T.D. Jakes, Elephant Room & Reformed African American Perspectives

The Elephant in the Room

In less than thirty days Round 2 of the Elephant Room will be simulcast at 70+ locations around North America where many leaders of Christian churches will meet to hear conversations between pastors about the Church who would normally never talk to one another. The Elephant Room website says their goal is:

. . . unity, however a true unity cannot be fashioned in pretense or denial of truth nor can it be won among those who prefer sectarianism to the unity Jesus prayed for. To advance Christ’s call to unity we must do what men have always done, we must push and prod and challenge and sharpen each other’s beliefs and methods.

One belief that has caught much attention in Round 2 is what Christians ought to believe about the Trinity. Why? Well, the leader of the Elephant Room, James McDonald, invited T.D. Jakes to be apart of the discussion in Round 2. T.D. Jakes has been known not to believe what orthodox evangelicals believe about the Trinity (See Thabiti Anyawile’s blog post below for his repost of: “Reviving Old Heresies: Bishop T. D. Jakes and the Oneness Controversy”). Although attention is not necessarily a bad thing, there are many who fear the ramifications of giving T.D. Jakes a platform in relatively orthodox circles.

Two Reformed African American Perspectives

Two Reformed African American pastors, Thabiti Anyabwile and Anthony Carter, are especially worried about the effects this will have of the African American church community. They have been laboring to reform African American Christians to Biblical orthodoxy and away from the influence of such teachers like Jakes and his predecessors. Here are Pastor Anyabwile’s concerns voiced on his blog:

This kind of invitation undermines that long, hard battle many of us have been waging in a community often neglected by many of our peers.  And because we’ve often been attempting to introduce African-American Christians to the wider Evangelical and Reformed world as an alternative to the heresy and blasphemy so commonplace in some African-American churches and on popular television outlets, the invitation of Jakes to perform in “our circles” simply feels like a swift tug of the rug from beneath our feet and our efforts to bring health to a sick church. 

Anthony Carter echoes Pastor Anyabwile’s concern on his blog as well. He highlights another quote from the Elephant Room website that describes what they are trying to create:

What if we created a new ‘tribe?’  A tribe based on being humble enough to listen and reconsider what the Scriptures actually say. A tribe that holds the essential tenets of the faith with a ferocious intensity and is open handed with everything else. Maybe, together, we can create a new center?  A place where we are for everything the bible demands and demand nothing that scriptures are silent about.

In response to this quote, Pastor Carter highlights the main controversy as he sees it:

They desire a tribe that “holds the essential tenets of the faith with a ferocious intensity”.  I like that. However, last I checked, the Trinity was an essential tenet of the faith, and unless someone has moved the goal post since I last looked, it still is.  If this is the case it would appear that everyone within the Elephant Room is on board with this doctrine, clearly stated and accepted as historically understood, except one – you guessed it, TD Jakes.

Will the Elephant Win? 

So who is T.D. Jakes going to engage in theological conversation with and what will they discuss? The Elephant Room website displays the discussion will be between Jakes and Mark Driscoll, moderated by Pastor McDonald. Here is a list of the topics they will be discussing:

What are the ‘majors’ of Christian doctrine that cannot be diluted or denied for a person to be a Christian? How can we help one another move beyond the bare minimum of accepted belief, to a pursuit of robust, soul-satisfying, biblical substance? How should we relate to those who do not yet embrace the benefit and priority of sound biblical doctrine? Is there a difference between a person in error and a wolf in sheep’s clothing? What benefits derive from keeping the majors on a separate list and not letting the ‘minors’ divide us? Is it possible to love the truth without compromise and still work passionately for unity?

If you are wondering what Pastor Driscoll is generally thinking about this whole controversy, you can read his clarifying blog post. Here is what he is thinking about the awaited discussion with Jakes in particular:

Regarding Bishop Jakes, my preference is to simply let the man speak for himself and see what he says. As moderator, I assure you, I don’t want to do anything but let the men speak for themselves without being disrespected, set-up, or pushed into an unfair position—and I know this is MacDonald’s stance too. The Bible is clear about loving people and truth telling. Our plan is to have both.

Pastor Carter was really encouraged by Pastor Driscoll’s blog post clarifying a lot on this controversy and plainly stating his stance on the Trinity. Pastor Carter is even confident Pastor Driscoll will engage Jakes in some uncomfortable topics to get him to explain where he stands in respect to the Trinity and why he does so. Yet, Pastor Carter is convinced this will not be enough to make this exchange beneficial:

I can not help but see that the end result would be a win-win for Jakes and a lose-lose for those who have to combat and deal with Jakes’ presence and influence all the time. . . No matter what is said, unless Jakes denounces his previous teachings or is exposed as a false teacher, it’s a win for team Jakes and a loss for those of us left to clean up after the elephant has done his business.

Please join me in praying Pastor Anyabwile’s prayer for Round 2 of the Elephant Room, “Now may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us both now and forever.  Amen.”

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About Daniel Ray
My wife and I live in Waxhaw, NC. Currently, I am a Sales Manager for a flooring company in Charlotte and also a distance student at UNCG. When I have time I like to hear live music, play golf, run, read good books, hike and ride my mountain bike. My wife and I are sinners saved by grace, trying to walk it out in grace.

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