In the immediate aftermath of ER2, a wise older brother counseled me to avoid the inevitable flurry of blog activity for at least a week.  That was really wise advice and I’ve taken a tad bit longer because I’m a tad bit slower than most.  One benefit of the advice given was that it allowed a lot of the early reactions (pro and con) to come and go.  That was useful simply for getting some perspective and not getting caught up in heat rather than light.  As time wore on, more light began to shine through as godly people on both “sides” of the issue joined in with helpful thoughts.  I’ve particularly appreciated the balanced and insightful piece Carson and Keller offered late last week.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  And if you have read it, you’ll probably want to read it slowly a few times.  I certainly did.

Reading and re-reading Carson and Keller, as well as a number of other post-game reports, left me with a few reflections, for what it’s worth.

1.  Nothing has changed with Jakes.  I won’t belabor this point because Carson and Keller’s piece covers that quite well, as does a couple other posts around the blogosphere.  Jakes’ comments on the Trinity were essentially the same comments he’s been making for the last 10-15 years.  He says he has moved and the Scripture prompted him to do so.  Comparing his statements in 2000 and 2012, it’s difficult to see that he’s moved at all unless the movement happened before 2000!  As far as I am concerned, the man’s teaching on the Trinity remains heretical.

2.  Something may have changed with us.  The Church is split more than it was previous to the ER.  We have new lines of division.  Are we among those who favor public discussion or those who are against public discussions with heretics?  Are we in the truth camp or the love camp?  Again, Carson and Keller expose this false dichotomy nicely and point us forward in healthy ways.  My only point is to say, “This division inside the broadly ‘Reformed’ camp feels new to me.”

3.  Theological depth is critical.  Honestly, I was surprised that so many could make such quick and bold pronouncements of Jakes’ orthodoxy after a short conversation before cameras.  Jakes used the same spiel he’s always used.  The entire discussion revealed not only Jakes’ poverty but the poverty of a lot of evangelical and Reformed Christianity.  In the final analysis, we were given not only a view of Jakes’ modalism but also of our own slippery and sometimes lazy grasp of the Trinity and other doctrinal issues of importance.  Let’s admit there’s truth beyond our knowledge here.  But let’s also admit that too many of us have not really sought to grasp what may be known.  Consequently, a lot of observers weren’t theologically prepared to discern truth from error, heat from light, wheat from chaff.  For me, that was painfully clear in the celebratory declamations following the event.  It saddened me and left me with a resolve to teach more systematic theology to my own church.  It also left me more determined to be a watchman on the wall.  How urgent it is for us “to watch our lives and doctrine closely.”  I think I’ll read Spurgeon’s “The Minister’s Self-Watch” again today, just for my own soul’s sake.

4.  We need a practical understanding of repentance.  ”Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance” was John the Baptist’s declaration.  The apostle Paul preached that men should “perform deeds in keeping with repentance” (Acts 26:20).  So, how do we know a person is genuinely repentant of false teaching or other sins?  Well, there should be some practical outworking of the changed mind and heart; there should be “deeds in keeping with repentance.”  What would that look like with Jakes?  Answering that question keeps us from making snap judgments and prematurely assuring someone in their error.  So, ask yourself: If I were a pastor and Jakes were on my staff while teaching these the prosperity gospel and modalism, what would I ask him to do to demonstrate his repentance?  Most of us would probably have a few things in mind, including: (a) a definite retraction and renunciation of previous error taught, (b) a clear and unprompted statement of the changed belief, and (c) a request for forgiveness from any offended.  In short, we’d look for him to clearly own his error without equivocation, advance the truth, and look to make amends where possible.  That would be the minimum we would expect before we gave him another public opportunity to teach.  Or, at least that’s the minimum I’d expect in the church I pastor.  But the evangelical practice of repentance can at times be so shallow, and we can at times be so desirous of a good outcome, that we grab at any mirage or any pretensions to repentance.  But group hugs are no substitute for thoughtful pastoral engagement.  In the end, we hurt ourselves and the very one needing to change.

5.  Divisions come swiftly and easily.  My heart breaks to see how quickly and easily the unity of the Spirit can be broken.  It really doesn’t take much at all… a few poorly stated sentences, hurts nursed and rehearsed, the refusal to reach out or keep short accounts.  Ephesians 4 and 5 contain critical instructions for us!  And this medium that I’m using right now can make the divisions deeper, wider, and quicker than most anything else I can imagine.  And, yet, some divisions are most certainly necessary.  I wish the necessary divisions could be recognized and enacted more quickly while the unnecessary divisions could be avoided all together.  Is it just me, or doesn’t it seem the unnecessary variety comes at the speed of light while the necessary toddles along slowly?

6.  A lot of reconciliation and brotherly affection gets shared privately, but it’s sometimes not useful to be insisted upon publicly.  A lot of people have taken it upon themselves to be the “private conversation police.”  They want to enforce a new rule for public discourse: Talk privately with those with whom you disagree before you disagree publicly.  I think that’s well intended, but it’s quite problematic.  Again, Carson and Keller handle this very well.  I just want to add that this desire to require private conversations before public redress has two unintended and negative consequences.  First, it means that the first persons to speak have the controlling leverage in the conversation.  That’s not much of a problem unless the first one to speak speaks heresy or some false teaching.  In that case, everyone who would act to counter the falsehood is held hostage by the purveyor of falsehood!  That’s a very bad outcome.  Second, the vocal insistence on private conversation, or rather the suggestion that no such conversation is happening, can actually frustrate and undermine very real private efforts at unity, restoration, and correction.  It’s surprising how public comments (ironically, without first making private contact!) about perceived private failings actually complicate the very private efforts being called for.  It’s also interesting to note how many unrelated parties feel entitled to know what’s happening in private sessions.  They don’t seem to realize that asking for private matters to be disclosed publicly might actually hinder trust and communication.  As it is, these things don’t always work out.  So, it’s probably prudent to use that few moments of keyboarding to instead offer a few words of prayer and intercession.

Here’s a rule of thumb: If you have to speculate about whether this or that conversation is happening, you’re probably not close enough to the situation to be useful.  If you can’t pick up the phone and ask one of the parties, “What’s going on?” then you’re probably not positioned to help or insist on private communication.

Speculative and sometimes accusatory writing in public forums, in my opinion, actually do very little to help situations while doing a fair amount to complicate matters and frustrate people.  I’ve become a fan of the old rules of engagement: If a person speaks or publishes something for public consumption, that speech or publication is automatically fair game for public critique and correction.  It can be useful, courteous, and sometimes necessary to contact a person to be sure you’ve understood them correctly.  But public addresses are fair game for public redress.  This in no way releases us from all the biblical requirements for charity, grace, and the like.  But it does free us to respond where situations warrant.

7.  Our cooperation needs to be principled rather than pragmatic.  This has really come home to me in a powerful way.  I realized something about myself.  My cooperation in TGC has largely been pragmatic.  I learn so much when I’m with the guys.  I’m stimulated by the conversations we have.  Many lessons and resources are shared with the church I pastor.  In all these ways I benefit from TGC.  Here’s the problem: I’ve been essentially selfish.  I was in danger of only cooperating for as long as it benefited me.  I was in danger of being “at the table” but not really contributing fully.  That’s selfish and it’s sin.  The divisions and threats to unity forced me to remember (realize?) that I need to remain involved in TGC because there are important principles at stake.  There is the evangelistic signal effect of unity with other disciples who hold the same gospel (John 13:34-35).  There is the need for unity beyond my local congregation.  There is the necessity of defending and confirming the gospel (Phil. 1:7; Jude 3-4).  There is the necessity of every part of the body contributing to the whole (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4).  I could go on.  The point is simply this: One danger to our unity and our coalitions may be the tendency to think in pragmatic rather than principled terms about our cooperation.  I need to be principled.

8.  Our cooperation can have a liberalizing tendency.  I’m all for a more robust unity across denominational lines.  But I’ve seen enough situations where “cooperation” becomes code for liberalizing.  I’ve seen this in denominational mergers here in the Caribbean, where groups from quite distinct confessional traditions have rushed to the lowest theological common denominator to create unity.  I’ve seen it in international churches in some of the great crossroads cities in the world.  The great diversity in those churches can subtly pressure leaders to minimize doctrine in order to “fit as many people in as possible.”  The victim will inevitably be doctrinal integrity and truth.  This doesn’t have to happen; it’s not a foregone conclusion.  I’ve seen international churches thrive quite well across wide diversity anchored in a shared confessional stance.  And we’ve seen the rise of trans-denominational networks that have held fast to robust theological commitments.  So, the act of cooperation does not lead inexorably to theological laxity and liberalism.  But it can if we’re not watchful and if we’re not constantly sharpening our commitments and restating them in fresh, living ways.

9.  There are descriptive and prescriptive ways of using “race.”  I injected the notion of ethnicity in my original post on the Jakes invitation.  I did so by pointing to the enormous influence the man has in predominantly African-American churches.  The intent was simply to describe an effect, to note a phenomena.  Such description is sometimes necessary and helpful.  But description is miles apart from injecting “race” in a way that prescribes how people should act, whether coercing certain behaviors or playing to certain expectations and stereotypes.  These prescriptive uses cross the line, in my opinion.  Attempting to prescribe behavior along “racial” lines keeps us locked into unhelpful “racial” categories, histories, and sins.  It’s one thing to say descriptively “Thabiti is African American” or “Sarah is Kikuyu.”  It’s an entirely different thing to say prescriptively, “All African Americans must act this way” or “Kikuyu people should be treated thus.”  One simply helps us observe the world as it is while the other attempts to sinfully manipulate and control others.

10.  ”Race” is not only powerful, it’s also about power.  These categories and histories affect us–sometimes viscerally.  They’re powerful. Just the mention of racial stereotypes or insinuating racial motives is enough to stir heated reaction and even riots in the streets.

