In 2007, the Lord granted me the privilege of publishing The Decline of African-American Theology: From Biblical Faith to Cultural Captivity (IVP).  The book was a labor of sorrow and love–sorrow because of how sharp and deep theological decline has been since the first writing African Americans of the late 1700s and early 1800s, and love because I ache to see my kinsmen according to the flesh brought into the gracious realms of God’s salvation.  For me, the book was an attempt to (a) accurately trace the history of African-American theology using available primary source material, and (b) fulfill a pastoral obligation to advance the gospel and refute error (Titus 1:9).

Because the book “breaks rank” and “the party line,” I expected to be alone against an avalanche of criticism and angry protest.  But the Lord has a people who have not bowed the knee to the baals of theological heresy, a people who want to know the truth and who instinctively if not explicitly knew something had gone wrong in the African-American church.  Jesus’ sheep hear and know His voice, and they follow Him.  Instead of an avalanche of criticism, I’ve pretty much heard a chorus of “Finally” and “It’s about time!”

When theologically conservative, Evangelical or Reformed African Americans call for reform in the African-American church, they feel like midgets facing the titans and juggernauts of a word-faith, charismatic pantheon.  The task can seem so daunting and isolating.  Internally, there’s the constant fight with unbelief and resignation.  There’s wrestling with questions like “Can the African-American church be reformed?”  ”Is the church essentially apostate?”  Sometimes these questions have more to do with us than they have to do with the church.  But the questions illustrate how intense and serious a battle this is.

That’s why it’s difficult to see larger-than-life heretics given a platform in circles of pastors and leaders we respect and we regard as co-laborers in defense and confirmation of the truth.  I’m breaking no stories here.  The news of T.D. Jakes’ invitation to the Elephant Room is widespread and rightly lamented by many.  I’m just adding a perspective that hasn’t yet been stated: This kind of invitation undermines that long, hard battle many of us have been waging in a community often neglected by many of our peers.  And because we’ve often been attempting to introduce African-American Christians to the wider Evangelical and Reformed world as an alternative to the heresy and blasphemy so commonplace in some African-American churches and on popular television outlets, the invitation of Jakes to perform in “our circles” simply feels like a swift tug of the rug from beneath our feet and our efforts to bring health to a sick church.

MacDonald and Driscoll can moderate discussions with anyone they wish.  But we kid ourselves if we think inviting someone so recalcitrant about fundamental biblical teaching as Jakes can result in anything positive.  MacDonald, Driscoll and others will not be the first to privately and publicly exhort, admonish, instruct and challenge Jakes on this vital issue–to no avail thus far.  And we kid ourselves if we think the Elephant Room invitation itself isn’t an endorsement of sorts.  We can’t downplay the associations by calling for people to suspend judgment and responding ad hominem against “discernment bloggers.”  We certainly can’t do that while simultaneously pointing to our association at The Gospel Coalition as a happy certification of orthodoxy and good practice, as Driscoll seems to do here with MacDonald.

This isn’t on the scale of Piper inviting Warren.  This is more akin to Augustine inviting Muhammad.  This invitation gives a platform to a heretic.  It’s imprudent and counter-productive–witness already the Trinity-related confusions and obfuscations happening since announcing Jakes’ involvement.

Can the Lord squeeze lemonade out of this lemon?  Absolutely.  I pray He does.  Is it likely?  We’ll see.

What should MacDonald do now?  I’m not even sure.  There’s an argument to be made for confrontation.  There’s also an argument to be made for separation.  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.  It’s easy to play “Should of, Could of, Would of.”  Monday morning quarterbacking always leaves fewer bruises than taking Sunday morning snaps.  I don’t envy MacDonald one bit.  I pray for his courage and the Lord’s grace whichever way it goes.  I hope you do, too.

But this I do know, the entire situation raises association, separation, and accountability concerns for me that I did not have to the same degree before now.  It raises significant questions about how members of The Gospel Coalition associate and endorse beyond the Coalition meetings themselves.  For me, it tests the bounds of cooperation.  I’m no Fundamentalist with well-established separation doctrines.  But as one attempting to draw lines–cardinal biblical lines, mind you!–in a community flooded with heresy, this is no easy relationship to balance.  Can I really endorse or remain quiet on an event that features a heretic I’m committed to opposing in writing?  I don’t think so.  That decision is easy for me.  More difficult: Can I really endorse or support a brother who willingly associates with such a heretic and extends them a platform?  Painful.  Sobering.

I don’t even know if I’ll watch the Elephant Room this time around.  But there are three things I re-double my efforts to watch: my life, my doctrine, and the sheep the Lord entrusts to me.

In The Decline, I included a section on T.D. Jakes’ view of God.  For any interested, I’ve reprinted it below.  Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us both now and forever.  Amen.

—————————————–

Reviving old heresies: Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Oneness controversy.

Perhaps the most significant conflict regarding the doctrine of God among African Americans at the close of the twentieth century coincides with the rise and prominence of Bishop Thomas Dexter (T. D.) Jakes (1958-) of the Dallas, Texas-based Potter’s House Ministries. Writers at The New York Times speculate that Bishop Jakes may be the “next Billy Graham,” while journalists at Time Magazine dub him “the best preacher in America” and one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America.[1]  His influence extends to millions worldwide through his television outreach, speaking tours and popular books. Regrettably, his doctrine of God is taken from doctrinal errors roundly rejected by many modern Pentecostal and Evangelical churches as well as the early Christian church.

Bishop Jakes subscribes to a Oneness Pentecostal doctrine of God. Oneness Pentecostalism is a branch of Pentecostalism with its modern roots extending to the Azusa Street revival of 1906 and revival meetings featuring Canadian preacher R. E. McAlister (1880-1953) and evangelist Frank Ewart (1876-1947) between 1913 and 1915. McAlister and Ewart departed from traditional and orthodox trinitarian views of the Godhead and taught the radical unity of God by denying that God existed in three Persons. They held that the one God appeared in three distinct “modes” or “manifestations”—as Father in creation, as the Son in redemption, and as Holy Spirit in regeneration and indwelling—but that there was only one real Person in the Godhead, namely Jesus. Also known as “Modalism,” Ewart’s teachings spread rapidly through Pentecostal denominations. At its 1916 General Assembly, the Assemblies of God, a major branch of Pentecostalism, rejected the Oneness doctrine of God and required adherence to trinitarian theology. Following that decision, nearly 160 Oneness ministers formed their own denominations and alliances. The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World formed in 1918 as a multi-racial denomination, but split in 1924 along racial lines to become a predominantly African American organization.[2]

Bishop T. D. Jakes stands as a contemporary, though reluctant, representative of Oneness theology. Jakes tends to eschew doctrinal disputes and offers an apathetic defense of his theology by saying, “Christians have always had diversity in their theology and will continue to do so.”[3]  Nonetheless, historically orthodox churches condemn or exclude heretical views as misrepresentations of biblical faith—including the Oneness doctrine of God for its denial of the Trinity.

The Potter’s House “Doctrinal Statement” reads:

THREE DIMENSIONS OF GOD (I John 5:7; Matthew 28:19; I Timothy 3:16)

We believe in one God who is eternal in His existence, Triune in His manifestation, being both Father, Son and Holy Ghost AND that He is Sovereign and Absolute in His authority.[4]

The very title of the section, emphasizing dimensions of God, signals Jakes’s heretical doctrinal stance. The brief exposition that follows uses typical Modalist or Oneness language referring to God as “Triune in his manifestations” but not in his Person.

Outside of this doctrinal statement, Jakes rarely explicates the theology informing his ministry. In one place, he writes, “One of the greatest controversies in all the Bible concerns the Godhead.”[5]  He explains his sense of the controversy with rhetorical questions intended to undermine the credibility of trinitarian doctrine: “If there is one God, as Scripture teaches, how can there be a Son who says that He and His Father are one? If there is only one God, how can there be ‘three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one’?”[6]  Aside from the fact that the biblical writers did not record any intra-Christian “controversy” involving the trinitarian nature of God, Jakes’s own admission of the “mystery” involved in understanding the Trinity should steer him away from attacking orthodox theological positions. However, intrepid in his conclusions, Jakes’s error revives and popularizes the ancient, denounced heretical opinions of Sabellius in the third century A.D.[7]  And in doing so, he does more than merely depart from tradition; Bishop T. D. Jakes’s Oneness doctrine of God “indirectly undermines the Christian view of God’s character, God’s revelation, and God’s salvation by grace.”[8]  Millions of people are influenced by Jakes’s subtle representation of aberrant theology. And given the importance the Bible attaches to accurately knowing God, his revival of heresy is no small matter.

Notes

1.  Gustav Niebuhr and Laurie Goodstein, “The Preachers: A Special Report—New Wave of Evangelists Vying for National Pulpit,” The New York Times, January 1, 1999; David Van Biema, “Spirit Raiser,” Time Magazine, 27 September 2001; “Time Magazine 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America,” Time Magazine, February 7, 2005.

2.  ”Oneness Pentecostalism,” Interfaith Belief Bulletin (Alpharetta, GA: North American Mission Board, 1999).

3.  Downloaded from the Potter’s House website May 17, 2005; available at www.thepottershouse.org.

4.  Ibid.

5.  T. D. Jakes, Anointing Fall on Me: Accessing the Power of the Holy Spirit (Lanham, MD: Pneuma Life Publishing, 1997), p. 7.

6.  Ibid.

7.  For good treatments of Sabellianism or Modalist theology in the early church, see Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine—Volume 1: The Catholic Tradition, 100-600 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971), pp. 176-80; for a brief discussion of the effect of Sabellianism on more contemporary theologians, see, John D. Hannah, Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2001), pp. 77-79, 98, 100.

8.  Gregory A. Boyd, Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), p. 12; as cited in Jerry L. Buckner, “The Man, His Ministry, and His Movement: Concerns About the Teachings of T.D. Jakes,” Christian Research Journal, 22, no. 2 (1999).

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Comments:


219 thoughts on “Collateral Damage in the Invitation of T.D. Jakes to the Elephant Room”

  1. Mathew Sims says:

    Amen and amen! I’m glad for your courage and stand against bad doctrine.

  2. brdavision says:

    Thank you for your stand Pastor Anyabwile. Like you said it is lonely for those of us who have come out of the apostate “Black Church” and embraced reformed theology. I was a member of the apostate Church of God in Christ for 27 years of my life and I’m only 28! I had no clue of wrath of God against my sin before God nor what the gospel message really was. As God begin to open my eyes through immense study of His word I came to the horrible reality that I wasn’t even saved! But the grace of God kept me and enabled me to know and understand His Gospel, therefore I have been justified by faith (In Christ) and now have peace with God. Amen!

    I’m without words with this post today. I have been sounding the alarm on TD Jakes for a while now and I knew that as doctrinal stances started to decline and disappear that we would see him attempt to go mainstream….

    What MacDonald, Driscoll and others have done is to bring lies to the attention of others. They have made lies accessible to others and it will have a negative impact of those who watch especially those who already adore Jakes.

    It will further their deception because the question will be asked: “Well if “big name” preachers accept Jakes then why shouldn’t I?”

    This undermines everything Paul worked and prayed for in Acts chapter 20 as he pleaded with the Ephesian Elders to:

    “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears.” Acts 20:28-31

    Keep sounding the alarm Sir! I will keep you in my prayers!

    brdavision

  3. Neil says:

    Blessings to you and your ministry and for your call to the African-American church to return to good theology.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      May the Lord make His face to shine upon you, too, brother!
      T-

  4. Ryan says:

    “It raises significant questions about how members of The Gospel Coalition associate and endorse beyond the Coalition meetings themselves.”

    is that a vague threat that it is you or MacDonald for the Gospel Coalition?

    one or the other has to go?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Ryan,

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment on your Saturday. There are better things you could be doing, I’m sure. So I’m grateful for your visit.

      It’s an honor for me to be a part of the Coalition. I’m often asking myself and sometimes others, “Why am I here?” I don’t feel any sense of entitlement to be a part, just gratitude to my Maker and my brethren for the opportunity to stand together in the Good News of our Savior King.

      So, “No,” that is not a “vague threat.” I don’t threaten people, vague or otherwise. I’m speaking plainly.

      The question of association with heretics raises the question about the viability of the coalition. Any coalition has to be held together either by what it’s for or by what it’s against. When that uniting force becomes ineffective you can no longer maintain the coalition. In our (TGC) case, we’re a coalition built upon and for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all recognize differences on secondary matters, including ministry strategy matters. That’s not what our coalition is built upon. It’s built upon the gospel we all believe and cherish and are sworn to advance and protect. But in this case, we have a coalition member in a non-coalition activity appearing to embrace someone who denies the gospel–both on the issue of the Trinity and in his preaching of another gospel, the ‘prosperity gospel.’

      That begs the question: How do members of The Gospel Coalition associate, endorse, “coalesce” beyond the official Coalition meetings themselves? What is our accountability to one another beyond TGC events, if any?

      That’s no threat. That’s pointing to a real issue in the limits and strength/weakness of our coalition.

      I hope that helps,
      T-

      1. Ryan says:

        but…. with all due respect, it seems a little unfair to intimate separation from a guy for something that hasn’t even happened yet.

        no one bats an eye when Pastor Mark debates atheists on Nightline, yet i would argue someone like Jakes is more in need of debate and challenge and more of a ‘danger’ to the true gospel than Hitchens or any of his ilk…

        Shouldn’t we be encouraged that 3 members of the TGC (Dever, MacDonald, and Driscoll) have secured a public forum with which to challenge Jakes?

