11 November 2011

Not for the Stout of Heart, Either, Apparently

by Phil Johnson

(NOTE: Don't miss the clip from yesterday's "Wretched Radio" interview at the end of the post.)

here's a distinct change in volume, tone, and attitude between James MacDonald's "Humble Pie" blogpost and yesterday's "Not for the Faint of Heart" addendum.

In the earlier post, MacDonald acknowledged his own inconsistency: he knew he should not have "used strong language" to scold others for being harsh in their criticism of the Elephant Room strategy. But in yesterday's post and video, MacDonald casts off restraint and reverts to angry-sounding rhetoric.

Despite their starkly contrasting styles, both statements have one thing in common: MacDonald wishes those with concerns about what he is doing would just shut up. He says it euphemistically: "We are asking that those interested in what we are doing allow the conversations to take place before making final conclusions about their wisdom or helpfulness." But clearly, that plea applies to critics, not to MacDonald himself or to those who support his strategy.

There are multiple layers of irony in that. MacDonald purports to be championing fearless dialogue with people he says he doesn't necessarily agree with. But there's a distinct and clearly discernible direction to the drift of the "dialogue." It is painfully obvious that MacDonald is not so keen to listen and learn when someone more conservative than he wants to share a perspective.

But let's set all of that aside. What troubled me much more about the video MacDonald posted yesterday was his repeated insistence from beginning to end that the participants of Elephant Room 2 are a true Band of Spiritual Brothers:

In the earlier "Humble Pie" blogpost, MacDonald had expressed "regret that the purpose of the Elephant Room was not expanded and explained before including a greater breadth of participants." I took that as an admission that he had come to realize why so many people thought it inappropriate to invite a non-Trinitarian into a discussion that was being advertised as a conversation between brothers in Christ who are all committed to the same Christ and the same gospel.

See, when MacDonald announced the Jakes invitation, he wrote, "Getting brothers together who believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone but normally don't interact, is what the Elephant Room is all about." That assertion was doubtless the main reason for the force of the backlash against Jakes's involvement. At the very least, concern over MacDonald's blithe embrace of a non-Trinitarian as a "brother" was the dominant theme in the criticisms posted on MacDonald's blog.

So the ER Purpose Statement was quickly modified to include the phrase "conversation among all kinds of leaders . . ." That, I assumed, was what MacDonald was talking about when he mentioned the expansion of the Purpose Statement to accommodate a "greater breadth of participants."

But in the above video, he repeatedly insists (in rather dogmatic terms and with an emphatic tone) that all ER participants are indeed his "brothers."

That, I think, is why MacDonald and the ER pose a major problem for the Gospel Coalition. He is a council member of TGC and an influential spokesman for the movement. And the first point in TGC's confessional statement is "The Tri-une God."

So is biblical and historic Trinitarianism an essential tenet of Gospel truth, or is it not? If yes, then TGC needs to hold its own council members to the implications of that. If not, one wonders what was the point of the organization in the first place.

Or to put it another way: The collective leadership of TGC are going to have to decide which is more important: the Gospel, or the Coalition.

Phil's signature


Here's a section of my interview yesterday with Todd Friel on Wretched Radio. In the final segment of hour 1, Todd brought up the "Elephant Room" controversy and asked me to comment on James MacDonald's video. What you will hear was my response upon listening to MacDonald's comments for the first time. Todd asked me to stop the soundtrack and comment each time MacDonald said something either noteworthy or objectionable. We didn't get very far into the video before time ran out, but this makes a nice supplement to today's blogpost anyway.


Anonymous said...

Rem acu tetigisti.

Jennifer McSparin said...

"All you need is love" - The Beatles

To quote MacDonald: "GAG".

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

No, let me tell YOU what the REAL elephant in the room is James... pride! Otherwise you would have backed away from this cockamamie idea of getting together with the world’s most famous Trinity denier before you legitimized him, and delegitimized yourself and TGC, any further.

Spot on Phil!

Jerry Wragg said...

There's a little bit of attitude toward critics among other council members of the coalition as well. When dialogue itself is the ultimate goal, every coalition eventually becomes a good-ole-boy network.

The Damer said...

Come on, Jerry. Who could you possibly be referring to? Thabiti's post wasn't direct enough for you? He's a council member. How about Mark Dever walking away from the whole thing? He's a council member.

As far as this whole thing goes, MacDonald seems to have inoculated himself with the same bravado that allowed Furtick to do that silly "Haters" video and that allowed Noble to confidently proclaim that the Holy Spirit led him to do "Highway to Hell" on Easter. When the humble pie post went up I tweeted to Frank that was the smallest piece of pie I'd ever seen. It was smaller than I thought.

Unknown said...

Kumbaya.........for real James?

Tom Chantry said...

I am absolutely stunned at the smug arrogance with which yesterday's post spoke of the nasty tone of the critics, and implied that MacDonald, through direct confrontation, was able to moderate the tone and bring a more irenic tone into the conversation. Meanwhile, his tone becomes more combative by the minute.

Is this what is meant by the term "tone deaf"?

Kim said...

I made it about 58 seconds into it (read his blog yesterday without watching) before I had to quit. I have never preferred his very bombastic style in the first place, and it sits equally unwell with me when he's ranting like he didn't get his coffee this morning.

Scot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jerry Wragg said...

But that's my point. Some great men on the council who, in their own church leadership, would never countenance a fellow-elder's repeated obfuscation of Trinitarianism, have only "distanced themselves" from MacDonald while he remains on the council. Bottom line: MacDonald should've been soundly reproved by ALL members and removed from the coalition's leadership. I've watched this kind of thing occur over and over through the years with parachurch coalitions. I don't doubt Dever's or Anyabwile's pastoral integrity as churchmen, I simply grieve that well-intentioned coalitions can't seem to learn from history: where unity is achieved around core gospel truth while largely ignoring definitiveness on other important theological distinctives (ecclesiology, pneumatology, et.al.), the coalition gets leaky. Why? Because while everyone is rejoicing over unity on previously lost gospel-clarity, we are tempted to relish the new-found togetherness more than clarity on all that Scripture speaks to. Not too long ago, the BGC widened its circle to include open-theists because, even if they couldn't agree on theology proper, they were at least unified on the gospel. Before that it was an attempt to widen the circle of unity to include Catholics, calling sola fide a matter of the "fine-print" of gospel truth. As a pastor, I'm a huge fan of unity among Christians. Disunity destroys! But so does false or partial unity. I love all these highly influential brothers who strive for brotherly love across secondary and tertiary lines. I won't, however, stand with any evangelical gatekeeper, no matter how respected, if his once-definitive trumpet begins to blow an uncertain sound in the name of coalescence. How do imagine all our seminaries drifted away from orthodoxy? Some well-intentioned unifier of men became a good-ole-boy to an errant colleague, saying very little about serious doctrinal confusion, and the hemorrhage started. James MacDonald should've been asked to step off the council for his on-going defense of Jakes as a "brother.". It's that simple. A difficult public rebuke in love of a very influential pastor is hard to swallow. But it is the loving thing to do. Loving to the sheep, loving to all other pastors/shepherds who learn from these men, loving to James, and most importantly, loving and honoring the the Lord of our gospel around which we desire unity! We should learn from past mistakes and not let leaks continue because we're afraid of being called "unloving." Where truth is at stake, it is those who minimize the matter who are unloving.

FX Turk said...

MacDonald's video and post are totally self-explanatory, but there's a post at the Elephant Room blog that has flown under the radar:

10 Quotes from Elephant Room 1

My favorite quote is #8:

8. Steven Furtick – It’s easy to say, “Shoot the wolf” until people start calling you the wolf.

Reflect on that this weekend, because I promise you that Furtick hasn't reflected on it. If he has, he would have either retracted it or revised it since saying it.

donsands said...

Sad video. The man has a humanistic agenda + gospel.

I wonder should he invite these wonderful guys singing this great hymn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5pq8Hn0onI

They are Mormons.

