The Fallout of The Elephant Room – Was TD Jakes clear enough in espousing the Trinity? Does the Elephant Room make theology unimportant? By Todd Friel
Thursday January 26th 2012
The fallout of Elephant Room
Was TD Jakes clear enough in espousing the Trinity?
Does the Elephant Room make theology unimportant?
By Todd Friel
(Transcript of Wretched Radio podcast)
(Listen to the videos that I uploaded on youtube)
Wretched Radio With Todd Friel – Was T.D. Jakes Clear Enough in Espousing the Trinity? Part 1 of 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oc47V12JQxU&feature=relmfu
Wretched Radio With Todd Friel – Was T.D. Jakes Clear Enough in Espousing the Trinity? Part 2 of 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wyHRmA7eMAc&feature=relmfu
Wretched Radio With Todd Friel – Was T.D. Jakes Clear Enough in Espousing the Trinity? Part 3 of 3 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9LstXSItEI&feature=relmfu
Believe it or not we do have clarity. This is Wretched Radio as you may or may not know, yesterday was the big Elephant Room 2 conference, hosted by James McDonald, a bevy of big name evangelicals Mark Driscoll, Stephen Furtick, Wayne Cordeiro, Greg Laurie, there were lots of big names there. But perhaps the most interesting name to appear of course was TD Jakes. Formerly known as a Oneness Pentecostal. He has now been given a Trinitarian stamp of approval by the gang at The Elephant Room conference and so a lot of people are wondering, “does that mean he is in the camp? Are we good to go?” What is the big take away from The Elephant Room conference? I would like to suggest to you there is, this is going to sound like I am downgrading – a bigger takeaway from the conference than whether or not TD Jakes is a Trinitarian or not.
Just so you can be up to speed on the issue, Oneness Pentecostalism says that God exists, one God in three typically successive manifestations, but never co-existing at the same time as three distinct persons. Historically the war has been persons vs. manifestations, persons orthodox, manifestations historically although not exclusively Oneness Pentecostal which has been deemed heretical. He was invited to the conference. The hullabaloo began wait a second, this was supposed to be a Christian conference for Christians by Christians discussing Christian issues.
What is TD Jakes doing there? We were assured it was a good decision, but we are going to have to wait and see because we were going to be surprised and it was I think less than subtle. James McDonald said he is a Trinitarian. But we would have to wait until yesterday and many people were very concerned because Oneness Pentecostals historically have been rather, I want to be gracious about this, they have been rather slippery about their responses. They can say one thing and import a different meaning to it. They can skate a line like Dorthy Hammell and just kind of be close enough to not offend anybody but not really and all along they are really Oneness Pentecostals but try to portray themselves as being Trinitarian enough. I have seen it before. I have experienced it before and that is exactly why many people were concerned about TD Jakes because he did that about a decade, about a dozen years ago. Hank Hanegraaff exceedingly concerned saying, “he is a Oneness Pentecostal. He is not orthodox.” Dr. James White if anybody knows this issue it is he, he said, “it is certain the man is a modalist.” And at the time TD Jakes said, “this just is not a big deal,” and so now it has been about ten years. He goes to The Elephant Room conference with a room full of let us remember this – Trinitarians to receive something of an inquisition of a grilling to determine where is this guy at? And so it happened yesterday. There were eight sessions, it was exceedingly well attended and the concern of many if you look at the vote www.wretchedradio.com. Will there be clarity? Will there be confusion? Or will it just be muddy? Because isn’t that the worst. Isn’t muddy the worst place to be?
I liken it unto, you think maybe there is going to be a bad diagnosis but before you get to the doctor’s office for him to reveal what the x-rays show, you don’t know and it is like ah that is almost worst than him saying something bad isn’t it? And I fear that was the concern, rightly so of a lot of people, that it would just be mud after it was all done. Well I think we have got spackles of mud, but I actually think we have a great deal of clarity from The Elephant Room 2 conference.
I would like to share with you my thoughts on what I think is one of the biggest events at least of the last decade, if not more and it has huge implications for the future of evangelical Christianity. I do not believe I am overstating this at all. This was big yesterday and we need to filter this rightly, lovingly, correctly, theologically with a great deal of wisdom.