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Ryan,

          Isn’t it better to raise these concerns before these things happen so that problems might be averted? We’d warn an alcoholic not to drink before he gets smashed. We warn children not to play with fire before they get burned. We warn saints not to sin before they’re entangled. It’s not a question of “fairness” based on the outcome of the event. It’s a question of fidelity to truth and conducting ourselves as leaders in a way that does not confuse or obscure vital, soul-saving truth.

          Debating an atheist on Nightline is another matter altogether. That’s contending for the faith in a context where the gospel needs to be inserted. Elephant room, until the revised description was published, was billed as a conversation between Christian brothers. That’s world’s apart from Paul on Mars Hill, Driscoll on Nightline, or any of us taking the gospel where it is not known.

          Jakes surely is “more of a danger” because of the pseudo-gospel he maintains. And that’s why you don’t give him a bigger platform. You challenge privately, as many have been doing for years. Publicly, until there’s clear repentance and reformation in his teaching, you rebuke with all seriousness and you draw a distinction so no one is confused about the error.

          As I said in the post, if this thing goes forward I pray the Lord would make lemonade. We have every reason to hope in our Sovereign God. But hope in God should not tempt us to throw discernment and caution to the wind, imo.

          Grace and peace brother,
          T-

          1. Mary E T says:

            Not only is your article spot on, but also your responses are equally as good (this is also the talk behind the scenes).

            Someone seriously needs to address the Gospel Coalitions involvement with some of these false teachers. I use the word involvement because if the members are not denouncing these false teachers, it clearly looks like an endorsement to so many of us. Everyone I talk to behind the scenes is discussing this issue concerning the Gospel Coalition. You are one of the very few who is a member that has dared to speak the truth (on all matters). I am also thankful to Phil Johnson, Carl Trueman, Nathan Busenitz, James White, Tim Challies, Frank Turk and Dan Phillips for their stand against Modalism.

            God bless you for all your efforts,
            Mary

        2. Ryan:

          Brother Anyabwile wrote to you, “Isn’t it better to raise these concerns before these things happen so that problems might be averted?”

          What he has suggested has a bias sin and can be articulated from the Scriptures. I encourage you to read and meditate on how God would have you, me and Brother Anyabwile obey His commands in 2 Thess. 3:6; 14-15. “Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

          T. D. Jakes is a “deadly enemy of the cross of Christ” (Phil. 3:18). Jakes should be marked, avoided (Rom. 16:17-18) and separated from as an enemy of the cross. It is dangerous to give the man a platform to possibly draw away disciples (Acts 20:28-31) to his aberrant theology.

          LM

          1. From my previous, “What he has suggested has a bias sin and can be articulated from the Scriptures. ”

            Should read, What he has suggested has a basis in and can be articulated from the Scriptures.

  5. Garrett says:

    I did not consider this an issue that needed more care until I read this. Thank you for raising it for us to think about.

    I know many will think it too direct or hard, but you know obviously from experience. What is clear is that we do not need to pretend that this is not some smaller disagreement like multi-site issues.

  6. Dane Ortlund says:

    This is an excellent post, brother.

  7. Chad says:

    Thanks for this post. I’m more concerned that more are led astray by Jakes false prosperity gospel than by his heretical views on the Trinity. This seems to be the real elephant in the room.

    We both got to sit under Conrad Mbewe’s teaching this spring in Chicago. What an amazing teacher that would be a much better representative of our Lord than TD Jakes in the Elephant Room.

    My prayer is that the elephant in the room is to call Jakes to submit his life to the good teaching of God’s Word.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Amen.

  8. Josh Manley says:

    Grateful for your wisdom, discernment, and spirit, Thabiti. I am thankful the Lord has raised you up and given you the platform you have. May the Lord use this event to provide gospel-correction where it’s needed and bring glory to Himself. Thanks for your ministry, Thabiti.

  9. Rod says:

    Thank you for this well-thought out and well-reasoned post. I am all for public discourse and discussion in secondary matters but in matters of first importance there need be no debate. May God have mercy on us!

  10. BlackCalvinist says:

    Well spoken, brother. Well spoken.

  11. Rayshawn says:

    Thank you for this, Thabiti. I cant help but wonder your opinion on this, but how do you think this will look when 5 white pastors are confronting a black heretic? How does this look for the A.A. church that you already questioned as being “essentially apostate”? Why couldnt MacDonald invite an Osteen or Warren if he wanted a large figure with some controversy and influence? I guess Im just thinking of all 30,000+ of Jakes followers who could, after this, potentially turn their backs even more to Reformed Theology. Race relations between whites and blacks is already a big enough issue in the church in America, and even if they do confront Jakes and expose him to be the heretic that he is, what happens next? What does that look like for all the people who only see this as “picking on” Jakes because he’s black? Coming out of a W.o.F. background, I know that people (esp.my people) love their leaders to death, even if theyre dead wrong. I guess I just conclude that this was not a good idea by the E.R.

    1. Rayshawn says:

      my apologies…you didnt question the A.A. church as being “essentially apostate”, you mentioned that it is a question some are wrestling with…thanks

      1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        Hi Rayshawn,

        Thanks for engaging the conversation. You raise some good questions. A little later in the meta, Anthony Bradley raises a similar concern.

        One could ask, as Bradley does: Why not invite a White teacher from the Oneness background? It’s a good question. I think, though, at first blush, the answer isn’t in the ethnic/racial dynamics at play. If you read the bios for the invitees, with the exception of Mark Dever’s, most every bio lauds measures of outward “success.” Things like: “Church grew from 13 to 13,000.” “Pastors the 30,000 strong church.” Etc. So, Jakes is a draw because Jakes has a large audience. These are supposed to be successful pastors. It may be that a pragmatic, popularity-driven and numbers-focused perspective influenced the invitation.

        As far as how it looks to the AA church, a significant part of the AA church won’t even raise an eyebrow, except to perhaps wonder why Jakes would hang out with these guys. Another part will see it as validation of Jakes’ ministry and message. And a few of us will lament this sad state of affairs. The response of the AA church will tell you something about the state (healthy or not) of the church.

        You’re correct to see that if this gets viewed as five white guys jumping on a nice black guy the potential setback (or exposure!) of ethnic tensions will be significant. So, it’s difficult to imagine how this ever becomes an unqualified “win” for the gospel and for gospel relationships.

        I think it’s a time for praying people to pray!
        T-

        1. Denny Burk says:

          I think you’re right. The only thing that could possibly salvage this encounter as a “win” would be if Jakes unambiguously renounces modalism and embraces trinitarianism.

  12. Not a Greg Boyd fan, but his book on Oneness Pentecostals is truly outstanding. If you want to know more, that is a great place to start (it is #8 in the notes above)

  13. Paul Martin says:

    Thanks for shooting straight, brother.

    You have identified the issue many of us are struggling with in this situation.

  14. Andrew Thornquist says:

    This was a very helpful post. Thank you, brother.

  15. Thank you for taking a stand. Your patience and kindness in comment moderation is a quality to be admired and emulated. Thanks for your example.

  16. Cornelius says:

    Kinda sad when gospel coalition members start attacking each other on blogs…

    1. Chris Poe says:

      Kinda sad when a commenter seems more concerned about a parachurch organization than he is about the gospel…

    2. Tim says:

      Why do you guys always pull the “You’re attacking each other” card when a guy disagree’s with something another guy does? Isn’t that partly the call of the church? If we can’t exhort, reprove and rebuke with all long suffering then isn’t that like seeing a bus about ready to run a brother down and then not saying anything because he chose to walk out in front of the bus as his best rout and who am I to tell him he’s wrong? Besides, there are bigger issues to talk to him about?? When we make friends in the faith community and when we have phileo with others than we are obligated to each others accountability and we should have each other’s back. JM doesn’t want to hear it but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t say it. The blog is helpful to all those that would witness this and it is pulling them out of the way of a so they aren’t flattened by the apostasy bus.

      Thank you brother T! great post

  17. Wyeth Duncan says:

    “When theologically conservative, Evangelical or Reformed African Americans call for reform in the African-American church, they feel like midgets facing the titans and juggernauts of a word-faith, charismatic pantheon.”

    Ain’t that the truth!

    Thank you for this post, Thabiti.

  18. Mark says:

    Brother Thabiti, thank you for this perspective.

    I’m wondering if you’ve seen the interview Jakes did in 2010 where the host asked him directly about the Trinity including bringing up heresy, Nicea, etc.? I quoted and linked to the interview in a recent post which you can find at my site.

    In the interview Jakes claims his views are evolving on the Trinity. He is still not clear and has not said that he is not a Modalist. He has also not said he believes in the Trinity. He did say that he believes there are three Persons in the Godhead in a way that “persons is a limited word.” He does not explain what he means though.

    He has been questioned for years and is evasive. Just like in the 2010 interview where he does not say what he means by persons being limited in its description. In the interview he states that he strongly defended the tenants of Oneness doctrine so he should be well-versed in the arguments and know the issues. Yet, he won’t clearly admit where he stands and holds Oneness folks to be fellow Christians.

    He also calls those who defend doctrine wolves while himself declining to defend sound doctrine and rebuke false teachers. So Jakes is not, and maybe cannot, fulfilling the duties of his pastoral office. This alone would concern folks.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Mark,

      Thanks for stopping by, brother. And thanks for your post re: Jakes’ interview. I did read it, and I especially appreciated the clarifying comment of your theologian friend. If anyone is interested, they can read mark’s transcript of the Jakes interview here: http://hereiblog.com/td-jakes-association-lacking-discernment/.

      Grace to all,
      T-

  19. matt says:

    you had a point until you said, “Augustine inviting Muhammad.”

    what a joke.

    T.D Jakes isn’t exactly Muhammad. a bit of a stretch. please write a little more intelligently and a little less like a hack…

    1. Chris E says:

      To the extent that TD Jakes’ God is not the God of the Bible, that’s a fair comparison. Though perhaps “Augustine inviting Arius” would be more accurate.

      1. Ray Nearhood says:

        I dunno, having heard both Oneness Pentecostals and Muslims debate against historic Christian orthodoxy – with the same arguments – I thought the metaphor both accurate and instructive.

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Matt,

      Welcome to the blog, friend. Thanks for leaving a comment and interacting with the rest of us.

      I accept Chris E’s friendly amendment, supplying Arius for Muhammad. But the point is the same.

      And, honestly, you shouldn’t be lost by one rhetorical line when what’s at stake is the Trinity and the gospel of our Lord. I pray you would be enabled read a little more intelligently and work to be less distracted when cardinal matters are at stake. The Church needs you standing to contend for the faith once for all delivered to us all.

      Grace and peace,
      T-

      1. matt says:

        maybe a glance at James 4:11-12 is in order. better yet…let’s take a look at the purpose of ER…to call into question doctrinal differences:

        “Our goals is unity, however, a rally to unite where there is so much division is not for those who prefer to hide in small huddles of self congratulatory agreement. A true unity cannot be fashioned in pretense or denial of truth nor can it be won among those who prefer sectarianism to the unity Jesus prayed for. To advance Christ’s call to unity we must do what men have always done, we must push and prod and challenge and sharpen each other’s beliefs and methods. Fidelity and fruitfulness, both matter. No one has a corner on the truth and methods must do more than ‘work.’”

        Instead of writing blogs about a lack of discernment on the part of ER or how TD Jakes is going to hell as an unbeliever…let’s listen to what Jakes says in January.

        Let’s use the platform God has given us wisely…because THAT is one area God clearly outlines his judgement.

        Interesting that the biggest adversary to the Conservative Evangelical Movement and its leaders…are fellow Conservative Evangelicals.

        ER is not a church or parachurch.

        It’s a platform to be upfront with those that don’t agree.

        Perspective. It’s refreshing.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Matt,

          I’m not sure I really followed all that you said in your last comment. To my knowledge, I’ve not spoken evil of any brother. I’ve not spoken evil of James. And I do not regard Jakes as a brother. I don’t say that lightly. I tremble to say it. But there’s nothing left to me if John 17:3 defines eternal life as knowing the Father and Jesus Christ whom the Father sent, and Jakes denies that there is both a Father and a Son in the Godhead. Is there another option I’m missing?

          Perhaps the relevant text might be Galatians 1:6-9. The Bible does not encourage us to “listen” when the gospel of our Lord is corrupted. Jakes distorts the gospel on two fronts–a denial of the Trinity and asserting the ‘prosperity gospel’, which is really no gospel at all. The Lord through the Apostle Paul pronounces an anathema on such teaching!

          If we can be “upfront with those that don’t agree” at ER, why can we not be “upfront with those that teach false things” when writing on a blog? Or anywhere else for that matter?

          Enlightened discourse should not be confused with open platforms for error.

          All God’s grace and love to you, friend.
          T-

          1. matt says:

            I see ER as the context to do such things. I in no way agree with the modalist belief, and my exposure to Jakes is quite limited…BUT…I question the call for a public lynching of the guy for beliefs that are at best in question.

            I question your quick handed judgement and open rebuke of Jakes and the intentions of the ER and only need to look a few blog posts ago to see that you over-stepped yourself (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2011/09/29/an-apology-to-stephen-furtick-and-others/).

