Thursday, February 02, 2012

If It's True for Dogs . . .

My hopes were never particularly high for the first Elephant Room, let alone the second. From the beginning of its promotion, I felt vibes that raised some concerns, which I believe have proven to be justifiable, without exception.

To put it simply, the format of the conversations, exacerbated by the personas of the leading figures, made the nature of the conversation pretty predictable, and not in a good way. I mean, we've seen this movie before, haven't we? On top of that—with no disrespect intended to a couple participants–the supporting cast of characters offered minimal hope for elevating the conversation, particularly since ministry size seems more closely related to the criteria for inclusion than a relentless commitment to biblical fidelity.

Dare I say, that's maybe not quite the right format for public conversations about theology and their implications for pastoral ministry? Maybe I was naïve to think that's what it was supposed to be about, or maybe I'm just a hater. (After all, I am a blogger.)

ER2 introduced new concerns. I don't have anything new to say about them that hasn't already been said quite sufficiently, and of course we all know how things turned out.

Before I get to my main point, I do want to say that I'm convinced there's real value in building relationships outside our "tribe" and talking to people we disagree with. I've argued pretty regularly and vociferously that it hasn't happened enough. But I'm just old-fashioned enough to think that a nation-wide simulcast with tix at $99 a pop isn't the way to get that difficult work done, particularly when matters as complex and fundamental as the Trinity are at stake.

Now having gotten all that out of the way, I think something Justin Taylor wrote calls for a response. Addressing TGC's minimal comments on these recent events, he said:
Most of us do not know all that was said to T.D. Jakes before and after the event. Most of us do not know all of the conversations between the Gospel Coalition and James MacDonald prior to the event—or how he responded. But some critics have assumed that since they haven’t read a public statement on the web about X, then there are not hours of conversations—some winsome and careful, and some neither of those—happening behind the scenes.
Here's the deal. As a para-church ministry, TGC intends to be a help to churches. Right?:
Our desire is to serve the church we love by inviting all our brothers and sisters to join us in an effort to renew the contemporary church in the ancient gospel of Christ so that we truly speak and live for him in a way that clearly communicates to our age.
As a pastor in a church in which members and their families have been scarred by the disastrous teaching of the prosperity gospel movement, I don't feel particularly served when a present TGC council member and a now-resigned member prop up one of its most well-known proponents.

TGC needs to clean up the mess its elephant made on our lawn. "[W]e wish [MacDonald] well in his far-reaching endeavors" doesn't cut it. We don't know why JM resigned. We don't know how TGC feels about its leadership being pervaded by people who don't possess the prudence to perceive the pitfalls of participation in this parley. We don't know whether this video that implies several TGC Council members are guilty of "white idolization" is among the "far-reaching endeavors" in which TGC wishes JM well. We don't know what sort of gospel is being coalesced for when the gospel we believe is undermined, and the only sound is silence. We don't know these things, because TGC, which purports to speak on behalf of the gospel in a myriad of ways, has conspicuously avoided speaking unambiguously to this matter.

The Gospel Coalition just reminded us of the Francis Schaeffer's 100th birthday. I wonder if his words to a General Assembly of the PCA [PDF] might be a useful reminder to all of us:
[L]et us not allow any place for confusing Christian love with compromise, latitudinarianism and accommodation! The spirit of our age is syncretism in all the areas of life, in all the areas of thought. The spirit of our age is syncretism, and thus accommodation is the rule. The spirit of our age is the age of syncretism in contrast in truth versus error; and this being so, accommodation is the common mentality.

Those in the churches who said they were practicing love but who confused this with compromise and accommodation have not been static in their error. Compromise is never static. It always progresses. Thus what began as ecclesiastical compromise has become the acceptance of a series of tragedies, a series of things which deny truth as truth. A series of tragedies which rest in the loss of the realization that truth as truth demands differentiation. Accomodation progresses and it is increasingly forgotten that truth, if it is really truth and not just subjective truth inside of our own head, demands confrontation, loving confrontation, but confrontation. If I lose the concept of confrontation it must be asked, do I believe that truth is truth.


BE said...