But another thing for us to keep in mind is that “biological race” as a construct has always been a sibling to power.  Racial categories were created and put in the service of oppression and claims to supremacy.  The categories became justification for slavery, prejudice and bigotry, and all manner of evil.  The ability to define someone as a “racial other” is, plain and simple, an act of power.  The greatest acts of power occur when you not only define someone else’s reality but also when the persons so defined willingly accept your definition.  We have real power when people freely see themselves as we tell them to see themselves.  So, when African Americans or any ethnic group accepts “race” as a category–a category we did not invent but was forced upon us and used to justify our subjugation–we unwittingly succumb to the power of others to define us.  Without question, African Americans have appropriated those categories in subversive ways.  Think of the romantic appeals to Ethiopia in the 18th and 19th centuries, the New Negro movement, the Black Pride movement, and Afrocentrism.  All of those efforts to redefine categories–Ethiopian, Negro, Black, African American–largely thrust upon us but ultimately accepted, while subversive, are ultimately capitulations to the very categories themselves and to the power dynamics coupled with the categories.  The real power of self-determination doesn’t settle with redefining the categories, tinkering around the margins of color symbolism and cultural romanticism, but rejects the categories outright.

The Power we should be happily submitting to is that power to define us that YHWH alone has.  He has purposed that various families, clans, and ethnic groups exist, but not that those families should be categorized, marginalized, subjugated, or separated based upon the phony notion of “race” as “biological otherness.”  The question simply becomes: Who has power to define us and to define our behavior–God or man?  The answer ought to be obvious.  But here’s the challenge: Will we willingly endure the cognitive dissonance, social dislocation, and emotional discomfort to live under God’s definition?  In other words, will we be sanctified enough to conform more fully to the new humanity in Christ to which we’re called?

While I’m at this, I should point to something that seems to escape the notice of some people.  It’s just as much an act of power to define people in such a way as to deny their ethnic identity as it is to define them in ways that insist upon a racial identity.  Some people think that saying “‘race’ does not exist” provides a warrant for saying all that’s happened in the name of “race” did not happen or does not matter.  They seem to think that saying “‘race’ does not exist” means there is no sense or aspect of “otherness” that matters.  ”Race does not exist” becomes a magical mantra that wipes the slate clean and absolves us of any responsibility for pursuing reconciliation and justice.  ”Forget about culture.  Forget about ethnicity.  Let all that stuff go,” they tell us.  But, friend, doing that to someone is no less an act of power than defining them in a “racial” category of your choosing.  It’s simply a box marked “nothing,” which can be as debilitating as one of the many boxes marked “race.”  And it trades in the same power differential and dynamic.

What’s the solution then?  Let people self-identify.  Let’s be honest: None of us has this figured out.  Even those who feel they understand the Bible quite well on these points, if they’re honest they must admit that they understand these truths better than they live it.  So, people are in progress.  The light we have today we didn’t have five or ten or fifteen years ago.  If that’s true of us, then we should give others the five, ten, fifteen, twenty or more years they need to figure some things out, too.  Let’s be patient with one another and let folks grow into what Christ has called them to be.  Relax.  We don’t actually have to define one another into neat boxes with stereotypes and judgments.  We can actually allow the Lord by His word to define us and to define others.  We can and must allow Him to remove the old man and to renew us in the new man, a new man who remarkably includes in himself every ethnic group, family, or clan of the world.  It’s worth figuring out our ethnic selves because in the age to come our ethnicity will redound to the Lamb’s glory.

11.  My assumptions about my usefulness need chastening.  What do I mean by that?  Two things.  First, it was evident that a lot of the actors and commentators before, during, and after the event had very little knowledge of Jakes and his teaching.  Some of the least familiar have been the most unhelpful.  I’m not blaming them because I recognize in this situation my tendency to sometimes speak when I should really remain silent, listen, and learn.  I’m sometimes asked to speak at various places or address certain topics for which I have little to no expertise.  Thankfully, to this point, I’ve been able to spot most of those invitations and turn them down.  Recent events have made me all the more concerned about rightly assessing what I know (or don’t know!) and responding accordingly.  I can’t be helpful where I’m really ignorant.  Second, it was also evident that we live in a complex world with lots of factors and pressures acting on people all the time.  We can sometimes think that action ‘x’ should lead to result ‘y’.  But, if I’m honest with myself, I almost never see that happen in life and ministry.  I’m far less influential than I sometimes think.  Seeing the complexity and seeing my limitations have taught me in some measure, however small, to think less of myself and my ability to be strategic, influential, helpful, etc.  I’m not that useful.  The work and the battle is the Lord’s.  I rest in Him.

 

Well, that’s my 11 things for tonight.  Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll try to put a face on some of this.

In the comments, I’m not looking for more debate about recent events.  I’m registering my thoughts for what they’re worth.  Feel free to comment.  But if the comments get steered toward acrimony or allegation, I’ll either delete the comment or close it altogether.  I’m hoping these are constructive thoughts and hoping yours will be, too.

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103 thoughts on “11 Things I’m Thinking in the Wake of Recent Events”

  1. Caleb Land says:

    Pastor Thabiti,
    Thank you for your humility and wisdom in all of this. I know that many of the events surrounding ER2 have been frustrating and likely personally hurtful to you and you have shown nothing but genuine pastoral concern and a love of truth and the Gospel. I hope that your voice and your influence will grow, not so that you can be glorified because of your wisdom or because of innovation or the size of your church, but so that God would be glorified in you. God Bless!

  2. Calvin says:

    First, to call a man a heretic and ask that no one respond to the contrary is unfair. If we we simply talking about an idea, a doctirne or a principle that would be one thing, but if you are going to speak your mind on another person, do allow others to chime in concerning your conclusion.

    You said in your post that, “as far as I am cocnerned”, and thats the problem. You act as if your concern is the only concern. Call that attitude whatever you’d like.

    If al you were going todo was to echo what Carson and Keller said, youcould have saved your post altogether. I know this wont be posted, but maybe you can gain some insight from this “private” conversation.

    1. Gary says:

      Calvin, but on the flip side, it was perfectly fine for MacDonald and Driscoll to declare that Jakes is fine in his “theology” and ask that nobody respond to the contrary? LOL, pot meet kettle.

      1. Calvin says:

        I dont know anything about that.

  3. Frank Gantz says:

    Calvin, I believe you missed the whole point of this article. Thabiti spelled out rules of engagement which included that public speech is fair game.

    I found this article helpful, wise and worth the time.

    1. Calvin says:

      And what did it help you to do?

      1. Frank Gantz says:

        Since you are a bit picky, I will respond that I did not say it helped me to “do” anything. I said it was helpful. It was helpful in encouraging me to think more clearly as a believer and to pursue more and more of who God is.

        1. Calvin says:

          I am a trinitariian. I believe it to best explain the inexplicable relationship between the Father, His Son, and His Holy Spirit. I believe that He would expect us to emulate that relationship in all of our relationships with others who profess His name.

          What good is a trinitarian belief that does not inform my interactions with other professing believers. No good at all. It is just words of a creed which has no bearing on my life. This, my brother is why I am “so picky”. I pick my brothers over my ideologies.

          I say ideologies because though I am a trinitarian, I remain completely certain that my understanding is only in part and not complete. We do the best we can wen it comes to these matters. That is humility. To know that neither I, nor a church hat was guided by a Ceasar (Constantine) is capable of truly plummenting the depths of the sacred relations between the Father, His Son and His Holy Spirit.

          Therefore, I may only expect a brother or siater in Christ to believe and confess Jesus Christ as the Only Begotten Son of God (which is even more important than accepting the trinity). This is all that the Bible requires for salvation.

          1. Scott says:

            Calvin, believing that “Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God” as the most important thing would allow for the inclusion of Mormons and Jehova’s Witness in orthodax Christianity. Without a right understanding of the Trinity….rightly articulated, you cannot rightly understand who Jesus Christ is. A modalist could proclaim that very statement regarding Christ.

            Words mean things, and correct articulation in discipleship matters, and is loving….as it can determine the destination of one’s soul.

            Thankmyou, Thabiti, for your points. Certainly, we all must rethink how we engage others.

            1. Calvin says:

              I’m sorry, but that’s whatthe BIBLE Requires. You must therefore take your concerns for ariticualtion to God, since in your view He is the one who neglected to include your essential nuances.

          2. Nicola and Graham says:

            Calvin

            There are a few errors in your post that should be pointed out.

            Primarily, the idea that Constantine is in any way responsible for Trinitarianism belongs in a Dan Brown novel. Constantine wanted a united Church, and so he backed the consensus at Nicea. He then back-tracked to a semi-Arian position. Thankfully, Athanasius and others convinced the Church to stay true to its central convictions.

            As we have pointed out ad nauseum Theism and Trinitarian Theism are two different worldviews. Love is not eternal on modalism, for example. It means less for the Father to give the Son if they are both manifestations. There is no mediator if the Son is not a different person than the Father. There is simply no compatibiity between Modalism and Trinitarianism. None at all. And we’re willing to be judged on that statement.

            Nicea is simply a summary of John’s Gospels and his Epistles. The great Creeds do not attempt to explain the Trinity! That is pure urban myth. The Creeds protect the mystery. The Creeds affirm that the persons are real, and God is one; they then state that we may not use Modalism or Arianism to explain the Trinity away.

            N&G

            1. Calvin says:

              Thank you for your summary of the trinity. Now, as I accept the trinity there is no need for us to drill down into it any further.

              My thpoughts here are simply this:

              Because our explanation of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as thorough and logical as it sounds, is not the complete unveiling of this mystery, we must not allow ourselves to be torn away from our brothers who hold a diferent perspective.

              When we all see Jesus face toface, He will make the whole thing plain for us, but before we talk theology, I think that He is going to be much more interested in how we have loved one another.

              All I am saying is that when a matter can be argued thoroughly from the scriptures on both sides of a matter, we must be willing to continue in our conictions but respoect the position of others, so long as they hold to the essential doctrine that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

              The purpose of the Book of John maintains as its central purpose once and for all times (thats even more than ad nauseum:

              “That we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son Of God, and believeing you might have life in His name.”

              If a person confesses this, then I have no right to deny him my fellowship because he does not accept my particular position on trinitarianism.

              We can discuss Constantine’s power over churchdoctrine sat another time.

            2. Sean Nelson says:

              Calvin replies with:

              The purpose of the Book of John maintains as its central purpose once and for all times (thats even more than ad nauseum:

              “That we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son Of God, and believeing you might have life in His name.”

              If a person confesses this, then I have no right to deny him my fellowship

              A question: If a person confesses the above words, should I take the time to check whether or not they mean the same thing by the confession as I do?