Thanks for the post Phil. We do need to have these things out there so the Gospel can stay pure in our preaching. The Gospel is perfect and pure, and yet why we sometimes want to compromise it is crazy.

Jerry Wragg said...

Thank you, Frank, for that link to the ER's quo tables. My favorite: Greg Laurie - "The greatest critics of video-sites are those who haven't attended one"

Not one of Mr. Laurie's finer moments. I have a flat screen at home. I know how they work. I've watched people on the screen speaking. What have I missed?

Robert said...

I think that MacDonald forgot that love for God trumps love for man. And Jesus was saying that our love for other believers is how people will know that we are Christians. That is not to say we don't love the lost, but that love is manifested differently.

ike said...

I don't know much about McDonald. Actually I now him through this ER criticism, and some of the Rob Bell controversy. How you or any other commenting here feel about it, is your opinion and I don't have a big issue. my biggest problem is that you and GTY(Travis I think his name is, in particular) have unleashed this constant thread almost daily, so now he is mad, and he is throwing a tantrum. Honestly I don't think it was that bad, and i don't blame him. Men sometimes get fed up of having the glove planted in their faces by so many Christian men at once. The guy is a Christian brother (I think), and some of the posts are just hurtful. Similar stuff happened when pastor Piper had a conversation on video with Warren (I didn't think it was a good idea), everyone acted like Christianity as we know it would end that day. Now is McDonald and Driscoll's turn, every day, almost. i think your objections are noted, but most of the answers on this posts sound so self-righteous. i'm not saying treat TD as a brother if you don't want to (I'm not), but I think McDonald is one. i think his mind is made up, and he is really ticked off...no use for this beating anymore. Let see what happens...just saying

Daren Redekopp said...

In the interest of looking at this from the other side, I do appreciate the point behind MacDonald's "You're awesome! So are you!" I don't know about you, but there's something about parsing out the subtle history of another man's perceived pride that just doesn't feel like a healthy activity.

Tom Chantry said...

@ Ike

...have unleashed this constant thread almost daily...

I don't know who Travis is, but if he's on this daily, good on him! We're talking about the Trinity here, folks, not competing lapsarian views!

Tom Chantry said...

@ Daren

...there's something about parsing out the subtle history of another man's perceived pride that just doesn't feel like a healthy activity.

If only there were a subtlety to this man's pride.

DJP said...

(Just watched MacDonald's vid)

Wow. So Jesus evidently said all men would know we were His by our providing platforms for preachers of damnable heresies and calling them brothers, while heaping scorn on those who'd protect the sheep?

Who knew?

Thomas Louw said...

Paul Tripp:

Think about yourself: there is probably never a day in your personal life and ministry when you aren’t angry in some way. The crucial question is, “Are you good and angry at the same time?” Look into your heart and humbly ask yourself this question: How much of my daily anger has anything at all to do with the kingdom of God? Then own and confess the places where it doesn’t and celebrate the places where it does. Celebrate where grace has transformed your anger and seek the Savior’s help where that transformation is still needed. Pray that you would have a heart that is able to be good and angry at the same time.

Ht Josh Mack.

Scot said...

$99 is way too much to pay just to watch a cage match. I'm sure that DirectTV has something for cheaper.

Robert said...

So first ER, he brings in pastors sho think it is OK to play "Highway to Hell" at church and that church is only for evangelizing to the lost. Second ER, he brings in a oneness Pentecostal. So next year we should expect Mormons and Catholics? And after that Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists? I mean many of them believe that Jesus existed, but they just think different things about Him.

DJP said...

Phil, two things:

1. Do you remember the SNL sketches, "Quien es mas macho"? These guys' constant chest-pounding (usually seemingly meant to intimidate critics, so as to avoid actual confrontation) is seeming like a parody of the parody.

2. MacDonald seems to be assuring us all that he's smoothed everything over by private, unheard, out-of-public-eye conversations, and that public critics are always private pussycats. Do you think he's releasing everyone he's spoken to by phone to discuss those conversations publicly? Even if only to affirm or correct the impression he's giving

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Amen, Phil!!!

Alex A. Guggenheim said...

The flames died down but no, James MacDonald seems dissatisfied with this and wants the heat turned back up. LOL okay.

But what is good is that we are able to see from this very modest pressure an issuing, if not bellowing, of impurities as well as an immediate weakening of the integrity of the object. Its fitness should be called into question, immediately, at least by those who think it has some serious use.

As to this line of inquiry:

"So is biblical and historic Trinitarianism an essential tenet of Gospel truth, or is it not? If yes, then TGC needs to hold its own council members to the implications of that. If not, one wonders what was the point of the organization in the first place."

It is appreciated and unexpected and no doubt will be kept in mind by many people along the way as TGC is in view. It does make me wonder about the sagacity of these council members who may on one day articulate orthodoxy with precision and on another permit bizarre apostolic constructs from the likes of C.J. Mahaney or Mark Driscoll's ever aberrant discourses.

Of course most have read the appeals to associations and discourses on forms of separation which TGC have made which permit such odd fellowship at such close quarters. Possibly we are seeing the outworking of a rather flawed theology in that area.

Jerry Wragg said...

Why is it more loving to restrain criticism that might emotionally "hurt" a brother hearing it, but it is less loving to protect that brother and the sheep from what will severely "hurt" them spiritually?!

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I love what the Bible has to say about the "watchman on the wall."

But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman's hand (Eze 33:6).”

“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul (Eze 3:17-17).” Also, Isa 62:6; Rom 16:17.

Love your comments, Jerry Wragg.

Jerry Wragg said...

MacDonald has repeatedly asked, "What are you afraid of?"

I'm certainly not afraid of dialogue, even with an atheist or heretic. But dialogue with a known heretic under the banner of Christian brotherhood is neither dialogue nor debate. It is merely gamesmanship, and the heretic has already won, having been offered an equal place at the table.

John said...

Here's something scary...

And I think surfing right off Jerry Wragg's concerns as expressed in his longer comment...

James McDonald is a keynote speaker at the 2012 Faith Biblical Counseling Conference in Lafayette, IN home of NANC; church of Dr. Bob Smith of early Master's Seminary days; haunt of Stuart Scott, Wayne Mack, Jay Adams, Paul Tripp and other big names in the Biblical counseling movement.

Will history play out there?

Anonymous said...

DJP at 4:50, right on.

olan strickland said...

The angry FUNDAMENTALISTS (Pharisees and legalists as Rick Warren would say) think that MacDonald is a squishy ECUMENICALIST wanting a group hug. LOL! He is!

Scott Autry said...

I caught on to the "brothers" and "conversation" lingo he was using as well. It's sad that he is giving a platform to heresy. Arsenic kills the body, heresy kills the soul.

John Dunn said...

He repeatedly insists (in rather dogmatic terms and with an emphatic tone) . . .

It's very disturbing to me that MacDonald & Co. have embraced a loud-mouth (and obnoxious) shout-down methodology against any of their critics. It seems they cannot bear to take criticism at any level. This is especially disturbing since the issue at hand is a matter of non-negotiable Christian Orthodoxy.

The doctrine of the Trinity is no trifling theory to be parsed around with. It is the bedrock of our Christian faith.

Sadly, MacDonalds arrogant attitude does not surprise me. I once attended a Harvest Church here in Canada. Had the same experience when I challenged them over their music ministry. I learned really quick that you NEVER question or undermine the Harvest corporate business model.

I was saddened by the dogmatic "no argument, no discussion" attitude of the young pastor, trained and groomed by MacDonald.

This *in-your-face* preaching/ranting style espoused by MacDonald & Co. has no place in the church of Jesus Christ.

FX Turk said...

Well, just in case you didn't get a chance last time, Elephant Room Gear is still on-sale.

FX Turk said...

You know, that video gets better every time you watch it.

Seriously - it should be on Break.com

Tom Chantry said...