            My only concern is for the mentality us Conservative Evangelicals have on our “ownership” of the gospel.

            Exodus 14:14 is a text I regularly lean on, and a principle that we are better to lean on pre-ER 2 when Jakes can clearly outline his position.

            Let’s stop patting each other on the back for “standing up” against wolves and false teachers and seek unity for the SAKE of the Gospel.

            If I’m wrong…your concerns and this post should see the light of day on January 26.

            Pre-mature to debate and “stand” against something that hasn’t been confirmed.

            Lots of unbelievers watching. Lots of souls to be saved. Let’s all commit to 1 Corinthians 13:

            “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing..”

            For the sake of the Gospel.

            1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hello again, friend. Thanks for your continued engagement with this issue.

              No one has “publicly lynched” Jakes in this discussion. His teaching is a matter of public record. Nor has anyone used “quick handed judgment” or hasty rebuke in this case. I pasted in the article the section I wrote on Jakes back in 2007. I’ve been at this for at least those four years. There are many others with much greater access to Jakes who have tried privately to address him for far longer than those four years. There’s nothing “rushed” about this. Nor is there anything unfair about addressing it publicly. Here’s the rule of thumb in academic and other circles: If a person holds a view privately, you don’t publicly criticize or write about it. If the person teaches the view publicly, you may legitimately engage the debate publicly. Jakes’ teaching is public. And in accord with 1 Timothy 5, an elder or pastor in sin must be rebuked publicly. Engaging this issue in this way is consistent with the mandates of God’s holy word.

              I hope that you can see that there’s sufficient, ample biblical grounds for refuting error (Titus 1:9). That’s one was we “seek unity for the SAKE of the gospel,” by keeping the gospel clear and free of serious distortion. And I hope that you can see that efforts to encourage, instruct, inform, and challenge Jakes are well over a decade old. We have to keep the longer historical context in view. If MacDonald challenges Jakes, he will not by any stretch of the imagination be the first to do so. That’s what makes the notion “let’s hear him out” rather hollow, especially to those who have been hearing him and addressing him for some years. To waive off the concerns with a “wait until January” is part of what seems insensitive to the history and concerns of others working on this in communities affected more directly by Jakes and his ministry.

              Brother, I’m sorry if you think this unfair. But as best as I can apply the Scripture, I believe raising these concerns is a godly and necessary way forward.

              Much grace to you,
              Thabiti

        2. gv720 says:

          The purpose statement for the Elephant Room has been modified somewhat.
          We now have some vague statements about tribes and humility; which is a great sales pitch, but does not bring the clarity that the situation needs.

          gv

  20. Mason says:

    I don’t know waht McDonald was thinking, and i wouldn’t guess I know very little of him. Is there any place he discussed his readoning fr this in depth? What was the genesis of his even considering Jakes for the ER? Was it a snap choice to just call and see what happens? Whilei was dissapointed in Piper inviting Warren I at least appreciated his explaining how he met Warrena dnhad a good discussion with him and had probing ?’s for Warren both before and after the event. On top of that, I’m not a fan or Warren’s but i don’t think he’s a heretic. Jakes seems to have crossed that line. Whatever happens I’m with Pastor Anyabwile, let God make good of something bad. Thanks for your post brother!

  21. Don Johnson says:

    Thabiti, as a card-carrying Fundamentalist, I have to say that you have your finger on the very issue that distinguishes the fundamentalist from the evangelical.

    You said:

    ” I’m no Fundamentalist with well-established separation doctrines. But as one attempting to draw lines–cardinal biblical lines, mind you!–in a community flooded with heresy, this is no easy relationship to balance. Can I really endorse or remain quiet on an event that features a heretic I’m committed to opposing in writing? I don’t think so. That decision is easy for me. More difficult: Can I really endorse or support a brother who willingly associates with such a heretic and extends them a platform? Painful. Sobering.”

    Exactly.

    Some who oppose fundamentalists think that fundamentalists take special delight in separating from brothers. I suppose that is true of some. But honestly, these decisions are made very uneasily, especially when those who are erring are men we know and love. Its easy to blast one of “them” who is way “out there”, but when someone we know somehow doesn’t seem to get it when it comes to heresy, associations, and orthodoxy, it is agonizing.

    God bless, brother. Now I’m off to the study. Hammering away on sanctification and No Condemnation in Rm 8.1-11 tomorrow.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  22. Louis says:

    Thank you my brother for this post. I am praising the Lord for your boldness and the ability He has given you to state so clearly what many like myself sense but cannot put into print. “Collateral Damage” is just the right way to express the ripple affect this decision will cause. May the Lord raise up many other voices in the Coalition to take a stand with you.

    I am not a member of the Coalition, but you know I stand with you.

  23. Brother, thank you again for modelling gracious love, and uncompromising faithfulness to truth, especially as it relates to the ongoing work of The Gospel Coalition. TGC has been so instrumental in my sanctification over the last few years that I’ve been increasingly vocal about its helpfulness to my church leaders and friends (especially women). The parallels between what seems to happening here, with what happened several thousand years ago with Paul and the Galatians, seem remarkable. God grant wisdom all the leaders of TGC, to not so quickly forget the gospel around which they claim to be unified.

  24. Thanks dear brother for your timely post. I must admit my heart sank a bit when I learned of the issue- I felt as though, in the context of the coalition itself- to provide T.D. Jakes any significant evangelical (let alone Reformed) platform is a slap in the face of many African- American preachers, who have made significant sacrifices to partner with Anglo ministers. We have often embraced issues that- if truth be told- have minimal import for our own communities in hopes that, eventually we’ll get significant engagement in our native communities. It feels like an unnecessary and uncalled for setback to we who passionately hope to see a return to orthodox views in the Black community- along with every other community. “How long O Lord…!”

  25. Thank you for spending the time to bring us your perspective. Very edifying!

  26. Steve says:

    I face nowhere near the pressure as a white ThM student as you do as a black orthodox preacher opposing celebrities in your community (although the Anglo church has enough celebrity monsters that I can understand their power well enough) but I do relate to your struggle on a certain level. Adopting am unabashed, historically orthodox Trinitarian reading of scripture is often sneered at by even some “Evangelical” scholars as (in most polite terms) a “Rule of Faith” hermeneutic, or (polemically) a distortion of the “real Gospel”–real as constructed from their apparently omniscient knowledge of all things Second Temple Jewish. James Dunn’s book on the worship (or lack thereof) of Jesus by the first Christians has begun to work its way through the bowls of many New Perspective scholars. Anyway, standing up for the Trinity is tough in many contexts. You are a brave and courageous man of God; I’m ashamed that you’re being dismissed as “overly discerning” by some preachers, themselves dangerously close to celebrity status, who ought to know better. It’s almost as if media exposure trumps faithful service, sometimes.

    God bless you pastor (the Trinitarian God, that is.)

    Steve Tyra.

  27. Sam says:

    Thank you for your courage and conviction in posting this. James MacDonald tweeted today that the ” my way ” people need to be
    ” God’s way ” people. It just grieves my heart that James hasn’t been able to discern that T.D. Jakes is a pastor ( lower case p ) to the my way people, leading them astray. I’ve always considered Pastor James to be gifted leader, teacher, and Pastor. That this has forced me to reconsider my thoughts about him is completely numbing.

  28. Mike says:

    Augustine inviting Muhamad? Are you serious? I think you have some serious theological superiority complex problems. This is not as complex and problematic as you make it to be, I don’t think there is anything wrong with McDonald engaging Jakes publicly on gospel matters. Jesus engaged publicly with religious people that were considered dogs and not part of the commonwealth of Israel, and yet you have a problem with Christian brothers engaging in a dialogue with someone who despite your definition is a follower of Christ. To me you come across as someone who is jealous that someone who is not part of your coalition or line of Christianity has been granted the opportunity before you. Get off your high theological horse and learn to engage on all levels and all platforms. By the way the guy already has a very huge platform for his teachings and I doubt if he is looking for publicity. This might be the one time he can get confronted on certain issues and get to clarify them. You remind me of people who were shouting down that blind man when he was calling Jesus. If you have a problem with unclear guidelines of your coalition then address them through the appropriate channels rather than attack a Pastor who might get clarity and help on doctrinal issues that he has held for a longtime. People change and grow in their beliefs and understanding and for people like you to criticize and try and prevent others to do so is absolutely disgusting. Christianity is not a click for the theologically sound but a movement that also engage others of different views and extends grace sometimes beyond your personal comfort zone.

    1. Jesus never gave a platform to false teachers. He addressed false teachers on the street and was very clear about calling them out. There wasn’t respectful dialogue where each side was given a chance to have their say; there was a lot of warning about judgment and naming of snakes and devils. But nowhere will you find Jesus saying, “Let’s hold a conference and invite the pharisees to come and sit down with us and make themselves understood.”

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Mike,

      I’m sorry I “disgust” you, friend. I’m sorry you think you detect spiritual pride and a theological high horse in this post. I wish I could have written in a way that left you with a better impression of me than that. And, most importantly, I wish I could have written in a way that left you with a clearer sense of what’s at stake when someone denies the Trinity for years!

      The thing that’s “beyond my comfort zone” is calling the question at all. I’d rather this not be an issue. But, friend, it is. And, I didn’t make it an issue. Jakes makes it an issue by not simply affirming the faith once and for all delivered to the saints. And my brother MacDonald makes it an issue by inviting Jakes to share this platform. You may be blaming the guy yelling “Fire!” when there really is a fire in the building. I’m sorry for that. I long for a better outcome.

      As for this being Jakes’ one time to be helped and corrected, I pray it ends that way. I really do. But you need to know that this isn’t “his one time.” A lot of godly and faithful brothers have gone to him on numerous occasions and he has not made any statements clarifying his position. I’m hopeful. But I’m not blindly optimistic. There’s a lot of information for discerning what’s good in this case. Please don’t overlook it, even if you have to overlook what disgusts you about me.

      For our Jesus who loves the disgusting,
      T-

      1. mike says:

        I did not say you as a person disgust me, lets get that clear and by the way Jesus loves all of us including Jakes. I dont want to go back and forth on this, and i apologize for using harsh words, i was somewhat disappointed at that point. Anyway i still strongly believe that despite your stance that Jakes was approached several times, it is still neccessary to engage him because you and i might learn something from him and he might learn something from Macdonald and the others. God does not easily give up on people, and if it does not work out he will try again and again. Imagine how good it will be if Jakes clears things up or accept a different position on certain issues. Ok, what do you suggest Macdonald should do? univite him? Will you be taking the same stance if you were one of the panelists? Do you think whatever Jakes is going to say will lead those in attendance astray? This might turn out to be of God and i caution rush to judgement based on our very limited understanding of the future. By the way i actually think you are yelling fire were there is no fire, at all. I am done on this issue and either way this goes, God is good and his mercy endures forever.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Mike,
          Thanks for your comments, friend. We certainly agree that “God is good and His mercy endures forever.” And we’re agreed in our hope that good things emerge from this, including Jakes’ conversion to orthodox Trinitarian theology. I would love for Jakes to make definitive statements conforming to historical Christian orthodoxy.

          As for what MacDonald should do: As I said in the post, I don’t know what he should do. Withdrawing the invitation would be the most conservative, prudent course. But because I’m always hopeful for positive outcomes, perhaps continuing the format and driving hard on the issues will produce positive results. Perhaps. I don’t rule it out. But I don’t think it’s likely.

          Would I take the same stance if I were one of the panelists? Yes.

          Do I think whatever Jakes would say would lead folks astray? I’d have to say that Jakes has already led untold thousands astray. Receiving validation from someone considered orthodox only strengthens the grip of error on some people.

          I suppose we have to spend some time imagining the downside as well as the upside. You seem like an optimistic guy, hoping for the upside potential in this. But I think it would be worthwhile not minimizing the downside potential and considering the spiritual impact this would have on many others.

          I see the downside because I’m not rushing to judgment based on an imagined future. I’ve come to what I hope is a considered judgment based upon a long historical track record.

          I’m sure I could learn from Jakes on a host of things, but his view of the Godhead is not something I’d ever adopt. And because the Trinity is a fundamental issue, it’s better to have discussions with Jakes off the public stage, imo.

          I accept your apology for using harsh words. I apologize for misrepresenting you in my previous comment. Thank you for your contribution to the discussion.

          Grace and peace,
          T-

      2. Glenn Smith says:

        Pastor~ I had thought that perhaps I was in sin because of my cynicism, until I read your article. I actually view the ER itself, as an exercise, as counter to any Gospel directive.

        Mike’s response to your thoughts is quite common, many referring to Paul’s dealings with Peter in Galatians 2. Yet Paul’s rebuke of Peter was not for the purpose of achieving the kind of ‘unity’ that is the stated goal of the ER. God’s honor was at stake and so was the Gospel. Paul’s rebuke was not gentle, but rather sharp and public. Peter’s response is even more astounding! Is it possible that Paul’s motive is not being replicated in the ER?