              For example: They confess “Jesus is the Christ.” Alrighty. What do they think it means to say that someone is “the Christ?” Is the Christ a bringer of prosperity and wealth, or is he a suffering servant who would die on a cross to satisfy the wrath of God against rebel sinners?

              Or, let’s say they confess Jesus to be the Son of God. By that, do they mean that he is simply “a” Son of God? Is he the eternally existent Son of God, or did God create him at some point like the angels? Is he truly God’s Son, distinct from the Father, or is he the same person, but now wearing a different hat so to speak?

            3. Steve says:

              The quip about a “Dan Brown novel” is spot on. I would suggest, for a scholarly treatment of the issues, Lewis Ayres Nicaea and Its Legacy, from Cambridge Press. Also, Khaled Anatolios has a new book out which seeks to correct some things in Ayres (the latter tends to downplay Athanasius’ influence) from Baker Academic. These are critical issues for Christians to ponder, especially at a time when many folks seem willing to sacrifice our catholic (notice the small “c”) faith.

            4. graham and nicola says:

              Calvin

              We’re not sure that we understand what is generating your anger. However, we are sure that you have missed our point somewhat.
              We were not clarifying Trinitarianism. We were clarifying the role and history of Nicea.
              We were also clarifying that there is no compatibility between modalism and Trinitarianism. You might as well argue that, given the limitations on our knowledge, we should be humble and accept that Hindus and Christians have the same idea of God! After all, Ramanujah was a Theist. Or that the Koran and the Bible have, basically, the same message.
              You cannot reconcile “God is One Substance in Three Persons” with either “God is One Person” or “God is only Personal in a Metaphorical sense.”

              Sooner or later choices have to be made. That’s all that we were pointing out; we’re sorry if this caused offence. That certainly wasn’t our intention.
              G&N

            5. Calvin says:

              My anger is generated when we reject brothers and sisters in Christ and taklk about it as if it were no more than an intellectual , academic exercise. To pronounce someone a heretic is a weighty matter, best done by the truly humble and not by those who think they know all things.

              I truly believe that rejecting our brothers and sisters in Christ as you are doing, makes God angry. That is worth being angry about. For me it is about the person and his heart, not just about his position.

            6. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Dear Calvin,

              Thank you for joining the conversation, brother, and for engaging so many of the other commenters on the blog. It’s kind of you to do that, especially as you happily do a little ‘give and take’.

              If I can, I’d like to assure you that no one is calling Jakes a heretic lightly. Nor is anyone doing it as though they “know all things”–certainly I’m not.

              I don’t know Jakes. I don’t know his private life, anything about how he treats his family, or anything about his private devotion. I only know what he teaches and stands for in his public ministry. So, my assessment is limited to his public ministry. But because I don’t know his private life I’m hesitant to affirm him as a brother. You have more confidence (perhaps grace?) in that area than I do. I’m just cognizant that just as a brother can be wrongly suspected, so too some servants of the enemy can masquerade as angels of light. I’m not saying that’s Jakes by any means. Again, I don’t know him. I’m assuming you don’t either. So in light of the fact that he could be either a brother or a false convert/messenger, wouldn’t modesty require we neither affirm or deny him as a brother? Part of the confusion comes from wanting to rush to any judgment in matters that really must be left to God. We can’t judge either way. We don’t know the heart that you are rightly so concerned for.

              T-

          3. mike daniels says:

            but not even that was asked of the woman at the well, to her Christ simply said, “go and sin no more”.
            so now do we make that our minimum standard?

            and again, i do not see Thabiti stating that Jakes cannot under any circumstances be saved, neither now or ever. just that he teaches a heresy, and hence by definition is a heretic.

            1. Calvin says:

              Thabiti, I will agree that we should not judge either way. God will judge. I can agree with that statement. This is all I have been attempting to convey. A little modesty on all our parts.

              And since you have shown a willingness to stand on your convictions, and at a minimum be cautious of alternate convictions, I can do no less.

              Itis true that there are some preachers who have not walked as closely to the theological orthodoxy passed down to us from the apostolic fathers as acceptable and enlightened doctrine.

              It is also true that without some parameters on our orthodoxy, we stand to lose the essence of the message we have been charged to proclaim. I understand the zeal for right understanding, and the need for soundness in doctrine.

              Lastly, I do beleve that God’s heart is capable of accepting as his own, even those who through no ill intent or malice, have come to beleieve on the Lords Jesus Christ in sincerity, but may lack the theological acumen that may come from a more arduous contemplation of Biblical truth. That being said, there are far too many who may not have understood God to be trinity, who have kept his word as best they could, just as we, who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. I do not believe that God would turn such away because for whatever reason they either were not able to or were not willing to understand this important doctrine. God’s grace is greater than that.

              I will only repeat the clear and concise requirement that we have been given in order to be saved. We must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, thatHe has died for our sins, and He is risen physically and bodily from the dead. I would not compromise these essential truths because the Bible has so plainly laid them out for us.

  4. Rees says:

    Thabiti,

    I have followed this debate from the safer shores of North Africa in Carthage, Tunis (Augustine’s land) and have learnt a lot from your engagement in this matter. I have equally been humbled by Br. Voddie’s (who preached in my local church last summer (in Zambia)) last posting. I want to support your comment on the many bloggers that know/knew little about T.D. Jakes, and his influence, and especially in the body of Christ outside of the USA. The last post from TGC alluded to a bookshop in SA full with Jakes’ books, and that is probably the least harmless of his influences on this continent. There are numerous Potters’ houses ministries in nearly all the major English speaking cities, stretching from Johannesburg in South Africa, Lusaka in Zambia, Nairobi Kenya, all the way to Accra Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria. In addition, TBN is beaned across English speaking Africa for 24 hours and Jakes is available at the click of the button. And all this is happening during the people’s unprecedented openess to the gospel of our Lord. Well does the Lord warn us about two types of sowers; of good seed and of tares. God bless you Pastor T.

    1. John says:

      Hi Rees,
      Good word brother. I have some friends near where you are that would also be fans of blogs like this one. I’d love to put you in touch with them.
      Blessings!
      John

  5. Rev. E. L. Smith says:

    Thabiti,

    Sir thank you for your comments & your faithfulness to the Gospel. Also to whoever guided you with such guidence to delay before you responded thank you to them as well. I believe if there is a true desire to see T. D. Jakes repent from both modelism &a false gospel then this is the type of gospel approach that must be taken.

    Maybe from this point those who are Reformed & believe in a Sovereign God will begin top pray on such a way, believing that Jakes will repent.

    May T. D. Jakes repent but not because of men but because God has moved him to do so.

  6. Joe Torres says:

    Thabiti,

    Have you seen this short clip? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljH6FdcQQOA

    It’s short but powerful (though not in a helpful way). I was quite grieved at what is explicitly said about motives and implicitly being said about orthodoxy and the “rules for engagement” when African Americans challenge African American over the very identity of God.

    While surely there are other, lesser known, African American evangelicals who were wary of Jakes’ invite to the ER, those who were most well known would include you, Anthony Bradley, Voddie Bauckham, and Mark Robinson. Accusing African Americans who publicly stand against heterodoxy (at best) and heresy (at worst)as clamoring to “fit in the white theological world” strikes me as grievously ad-hominem and deconstructive (they didn’t address the explicit concerns that you and others have shared but instead attempted to “get around and under” the explicit to what’s “really” going on).

    Thoughts?

    1. Calvin says:

      I am not as well known as Brother Thabiti, but I am black and I am here in this post as well as other GC blogs addressing this whole matter from a theological, historical and ecclesiastical perspective.

      It is possible to disagree with others without regad to the color of their skin.

      1. Caleb B says:

        Calvin,
        That’s the point Joe Torres is making!

        If you watch the video clip he gave the link to, you will see a discussion between James MacDonald and three African American pastors where the three do exactly what Joe Torres describes.

        I suggest you watch the video.

  7. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    “But I’ve seen enough situations where “cooperation” becomes code for liberalizing.”

    Yow! That’s a great insight! Now that I think about it, that’s quite true.

    So many great thoughts in your post, but this one truly struck me.

    God can redeem this ER2 controversy.

    1. Kyle says:

      Of course the corollary here is: “I’ve seen plenty of situations where “defending the truth” becomes code for unnecessary divisiveness.”

      1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

        Amen to that, too, brother!
        T-

  8. Nicola and Graham says:

    Pastor Anyabwile,

    We appreciate your leadership during this episode. We were also glad that you kept your focus on racism; this should have reminded everyone that more than one crisis faces North American conservative evangelicalism.

    We agree with nearly everything that you said. One or two points worth considering.

    The division in he Reformed Camp seems new, but we think it has been caused by incoherence in the YRR camp. Roughly speaking, one part of the camp has been heavily influenced by the Church Growth movement; the other has been heavily influenced by confessionalism.
    The Church Growth lobby wants to use some aspects of Reformed Theology to give their Churches conservative roots.This is consistent with a focus on Church Growth as the “rebel conservative” is a very marketable product. These leaders certainly know what they are against – traditionalism, emergentism, postmodernity – but they are quite vague on what they stand for. They would probably be surprised at that accusation, but their theology merely extends as far as basic statements of faith.
    The “confessional” group tends to prioritise depth and endurance over growth. They need not feel constrained by confessions and creeds, but they certainly want to learn from them. They seem more loyal to denominations and more aware of their evangelical heritage.
    We’re supposed to say that the two groups have much to learn from each other. They certainly can learn something from each other. But we think that the “Church Growth” lobbyists have much more listening to do. This was revealed in ER2 – superficial agreement on the nature of the Gospel was deemed sufficient for fellowship. After all, the participants shared Church Growth as a goal. The deep conflict between modalism and trintarianism went undetected.
    We’re also worried about the “Growth” lobby’s use of statistics. On ER2 Pastor MacDonald trotted out his usual list of facts and figures that, allegedly, are evidence of an evangelical Church in terminal decline. This decline justifies radical action. But the problem is that we’re not sure that the data does suggest that the Church is in terminal decline. In “Christians Are Hate Filled Hypocrites… and Other Lies You’ve Been Told” Bradley Wright notes that scare statistics have been bandied about since the 1970’s. Yet the evangelical Church has grown. It is encouraging that much of this growth has been due to evangelism, and not population growth.

    G&N

  9. John says:

    Just wanted to say: I love you, brother.

