James MacDonald has been making the radio rounds this week as he speaks to the Elephant Room 2 controversy surrounding T.D. Jakes. On Monday, he was a featured guest on Chris Fabry Live, an afternoon talk show that can be heard on Moody radio stations across the country. Audio of that show is available here. Tuesday morning, MacDonald appeared on Moody's local Chicago morning show, The Morning Ride, to speak briefly with host Mark Elfstrand. The full audio of that interview can be heard here.
As is to be expected, the topic of T.D. Jakes largely dominated these discussions. Between these two interviews, there is a lot that could be addressed, and so the intent of this post is not to embark on a minute-by-minute critique, but to simply alert the reader to a few rather interesting comments made during these two conversations. Please note that quotations made herein of these radio interviews may not be verbatim. The reader is encouraged, then, to listen to the interviews for him or herself.
Tuesday morning's discussion was quick and to the point. Not too many minutes in, we can hear MacDonald unquestioningly state, "I don't believe he's [Jakes] a modalist." This conclusion, according to MacDonald, is based upon Jakes' answers to Driscoll's questions in the Elephant Room 2. MacDonald says, "[Jakes] didn't get an A+ on the exam, but he didn't get a B either." Let's look again at part of the ER2 conversation between Driscoll and Jakes.
Driscoll: We all would agree that in the nature of God there is mystery, and it’s like a dimmer switch: how much certainty, how much mystery. But within that, Bishop Jakes, for you the issue between Trinitarianism and Modalism at its essence is is one God manifesting Himself successively in three ways? Or one God three persons simultaneously existing eternally – so, your best What is your understanding now? And I understand, there is some mystery – for sure. Would you say its One God manifesting Himself in three ways, or One God in three persons?
Jakes: I believe that neither one of them totally did it for me, but the latter one is where I stand today.
Driscoll: One God Three Persons?
Jakes: One God – Three Persons. One God – Three Persons, and here is why…there… I am not crazy about the word persons this is…most people who follow me know that that is really. My doctrinal statement is no different from yours except the word…
Jakes: Manifest instead of persons. Which you describe as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline. When I read…let me show you what I’m talking about…when I read I Timothy 3:16 – I didn’t create this, Paul did: “And without controversy” which I think we have…we have been bickering about something which Paul describes as a mystery, and I don’t think we should do that. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. For God was manifest in the flesh.” Now Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it is robbery to the divinity of God to think God was manifest in the flesh. And I think maybe it’s semantics, because [garbled], but Paul says this before this fight was started. But He also says he “was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, believed in the world, and received up into glory.” Now, when we start talking about that sort of thing, I think that it is important that we realize that there are distinctives between the Father and the working of the Son. the Father didn’t bleed, the Father didn’t die, only a different person in Jesus Christ…is coming back for us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is with us, but only indwells us through the person of the Holy Spirit; we are baptized into the body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any of that is objectionable to any of the three of us. So that is consistent with my belief system. I’m with you. I have been with you. I teach/preach that all the time. There are many people within and outside quote unquote denominations labeled Oneness that would describe that the same way. There are some that would not. But when we get to know people by their labels, then comes all the baggage of how we define that label. And we miss…it’s almost like the stereotypical ideologies we have about races. We have ideas about denominations and movements. The reason I’m proud of what you said earlier about people who have dual affiliations: We are taught in society that if we disagree with any movement, we leave. We sever. Oh, you said something I disagree with we fall out and then we walk away. I still have fellowship, associations, relationship, and positions within and without Trinitarian and Onenness movements. Because I believe that until we bridge the gap between our thinking and humble both sides and say, “We are both attempting to describe a God we love, that we serve, and that we have not seen. And that we are viewing Him through the context of the Scriptures, but that with a glass darkly.” Why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when all that I know and understand, be it very orthodox, is still through a glass darkly? and then face to face – None of our books about the Godhead or anything else will be on sale in heaven. You know why? Because we’re only authorities down here, with our little kingdoms in this world. I think it’s important that we realize that our God is beyond our intellect. And if you can define Him and completely describe Him and say you are the end-all definition of who God is, then He ceases to be God. Because the reason Paul says it is a mystery, is that we deify the fact that God does things that don’t fit our formulas. And because people’s formulas and understandings of a description of an unbiblical God did doesn’t make them demonic. (Online Source)It seems that James MacDonald still has not realized that he may very well have been duped by Jakes, who is a careful and skilled communicator. Yes, he affirmed "3 persons," but still prefers to use the language of the modalists. Jakes' use of 1 Timothy 3:16 especially ought to cause us to wonder if he has truly abandoned his Oneness roots, as this is a common "go to" verse for the Modalist argument. If you haven't already taken the time to listen to this discussion between James White and Voddie Baucham on this particular topic, I suggest you do so. It will shed a great deal of light on what precisely T.D. Jakes was saying in his response.
