Trevin Wax is live-blogging The Elephant Room, hosted by James MacDonald, with Mark Driscoll as a guest host. There has been a swell of controversy over one of their guests, T. D. Jakes, and how his anti-Trinitarianism is understood, especially by MacDonald (see my post about it here). This has recently led to MacDonald resigning from The Gospel Coalition (it’s curious that in his post he mentions nothing about this controversy. What was said to him by TGC leaders to make him leave? Was it not this issue?). Trevin posted his notes from the interview on his blog, and I’ve read them over and wanted to share a couple of initial thoughts.
A brief caveat: these are only Trevin’s notes, not the full-blown, word-for-word interview, so some of my thoughts are subject to change in light of the clearer picture that will come once the video is released. There are other interviews as well that may also give clarity; my thoughts are based primarily on this first one.
1) There is a conciliatory air between those involved. It seems that the interviewers have already decided on Jakes’ orthodoxy before interviewing him. Driscoll promised us, when the controversy first broke, that he would be hard on Jakes on the Trinity–but Driscoll was much harder on Justin Brierly over complimentarianism than he is on Jakes. While he thankfully asked a number of creed-oriented questions, he didn’t push Jakes on his unclear statements.
2) Jakes hasn’t clarified the issues in the way The Elephant Room guys seem to think he has. He begins by explaining his early experience with the Oneness Pentecostals, a modalist group who denies the Trinity. We know that anti-Trinitarianism is the view of his early experience; one only has to read his writings to come to that conclusion. Yet of this group he says: “They believe in Jesus Christ, he died and raised again. But how they explain the Godhead is how Trinitarians describe the gospel.” So a group that is demonstrably anti-Trinitarian believes the gospel the way Trinitarians do. Two thoughts: Do they believe the Trinity the way Trinitarians do? And more importantly, if he says that this early group was Trinitarian, which they are not, does this mean that when he claims Trinitarianism for himself, he is using the term in the same way? Because if he’s as Trinitarian as the early group is, then he’s not saying much that we haven’t heard before. He also says that he was “infiltrated” by Baptist and Methodist teaching. The question is, when did this infiltration take place? He’s been espousing modalism until very recently (I would argue he still does).
3) There is a tone of non-judgmentalism when it comes to how the evangelical world is to observe The Elephant Room and Jakes, yet there are jabs taken by by a number of them against those who disagree on this issue. Jakes talks of people throwing rocks; MacDonald calls criticisms of Jakes’ anti-Trinitarianism “rhetoric.” Genuine theological concerns are not the same as mere stone-throwing, or rhetoric.
4) Jakes attempts to use obfuscating language that is useful for sound-bytes, like “One God–Three Persons,” but continues to affirm the language of manifestation in the Godhead, even claiming it to be Pauline. He says he doesn’t like the word “person.” He mustn’t see Oneness Pentecostalism as a problem or a heresy, because he still associates with it. If he were convinced of it being heretical, why would he still associate with them? It would be like getting Athanasius associating with the Arians; he was contra mundum for a reason. Robert Murray M’Cheyne said that the character of a man is determined by what he is like on his knees; is Jakes a modalist or Trinitarian in his prayer life? When he prays to Jesus, is he also praying to the Father because they are the same person?
5) Why hasn’t anyone addressed Jakes’ prosperity gospel? His anti-Trinitarianism is by far the worst, but health-and-wealth is quite bad too.
After reading through Trevin’s post I haven’t found anything that would change my opinion about Jakes’ orthodoxy, nor do I find anything relieving about James MacDonald and his ability to lead, nor Mark Driscoll, whom I expected much more from. If Driscoll can treat a nice guy like Justin Brierly contemptuously, but welcome an anti-Trinitarian like T. D. Jakes, then he is in pretty rough shape too. And, on that score, TGC counsel member Crawford Lorrits’ comments at the end make me wonder about him too!