  10. christopher says:

    “Some people think that saying “‘race’ does not exist” provides a warrant for saying all that’s happened in the name of “race” did not happen or does not matter. They seem to think that…”Race does not exist” becomes a magical mantra that wipes the slate clean and absolves us of any responsibility for pursuing reconciliation and justice.”

    Thabiti, i don’t know if you’ve ever made the above-comment publicly before, but THANK YOU for doing so now. Sadly, i have heard MANY (perhaps, well-intentioned) brothers interpret/distort your T4G teachings in exactly this way. i think this clarification needs to be repeatedly widely.

    Lastly, i won’t argue with you that your assumptions of your usefulness need “chastening.” If the Lord is dealing with you on this, then i don’t want to get in the way. But i think one way in which you have been immensely “useful” has to do more with the Christ-like love you regularly demonstrate as a blogger rather than the theological knowledge that you possess (1 Cor. 13:1-3). i thank God for the patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control that have become a hallmark of your blog posts and interactions with commenters. In this you have certainly become worthy of imitation. Soli Deo Gloria!

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hey brother,

      Thanks for the blog love–especially after you drilled me with the lawyer’s questions the other night! ;-) lol Great to see you and the Mrs along with the new addition.

      I appreciate the encouragement and the critiques you and others are offering in this thread. May the Lord give us all grace and wisdom in our generation.

      Soli Deo Gloria!
      T-

  11. Douglas says:

    There is another, in my opinion, awful conference happening this weekend, ONE CONFERENCE, which is I think, worse than the Elephant Room, it is cause for further concern and will bring in even greater confusion and deception. Brian Houston, from AOG Hillsong Australia will be one of the speakers there and he has been a purveyor of the word of faith prosperity gospel for decades. He will not be the only one preaching falsehood there this weekend. It is tragic. They do not know how to blush. They sin grossly in their twisting of God’s word. They never repent of it? I doubt if any of the professing Reformed people speaking there will rebuke or reprove them?

    What are we, Christian like myself, who have been burnt and misled by people like them, what are we supposed to say and do? I struggle with the root of bitterness and it seems like it is never ending? Help!

    1. John says:

      Doug, I feel your pain. I was raised in a Christian tradition that also taught a distortion of the gospel. I struggled for years with bitterness, and probably still do to some extent. The only thing I can encourage you with, is that God’s grace is bigger. While I still try to rescue those who have a background similar to mine, I find that my heart is purified not by fighting against the enemy, but by pressing into God. Hm, that sounded a bit Christian-jargonish to me. It’s hard to explain.

      1. Douglas says:

        Thanks John. “It’s hard to explain.” – I think I know what you mean. I’ve been reading this this morning: Memorize and it is so true, especially what Charles Swindoll says. It has been a comfort, someone can speak to us through what they write. My wife and listen to Hank from time to time even though he does not see the biblical truths of the Reformed Faith clearly. We used to listen to the B.A.M. a lot in Western Australia when we first got internet access while living there. We have a soft spot in our hearts for him.

  12. Andrew says:

    “Because our explanation of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as thorough and logical as it sounds, is not the complete unveiling of this mystery, we must not allow ourselves to be torn away from our brothers who hold a diferent perspective.”

    Brother Calvin, i believe this is the logic that people in the comment section, and i myself disagree with. I hope to fairly represent your logic, and with respect show why i think your logic is faulty. I do not intend this to be polemical, rather, instructive.

    I hope to represent your view well(let me know if i didn’t). You seem to be stating that because the exact nature of the trinity cannot be known, we should be allowed to disagree with the precise formulation. You seem to suggest that although the trinity is the best way to understand, we shouldn’t be meticulous about or holding to it, because God still has mystery.

    I believe that logic to be faulty(with all due respect) for several reasons
    1-We can know the exact nature of God to the extent God has revealed it(Deut 29:29 illustrates that principle). Example: God is a Father because he has revealed it to us. Therefore we can precisely say he is a Father. Reality may be MORE than we can imagine right now(in fact it is), but it is no LESS than the pure truth that God is a Father. The same is true of the Trinity. God is a Trinity(Father, Son, Spirit, One God, three persons) because he has revealed to us in his Word and for additional assurance, is affirmed by Church History. So we could say of God, about the reality of God’s Trinitarian Nature, that it could be DEEPER than the trinity, but it is not any SHALLOWER than that. God is a Father and God is a Trinity. Therefore the Trinity is essential because it is the revealed truth of God’s nature 100% to our abilities to understand it.
    Hopefully that logic made sense. I would appreciate if a brother could find better words than the bolded words i used, but i couldn’t think of any(i have no formal theological training, but have received extensive lay theological education). Also if the logic is faulty i would appreciate rebuke and i will rescind the comment.

    2- This point i am more sure of. The gospel is Trinitarian. No other formulation(modalism, arianism, tritheism, ext) can accurately portray the gospel presented by the bible because it would destroy an essential truth of the gospel.
    You say,
    ““That we might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son Of God, and believeing you might have life in His name.”

    If a person confesses this, then I have no right to deny him my fellowship because he does not accept my particular position on trinitarianism. ”

    However, if one confesses that Christ is the Son of God, without understanding what that actually means, then you are not putting your faith in Christ, but in your own self-made understanding of Christ. As has been pointed out in previous comments; Mormons, Jehovah witness, and other cults fall under this logic. I think you would agree with me in saying they are not brothers.
    If God is not a trinity then the gospel falls apart. Without the three persons, the truth of the gospel crumbles. (Especially in the incarnation, crucifixtion, and resurrection).

    For these two reasons(God can be known and has made himself known as a Trinity, and the Trinity is essential to the Gospel) that i would encourage you to rethink your idea of fellowship with non-trinitarians. Remember you don’t have to believe in the trinity per-se to be saved(explicitly), but if you are saved you will be believe in the trinity or you are denying Christ, something a believer cannot do.

    With love and respect,
    Andrew

    1. Calvin says:

      To your first point I noted that you gave scripture for our being able to know the nature of God,in fact Jesus Himself teaches us the nature of God. But you failed to use scripture (one clear scripture which does not require anythingmore than a simple rerading) when you mentioned the trinity. I was wondering why you didnt give a scripture there as well.

      To point number 2,thank you for at least recognizing that the relationship between father, Son , and Holy Spirit can at least be deeper than we can understand. That probably seperates you from most reformed brethren as well as GC members. These guys think they have the market cornered on the subject.

      I am more certain of this point, that a man will be saved if he believes that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. So long as he sees father as meaning father and son as meaning son. That sounds pretty simple, but Jesus actually thanked the Father for revealing Himself to ther simple, the regular, the common person.

      You call yourself the son of your father and the meaningh is cklear asnd simple. Why must you over complicate Jesus Christ being the Son of God. Why must you imply that the Bible, the very words God has given us, in the manner that He gave it, is not clear enough for you?

      I believe that it is far more important to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God than it is to believe the trinity. I know this is so, because I was saved before I ever knew what a trinity was. So were you. If I was saved before understanding the trinity then it canniot be essential to salvation. I hope that simple logic does not escape you.

      1. Mike Daniels says:

        Calvin,
        I did to know what it meant to eat, drink, walk, or speak when I was born. And yet even though they were not needed in order to be born, do I discard there necessity in order to grow and live?
        When defining a qualifies teacher, why would we be satisfied by one (Jakes) who may meet the minimum qualification of salvation?
        Some times simpler is not better.

        1. Andrew says:

          Brother Calvin,

          Firstly thank you for pointing out that my lack of citing support for scriptures for the Trinity bothered you. I didn’t add that part because i didn’t want to talk down to you(or give the appearance of) by citing and explaining scriptures I had assumed you knew/heard argued before. I will change my approach in future situations.

          Secondly, I’m glad i understand your position better now with your latest post. Although I still don’t quite agree with your logic, i appreciate you position more and your appeal to a simple faith. Although i believe(if i’m understanding correctly) i agree with you on what qualifies for salvation, i believe we differ on what qualifies for orthodoxy and fellowship.

          Thirdly, i appreciate how this all was handled by you and the respect you gave me back. Hopefully all brothers can imitate that spirit in comment sections because they can get ugly.

          This is an interesting question as a whole. How essential is the Trinity? In what ways? I tend to obviously lean to essential nature. The answer does not seem quite that simple and will certainly be nuanced. I would love for Pastor Thabiti or any TGC member to answer that as i believe it would help us to understand the deeper implications of T.D. Takes Modalism and the impact it has on the gospel.

          Let us not forget this issue has not been forgotten in church history, from the Athanasian Creed:
          “1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

          2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

          3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; “

          1. Calvin says:

            Andrew, I think that your questions are spot on here. In the final analysis, I am not asking that we accept modalism, I am only asking that we slow down in pronouncing others heretics with such ease. It is a weighty matter, and we need to exercise a little patience with one another.

            I would rather side with a briother who seems to be sincere as best he can in following Jesus, than with judges who “think” they are standing as his judge.

        2. Calvin says:

          I am not discussing his teacher credentials. I am discussing the fact that he is still a brother in Christ.

          1. Andrew says:

            Hopefully this discussion will be read by those who were discussing with you earlier. It should help them understand where your coming from.

            Also i do want to clarify(for everyone) that i am trinitarian, i believe the trinity is essential to the gospel(as explain above), and do believe that it is both appropriate and necessary to call Jakes a heretic.

            I however agree with brother calvin that we should continue to dialouge over the nature of the importance of this issue and not take up our torches so quickly.

  13. Ray Ortlund says:

    Thank you.

  14. Jay Beerley says:

    In Sunday School yesterday I was teaching from Galatians 4. Listening to this “Calvin” talk about love in some detached way from truth, I think Paul’s heartfelt words are key here:

    “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth? They make much of you, but for no good purpose. They want to shut you out, that you may make much of them.” Gal. 4:16-17

    True love requires telling the truth (1 John 4). It is based on the eternally existent Trinitarian love. If you want to love a brother (not a black term, hopefully understood), you’ve got to tell him truth.

    This Galatians passage and 1 John 4 have haunted me in thinking over these events the past few days. God bless you, Pastor Anyabwile, for your faithfulness.

