In October of 2011, I was invited to participate in The Elephant Room 2. The invitation followed Mark Dever’s decision to pull out. James MacDonald called me and asked me to take his place. He also informed me of the controversy at that time surrounding the invitation to Jakes and Dever’s decision to pull out, and that Crawford Loritts had agreed to fill in. I knew James MacDonald only indirectly, and I had only recently heard of the Elephant Room.
Initially, it sounded like a very good idea to “pin Jakes down” on the Trinity. My area of emphasis in my theological training is Evangelism/Apologetics. Moreover, I addressed Jakes’s modalism in my first book in 2004, so I am well aware of the issues in question, and believed I could make a contribution. Also, to my delight, James indicated that Jakes had abandoned Oneness Pentecostalism, rejected Modalism, and, he believed, Jakes would make that clear at ER2.
I called my fellow elders to make them aware of the invitation (we usually meet monthly to review and consider invitations, but this was an urgent matter, and MacDonald had asked for a decision by the next day). We agreed that I should 1) find out more about the Elephant Room (specifically, was this an apologetics forum, or a forum that would assume Jakes’s orthodoxy), and 2) find out why Dever had backed out.
After investigating the matter, I decided to decline the invitation. My decision was based on four major areas of concern (Note: I voiced these four concerns to James MacDonald during our phone conversation the next day):
1.T.D. Jakes has a history of holding to, teaching, and associating with modalism, and ER2 was a forum wherein he would be assumed to be a “brother”.
I was already on record concerning Bishop Jakes’s modalism (see: The Ever Loving Truth, LifeWay, 2004), and I have kept up with the matter. Jakes had never repudiated Oneness Pentecostalism. Nor had he come out with an unambiguous, credal/confessional statement on the doctrine of the Trinity. There was absolutely no basis for me to assume that Jakes was suddenly orthodox, and therefore, no basis for me to welcome him as a brother.
2.The “Word of Faith” gospel he preaches is heterodox and harmful.
Even if Jakes had come out with a statement on the doctrine of the Trinity, it would not have done anything to change the fact that he preaches “another gospel.” (Gal 1:8–9) Having studied the “Word of Faith” movement, and seen the devastation it leaves in its wake, I was disinclined to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the man who has been this country’s most popular purveyor of this heresy in the past two decades (Note: James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll had both preached against the Word of Faith movement and called it heresy, so I did not believe I was informing James of anything he did not know already).
3.Jakes’s influence in the Dallas Metroplex has been negative, at best.
My wife is from Dallas, and my in-laws still live there (her parents and five siblings). I have preached in Dallas on many occasions, and at numerous churches, and have many acquaintances in the city. I know firsthand what kind of influence T.D. Jakes has had on the evangelical community, and broader Christian witness there. Suffice to say that he has not brought greater gospel clarity and fidelity. He has, however, brought a charismatic, theatrical, excessive, “Word of Faith” flavor to the city that permeates many churches (especially black churches).
4.Bishop Jakes is an example of the worst the black church has to offer.
One of the goals of ER2 was to address the issue of “racial” unity. Thus, Bishop Jakes was there (at least in part) as a representative of the “black church.” In light of the aforementioned issues, I was disinclined to participate in such an event. You see, Jakes was an invited guest; an invited ‘black’ guest. If he were mistreated, he had the race card; if he was accepted, he had entree into a new audience. It was a win-win for Jakes, and a lose-lose for evangelicalism. Obviously, he was not going to spout unadulterated modalism. Nor was he going to repudiate his roots (remember, this is his “heritage,” both ethnically and theologically). He had a perfect opportunity to find a middle ground and show “humility” in an environment that would be portrayed as “hostile” even though hostility was forbidden in light of the unwritten rules surrounding his blackness. Thus, his opponents had to choose between outright defeat and pyrrhic victory.
Moreover, I rejected the invitation because I did not want to give even the appearance of tokenism. The participants in the Elephant Room (and ER2), though they disagree methodologically on how we “get there,” are all virtually identical in their general profile. They are all successful mega-church pastors who have leveraged innovative and/or controversial methodologies to grow their churches, media empires, and/or pare-church ministries. I, on the other hand, am a pastor serving at a church with less than five hundred members; I’m not on television or radio; and my books aren’t best sellers. I don’t fit the profile! Whether MacDonald meant to or not, he was painting a picture of tokenism. If he meant it, I didn’t want to be used, and if he didn’t mean it, I didn’t want to be the source of misunderstanding.
While Pastor MacDonald said he “respected” my decision, he made it clear that he did not agree with me. We agreed to disagree and he moved on. At this time, I made two important decisions. First, I decided not to get involved in the public furor over ER2. I had spoken my piece to James, and saw no advantage in getting involved any further. There were others who were making many of the same points, and I did not want to pile on (James White, Phil Johnson, Thabiti Anyabwile, Anthony Carter, and others were pressing the issue, and bringing the pertinent points to light). I do not regret this decision. My second decision, however, is another story altogether. My second decision was to move forward with the scheduled Men’s Conference. That was unwise.
Read the entire article HERE.
Monday, January 30, 2012
Voddie Baucham and the Elephant Room
Voddie Baucham has written a thoughtful reflection on the recent broo-ha-ha over the Elephant Room. Baucham writes from an interesting vantage point. He was actually invited to participate in Elephant Room 2 but declined for reasons he makes clear. That decision, he found out, would have some rather interesting consequences.
I will offer this diclaimer: I know Voddie Baucham. I don't know him well, mind you. However, while a youth pastor I worked with him on several events. And, while serving as a pastor in Kansas, Voddie filled the pulpit for me one Sunday. I respect Voddie Baucham. He is a quality man and minister. He cares about historic Christian orthodoxy. He loves the church of Jesus Christ. He is a thoughtful apologist.
Pastor Baucham's unfortunate experience with some of the Elephant Room leadership demonstrates, among other things, the problems with the celebrity culture currently infecting evangelicalism. I urge you to read Voddie's entire post. It is important and timely.