        It seems that the red carpet is being rolled out for the ‘who’s who’ of today’s brand of evangelicalism. Each will have the credentials of Mega Church pastor and developer, author and celebrity. There is much at stake… too much (humanly speaking) for anything more than a pragmatic, the “ends justify the means” approach to the event. There is already evidence of this in the great amount of time and ink devoted to defending decisions and associations. Great lengths will likely be to be taken to avoid the kind of ‘offense’ that Paul perpetrated against Peter, rendering this little more than a theatrical and hypocritical farce, shrewdly arranged for ‘whatever’ purpose. Much like the red carpet ceremonies of Hollywood, each of the participants will have devotees and detractors alike, all shouting to be heard above the din. I am very sad.

        I have failed to see how the imaginations, energies, money, sales & marketing, and manpower that have gone into these events equate to the churches mandate to make disciples. I see a venue by which a polarization of the followers of each participant mimics what Paul spoke against in 2 Corinthians 10-13 as he encouraged each adherent in the church of Corinth, to look to the Gospel itself (not to the leaders / he called them super apostles) – for the Gospel is God! He (Christ Jesus) will build his church.

        Is it appropriate, even in my cynicism, to end with Pauls words…
        “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

  29. Jd longmire says:

    Thank you for your wise words and continued diligence, pastor.

  30. Dave Montoya says:

    Pastor T.

    I agree with you, that it does look like somewhat of an endorsement of Jakes. However, I do think we need to engage Jakes and others. Maybe it was not wise to invite TD Jakes to the Elephant Room. But what would be better than to invite Jakes, Bell, and others to engage in this discussion of good solid biblical theology, especially when they have such a large influence.

    This is my fear, that Satan and his minions would use this to fracture the great work the Lord has done and is doing through the Gospel Coalition. I know you are speaking plainly, and I appreciate your candor and wisdom on this matter. And clearly, you are not alone in your conclusion. However, I pray and ask you not to leave the Gospel Coalition but rather strengthen it and help guide this discussion about what boundaries and limitations do the members of the coalition have.

    We need The Gospel Coalition. If there is nothing worth putting our lives on the line for, is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    It is what has been saving me for the past 4 years, and is the only thing that gives our world any hope.

    We need you in TGC. I pray that God would do what he feels like he needs to do through this controversy.

    To Him be the Glory.

    In Christ,
    Dave Montoya

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Dave,

      I’m grateful for your comments and your giving time to this discussion. I’m also grateful for your report of the Lord using the Coalition to bless your life. It’s why I’m a part of the Coalition! I have great hopes for the continued work of the Coalition, as stated here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/videos/26484318.

      I don’t have any intentions at this point of leaving the Coalition. What I’m suggesting is that we’ve hit a new and critical juncture of the Coalition, a juncture where we have to define not just the “confessional center” of the Coalition but also the “confessional perimeter” of the Coalition. It seems to me that we have to not only affirm certain things but also deny others. And as Coalition members, we have to explore those bounds and lovingly keep one another within them.

      I’m convinced of the Coalition’s potential and its good fruit thus far. I pray for me. It’s an honor for me to be a part. But I think each member has to not only be honored in being a part, but honor the parts we play in the whole. Figuring out how to do that in such a big tent seems to me to be a worthwhile, necessary, and difficult thing to prayerfully do.

      I’m certain the Lord will have His way in this situation, and He does all things well.

      For Him and for His glory through His Son,
      T-

  31. Shayne McAllister says:

    Thabiti,

    Thanks for writing this brother. You were my pastor at CHBC for a few years, and I deeply appreciate your ministry. I also grew up at fundamentalist Bob Jones University, which is outside your circles of fellowship. What’s really interesting to me about your post is that there isn’t a significant difference between what you’ve written here, and how many of the (the best, and non-crazy) fundamentalists would argue. Having spent time in both your church and the fundamentalist world, it seems like TGC has more in common with some fundamentalists than it does other wings of evangelicalism.

    Associations indeed matter. Like you, I’m all for open and frank discussion, but an invitation like this at least implies some sort of endorsement by MacDonald of Jakes, no matter how MacDonald explains it, and you explained why very well.

    Yours in Christ,

    Shayne McAllister

  32. Shayne McAllister says:

    Also, to illustrate the kind of semi-endorsement that can occur through this invitation, there’s an interesting comment on MacDonald’s blog here.

    “In this instance I am also not posting any comments that are critical of Bishop Jakes. he has been kind enough to accept our invitation and I don’t want my ministry leading up to the ER to be a forum for people to spew venom. I would never allow that.
    james”

    This illustrates how even though MacDonald doesn’t agree with Jakes on the Trinity, and wishes to have an open and frank discussion with him, there is a strong impulse in all of us to be protective of our guests. Hosts feel a responsibility towards their guests, thats strong (and often good). I can’t understand how MacDonald equates any criticism of Jakes as “venom.” I’m sure he would go back and rethink the comment, but it serves to illustrate how inviting someone is more than just inviting them.

    The full context is here. http://jamesmacdonald.com/blog/?p=9130#commentList

  33. M Wisecarver says:

    I don’t even know if I’ll watch the Elephant Room this time around. But there are three things I re-double my efforts to watch: my life, my doctrine, and the sheep the Lord entrusts to me.

    Good reminder. There is warning her to keep close watch over ourselves lest we fall into the same problems with desiring “unity” verses what God desires! Truth.

  34. Thabiti, I am in absolute shock. This MacDonald stunt shows utter disregard for the struggle to bring classical Protestant Christian theology to the black community. Some would argue that this is a sabotage of the movement by pastors like yourself as well as black pastors in denominations like the PCA. What will be revealing is the level of silence in direct response to the issues you raise about what this about the whether or not the black church world is even taken seriously.

    I agree with black PCA pastors like Rev. Reddit Andrews that this is a major, major setback for the relationship between the Gospel Coalition and black churches. Some are questioning now if there was ever any real partnerships at all because MacDonald should have asked the black coalition members if this was even a good idea. One friend of mine is now questioning if this stunt puts the suspicions of tokenism on display. This raises several new questions for me that I’m beginning to process because these guys would never invite a white pastor with Jake’s theology to the Elephant Room–and there may be sad reasons for the black exception I’m afraid.

    Thank you for speaking up and giving your personal opinion on this matter. Many of us minorities have various quibbles with this stunt that differ in many aspects but if MacDonald does not deal with your comments specifically and directly it will send a very serious message to many African Americans pursuing church life in the Reformational traditions. A serious message. Press on!

  35. Sam says:

    There was also a comment from James MacDonald, that was a bit overlooked:

    From his blog:

    ‘ 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. ‘

    If I remember correctly there was a brief discussion in ER1 regarding what some pastors believe regard what a minister should be paid and, trust me, I have no problem with what these guys income’s are, although, I fear, if it were actually to be revealed what some of these guys were bringing in, the outcry and harm would be irrepairable no matter their good stewardship or intentions.

  36. James S says:

    Thank you for this excellent post, and I echo the others who have thanked you for taking a solid stance on this. It takes a lot of courage. I also am grateful for the others such as Carl Trueman and Phil Johnson who have stood strong on this.
    This is a time when all of this Gospel Coalition should have your backs and I pray they do.

    I’m no longer surprised that so many non-discerning sheep are bamboozled by the “conversation” and “Discussion” argument and can’t see what is really going on. The scripture is clear on how we are to handle clear heresy, and it does not involve “conversation” and platforms for such.

    I used to be surprised that so many get fooled by the “conversation” claim, but I now realize that much of this is one way that God judges people who refuse to be edified through studying His Word, by allowing them to be taken in and deceived.
    The wrath of God is active.

    If we know the scripture we will not be taken in. Still it is a sifting of many, to the degree of a modern apostasy epidemic. It is a church-wide shakedown of all of us, and either we have eyes & ears to see & hear truth, or we dont.
    God Bless You, Thabiti.

  37. kevin says:

    obviously given that you are on the council together you and Pastor MacDonald know each other. did you share your concerns with him or let him know that you were going to post this?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for coming by and leaving your question.

      Yes, I do know James. No, I have not spoken with James or let him know I was going to post this.

      Neither did James speak with me or any of the other council members about inviting Jakes (excepting Driscoll, I assume). And James did not need to speak with me. He is free to invite Jakes, as I say in the post. But in making such a public invitation, he effectively invites public comment–which you’ve no doubt seen throughout the blogosphere by now.

      Had I known about the invitation to Jakes while at the 9Marks @ Southeastern conference last weekend, I most certainly would have taken the opportunity to share my thoughts with him. And as gracious as James was during the conference, I’m certain he would have given me an audience–even if he disagreed.

      Before I posted this I did, however, consult a number of godly men for their perspective, some of whom are already speaking with James. With their counsel and support, I posted the above. The views expressed are my own. I take responsibility for any flaws and problems in the post.

      Grace and peace,
      T-

  38. Brandon says:

    Great post Thabiti. I most appreciated how you handled every question and comment with grace and humility, even if the questioner demonstrated none of those qualities!

    Reality is, if someone wants to shore up their theology and doctrine (which we ought to remember, sound orthodoxy is never divorced from Christ-like orthopraxy), he or she will probably do best going to their local pastor who faithfully shepherds his sheep without the applause and adoration of mobs of followers on tv, twitter, the internet, and the like. I’m not saying these “big events” with “big names” are never helpful, but I do wonder how much we rely on these things over against 1) our own diligent study of the Scriptures, 2) our reading of tried and true theologians from history, and 3) simply getting to know godly men and women through face to face, life on life, discipleship.

    Don’t get me wrong. I have learned a lot from Driscoll and others because of their broad availability – I’m not against technology. I just find myself, more and more, growing tired of the flashing lights and seductive appeal of “the newest, biggest, and most effective.” Call me old-fashioned, but I am 27! Is anyone else in my generation feeling this way? I once read, the true measure of success in life is faithfulness. Strip everything else away, I’ll take my heavenly Father’s approval in Christ any day of the week (Matthew 3:17; 25:23).

    Bless you brother, and thank you for your faithful local ministry!

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      “The true measure of success in life is faithfulness. Strip everything else away, I’ll take my heavenly Father’s approval in Christ any day of the week.”

      Amen! May it be so with us all!

      T-

  39. Kamilla says:

    Thank you Pastor Anyabwile!

    May God continue to strengthen you in your faithful teaching.

    Kamilla

  40. John says:

    Thanks for posting this, brother. Very encouraging.

  41. Reviewing all the comment above is instructive!

    When a candidly Fundamentalist Anabaptist such as Don Johnson and a smellsy-bellsy Anglican Priest such as myself find themselves in complete agreement in this area, you can bet the farm on the fact that the currently scheduled Elaphant Room does indeed reek of … well, a place frequented by elephants.

    Both Don and I are way off on the sidelines, of course. Like Carl Trueman (a truly Reformed chap whose recent comments on this imbroglio I also embrace without reservation),we are ministers of the gospel who have no actual relationship to Jakes, nor to MacDonald, nor even to the Gospel Coalition. I’m certainly not lying awake at night waiting for an invitation to join the Coalition. But, after this affair, I’d not welcome even an invitation, for it woud raise a question about what the Coalition saw in me that would prompt an invitation!

    The situation for someone like you is different. You are already a participant in the Coalition at the time this deplorable thing commenced. Whatever you decide to do in the future, others are watching; and, they will make inferences about you, even as they have already drawn conclusions about MacDonald. Indeed, the very nature of the Coalition is now on the table for evaluation: is it, after all, orthodox in any meaningful sense? Is Nicene Christianity so inessential after all?

    You see, it’s not just MacDonald who’s besmirched himself. He’s splattered zoodoo onto everyone in The Coalition. And, if others — like you — expressly distance themselves from MacDonald’s sectarian dismissal of Nicea,does a Coalition remain in any gospel sense?

    To put the question as bluntly as possible: Is there anything that can meaningfully be called a gospel coalition?

    1. Don Johnson says:

      Hey, Bill, how’s my favorite Anglican?

      And you are of course right on with your comment. I have been predicting elsewhere that all this talk will be the extent of activity that takes place over this issue. Nothing will be done.

      But maybe this time will be different.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  42. Josh says:

    ‘Jesus Christ is true God and true man, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He died on the cross, the complete and final sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. Further, He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He is now our High Priest and Advocate.’

    ‘The shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and only such as receive Jesus Christ by faith are born of the Holy Spirit and thus become children of God. ‘

    To call someone that has this in their statement of faith ‘Muhammad’ is a shocking accusation for one who claims to care about the cause of Christ.

    -does Jakes have substantial theological problems? – yes.
    -is precision with the gospel important? – yes.
    -did Paul write Philippians 1.15-18? – hhhmm.

    I struggle to know exactly what you are hoping to accomplish here.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Josh,

      Thanks for reading the blog and for leaving such thoughtful points to consider.

      What am I hoping to accomplish here? A number of things I suppose. Here they are in no particular order. As stated in the post, I want to share a perspective on this situation that hasn’t been shared to date, that of an African-American pastor working for reform in a community that Jakes’ teaching devastates.

      Second, I want to see the Lord’s people hold fast to the truth. Not just parts of it, which your comment points to, but all of it. The truth about who God is cannot be portioned and selected as though we’re sliding down a buffet choosing between items we love and items we’d rather pass over. Some items must be on our plate. The Trinity is one of them. It’s entirely possible for a person to affirm the things you’ve mentioned in your comment while denying the Trinity. In fact, to date, Jakes does.

      Third, I hope Jakes is won to the truth.

