The End.
    Brothers, unite and rejoice over the essentials.
    Determine the essentials. Then cling to them.
    And do so in charity. Sometimes the Truth offends- so be it.

    JOHN 3:16

    THE HIP HOP THEOLOGIAN
    P.S. Read Horatius Bonar and Sibbes, snitches.

  33. [...] The Elephant Room: What Really Happened, and How Things Could Have Been Different by Justin Taylor.  I’m appreciative of Justin’s candor and thoroughness. [...]

  34. JT,

    Great summary and analysis. As to why it was carried out in public, I have to wonder what the conference culture and cult of celebrity had to do with that. With all the lights, the hype, the mics, and the large cost of putting something like this on, there is an unmistakable, controlling dynamic, not to mention the various tribes (audiences) watching on. On a pragmatic level, ER is a good idea marketed very well.

    This afternoon, I sat down with a young, African American church planter I’ve been training to plant in a multi-ethnic context here in South Florida. Talking about ER2, he wondered why they could not do what TGC is already doing, providing great discussions with various pastors on important (and sometimes controversial) topics? And for FREE. And free to be embedded and distributed to help others learn, grow, and be challenged. He personally testified how beneficial the TGC videos have been for him on a wide-ranging spectrum of topics.

    The fallout of this is deeply grievous for those trying to “renew the center” of evangelicalism. Good, gospel-loving brothers are separated. Some of it due to bad theology. Some of it due to racial charges. Some of it due to the improper stewardship of a significant moment in evangelical life. In any case, I am grateful for the leadership of TGC and what you guys are doing. The kind of writing and clear-headed thinking on such crucial matters of the gospel, trinity, and evangelical unity as represented by TGC is important for our generation.

  35. Thanks for the many careful hours you put into this, Justin.

  36. [...] but he seemed to have wiggled out again. Some conservative (especially Reformed) Christians thought Jakes had an easy ride and was’t even quizzed on his other aberrant beliefs like Word of faith and prosperity [...]

  37. Pastor James was resolute from the beginning that TD Jakes is a brother in Christ. It was only the incessant badgering from the TGC that caused him to adjust his language on ER site. Brothers having conversations about doctrinal and practical differences in how they do ministry was always the purpose for the ER and I pray it remains so.

    • ‘Brothers having conversations about doctrinal and practical differences in how they do ministry was always the purpose for the ER’?
      WHAT of the $peaker$’ fees paid to mega-church participants, and the obscene prices charged to the gullible?

    • Would T. D. Jakes be a brother in Christ if he denies the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity or teaches a prosperity/empowerment gospel?

  38. Shayne McAllister

    Justin,

    I’m wondering how you might view this issue from the lens of historic fundamentalists. I’m not talking about the kind that go about separating willy nilly over unimportant issues. What about the kind that might urge secondary separation, from say MacDonald (who is orthodox) for failing to separate from TD Jakes (who is unorthodox at least in his prosperity theology). Anyway, having grown up in fundamentalist circles, I think they would be clearer on what to do in the circumstance while for TGC it’s been a muddier affair. I applaud a willingness to get muddy. But I’m wondering if this highlights a convergence of conservative evangelical thought on separatism with moderate fundamentalists.

    Thank you for this article. It really helps.

    Best,

    Shayne

    • Good question, Shayne. But I don’t think you could cite this incident as an example of secondary separation, since Mark Driscoll and Crawford Loritts participated in the Elephant Room and belong to TGC’s council.

      • Shayne McAllister

        Colin, my point isn’t as much about TGC. It’s that many evangelicals are calling for some kind of separation from MacDonald/Driscoll. I would put Driscoll and Lorittis in a different category than MacDonald. Driscoll was a participant who at best didn’t do a good job with pressing questions. MacDonald seems to be more emphatic and more unwise since he had more control of the situation. Traditional fundamentalists would separate at the drop of the hat, but I fear a long slow separation might occur if Driscoll continues to make unwise decisions. I hope your private conversations continue to be fruitful and challenging for all involved.

