Apprising Ministries is among those who’re helping you follow the issues surrounding James MacDonald, T.D. Jakes, And Postmodern Obfuscation.
This is because, as an online apologetics and discernment work, AM has among its activities monitoring trends within the visible church to apprise and assist you in knowing what’s going on as well as what it means.
In that aforementioned piece I included a post by Gospel Coalition Council Member James MacDonald called Association vs. Discernment and Is James MacDonald Changing? Therein MacDonald makes an important statement concerning Word Faith mogul T.D. Jakes, long reputed to be a modalist.
Says, MacDonald, “I do not agree that T.D. Jakes is a Modalist.” Then he went on with what I see as postmodern obfuscation:
I affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as I find it in Scripture. I believe it is clearly presented but not detailed or nuanced. I believe God is very happy with His Word as given to us and does not wish to update or clarify anything that He has purposefully left opaque.
Somethings are stark and immensely clear, such as the deity of Jesus Christ; others are taught but shrouded in mystery, such as the Trinity. I do not trace my beliefs to credal statements that seek clarity on things the Bible clouds with mystery. (Online source)
I wasn’t the only one who found that rather disturbing as as Carl Trueman of Reformation 21 said in his commentary upon this matter:
the language of manifestation is vulnerable to being seen as modalist; and a modalist God cannot save… for an evangelical leader to argue that creedal developments on Trinitarianism are of little importance is a fascinating glimpse into the doctrinal make-up of what constitutes contemporary evangelical leadership in the United States as it connects to catholic Christianity and, indeed, any tradition which regards the insights of Nicene Christianity as of importance in the overall transmission and articulation of the identity of Jesus Christ and thus his gospel. (Online source)
So I said now the question is: Why would James MacDonald apparently attempt to try and shroud in mystery this non-negotiable cardinal doctrine of the Christian Church? As I see it, here’s where he begins tipping his hand; to open the door for Oneness Pentecostal T.D. Jakes into full fellowship within evangelicalism.
If you think I’m being unfair, then I encourage you to look very carefully at what MacDonald says next:
I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might. His website states clearly that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations. I am looking forward to hearing him explain what he means by that.
For the record, James MacDonald did go on later to write Why I Am Excited to Have T.D. Jakes in the Elephant Room; and his fellow GC member Mark Driscoll also chimed in with Reflections on James MacDonald, TD Jakes, and the Trinity. In the former, MacDonald made an attempt to clarify.
However, it only further muddied the already murky waters T.D. Jakes swims in when MacDonald says, “I believe modalism is unbiblical and clearly outside confessionalism, but I do not believe it represents Bishop T.D. Jakes’ current thinking.” Note that MacDonald said confessionalism, not Christianity.
That’s a big difference; and I think a fair question is: What makes James MacDonald believe he knows Jakes’ current thinking on the doctrine of the Trinity? In fact, MacDonald was asked that very question by Sean Nelson; politely, as I read it:
Could you clarify something for us? A good number of respectable -i.e. not behaving like pagans- people have posted online recently pointing out that T.D. Jakes’ past statements seem to “hint” at modalistic doctrinal beliefs.(Tim Challies, Carl Truman, and Denny Burk to name a few.)…
My question is, with all the controversy stirring, and with the likelihood of unhealthy accusations toward this potentially helpful event on the rise, why not just explain what led you to believe that T.D. Jakes is orthodox in his understanding of the Trinity?
Here is MacDonald’s response:
Yes, let’s just cancel the ER totally and I will simply state online everything I believe to be true.
ok?? (Online source)
That appears to be more than a little terse to me; and misreads the question, which was why does MacDonald believe Jakes is not a modalist. He’s not being asked to state Jakes’ view, but his own as to why he thinks Jakes is orthodox concerning the Trinity. As I said, it’s a fair question.
So below via screen shot, because I’ll be surprised if this pagan critic’s comment will see the light, is my comment:
Notice above that Nelson made the reference to “not behaving like pagans” concerning the “good number of respectable” people who’ve weighed in critically concerning MacDonald’s defense of his bringing T.D. Jakes in as a Christian brother to his Elephant Room 2 conference discussions.