Let’s talk about TD Jakes, let’s talk about the men of The Elephant Room. What is the big issue that brings us a great deal of clarity? And what is our response? Number one, TD Jakes, we will be sharing later The Elephant Room conference. You will hear TD Jakes himself. I think the overall takeaway about TD Jakes and his orthodoxy when it comes to Trinitarian theology, is seems like it and the people at The Elephant Room said, “that is enough said he is a Trinitarian.” Now the amount of minutes that were spent on the subject, it was not long. You will hear later. It was not extremely complicated. “It was a bare minimum acceptable nothing wrong was said” at least in their opinion. As far as TD Jakes being a Modalist or a Trinitarian I think you are going to see people lining up in varying degrees, different shades on the issue. Some people like James McDonald, Mark Driscoll at the conference said, “enough and anybody who questions it, well we just don’t have time for them anymore.” Not exactly the thing that The Elephant Room is trying to foster. I think that there are going to be a lot of people who say, “no this is not clear enough. There was enough room for slippage here. There was enough room for this to mean a lot of different things.” When he said for instance, “yes I believe in three persons in the Trinity, but I prefer the word manifestations,” it is a blending and a lot of people are going to hear that and think he has got a foot in each one of the camps and quite honestly I think that is what he tried to share. He tried to make it clear, “hey I came from this background. I have moved.” Now he did say that he moved. Now far has he moved the answer is I think people are going to have different takeaways, some people will say, “it is movement enough.” I think people who understand Oneness Pentecostalism I think are still going to be sceptical. Now I think we need to celebrate he made it clear he has moved. Has he moved enough? And the answer is it depends on how you want to take it. I think it depends on your attitude. I think it depends on your understanding of Oneness Pentecostalism. I think it depends on how much you understand that historically they have been very tricky with their language. This is a very precise conversation that needs to take place and a lot of people are not going to be satisfied with it. They are not going to be thrilled with it.
For instance, I think TD Jakes at one point confused an issue intentionally or not I don’t know. The battle cry was just, “there is a lot of mystery in the trinity.” Is there mystery in the Trinity? And the answer is yes and no. There is very little mystery in the articulation of the Trinity. I don’t think it is that hard for us to come up with an Athanasian Creed that says, “this is the Father, this is the Son, this is the Holy Spirit.” I think it is pretty easy to come up with explaining that definition.
The mystery comes in the grasping of it and this is a line we should draw. Articulating the Trinity relatively easy, we can be very precise in fact I think scripture demands we are precise. The grasping of it come on three persons, one God. It kind of makes our human brain boggle a little bit. But what I think TD Jakes did and what too many people do with the Trinitarian theology is they say, “the mystery of comprehension of grasping it applies to the articulation.” It does not. We can articulate it, it has been articulated – three distinct persons, one God, co-existing, co-eternal. That is it. One substance – consubstantial. They are one substance and yet three persons and that is very easy. Grasping it, you can have mystery. So when we blur the mystery of the Trinity without a clear articulation, it makes it sound like, “well who can really get this thing? Let’s move on.” And I think that is the sense that a lot of people will get from this. They were in a rush to just move on.
Furthermore if this issue – the Trinity issue is as big as it has been historically understood and TD Jakes has moved, why were questions not asked about his repentance, about his leading of other people out of the denomination when they hold heretical doctrine? And basically his response, you will be hearing this so hopefully I am not representing this wrong. It is not my desire to misrepresent the man. I want the man to be saved. He basically said, “I don’t want to throw rocks at anybody.” Well that is kind of the battle cry of The Elephant Room conference. Don’t throw rocks. Well when somebody is lost because of their theology, we don’t just try not throw rocks, we try to snatch them out of the flames. Where was that emphasis in the questioning? What about his repentance? Where was that in a lot of the questions. In my opinion, this is what is going to make a lot of people go, “ah not enough.” A lot of affirming no denying, if you read The Athanasian Creed you will see statement after statement after statement after statement and basically he said, “whatever you say I affirm.” But there were no denials of Modalism. “I deny, I reject. I say this is anathema and I have informed everybody to call them to repentance too,” and so a lot of people are going to be unsatisfied. Some people will say it was a minimalist presentation, it was acceptable and enough and I think that this is where we might get caught in the weeds and I would like to encourage us not to get caught in the weeds here.