In his appearance on Chris Fabry Live, MacDonald expanded a bit on his acceptance of Jakes - or of anyone - who doesn't hold to the precise doctrine to which MacDonald himself may adhere. He declared that the Trinity is a "non-negotiable," and that it is "central" and a "key pillar" of Christianity. Yet, he continued, he does not feel it "necessary to hold people to a creedal preciseness about their Trinitarianism to see that person as a Christian." MacDonald stated something similar to this in the past, so it is clear that his position has not changed. Yet, the Trinitarian nature of God is just that - an undeniable fact of His nature, and while none of us will fully grasp this side of Heaven how the Trinity exists as the Bible says it does, the bottom line is that the Bible is still quite clear on the subject. This isn't about "creedal preciseness" (though, creeds such as the Athanasian Creed were developed based on biblical truth), it is about accepting - or rejecting - what God has revealed in His Word.
Nevertheless, for James MacDonald, it all comes down in the end to his continued claim that ER2 "isn't about the issues." Instead, according to MacDonald in both of these interviews on Moody radio, the whole purpose was to "model how to talk to people we disagree with." Hm...really? Then why does it seem that there is actually very little disagreement between the various participants of the Elephant Room? Toward the end of his Tuesday morning interview, MacDonald stated that "most of the critique is coming from people who weren't there, at any of the 70 locations..." Well, Pastor MacDonald, in case you have forgotten, some of us did want to be there. But I digress.
At about 35 minutes into the interview with Chris Fabry, the subject of race was brought into the discussion. It was quite interesting to hear MacDonald state that "ethnicity was not part of the subject, and I [MacDonald] think that trying to make it part of the subject is troubling." What is troubling here is the complete backward nature of that statement. While many initially were critical and questioning of Jakes' inclusion in this event, the concerns ultimately had nothing to do with T.D. Jakes' race. The issue has always been the attack of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Race was not truly brought into this controversy until a blog post (that has since been removed) was written by Bryan Loritts. The issue of race was brought even more boldly to the forefront when James MacDonald posted this video, wherein some very disconcerting and, quite frankly, some seemingly racist comments were made:
So, whether James MacDonald likes it or not, it appears as though it was his camp that unnecessarily dragged the "race card" into this situation. Nevertheless, if James MacDonald doesn't want race to be the issue, and none of the critics of ER2 ever felt that race was the issue, then let us move on.
Not long after this subject was addressed between Fabry and MacDonald, Fabry brought up the oft-neglected (by MacDonald, anyway) elephant of T.D. Jakes' prosperity gospel. In this part of the discussion, James MacDonald indicated that a private conversation had taken place (among whom, we do not know, though it is obvious that it was at least allegedly between MacDonald and Jakes). During this conversation, says MacDonald, T.D. Jakes expressed that he would "not currently accept the designation of prosperity or Word of Faith as an accurate description of what he believes. [...] As of two weeks ago [Jakes] would not accept these terms in a private conversation as an accurate description of what he believes." MacDonald continued and stated that Jakes' "ministry will have to bear that out." Indeed it will. After all, the prosperity preaching gig is quite lucrative and it is undoubtedly not abandoned lightly. And it is most certainly not forsaken without repentance. But then, when T.D. Jakes states that he would not describe himself as a prosperity preacher, is that to be viewed as an acknowledgement that he was at one time, but now has turned from such lies? Or is it merely someone rejecting a less-than-desirable title for himself?
If T.D. Jakes truly desires to no longer preach an aberrant prosperity gospel, then may we assume that he will soon be denouncing and apologizing for the teachings contained in footage such as this?
And if Jakes has turned from his Word-Faith leanings, then it is curious that, just a week prior to the Elephant Room, he delivered a more-than-mildly Word-Faith-esque sermon at Code Orange Revival. If the reader is unfamiliar with this, I suggest visiting this careful critique of Jakes' COR sermon, written by Daniel Neades at the Better Than Sacrifice blog. Yet, James MacDonald claims that he "learned a ton" from this sermon delivered by Jakes. Perhaps this explains why MacDonald could be content with Jakes simply "not accepting" the designation of being a Word of Faith or prosperity preacher.
For those who have long respected and looked to James MacDonald for biblical teaching, it would be helpful to know just how strong his confrontation, or conversation, with Jakes was regarding Jakes' Word of Faith heresy. To simply be content with someone rejecting a title is a rather unfortunately weak position, especially when the evidence of that designation is 20+ years strong. If indeed Jakes has turned from his Word of Faith heresy, it would be edifying to the Church to see a public repentance and renunciation of it, considering that Jakes' ministry has been so public - and so detrimental - for so many years.
James MacDonald did make one comment in his Tuesday morning interview with which some might agree. He stated, "a lot of this [the critique] is rooted in fear." Agreed, but not with the same motivation and meaning behind the statement as MacDonald would claim. Yes, Pastor MacDonald, perhaps fear is a motivator of some of the critiques: fear that the Word of God is no longer being held with the same power and authority within the visible church; fear that the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith are being swept under the rug in favor of joining hands and espousing "love and unity;" fear that some of American Christianity's most influential leaders have chosen the path of compromise. Fear that perhaps we have begun to place our fear of men over and above our fear of God.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10)
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