Why Nelson phrased his question that way has to do with the following from James MacDonald:
Gospel belief without gospel behavior is what I refer to as ‘religious.’ Every minister of the gospel should welcome and learn from criticism, but critics that act like pagans are probably just that and bring little benefit to the hearer. (Online source)
However, as I said in my pervious piece, there are those who decide a priori that criticism is unloving and pagan. Not surisingly MacDonald’s co-host for ER2, fellow Gospel Coalition Council Member Mark Driscoll, came to his defense as he would opine:
Beware of Many Discernment Ministries
Before we continue there is a lesson to be learned first. Admittedly, sometimes when speaking, a teacher presents a belief in a way that is inaccurate and unclear.
So called “discernment” bloggers who are usually not connected to any noteworthy or respected evangelical Christian theologians, schools, denominations, ministries, churches, or pastors make their living taking what people said wrongly, transcribing it, and then falsely—or at least wrongly—accusing them of heresy when it is untrue. (Online source)
This is a classic tactic; one doesn’t address the criticism, rather, they use ad hominem to attack the critic. This is a good place to bring Dr. James White into this conversation from his post Wednesday Musings. Under no stretch of the imagination could White be considered merely a “discernment blogger.”
He brings also brings out the postmodern obfusation of James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll:
Now I know that “emergent” folks have an odd relationship with history—they love to drag stuff out of history, without its attendant context, as if it is “new,” but when it comes to accepting that stand on the shoulders of giants and that there are things that have simply been settled in the past, they rebel and want to put everything “back on the table.”
Evidently, the very definition of modalism, and the meaning of Nicea, is “up for grabs” as well, at least for these folks. Briefly, there is no question that the language of Jakes is modalistic,… For McDonald, it seems that the history of Oneness teachings and creedal statements over the past century or so can be disregarded for a “fresh discussion.”…
And for what? For some kind of post-modern feel-goodism that cannot even recognize modalism when it is standing right in front of you. A truly educational example of just how far the emergent movement is willing to go in pursuit of its ultimately destructive goals. (Online source)
Interesting that James White sees an uncomfortable parallel to the Emerging Church and James MacDonald. As I close this out, for now, let me draw you attention to a critical point AM special correspondent Erin Benziger brings out in her Please Do Not Feed The Elephants:
While we grieve that heresies such as modalism are still alive and thriving today, in one sense we can be thankful for this latest stir-up. Satan, though crafty, is not in the business of devising brand new deceptions. Rather, he is quite skilled at polishing off the old ones to make them appear shiny and new.
So by studying church history and being aware of what has plagued us in the past, we can be better prepared to stand and defend against those same false teachings that have infiltrated our churches today. (Online source)
Benziger then leads us to Collateral Damage in the Invitation of T.D. Jakes to the Elephant Room by Thabiti Anyabwile, who is no “pagan discernment blogger,” but rather happens to be MacDonald and Driscoll’s peer as a Gospel Coalition Council Member.
Anyabwile absolutely devastates their foolish decision to offer T.D. Jakes this forum:
MacDonald and Driscoll can moderate discussions with anyone they wish. But we kid ourselves if we think inviting someone so recalcitrant about fundamental biblical teaching as Jakes can result in anything positive. MacDonald, Driscoll and others will not be the first to privately and publicly exhort, admonish, instruct and challenge Jakes on this vital issue–to no avail thus far.
And we kid ourselves if we think the Elephant Room invitation itself isn’t an endorsement of sorts. We can’t downplay the associations by calling for people to suspend judgment and responding ad hominem against “discernment bloggers.” We certainly can’t do that while simultaneously pointing to our association at The Gospel Coalition as a happy certification of orthodoxy and good practice, as Driscoll seems to do here with MacDonald.
This isn’t on the scale of Piper inviting Warren. This is more akin to Augustine inviting Muhammad. This invitation gives a platform to a heretic. It’s imprudent and counter-productive–witness already the Trinity-related confusions and obfuscations happening since announcing Jakes’ involvement. (Online source)
James MacDonald deleted my comment ignoring that question. So I ask, who’s really acting like a pagan?