Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 4
Title: “Ticket to Ride”
What are the “majors” of Christian doctrine that cannot be diluted or denied for a person to be a Christian? How can we help one another move beyond the bare minimum of accepted belief, to a pursuit of robust, soul-satisfying, biblical substance? How should we relate to those who do not yet embrace the benefit and priority of sound biblical doctrine? Is there a difference between a person in error and a wolf in sheep’s clothing? What benefits derive from keeping the majors on a separate list and not letting the ‘minors’ divide us? Is it possible to love the truth without compromise and still work passionately for unity?
Speakers: T. D. Jakes and Mark Driscoll, moderated by James MacDonald
Disclaimer: This is merely a summary of my notes, taken down live during the event. They may not be word-for-word and will need to be seen on video in order for their context to be fully understood. I will be updating this post every few minutes as the session goes on.
MacDonald: I have an old friend and a new friend. I had no idea what I was getting into when I invited you. I didn’t know it would be so hard to get people in a room to talk. Mark, your book about sex – I endorsed it. I had to hire an assistant to answer all the emails against the book you wrote.
Driscoll: We wrote a book about sex. People see it as gross, God, or gift. You can read a book about friendship and sex and go work on those things, or write a blog about those things. I’d rather work on those things. Liberals think we’re too conservative. Conservatives think we’re took liberal because we talked about sex the way the Bible does.
MacDonald: How do you handle the criticism?
Driscoll: Honestly, I want to be humble and grow in humility. I want to turn my critics into coaches. I could’ve said that better. I think it’s a great book, and I don’t rescind it. The goal is not to win an argument but to help some people.
MacDonald: Apparently (to Jakes), there has been confusion about what you believe.
Jakes: My situation is not that different from his. My father was Methodist. My mother was Baptist. I was raised in a Baptist church. But I was raised in church without a committed experience with Christ when my father died. My conversion to Christ took place in a Oneness church.
Driscoll: By Oneness meaning?
Jakes: It was not a UPC church. It was similar.
Driscoll: Jesus only, modalism?
Jakes: They believe in Jesus Christ, he died and raised again. But how they explain the Godhead is how Trinitarians describe the gospel. I was in that church and raised in that church a number of years. I started preaching from that pulpit. But I’m also informed by the infiltration from my Baptist experience. I ended up Metho-Bapti-Costal. I’m a mixed breed. It is easy to throw rocks at people who you do not know, but when you see the work of Christ in their lives, you try to build bridges. So even though I moved away from what that church’s teaching, I didn’t want to throw rocks. Much of what we do today is teach people to take sides. But I believe we are called to reconcile wherever possible. My struggle was that in some passages, the doctrine fits and in other places it doesn’t. I don’t want to force my theology to fit my denomination.
(Jakes is going through Jesus’ baptism and the “let us” at creation.) The Bible made me rethink my ideas and I got quiet about it for a while. There are things that you can say about the Father you cannot say about the Son or the Spirit. There are distinctives. I’m very comfortable with that. There is very little difference between what I believe and what you believe. But I don’t think anything that any of us believes fully describes what God is. We in our finite minds cannot fully describe what God is.
Driscoll: We all would agree that in the nature of God there is mystery. But within that, for you, Bishop Jakes, the issue is one God manifesting Himself successively in three ways? Or one God existing eternally in three persons? What is your understanding now? Which one?
Jakes: I believe the latter one is where I stand today. One God – Three Persons. I am not crazy about the word persons though. You describe “manifestations” as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline. For God was manifest in the flesh. Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it’s robbery to say manifest in the flesh. Maybe it’s semantics, but Paul says this. Now, when we start talking about that sort of thing, I think it’s important to realize there are distinctives between the work of the Father and the work of the Son. I’m with you. I have been with you. There are many people within and outside denominations labeled Oneness that would be okay with this. We are taught in society that when we disagree with someone in a movement, we leave. But I still have associations with people in Onenness movements. We need to humble both sides and say, “We are trying to describe a God we love.” Why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when it’s through a glass darkly? None of our books on the Godhead will be on sale in heaven.
Driscoll: Thank you for joining us. You don’t have to be there. You were on the cover of Time magazine.
MacDonald: Isn’t this your biggest gig ever?