      Fourth, I hope people will think carefully about this issue and how we’re to respond to it. For example, Philippians 1:15-18 describes people who preach the true gospel of our Lord from wrong motives. Paul rejoices that Christ is preached even though it’s done to cause him pain. But what Christ does Paul want preached? The Christ whose Father is a separate Person, the Christ who is the God-man, the Christ who is fully God along with the Third Person of the Trinity. Does Jakes preach that Christ? No. Would Paul be happy at the “prosperity gospel” Jakes preaches? I think not.

      The statements you highlight are fine statements. But is this the substance of the man’s preaching? I don’t think so. When’s the last time you heard Jakes preach a straight unadulterated gospel? I’ve listened to hours and hours of Jakes’ preaching and I’ve yet to hear him offer Christ in the gospel to his hearers. Has he ever? Probably. Does he regularly and clearly? No. So, the statement of faith isn’t worth much if it’s not really informing his preaching. I hope we’ll all be careful in our thinking and response, even if we see some of this differently.

      Fifth, I would love to see Jakes make an unequivocal statement affirming the Trinity, in detail, leaving no doubts, correcting past errors, and calling others to do likewise. Let me ask you this: If you were accused of holding an heretical doctrine and it wasn’t true, what would you do?

      Suppose Christian leaders around the country were calling you out for what they thought were heretical views. How would you respond if it were not true?

      I know how I would respond. I’d very simply and very plainly state my consistency with orthodoxy. I would in writing, via video, and via any other forum state things so plainly, so categorically, so repeatedly that everyone would know where I stood and my detractors would retract their statements. Wouldn’t you do that if you were accused of heresy and it weren’t true? Would you have to be asked and challenged and questioned repeatedly over the years? The only reason to not do that is because you hold the heretical view and you won’t recant. I’d love to see Jakes recant. I pray it happens. But it should not really have gotten this far for this many years. A faithful Bible teacher would have clarified this quickly and definitively years ago. I would have. Wouldn’t you?

      Finally, I want to raise an important discussion for members of The Gospel Coalition to have with one another, a brotherly iron-sharpening conversation about the nature of our coalition. As I understand coalition dynamics, such conversations are necessary from time to time. The danger of coalitions is assuming the original character of the coalition continues with constant maintenance and advancement. That’s when they fall apart or lose their animating purpose. I’d mourn to see that happen with The Gospel Coalition.

      “Substantial theological problems” doesn’t describe adequately enough the magnitude of Jakes’ errors. That’s why I’m writing here and that’s why I pray the Lord leads James MacDonald to withdraw any association with Jakes.

      Now, one good turns deserves another. Would you share with us what you’re hoping to accomplish with your comment?

      For Jesus, and for you,
      Thabiti

      1. kevin says:

        I suppose a couple things.

        1. I fail to see the reason not to have the event. It isn’t church. MacDonald has both affirmed his own beliefs and said he will challenge Jakes so I don’t totally get what bad endgame could result.
        2. While I believe the Trinity is an essential ‘closed handed doctrine’ (to use Driscoll terminology), I also am not sure a correct understanding of it is needed for salvation. How many people in your church could accurately express a correct understanding of the nuance of the trinity? (and i assume your congregation would be very well taught)

        so then, being grateful for your willingness to answer these comments,

        how can an event where a ‘christian’ leader with incorrect doctrine agrees to come knowing there will be discussion with several conservative members of TGC Counsel be a bad thing?
        better for Jakes and his followers and the TGC world to not have this convo happen?

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Kevin,

          Thanks for sharing further. I agree, the ER isn’t church. And that means there are some important distinctions to be made. Nonetheless, the ER introduces Jakes to a part of the Christian world that heretofore has largely been unexposed to his teaching. Now, I’m not concerned that everyone watching would be carried away with what they hear. A few might. I’m concerned for those already carried away by his teaching who might interpret this as either (a) validation of Jakes’ ministry or (b) an unkind “white” attack on a revered black pastor. Either of those reactions will likely entrench people in their emotional attachment to Jakes and prevent them from considering the seriousness of the theological issues at stake–whether the Trinity or the ‘prosperity gospel.’ So, I think this event has the potential of further losing the people behind Jakes who may be unaware of the biblical issues, while doing little to change Jakes himself. That’s the bad endgame that could result, imo. In a very real sense, the ER, Driscoll and MacDonald–for all their directness and bulldog persona–are probably the wrong venue for this. Their stridency next to what will surely be Jakes’ smooth-talking diplomacy will almost certainly leave people sympathetic to Jakes. That’s how an event with Jakes and several conservative TGC members could be a bad thing.

          As for the Trinity and salvation, perhaps this is worthy of another post altogether. It’s an important issue. At the risk of treating a weighty and good question too superficially, let me just ask for now: Do you think a Muslim is saved?

          Now why do I put it in those terms? Well, the Qu’ran affirms that there is one God (so does Jakes). The Qu’ran mentions some 11 times that Jesus is the Messiah (Jakes would say Jesus is the Messiah). Most people don’t know that the Qu’ran also mentions the Holy Spirit (Jakes sometimes speaks of the Holy Spirit as a ‘force.’). At the level of bare mention, there’s not a great deal of difference between a Modalist and Islamic view of God. Where Muslims would deny the deity of Christ and do hermeneutical gymnastics to interpret God’s Spirit as an angel so that they can hold to the oneness of God, Jakes would conflate the Persons in the Trinity (doing hermeneutical gymnastics of his own) in order to hold a Oneness doctrine of his own. They distort different aspects of the Godhead, but they both distort the Godhead. Why would we conclude that the Muslim is not saved and that the Oneness Pentecostal is? Sure, the Oneness Pentecostal has more points in his favor since he accepts the crucifixion and resurrection and he has some view toward Jesus’ deity. But John 17:3 seems to put a great hole in their position. And the prologue of John’s gospel (1:1-14) argues explicitly for the distinction between God and the Word while arguing explicitly that the Word is God. If eternal life is defined as knowing this God and the eternally existing Son who is also true God, then it’s hard to see why Oneness views are not idolatry and damning.

          This is a quick treatment. As I said, this probably deserves a post of its own. But at root, idolatry consists of worshiping a false god OR worshiping the true God falsely. Islam is the first. Oneness Pentecostalism is the second. Both end, I fear, in God’s eternal rejection.

          That, too, is why this is such a serious issue. We don’t folks walking away from the event saying to themselves, “It doesn’t matter what I think about the Trinity. As long as I say I’m a ‘Christian’ and believe in Jesus, then I’m saved.” Many will say to Him on that day, “Lord, Lord,” only to hear the Master say those terrible words, “Depart from me for I never knew you.” That’s why so much ink is being spilled on this issue.

          I hope that helps at least explain why I and others have risked being mis-perceived as divisive and bashing by speaking out. Grace and peace,
          T-

  43. For those who continue to not take seriously how offensive this to black Reformed pastors, a friend of mine offered this analogy:

    Inspired by the Jakes thread:

    Imagine you have held a fatherhood conference for several years that was almost entirely white. The featured speakers are all great examples of what it means to be a good father: good providers who are faithful to their wives and spend quality time with their children. All those kids go on to be emotionally balanced and professionally successful.

    Then you decide you’d like your fatherhood conference to stop being so white, so you decide to invite a black speaker. And you invite Evander Holyfield. He’s popular, charismatic, and he’ll be a great draw. And he really loves his kids. But there’s a little problem: he’s been married three times, has nine children, five of them out of wedlock with four different women.

    Soon, the whites who come to your conference, who never paid attention to Holyfield’s sex life before (or the sex lives of any number of white celebrities), start vocally criticizing him things he did decades ago. The man’s name is dragged through the mud. This will not help more blacks want to come to your conference.

    But there’s another, larger problem with what you’ve done. By inviting Holyfield, you’ve implied that the multitudes of black men who are good providers, faithful to their wives and spend quality time with their children DO NOT EXIST. You have said that the best representation of fatherhood in the black community that you are personally aware of is a man who has been married three times and fathered five illegitimate children.

    Many of these faithful black men have long admired your fatherhood conference and aspire to hold similar ones in their own communities. But if they try to do that now, chances are increasingly great that those they try to speak to will simply remember all the nasty, uncalled for things that white people said about Evander Holyfield, and think that that’s what a fatherhood conference is all about.

    1. kevin says:

      Anthony…. I am not black and therefore want to tread carefully here. However, the number of assumptions you have made in this comment are staggering. 2 for starters…

      1. We don’t know if any more speakers will be announced. Last time there were 7 as of now only 6 will be announced, so there may still be another black pastor added.

      2. The assumption that Jakes was added to the conference purely because of ‘draw.’ Clearly the past choices of Furtick and Noble show that E-Room desires the controversial conversations.

      1. Jasper Abbott says:

        Kevin,

        (1) Do you know of any event sponsored by white members of the Gospel Coalition, Resurgence, or other well respected Reformed groups (excluding the Legacy Conference) where more than one of the speakers was a racial minority, let alone African-American? It is extremely doubtful that MacDonald will change that.

        (2) African-American and white churches have long-standing philosophical and cultural differences over how to do church. James MacDonald could easily find an African-American pastor whose orthodoxy is not in question and would stir up controversy. Just tell him to throw a stick in the direction of the nearest black church.

    2. Ted S. says:

      Jakes has a “church” of 30 thousand. The Elephant Room guys, with the exception of Dever, all seem to worship at the altar of big numbers – and Jake’s number are big – bigger than the other Elephant Room guys’ numbers. They want whatever he’s got. And, the Trinity thing is really a side issue taken up by deep-thinking theologian types. The rank-and-file could care less. And, consider, if so-called church leaders will get chummy with a guy who does this sort of stuff: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aEn8cAZ9K0&feature=player_embedded , why wouldn’t they wink at his other acts of abherrent theology?

  44. Pastor Anyabwile:

    I am a Fundamentalist by choice and biblical conviction. May I say that I sense you are coming to grips with what many in balanced Fundamentalism have over what God mandates (in the Scriptures) for His own when confronted with members of His body who disobey Him, who compromise the gospel. You are having to wrestle with what we sometimes refer to as “secondary” separation. From this thread it appears you are already finding that you will be misjudged, misinterpreted, thought to be loveless, combative and divisive man if you preach and then especially obey the Scriptural principles of admonishing, withdrawing from (2 Thess. 3:6, 14-15), marking, avoiding (Rom. 16:17-18) and separating from erring and/or disobedient brethren. We will do the right thing when we give God the benefit of the doubt, live in absolute fidelity to His Inspired Word and seek not to please men.

    You will know what to do and be confident in the doing of it if you ask yourself: “Where does my first loyalty lie, to God and His Word, or to my friends and fellowships/coalitions?”

    Kind regards,

    LM

  45. Kamilla says:

    I guess I don’t understand why there is even a question here. Since when do we give false teachers the benefit of the doubt?

    Jakes was originally ordained by *and* is still listed as an officer (“vice prelate”) of the Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies, an admitted Oneness Pentecostal group.

    This is not a man you invite to the table as a brother to discuss differences. This is a man you warn people away from and, if you have the chance, teach him in private.

    Kamilla

  46. Noah says:

    Thank you, Thabiti, for your pastoral wisdom, insight, humility, honesty, and concern for the truth and the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ that is displayed in your post and comments. You are an example of fidelity to the flock and an under-shepherd to be honored. Persevere to the end and preach the word brother!

    1. Mary E T says:

      Amen to all you said, Noah! So many of us feel that way about Pastor Anyabwile. It also must be noted that we do not so appreciate him because of his stance on this issue alone, but for his overall witness for Christ and for his commitment to God’s true Word.

  47. Alan says:

    Thank you Thabiti for saying what needs to be said and (along with the folks at the Ref 21 blog) stating what should be obvious. I find the whole thing very troubling and sad. The Trinity is not something we have ‘dialogue’ about with those who consistently deny what Bible believing Christians have always held to (as you correctly point out, this is not in the same category as Piper/Warren). And of course the prosperity gospel preaching of Jakes only adds salt to the wound.

    If even the mere announcement of the event has generated this much confusion and harm – I do not hold high hopes for what the event itself (if it goes ahead) will produce.

    The way Driscoll and MacDonald are described (i.e. in describing themselves) as Gospel Coalition Council members in the context of this event more than justifies your concerns. I hope some discussions are held ASAP and that this can be resolved soon.

    Thank you for your clarity and wisdom in this.

  48. I believe that I have a good handle on orthodox teaching on the Trinity. But I’ll tell you, reading Thabiti’s responses sure schooled me on what good pastoral theology looks like. Thank you brother, you are gracious and uncompromising–what a beautiful combination!