I find it interesting that JT went for the "these things are happening in private so we don't need a public statement." It almost seems like the typical "did you call so and so before you posted about them" evasion tactic. Private conversations certainly should take place. The problem is, MacDonald has been very public with his comments, so addressing them with private conversations seems less than sufficient.


JT said...

Ben, thanks for the thoughtful post and critique.

BE: I didn't say that "we don't need a public statement," nor that private statements are sufficient. I tried to word my post pretty carefully. What I was arguing against was the assumption that private conservations—some of them intense—aren't happening.

A substantial statement from Don Carson is forthcoming.

Ben said...

That's most encouraging to hear. Keep up the good work.

mike said...

Will Don Carson's substantial statement be stated in such a way as to make it clear that he is speaking for the TGC?
Or will it be just another individuals opines?

Does the remaining TGC have a united voice regarding ER2?

Or are we really left with James MacDonald's exhortation to "let every man be convinced in his own mind"?

We know that you (all) love James and Mark. We ask that you show that you love God more.

Many will be angered by any such response on your parts, but The Holy righteous God will be glorified.

Don Johnson said...

Hi Ben

Have to agree with you all the way on this one.

Also... man, you were really on a riff of alliteration with p's there... Was it conscious or unconscious?

"We don't know how TGC feels about its leadership being pervaded by people who don't possess the prudence to perceive the pitfalls of participation in this parley."

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

candy said...


BE said...


Fair enough.

Just to explain my response: I was commenting more on my impression I suppose than the actual statement, but you did place a pretty significant importance on the private conversations that were happening. You even had an entire section you wanted to put "front and center" on whether private conversations "counted." (“If a conversation happens in private and there’s no one there to blog or tweet it, does it still count?”) It seemed to me that you were emphasizing that the lack of public statements may not be as bad as you think b/c there are private ones happening (maybe not "private means we don't need public" but "private means public ones are not as necessary").

I looked at it again, and I guess your point may have been that private ones are happening (so something has been done, even if you don't realize it) but that public ones still may be coming.

My impression was also combined with some of the aggressiveness that MacDonald has displayed in his public comments, which only seems to heighten the lack of public comments from TGC. Most people I interacted with were not doubting that private conversations happened/were happening--they were either wondering what was said in those (since they seemed to have little effect) or wondering why public ones weren't happening. Those two things combined shaped my reading of your post as providing a possible explanation for why there have been no public statements (not a reminder that private ones had happened).

Again, I apologize for misreading. Thanks for taking the time to clarify.


d4v34x said...


Fairly impressive, but he gets points off for misusing pervade.

People don't pervade.

Robert said...

Private conversations may be helpful, but they are not enough. And it is too late to undo what happened...and it should have been evident to everybody what was going to happen. I've read multiple articles that laid out exactly what would happen and somehow TGC thought it was OK not to speak out in advance? Mark Driscoll is still a member and was an active participant in the conference. Of course, TGC has refused to take him to task for saying he sees people having adulterous sex in one of his "visions", too.

mwhenry said...

Straw men and red herrings. Seriously, regarding the GC, theses fine men blog hundreds if not thousands of times a year, publicly.
They advertise hundreds of banners per year for conferences, and promote good and bad (perspective here) books, and link to hundreds of other bloggers.
But when it comes to "in house matters", all of a sudden it comes across as "well, you don't know everything, and don't suppose you do".
The lack of overwhelming and sheer force of reason and numbers of responses from the GC is astounding.
That the non GC blogosphere reacted faster, more forcefully and correctly than any GC "council" member says it all.

Caleb Kolstad said...

Thanks for this post.

Josh said...

I was recently told that Christian teachers should be dogmatic or work for consensus on anything because of "pervasive evangelical pluralism."

Remember when Luther and Zwingli basically went to war over thr eucharist? And now we are back to allowing supposed brothers to "agree to disagree" on the trinity?

Ben said...

Carson and Keller's comments now available here.

BE said...


Do you feel that Carson and Keller's comments sufficiently clean up the mess?


Dan McGhee said...

I agree with MWHenry's comments especially in light of the fact that James Macdonald continues to poke TGC in the eye with tweets like this (his latest as of last night) - "The louder the outcry against gracious face to face conversation the greater the proof of its neccessity."