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.