  49. I think that Pastor Anyabwile’s article is excellent. I’d like to say a few words in its defence.
    1) I was disappointed that Pastor MacDonald would not print questions that asked him if he could, in principle, ever consider inviting a Roman Catholic to the Elephant Room. I explicitly stated that I was thinking of ex-evangelicals like Frank Beckwith, Peter Kreeft or Jay Budzisewski, who believe that justification by faith alone is compatible with Catholic teaching.
    I disagree with their stance; and there would be one topic for discussion. Another topic would be Catholic/Evangelical interactions. Finally, these men left evangelical denominations as they were disillusioned with evangelicalism’s carelessness with doctrine, creeds and ethics.
    Now if MacDonald could, in principle, see circumstances in which such men could be invited into ER, ER would clearly be a forum for debate. However, if such men would not be welcome under any circumstances, whereas Mr Jakes is, we have a problem. Mr Jakes would be defined as “one of us”.
    The fact that Pastor MacDonald would not even allow the question to be asked is worrying (I did not break his comments policy, and I have had no dealings with him in the past.)It leaves me with the strong impression that Mr Jakes is “one of us”.
    2) I also asked if a theologian like Carl Trueman would be welcome in ER, to interrogate Mr Jakes. This would mend some bridges and allay some concerns. The question was not printed. Again, this worries me. What is inappropriate about that question?
    3) Pastor MacDonald is a movement leader, as is Pastor Driscoll. Pastor MacDonald directs a series of Church Plants. He consulted his elders before inviting TD Jakes. MacDonald’s attitude to Nicea is alarming. And Jakes’ Church is still explicitly modalist. This raises questions about the direction Pastor MacDonald is taking the Gospel Coalition; as the leader of a movement, he has more sway than Kevin de Young or DA Carson. He directly influences more Church members.
    4) MacDonald’s first clarification did not suggest that he was willing to confront Jakes on ER. Instead MacDonald said
    I do not trace my beliefs to credal 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.
    Now read Potter’s House statement on God – There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    That is clear, explicit, simple modalism. It rejects the simple language of Nicea. It rejects the language of personhood for the language of modes of being. MacDonald and his elders are comfortable with such language. Now this calls their judgment (not their own orthodoxy) into question.
    5) The evidence suggests that Pastor MacDonald did not originally intend to confront Jakes over the Trinity. His first statement is clear – I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might. He believed that Jakes is a Trinitarian; and he was looking forward to his explanation of his view!
    If that was not giving Jakes a platform….
    6) We need to know if this was a decision that was influenced by statistics. Jakes opens new markets, and attracts new audiences.
    7) We are then told about the “immense humility” of a man who calls himself a Bishop, his wife a First Lady, and names a rather lucrative business after himself.
    8 ) Finally, Pastor MacDonald has suggested that accountability is alive and well in the Gospel Coalition. I can’t see how. Being subjected to a critique is not the same as being held accountable; if that were true, we would all be accountable to Richard Dawkins. Pastor Anyabwile is simply asking what accountability should look like in TGC. And this is the big question being asked by Confessionalists like Carl Trueman – how can TGC be useful if there are no mechanisms for accountability?

    All in all, Pastor Anyabwile has shown considerably more wisdom, grace and humility than Pastor MacDonald. He has not lectured his critics in a high-handed fashion. He has allowed contrart opinions and difficult questions onto his blog. He has not redefined the meaning of words like “humility” to mean whatever he needs them to mean. He has been clear on the meaning of the Trinity.

    I am indescribably impressed; and this is the first piece that I have read by Pastor Anyabwile!

    GV720/Jusher

    1. Mary E T says:

      GV 720,
      Amen to all you have said especially this below.

      “MacDonald’s attitude to Nicea is alarming. And Jakes’ Church is still explicitly modalist. This raises questions about the direction Pastor MacDonald is taking the Gospel Coalition; as the leader of a movement, he has more sway than Kevin de Young or DA Carson. He directly influences more Church members.”

  50. Kat Wilton says:

    Sir, I read this post after several others (beginning with Tim Challies’) on this topic, and I simply must commend you on your clarity and Christian charity. You have simply stated the issue for all to understand, and your humble and gracious replies to commenters has been a blessing to witness.

    Thank you so much for your strong, reasoned, and Christ-like stance. And THANK YOU also for this: I now have another earthly witness to the power and purity of the Gospel of Christ who will be a help to keep me accountable to our great God and Savior, and who will help serve as an example of “how to do it right.”

    Thank you again, and I pray that our Lord grants you strength and guidance, love and peace as you faithfully proclaim the Gospel.

    Your sister in Christ,
    – Kat

  51. Bob Shaffer says:

    My comments are more personal than theological, but sometimes plain sense comes from less learned souls. When I shared with my wife and two teen boys that Jakes was invited by Macdonald for this event they echoed the same question that I had been pondering, simply asking, “Why”? I realize that we are not to judge the motives of others but I cannot resist perceiving this kind of activity akin to that of folks gathering together to gawk at a burning house, or standing on the street, looking up, waiting for some poor, sorry suicide jumper to leap. What is it about mankind that, in our fallenness and pride, we lust for these spectator “amusements” in the name of Christian ministry? Don’t people, especially leaders, already have enough meaningful service to do within “the Church” without vain, distracting, sensational diversions?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Bob,

      Well stated. Thanks for sharing the wisdom of your wife and teen boys. At bottom, no satisfactory answer to the “why?” question has been offered. That certainly contributes to the sense of violating of first principles.

      T-

  52. Ray Ortlund says:

    Don Carson: “The Gospel Coalition is a fellowship of evangelical churches deeply committed to renewing our faith in the gospel of Christ and to reforming our ministry practices to conform fully to the Scriptures.”

    “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this [apostolic] teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.” 2 John 10-11

    1. christopher says:

      Amen!

    2. Dave Montoya says:

      Ray, you are correct except this event is not a TGC event. It may have members that belong to the TGC, and yes maybe more wisdom should be made on their part but this even has nothing to do with the Gospel Coalition. Maybe Driscoll and MacDonald should make that a disclaimer prior to this event to hopefully minimize any more controversy.

      Blessings!

      1. Ray Ortlund says:

        Thanks, Dave. Dr. Carson’s statement, published today on the Coalition blog, seems to be declaring not just what the Coalition is committed to but what the churches represented in the Coalition are committed to. It appears that the words “deeply committed” refer to the noun “churches.” How could it be otherwise? If the Coalition embraces these two stated commitments, but in the churches represented we may expect to see no such commitment, then I have difficulty understanding what the Coalition really amounts to.

        1. JUsher says:

          Is this the Ray Ortlund or a Ray Ortlund?

  53. I am just so impressed with Pastor Anyabwile’s willingness to deal with ordinary bloggers in such an open and gracious way.
    It is a remarkable gift to be able to communicate graciousness on a blog.

    1. Bridgett says:

      I agree. Today is my first time here, and I am learning what being gracious (giving people what they don’t deserve) looks like.
      Thank you, Thabiti.

  54. I just wanted to add my voice to the chorus of those expressing appreciation for your enormously helpful words here. I am grateful, not just for your post, but for your humble and careful answers to people’s questions/objections. Thanks for helping us to understand more about what is involved in this, and thanks especially for being a model of godly critique.

  55. Mark says:

    Thabiti,

    Have you talked to Mark (Dever) about this yet? I asked Aaron M. about it, but he did not know Mark was scheduled to participate and could only thank me for the info at the time. lol Being that Aaron is my pastor I will probably talk to him about more in depth.

    Blessings

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Mark,
      I have spoken with Mark. He’s in a difficult situation, as is everyone on the panel who would not associate this way with Jakes. I’m sure Aaron could give you more insight. Please give Aaron my love.
      T-

  56. Mike Corley says:

    Thank you for this faithful and articulate article. You wrote what needed to be written. I am interested to know if James McDonald has replied to your post?

  57. Ty says:

    I find this so sad Pastor Thabiti and I thank you for your wisdom in posting this. A few years ago I would have expected this type of article from James MacDonald in tackling a tough issue such as this. I hope this doesn’t sound odd, but, people warned James of his associations with pastors like Perry Noble and Steven Furtick. Certainly, one can’t blame his current lack of judgement with T.D. Jakes on someone else, but, what is does reveal is a stirring within MacDonald’s heart. This sounds completely stupid but I have to wonder if James is going through a midlife crisis. He seems to be surrounding himself with younger people and adopting things in them that he sees desirable. Although his response to you is none of my business and one I think should be taken up between the two of you in prayer and privacy, that James MacDonald has unmasked himself a bit in this issue I guess, and I absolutely hate to say it because he’s been a beacon of truth to me, I also need to step back and listen to him more carefully.

    1. Bob Shaffer says:

      Ditto and AMEN!!!

    2. cindy says:

      Ty,
      I think you are correct. We have been members of Harvest Bible Chapel for many years and so it is easy to see the changes in Pastor James as he has grown older. I have often thought that James is going through the stereotypical male mid-life crisis. As you pointed out, he is surrounding himself with the youth culture and his mannerisms, his clothing choices, and speech patterns have changed to be more reflective of that culture. I suppose that makes me see him more as a victim than a wolf and I pray for him. He has been a light to our family as well over the years. We are not ready to abandon Pastor James or our church just yet. We will continue to pray for him and to make our concerns as well as our love for him known.

      1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        Dear Ty and Cindy,

        I’m grateful for your love for James. Certainly we pastors “go through things” just like our people. We grow and change; we stumble and falter. I think your reaction–to love and to pray for your pastor–is exactly what the reaction should be. Pastors shouldn’t cast off the sheep, and the sheep shouldn’t quickly abandon their shepherds. So, I’m grateful for the humility, concern, and love expressed in the comments. May the Lord bless you both, James, and all His under-shepherds. For Jesus,

        T-

        1. Ty says:

          Once again thank you for your wisdom Pastor Thabiti. As I said James MacDonald and his teaching have been a beacon of truth to me and it saddened me greatly to see, what I believe, to be a error in judgement. One thing we can certainly be assured of is that God’s Hand is in all of this and His purposes will be accomplished and glorified regardless of those of us ( re:all ) who stumble at times. I’ll refrain from further speculation, as it borders on gossip, however, I’m not quite sure we’ve seen the end of where this is going.

          1. Ty:

            If I may, the actions of Ps. MacDonald are no mere lapse or error in judgment one might expect of a novice in the ministry. He knows the Scriptures and they are clear. He knows what God says in Titus 3:10-11; 2 Thess. 3:6. Those are commands from the Lord and they are not open to selective interpretation. There is no subjective decision to be made and God expects His commands to be obeyed by those who call him “Lord.”

            If Ps. MacDonald rejects the admonition of his brothers, then he is to be withdrawn from as surely as Jakes should be avoided and separated from. His counterparts in T4G will have no subjective decision to make if Ps. MacDonald rejects the admonitions to stop this direction and disobedience to the Word of God. God lays out what our reaction must be in 2Thess. 3:14-15, which again leaves no room for a subjective decision.

            LM

        2. Ty says:

          Hey, by the way I’m from the upper midwest and think I must have missed the sign up sheet to have my home church in Grand Cayman. If you could point it out I would appreciate it! Winter is coming and I would prefer to be looking at a white sand beach instead of feet of snow in my front yard.

      2. Bridgett says:

        Hi Cindy,
        I am glad to hear you are not ready to abandon Pastor James or the church “just yet,” because he will not abandon you. He has stated many times that he wants to “do life together” and has committed to preaching at Harvest until he no longer can physically do it. When I see other pastors leaving their church, even ones that they started, I am grateful for a pastor who perseveres. I think it may be a significant reason why Harvest has been as fruitful as it’s been–because of James and his wife, Kathy’s faithfulness to us.
        Regarding James’ perceived outward changes: I’d like to offer a different perspective…
        My husband and I, like yourself, have been members of Harvest for many years–14. And we spent 12 of those years driving 52 miles round trip to attend, at one time, the only place to go: suburban Rolling Meadows. I am a city girl, born and bred in Chicago. We had no plans to attend the Chicago campus–we were front-rowers at RM and seeing the pastor on video didn’t seeming like a happening thing–until we went, on a fluke, the first day two years ago. We both felt 100% led to switch, overnight. As I said to my husband to explain, “These are my people!” :) And rather than be “Christian consumers,” we stepped up and have taken the soul care training, and, by God’s grace, are small group leaders.
        We may be ten years older than most of the folks there, but we can relate to them, and them to us. While I am not “young” and I am urban, which could come off as young some people’s eyes, I guess. So considering that Harvest is now moving in to the heart of Chicago, coupled with the fact that James’ 20-something children are now in ministry with him, I think these are the changes we are seeing, rather than some mid-life crisis.
        James still preaches the Word of God without apology every week, inspiring us to study God’s Word on the other six days of the week, and challenging us to glorify God in all that we do, no matter what sweater he chooses to wear in the pulpit, and no matter who he chooses to invite into The Elephant Room. :)

  58. Traci says:

    I have to admit that I’ve been conflicted about this issue. It’s very difficult to find sources of trustworthy teachers and leaders. There’s compromise everywhere.

    That’s particularly bothersome when I think of how many people I know who view most preachers as pretty much the same. There are many who’ll not watch the discussion but still remember the associations.

    At the same time, I understand that it can be helpful for those who’ve never questioned a pastor’s theology to see interactions like this.

    Unfortunately, I’m more disappointed than hopeful. I guess I wasn’t expecting that forum to become so broad in scope. The invitation seems almost like a marketing tactic (I’m sure it isn’t, but that’s the impression.) Maybe it’s because I felt the “swift tug of the rug” under my feet as well.

  59. PDeadmen says:

    Traci wrote, “The invitation seems almost like a marketing tactic (I’m sure it isn’t…)”

    You can be sure it is. The whole sordid event is one big marketing tactic. And, you can have a front row seat at MacDonald’s church for just $349 if you register now before it is sold out! Sick.

