Massaging Elephants In The Elephant Room

So many people have said what I am about to say so much more thoroughly and clearly. But I just wanted to share four quick observations after reading the manuscripts of  Elephant Room 2. I’m a Johnny-come-lately to the ER2 blog party, partly because I wanted to glean as much info as possible before coming to any conclusions about the parties involved.

I say this as someone who has been impacted greatly by the Walk in the Word radio ministry of James MacDonald. When I was a construction driver for a year I always would look forward to MacDonald’s refreshingly bold expository sermons during the afternoon time slot. They would break up the monotony of Christian-y peptalks and belligerent conservative pundits the air was typically filled with. You can only hear Sean Hannity spew the talking points he stole from Rush Limbaugh so many times before it gets old. I have nothing but respect for James MacDonald and his ministry.

With that in mind, here are four brief observations about ER2 and some of the recent online reactions to it:

TD Jakes Is A Trinitarian And A Modalist?

I still don’t know if TD Jakes is orthodox on the subject of the Trinity. He seems like an amicable guy who was game for the ER2 experience, and as was pointed out, he didn’t have to accept the invitation there. But based on the discussion in question he could be an excellent politician/lawyer/debater in his own right simply because he is masterfully adept at saying much of nothing in a very eloquent manner. At the beginning of the ER2 discussion Jakes initially affirmed the historical biblical understanding of the Trinity, did some fine hermeneutic gymnastics, and then flipped back to modalist language at the closing comments. In the end, he deconstructed the topic so much he was able to practically say (as orthodox pastors nodded approvingly): “Shucks! We’re all just trying to explain the same mystery!” Was it a clear affirmation, a movement towards orthodoxy, or just a play at shady syncretism? I really don’t know. In that regard, I feel ER2 didn’t satisfy the most basic tenet of biblical Christianity: The triune nature of God. Given some of the clear theological minds that were present, that is both unfortunate and a little shocking.

Get off Mark Driscoll’s hairy back

Watchbloggers have jumped on Driscoll like a tick on an inner thigh because of his “association” with the Jakes in the Elephant Room. I watched a closing EP2 video with James MacDonald and a couple notable black pastors summarizing the event. In retrospect, what was most interesting to me is that MacDonald didn’t seem to know, suggest, or really even want Driscoll to bring up the topic of Trinity to Jakes. I am quite certain the topic would have never even been brushed if Driscoll didn’t have the backbone to actually point out the biggest elephant of heresy in the whole room (Jake’s Modalism)…Do you really think Steve Furtick would have broached the subject? Right after Driscoll’s questioning MacDonald almost apologizes on his behalf, gushing over Jakes fruitfulness, stature, and humility to subject himself to such interrogation. Fist bump or not, at least Driscoll brought it up.

Blinded To The Word-Faith Elephant

The other major elephant left unscathed at EP2 was the Word of Faith/prosperity gospel Jakes has propagated numerous times in his preaching ministry. MacDonald assures us it was addressed privately in some back room at some point and Jake’s categorically denied it then and there. That’s nice to know, but most pastors of the Word Faith ilk have shunned the “prosperity gospel” label for some time now (just as new Southern Baptist church plants omit “Baptist” in the title and are named after a body of water or direction instead). Positive confessionism and name-it claim-it type “destiny” preaching is just new lipstick on an old pig (prosperity gospel). Yet again, not a peep or query about it during EP2 from the Evangelical leaders who have been very passionate and bold about preaching the gospel of a bloody Savior, and not a shiny Sedan.

What’s Race Got To Do With It?

Pastor Crawford Loritts pulled the race card pretty quickly after ER2 on all who would question Jakes and his liberal use of false doctrine. Black evangelical leaders who defended orthodoxy were just “jealous” of the mega-church pastor’s success (bet you won’t say that to Voddie Baucham’s face :0), and white leaders needed to be “careful” because they were, well, white afterall. I don’t know how race is relevant to the orthodoxy of a pastor, but it seems we still have a long way to go in race relations when theological discussions turn into race baiting for no good reason whatsoever. As of me writing this, Jakes’ Statement of Faith on his church website still affirms modalistic language. If that is not important enough to confront someone about then the contemporary American church really does know nothing of Scripture, the nature of God, or church history. Getting the nature of God right has eternal implications. Heresy cannot be winked at. The red herring of race has nothing to do with it.

Any thoughts from my dear readers? I’d like to know what you think of the recent turn of events in the Elephant Room 2, the Gospel Coalition, and evangelicalism at large.

Bryan Daniels

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

9 thoughts on “Massaging Elephants In The Elephant Room”

  1. The problem with Driscoll is he keeps providing such good reasons to be concerned with him. Furtick is already out in left field, but once upon a time, Driscoll was showing some very encouraging signs. I’m afraid those days are behind him.

    1. I agree with you on Furtick. I’m not as down on Driscoll; I don’t hold “Real Marriage” against him yet until I see what the fuss is all about (Ch 10 included). The few vids I’ve seen of the “Real Marriage” Tour were actually really good. He holds an open view of the spiritual gifts that I guess could give people pause…

      1. I want to like Driscoll. There is much that is good with his ministry. Didn’t read his Marriage book, but I suspect much of it is good, while still crossing the line at times. I appreciated Challies’ review and the recommendation to go with Keller’s book rather than Driscoll’s.