        • Shayne,

          I understand your desire for a judicial verdict of some sort. Truth is, however, that verdict must come from MacDonald’s own church for it to possess the kind of validity us believers want and can biblically act on.

          As you know (if you are the Shayne I think you are), the proper biblical process for confronting a brother is outlined in Mat. 18:15-20. Apart from that process, there can be no separation from a professing believer that is submitted to Christ.

          A proper means then to bring a professing brother to repentance whom you believe has sinned but goes to a different church would call the elders of his church to confront him prior to public accusation, since they are specifically tasked with doing so (1 Tim.5:19-20).

          Should they fail to do so, their failure, the professing brother’s failure, and the evidence of failure could then be made public in order to protect churches from the leavening influence.

          Apart from such means, we should expect a hardening of the behaviors and their accompanying justifications.

  39. I didn’t see any link to this side of the story. Sorry if I just missed it, but it should be noted: http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/voddie-baucham-ministries/blog/elephant-room-2012-01/

  40. I found it helpful to read Voddie Baucham’s take on this situation. I think it adds a great deal to what Justin has so admirably shared here. http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/voddie-baucham-ministries/blog/elephant-room-2012-01/

  41. Keep it up boys. Just keep pounding James MacDonald for wanting to talk to a guy. James believes like you, preaches like you and even stood with you, till he wanted to reach out to someone else. Thank God he doesn’t treat people like you do.

    • Thomas: Nice try, but we’re not buying it.
      First, MacD does NOT believe like many of us do – he admits he’s a 3.8 point Calvinist to begin with.
      2ndly, he didn’t merely “reach out,” or want to “talk to a guy.”
      Get real – he charged big bucks for folks to watch mega-church pastors chat all day.

    • Theology Samurai

      We’re hardly “pounding” MacDonald for wanting to “talk to a guy”. If that is all you think ER2 was, you completely missed the point.

    • Thomas,

      Regretfully, your response demonstrates precisely the concern so many of us have and had – that James modeled the opposite of what a true elder or pastor should be about, via Titus 2:1, and many like yourself and being led down the worst of paths. That breaks my heart. It’s why I pray for MacDonald’s repentance, and for those who’ve seen him as a model to look elsewhere if he does not.

  42. “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.”

  43. Theology Samurai

    The sad part is…MacDonald thinks he did something good. He sacrificied relationships with godly brothers to align himself with a heretic, and ruined his future usefulness among many. Makes a lot of sense…

    It also amazes me how he bashed David Platt, one of the brightest lights laboring in the harvest field today, for making Christ-like sacrifices for the kingdom…yet Jake$ gets a free pass for the sake of relationship building.

    Nice.

    • Sam,
      MacD’s Platt-bashing was his tip to what was to transpire on Jan. 25. Furtick & Jakes & other questionable BIG church celebs are his heroes.
      A tree is known by its fruit. How James either repents or defends himself will tell us much in the coming months.
      It must be called the “Elephant Room” for the massive egos therein!

      • graham and nicola

        Again, the issue has very little to do with James MacDonald. It was inevitable that there would be some engagement between Jakes and “The God Channel” on the one hand, and mainstream evangelicalism on the other. These are large, popular and persuasive movements that share a common language and many ethical values. Social forces were at work here.
        It must be a little disconcerting for the YRR that the engagement happened between “their” Pastors and Jakes. But, for better or worse, Church Marketing has been in the DNA of YRR from the beginning.
        Rather than forming a lynch mob for Pr MacDonald we should acknowledge that this was a problem all evangelicals would have to face sooner or later; and that sooner or later the Gospel Coalition is going to have to deal with the incoherence in the movement. We can’t have mega-Church-Growth and confessionalism at the centre of the movement for ever. Something will have to give. Either narrow TGC’s focus – say on confessional grounds, or a statement of belief that relies heavily on confessions. Or widen the focus – using something like the (rather deep) statement of belief that Packer and Oden drew up in “One Faith.”
        This latter route would allow conservative evangelicals like William Lane Craig a voice in TGC, and might help to ground wider evangelicalism (not a bad idea when books by Marin and Rollins are all the rage).