I just got through reading the list of names on the Gospel Coalition Council and I am horrified that we have yet to see a strong response from multiple men in the coalition. Is Thabiti Anyabwile the only man who takes council membership seriously? Please tell me these men have not allowed their names to be added for the sake of a résumé line; none of them need one. Someone needs to pay attention to what this council member is doing: it is an embarrassment to the entire coalition.

Drs. Lutzer and Ryken, Mr. Taylor - you men are local. You should know what is going on. Is anyone going to take seriously the question that Phil is answering here? What matters more to you - the coalition or the gospel?

Caleb Kolstad said...

The collective leadership of TGC are going to have to decide which is more important: the Gospel, or the Coalition.

WOW- what a summary conclusion. Phil thanks for guarding the deposit.

Jerry Wragg said...

Tom -
Thank you! With privilege (and mass influence) comes responsibility.

Tom Chantry said...

One further thought. In light of the well-documented history of who is and isn’t - or who was and now isn’t - an ER participant, I find it hard to read/listen to this week’s salvo out of Harvest without hearing the following implication:

Mark Dever must be “trapped in the backwater of [his] own sectarianism,” “afraid,” “hiding,” “crouching behind walls of disagreement,” “hating everyone,” “hating everything,” “crouching together knee to knee” with others saying, “‘you’re awesome,’” and, quite possibly, shooting brothers that he thought were wolves.

Seriously, how else can you take that post? MacDonald is forging the way for a “new tribe” that acts like men and like brothers. Dever was specifically invited, but rejected this tribe. MacDonald’s post clearly states that if you’re not on board with what he is doing, you’re a cowardly, hateful, small-minded, faint-hearted lurker in the body of Christ.

Personally, I think Mark deserves rather better.

Marla said...

James -- can a *brother* be preaching a different gospel? Really??? *GAG*
Go back and review 2 Cor 11, esp verses 2-4 and 13-15.

Frank, great observation about the wolf.

olan strickland said...

Let a pastor be motivated by his desire to “grow the church” rather than the command to “guard the church” (see Acts 20:28-30) and he will soon open the door for false teachers to come in. The faithful watchman will not allow false teachers with their destructive heresies unguarded entrance among God’s people.

If this isn't what TGC is doing then it is not the Gospel coalition.

FX Turk said...

Hypothetical situation:

What if we discovered that TGC never imagined itself as a defender of the Gospel, but only as a disseminator of the Gospel? That is: what if it only has ever seen itself as a kind of digital tract society and not as a coalition to defend the faith against heterodoxy?

How would we wrap our arms around it then?

Robert said...


They'd be just like any other bookstore (Lifeway, etc.). You can find anything you want in there. You have to be really discerning and you can't necessarily say which members are orthodox without doing some looking around for yourself.

olan strickland said...


There would still be no difference. To disseminate the Gospel there has to be agreement on what is orthodox and what is heterodox. It is a logical fallacy to believe that one can be known only for what he stands for without at the same time being known for what he stands against. It is self-contradictory.

James Scott Bell said...

"...real conversations out on the wide ocean of biblical belief, where whitecaps are everywhere and some waves threaten to swamp the boat."

Instead of canceling, just invite Phil, DJP and Cent to be part of the "real conversation out on the wide ocean." They'd make a splash.

Which I would pay to see.

John said...

Seeking forgiveness and seeking to clarify:

First: I said earlier that Faith in Lafayette was the "home" of NANC - it's more accurately the "birthplace" of NANC.

Second: I've been to the counseling training there; love all the men I mentioned and own and have read most of their books; I'd drive anywhere from 100 to 535 miles to hear Stuart speak on marriage - ditto's for the other men - and rejoice and praise God every single time I'm privileged enough to visit our dear brothers in Sun Valley.

Third: my point earlier about MacDonald speaking at Faith's training conference was the principle - the principle (as I see it) being dealt with here, namely Phil's and other's points about TGC; Jerry's point about BGC; Piper inviting Warren; etc.

Again please forgive any attack implied or inferred. I should have been more careful.

Tom Chantry said...

Frank, I've been trying to get my mind around what you are asking.

If they thought of themselves as nothing more than a bunch of guys separately disseminating the gospel, then why the coalition? Wouldn't the same work be done with no coalition?

Or if they thought of themselves as a bunch of guys disseminating the gospel through cooperative efforts, but also having other individual efforts, how could they not pay attention to the other efforts of other men? At least to ask, "Do those efforts undermine these efforts?"

A tract society put out a certain body of literature. To remain a member of the board of a tract society, you would need to approve (more or less) of that body of literature. You wouldn't necessarily keep tabs on everything everyone on that board said. But if one of them published literature which was contrary to the gospel, wouldn't you have to take some action?

And with the GC, what exactly is analogous to that body of literature? I would imagine it has to be the conferences and the blogs of the Coalition, but then, wouldn't that mean that the public conferences and blogs of the members are analogous to any books put out by a board member of our hypothetical tract society? Do not those outlets need to be - if not patrolled - at least subjected to a response now and then?

Sorry, I'm rambling now, but I'm trying to come to grips with what you are saying, and so far I'm failing.

(My word verification is "nonist" - which, as a philosophy, might well express the level of agreement needed to fellowship in the Coalition. They might just prove to be neither maximalist nor minimalist, but actually nonist."

Rich Barcellos said...

Guys, the video is a SNL spoof aimed at us. Really, it's a joke. Lighten up. It is a joke, right?

FX Turk said...

Tom --

Imagine for a moment they these fellows thought this was a great idea:

- An aggregator of content
- A portal where small churches didn't have to pay for the content
- My friends providing the content
- Only my friends providing the content
- My statement of objectives which everyone signs up for regarding the content of the site.

That way the word "coalition" really means "aggregator", and what happens is that the volume of hits generated by, say, a Justin Taylor or a Kevin DeYoung, causes there to be exposure for lesser-known friends who have something worthwhile to say.

So my question is really this: what if the point of the Gospel Coalition was never apologetic in nature but only evangelistic, and only in the sense that it is through voluntary cooperation to only provide content to that site in line with the mission statement?

What if D.A.Carson and Tim Keller thought that they could only broadcast content and not have to police anyone's orthodoxy based on reputation and personal relationships with these other cats?

What then?

FX Turk said...

And given my question, you know what the main difference between TGC and TeamPyro is?

One group expects that the Gospel is a two-edged sword, and the other expects the Gospel is only an attraction.

I said it, and now I'm going to lunch. I'm sure it will go well.

David Rudd said...

first. i believe in the trinity.

second. i believe tone matters.

that is all. thank you.

Rob said...

The Elephant Room gimmick lost me when I went to the site and couldn't find, you know, the FREE MP3 audio download links. Maybe I just missed it. Anyone have a link?

Denise said...

2Jn 1:9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.
2Jn 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting;
2Jn 1:11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.

Scripture couldn't be more clear: do not even greet, much less give a platform (under the guise of a conversation/debate/interview) to one who denies the very doctrine of Christ or salvation. Period. Its SO serious that to greet such person is seen by God as treason and thus participation in the false teacher's wicked acts.

The loyalty and really, the sin of favoritism (James 2) abounds in that which Jerry Wragg correctly labeled as a "good ole boy network" and what John MacArthur sees as "giving a free pass". I've seen it too. MacDonald is not doing anything different than what Piper has done with Rick Warren, yet people continue to support Piper.

Brian said...

Phil, great summary of the issue...I think we have to go back, time and again, to TD Jakes belief, or lack thereof, in the Trinity and then ask ourselves...can one be a true Christian and not believe in the triune God? Apparently, James MacDonald does if he keeps calling Jakes a brother. I hope everyone lays their cards out at the ER so we can really find out what they believe.

Denise said...

It was as though it had been said, "Yes, we believe in the Godhead of the Lord Jesus; but we would not keep a man out of our fellowship because he thought our Lord to be a mere man. We believe in the atonement; but if another man rejects it, he must not, therefore, be excluded from our number."