Let’s just assume right now some people are going to say, “yes he is a Trinitarian.” Some people are going to say, “no,” a third group are going to be right in the middle and go, “I don’t know yet.” Why don’t we just agree on this issue to give it time, I didn’t say agree to disagree. That is The Elephant Room. I am saying, “let’s give it time.” The reality is if Dr. James White had been there with TD Jakes this would have lasted specifically on this issue, a full force 50 minutes, not 5 or 10. It would have been specific and clear and everybody would have heard exactly what the man believes. So no matter where you are on your takeaway from TD Jakes, let’s just wait on that issue because I fear we are going to get bogged down in the weeds, because that is, it is sort of the biggest issue but it is not.
But before we leave TD Jakes there is some other questions that need to be asked about The Elephant Room conference. There are other pieces of baggage that come with TD Jakes. For instance the Word of Faith doctrine, what does he believe about that? Furthermore what about his associations with the Word of Faith teachers of this world that he is so easily able to partner with those folks? The Creflo Dollar’s etc of the world. Tell us about those associations, none of that questioning. Furthermore what about the gospel? We have listened to your sermons we don’t hear the gospel. We need clarification on the gospel.
You see we shouldn’t be judging a man exclusively on what he says at a less than deep end interrogation in the theological pool. It is his whole ministry and his life and what he preaches and so very little was interrogated. So yes the Trinitarian issue was addressed, satisfactorily? Let’s let everyone else have their differing opinions. Let’s not war each other on that one okay, let’s not do that. There is a bigger, that is a little battle we can have, let’s have that one over coffee. We have got a bigger one coming up. So let’s say I say, “well it is still unclear,” and you think it was enough. Let’s not kill each other on this one and you think, “no way it wasn’t even.” Okay that is fine we are still pals and I mean genuinely we are still pals on this. That is not quite the big issue, but let’s move on to the men of the Elephant Room and I think we learned much about the men of The Elephant Room.
These are some of the big names of The Elephant Room. James McDonald, he is huge I don’t know how many stations he is on, he is on a lot of stations. Mark Driscoll, hundreds of churches have been started underneath The Acts29 Network. These guys sell tons of books. They are, Jack Graham. These are big guys and they are well beloved. These are biggies and that is why this conference was important for that reason alone. What did we learn about them? I think we learned much and this is where our clarity comes in and this will lead us to the big issue.
TD Jakes made one thing clear, he maybe didn’t make his Trinitarianism clear, but here is what he made clear. Trinitarianism isn’t that important. Repeatedly he made it clear. “Hey this is just not an issue that we are going to, we should be fighting over. Come on let’s leave it alone.” And I hate to say it and you will hear this in a bit. I think that the men on the panel agreed with him. “This is just not that big y’all.” Now this is historic. Historically the doctrine of the Trinity has been essential. This has been essential. There is five. The attitude toward scripture – is it infallible, inspired, inerrant, sufficient? If you don’t believe it, historically out! Grace alone, faith alone, Jesus alone. Don’t believe it – historically out! The role of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. Do not understand those right and the doctrine of the trinity and you are out. What we heard from TD Jakes and the response of the men. The affirmation of at least the men who were on the stage. Let’s not include everybody, just the fellows who were on the stage was, “yeah but it is just not, come on this is tricky and this is hard. Let’s not make a big deal out of it,” and so what we learned yesterday is that there are two types of theologians in evangelicalism and this is going to, this is really going to lead us to the big issue.
What is that we take away from this thing? What is the big battle? I have to tell you TD Jakes is a skirmish at this point. This is a small issue. Let’s take out of military terms for right now. TD Jakes is small. The men of The Elephant Room what they said, what they didn’t say – that is the big issue and that is the one that we must wrangle with, come to grips with and agree upon. We will try to do that next on Wretched Radio.