        G&N

  44. Had MacDonald really wanted to present a pristine, repentant, orthodox Jakes, why’d he try to do it @ $99-349 per viewer, w/o first privately coaching the ‘bishop,’ and/ or w/o challenging his prosperity heresy?

  45. [...] The Elephant Room: What Really Happened, and How Things Could Have Been Different – Justin Taylor [...]

  46. I find this conversation disconcerting on a number of levels. I strongly believe that theology matters, but guys – it’s time for us to get off our collective keyboards and get focused on those around us who we have been called to minister to and disciple. This is a giant waste of time, if you ask me.

  47. Justin,

    Any response to the Pyro bloggers? Seems to me they are exactly on point in this, and have been so for months. At least for me as someone who has a deep interest in the Gospel Coalition, I need to hear more than that there were private conversations behind closed doors. If this couldn’t be avoided, at least help us understand (1) the silence about this prior to the event, (2) the “fond farewell of James MacDonald after his resignation and (3) the lack of ANY statement regarding Mark Driscoll in particular and the other TGC counsel members who participated in this.

    We’ll wait for Dr. Carson’s thoughts, but the natives are restless.

    • Of course not. He doesn’t have any use for them. He even removed the link to their blog on his blog roll (they did not do the same). Justin acts like what happened was tragic and surprising, however Pyro and others have been telling is for months that this would happen. JT couldn’t agree because that would be criticizing Driscoll (which he’ll never do, no matter what Driscoll says or does) and MacDonald (which he never did until he resigned from TGC. Now he is fair game for criticism).

      So, Pyro is bad and needs to be de-linked for speaking difficult truths. . But Driscoll will continue to be treated with kid gloves. The fact that prosperity gospel wasn’t brought up is a horrific misstep. Driscoll and MacDonald deserve more than this tepid rebuke for what they’ve done. But, JT is a continuationist, and Driscoll/MacDonald both say that God told them to have ER2 this way, so JT can’t argue with them.

  48. Thank you Justin for the timeline and links. Very helpful as a resource.

  49. This is all very interesting. I believe most of TD’s opponents are not actually interested in correcting him but in getting his audience. They don’t like the fact he’s got money and fame, but its his audience they would love to have and the benefits that go with that. Is his ministy man made or God blessed???…Do people under his ministry who confess Christ (is it possible to confess Christ under his ministry?)go to heaven.
    Is this a little like the guy healed by Jesus on the Sabbath where everyone decried Jesus for doing it but yet a MIRACLE had happened, God had moved.
    So my question remains is TD Jakes ministry man made or God Blessed.

    Craig Smith I agree with you, there is something uncomfortable about all this in light of a world going to hell. I don’t think other pastors leaders are our enemy. We will all get to heaven and find out something we believed with all our heart is just wrong. If I have an eternity to know God and his son Jesus Christ (John17:5) then how I can ever think I’ll know all now

    BTW this comment “They become de facto prosperity preachers because weak Christians enjoy hearing man-centered sermons that speak to their itching ears.”
    All I can say is WOW!!! What a sweeping judgemental comment about so many people. Heaven is going to be a small place under these terms.
    We must all including myself heed Jesus comments in Luke 11v46 Jesus replied, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
    Also verse 52 “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

    53 When Jesus went outside, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions, 54 waiting to catch him in something he might say.

    Just some thoughts on all this…

  50. JT,
    You say things in your blog like, “no one knows what happened behind closed doors”. But isn’t that the point. If I see Macdonald and Driscoll’s comments in ER2 as endorsing the ministry of TD Jakes and calling it “solid” than won’t other believers? The problem isn’t that they were too nice to TD Jakes, the problem is this could lead to people listening to and considering the teaching of Jakes. The point is Jakes preaches a false prosperity Gospel. Whether or not he preaches the “bad” prosperity Gospel or a “worse” prosperity Gospel is kind of a silly thing to consider in my opinion. If it is contrary to Paul’s Gospel it does not matter if it is completely wrong or almost completely wrong it is in fact “another Gospel”. Overall I appreciate this blog and I appreciate you and the Gospel Coalition but those were just a couple things I saw that I wish to see cleared up a little bit.