The brethren in the middle are the source of this clinging together of discordant elements. These who are for peace at any price, who persuade themselves that there is very little wrong, who care chiefly to maintain existing institutions, these are the good people who induce the weary combatants to repeat the futile attempt at a coalition, which, in the nature of things, must break down. If both sides could be unfaithful to conscience, or if the glorious gospel could be thrust altogether out of the question, there might be a league of amity established; but as neither of these things can be, there would seem to be no reason for persevering in the-attempt to maintain a confederacy for which there is no justification in fact, and from which there can be no worthy result, seeing it does not embody a living truth. A desire for unity is commendable. Blessed are they who can promote it and preserve it! But there are other matters to be considered as well as unity, and sometimes these may even demand the first place. When union becomes a moral impossibility, it may almost drop out of calculation in arranging plans and methods of working. If it is clear as the sun at noonday that no real union can exist, it is idle to strive after the impossible, and it is wise to go about other and more practicable business.

To what end, therefore, are these strainings after a hollow unity, when the spirit of fellowship is altogether gone?

The world is large enough, why not let us go our separate ways? Loud is the cry of our opponents for liberty; let them have it by all means. But let us have our liberty also. We are not bound to belong to this society, or to that....

At any rate, cost what it may, to separate ourselves from those who separate themselves from the truth of God is not alone our liberty, but our duty.


FAILURE at a crucial moment may mar the entire outcome of a life. A man who has enjoyed special light is made bold to follow in the way of the Lord, and is anointed to guide others therein. He rises into a place of love and esteem among the godly, and this promotes his advancement among men. What then? The temptation comes to be careful of the position he has gained, and to do nothing to endanger it. The man, so lately a faithful man of God, compromises with worldlings, and to quiet his own conscience invents a theory by which such compromises are justified, and even commended. He receives the praises of "the judicious"; he has, in truth, gone over to the enemy. The whole force of his former life now tells upon the wrong side. If the Lord loves him well enough, he will be scourged back to his place; but if not, he will grow more and more perverse, till he becomes a ring-leader among the opposers of the gospel. To avoid such an end it becomes us ever to stand fast.

~ Spurgeon http://www.spurgeon.org/s_and_t/dg12.htm:

2Co 6:14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?

2Co 6:15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?

2Co 6:16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God;

DJP said...

Unless I am misreading him, James MacDonald has clarified (?) that he calls Jakes "brother" because Jakes says he's a Christian.

As do Jehovah's Witnesses, Roman Catholics, Mormons, Christian Scientists, and many New Agers.

Anonymous said...

The Elephant Room is becoming the modern day Areopagus. Any seed picker is allowed to come and weave his philosophy as long as he remembers to say he comes as a brother in the Lord.I say this is faulty mouse trap!

FX Turk said...

Did anyone see my comment left at James MacDonald's blog?

Well, don't look now: it's gone.

northWord said...

In observing the biblical evangelical landscape (as such) rapidly deteriorate over the past few years, often into some surreal parody of itself, I have to wonder at what point did or do the sheep (or rather the Shepherds) lose the Voice? Were they ever truly following it? This is not a judgment call but an honest question, albeit a rhetorical one.

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." (John 10:27)

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Frank said: "One group expects that the Gospel is a two-edged sword, and the other expects the Gospel is only an attraction."

I wonder if TGC as a whole, since not too many of their members have spoken out against the ER, and Mark Driscoll's Oral Roberts-esque type theology (plus a multitude of other issues he has), are not just mere *spectators* in their approach to theology?

Looking in, it appears to be that way. Is it possible to love the Lord and be cold and indifferent when it comes to the attacks made on Him and His Word? Is it possible to be silent in the face of heretical views? Is it possible to be a spectator only when someone you love, worship, and adore is being maligned, and His Word being mocked?

I can remember distinctly when my son was growing up, if anyone wanted to harm him or hurt him in any way, my *RELATIONSHIP* with him caused me to want to protect and defend him. How much stronger should these feelings be for our great God and Savior?

BTW, for anyone who would argue that women should not defend the faith...you would FIRST have to CONVINCE me that He is *NOT MY* Father, Lord and Savior, also.

I **know** that we all would agree that **MANY, MANY**, godly men make up The Gospel Coalition, but as for me...the Lord would come before any allegiance I would give to any coalition. I know many here agree!

There is no possibility for any of us, who profess to know the Lord intimately, and have a close relationship with Him, that we could be spectators only.

INHERENT in loving the Lord (for men and women alike), means caring enough for Him to defend His honor, glory and His holy, holy, holy name. AND, that is not gender specific! Sorry for those who think that it is.

Brian said...

As to whether or not TGC will see the gospel as a double-edged sword or as sort of a digital online tract society, time will tell. I hope it is the former. Time in responding from the TGC leadership is impart a refection that they do not generally treat detractors the same way as MacDonald. You will never see Carson use such transparent strawmen as JM has done. The most respected men of TGC are almost too deliberate. I know Dever, Carson, Mohler believe the gospel is a double-edged sword. It is high time for TGC to be that.

For Frank,
What was your comment at JM's blog that they apparently sent down the memory hole?

Tom Chantry said...


Perhaps you're not a "brother."

I mean - it's possible, since no one knows how that term is used anymore.

Brian said...

It sounds like he was referring to the blog post on 10/28 at Grace To You when he talked about "The Elephant in the Elephant Room". James dishes criticism out enough, so hopefully he can recieve it too. After all, he criticized Bill Hybels for inviting a Muslim to speak at Willow Creek a number of years ago. He even criticized the way DA Carson says "Isaiah" in a conference at Cedarville Univeristy which I attended back in 2003.

rom623rom828 said...

MacDonalds comfort level with TD Jakes' Modalistic language is one concern. His comfort level with TD Jakes' version of the prosperity gospel is another concern.

This past weekend ("Commitment Weekend") at his Harvest church, MacDonald preached in regards to pledging money over the next 3 years to the church's financial campaign. To me this sermon, available here sounded a lot like a guilt-ridden "give to get", prosperity gospel message.

Pray for MacDonald. Pray for me, an attender at Harvest.

FX Turk said...

Sadly, I didn't save the comment. I should know better.

I said something to the effect that he had a pastoral responsibility to get repentance out of Jakes for the sake of the people he shepherds, and that I would be praying for him to that end.

If someone who moderates MacDonald's blog can retrieve it, I'd be grateful to make sure the record stands clear.

FX Turk said...


Maybe I'm a crazy uncle.

Unknown said...

What cracks me up is that MacDonald plugs the ER like it's a conference for the "man's man." But when criticized he plays the victim like a pro. As Hans and Franz would put it, he sounds more like a "girly man" to me.

Kyle said...

Q&A from JimmyMac's blog today...

Matt Waymeyer Reply:
November 11th, 2011 at 1:35 pm
James, then perhaps you would be more comfortable answering a broader question that doesn’t deal with any one specific individual: Do you think it is possible for someone to be both a modalist and a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?

James MacDonald Reply:
November 11th, 2011 at 2:41 pm

Phil Johnson said...

Frank: "Maybe I'm a crazy uncle."

You most certainly are that.

Tom Chantry said...

Oh Great. We're gonna have to call him "Uncle Frank" now. And I bet if he comes on Thanksgiving he takes the recliner during the game. And won't give up the remote.

Aaron Snell said...

As long as he's not like Cousin Eddie on National Lampoons Christmas Vacation.

Anonymous said...

"All kinds of leaders..." Really? But in that case, why not invite Ayatollah Khomeini? Or Barack Obama? Or Bill Gates?

Mathew said...

Seems like MacDonald thinks calling Jakes a modalist is slander. go figure.

Anonymous said...

I was hoping to leave a comment on MacDonald's latest post (the one with the video), and unfortunately they have closed comments.