  15. Shane Ebanks says:

    Pastor Thabiti,

    Great thoughts! It’s hard not to think that with the acceptance and subsequent fleshing out to some wise council, that this “mess” could be averted. However messy though it seems “now that the elephant has done his business”, one thing is refreshingly apparent, more than allowing us to observe wise play-calling from those Pastors who stay within the pocket, or the well intentioned yet at times unwise decisions of the few who would scurry outside the pocket for the big play and have to take there bruises. I have been taught more about myself (my heart), ministry, accountability, watching life and doctrine, courage, grace etc. Through observing what has occurred over the months concerning ER/ER2, more so in the aftermath of ER2. Only God could exhume pearls from elephant dung!

    Grace and Peace!!

  16. JP says:

    I have the same question as Joe Above.

    This post ER2 video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljH6FdcQQOA) with three African American pastors was particularly disturbing. I couldn’t help but think that Loritts was referring to you… and I was offended by it! This is a different issue from the ER2 issues that have been discussed to this point but who is there to point out the motive-assuming harm being done here?

  17. Matt Jacobs says:

    Pastor T:

    This post and your post on “whiteness” and “blackness” are two of the richest, most thought-provoking pieces I’ve read in a long time.

    As Christopher wrote above, I won’t challenge your thoughts on your usefulness if you feel God is working on you in this way. That said, I would like to encourage you by telling you that you’ve been very helpful to me over the years. I don’t always agree with every single iota, but, man, I sure do appreciate your thoughtfulness and faithfulness. You always challenge me to pour myself more into the Scriptures and to cling tighter to the cross. I regularly forward your thoughts on to my teenage sons to challenge them, as well.

    Bless you,
    Matt Jacobs

  18. OFelixCulpa says:

    The issues in the recent controversy are very important, but through all of it I felt that things were very much sensationalized. Perhaps that’s the nature of blog media, but I find it rather disturbing–perhaps even annoying. What do you think?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi brother,

      Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read and comment. I would agree that things have been sensationalized to some extent. There’s been a lot of heat and drama, but hopefully the Lord will guide us to clearer light and wisdom.

      T-

  19. michael henry says:

    I agree almost entirely with your post Sir, and thanks for writing it. However, I disagree that Carson and Keller accomplished anything except to cement the perception that when it is in house, the wagons are circled.
    The problem isn’t just Jakes or race, it’s the Furticks, and the porn vision Driscoll, the threaten to have your brother arrested McDonald, the wait weeks and write timid responses (DeYoung) that came from the larger GC and the list goes on.
    More than even them, it is the attitudes and theologies that lie behind all the mistakes. There is enough accountability that won’t even be called to the table for many folks involved to keep the blogophere going for a long time.
    Honestly, this is more like our generations downgrade controversy than a “very much sensationalized” happening. What was said and done, wrongly, lies at the feet of more than one or two men, but within GC and the liberal Church, they will not be called to repentance.

    1. graham and nicola says:

      Pastor Anyabwile,
      We’d just like to reiterate how helpful your recent posts on race were, and we hope that they are not lost in the smoke and fog coming from ER2.
      They were illuminating and spiritually and pastorally useful. Thank you for them.

      G&N

  20. Thomas says:

    Pastor Thabiti – I just want to thank you – not only for this, but helping me everyday get through my 9-5. Someday in the future or someday in glory I will be able to share with you how you helped me even walk through the doors at work.
    P.S. We had a short conversation at the book tables during the Chicago gospel coalition. We talked about my then pregnant wife – you prayed for my wife and child. All is well and I appreciated my short encounter with you as well.
    Praying for you daily

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear brother,

      It’s good to hear from you and to hear things are well with the family. Thank you for your encouragement; it’s very meaningful to me. I hope the Lord will allow us to connect again some time in the near future. My love to your wife and the baby,

      T-

  21. Daniel Stippinger says:

    Hi,

    I’ve been following this whole ER2 controversy quite shocked, grieved and confused. One of the main points that disturbs me is that although Jakes in this debate gave the impression that Oneness believers are just christians like you and me who just don’t get their head around all of the theology, noone (meaning mostly MacDonald and Driscoll) even attempted to challenge those implications/statements. Is that really so? I gotta admit that I’ m fairly confused by now. Is modalism a heresy compatible with the christian faith like maybe other areas of theological disagreement like calvinism vs. arminianism? After all, they get the deity of Christ right, don’t they? After discussions with close friends I’ve come to see that this is really what some people believe, even though they would of course fight for the belief of the trinity…and I’m caught up in between, not knowing what to do. I certainly don’t want to call someone unsaved who is a beloved child of God, but on the other hand I want to confront people with the truth and draw the line where God wants it to be drawn…

    1. graham and nicola says:

      If the Father, Son and Spirit are not persons, who have had genuineley selfless love for one another from all eternity, then it means little for the Father to give the Son, or for the Son to be abandoned by the Father on the Cross. Love is not eternal if the persons do not eternally love each other; we would rob the phrase “God is love” of its significance if we denied the reality of the persons. There is no mediator between God and man if the Son was not a separate person who became incarnate.

      In other words, modalism slanders the character of God. Can someone be saved and be a modalist? Will Muslim, who has not been reached with the Gospel, calls on God for mercy, and trusts in him alone for it, enter heaven?
      We’re not God, so we don’t know. But we know that neither is a Christian. And if the modalist has heard and understood the Gospels, and rejects who Jesus really is then we hold out more hope for the unevangelised.

      N&G

      1. Daniel Stippinger says:

        thank you, I think this was helpful :)

    2. Mike Daniels says:

      I would caution to say that a false teaching makes a false teacher, but not always a nonchristian.
      We judge rightly the word and deed, but travel way out onto a small branch to begin to judge the heart and intent of the speaker and doer.

      Nathan rightly rebuked King David’s action, he did not say that The King was no longer a man of God, let alone a “man after God’s own heart” .

    3. Jayesh says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15: 
      “If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of him. Do not associate with him, in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”

      Paul knew the dangers well, and we should too. As Christians, we must take precaution as to who we associate with, even if – especially if – they are brothers in Christ. We are far more likely to learn and adopt false teachings and ungodly lifestyles from brothers in Christ than from outsiders, because we let our guard down around those who we consider to be in the family of God.

      TD Jakes may be a confused/disobedient brother in the Lord, or he may be a false prophet (see 2 Peter 2). I guess that is what half this controversy is about. Whatever the case, it would be wise not to associate with him, both for his sake and for others, which is why inviting him to ER2 was a mistake.

      I know that doesn’t answer all your questions. Just my two cents.

  22. Henry says:

    Thabiti,

    While I agree with you that Jakes is still wrongfully fuzzy on the Trinity, I would appreciate it if you could explain why this is warrant to keep separate from him since:

    Did not C.S. Lewis deny inerrancy? John Stott held to annihilationsim, and Roger Nicole promoted the egalitarian heresy.

    Why do evangelicals not adopt the same attitude towards these men? Is it not possible for a man to have significantly aberrant doctrine yet still have evidence of God’s grace in his life?

    I’m not saying that TD Jakes falls into that camp, but it is possible he does.

    In light of the aforementioned men (and many others) what is a ‘false-teacher’ and a heretic? (without depending on church councils).

    Unless these questions are dealt with I do not see how we can reject Jakes without doing the same to C.S. Lewis.

    1. Mike Daniels says:

      Surely you do not ask that either we separate from every man who has ever sinned, or accept all sinners as brothers?

      I do not think that is what you would truly argue, but …

      1. Henry says:

        Hi Mike,

        You are right I do not think that. I am trying to poke people to provide a biblical rationale for where to draw the line with who is a false teacher and should be avoided.

        The history of the church (and the bible) is full of many great men who had some wacky beliefs (and practices) in some significant areas.

        Would we have fellowship with David – a polygamist?
        What about Abraham?
        What about Philemon – a slave holder?

        Is TD Jakes’ sin worse than these? (It may be)

        There seems to be a category of man in the bible who is considered good before God, yet has big flaws. Like Jehoshaphat – see the comment in 2 King 22:43-44.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Henry,

          So you’re playing a little cat and mouse :-). Thanks for the prodding! We all need that. Here’s one in return ;-)

          Does the Bible ever present an idolater as “good before God”?

          J.I. Packer is very helpful in Knowing God when he reminds us that idolatry consists in two things: worshiping someone or something as God that is not God, or worshiping the true God in a false way.

          By that definition, denying the three eternal Persons of the Trinity is idolatry. So what we’re really asking is: Does God find pleasure in being worshiped in a false way? John 4:24 gives us a hint :-)

          1. Henry says:

            Oh, I just saw this reply. Turning the tables eh?

            I would answer “no” and “no”. But we are all idolators to some degree using Packer’s definition. And the issue of salvation is the key one, not whether out idolatry is pleasing to God.

            Perhaps this verse is a relevant grid to use:

            “[Jehoshaphat] walked in all the way of Asa his father. He did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lord. Yet the high places were not taken away, and the people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.” 1 Kings 22:43

            Or 2 Kings 15:34-35:

            “[Jotham] did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done. Nevertheless, the high places were not removed…”

            This is the category I would use to evaluate men like C.S. Lewis and Roger Nicole and John Stott and David and Abraham and Lot and Philemon and all other righteous men with glaring flaws.

            The category/biblical definition of a heretic is what I am not sure of. Any biblical examples anyone?

            At present I am much more comfortable describing Rob Bell as a heretic/false teacher than Jakes.

    2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Henry,

      Thank you for joining the conversation and raising important questions. I know you could have spent your time elsewhere, so I’m thankful you’ve come here and sought to engage.

      First, to Mike’s comment, I do think you flatten theological issues of various importance/centrality into one indiscriminate mash. While inerrancy, annihilationism, and gender roles are important, they may or may not be in the same class as the Trinity. I would hold inerrancy and the doctrine of hell (annihilationism) to be fundamental issues. So many things rise or fall with our doctrine of the Scripture, which clearly teaches an eternal conscious torment in hell (contra annihilationism). But I would class gender roles as a secondary but very important matter. I would not regard egalitarianism (an error) as equivalent to denying the Trinity (a heresy). The issues are on two different orders of magnitude. Likewise, one can deny inerrancy or hold to annihilation and still be a Christian. But one cannot consistently and willfully deny the Trinity and claim to know God. What does John 17:3 teach us? “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Eternal life requires saving knowledge of the Father and the Son. Modalism makes this a nonsensical statement. Or consider Ephesians 1:1-14: the Father appoints the elect to salvation, the Son accomplishes that salvation through His sacrifice, and the Holy Spirit applies the Son’s work to the sinner through faith. Denying the Trinity has huge gospel implications. Even as MacDonald has said, “A modalist god can’t save anybody.” So, we don’t want to flatten primary and secondary issues into one indiscriminate mush.

