Category Archives: trinity

Shooting An Elephant

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. Continue reading

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Filed under elephant room, gospel coalition, james macdonald, mark driscoll, t d jakes, trinity

The Implications for Harvest

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 TruemanAnthony 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.

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Filed under churches, evangelicalism, harvest bible chapel, heresy, james macdonald, t d jakes, trinity

Athenagoras and the Trinity

Athenagoras (d. ca. 185) was another early apologist whose work A Plea for the Christians is a beautifully written defense of the faith against accusations of atheism (among other things) leveled at Christians by their society. The text itself was likely written around AD 177 and shares similarities with those of Aristides and Justin Martyr; both in terms of its use of Greek philosophy and in addressing like charges. It was addressed to the emperors Marcus Aurelius and Commodus and appeals to their learning as philosophers.

What I’d like to highlight is a statement found in chapter 12, “Consequent Absurdity of the Charge of Atheism,” where Athenagoras gives us a very clear statement about the Trinity. This is a particularly useful quote against those who would argue that trinitarian doctrine is a later construct.

Are, then, those who consider life to be comprised in this, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die,” and who regard death as a deep sleep and forgetfulness (“sleep and death, twin brothers”), to be accounted pious; while men who reckon the present life of very small worth indeed, and who are conducted to the future life by this one thing alone, that they know God and His Logos, what is the oneness of the Son with the Father, what the communion of the Father with the Son, what is the Spirit, what is the unity of these three, the Spirit, the Son, the Father, and their distinction in unity; and who know that the life for which we look is far better than can be described in words, provided we arrive at it pure from all wrong-doing; who, moreover, carry our benevolence to such an extent, that we not only love our friends (“for if ye love them,” He says, “that love you, and lend to them that lend to you, what reward will ye have? “), shall we, I say, when such is our character, and when we live such a life as this, that we may escape condemnation at last, not be accounted pious?

Athenagoras, “A Plea for the Christians” in Ante-Nicene Christian Library, eds., Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1867), 2:388.

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Filed under apologetics, athenagoras, church history, patristics, trinity

Audio: Bruce Ware in Calgary

Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, recently spoke at the Calvary Grace conference in Calgary, AB. His topic was the doctrine of the Trinity, the subject of a book he wrote a number of years ago. Clint Humfrey, the pastor of Calvary Grace church in Calgary, also did an intriguing lecture entitled “‘The Call Me Trinity: Spaghetti Westerns and Confessing Doctrine.” The audio links are below {HT: Cowboyology}:

Session 1 How Did We Get the Doctrine of the Trinity, Biblical and Historical Overview (Ware)

Session 2 Relation of the Son to the Father within the Trinity. (Ware)

Session 3 ‘They Call Me Trinity’: Spaghetti Westerns and Confessing Doctrine (Humfrey)

Session 4 Relation of the Son to the Spirit within the Trinity (Ware)

Session 5 Q&A (Ware & Humfrey: Pavier moderates)

Session 6 Clint Humfrey Interviews Dr. Bruce Ware

Session 7 Trinitarian God of our Salvation, Eph 1,1-14

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Filed under audio, bruce ware, calgary, conferences, cowboyology, sermons, trinity

Jesus is Yahweh

At Crux yesterday I met a guy who was interested in researching the Trinity and Jesus’ divinity. He has been meeting with some Jehovah’s Witnesses and has found some of their arguments to be thoughtful and possibly even biblical. Of course, Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of our Lord Jesus.
I emailed him this morning with the hopes of getting together. I included in my email some verses that ascribe to Jesus titles/attributes that are ascribed to Yahweh in the Old Testament. These are culled from Murray Harris’ awesome book Jesus As God (Baker, 1998).
I AM (the covenant name of God)
Exodus 3:14 (see Isaiah 43:11) – John 8:58.
Salvation and Yahweh
Joel 2:32 – Romans 10:9-13
Yahweh Described
Ezekiel 43:2 – Revelation 1:13-16
There are plenty more, but I thought that these were helpful.
I also directed his attention to the use of Isaiah 6 when applied to Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, namely John 12:41 and Acts 28:25.
My prayer is that my friend would come to see Christ as the eternal God whom true Christians everywhere have worshipped since the beginning of the church!

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Filed under apologetics, books, crux books, cults, jehovah's witness, jesus, trinity