I simply wanted to ask him the most obvious question---the one being trumpeted here---viz. why would you call a self-intending modalist a brother in Christ?

I think the strangest thing about this debacle with MacDonald is the posturing he is engaging in. I mean it is no secret---it hasn't been for years and years---that TD Jakes is a self-proclaimed modalist or oneness guy. MacDonald seems to want to suggest that he is holding out the olive branch to Jakes based on the supposition that he doesn't really know if Jakes is truly a modalist or not. Maybe MacDonald is hoping that the night before Jakes appears on set that Jakes will have received a vision explaining that God is really triune and not monadic. I am baffled. I think MacDonald is either totally disingenuous, or absolutely naive; and I would presume the former.

To me this is nothing more than a publicity stunt; and point of fact, it is working. This is the Evangelical world we inhabit; thankfully Christendom is bigger than this!

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

“Elephant Room Gear is still on sale

I’m holding out for ER3 so I can get a “Brother Romney” shirt.

Chris Nelson said...

I think Chris Roseborough may have hit it on the head with McDonald. He postulates that by inviting the heretic Jakes, wolves(my term) like Noble and Furtick will seem palatable in comparison to the YRR crowd. If this is the case, McDonald is dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I've always liked how Paul Washer puts it: Everyone says the church is divided, but it's really not. There's only ever been one church.

Anonymous said...

Don't laugh Ron. It's going to happen. And don't be surprised to see a female pastor in there within the next decade either.

Anthony and Lauren said...

I feel like the John MacArthur camp is angry that they weren't invited to be apart of the Gospel Coalition. I feel like the John MacArthur camp isn't acting loving. Maybe I am wrong but I feel John MacArthur and his little team wants to criticize anyone and everyone that doesn't practice ministry the way they feel we should. Maybe I am wrong but I feel like Mark Driscoll gets slammed as if he is in the same camp as Rob Bell. We love your ministry MacArthur but if you don't stop attacking everyone then you will go down as a grumpy mean old guy. Please don't delete this blog post and allow for discussion. My email is Anthonygspallone@gmail.com. My name is Anthony and please don't delete this. I'm not an anonymous person looking to bash MacArthur. I love him so much because of how much I have learned from him through his ministry but why does he and his team have to attack anyone and everyone? And please don't attack me by saying I'm only about love. We don't need any straw man arguments going on here. I believe God is loving but also wrathful. These two doctrines compliment each other, they are not against each other. So, why is MacArthur's team so angry?

DJP said...

Any comment that starts "I feel like the John MacArthur camp is angry that they weren't invited to be apart of the Gospel Coalition," and ends "We don't need any straw man arguments going on here," has achieved a new level of epicness.

Anthony and Lauren said...

Hey DJP, when people say "they feel" that doesn't mean it is true, I am just making a hypothesis. You didn't respond to anything I wrote. Sorry if I'm not Epic enough but I really want to know if I am the only one who feels the MacArthur camp is acting a little unChristlike in how they attack everyone like Darrin Patrick and Mark Driscoll? Am I the only one in this whole world who thinks that Christ is looking down from heaven saying, "that a boy Johnny, you tell Darrin Patrick!" Is Jesus really pleased about how MacArthur responded to Darrin Patrick? I think not...

Matt Burke said...

I "feel" Anthony is ignorant and emotional and incapable of noticing the irony in his comments.

Don't take offense though. It's just how I feel and probably isn't true. It's just a "hypothesis."

Anthony and Lauren said...

Hey Matt, do you go to Reformed Theological Seminary?

donsands said...

"...they attack..."-Anthony

So you don't go by Tony, huh. Most Anthonys I know are Tony.

But to your use of the word "attack", why use such a word my friend.

Driscol has done some off the wall, and down right embarrasing teachings and speaking. he also does some good preaching. I pray he would mature, and repent of his bad messages.

And as for Phil, and all who minister from the John MacArthur church, they are bold in the truth, with love and humility.

It may seem that way: attacking, but it ain't.

Eeven Jesus' disciples rebukes Him, and said, "You are offending the religious elite!" Jesus wasn't having any of that.

Have a great weekend, and Lord's day in His Word. may we all grow in our souls this Lord's day as we are fed the holy word, and not just bread. Amen.

Unknown said...

Years ago, I heard MacDonald boast in an interview that he never uses Bible commentaries while preparing his sermons. That was the first of many red flags.

Tom Chantry said...

MacArthur has a camp?

What exactly is that camp?

Am I in that camp? I'm covenantal and confessionally reformed, so maybe not. Is Frank in it? Surely Dan is, although he went to Talbot, not Masters.

Then again, maybe this isn't a camp. Maybe there isn't a movement here based on fidelity to one man. Maybe instead what there is is a segment of biblical evangelicalism that is horrified at the shoddiness of the theological standards of so many who have acquired big reputations. And yes, those of us who are in that camp love John MacArthur, even though it's not his camp per se - a lot of us aren't going to blindly follow him.

Still, we love the man. Somehow - in spite of the thousands who attend his church and the tens of thousands more who read his books and follow his teachings on the radio - somehow that success has not rendered him incapable of pointing at heresy and saying it's not Christian, or of pointing at foolishness and saying it's not becoming. There have always been plenty of men who will do that; it's just that usually fame derails a man's commitments to truth. There aren't many with MacArthur's reach who manage to pull it off. So yes, we love that here in this camp. Even when he wags his finger at me and tells me I need to be a Dispensationalist, I smile and say, "I'm glad you love truth so much that you're not worried about offending me."

So you see, Anthony, I think you've got the legacy thing wrong. There's a reason why Iain Murray (a Scottish Presbyterian - how far out of the MacArthur camp can you get?) wrote such a positive biography. A lot of us are glad to find someone - anyone - whose commitment to truth is not overwhelmed by his own success. His legacy is not going to be as a "grumpy old mean guy" - or at least as our grumpy old mean guy - a guy who was grumpy about all the right things, got mean when it was needed, and kept it up to an advanced age. That's not a bad legacy.

Then again, I hope he doesn't care two cents what his legacy is going to be - and I imagine he really doesn't.

Saints and Sceptics said...

We're certainly not MacArthur fans, nevermind part of the MacArthur crowd.
However, this seems to be the only forum to air concerns or criticisms. We have tried to engage Pastor MacDonald on his own blog; unfortunately he did not seem to understand the issues that we raised, and that is worrying.

Our point was this: TD Jakes rejects the Council of Nicea. To have fellowship with TD Jakes is more radical an act than, say, the position that Mark Noll takes in "Is the Reformation Over?" It is certainly more radical than the "Evangelical and Catholics Together" statements. MacDonald is allowing a flexibility on the Trinity that would have horrified the Reformers. This goes beyond allowing a degree of flexibility in our understanding of justfication!
Pastor MacDonald's reply was "of course I understand the importance of the Trinity". But we never suggested that he didn't! What we were concerned with was the explicit rejection of Nicea.

TD Jakes could state, honestly and unequivocally, that he believes that the Trinity is important. But Jakes believes that each member of the Trinity is merely a "manifestation". This is inadequate, to say the least. And the only way for Jakes to clarify that he is fully Trinitarian, in the same sense as MacDonald and the Reformers, is to explicitly reject the language of manifestations, and to explicitly accept the language of Nicea.

Pastor MacDonald does not seem to agree with us; he seems willing to settle for less than the simple, clear concepts of Nicea. And that is a huge step - far beyond anything that has happened in Evangelical/Roman Catholic dialogue and co-operation.

Our problem is that Pastor MacDonald is quite unaware of the enormity of his decision. He dismisses creeds and confessions with this decision. The basis of fellowship becomes "he seems to agree with me...". We have no doubt that Pastor MacDonald is a fully orthodox trinitarian. Obviously he believes that Jakes is too. And it is the magnitude of that mistake that will lead to catastrophe. This has all the signs of hubris.

Graham and Nicola

Sunny Shell said...