Driscoll: The fact you showed up to dinner last night, I was shocked. I enjoyed you. I walked away going, “I appreciate meeting and knowing and enjoying that man.” Thank you for being gracious, courageous, and humble. You’re coming out of a Oneness background. You’ve demonstrated humility that you are changing your position in light of Scripture. How have you been treated by those on the side who you used to align with? Are you the heretic to them?
Jakes: Many of the circles I came from would never allow me in their pulpit. I have to read the blog article to read which heretic I am. The time has come for us to be willing to take the heat and have a conversation. If we do not do this, and we continue to divide ourselves by ourselves and with ourselves, we do it at the expense of decreasing numbers of new Christians in our society. This is the only thing that Jesus prayed that we can answer. He only prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. This is the one thing we have the power to answer.
Driscoll: Do you believe the Bible is the perfect, infallible Word of God? Do you believe God is Three Persons? Jesus is fully God and fully Man? He died on the cross for our sins? He rose from the dead? He is coming again? Apart from Jesus is no salvation?
MacDonald: You’ve honored us and shown us humility. Jesus stands with the humble. Get to those people who love my Son, believe my Word and express humility. I feel deeply in my heart that God is both Three and One. I believe the Scripture is clear that when we get to heaven, we will see Jesus. Jesus is the only God we will ever see. I believe in God eternally existing in three persons. The more I think of it, the more I think my head is going to explode.
Jakes: There is going to be one throne and one God we can see. The more I hear everybody arguing about this… we’re saying the same thing. There will always be people who define themselves by their differences rather than their connections. My soul leaps in celebration as we stumble to explain how God does what He does. That stumbling is worship. To humble ourselves and say, “God, Your thoughts are higher than our thoughts.”
Driscoll: Bishop Jakes, why are you hear?
Jakes: I love people.
Driscoll: I believe that.
Jakes: My heart yearns to see us know each other. There are so many reasons in society for us to get away from race, denominations, and stop allowing other people to tell us who each other is. The loss of civility among us, within and without the church, is killing our nation. We’ve got to learn to talk to each other, or we’re going to die.
Graham: I’ve been friends with Bishop Jakes for ten years. We started praying together in a public forum. I’ve found in him consistency in what he has said and what he believes. It’s amazing to me that these questions keep coming up. I hope this puts to rest a lot of this going on about the Trinitarian issue. When we see God, we see Jesus. There is one God. He has given Himself in Three eternal Persons. James, thank you for taking a stand to allow this conversation to take place.
Loritts: So many things bubbling in my heart over this. We need to stop letting people tell us who we are and to engage them. One of my concerns has been the subtle ways we justify slander, give credence to it, in the name of intellectual insight. Or we prostitute the word “discernment.” We feel so free to draw conclusions on people without talking to them in a spirit of love, compassion, and clarity. I am rejoicing. I pray that the exchange will take an amazing lesson.
Furtick: You are modeling something for a 31-year-old pastor that I hope will get in my soul. My hope is that you have exposed a pattern and that the point is not “Bishop Jakes is all right with us.” I hope this would help us assume the best. Not everyone will appear in this forum and articulate things as well as he does. We should do what 1 Corinthians says. Love is going to believe the best. It will always hope and protect. I hope this will send a message and the spirit of it will permeate the way we feel about people we don’t get the chance to know. We don’t need a checklist to say, “He’s all right.” The goal is love.
Cordeiro: WWII was won by the Allied Forces, not the United States. We had to join up to win the war. We can’t afford divisions where we strain out gnats. We have to put aside divisions to move the kingdom forward, otherwise we will get caught up in the small stuff and miss the war.
MacDonald: The issue of the Trinity is not a small thing. It is central to Christianity and a pillar of orthodoxy. However, when a man confesses his trinitarianism, and people say, “Is he trinitarian enough?” That’s when we need to turn down the rhetoric and let a man’s confession and fruitfulness speak for itself. 6000 churches in North America close their doors every year. Less than 20% of people attend church regularly. Only 2% of churches are growing by conversion. We need to wake up and figure out that the constant negative, destructive rhetoric is not helping the church. It’s hurting it. Jesus said they will know we are disciples by our love. Let’s go forward together. That’s the ball I’m carrying.