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