  51. I am also quite concerned about the quote by James Macdonald saying that Jakes prosperity theology is more scriptural than the “monasticism” of Platt, Piper, Chan, and Alcorn. Hard to believe, and needing to be called out!Incredible in the light of the gospels.

  52. JT,

    Good thoughts. Several of us pointed out as far back as Sept. 2011 that Jakes would not clearly answer the question of the Trinity. Despite his answers at ER2 it can also be documented that Jakes still serves in important ministry positions with Oneness folks.

    I point those issues out in consideration of what Jakes did not say at ER2. He seemed to move a little closer to Trinitarianism while not distancing himself from Oneness theology. It’s as if he accepts either as valid. IOW, there was no repentance.

    If I understand correctly that MacDonald knew what Jakes would say months before the ER2, then keeping that secret probably caused part of the build-up we see today. I don’t see that as healthy for the body.

  53. I had to immediately check to see if it said “comments closed’ before I could even stomach beginning to read this. Good to see that they arent. Now I’ll read it.

  54. I agree with the many comments here and from the past 3 or 4 months over at the pyro blog that The Gospel Coalition definitely dropped the ball by their silence all of those 3 or 4 months leading up to the ER2. (with the exception of one very honorable and courageous man who DID boldly stand up and write about it and who was basically hung out to dry and left to fend for himself by the shameful silence.)

    So nothing now written a long week after the fiasco can make up for all the crickets chirping back then.
    Though I am glad TGC seems to be waking up now, only after every other blog in the reformed community has spoken up, the deafening silence when it really mattered cannot be washed away and the stain so easily removed.

  55. I think that Piper started this movement with his inclusion of Warren in his Desiring God conference. I think that he, being the leader that he is,really kicked the door open to placing fellowship over truth. I still really love John Piper and Desiring God Ministries but I do not think that they ever handled or addressed that situation properly.

  56. Erik the Lutheran

    After reading this I am so thankful to have the Lutheran Confessions.

  57. “You can read here the full transcript of the conversation between MacDonald, Jakes, and Driscoll.”

    That was not at all the full transcript. That was an excerpt taken by a journalist. It was a 35 minute segment.

  58. While Justin Taylor takes great pains to qualify his critique…in the end it just seems to be “armchair quarterbacking”. These men, though imperfect, have probably done more FOR the cause of Christ than the writer, or commentators have and perhaps ever will.
    Could it have been done better…sure, communicated more clearly?… I would have liked that, cost less?…my wallet thinks so too?
    But to pick apart James MacDonald, or the other “Mega-Church” Pastors, for having the courage to do something like this but not meeting your expectations is ridiculous. If you don’t like his style fine….but venom cloaked “theological purity”…is still venom. Anti-Mega-Church bias?
    These are the discussions that happen in tiny churches (Starbucks), between angry grown children of Evangelicals or college students in horned rimmed glasses, who quote Piper (though they really don’t read his books) who walk past the lost to get to the debate about what church “is”, how churches should not build building but do missions, and how to live in “community” in an “organic”, “authentic”, “relevant”, non-threatening relationship with self….er…. Jesus. Please!

  59. Mission accomplished by the ER2 , Make lots of money,elevate individuals,question Gods word,leave everyone confused,and sell lots of merchandise afterwards.ER3 could be held in Rome next time, with lions and a few Christians for fun.This whole circus makes me sick.Please dont tell me there were coffee mugs on sale with the ER2 logo on!

  60. Hi Justin,

    I was wondering if you had any thoughts on the post-ER2 interview that James MacDonald held with three African-American pastors (Brian Loritts, Charles Jenkins, Eric Mason). Pastor Loritts’ comments on black pastors wanting to fit in white theological circles is particularly interesting. I’m really not sure what to make of it and I am even more confused that none of these three tackle the issue of Jakes’ health and wealth teachings. These comments seem diametrically opposed to the concerns raised by other African-American pastors such as Thabiti Anyabwile. Am I missing something? Just trying to clarify. Thank you, your work is a blessing!

