“There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”
— G.K. Chesterton

If I were to know everything but love, my knowledge would be worthless. A demon can be a well-ordered systematic theologian; this I get. But let’s not fall off the horse on the other side.

We can’t be perfunctory about doctrine. When I read what the Bible has to say about bad doctrine — that it produces sin, that it endangers souls — and what it says about good doctrine — that it ought to be held firm and instructed, guarded, and contended for — I don’t get the impression that right theology is just something on a questionnaire to be glossed over or nodded at. The Scriptures give us no warrant to treat doctrinal orthodoxy like a mere formality.

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17 thoughts on “Doctrine is Not a Formality”

  1. Will Robinson says:

    Excellent post Jared! A question that arises to mind: Is this in any way related to the “Elephant Room” 2 that took place yesterday? Grace and peace to you brother.

  2. Jared C. Wilson says:

    Will, related to what I gather from the reports, yes. Not directly applicable yet, b/c I want to see the video or a transcript before making any kind of direct judgments about what was said.

    Mostly related to my walking through the book of Jude with my congregation lately.

  3. Cal says:

    Jared, just so we are clear you just wrote a blog post insinuated that doctrine was sacrificed for love relating from the reports you have read about the ER2 despite the fact that you weren’t there, haven’t seen video, don’t know what/if doctrine was forfeited?

    That seems a little premature and hateful. If it’s not about the ER and just regarding your study on Jude that is one thing but it sounds like you are making a charge about something you in the dark on and you yourself said it was related to the ER. How is that at all justifiable or model biblical discernment?

  4. Jared C. Wilson says:

    It’s interesting what passes for hate these days. :-)

    Cal, based on Trevin Wax’s reliable summary — and nobody I’ve seen yet saying it didn’t capture the exchange accurately — I am not saying doctrine was sacrificed for love, but that it appears that doctrine was treated as a formality, a perfunctory thing not as important as other matters.

    I read that the transcript is now available, so I look forward to reading that and perhaps providing some directly addressed thoughts at that time. But the post — which doesn’t mention anybody in the ER — was inspired by the conversation the ER inspired.

    I am willing to be called a hater for being a stickler about the Trinity, should it come to that.

  5. Cal says:

    Jared, I was there, and do not believe that any doctrine which would be considered fundamental to the faith was compromised, dismissed, pushed aside, treated as a formality, or trivialized. And at some point if we continue to marginalize love and only “play” with those who think exactly like us, we end up hurting ourselves and dishonoring Jesus.

    Read the transcript and as long as you are willing to take men at their word, you will not find some heretical doctrinal scandal coming out of yesterday (to the disappointment of many!)

    ps. never called you a hater, and still think its walking on thin ice to write a post which is related and inspired by your own admission to the ER which could be taken as negative/defensive when you are not completely in the light on what was said and what the tone of the room was.

    I am thankful for your insight, but just because you don’t mention anybody by name doesn’t necessarily mean you kept them out of the line of fire either.

  6. Jared C. Wilson says:

    Cal, I am sorry if I mistakenly inferred from your calling my post “hateful” that I was hating someone.

    As to the transcript now released, I still think what wasn’t said is as important as what was.

    I don’t believe we can protect the doctrine of the Trinity too much, and reject the idea that the questioners have invented this “scandal.” Jakes and others invented it by obfuscating on Trinitarianism for years.

    Did he affirm the orthodox doctrine? Good. Let him now “own” it and preach it.

  7. Cal says:

    Jared, just wondering, what was not said that needed to be said? How was the Trinity not protected enough in that conversation? When did I ever accuse anyone of “inventing this scandal”? What would it take from Jakes for you to take him at his word? And do you believe that Macdonald or others were unfaithful to the Trinity or the Gospel in taking part of this conversation?

    I am honestly just trying to understand this perspective better and not trying to pick a fight, feel free to email me if you want to take this off of the blog comment section

  8. Paul says:

    I will simply gently say that the unity in love that is spoken of in Christ’s prayer in John 17 seems to be too quickly pushed aside.