Clarity we have clarity. This is Wretched Radio. Yesterday was The Elephant Room 2 Conference – an historic conference because of what we heard and what we did not hear. This is Wretched Radio. TD Jakes is he a Modalist or isn’t he? You are going to have a varying degree of opinion. Some are going to say, “yep he gave a minimalist presentation on the theology of the Trinity. It is acceptable. Give him the benefit of the doubt.” Other people are going to say, “it wasn’t enough,” and a third group of people are going to say, “it wasn’t even close.” We will share with you in due fashion. You can make that determination yourself. My encouragement, if you disagree with one of our conservative brethren on that, hold fire. Let’s not start shooting in a circle because that is not the big issue. Because I am telling you there is different Christians that are going to have different takeaways from his profession. But that is not the biggest issue.
We learned much about the men of The Elephant Room Conference yesterday and here is perhaps going to be the statement that is going to be very sad for some people. It is going to be sad. James McDonald is different. The James McDonald that perhaps you have been listening to for the last ten years is a different James McDonald. Please hear what I am saying loud and clear. I am not saying the man is a heretic. I am not saying the man is not a brother. I am saying he is a different James McDonald. The James McDonald that perhaps made your heart saw in the past when you heard him.
When he would say things like, James McDonald, “you want to suffer? Just go share Christ with every person on your street and press it to the point where they know that they are going to go straight to hell, if they step out of this world without Christ. You will suffer. He said just call up all the apostate pastors in your area that aren’t preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and go out and challenge them to get on the biblical programme. You will suffer.”
Now that is a different James McDonald. As best I can tell with James McDonald his desire, they discuss this at one of the breakouts. His desire is to bring together those who have a centrality of the gospel and yet different methodology. It just doesn’t matter as long as we are growing numerically. Now that might be sort of a bare bones, perhaps a little bit harsh. But that is a different James McDonald than the one we are hearing at The Elephant Room conference. He has moved from being bombastic in a way that we loved, sharp, clearly defined.”
James McDonald, “and preaching a prosperity gospel where Jesus wants you wealthy, it is sickening.” And yet he was at a conference with a man who is one of the leaders of the prosperity gospel. He has moved. He is a different man. Now you are going to have to figure out what to do with James McDonald. Is the man a heretic? Absolutely not, is he a different James McDonald? Absolutely, he left The Gospel Coalition, an association of conservative theologians to say, “I am in harmony with TD Jakes, Stephen Furtick, Perry Noble.” That is now the crowd that he has chosen to run with and identify himself with. If you will I would like to suggest we have got a new movement of people they are Evangelephants. This is not evangelicalism historic, this is a new sort of evangelicalism – Evangelephant, and I think that is what we saw demonstrated yesterday, not in whole but at least in part. Which makes The Elephant Room kind of frustrating. It was a pretty good representation of some of the things that are bad in evangelicalism, and what we saw yesterday in my opinion and I think this is going to lead us into the big issue.
You saw that there are two types of evangelical Christians. We are going break it up into just two. There are Confessional Evangelicals? You know who those guys are? They are probably people like you and somebody like me who believes in theology being rich, profound, robust, deep and worthy to be applied. And there is another camp of evangelicals that we are going to call Contemporary Evangelicals, where “theology yes, we can’t be too crazy with it, but we have got some wiggle room and this is the biggie it is not that important. It is not that important.”
And that leads me to our third point the takeaway from The Elephant Room conference. The big issue, the big just the major result of The Elephant Room was a demonstration of a modern day downgrade controversy, just like in Spurgeon’s day, a watering down not, there was a bit of, this is where it gets tricky. There was a bit of a watering down on the technicality of theology – Trinitarianism, “its kind of hard my head is going to break open, so let’s not go crazy here.” That was a bit of a downgrade. The major downgrade was the role and the position and the application of theology, “That we have a bare minimum statement of faith – the end. Now let’s go put on a show and let’s win them to Jesus and methodology doesn’t matter and preaching about what we believe does not matter.”
And that is why when you take a look at the life of a Stephen Furtick or a TD Jakes, you can get a file cabinet orthodoxy, Trinitarian, gospel, justification, you name it, it will be there but you don’t hear it coming out of the pulpit. You don’t hear it or read it in their books. It is never preached to the people and so the emphasis on the importance of theology yesterday just got ratcheted down and I think there is a distinction. I believe that Trevin Wax writes about this rightly between confessional and contemporary evangelicals. I will call them Evangelicals and Evangelephants. That is what we saw happen yesterday and that is where our clarity comes in. That we distinctly saw on display, a group of people who hold to orthodoxy – TD Jakes maybe, hold to orthodoxy but it is just not big of a deal and we need to stop arguing. We need to stop fighting and we need to just get along. Let me share with you a demonstration of what that sounded like at The Elephant Room conference.
