There are a number of reasons to be disturbed by James MacDonald’s invitation to T. D. Jakes to appear on the Elephant Room. My biggest disturbance has to do with the gospel here in the Toronto area. As most are aware, MacDonald heads the Harvest Bible Fellowship network of churches. There are a good number of Harvest churches in Ontario, most of which are near Toronto. They are vibrant, growing, gospel-centered, Calvinistic churches. I’m thankful for them and am always delighted to hear when new ones are planted.
What are the implications of MacDonald’s actions for Harvest churches?
If I were a minister in a Harvest Bible Chapel I would be severely upset to see the face of my movement courting heresy; and so naively. I’d be embarrassed to read MacDonald say that Jakes isn’t a modalist, and then define Jakes’ view of the Trinity in perfectly modalist terms (” T.D. Jakes website states clearly that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations”). I’d be horrified to read his dismissive treatment of those who are concerned with what’s happening–especially when some critics are respected leaders in the very same movement that MacDonald is a part of: The Gospel Coalition. Are Carl Trueman, Anthony Carter and Thabiti Anyabwile’s concerns unfounded?
While MacDonald may not ultimately pay a personal price for his relationship with Jakes, whom he calls a brother, the churches in his movement will. Each minister and each church member now have to seriously reflect on whether they can partner with a minister who could be so willing to allow a wolf into the sheep-fold. They have to reconsider their involvement in a movement that has put its imprimatur on an ant-trinitarian, health-and-wealth heretic; because by extension, their membership in Harvest would imply their endorsement of MacDonald’s actions, whether explicit or implicit.
Last night a friend and I were talking about this whole mess. My friend was nonplussed over the virtual silence of TGC higher-ups like Justin Taylor, John Piper, Don Carson or Tim Keller. My hope is that there are a lot of back-room discussions about this and that the TGC guys are soon to be coming out with some strong actions against MacDonald. They must, not merely for the purity of abstract theology, because good theology is never merely abstract. MacDonald’s theological laxity will have direct impact on the churches he leads, and the TGC guys need to step up not only for the cause of the Trinity, but also for the churches who are sure to be damaged by this. I trust that these leaders will do what is right. We’ve already seen good responses from members like Trueman and Anyabwile, and if what Thabiti intimated is an indication–he spoke of discussing his initial post with respected leaders before putting it online–then surely others are concerned and talking.
I’m sad that this is happening. I’m sad that MacDonald has been so flippant. I’m sad because I love what Harvest is doing, and I don’t want it to stop or be hindered. These are the ecclesiological implications of bad theology and bad pastoring.