I watched some of the first Elephant Room and found it intriguing. I think it is a good idea. Getting people together to explain their own view and then challenge and be challenged on it is a good thing.
I think the selection of people for the first one was way too monolithic. It was, for the most, megachurch pastors who agreed by and large about church and ministry. There was no real challenge on some of the core issues about theology and ministry philosophy. Mixing in Trueman, Horton, MacArthur, or someone like that would be interesting.
I think this is one type of forum where I think some latitude on associations should be granted since the whole point is challenge and confrontation. These men are invited to create tension and controversy, and to challenge each other. More of that is needed, not less. So if the participants speak up against Jakes to his face, that is a good thing, not a bad thing.
To the point of controversy, MacDonald made a big mistake inviting Jakes as a “Christian leader” (or as anything else for that matter). MacDonald made a worse mistake by defending it. He should withdraw the invitation immediately, and clearly affirm that denial (or at best obfuscation) of the Trinity by a Christian leader is a compromise of the gospel.
This isn’t a matter of unintentional confusion by Jakes. Driscoll is right that the ear is more forgiving than the eye; we all say things that are wrong or ill-considered at the time. But Jakes does not fit into that category. He has a publicly available doctrinal statement that is heretical. It appears that he has been given numerous opportunities to clarify his views and he hasn’t. If you are going to have a conference of Christian leaders, then the bottom line should at least be set at being a “Christian” leader. In
Driscoll says this is close-handed matter of Christian orthodoxy. He is right. He also says we should let Jakes speak for himself. Hasn’t he? What else does he need to say?
But on to a bigger point. Driscoll is pretty smart. And doesn’t mind confrontation. He revels in it and creates it. So why not confront MacDonald on this?
Mark, if this is a matter of orthodoxy (as you say), and if Jakes has denied it (and you make a good case that he has), then your friend MacDonald has just affirmed a heretic as a Christian leader. Why give your friend a free pass? Perhaps you have challenged James privately, and I hope you have; but you publicly backed him when you could have at least said nothing publicly and challenged him privately to withdraw the invitation. I am not saying you should rip him publicly. But public affirmation?
Lest you think this is just the musings of a rabid fundamentalist, many have publicly commented and expressed their disatisfaction with MacDonald’s choice. Thabiti Anyabwile raises not just the question of separation regarding Jakes, but the question of secondary separation concerning MacDonald. It is a valid consideration and interesting coming from a member of the Gospel Coalition (TGC) council.
TGC is now in a tough spot. One of its council members is apparently affirming either that a fundamental doctrine (the Trinity) is not necessary to be a Christian, or that he can’t understand how and why Jake’s explanations are inadequate. Either problem is serious.
So what will the Gospel Coalition do? MacDonald is not someone who merely signed up and attended the conference. This is a plenary speaker and a council member. I hope there is some private challenge and strong urging to MacDonald to withdraw this invitation. If that is refused, I hope there will be a call for MacDonald to step down.
This is the question raised by many, including Iain Murray in the Unresolved Controversy. As Mark Minnick puts it, what are you going to do when someone reaches outside the box? MacDonald has reached outside the box. Now what will his friends do? Driscoll gave him a pass. Others have criticized, both privately and publicly. What next?
For the others invited, this is a one-time gathering intended to be confrontational. If Dever, Driscoll, Graham, and others are willing to confront Jakes and pin him down, then I have no problem with them going. But they better speak up.