      Second, and this is vital in my mind, I’m not standing on some island alone calling a modalist a heretic. The entire Church that takes seriously its confessional heritage must make the same pronouncement. We must realize that were Jakes to make his arguments at any of the historical ecumenical councils which undertook the question of God’s nature, he would have been condemned as a heretic by those councils! When I say he’s teaching heresy, I’m doing little more than siding with the Church’s stance taken throughout her entire history and across communion–Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. That’s the other thing that makes this matter to differ from something like gender roles–the ecumenical creeds specifically establish Trinitarian orthodoxy against modalism or Sabellianism, etc. We cannot forget that the Church has settled this matter. If this were the 4th century, Jakes would be the bad guy, not me.

      But we’ve forgotten our heritage and we’re in danger of prioritizing head over heart in an unhelpful, ahistorical, atheological way.

      Does that help? (I’m banging this out quickly before running to small group; please forgive me for any typos or fragmentary thoughts) Thanks again for stopping by and contributing to the discussion.

      T-

      1. Daniel Stippinger says:

        The fact that MacDonald himself stated that modalism can’t save anyone and still didn’t attempt to explain anything in that direction in the ER debate disturbs me even more…

      2. Henry says:

        Thankyou for you response Thabiti,

        You are right that we should not flatten it into an indiscriminate mush. That is not my intention. There surely *IS* such a thing as a false-teacher whom we should not receive. And that may include TD Jakes. I just don’t think we’ve adequately answered what manner of man that is yet:

        (1)

        Putting innerancy as less important than the Trinity is not so clear. If you take innerancy away then you can reject anything in the Bible, including the Trinity. Paul Jewett did this (openly saying Paul was wrong on headship/submission) – one could ask whether he is not essentially rejecting Christ’s messenger? The Bible has strong words to say about those that do not receive men sent by Him. Ditto with annihilationsim – that is a horrific error that can cause souls to not fear the judgement to come and lose eternity. That is huge. Again, who decides? The problem of Lewis and Stott and many, many others still remains.

        (2)

        In contrast to these things, the verses you cite concerning the Trinity are not so knock down. First Jakes does not actually deny the Trinity. And even if he did, he could respond (regarding John 17:3) that the verse does not actually say that eternal life requires saving knowledge of both the Father and the Son.. To my eyes the grammar does not actually say that, but rather says that the essence of the eternal life we will enjoy is knowing Jesus and the Father (and the Spirit too I guess! – side point – what if he only denied the Spirit?). And how could your reading be true given the saved old covenant saints who knew not of Jesus. Heck, did Apollos even know Jesus before his Priscilla/Aquila encounter? And the Ephesian disciples weren’t doing so well on the third person of the Trinity – they had not even ‘heard that there was a Holy Spirit’. I recall John Piper saying that it is not necessary to believe in the Trinity to be saved, but once confronted with it, if you reject it you cannot be saved. But that view also necessarily differs with your reading of John 17:3 and Ephesians 1 (I don’t quite see your argument on that one).

        And even if John 17:3 did require your reading, Jakes could say that he does know both Jesus and the Father, he just (mistakenly) thinks they are the same person. That is very different than rejecting either of them. He may love and delight in the character of Jesus and the Father. I think it is hard to say that a person like that is so clearly rejecting God and is not saved. Even Fred Sanders, in the article Justin Taylor references favourably, entertains that a modalist can be a Christian. see: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2011/09/28/not-your-grandpas-anti-trinitarianism-an-analysis-of-onenness-pentecostalism/

        (3)

        Regarding councils and creeds, what they did and did not condemn, a few things should be noted. First, many things they didn’t condemn would have been condemned if it had been an issue. It is not as if the councils considered every aberration that has ever emerged. E.g. gender roles. If you read ancient commentaries on this it is clear that the church universally and consistently held to male headship/female submission (much more conservative than we today in fact) and it is more likely than not that if anyone would have taught otherwise they would have been anathematised for such a clear departure from God’s word. Just nobody ever did try.

        Plus can we not search for some more solid scriptural principles rather than so heavily depending on creeds and councils?

        (4)

        We cannot forget that the Church has settled this matter.

        I am not questioning the Trinity conclusion from the council. I agree it is a false doctrine to preach modalism and needs to be corrected and Jakes needs to be further challenged at an appropriate time. I’m just questioning the “anathema” part. Is it justified by scripture, or are we lapsing into the Romanist view of authority (appeal to tradition) that our fathers actually fought against?

        If this were the 4th century, Jakes would be the bad guy, not me.

        True, I don’t dispute that and am not calling you the bad guy. (Except to say that there are some other issues where I think you would find yourself being the bad guy! But I don’t want to derail the thread dear brother… and we discussed it before).

        1. mike daniels says:

          you seem to be arguing that
          since there is even the slightest of doubts, and that some, no maybe many, have considered long and hard, and not all agree, let us not err on the side of caution, as it may exclude that which is not pure and total error, so let us eat the rat poison. or at the least, allow it on the table, and let us not separate from those who might advocate the consumption thereof.

          but at least you have done so in a calm and polite manner, so thanks for that:)

        2. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Hi Henry,

          Last comment before tucking the kids in and calling it a night.

          (1)

          I don’t think I put inerrancy in a less important category. At least I wasn’t trying to. Here’s what I wrote: “I would hold inerrancy and the doctrine of hell (annihilationism) to be fundamental issues. So many things rise or fall with our doctrine of the Scripture, which clearly teaches an eternal conscious torment in hell (contra annihilationism).” Who decides? The Church and the church and the Christian must decide? Here’s where I think Carson’s “Biblicism 1 vs Biblicism 2″ makes so much sense because it means we’re reading our Bibles in conversation with other Christians throughout the ages and refusing either “king for a day” fiats or weak proof-texting.

          (2)

          I’d agree with the things articulated in the link you cite. But one of the things he raises is the great difference between someone’s knowledge at salvation and what we expect of teachers and leaders of networks of churches. Surely we’re correct to expect more of “bishops” than we do the 5-year-old in Sunday school. The issue of whether Jakes is “saved” is an issue others have raised. I’ve questioned his teaching and think it reasonable that not every man teach because we know he will receive a stricter judgment. A teacher cannot be a novice or beginner. He must be able to both advance the truth and defend against error. Calling the question in this regard seems entirely appropriate. I’ll leave others to speculate (though I wish they wouldn’t) about whether Jakes belongs to the Lord. That’s not my interest.

          (3)

          Of course the councils only addressed what they addressed. They’re prompted by controversies generally. But the point is that historical councils did address this particular question and that the entire Church has held to the Trinity as an orthodox statement of the faith. As for scriptural principles, see Biblicism 2 again.

          (4)

          Obviously, I think the “anathema” as you put it is warranted. He’s bringing a doctrine other than the one the apostles taught. We’re to refuse such men. Simple. And, yes, I certainly understand that in another era–what with my anarchy-causing view of baptism–I might very well have been drowned! But, of course, I would have been correct! ;-) lol

          (5)

          Finally, I’d just say that it’s likely impossible to reach certainty if our method rejoices in doubt. You seem to be approaching this thing by exalting doubt, raising questions, rather than making affirmative statements. “Who says?” “who knows?” and “well, what about…?” isn’t likely to get us very far. Perhaps we should doubt our doubts and put our money on some positive position–pro or con.

          Good night to all,
          T-

          1. Henry says:

            Thanks Thabiti,

            briefly:

            Re (1)

            So am I right in thinking that you would not receive men like CS Lewis and John Stott given that they betrayed what you consider 2 fundamental issues (innerancy and doctrine of hell)? You added in point (4) that: He’s bringing a doctrine other than the one the apostles taught. We’re to refuse such men. Simple. That would seem to wipe out a lot of people, arminians, egalitarians, annihilationists etc.

            Re (2) & (4)

            I had thought you previously implied Jakes could not be saved since you said “one cannot consistently and willfully deny the Trinity and claim to know God… Eternal life requires saving knowledge of the Father and the Son.” That is what I thought the whole anathema thing was about, the creed says:

            Whosoever will be saved,
            before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic [universal] faith;
            Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled,
            without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
            And the catholic faith is this:

            That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;
            Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.
            For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son,
            and another of the Holy Spirit.

            So if you are wanting to stand by the creed, it seems to me that you must say a modalist cannot be saved, and since Jakes (in your view) is a modalist, he cannot be saved and is a false brother. But as I said, although the creedal warrant for this (the not even saved part) is strong, the scriptural warrant (that has been brought forth so far) seems to be utterly lacking.

            As for me, my conscience is bound by scripture, not tradition (although tradition has an important role).

            Re (5)

            Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not trying to promote doubt except where we believe things that do not seem to be true. I am simply asking us to furnish a biblical definition of a false teacher, one that gives answers for how we deal with the CS Lewis’ and John Stott’s of this world, and the characters in scripture that I have mentioned.

            As I currently see it, I would affirm the principle outlined in the verses above such as 1 Kings 22:43 for my wider view of who may be a true brother.

            I would receive CS Lewis, John Stott, King David as a brother, but they would not be preaching in church on those issues where they erred. And I would seek to guide them into a purer understanding of the truth. I am suggesting we be active in taking that approach to Jakes, rather than cutting him off.

            I guess I would summarise my view as having a serious commitment to seeking greater unity in the Body of Christ by the means of reaching out to those “outside the camp” and leading them to greater truth. (And I’m sure we could learn a thing or two from them). Yet there is still a place for false teachers who we should not receive at all, I still need a biblical definition for that (but it would probably include people like Rob Bell and Roger Olson).

            1. graham and nicola says:

              Just a quick note – it is possible to be an inerrantist and a modalist (Oneness Pentecostals) and it is possible to deny inerrancy and be fully Trinitarian (CS Lewis, Richard Swinburne, Anthony Thistelton Peter van Inwagen, Alvin Plantinga, NT Wright- who could provide better arguments for Trinitarianism than many inerrantists!)
              Inerrancy is an important doctrine, but we can overstate its importance.

