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James MacDonald, TD Jakes, heresy & what it takes to be a Christian

I’ve been following the lead up to the Elephant Room 2 since it was announced that TD Jakes would be a part of it, & people started calling for James MacDonald’s head for inviting him.

To be honest, I had heard the name TD Jakes & knew he was an African American pastor, but beyond that much, I knew nothing about him. So I read a few blogs posts (here, here, & here) about why this was supposedly a terrible move for MacDonald to make. As I understood it at the time, Jakes was thought to believe in modalism rather than Trinitarianism. This would be a problem because modalism is considered a heresy, and if this is truly Jakes’ stand then inviting him to an inherently Christian event would give credence to his beliefs. As Tim Challies put it:

By way of context, we need to remember that The Elephant Room is a meeting by Christians and for Christians, and even more, by Christian leaders and for Christian leaders. Inherent in inviting T.D. Jakes is the understanding that he is a Christian. Which presents a problem because inherent in modalism is the understanding that such a person is not a Christian.

So, if modalists are not Christians, & if Jakes is a modalist, & if the Elephant Room 2 is strictly a Christian event, then it seems that some of the criticism of MacDonald may have been justified. And I believe that of the blog reactions I read, the writers were genuinely concerned & not just trying to stir up trouble.

Then MacDonald resigned from The Gospel Coalition. The resignation occurred the day before Elephant Room 2 & somewhat understandably sparked some conspiracy theories. Along those lines, I came across this post. In this case, the tone seems to have changed to a dismissing of MacDonald a la Rob Bell. There is an assumption that this series of events means that MacDonald has become a heretic but we just haven’t yet seen the smoking gun proof. I personally think that at this point that’s a big jump especially in light of MacDonald’s full body of work.

I did not have the opportunity to watch Elephant Room 2, but I found Ed Stetzer’s reflection (based on Trevin Wax’s live-blogged transcript) helpful. Jakes essentially stated that he now holds a Trinitarian view, & it seems to me that we should take him at his word. As Stetzer points out:

Think about who participated in the Elephant Room– Driscoll, MacDonald, Jack Graham, and Crawford Loritts among them. It is telling that these men– recognized as orthodox evangelicals– readily received Jakes’ statement, with Graham having been a prayer partner with Bishop Jakes for the last 10 years. Some might say they are all just naïve, but I’ve preached for Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald and do not find them to be theologically unaware or easily fooled on matters of orthodoxy. I think they are simply willing to believe the man at his word.

All of the above, leads me to this–I understand that preachers/teachers are judged more strictly (James 3:1) so it is of grave importance that someone like Jakes (or even a so-called “ordinary pastor”) must be careful that what he is teaching is actually the truth. But this leads me to a couple of related questions.

1. Since Jakes has indicated that he has moved from a non-Trinitarian to a Trinitarian view through the study of Scripture, does this mean that for at least part of his public ministry he was unsaved, or that he was saved but through progressive sanctification he was brought to a more correct understanding of God?

2. How does this apply to the average Joe Schmo Christian who initially has great difficulty understanding exactly how the whole 3-yet-1 thing works (& honestly who doesn’t have trouble comprehending it?) & might in his mind ascribe to a modalist way of thinking early in his Christian life but later sees the truth in a Trinitarian understanding of God?


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5 thoughts on “James MacDonald, TD Jakes, heresy & what it takes to be a Christian

  1. Mike Beats on said:

    I’d like to know exactly all that Jakes said at the Elephant Room in regards to his view of the nature of God.

    – Mike

  2. This is one of those “call down fire from heaven and destroy them” moments eh! Who are we to judge another man’s servant when he stands or fall according to his master? I really would like to know why these reliculous little issues are considered heresy when we blatantly live in contradiction of very explicit directions that require certain signs to follow those who say they believe Jesus. I simply can’t recall the last time I spotted a Lazarus that was produced by the pursed lipped Christian crowds. It must be a majority approved lapse where our collective efforts amount to nothing more that what atheist altruism can do without the power of God and a man who sees something different is condemned to heresy. I don’t particularly see much of a difference where we can allow no signs to follow we who say we believe and a man who says he sees something different when he reads. It would seem we are not in different condemnations. We are to do the law not judge the law, both cannot be done.

  3. rebecca harvell on said:

    They all need to get over themselves and spend their time preaching the gospel as it is written! It seems that Pastor MacDonald has started walking away from the word. All of these men need our prayers. The bible plainly states that you are to rebuke someone who teaches in error. You can do it in love but it still needs to be done. Listen to the Berean Call and worldview weekend instead of these guys. Even better read your bible! How maqny souls could be save if this time and money were spent on missions?

    • Good thing it isn’t written anywhere commanding that we who believe in Jesus are to do all his works. He said go tell John that the gospel is preached and the dead like Lazarus are raised. He left instructions for believers to validate their faith by doing what he did. Preaching the gospel is only half the story. I guess the signs that are to follow us are really not that important. Funny, that’s just what Saul thought before his lost his kingdom. Apparently we’ve gotten over ourselves a long time ago, cause last time I checked disobedience was right up there with witchcraft. I can’t help wondering which is worst: witchcraft, or heresy. So T.D. Jakes is guilty of heresy, but that magic little word “love” allows us to ignore the beam witchcraft in our eyes. Funny what appealing to that little word can do. They don’t needs healing, we love them; that ought to be enough. Who cares if we got no signs following us, we got love. Even funnier; Jesus defined love as obeying him. Where we walk in disobedience how can we see to judge our brothers.

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