Thanks for sharing this truth brother Phil (and when I say "brother", I mean brother in Christ, not to be mistaken by the "brothers" MacDonald is talking about...that is, brothers within the sinful human race which includes those who don't believe in the biblical Gospel).

Great and much needed spoken truth here.

I appreciate you.

MilhamaH said...

MacDonald at his worst...Setting up a false and artificial choice and crude simplification in his silly beer stand level talk on his silly video. "Brothers"? Really? If you want to make yourself a brother with TD Jakes a "gospel" pimp and a thief who denies True God then go ahead but do not think that all will follow you in your silliness and blatant ignorance. God have mercy on this man who is picking up speed as he slides down on his slippery slope of foolishness and pride while destroying in process all the heritage God allowed him to build over last 25 years. I guess MacDonald's descent is a lesson for us all. Let us remember it.

xxxxx said...

It is my take that what happens because of this upcoming Elephant Room as little to do with how it affects orthodoxy Christianity as much as it will do to the standing of those particiapting in it and they no matter what they want to believe about themselves do not represent the whole of true Christianity. I think it the cause of the faithful church will survive but the speakers who participate in this may not, or at the very least will be explaining themselves and trying to pick up the pieces afterwards for a long time. And that will damage their work and the bodies they serve.

donsands said...

"We're certainly not MacArthur fans, nevermind part of the MacArthur crowd."S&S

Is this a sarcastic statement? I'm thinking it must be.

DJP said...

Tom Chantry, I may love that comment more than any other... though you've made many great ones, and I don't have the best memory.

I too have my thises and thats with MacArthur. But you ask me, "President Obama [or name any other globally important figure] wants to talk with an evangelical preacher of some standing; which one would you wish he'd talk to," I'm pretty sure that then name that would leap to the head of the list of men who wouldn't be intimated by the man or the office, but would go there in the fear of God and love for the unvarnished Gospel, that's the name that would stand right up at the top of a short list of very good names.

Saints and Sceptics said...


No, not sarcasm. We've nothing against Pastor MacArthur; we just don't know very much about him to be honest. We don't even own one book by him. But we heard him preach in Belfast once, and his message was quite helpful.

Our point was that we are not expressing concerns about ER because we see Pastor MacArthur as the paragon of evangelicalism; we don't belong to a MacArthur "camp". It is possible to be a centrist evangelical and to be bewildered by ER2! Pastor MacDonald seems to think that this is an issue of style or taste. In fact it is an issue about the substance of Christian theology. It's difficult to get more fundamental than the Trinity. This goes to the very definition of "Christian belief".

Nicola and Graham

Anonymous said...

O.K. so the rage and noise coming from this blog is about T.D. Jakes being included in the ER2 ... because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is in fact a denier of the Trinity.

Except that James MacDonald says he is in fact not and that the truth will come out during the Elephant Room.

So what are we angry about?

It's like saying that Simon the Sorcerer would never repent ... Philip was so out of step with hanging with the guy. This is who Simon was, this is who he shall always be. He was a charlatan and a thief so there is no way that the grace of God could change that guy. T.D. Jakes is always and only going to be a Modalist ... case closed ... God is powerful but not that powerful.

Now, the way that MacDonald is drawing this out is concerning ... not wanting to give anything away so as to have a better "show" is concerning ... you can keep on beating that drum I guess.

But until we actually see ER2 can we stop claiming with absolute concrete certainty that we know what Jakes believes.

And don't say, "His past sermons speak loud and clear" ... I'm sure Simon's did as well.

donsands said...

"In fact it is an issue about the substance of Christian theology."-S&S

Amen Nicola & Graham!

Thank you so much for making that clear. It's so easy to miss think a comment, and we all need to learn to think out loud in humility a bit more.

Have a terrific Lord's Day, and may your heart be filled with His joy like you have always desired and never knew.

Anonymous said...

Here is an idea for Elephant Room III: invite Phil and Carl Trueman and discuss the decision to invite T.D. Jakes to ER II.

donsands said...

Hey Jen, if you check this out with all sincerlty, you will see that TD is quite what he is. No doubt about it my friend.


have a great Lord's day in His truth and holiness! May our Father be worshiped in Spirit, and His Son Jesus Christ be adored and loved, and may we call upon the Holy Spirit to fill us with His wisdom and power. Amen.

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Hmmm, just when I was about to ask "Anthony Spallone" (with his brand spankin' new profile) if he used to work with Joey Valentini, Little Pauly and Marco Raviloi at the docks, my fellow members of “Camp MacArthur” (who knew?) have responded respectfully and seriously to him. Now here I am… all snarked up… with nowhere to write? Bummer!

I will say this though, the idea of Obama meeting with MacArthur is particularly appealing, especially the part when the truth of “Biblical Christianity” (I think I’ve seen that somewhere) collides with Obama’s Universalist/Marxist/Socialist twaddle and Barry’s eyes cross and his head explodes.

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

Oh, btw, if there ever is a “MacArthur Camp”… I’m in!

FX Turk said...

Dear Anthony,

| I feel like the John MacArthur
| camp ...

I like that! I have never met Dr. MacArthur. I have never been to seminary, let alone TMS/TMC. I am Phil Johnson’s friend, but the things I believe about the faith I have believed since before I met Phil Johnson. I was saved late in life by the Gospel, out of atheism, and I’m grateful for grace and for clarity when it comes to the true Gospel as opposed to the pretenders.

If that puts me in Dr. MacArthur’s camp, why would you want to be in another camp?

| ... is angry that they weren't
| invited to be apart of the Gospel
| Coalition.

Well, that’s a nice excuse. Have you read Thabiti Anyawbile’s blog post on this spectacle? Is he in Dr. MacArthur’s Camp? Why did Mark Dever pull out of ER2? Is he in Dr. MacArthur’s camp?

I’m curious because it looks like I’m going to really like the company there if that’s in fact where I wind up.

| I feel like the John
| MacArthur camp isn't acting
| loving.

Surely you’re kidding.

Let me ask you: in Pastor MacDonald was getting a divorce to take up with another woman and publicly calling it God’s will for his family, would you find it unloving for (for example) me to write an open letter to him decrying is public apostasy an pleading with him to reject those lies and return to his first love, both spiritually and personally? In what way is that unloving?

So how much more is it not unloving to underscore this real crisis of faith where the dividing line between the triune God and an imposter who only appears human or appears to be resurrected or only “manifests” something we perceive is any of these is blurred, and where the historic faith is itself questioned as too divisive?

Have you read Titus and Timothy? Have you read Ephesians? So how is it unloving to call a man with a lifetime of faithful service back to the faith and away from literally fraternizing with the enemy?

| Maybe I am wrong but I
| feel John MacArthur and his little
| team wants to criticize anyone
| and everyone that doesn't
| practice ministry the way they
| feel we should.

Can you point out how down-playing the clear lifetime of denying the doctrine of the trinity which T.D. Jakes has done is about “how we practice ministry”?

Let’s be clear: it is only about “how we practice ministry” if drinking drunk is only about “how we get home from the bar”. This kind of reduction of terms to make theology some kind of ornament is literally diabolical. Men tasked with the safety of the souls the shepherd need to be at least more specific when they start talking about stuff like this, and not pretend that everything a pastor does is a matter of taste.


FX Turk said...


| Maybe I am wrong
| but I feel like Mark Driscoll gets
| slammed as if he is in the same
| camp as Rob Bell.

Why trot out Mark Driscoll, I wonder? Is this your evidence for who is not in the MacArthur “camp”? Is it really your view that Dr. MacArthur (and all of the rest of use – I would love to see your list of who is in this camp as it will underscore the care you are using to make this distinction) thinks that the world is full of either the lost or the saved, and that every disagreement is a matter of declaring anathemas?