        Driscoll has concerned me more and more. I thought his contact with Piper would make him grow stronger as a pastor, but I’m afraid what I see from him is growing pride, growing defiance, and growing foolishness. His charismatic stances are downright bizarre and the way he interacts with his legitimate critics is less than gracious. I really hope something snaps him out of this, he could do so much better.

    2. I totally agree. His view on the gifts IS bizarre, and, in some capacity, probably demonic. There is no Scriptural support for the innate ability to see visions of a someone’s past, like the witness of abuses — and even of adultery! God shows him visions of a woman having sex with another man? What? I’m sure you saw that video clip too.

      Makes me pause, for sure.

  2. If Mr Rich walks into the Lords meeting house I have a new toothbrush for him. And with that he can clean the Lords toilet for Mr Poor to use then he when Mr Rich is a little worn he can take a seat at the back of the house and praise the name of Jesus with the fruit of his own heart.

  3. You already said it yourself. TD Jakes deconstructed the issue. He muddied the water. That’s what heretics do. I think you answered your own question about his orthodoxy. The Trinity is no place to stir up dirt where the Orthodox Church has already made itself clear.

    Is it just me who caught his PURPOSEFUL misquotation of John 14:11? He quoted it as “I AM the Father” rather than “I am IN the Father…” (!)

    TD Jakes clearly taught modalism, and he has not, to my knowledge, repented of this. Nor has he repented of Word Faith heresy. The problem with ER2 to my understanding was it was supposed to be a reconciliation between people who hold Nicene Christianity — people that, besides the other heresies they teach, are within classical Nicene belief. It’s supposed to be a loosely “in-house” debate. Yet they invited TD Jakes, well known heretic, implying he was in the the parameters of orthodoxy, only to TEST his orthodoxy. Do what?

    My beef? Don’t screw with the Trinity, bro. Ever. At all.

    Check out James White’s video on this. He has debated many Oneness guys. He knows how they talk. I also agree with him when he says that both Mark Driscoll and James Macdonald should have known better. I disagree that we should get off Mark’s back. He blasted all these other people who hold to Trinitarianism, and then he asks one limp, imprecise question to Jakes. That’s all he could do? Come on! This is the Trinity! The Trinity and the Deity of Christ are the two highest doctrines we have! I’m not excusing James. James needs a stricter rebuke for even entertaining this mess.

    1. I agree with most all you say, Josh. I wouldn’t have personally invited James to the ER in the first place.

      I think Driscoll asked about as much as he could without totally grilling him to no end (maybe he should have lambasted him more aggressively). The problem is that if he put a Nicene Creed in front of Jakes I think he would have signed it. Jakes affirmed the mini creedal confession Driscoll hit him with which included the Trinity language. I think the discussion reveals more about Jakes’ duplicity than Driscoll’s character. I’m sure James White could pown just about anybody in a debate on the Trinity, but unfortunately a guy like him will never get the chance to have a sit-down with TD Jakes.

      One person going unscathed in all this is SBC poster boy Jack Graham. He was there too, “associated” with Jakes on a discussion about race, and afterwards was belligerent in his defense of Jakes’ orthodoxy. We live in some strange times, indeed.

      1. Yep, strange indeed!

        The fact that he affirmed the mini creedal statement in light of his teaching only confirms my suspicion: he redefines all the words. His understanding is obviously not orthodox, in my opinion. The thing about the Athanasius creed is that it defines the Trinity and Christ’s Divinity into the ground. I bet Jakes’ understanding does not match up with that creed, which is held in high esteem like the Nicene. You can’t favor manifestation over person just because of a KJV screw up based on poor manuscript source.

        I’ve noticed something in mainstream evangelicals. When you say “But, you know, God is incomprehensible. We really can’t understand” it’s like you are saying magic words. Suddenly you’ve got a get out of jail free card. This is how Rick Warren duped John Piper. Rick knew exactly what to say to make John respect him when John interviewed him. All anyone has to say was “Yeah I believe in both. There’s tension there, who am I to understand? God is infinite.” etc. etc. Magic words. There’s something wrong with that. Mark is a pseudo-emergent — of course that’ll get him!

        I haven’t heard this Jack Graham thing (I haven’t read but a few paragraphs of the transcripts; mostly i’ve heard the snippets played by Wretched and the Dividing Line), but I believe you; and he needs to be called out. That is not tolerable.

        Jack, being educated, is without excuse. But I must admit, though, the The Southern Baptist Faith & Message is disappointing. I prefer the Westminster and 1689 London Baptist confessions’ description of God. The BF&M’s statement that God “reveals himself to us in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” is too ambiguous in my opinion; and although the the rest of the sentence and the articles proceeding from this statement about God help to clarify what they mean, this will confuse the average Baptist, especially given TD Jakes’ deconstruction and his endorsement by SBC leaders.

        UGH! I think we might be witnessing a major compromise man!

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