James McDonald, “When a man confesses his Trinitarianism, is he Trinitarian enough, step away from me on that.”
Okay did you hear that? When somebody asked the question about somebody’s Trinitarianism are you Trinitarian enough? Do you really have your eyes dotted? The early church fathers thought you better or you won’t go to heaven. James McDonald says if you ask that question step off. Now does that make James McDonald a heretic? No it doesn’t. It makes him a Contemporary Evangelical not a Confessional Evangelical and makes him an Evangelephant and not an Evangelical. It is a downgrading on the importance of it. For this to perhaps to have an impact if it is not already on, because the Trinitarian theology has been so downgraded for so long. Speaking of James White last night. Dr. James White he said, “Todd you need to understand what is going on at the seminaries. The doctrine of the Trinity is not taught in systematic theology. It is taught in church history.” And he is right the doctrine of the Trinity way down the toaden pool and you just heard it, “step off.”
Now imagine this, imagine that this was about the doctrine of justification. Hey these people who are uptight about grace alone, faith alone, “you know you have your eyes dotted step off.” What would you say to that? You would go, “woah time out here.” Now does that mean that they are a heretic? No it doesn’t mean that, but it means they don’t understand its importance and so it is with the doctrine of the Trinity. With James McDonald and Mark Driscoll “it is a minimalist understanding that is required necessary and that is it and we don’t go beyond that otherwise step off.”
James McDonald, “Alright? That’s when we begin, to me, to get into more of the nuanced, “what do you believe about the gifts?” and How Trinitarian are you?”, “What do you believe about the role of women?”
Now hold it. I am sorry James you know that wasn’t fair. In secondary and tertiary theologies on the same level as Trinitarianism, that was an entirely category switch and that was not well done. Taking something where we can disagree, speaking in tongues. I don’t, you do, I love you, you love me. But we are going to agree on the Trinity specifically and exactly and if not then we do have problems.
James McDonald, “and that is when we need to turn down, as you said the rhetoric and let a man’s confession and let a man’s fruitfulness speak for itself.”
Now hold it. That is pragmatism at its worst. If a man is being fruitful, growing a big church for instance doesn’t matter really what he believes about the Trinity really.
James McDonald, “3500 Americans leave the church every day. And I don’t mean leave the church to go across town to the other church. I mean, “I am done with this.” Alright? Less than 20% of Americans attend church regularly. Only 15% of churches in the US are growing numerically. Only 15%, and only 2% of those are growing by conversion growth.”
Now this is where I think James McDonald has changed. That is pragmatism that you are hearing and his diagnosis for the problem of church abandonment is too much of an emphasis, too much in fighting, too much squabbling on theology. Now I have got tell you I don’t know if you checked with George Barn on that but I would like to suggest to you just the opposite is true, if you want to take a look at formerly conservative denominations and each and every one of them that downgraded theology has seen a sinking ship. We have seen it with Presbyterians, not all of them, Lutherans, not all of them, with Methodists, not all of them. But those who turn to the left have been shrinking.
“It is not a lower of emphasis on theology that causes people to stay with a church, it causes them to leave the church. We have seen this historically. It is when conservative orthodoxy is promoted and lifted up, that is when we see if you want to use the word revival, that is when we see growth.” But now James McDonald has a different view on it. It is as simple as that. Because he is a Contemporary Evangelical and I think this is why so many people are discussing this issue with a great deal of intensity and upset and I understand it. I really understand it. James McDonald has not become a heretic, he has switched dance cards. He used to be, he sounded Confessional, a champion of orthodoxy, a defender of the faith. Now, “hey I am going to preach it but let’s not get twisted over this.” And that to me is the big issue. That is the big thing that is the takeaway from The Elephant Room conference. A group of powerful, high profile evangelicals have demonstrated this is Contemporary Evangelicalism and if you are one of those Confessional Evangelicals step off.