  9. Jared C. Wilson says:

    Cal, at the risk of repeating myself, I am simply saying that I am glad for Jakes’ public affirmation of orthodox Trinitarianism. I think he could have helped himself further if he’d more directly disavowed his previous view, said modalism is wrong and he was wrong to believe it. You could say that is implied in his saying “I believe [three Persons] is where I am today” but the context appears to say this is his understanding now, but others have other understandings and that might be okay.

    Further, he could help himself in the future by actually preaching the Trinity. As I said in the post, which applies to all of us, the central doctrines of the faith — the things that distinguish Christianity from all that isn’t Christianity — aren’t just things to be nodded at under examination but to be articulated and proclaimed. That’s where the real proof is.

    But, again, I’m glad for the avowal.

  10. Jared C. Wilson says:

    Paul, I agree that unity in love is too often pushed aside.

  11. Tom Doidge says:

    Thank you!
    “the things that distinguish Christianity from all that isn’t Christianity — aren’t just things to be nodded at under examination but to be articulated and proclaimed. That’s where the real proof is.”

  12. R. Delaney says:

    Let’s just cut to the chase on this thing.

    Are we now prepared, based upon ER2, to affirm TD Jakes as a fellow orthodox evangelical Christian? If not, why not? If so, he should be allowed to join TGC.

    Cal should be able to embrace that.

    btw, Jared, thank you for being more discerning and critical than some of your fellow TGC bloggers.

  13. Joshua says:

    Even if Jakes has discovered that our God is a Trinitarian God, his associations w/those in the word-faith, prosperity (g)ospel movement would leave me absolutely unwilling to sit under his teaching. It is unloving to Christ and his church and does not in any way promote true unity to wink and nod at these issues. And by true unity, I mean unity within the Gospel, not unity within our fallen emotions that long for a feel-good peace that lacks the moorings of orthodoxy.

  14. R. Delaney says:

    I should say one last thing…

    If Jakes is confessing a trinitarian faith, The Gospel Coalition members who wanted him dis-invited from ER2 should write a letter of apology to James and TD, and post it on the TGC blog.

    However, for some reason this isn’t being addressed. TGC either doesn’t believe Jakes testimony on ER2 and is still labeling him as outside the bounds of orthodoxy, OR it got egg on its’ collective face and should repent for being uncharitable and harming his reputation.

    So far, no word is coming from TGC…just a lot of smiling and waving.

  15. graham and nicola says:

    From a Systematic Theology chosen at random-

    Sabellius

    A Libyan condemned and excommunicated at Rome, Sabellius represented full-orbed Modalism…His view has been called a “more sophisticated modalism”. God is essentially one. The Trinity is one of manifestation and not of essence. These manifestations are modes: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Sabellius used prosopa to mean “role” and not “person”, and seemingly he understood the roles as successive.

    James Leo GarrettSystematic Theology: Biblical, Historial & Evangelical Volume:1 (Eerdmans:1990) p278

    This is a whisker away from Mr Jakes “statement of faith” in the Elephant Room. While he is happy to use the language of “persons” (as Sabellius was prepared to use the language of prosopa) Mr Jakes believes that “manifestations” is more accurate.
    The best that can be said is that Mr Jakes does not reject Trinitarianism, that he does not reject Oneness Pentecostalism, and that he might feel that each is inadequate.
    The very idea that Mr Jakes has embraced Trinitarianism is premature and, possibly, irresponsible. We now need to hear from those Christians who have engaged with Oneness Pentecostalism; they have noted that modalists can use the language of “persons”, given certain qualifications.

    G&N

  16. Steve says:

    There is nothing at all hateful about questioning the credentials of a pastor who not only has been intentionally vague about the Trinity (the very center of our faith, the denial of which constitutes the worship of another god), but pushes a prosperity “gospel” which has not only had a major, deleterious impact on the African American community here, but is spreading like wild fire across the global south. Folks I talk to from Africa say that entire communities are preyed upon and sucked dry by traveling prosperity preachers, and Jakes has sent and supported his share, not to mention the legitimacy his own considerable public profile grants the movement as a whole, at least in public perception. That Driscoll and MacDonald have only confirmed that perceived legitimacy is tragic, and has consequences for churches and communities we may never see, especially if we happen to occupy mostly white, suburban churches. Bad doctrine isn’t just about checking boxes incorrectly–it hurts flesh and blood people in very tangible ways.

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Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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