Let me ask you, which view is more damgerous: pastors who think the Christian faith is actually something specific, something which can be distinguished from the ancient pagan religions and modern philosophies; or those who think that there is much Christianity can learn from pagan religions and modern philosophies, who wave off anyone serious about the historic faith as too narrow-minded and too divisive?

| We love your
| ministry MacArthur but if you
| don't stop attacking everyone
| then you will go down as a
| grumpy mean old guy.

The odds of that are low. Thanks, though, for your concern.

| Please
| don't delete this blog post and
| allow for discussion.

Let’s be really clear about this: except for vulgarity or slander, posts are not deleted at our blog. If only the same would be try at James MacDonald’s blog.

| My email is
| Anthonygspallone@gmail.com. My
| name is Anthony and please don't
| delete this. I'm not an anonymous
| person looking to bash MacArthur.
| I love him so much because of
| how much I have learned from
| him through his ministry but why
| does he and his team have to
| attack anyone and everyone?

What is worrisome, Anthony, is that you don’t have any more categories apart from “love” and “attack”. Think about that.

| And
| please don't attack me by saying
| I'm only about love. We don't
| need any straw man arguments
| going on here. I believe God is
| loving but also wrathful. These
| two doctrines compliment each
| other, they are not against each
| other. So, why is MacArthur's
| team so angry?

See above. Consider it, and may it make you reconsider your somewhat-immature view of what is happening here.

In Christ,


FX Turk said...

Hi Jennifer –

| O.K. so the rage and noise coming
| from this blog is about T.D. Jakes
| being included in the ER2 ...
| because we know beyond a
| shadow of a doubt that he is in
| fact a denier of the Trinity.
| Except that James MacDonald
| says he is in fact not and that the
| truth will come out during the
| Elephant Room.
| So what are we angry about?

Um, that James MacDonald is, in the best case, creating controversy rather than resolving it? That is the best possible spin to put on this: for the sake of promoting this event, he is holding back a confession and repentance on the part of Jakes. If Jakes is repentant from his lifetime of preaching & teaching on this subject, MacDonald should come forth with that prior to this event to set the record right. It would be instructive to see how Jakes denies the doctrines of Oneness Pentecostalism, and we could rejoice at the Elephant Room as he instructs us on the secondary matters worth debating with him after that.

But listen: it cannot be more plainly said than Thabiti has already said it: Jakes is responsible for a cataclysmic amount of theological damage in the church. His role is downgrading theology in popular circles cannot be underestimated.

James MacDonald rolling out a very loose, snide “trust me and not the haters” retraction for Jakes is, frankly, a lot less than is necessary for the offenses on the record. And the worst possible case is, frankly, a tragedy: MacDonald actually has no discernment and cannot tell the difference between Jakes and Furtick, Jakes and Driscoll, Jakes and MacArthur when it comes to the Gospel.

There are no good points on the line that those two ends track.

| It's like saying that Simon the
| Sorcerer would never repent ...
| Philip was so out of step with
| hanging with the guy. This is who
| Simon was, this is who he shall
| always be. He was a charlatan
| and a thief so there is no way
| that the grace of God could
| change that guy. T.D. Jakes is
| always and only going to be a
| Modalist ... case closed ... God is
| powerful but not that powerful.


FX Turk said...


This assumes there have been no men before MacDonald to offer Jakes the chance to repent. There have been, and he has rebuffed all of them – waved them off as if their complaints were irrelevant. If he has changed now after talking to MacDonald, let’s see that. It would be well worth knowing a better way to convert the lost than to tell them the truth. When Jakes retracts his past teachings, and prays as Simon did that none of the fate of the curses Peter made to him would come true, then your argument will make sense.

What we have right now is MacDonald blanketly calling Jakes a “brother” prior to repentance, prior to any retraction or confession of wrong-doing, and that’s simply an unbiblical approach.

| Now, the way that MacDonald is
| drawing this out is concerning ...
| not wanting to give anything away
| so as to have a better "show" is
| concerning ... you can keep on
| beating that drum I guess.
| But until we actually see ER2 can
| we stop claiming with absolute
| concrete certainty that we know
| what Jakes believes.

Oh please. Jakes’ beliefs are so well documented, I’d dare say we know more about his belief about the nature of God than we do about James MacDonald’s beliefs about the Trinity. Mark Driscoll himself has documented that Jakes owns the Oneness Pentecostal definition of God which denies the Trinity. (The hilarious thing about Driscoll is that he can’t bring himself to say, “and therefore, Jakes needs to repent of his error.”) You can’t find any sermons which come up with the key word “Trinity” from James MacDonald – and I say that only to point out that Jakes has said more about this than MacDonald has, and to ignore that is, frankly, irrational and sloppy.

| And don't say, "His past sermons
| speak loud and clear" ... I'm sure
| Simon's did as well.

This is the cherry on the Sunday here: since the man has spoken for himself, we know what he has said – and he hasn’t recanted a word of it. To think a fellow with a top-10 podcast and a globally-televised ministry wants or needs to wait until a little-known symposium to expose himself as a life-long heretic and then repent speaks for itself.

Defending Jakes is, frankly, an unbelievable gambit.

Charlene said...

@rom623androm828, I always thought that MacDonald would also see some concern with Jakes' Word of Faith/prosperity/health/wealth "gospel" shilling but after watching that vid from Harvest's G5 campaign, I see why he has no issues with that. Right out of the TBN playbook. Very sad.

FX Turk said...

Last thing tonight before I roll up the sidewalks:

It is extraordinarily-instructive to read Mark Driscoll's defense of James MacDonald and T.D. Jakes here:

Reflections on MacDonald, Jakes, and the Trinity

(archived copy in case the original magically disappears)

What that 4000-word, 12-page missive is about is Driscoll, frankly, feeding the myth that somehow those who find this distasteful and discrediting are the bad guys.

Here's my challenge to Mark Driscoll, as I lay here in my Pajamas on a Saturday night: Call your friend and mentor D.A.Carson, and ask him to do a 30-minute video with you on this subject -- specifically, your whitewashing of the Oneness Pentecostal beliefs about the nature of God, and whether or not we can know if Jakes ascribes to them. Ask him specifically if we can know that the Oneness Pentecostal statement of faith is heresy, and if those who ascribe to it can rightly be called brothers in Christ.

Dr. Carson's response would be helpful and instructive.

Looking forward to your best effort.

donsands said...

Here's a song that came to mind as I share on this thread: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvYyusjXtSg&feature=related

Enjoy, if you like this kind of music.

Ron (aka RealityCheck) said...

We've nothing against Pastor MacArthur; we just don't know very much about him to be honest. We don't even own one book by him.

Well then, can I recommend one that I think is on topic here:


Also, there has been a lot of mention of Anyabwile’s post on this matter, which is great, but I also would recommend the post by Travis Allen over Grace To You blog here:


Anonymous said...

By the way, just want to say that you're awesome. It sure is fun crouching behind this wall of disagreement with y'all.

(Ahem. At this point you're supposed to say "You are too." Awesome, that is.)

Saints and Sceptics said...


Thank you for the recommendation. We know a lot of people who find MacArthur very helpful, including our Pastor. We also found his thoughts on the preaching of Song of Solomon a helpful antidote to sensationalist treatments.


Saints and Sceptics said...

Mr Jakes seems to muddy his language considerably. Can we think of a few simple, straightforward statements that he could affirm on ER2, that would vindicate Pr MacDonald's claim that Mr Jakes is fully Trinitarian?

Jakes should be able to affirm - without excuse, wavering or sidestepping:

1) The Nicene Creed.
2) That Jesus was not, in any way, the Father incarnate. There was genuine communication between the Son and the Father when Jesus prayed.
3) That "manifestation" is an inaccurate way to describe the persons of the Trinity.
4) That "person" does not describe an activity, function or role of God; nor does it describe a way that God can appear to us.
5) That there is a genuine loving relationship between the Father and the Son and the Spirit.

Nicola and Graham

Saints and Sceptics said...