            2. Henry says:

              Just a follow up on the question of whether we are justified in receiving C.S. Lewis, a comment I came across by someone on an old post at Triablogue:

              It’s true that Lewis had a defective view of Scripture, as well as a defective view of salvation.

              On the other hand, Lewis was not your standard issue liberal. For example, he believed in the Incarnation, Virgin Birth, and Resurrection–as well as the Trinity and other fixtures of “mere” Christianity.

              I think allowance needs to be made for the fact that Lewis was a layman, as well as the further fact that the religious options for an Englishman of his generation were less than stellar.

              It is easy for us to be to the right of Lewis, but he was to the right of the religious establishment–not to mention the hallowed halls of academe (Oxford; Cambridge).

              On balance, I’d give Lewis the benefit of the doubt. But he’s not a sound spiritual guide.

              I think these thoughts have some sound wisdom, and gives articulation to the underlying feeling many of us probably have concerning our affinity for Lewis.

            3. Hughuenot says:

              …why the great admiration for Lewis in Evangelical circles? One explanation may be that American Evangelical circles are no longer evangelical. Modern Evangelicals… either do not believe or do not emphasize the doctrines of sola Scriptura and sola fide, which historically are the distinctive doctrinal marks of an Evangelical. This has become painfully clear in the last decade with the advent of movements such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together…

              Lewis taught and believed in purgatory (despite the fact that #22 of the 39 Articles of the C of E describes the doctrine of purgatory as “repugnant to the Word of God”), said prayers for the dead, believed in the physical presence of Christ’s body and blood in the bread and wine, a sacrament that he came to call “Mass,” practiced and taught auricular confession, believed in baptismal salvation, and free will.

              …he rejected the inerrancy of Scripture and justification by faith alone, as well as the doctrines of total depravity and the sovereignty of God…

              Lewis, Mere Christianity, 64f: “Here is another thing that used to puzzle me. Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is that God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.”

              The truth is, of course, that God has indeed told us what the “arrangements about the other people” (that is, those who do not believe in Christ) are. Christ said, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The problem is that Lewis simply did not like this “arrangement.” So he asserted, falsely, that “God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are.” Lewis rejected the God of Scripture who sovereignly decides who will go to Heaven and who will go to Hell. He found such an arrangement “frightfully unfair.” His last sentence – “we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him” – directly contradicts Christ’s statements in John 3:14-18, for Christ repeatedly says that only those who know the Son can be saved, and that those who do not know the Son are condemned. Lewis denied that Christian faith is necessary for salvation…

              Echoing Kierkegaard, Lewis said, “I think that every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god or to a very imperfectly conceived true God, is accepted by the true God and that Christ saves many who do not think they know Him.” [Letters, 428]

              [From 'Did C. S. Lewis Go to Heaven?' @ trinityfoundation.org/PDF/205a-DidCS.LewisGotoHeaven.pdf]

  23. Thomas says:

    I have a very weird recommendation for all those wondering about why we should deny T.D. Jakes regarding not only his views on the Trinity, but his overall view of who God is.
    I was watching Believers Voice of Victory (Kenneth Copeland’s show) this morning and the woman on the show went over the “biblical theology” of the prosperity movement. Simply “sowing a seed” is not the entire issue with the prosperity movement, it’s the “biblical theology” behind it. The prosperity movement’s history of redemption elevates man to a type of god and attempts to rob God of Sovereignty. As someone who was saved from this movement, the woman’s description of what we (mankind) lost in the fall and what we gained in redemption is pretty par for the course. If you can stomach the blasphemy you could go to Believers Voice of Victory and watch this mornings show. (oddly enough the woman teaching this morning describes the “let us make man in our image” in perfect modalistic terms.)

  24. Ryan says:

    Thabiti. I really just want to say thank you. You are an excellent example to us all of how to act in difficult situations without compromising either love nor truth. Your original post on the whole issue “Collateral Damage in the Invitation of TD Jakes to the Elephant Room” assured me that there are shepherds, even of the famous kind, who will still protect the flock. Even if it means great costs to themselves…

    So again Thabiti, thank you for being a pastor in this whole thing.

  25. Mike Hanafee says:

    As a church planter in inner city Detroit I appreciate your article – thank you.

  26. deborah says:

    I have followed this whole mess trying to learn something from it and I have learned the most from you, Pastor Thabiti. I so appreciate the manner in which you engage the issues. You are always thoughtful and gracious and make points that others seem to miss. Thank you also for your steadfastness. How I wish you were my pastor. I look forward to reading more from you.

  27. Sam says:

    Your comments are thoughtful, balanced and wise. I’m glad you took time before responding. Every tapestry is beautiful because of the various colors and textures interwoven into the fabric. We are all different, and made so by God.

  28. Dwight McKissic says:

    Pastor T.

    When you challenged the TGC Council to remove or request the resignation of James MacDonald from the TGC Council, did not you employ a racial argument contrasting how the Council responded to Rob Bell as opposed to Bishop Jakes? Do you belive it was appropiate to use race in this manner? If you had not employed race in this manner, wouldn’t MacDonald still be a part of TGC?
    Isn’t this where race entered into this controversy?

    I’m making preliminary plans to attend the TGC Louisville meeting in April.Look forward to shaking hands with you there if I can make it. Just received your book on deacons and elders. I’m trusting it will help me breathe new life in our deacons and elders ministries.From what I know of you-primarily from your internet presence and writings-I greatly admire, respect and appreciate you, although on this matter I believe we greatly disagree.

    Two final questions:(1) Voddie Baucom sugessted invoking race into a discussion of this regard constituted sin; although I disagree with his position, do you believe it was sinful to invoke race in the Rob Bell/Bishop Jakes analogy and if the TGC Council responded to your argument wouldn’t their actions constitute sin and racism?(2) I personally believe the allegations of Bishop Jakes being a prosperity preacher are bogus and baseless. However, shouldn’t a definition of prosperity preaching be given, and examples from Bishop Jakes writings or preaching be cited to document this allegation? Is it biblical to make such an allegation without documentation? The example of the young man in the “Putting A Face On Destruction” post does not indict or incriminate Bishop Jakes. Please reference a book or sermon by Bishop Jakes that document his so called “prosperity gospel” preaching. I share your burden for a “Pure Church.” And it’s in that spirit that I raise these questions.

    Dwight

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Dwight,

      Thank you for joining the conversation, brother. I pray you’re well and rejoicing in the Lord of life, who gave himself for us and for our salvation. What a Savior!

      No, I don’t think I “played the race card” in either mentioning the effect of Jakes in the African-American community or in describing the different reaction to Bell and Jakes. The comments were descriptive. I’ve never called anyone a racist, or tried to guilt them into acting this way or that. I do think my comments have been appropriate, but I welcome reproof and insight into things I may be missing.

      I don’t know if MacDonald would still be a part of TGC were it not for the ER2 controversies. It would be reductionistic in the extreme to suggest if I had not used the Bell/Jakes comparison that MacDonald would not have left. There have been many points of pressure and tension in all of this. And different folks have responded differently to the situation and to comments. Some brothers felt their eyes were opened to a blind spot and decided to act. Others felt pressured and resigned. Same comments, different reactions. I trust to the Lord the final judgments.

      “Race” as something more than a descriptive element entered much later in the discussion. Some would link the injection of “race” (or charges of racial motivation and suspicion) to the post ER2 video. That was an unfortunate video, and much has been done to be sure folks were rightly understood and relationships safeguarded–praise God. But no one in the viewing public responded with charges of “racism” or playing the race card with my original post or at any point along the way that I’m aware of.

      I think Voddie is responding to a different point altogether. He’s taking issue with the post ER2 video, not a simple description of Jakes’ effect on predominantly African-American churches–after all, that’s where Jakes works and lives. It’s not racism or racial manipulation to describe differences in effect that seem to occur along ethnic lines. I don’t think I’m in sin or TGC leaders for pressing the issue–not of race–but doctrine and association. That’s the real issue.

      As for Jakes’ teaching, feel free to search youtube clips to find abundant evidence of his ‘prosperity theology.’ You can also google a number of books that include examination of his teaching and theology, as well as that of the ‘prosperity gospel’ in general. Consider Stephanie Mitchem’s Name It and Claim It? Prosperity Preaching and the Black Church or Gordon Fee’s book on the health and wealth gospel. There are others, of course.

      I hope to finally meet you in person, too. Perhaps T4G will be the place. I’m looking forward to that time! Thanks for the periodic contact and engagement. The Lord bless you and keep you,

      T-

  29. graham and nicola says:

    We’re very uncomfortable with these accusations being made in a publc forum. No source is cited for your insight into the workings of the TGC council; so this counts as gossip.

    As for TD Jakes and the prosperity Gospel…c’mon! As we say in Ulster, wind yer neck in.

    ;-)

    G&N

    1. Dwight McKissic says:

      The article that Carson and Keller published at the TGC website references Black Council members pressuring to address this matter in light of the Rob Bell matter. Therfore, this information is in the public square and Pastor T. is the most visible and vocal TGC Council member. I am not going to ask you for an apology ,but if you haven’t read the Carson/Keller piece you may want to do so.

      And yes, I’m serious; where is the documrntation that Bishop Jakes is a prosperity preacher. Just as you were correct in asking me to cite source(s)for my contention that the TGC was motivated by race as you will see in the article-based on their own admission-those of us who are looking at this matter objectively-are awaiting documentation for this serious allegation of preaching a “prosperity gospel” that has been leveled against Bishop Jakes.

      1. Nicola and Graham says:

        Hi Dwight

        We had read the Carson/Keller statement carefully. At no stage does it say that Thabiti was one of the “African American Brothers”. At no stage does it say that anyone asked the Council to remove James MacDonald, or that anyone demanded that the Council ask for his resignation.

        Furthermore, while race entered the discussions surrounding ER2 at an earlier stage than you suggest (as anyone following the discussions on “Pure Church” knows) charges, or implications, of racism did not.
        We can discuss race without being racist, can’t we? And the concern of the “African-American” brothers cited by Carson and Keller was not that TGC was being racist. It was that most of the TGC council did not minister in the areas most affected by Prosperity preaching. It is entirely appropriate to point out to a group of leaders that they lack “on the ground” knowledge in an important debate.
        Now, unless someone has access to the minutes of the various meetings, we cannot see how you could have any evidence for your interpretation of events. The Carson/Keller statement certainly doesn’t provide the evidence that you need to make your allegations.
        As for TD Jakes – watch him on “The God Channel” on any night, chosen at random. You’ll get your evidence.