    While you are at it, check out this insightful article:
    “Mark Driscoll on T. D. Jakes–suspend judgment until it’s proven that Jakes wrote The Shack”
    http://wenatcheethehatchet.blogspot.com/
    .

  60. Pingback: The Elephant Room
  61. Tim says:

    Best column I’ve read yet on the issue. Nice work.

    Cheers,
    Tim

  62. Mike Hanafee says:

    Thabiti, as a church planter in inner-city Detroit I am especially thankful for your response.

  63. Dear Pastor Anyabwile:

    Earlier in this thread I introduced myself to you (see & Oct. 2 @ 9:41pm & 9:57pm above). To borrow a portion of your article, “I’m [AM] a Fundamentalist with well-established separation doctrines” and committed to the application of the God given mandates for separation from unbelievers as well as the disobedient and/or erring among us. With that said, and while there are others areas in which we might disagree and even sharply I want to commend you for this article.

    Your paragraph here is compelling, “But this I do know, the entire situation raises association, separation, and accountability concerns for me that I did not have to the same degree before now. It raises significant questions about how members of The Gospel Coalition associate and endorse beyond the Coalition meetings themselves. For me, it tests the bounds of cooperation. I’m no Fundamentalist with well-established separation doctrines. But as one attempting to draw lines–cardinal biblical lines, mind you!–in a community flooded with heresy, this is no easy relationship to balance. Can I really endorse or remain quiet on an event that features a heretic I’m committed to opposing in writing? I don’t think so. That decision is easy for me. More difficult: Can I really endorse or support a brother who willingly associates with such a heretic and extends them a platform? Painful. Sobering.

    First, I want to acknowledge that when it comes to what you find painful, as you describe it in that final sentence (which I put in bold), it is painful for all of us when we find we are going to have to put God and His Word of Truth first- ahead of friendships and fellowships. There is a cost involved and you will be misjudged.

    Second, there is an irony here, which I have noted in the thread of the current article at my blog. You are articulating the heart and struggle and conviction of biblical separatism more pointedly and powerfully than how certain men who circulate in Fundamentalism, who claim to be “militant” biblical separatists, have in recent years. While some of our men are falling away from fidelity to authentic biblical separatism and trying to influence the next generation of Fundamentalists to follow them in compromise of the eternal truths, you appear to be getting a conviction over it in spite of what obedience in this area will mean for your relationships. Frankly, I see in this an opportunity God is giving you for growth.

    Yours faithfully,

    Lou Martuneac

  64. Stephen Shead says:

    Dear Pastor Anyabwile, thank you so much for this clear and heartfelt statement.

    I have felt in considerable turmoil in recent days over my support for and (thus far) appreciation of TGC as a fellowship of churches standing firmly for the gospel of the Lord Jesus. My confidence in TGC has been sorely shaken – not so much by the original invitation to the Elephant Room (which I have no interest in), but by the lack of clear and direct responses from other TGC council members (Kevin DeYoung’s post on the Trinity was the closest thing I have seen, but he left his post as a generalised theological statement). It is thus a great comfort to read your words and see you draw a line in the sand for basic Christian truth and protecting the flock.

    May the Lord give others who have accepted a similar mantle of responsibility – by being TGC council members – the same passion to defend the glory and truth of the LORD Jesus above all other concerns.

  65. JUsher says:

    There might yet be a way out of this. MacDonald could invite other non-evangelicals to the Room to discuss criticisms of Evangelicalism. If ER was no longer a format for Christian ministers to discuss Christian ministry, but instead became a format for discussing evangelicalism in wider society, something could be salvaged from this disaster.

    The problem is that Driscoll and MacDonald have, more or less, decided that Jakes is “one of us”. But if they can backtrack , and open invitations to other non-evangelicals, they could still run ER without having to disinvite Jakes.
    Ideally I’d bring on someone like Frank Beckwith – he’d certainly get torn into modalism. And there would be an interesting debate on evangelism and the Church.
    Mind you, Dr Beckwith is not a heretic – and he might not want to give credibility to a heretic. I really think that it would be difficult to persuade someone like him to participate. And to some extent Pastor MacDonald will have just confirmed “ex-evangelicals” worst fears about evangelicalism.
    Still, I think that the idea could be floated to see if there isn’t a way out of this quandary.

    gv

  66. JUsher says:

    One thing that bothers me a lot is the refrain – “I do not trace my beliefs to credal statements that seek clarity on things the Bible clouds with mystery.”
    The whole point of the creedal statements was to protect the mystery!!!They don’t attempt to explain the Trinity, or to clarify the incarnation. These creeds simply express boundaries. They tell us what we cannot say if we are to be faithful to Christ. For example, we cannot say that the Son and the Father are one person, and we cannot say that the Son was created.
    “God of God, Light of Light, very God of Very God” is not a statement of abstract analytic philosophy. It does not explain in detail the ontological connections between Father and Son. There is no recondite speculative theology at work here. The creed just states that Jesus is not less than God. Yet “he sits at the Father’s right hand”. The Son is a different person than the Father. And once you’ve said that, you don’t speculate, you worship.
    The Father is not the Son or the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Son or the Father. The Son is not the Father or the Spirit. Yet all three are fully God. Or, as J Budzisewski put it – “God is one what and three whos”. And that sums up Nicea. There is no attempt to supplant Scripture or to dissect God.
    Nicea is a simple, remarkably clear statement of Biblical faith. Not an attempt to explain the Trinity. Not an attempt to remove the mystery. Just a clear, minimalist statement of what the mystery is!
    The very idea that we can improve on Nicea/Constantinople by ignoring it is arrogance inviting ruin, not humility.
    My goodness, whatever else it is, it is not humility.

    gv

  67. Frank Turk says:

    A great post followed up by a great thread.

  68. Paula says:

    I also appreciate the offhand comment about Piper/Warren. It seems the implication is there is something wrong with that. Perhaps not as bad as this, but still not right. I wish more people had spoken out about that at the time. Warren’s methodology is at best semi-pelagian while he formally endorses an orthodox creed. I don’t know about you but I think people actually do (methodology) what they really and truly believe.

  69. Thank you, Pastor Anyabwile, for expressing your concerns on this issue in such a gracious and loving manner. Your deep love for our Savior, God’s Word, and for your Christian brothers and sisters has been made plainly evident in your carefully-worded article and comments. God bless you.

  70. Douglas says:

    Thankyou.

    soli Deo gloria

    Aseity

  71. Saiko says:

    Pastor T –

    Keep doing what you are doing and take the criticism from the supporters of error like a duck takes water on his back. As a fellow brother in Christ and an African-american pastor, you’re letting the rest of the body of Christ know that there IS a remnant of black pastors (and Christians as well) aren’t falling for the “okey doke” that the masses are easily taken away with.

    1. Joe Hillrich says:

      As I consider the whole premise of the Elephant Room . . . would you agree that your blog on multi-site churches hits at the heart of much of what the Elephant Room stands for. A group of men (regardless of good intentions) feeding off of pride and rock star celebrity pastoring to share their take on such and such matter. As if there is something new under the sun. Seeing debate within a denomination. Seeing debate amongst Christians and non-Christians. But what is the point of having an Oprah Book club discussion on matters that quite often aren’t even applicable to most pastors. Case in point . . . the multi-site churches. For the sake of arguing even if they are a good idea (which I strongly disagree) how many churches are at a size that this would be an option. Call me critical but the very premise of the Elephant Room sounds like a bad idea.

  72. Joe Hillrich says:

    Thanks for your steadfastness and faithfulness. Continue to be a voice of reason and truth in a never ending world of wishy washy Christianity . . . even in our reformed circles. It breaks my heart.

  73. Matt Hauck says:

    Not only is this the best article I’ve read on this yet, but I am so entirely impressed by how you have gone toe-to-toe with every abrasive commenter with remarkable graciousness. I do not have your patience or love! I have learned from your example. Thank you. I am so grateful for the God-honoring mixture of grace and truth that is this post.

    I think a lot of us not in AA church circles would never have thought of this collateral damage–at least not me. It might seem like a novel idea to some to “finally hear what he has to say”, and it is enlightening (and disheartening!) to hear how this *has been done* repeatedly over years and years, and it appears there is an extra level of the naivete in thinking that somehow a half-hour conversation is going to finally “clear things up” because MacDonald doesn’t buy it that he is a heretic.

  74. Coram Deo says:

    Well said, brother! It’s refreshing to me personally to see widely recognized, faithful under-shepherds of the Lord picking up on the ever increasing tide of error which is rushing across the barren, desolate landscape of modern-day church-ianity with tsunami force and speed.

    Specifically your first few paragraphs resonated deeply with me personally. It’s long been the dreary and oft-maligned work of the so-called “discernment bloggers” to continually sound the alarm of approaching swell, and it’s a relief to see that the Lord has His remnant who will take a stand on Mt. Carmel and call for fire from the One true and living God, the infinite Creator and Judge of heaven and earth!

    Soli Deo Gloria!

    In Christ,
    CD

  75. eric davis says:

    Thabiti,

    Thanks for your faithfulness, brother.

    That this is even happenning, and that there is so much confusion surrounding the issue, esp. in some of the above responses, is alarming, yet merely the tip of the chaotic iceberg in evangelicalism right now.

  76. Mike says:

    Pastor Thabiti,

    Thank you for writing such a great article, and also on an slightly unrelated note I enjoyed The Decline of African-American Theology. As a white seminary student it aided me greatly in working with some of the James Cone material I had to read in class. I really appreciated your candor on the subject of TD Jakes. I used to work for an overseas mega-church and we brought Jakes in for a conference. He was invited because our pastor was impressed with his speaking abilities but sadly no one ever thought to judge the content. (And if other churches we were in relationship with invited him then he should be fine for us as well). After the meetings were over I asked how we could justify spending such large amounts of money on bringing him, and speakers like him, in and reason offered was that many people “heard the gospel”. It is sad that in these situations that pragmatism and the knowledge that a speaker will be a huge draw for the majority of the population drives whether or not a person gets invited to preach. The thing few have touched on is Jakes as a businessman. He has many different businesses with multiple streams of income under his ministry which he uses to justify his wealth. Part of what he does when he comes to Africa with his conferences is to offer business classes along with free HIV screening and medical services. Which on the surface are all very good things but if he and his ministry are “not of us” then ultimately it is just another vendor selling goods and services.

  77. Bob Kellemen says:

    Pastor Thabiti, As you know from our email correspondence and my reviews of your books, I have great respect for you and your ministry. I also think this post was gracious yet bold, and carefully worded and well-reasoned. I do have a questions/thought. While I don’t think one could make a biblical case that you “must” contact James personally, I wonder if there is any reason not to contact him at this point? You and James are friends, brothers in Christ, speak at conferences together, and fellow members of TGC. I would think that the next time you met in person, the “elephant in the room” would be the fact that you’ve blogged about the ER but never talked directly. Now, James could also take the initiative to contact you. Either way seems fine and beneficial. But I wonder what positives might result if you called James and said something like, “Brother, I’m sure you’ve heard about my blog regarding the ER. I love you in Christ. Could we talk about this one to one?” Just a thought…and a prayer. Bob

    1. Louis says:

      Bob:
      You said, “I would think that the next time you met in person, the “elephant in the room” would be the fact that you’ve blogged about the ER but never talked directly”

      While I appreciate what you are saying and the outcome you desire. I really strongly disagree with your thinking. I am sure Thabiti will do what is right to maintain a proper God honoring relationship with James, however the real “elephant in the room” from my vantage point is that James decided to invite Jakes and felt it unnecessary to contact or consult with his brothers in the coalition who would have a different but much needed perspective. His actions led to the blog, not the other way around.

      By the way, have you urged James and Driscoll to contact Thabiti and the other African American brothers in the Coalition he offended by this invitation? See

      http://epointchurch.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/the-elephant-wins/

      1. Bob Kellemen says:

        Louis, Thank you for your insights. I think it is both/and: I agree with your portrayal of one “elephant in the room.” I also think there is the relational “elphant in the room” that I noted. I also noted that James could take the initiative to contact Thabiti. Again, it is both/and. I see two brothers in Christ who work together with TGC and I simply am praying that in addition to whatever blogging is done, that one-to-one conversation occurs. I hope James reaches out to Thabiti or the other way around. Thanks. Bob

  78. Wayne Roberts says:

    I didn’t read all of the comments, so maybe this was suggested. How about organizing your own version of the elephant room that deal with issues in the African American church? I can already think of the guys you could get together…Anthony Bradley, Anthony Carter, Ken Jones, Mike Campbell, Lance Lewis, Eric Redmond and others.

    After having attended an African American church for 9 years I can attest that the name recognition of the Anglo pastors involved is in the low single digits (with the exception of maybe Dever). Like others I don’t see any good coming out of this. I’m afraid it will just look like some white guys beating up a black man.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Wayne,

      I’ll leave that to one of the other brothers you list! ;-)

      T-

  79. Robert says:

    Dear Thabiti

    Thank you for your stance on TD Jakes. He has been a VERY dangerous false teacher for some years now. Sadly, he is able to keep the traction he has within evangelical Christianity because of Christians who simply refuse to call this false teacher what he is: A FALSE TEACHER! I think you handled this issue both lovingly and firmly (not an easy thing to do). However, I commend you even more for the way you deal with those who seem bent on criticizing you for a clear biblical stance, while seemingly giving Jakes a “pass” on orthodoxy. You are a kind man whose patience I envy! Bless you, brother! -Rob

  80. Despeville says:

    Brother Thabiti,

    Thank you for bringing this unfortunate development involving James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel. There is alarming trend in mega churches recently with their reach out to and embracing of Emergents and Prosperity “preachers”. No question this is visible and worrying consolidation of lukewarm church with openly pseudo church. Robert Morris speaking at Warren’s Saddle-back Church recently. Steven Furtick speaking at Willow Creek and Harvest Bible Chapel just few weeks ago and now TD Jakes opening round in mega church “seekers friendly” movemnt that will most likely get bigger and wider. There is something going on Thabiti. Could you look into this and write about this? Thank you.