Alright that is, I am not drawing that line, you just heard that line drawn and so now then that leads us to our fourth point. What do we do? What we do now? How do we respond to this? There will be a very strong tendency to talk about this and blog about this a ton and that can be okay. It can this is an important issue. But I don’t know about you, I like it clear cut and precise and defined and let’s move on, the end of the story. This is this, that is that. It is not that clear and here is why. James McDonald isn’t a heretic. Okay, he is not a heretic. But he has switched from being Gospel Coalition to being an Elephant Room guy. From saying prosperity preachers are you kidding me? To going and having dinner and doing a conference with one. I mean that is just a radical change. What do we do with him? How do we act now? How are we going to treat him? How are we going to talk about him? What is at stake here? What are we supposed to do with this? That to me is the second big issue in all of this. TD Jakes time is going to tell, a little bit more. We will get some more clarity on that. But we received crystal clear instruction and delineation between the difference between Contemporary Evangelical, “low minimalist theology, not spoken about and applied a ton.” To Confessional the question becomes how now shall we live? We will try to tackle that next on Wretched Radio.
James McDonald, “We have a massive problem. The church of Jesus Christ in North America is haemorrhaging. It is in a freefall. We will be…and some of these successful churches can cause us to be confused about the state of things. Stephen Furtick’s baptizing a lot of people; that’s not going on like it is at Mars Hill. The church is in a freefall; it’s haemorrhaging massively. We need to wake up and figure out that the constant negative, destructive rhetoric is hurting the church; it’s not helping it. Jesus was fairly clear about this, “They’ll know that you are my disciples if you love each other.”
Hey amen to that I think. This is Wretched Radio. That was James McDonald at The Elephant Room 2 conference and that is where James McDonald seems to have taken a turn on evangelicals, historic old school Confessional Evangelicals to modern day Contemporary Evangelicalism. Let’s give the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say the church of Jesus Christ on the surface is haemorrhaging. The answer to the question is what do we do about it? Well I am not sure that is even the right question. I think the right question is are we being faithful to the Word? And we will leave the results up to God. That to me is the right question. But if we are going to answer this question is it by downgrading theology or upgrading theology? I say upgrade, I say that we preach as much theology as the Bible does and that is a lot and yes Jesus wanted unity but never at the expense of truth. We know that.
And so James McDonald it seems that he thinks the best way to stop the bleeding is for us to put down divisions of methodology and now an emphasis on theology. I didn’t say that he put down theology. I just said that he put down an emphasis on theology. Stop the bickering. Well there is kind of the rub, is the characterisation of the bickering. Question: when it comes to differences of opinion on theology should we have (a) a conversation or (b) a debate? Now I suppose we could throw in a third one in there. Or should we really snark or snip at each other? Let’s make it three. Should we have a conversation, should we debate, or should we be just really snippy on our blogs and on our postings?
Well I think we all agree on this and this is what James McDonald has seen and he is right about this. There is a lot of snarking and snipping out there. There is okay. We have got to stop that with the brothers. We have got to stop it with those who are in orthodoxy. We shouldn’t be doing it with James McDonald even though likely you are disagreeing with him on this. We are not going to be yelling at each other. That has got to stop. Okay it does have to stop. Jesus didn’t want that. But did he just want us to say, “hey whatever Trinity okay close. Speaking in tongues whatever.” Now there is a different level here. We have got to remember primary orthodoxy, what are the essentials? You go to heaven or hell over secondary tertiary. Conversing, getting together and just going, “so how do you do it? I don’t know.” “Well I do it like this,” “well how do you do it?” “Oh you do it like that so that is different than the way I do it.” Let’s go to Mannies and get a nice big steak and hang out together. Well that does not accomplish anything and that to me has been the fundamental flaw of The Elephant Room conference.