        G&N

        1. Dwight McKissic says:

          Hi G&N,

          It does not take a genius to connect the dots between T-and the pressure on the council to address James Macdonald. If you want to live in denial about this, you can.

          If the issue with Bishop Jakes had to do witth doctrine and associations, why was it necessary in any context to reference race? Once race is placed on the table-as you admit T-did even before the council’s decision and in the council meeting,it’s to late to cry foul when someone else references race. They may simply interpret matters differently, and obviously they have that right to do so.

          If most of the TGC council does not minister in areas most affected by “prosperity preaching”, isn’t that a good reason for themfor them to not burst into an arena and speak authoratively-on matters and toward people-that you admit that they are unfamiliar with? They are posturing themselves as some kind of apologist to the Black church community to protect us from Bishop Jakes. If this is necessary, do they not believe that the Black church community can’t fend for themselves? They referenced race-not me-in the context of their involvement in this arena. You may be right, I will give you the benefit of the doubt-they were discussing race without being racist-but you must admit it sure smacks of elitism to engage an issue that you admit is not on your radar screen.

          1. Thabiti says:

            Dear Dwight,

            Brother, I continue to appreciate your engagement in this and the attempt to push me (and others) on whether our use of “race” was appropriate.

            But I must say as plainly as I can that your comments are just flat wrong both in fact and in the inferences you’re making about the conversations and the TGC reaction. There’s no other way to put it. You’re wrong.

            First, read the email chatter since my post in October of last year. No one once raised the issue of “race”. Not once. No one said they felt pressured or were treated like they were “racists” in some way. Not once was that said in any of the conversations–public or private. For you to attempt pinning that on any of the comments previous to ER is just plain revisionism. It’s not factually accurate.

            Second, no one at tGC is “posturing themselves as some kind of apologist to the Black church community” or “bursting into an arena to speak authoritatively on matters and toward people that they’re unfamiliar with.” No one. Read the statements again. Every statement from a TGC-related person has been on the issue: theology, false teaching, etc. And none of the statements have been offered in the spirit of “The Black community needs to…” or “African Americans ought….” You’re lacing this with far more racial innuendo and suspicion of motives and actions than anyone at TGC has.

            It’s not elitism to discuss theology–whatever your ethnicity. It’s necessary for everyone to discuss theology; you can’t be a Christian without being a theologian. Either you’ll be a good one or a bad one, but to know God is at the most basic level to be a theologian. The brothers at TGC have plainly spoken about the knowledge of God. If anything, most people would accuse TGC of being too slow and speaking too softly.

            Brother, I love you. But your conclusions are plain wrong. Having been in hours of conversation now, I have to say nothing you’re writing here resembles anything that’s really happened–at least not from the “TGC side” of things.

            Keep fighting the good fight to keep us all honest on how we view one another and engage one another. You’re fighting a good battle. But in this case, you’re at an irremediable disadvantage–you weren’t involved or party to these conversations and you’re making inferences based on the guarded and partial data of some blog comments. It’s wiser to not wade in those waters lest you do more harm than good.

            The Lord richly bless you as you preach His gospel and encourage His people!

            T-

            1. Dwight McKissic says:

              T,

              I apologize for discussing issues not explicitily stated on the Keller/Carson piece or on your blog. You are clearly more in touch with the facts than I am. Therfore, I defer to your judgement with regard to my misunderstanding and misrepresentation of what the facts really are. Future comments will be limited to what’s been published. This comment is also being directed to G&N. Please forgive me.

              Based on the published accounts, I stand by my main arguments; it’s matters not referenced in the published accounts that I deduced from the Keller?carson section on race that I’m apologizing for.

            2. graham and nicola says:

              No need to apologise, Dwight, you haven’t wronged us in any way! And we’re sorry if we seemed “snippy”!

  30. Angel (messenger of God) says:

    Thank you Thabati for responding to the Holy Spirit’s prompting in writing this article. As a member of Harvest Bible Chapel for the past 12 years these issues are very close to my heart. I have MANY friends and family who attend different Harvest campuses who are greatly impacted by what they are being fed spiritually.

    The Lord has used these trials to bring me to a place of true humility and total dependance on HIM. God has reminded me that we will know them (being other believers) by their fruit. We must first recall what the fruits of the Spirit are. Galatians 5:22-23(NKJV)22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. In many churches today, Christians may equate fruitfulness with numbers.

    Although, the bible does say that we are to be fruitful and multiply, it does not state that mass congregations equal fruitfulness. God’s Word is clear as to the behaviors that the children of the Most High are to display. As followers of Jesus we must be able to discern whether a spirit is from the Lord or from Satan. If we cannot do that then we are living in the flesh and not walking by the Spirit.

    A.W. Tozer: “Among the gifts of the Spirit scarcely one is of greater practical usefulness than the gift of discernment. This gift should be highly valued and frankly sought as being almost indispensable in these critical times. This gift will enable us to distinguish the chaff from the wheat and to divide the manifestations of the flesh from the operations of the Spirit.”

    If you carefully look at the men who have facilitated the Elephant Room debates you will find severely disturbing behavior. Mark Driscoll is a man who talks to demonic spirits and claims to have pornographic divinations. In 2008, in a series called “Christus Victor” he clearly describes in horrific sexual detail his encounters with these demons. Mark has also released a new book called “Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together.” In this book he gives explicit details as to how women are to meet their husbands sexual needs. So do you believe that this man would be someone who demonstrates the actions of Christ?

    I do agree that any pastor that preaches a “prosperity gospel” message should be questioned. That is a ME centered message and we have to remember why we were created ~ for God’s glory! Our lives should be an outpouring of our love for Jesus.

    As far as the race issue is concerned that should NOT be an issue within the body of Christ. We are all one race as we are all sons and daughters of Adam and Eve.

    My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, I leave you with these words today from Acts 17:16-34(NKJV)

    The Philosophers at Athens
    16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. 17 Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there. 18 Then[a] certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?”

    Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.

    19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? 20 For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.” 21 For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.

    Addressing the Areopagus
    22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:

    TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.

    Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood[b] every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”

    32 And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked, while others said, “We will hear you again on this matter.” 33 So Paul departed from among them. 34 However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

  31. steve says:

    Thank you for number 11. I need chastening.

  32. Pingback: » Artful Dodges
  33. Hugh McCann says:

    Thanks, Pastor T.,
    Sundry thoughts:
    1. Nothing has changed with Jakes. …the man’s teaching on the Trinity remains heretical.
    {Blustering prosperity modalist. What are Elephant Roomers missing here?!}
    2. Something may have changed with us. The Church is split more than it was previous to the ER. We have new lines of division…This division inside the broadly ‘Reformed’ camp feels new to me.
    {Or is it that a split (division) has merely been exposed? I recall RC Sproul saying as much in the 1990s when Colson, Packer, et. al. signed ECT. It didn’t create division, said Sproul Sr, it merely showed where people already WERE.}
    3. Theological depth is critical. …How urgent it is for us “to watch our lives and doctrine closely.” I think I’ll read Spurgeon’s “The Minister’s Self-Watch” again today, just for my own soul’s sake.
    {BRAVO!}
    4. We need a practical understanding of repentance. ”Bring forth fruit worthy of repentance” was John the Baptist’s declaration. The apostle Paul preached that men should “perform deeds in keeping with repentance” …we’d look for him to clearly own his error without equivocation, advance the truth, and look to make amends where possible. That would be the minimum we would expect before we gave him another public opportunity to teach. Or, at least that’s the minimum I’d expect …group hugs are no substitute for thoughtful pastoral engagement. In the end, we hurt ourselves and the very one needing to change.
    {Again, why ARE E-Roomists missing this?!!}
    5. Divisions come swiftly and easily. …some divisions are most certainly necessary.
    {AMEN! See #2, above. & 1 Cor 11:19 ~ ‘there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.’}
    6. A lot of reconciliation and brotherly affection gets shared privately, but it’s sometimes not useful to be insisted upon publicly. …If a person speaks or publishes something for public consumption, that speech or publication is automatically fair game for public critique and correction. It can be useful, courteous, and sometimes necessary to contact a person to be sure you’ve understood them correctly. But public addresses are fair game for public redress….
    {Amen! The silence of some shepherds at this time is beyond sad. I won’t name names, or else my post will be deleted!}
    7. Our cooperation needs to be principled rather than pragmatic. …There is the necessity of defending and confirming the gospel (Phil. 1:7; Jude 3-4)….
    {THIS is the critical point. W/o the gospel, any church growth, racial reconciliation, popularity, money, money, money, and all else that drives the elephant is for naught.}
    8. Our cooperation can have a liberalizing tendency. I’m all for a more robust unity across denominational lines. But I’ve seen enough situations where “cooperation” becomes code for liberalizing… {And now again in the E-Room.}

  34. Paula says:

    “4. We need a practical understanding of repentance. …What would that look like with Jakes? Answering that question keeps us from making snap judgments and prematurely assuring someone in their error.”

    I’m not sure giving people a checklist for repentance would really be appropriate. Did the repentant harlot follow a checklist? She did things that were socially unacceptable, in fact. No one would have given her that checklist. Repentant people improvise, being led by the Spirit. We should let them. People who want to be manipulated and duped give checklists.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Paula,

      Thanks for stopping by and contributing to the discussion. Just a clarification. What I have in mind is not a checklist and certainly not a manipulation. We should all be opposed to a static notion of repentance (i.e., checklist) and opposed to any kind of manipulation. I stand with you in both those things.

      What I have in mind are passages like Luke 3:7-14 and Acts 26:20–“I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” In each of these sample passages repentance is demonstrated not just proclaimed. In Luke 3, notice that John the Baptist gives the various groups of people specific acts of repentance for their particular sins. They are to confess their particular sins particularly and bring forth the fruit in keeping with repentance. So, it’s not so much a checklist situation or manipulation as a principle of thinking specifically about the sin at hand and giving evidence of repentance appropriate to that sin.

      In this case, we’re talking about a very high profile preacher/teacher. Certainly repentance should include very clear and specific teaching affirming orthodoxy and retractions of previous errors as evidence of turning from the old error.

      Hope that helps clarify where I’m coming from with #4.

      For Jesus,
      T-

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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