  81. Steven says:

    Incredible blog, well said Pastor Anyabwile.

    Let’s be hoonest here, there’s no way anyone on the Elephant Room panel is going to call Jakes out on prosperity or Trinitarian issues.

    Jakes has already waxed “mushy” about his stance on the Trinity and as far as prosperity theology goes, after seeing Platt get shut down for speaking (mildly) against prosperity, how can we expect anyone not to side with Jakes on wealth and ministry?

    After all of the “discernment blogger” backlash, this will be nothing more than a lot of head nodding and “in the end, we are all brothers” talk.

    Thanks for the time, courage, and effort it took to write this blog!

  82. Kevin O'Connor says:

    Thank you Brother. I will pray now for this situation. I was surprised and alarmed when I saw Jakes’ invitation. Having read your post I now see the danger of it all. I am encouraged to see that you are willing to stand up for a matter which seems quite nuanced in nature. It will no doubt bring some hassle your way (“manifestation is just a word, let it go!” etc.) but I believe you are right. Unless Jakes repents or shows clearly that he is not a oneness preacher, then it will be a problem. A bad one. And like you said, the damage will be done by then.

    God Bless Bro

  83. Despeville says:

    James MacDonald has a lot of work to do. There is a Roman Catholic Bishop that could be invited. Watch Tower official representative or perhaps one of the Mormon prophets… The man just wants to listen and understand and there is so many different voices to listen to…

  84. Dave says:

    I ask this question with all due respect:
    How is sourcing Greg Boyd any less an endorsement of a false teacher than what MacDonald is doing with Jakes?
    I’m not asking that in support of MacDonald’s actions; I don’t believe Jakes has any place in the Elephant Room. Can you clarify the difference for me? Thank you.
    Dave

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Dave,

      Thanks for your question. It’s a good one.

      Boyd is an interesting character. You sorta have to know his theological journey. He goes from atheist to Christian around age 14, spends time as a Oneness Pentecostal before writing the book I cite when he leaves for a more orthodox view of the godhead, then later moves to Open Theism–a significant theological error. The book I cite, written in 1992, is trenchant in its critique of Oneness theology, and comes about 8 years before Boyd publishes his book on open theism, which I would roundly reject.

      The Decline is an academic text. As such, I cover and cite a lot of stuff I would not endorse as a position, as is typical of historical theologies. Even having said that, the particular Boyd book I cite defends orthodox Trinitarianism.

      I think that’s miles apart from seeming to endorse Jakes as a “brother” and alluding to the notion that Trinitarian views are not essential, even if you personally hold to Trinitarianism.

      Hope that helps,
      T-

      1. Dave says:

        That helps very much. Thank you.

  85. Robert Sakovich says:

    Brother Thabiti,

    I’ve heard you speak on a few occasions and have read your blog on many occasions and just wanted to say that it brings joy to my heart to see such strength in fighting for the Word coulped with such love and humility. Thank you for this post and for the heart you have shown for the lost and for brothers and sisters in Christ in the comments.

    Grace and peace,
    robert

  86. The purpose of ER is as follows:

    The idea that the best way forward for the followers of Jesus lies not in crouching behind walls of disagreement but in conversation among all kinds of leaders about what the scriptures actually teach. We must insist on the biblical Gospel, right doctrine and practice but not isolate ourselves from relationship even with those who believe much differently.

    These are conversations about the most Christ honoring ways of building a church. Our goal is unity, however a true unity cannot be fashioned in pretense or denial of truth nor can it be won among those who prefer sectarianism to the unity Jesus prayed for. To advance Christ’s call to unity we must do what men have always done, we must push and prod and challenge and sharpen each other’s beliefs and methods. Fidelity and fruitfulness, both matter. No one has a corner on the truth and methods must do more than ‘work.’
    ———————–

    Now, Paul states it clearly:
    Romans 16:17 17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

    John is clear: 2 John 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

    Give Jakes no platform for his ungodly word of faith heresies and his anti-trinitarian teachings. He is no brother but a liar and deceiver in the church of God making much havoc among the sheep of Christ.

    I do not understand MacDonald and Driscoll and their intents. But, more and more, these kinds of events are blurring the lines of gospel distiveness. The Young and Restless calvinists seem to be following on the tails of a Maclaren kind of evangelical.

    We must be holy; we must be distinct from the world, worldliness, pleasure seeking for the sake of purity, temperance, soberness and clarity. We need to be careful about a fine line between our kingdom building and working as faithful stewards in the kingdom of God. We need to be careful of the trendiness and wind blowing of the world of ficklness, change and openness to all kinds of doctrines not in according with gospel traditions of the NT.

    Must we constantly entertain the entertainment styles of the world; must we be so focussed on reaching the pagan that we begin to loose distiveness from their ways, talk, dress, styles of music etc?

    May MacDonald and Driscoll examine themselves – as we all should all the time – for what seems to be a slippery slope of one compromise that leads insidiously to many more compromises. the invite of Jakes is a manifest symptom problem of the new calvinist movement that cares more about the trends of the world than the calvinism that they profess. The depravity of man seems to be a doctrine that needs far more attention by the new calvinists than not.

    we need to be remidned of the pit from which we have been delivered. May the words of Paul be nailed to our fickle hearts:

    Ephesians 2:1-5 Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

    May the God of all grace be pleased to use a few words here for His glory and for all of our good.

  87. The purpose of ER is as follows:

    The idea that the best way forward for the followers of Jesus lies not in crouching behind walls of disagreement but in conversation among all kinds of leaders about what the scriptures actually teach. We must insist on the biblical Gospel, right doctrine and practice but not isolate ourselves from relationship even with those who believe much differently.

    These are conversations about the most Christ honoring ways of building a church. Our goal is unity, however a true unity cannot be fashioned in pretense or denial of truth nor can it be won among those who prefer sectarianism to the unity Jesus prayed for. To advance Christ’s call to unity we must do what men have always done, we must push and prod and challenge and sharpen each other’s beliefs and methods. Fidelity and fruitfulness, both matter. No one has a corner on the truth and methods must do more than ‘work.’
    ———————–

    Now, Paul states it clearly:
    Romans 16:17 17 Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.

    John is clear: 2 John 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.

    Give Jakes no platform for his ungodly word of faith heresies and his anti-Trinitarian teachings. He is no brother but a liar and deceiver in the church of God making much havoc among the sheep of Christ.

    I do not understand MacDonald and Driscoll and their intents. But, more and more, these kinds of events are blurring the lines of gospel distinctiveness. The Young and Restless Calvinists seem to be following on the tails of a Maclaren kind of evangelical.

    We must be holy; we must be distinct from the world, worldliness, pleasure seeking for the sake of purity, temperance, soberness and clarity. We need to be careful about a fine line between our kingdom building and working as faithful stewards in the kingdom of God. We need to be careful of the trendiness and wind blowing of the world of fickleness, change and openness to all kinds of doctrines not in according with gospel traditions of the NT.

    Must we constantly entertain the entertainment styles of the world; must we be so focussed on reaching the pagan that we begin to loose distinctiveness from their ways, talk, dress, styles of music etc?

    May MacDonald and Driscoll examine themselves – as we all should all the time – for what seems to be a slippery slope of one compromise that leads insidiously to many more compromises. The invite of Jakes is a manifest symptom problem of the new Calvinist movement that cares more about the trends of the world than the Calvinism that they profess. The depravity of man seems to be a doctrine that needs far more attention by the new Calvinists than not.

    We need to be reminded of the pit from which we have been delivered. May the words of Paul be nailed to our fickle hearts:

    Ephesians 2:1-5 Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),

    May the God of all grace be pleased to use a few words here for His glory and for all of our good.

  88. henrybish says:

    Brother Thabiti,

    I have a question I’d like to ask that I’ve not seen answered. I agree that the Trinity is biblical and to reject it is to reject the witness of scripture.

    But I am not so sure of the basis on which one can say a person who is a modalist is not saved. I’m sure you have seen the article by Fred Sanders that Justin Taylor linked to:

    http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/09/28/not-your-grandpas-anti-trinitarianism-an-analysis-of-onenness-pentecostalism/

    In it he is not so sure that a modalist is not saved. If that is the case, then is it not possible that TD Jakes could be a brother in the Lord? It is not as though the character of the God he worships is different, he just merges it into one Being, no? Is that error damnable?

    To put it another way, if James Macdonald invited to the Elephant room people who, say, reject the bible’s teaching on the role of women, then why is that permitted but the error of modalism is not? At the base of both is a rejection of scripture, I don’t think one is less clear than the other.

    I would really appreciate your thought on this demarcation, thanks.

  89. Craig says:

    Well why aren’t all you in a tizzy about MacDonald inviting heretic Perry Noble & blaspheming Mark Driscoll.

  90. Thabiti,

    It looks like MacDonald has posted clarification on his blog about the event and has even invited Crawford Loritts to be on the panel.

    May the truth be upheld and thank you for watching your life and doctrine closely.

    d.

  91. Jesse Newman says:

    Are you for real?
    What do you mean you may not even watch it?
    So you can blog about it, but not even watch it to see if what you are saying has any credence?

    I love you mate, but for heavens sake, measure your words.

    This is the whole idea of the elephant room.
    Of course, if TD jakes is not Trinitarian it is wrong, but let’s at least watch and see what God does.
    God bless Pastor McDonald for for inviting him… People will hopefully learn how to defend their theology from this session.

    Cheers

    1. Jesse:

      Pastor MacDonald is willfully bringing a ravening wolf in among the sheep. Paul warned the Ephesian elders of this great danger (Acts 20:28-31). This is not the action of an overseer, pastor, shepherd. He is to “feed” the flock of God, instead MacDonald is feeding the flock to the wolf. The Lord commands us to reject the heretic (Titus 3:10-11).

      Pastor MacDonald is wring for hosting Jakes. He is refusing to heed the admonitions of his brothers. (2 Thess. 3:15) Refusing to watch the program is a small step toward withdrawing from this now erring, disorderly brother. (2 Thess. 3:6)

      There are just too many theological errors out there to become familiar with all, not even most of them. Teaching believers how to defend themselves from error by exposing them to it is NOT the best or right way. Teach the Word of God so that when error comes along the believer will recognize it for error and reject it.

      LM

    2. Despeville says:

      Jesse,

      It is time for you to take God’s Word seriously and in toto:

      “Be not unequally yoked with the infidels: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath the believer with the infidel? And what agreement hath the Temple of God with idols? for ye are the Temple of the living God: as God hath said, I will dwell among them, and walk there: and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and separate yourselves, saith the Lord, and touch none unclean thing, and I will receive you. And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

      ~ 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Geneva Bible

      Now compare above with your thinking:

      “Of course, if TD jakes is not Trinitarian it is wrong, but let’s at least watch and see what God does.”

  92. Gordon Hazell says:

    To be quite honest

    As much as I respect and am influenced by Anyabwile and as much as I am not a fan of Jakes, I think Anyabwile’s treatment of this matter is problematic. I see nothing wrong in giving a fair hearing to a theological opponent. I am actually looking forward to hearing Jakes bring it all out at the Elephant Room. This is not Jakes being invited to preach at a reformed church, nor is it a matter of him being in league with the Gospel Coalition. It is a forum, A discussion, an opportunity for the issues to be laid out. Frankly, I see this as a golden opportunity for us reformed folk to solidify our stance as far as Jakes’ is concerned and be able to further protect our flocks. As far as calling jakes a Heretic, this is the perfect opportunity for him to show whether or not he is.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Gordon,

      Thanks, friend, for stopping by the blog and sharing with us. I appreciate your contributing to the discussion, and I welcome your disagreement.

      Obviously, I’ve stated my view in the post. I recognize that others have different views and, quite honestly, are more optimistic than I about the potential outcomes. I think, at this point, we’re all wise if we simply commit everyone concerned to our fervent prayers for more of the Lord’s grace and for the Lord to show His power in the ER. Simply dividing ourselves between I’m for and I’m against is not enough. We also have to try and influence the direction of things for the best, which is what I think all our comments have been about. Then we have to get on with the real work–prayer.

      So, let’s called this discussion closed, since we’re not likely to reach any fresh perspectives at this point. I’ll turn off the comments feature at this point.

      And let’s all bow before the sovereign God of the universe–like we really believe He is sovereign and at work, and like we don’t really know all of His ways and means for both enlightening and hardening–and plead for His best for all concern. That’s what I’ll be doing. I know the prayers of all the righteous will avail much!

      I’m grateful for everyone’s thoughtful and patient contributions. May the Lord gives us all wisdom and show us that His wisdom is greater still! For Jesus,
      T-

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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