Really, what we need Jakes to say is that each person of the Trinity is a centre of rationality, choice awareness and love.
If he cannot say that, then he cannot affirm that "God is Love" in the same sense as everyone else at the table. Whatever his opinions on Justification and Grace, he has more in common with Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims than he does with Christians. An Eastern Orthodix monk or a Roman Catholic Bishop would have more right to sit in the Elephant Room. And, if ER2 goes ahead, and Jakes is not held to a very precise and robust definition of the Trinity, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox suspicions of Evangelicalism will be confirmed. ER2 will substantiate the charge that we tend to doctrinal chaos. At the end of the day, TGC is meant to represent one of the theologically responsible wings of evangelicalism. MacDonald's cavalier attitude to the Trinity is deeply, deeply worrying.

Nicola and Graham

Unknown said...

I hear a lot of talk from the ER guys about...... Men......
Courage...... Face to Face, yet they continue this tap-dance around the issue of heresy. There's nothing courageous about playing footsy with a heretic.
Oh...... There's an elephant in the room alright...... and now it's time for someone to come in with a shovel and wheelbarrow.

rom623rom828 said...


Thanks for watching that video from Harvest's G5 campaign and commenting that it seemed "right out of the TBN playbook".

I'm really surprised that the MacDonald/Jakes association hasn't been critiqued more in regards to the "prosperity" message.

Phil J, Frank T, Tom C, DJP -- any concern here?

Today at Harvest, the week after "Commitment (i.e. Pledge) Weekend", was "Celebration Weekend". MacDonald said one guy that pledged last weekend, got a raise at work the following Monday of 5 times what he pledged.

Please pray for Macdonald. Plese pray for me as I sort through these things.

Saints and Sceptics said...

Can we get one witness for that story? Is the sermon available online?
Without witnesses we are compelled to ignore the story.

Tom Chantry said...


I was never aware of an overt prosperity gospel slant in Harvest's teaching. What I would characterize as the outcome of their teaching was a lot of "on-fire-for-God" talk and very little humiliation, repentance, and gratitude for the cross.

That said:

Problem #1 - "On fire for God" can mean so many things, and can lead to so many results, and I believe it is very possible that in the minds of many this translates into a sort of religion in which the more "on fire" you are for God, the more "on fire" He is for you. I never heard that out of Harvest, but it makes sense, and if you're people aren't hearing the real gospel consistently, they might begin to drift that way.

Problem #2 - the whole model for Harvest is more business oriented than church oriented. Sooner or later profits stagnate and growth becomes problematic, given that growth is achieved through capital investment. I don't know how you run a church that way without becoming manipulative about giving.

Problem #3 - if (and I realize I'm in Narnia on this one) T.D. Jakes were to make all of Nicola's and Graham's affirmations from a few comments up, the only reasonable gospel-oriented response would be to say, "Wonderful; now let's talk about the gospel. What is it, and what are its benefits, and how should we preach it?" With all the focus on the Trinity, nothing leads me to believe that anyone is prepared to challenge Jakes on the prosperity gospel - and indeed, if annecdotes like you just gave are part of the capital drive at Harvest now, on what basis would they?

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I think there is a frightening tendency that we all need to be deeply aware of, and that tendency is to fall too much in love with our leaders/pastors, to the point of following them right off the cliff. Sadly, this allegiance blinds many to what is happening right before their very eyes. And most often it happens very subliminally, so it takes most people a very, very long time to admit that their heroes are in gross error because they are themselves in such denial.

That is why God tells us: “Now then, my sons, listen to me And do not depart from the words of my mouth (Pro 5:7).” When we depart from God’s Word, there is no other alternative left but subjugating ourselves to the doctrines of men. There is no third option.

I found the sermon G5 to be very troubling. I would be looking for a different church, posthaste.

Saints and Sceptics said...

Well said.
One benefit of ER2 is that it has forced us to think through the essentials of Trinitarianism. A drawback is that we are now aware of the depressing state of some Mega-Churches.
We are now looking into "Word of Faith" theology, never having encountered it before. It seems to be pagan, and has all the markings of another Gospel.

(We also share your concerns about applying business models to the Church. We think that Pastor MacDonald is well intentioned at this point - we're not even sure that he consciously set out to adopt a Church Franchise model - but mistaken. However, we do not think that he is wedded to that model, and hopefully he will alter it over time.)

Graham and Nicola

Linda said...

Peter was rebuked by Paul because he wasn’t being straightforward about the truth of the Gospel. 2 Timothy 2:17, 4:10, 1 Timothy 1:20 Hint, hint-sound like someone? So that is proper and biblical.

The welfare of the body needs to be protected--"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."1Cr 13:6-7 .
The high visibility and influence of teachers like T.D. Jakes warrant the need for "Public exposure."

All James MacDonald is doing is sending a conflicting message that just blurs the lines of who God is doesn’t really matter just as long as we get along and are sincere.

T.D. Jakes is not my brother in Christ as long as he holds to his Sabellianism and prosperity gospel-let anyone who preaches another Gospel be accursed-Gal.1:8. He should not be treated as such.

Shame on James MacDonald for bringing in a heretic and calling him our brother.

What is good for the group is what is paramount. Agape is not an exchange on a personal level and is a gift that puts the GROUP first not individuals at the expense of the sheep

jozzyboy116 said...

Hey All,

First of all, thank you, Phil, for your courage to stand for truth. To have some REAL convictions.

I currently go to a Harvest Bible Chapel in Decatur, IL. I've been here for about three years now. Before coming here, I had never even heard about James Macdonald. I did know John MacArthur though, who God used to take me out of Pentecostalism, which I had been in my whole life (20 years). At that time, HBC's Pastor was BK Smith (who had come from The Master's Seminary). He was what attracted me to HBC. Now, he's gone back up to Canada (to pastor an independent church) and we have a pastor who came from Moody. Now, (whew) IF ER2 comes and goes and the worst happens (Jakes gets an easy pass). And my pastor I and disagree about Jakes (he agrees with MacD), should I consider moving away from Harvest? Macdonald, as long as I've known him, seems to be slipping. (The 5G thing going on currently concerns me too). If Macdonald goes down this road, should this be a point of looking to attend another church?

I hope all this makes since! :P

Emily said...

JM is posing a problem for TGC? Um, D.G. Hart has plenty of other reasons too. http://oldlife.org/2011/04/al-mohler-the-gospel-coalition-and-me-about-whom-it-always-is/


Dave said...

Someone may have already pointed this out, but I did note the following question posed 11/11/11 @ 1:35 p.m. at James MacDonald's blog, "Do you think it is possible for someone to be both a modalist and a genuine believer in the Lord Jesus Christ?" The response from MacDonald, "No."

Dave said...

I should have read a little further at MacDonald's blog before my recent post here...from MacDonald 11/12/11, "clearly I believe Bishop Jakes is trinitarian and will affirm such in ER2 – I understand how important this is..."

Charlene said...

Ok. I have to ask. What does G5 stand for? My husband is guessing it stands for "Gotcha (five times)!". We used to attend HBC Rolling Meadows eight years ago and I would have described it just as Tom C. did, a lot of "on fire for God" type hype but still some solid teaching. But the G5 sermon had my husband and I in disbelief at how much things have gone downhill. He used to at least tuck in his shirt! LOL

FX Turk said...

T.D. Jakes has a LOT of retractions to go through before he can say he's a trinitarian.

Just so the question is not posed by a blogger, here's the Equip.org article which, I think, says exactly what needs to be said.

And with that, I am closing the thread. More another day.

FX Turk said...

OK -- Blogger is having trouble and won't let me close the thread. I'll close it later today.

DJP said...

First, though, I will remark that repentance generally involves not only change of mind but retraction, restitution, and burning bridges. It is, in the Christian, a practical outworking of (hel-lo?) MOR TI FI CATION, a word which means putting to death.

Every one of us longs to see that.

None of us wants to see more wool pulled over more sheeps' eyes.

DJP said...

...and now I'll try to close the thread for Frank.