Conversing vs. Debating. Debating doesn’t have to be fighting. Debating is debating, acting like men and debating without being jerks and without yelling, “I hate you, you moron.” That is that third category the snarking and the snipping. We don’t, that has got to go. But who says debating has to go? Let’s keep our columns and our categories straight here. The way to get to the bottom of the issue is to debate it not chat about it and what we saw over and over again at The Elephant Room conference in the first one and part of the second one, “methodology oh that is different. Okay never mind. We are all in this together.” Well now what I think we see in the second one is, “your theology is a little different on the Trinity it is okay, because we are all together on our one goal here.” Wow that is a major shift. Before we try to resolve the question, what do we do with this? What is our takeaway? I would like to share with you some of the tweets that have gone out from the people who participated in The Elephant Room conference. I would also like to share with you a piece of news that I think is, it is important as we consider what happened there and the new lines that have been clearly drawn with a new coalition if you will. You have got The Elephant Coalition now. You had The Gospel Coalition, James McDonald left that, now he is The Elephant Coalition with Mark Driscoll, and TD Jakes, and Stephen Furtick, and Perry Noble at all. Now some of those guys might jump out of that, say, “no I am not in that Coalition. I just came to discuss the thing so let’s be careful about that.” But I think it is fair to say Perry Noble, Stephen Furtick, TD Jakes, James McDonald, and I think it is fair to throw Mark Driscoll in there. They are The Elephant Evangelicals, they are The Evangelephants. It is a new movement. That is what was decided yesterday. This is our thing. Join us or I do believe the words were, “step off.” So we have got a new camp that has sprung up. What do we do with them?
Let’s take a look at some of the answers before we try to pinpoint what it is that you and I could or should do. You may or may not know that the purpose of The Elephant Room conference was to, “have differences of opinion but still get along.” And yet Chris Rosebrough who hosts Pirate Christian radio, he is an LCMS Lutheran. That is kind of redundant.
The headline is Threatened With Arrest at The Elephant Room. He writes, “upon entering the event venue I was met by a security guard Jim Rowen, an elder at Harvest Bible church and was promptly told that my entrance to The Elephant Room had been revoked and that I had to immediately leave the premise or I would be arrested for trespassing.”
Now Chris Rosebrough has been very critical of the elephant. But I thought the purpose of the elephant was to get together with people where we believe different things and converse. He was actually overheard.
Now here is kind of the interesting thing. He was actually overheard. He was on the telephone with Ken Silver, you may know him from Apprising Ministries. He was on the phone with Ken Silver when was walking into the entrance at Harvest Bible. This is from Ken. “I was actually on the phone with Chris and when Jim Rowen the elder at HBC approached him and Chris I am sorry, Chris Rosebrough said he was a member of the media and that HBC was making a mistake by not allowing him in. Chris Rosebrough told Rowen the elder at Harvest Bible (that is James McDonald’s church) that he was going to have to let the wider church know how he and the person that he was with as a Christian brother and sister had been treated by their fellow Christians. I myself this was Ken Silver who you know one of those cell phone deals, heard the elder say, “thank you for the threat.” I was still on the phone and I personally heard Rowen tell Rosebrough they had called the police and “if you don’t leave I will have you arrested.” By the way one of the subjects at The Elephant Room conference was How to Handle Critics.
Let’s get to some of the tweets before we get to the potential solution. @jamesmacdonald said, “@BishopJakes blew us all away (writes James McDonald) with his biblical solidity – his ministry savvy – and his humble service to Christ n all in #elephantroom – #bam
Biblical solidity I will say this, whether his Trinitarian explanation was acceptable or not, we will leave that to debate. As far as biblical solidity I think what we heard yesterday and I am not, I am not being snarky because I have got to tell you something. I am in this camp. Okay, in the theological pool there is the shallow end, there is the deep end. I am not in the deep end. In fact my toes are just barely in the water. That is all. That is I know my place in evangelicalism. I am in the shallow end barely.
What we heard from TD Jakes and the conversation that happened demonstrated yesterday that it was an assembling of popular level theologians – shallow end theologians. This was not theologically precise, stringent, challenging, thoughtful at all. It was at best shallow end. Now pop level evangelicals I’d rock on. That we have a place in the world, but when it comes down to debating the issue of the importance of the Trinity, the clarity of the Trinity. It is time to talk to the big boys in the deep end of the pool because this is that important – heaven, hell and if this breaks in such a way, by the way then suddenly Trinitarianism can be broadly accepted and it doesn’t matter if you are Pentecostal or if you are Trinitarian, Oneness Pentecostal or Trinitarian. Which I have to tell you I sensed was inferred because nobody made the statement that Oneness Pentecostal, Modalistic heresy will condemn or damn. Didn’t hear that. We were left to believe that maybe it is okay. We heard pop level theologians. We needed some deep level yesterday and we didn’t get it.
