Hard as it may be to believe, there are two issues relating to the Elephant Room / T. D. Jakes kerfuffle which (A) I think are crucial, yet (B) haven't gotten the attention that we need to pay them. I'm going to use this platform to feature each, hoping to force them into the spotlight. Today focuses on just one of those issues.
Jakes' history in Modalism and other false teaching is well-known, well-documented, and longterm. He didn't recently dabble in it, toy with it, get some learned and gracious rebuke, and request some time (removed from teaching) to consider. Jakes has been spoken of and spoken to. He's achieved a big visible platform, which he's used and used. Jakes has never denounced, disowned, nor distanced. In fact, he specifically refuses to do so.
Nazis," eventually changes the ER purpose statement, and says he's eating "humble pie."
Now MacDonald is back, thumping his chest and bellowing defiance at critics, calling Jakes a "brother" (later trimming the whiskers of the term "brother")... and being a bit coy.
How "coy"? First, MacDonald complains about the "inability of some to reserve judgement til the event." Reserve judgment? About what? one wonders. About the shifting mission of ER? About Jakes' position?
As to the former, it's hard to blame anyone for finding the situation unclear. About the latter, as we noted, Jakes' position has been well-known. Or is it? MacDonald seems to want to imply that it isn't. Is MacDonald unaware of all the work and effort that's been put into that particular project? It's hard to imagine how to excuse such ignorance, given the outpour since MacDonald's initial announcement.
Or is it that MacDonald thinks that everyone (except MacDonald) is wrong about Jakes' position? That would seem to be the case. First, against all known evidence (and citing nothing fresh), MacDonald says Jakes is not — which would have to mean no longer is — a Modalist. MacDonald further says: "I am looking forward to hearing him explain his position currently and how that may have changed from things he has said historically." So he hints that Jakes' position (A) "may have" changed, and (B) is in need of explanation.
What's more, though, MacDonald also now says "clearly I believe Bishop Jakes is trinitarian and will affirm such in ER2." Looks odd, laid against "may have," doesn't it?
Now, that is a statement meriting a lot of parsing on many levels, not least of them the fact that MacDonald apparently thinks that the hundreds (thousands? tens of thousands?) of Jakes' supporters who know no such thing can safely and responsibly be left in the dark, and conceivably die safely without that knowledge, worshiping what MacDonald himself has agreed is a false (Sabellian) god, until MacDonald's paid event brings enlightenment to those who can afford it.
But this whole post is about focusing on one issue, one question. Here it is. It's worth shouting.
If the world (except for James MacDonald) is unaware of T. D. Jakes' real position on a doctrine as central and foundational as the Trinity, then in what sense is Jakes any kind of a leader, let alone a Christian leader?It feels surreal to have to explain this. But here we are, aren't we? So let's do this.
What is a pastor's chief "job," according to (hel-lo?) God? It is to labor in the Word and doctrine (1 Tim. 5:17). It is to preach the Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2). It is to preach the Word and truth so clearly as to expose and refute error (Titus 1:9). These are matters of communication, in which it is the very heart and definition of the role of the pastor to (A) communicate (B) truth (C) clearly and (D) convincingly. Obviously, the more important the topic, the more critical these essentials.
Well then: Is the nature of God important? (Again, even having to pose the question makes me feel we're in Bizzaroworld... but that's hardly Breaking News, is it?) Of course the nature of God is important. Living as we are thousands of years after the close of the Canon, and many hundreds of years after Nicea and Chalcedon, is the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity essential to understanding the nature of God? Indeed, one of James MacDonald's mouths says that the doctrine of the "trinity is clearly a major – national boarder [sic] issue," and I agree with that mouth.
So, to say it again patiently, if it is true (stretching charity well beyond the snapping-point) that Jakes has repented of his Modalism and now embraces a robust, Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, and yet nobody of the thousands who have heard and read him with the sole exception of James MacDonald knows that fact, aren't the very nicest conclusions we can draw about Jakes these two: that he is —
- An extremely poor communicator; and
- An extremely poor judge of what is important?
See, I think that is a simple, discrete, fundamental, basic, vital, crucial question that doesn't involve the reading of minds, hearts or tea leaves. It should be absolutely basic. Yet I don't see that simple question asked much.
Really, think about it. Can you imagine Friel saying "We're going to have Phil Johnson on, and get to the heart of what he really believes about the sovereignty of God in salvation!" Or Janet Mefferd running the plug, "Tomorrow on the show, Frank Turk clarifies whether or not he really sees local church involvement as important in the Christian life!" Or Pirate Radio: "Friday on the show, Dan Phillips reveals whether or not he thinks it matters to root the Gospel in the entire Bible!"
You'd all laugh, right? It'd be a joke! Whatever our other many failings, I think we've probably gone on-record about those vital truths, right? And you could multiply it out to Ligon Duncan, John MacArthur, John Piper, or any other person who is justly viewed as a leader in any sense.
Yet somehow "Pay money to find out whether or not renowned Christian leader T. D. Jakes believes in the Trinity" makes sense — to say nothing else? On any level?
Yeah, I don't think so.
And I'm being pretty clear on that, right?