  61. Justin, thanks for your thoughtful, careful, biblical and gracious words. Much appreciated, my brother.

  62. [...] The Elephant Room: What Really Happened, and How Could Things Have Been Different (by Justin Taylor) [...]

  63. A very measured analysis, Justin. Thanks.

    BTW, if you have not read it yet, the prosperity gospel critique by Jones and Woodbridge that Justin references is excellent.

  64. JT, so glad you made the point that this could have been more fruitful and beneficial if conversations were had offline.

    In fact, I too would have had difficulty asking Bishop Jakes tough questions in that particular forum because the entire time my conscience would be telling me that this is not the proper forum to address this.

    Debating non-essentials publicly is an altogether different animal than confronting a pastor about serious (potential) doctrinal error.

    Really thoughtful post, btw.

  65. [...] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2012/02/01/the-elephant-room-what-really-happened-a… 36.444000 -77.680370 Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_bg", "f4d0a8"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_border", "c2a380"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_text", "453320"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_link", "000000"); GA_googleAddAttr("theme_url", "e50000"); GA_googleAddAttr("LangId", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Autotag", "religion"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "the-gospel-coalition"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "elephant-room"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "gospel-coalition"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "kevin-deyoung"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "millard-erickson"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "oneness-pentecostalism"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "sabellianism"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "t-d-jakes"); GA_googleAddAttr("Tag", "trinity"); GA_googleFillSlot("wpcom_sharethrough"); Share this:SharePrintDiggLinkedInRedditEmailFacebookStumbleUponTwitterTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. [...]

  66. [...] -Justin Taylor breaks down what happened and offers very thorough and wise reflection… [...]

  67. Thanks Justin for your post.
    I respect Mark Driscoll. I have listen to many of his sermons and read many of his book. I have learned much from him and continue to do so.
    But, what I don’t understand in this whole event is the way Mark address TD Jakes on the Trinity? Meaning, in the past, Mark has preached great sermons on false teachers (see his sermon on Peter) and taught his people that elders should “shoot the wolves”. His common story is how many “wackos and nut-jobs” are out there and they come especially to church plants and want to debate everything under sun. Further, he has told us that in the early days of his deals with those who started the Emergent movement when they began opening up essential issues of the Christian faith that he disassociated himself with them.
    Now, TD Jakes comes up to the plate. He, historically, has been a known modalist. Jakes has documented in print how he explains things and smooths over his answers to sound Trinitarian. Might I say, “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”. But, Mark pitches questions which were more like softballs than anything. He doesn’t back him off the plate.
    Or, to say it another way, why does Mark shoot the wolf? Meaning, press him with precise questions until Jakes either dies of his false views, repent, and live in the light of the truth OR continues to live in falsehood, but the sheep’s clothing will be removed and everybody will see that he is a wolf.

  68. [...] Elephant Room is over, reaction from TGC is well underway, with recent posts by Kevin DeYoung and Justin Taylor expressing disappointment and sadness over the decision to include Bishop Jakes in the Elephant [...]

  69. [...] I found three less-than-glowing critiques of The Elephant Room by TGC regulars Kevin deYoung, Justin Taylor, and Tim [...]

  70. [...] The Elephant Room: What Really Happened, and How Things Could HaveBeen Different [...]

  71. [...] Unless you’ve been liv­ing under a rock, you’ve prob­a­bly heard some­thing about the sec­ond Elephant Room con­fer­ence. In case you haven’t, or you just want a recap of the inci­dent, Justin Taylor has you covered. [...]

  72. [...] over the events, decisions, and relationships connected to James MacDonald’s Elephant Room 2. If you read Justin Taylor’s blog, you have all the info and a directory to the analysis, discussion, and general [...]

  73. [...] Though of late he has drawn alot of concern among many conservative Christians (following his hasty endorsement of heretics, his controversial book and esoteric visions). Now there is Andrew-gate [...]

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