Let me share this with you from James McDonald, he said, “great clarity came out of the debate. The purpose of The Elephant Room was not to change what Mark Driscoll writes or what Bishop Jakes believes or how Stephen Furtick evangelises or how Crawford Loritts associates. The purpose was talk.”
You hear the difference between conversation versus debate?
“And to model grace and truth.”
Debate, and grace and truth can go together, hello? You can do that. They can go together. What is the point of talking and not clarifying? “That was accomplished and I praise God for that.”
And he says that is great clarity? No that is not great clarity, that is great confusion. Talking without trying to change anybody’s mind, then why do you hold on to anything? Honestly this sounds more postmodern, more like the tolerance intolerance trick every single day. I don’t believe that their conversations as they intended brought clarity. Don’t get me wrong, there was a lot of you have to admit. There was a lot of great stuff that was very helpful that was said at The Elephant Room. I am talking theology, I am talking about TD Jakes. I am talking about the issue of the Trinity and I am talking about the big takeaway from this, which is not whether or not TD Jakes said it right or not. You debate it. We will hear it later. Theology went out the window.
I love Jesus, you do too. We can be on the same team. Jack writes Pastor Mark Driscoll. Hey I love Jesus, you love Jesus we are all good to go.
That is Evangelephantism. That is Contemporary Evangelicalism.
This from @BishopJakes, “We keep trying to formalise something that is beyond formula.”
Nonsense, it is not a formula. It is explicitly clear. Trinity, three distinct persons, yet one God. We formulated it 1600 years ago, it still stands. We don’t keep trying to formulate it. You are trying to reformulate it if you don’t like the former definition.
“@stevenfurtick writes, “@jamesmacdonald is wise, wise, wise beyond his word. He took the #elephantroom to some great places – thankful.”
James McDonald endorsing Stephen Furtick, again he has changed dance cards. He is a new James McDonald. What do we do with him?
@stevenfurtick writes, “Sometimes people say they are defending the gospel, but really they are just being crappy friends.”
Oh I thought this was about agreeing and disagreeing peaceably.
@jamesmacdonald writes, “@stevenfurtick is preaching in our Aurora Studio this morning – recording a message for his church. I can see the glow from here.”
I have no idea what that means. What do we do with all of this? It is clear – Confessional, Contemporary, Evangelical, Evangelephant. What is our response? I would like to suggest this. We all take a look at the village green and consider how much time we want to spend there. I would like to suggest to you think long and hard about running back to your denomination fast. This village green is tenuous at best. Flimsy at best, confusing and complicated and perhaps misleading at worst. I would like to suggest what is your denomination and are you in it? I would also like to suggest you think long and hard about your local church. Are you there? Are you in it? Are you defending the truth there?
What do we do? We would like to, “somebody fix this problem. Somebody make,” it doesn’t happen that way anymore. We don’t do councils anymore. We just don’t do it. I wish we would. I wish we did but we don’t and nobody is going to be able to get on and say, “this was wrong, this was right.” It is just going to remain a big muddy mess. New lines, new camps. I hate that. It gets tiresome and frankly I am a little bit on the weary side and I think a lot of people are. Are you? Run to your church. What can you do? You can teach Trinitarian theology to your Sunday School class. You can preach it from your pulpits sir. You can teach it to your kids. Why don’t we commit to perhaps getting off of the village green, getting back into our churches, getting back into our denominations and serving there, making a difference, defending theology, teaching theology, the importance of it. Because I am telling you it is better. It magnifies our God more and we love him more when we learn more about him and his ways and what he expects and what he has done for us.
Frustrating yeah. We have got new camps. We have got one of the greats that we just love switching to new people that he is dancing with and we are not nuts about. Okay let’s make a difference where we are at perhaps get off of the evangelical village green back into your denomination and church. Serve and teach there, ponder. Hour 1 of Wretched Radio.