Tuesday

Elephant Room, Unity, and Race

The fallout from the round two of the Elephant Room continues to rain down.  The latest salvo in the back and forth between James MacDonald and his critics is fired by MacDonald himself in the form of this video.  Go watch and then hurry back.

Let me very honest and plain spoken about this.  Watching this video made me alternately want to scream in frustration and then cry with heartbreak.  I am completely taken aback by the things said and the accusation leveled in this video by all involved.

To begin with, MacDonald states that he has been humbled and wants to let these three pastors who attended the Elephant Room conference speak to its success or failure rather than declaring it a success himself.  That sounds like a noble gesture but a couple of issues seem to undermine the MacDonald's credibility from the start.
First, are we supposed to believe it is just some coincidence that all three of these pastors are African-american?  Considering the rather lengthy discussion on race that concludes the discussion, obviously these pastors were chosen intentionally, at least in part, for their race.
Second, if MacDonald is serious about hearing legitimate criticism about the Elephant Room or from hearing from African-american pastors, why not interview someone like Voddie Baucham who has already gone on record with his concerns about ER.  (As an aside, if you are looking for an example of how to voice serious concerns with other believers doctrine or practices in a way that is firm, gracious, and loving.....you can't do much better than Baucham did.)

Leaving these initial concerns, let me move to the actual content of the video.  Not surprisingly, all three of these pastors gave glowing reviews of ER2 and of all that took place there including the rubber stamping of T.D. Jakes as orthodox.  Going by recent events, one might conclude that unequivocal agreement with MacDonald on these topics was the prerequisite of being interviewed in the first place.  The idea that anyone who criticizes or disagrees with any aspect of the ER, and especially the session dealing with T.D. Jakes, is an uninformed, unbiblical, love abandoning pseudo-Christian was clearly implied throughout the video.  As arrogant and distasteful as that implication is, I found what was actually stated by one of the interviewed pastor to be worse by far.

Bryan Lorrits accused some black pastors who criticized the Elephant Room and its handling of T.D. Jakes of doing so in order to gain access into the "middle-aged, white reformed world". (You can find this beginning at the 4:25 mark of the video.)  I have no idea what this accusation is based upon and suspect it isn't based on much of anything.  And the fact that MacDonald just accepted the accusation at face value without any clarification I find just as appalling as the accusation itself.  This reeks of playing the "race card" so that no one can disagree with what you have said without being labeled a racist. (And how ironic is it that T.D. Jakes has somehow escaped this charge despite the fact he is at a conference basically asking for acceptance from MacDonald who is a white, middle-aged, (semi) reformed pastor?)

What I find so disturbing about all of this (at least in part) is that MacDonald and company are doing the very same thing in this video they are accusing their critics of doing. See, they accuse their critics of being unloving, uncharitable, and unwilling to accept the possibility of being wrong.  And yet nothing put out by the ER2 crew in response to their critic has given any indication that they themselves are willing to loving, charitable, or receptive to the possibility of error.  They assume they are right and if anyone needs to change their minds it is necessarily those who disagree with them. It is the saddest of ironies.

The other great irony in all of this is that Voddie Baucham spoke warned against and denounced these type of racist tactics we see used by the pastors in MacDonald's video in his blog post where he graciously disagrees with MacDonald about T.D. Jakes. The quote below is from Baucham's blog.

You see, some of this boils down to what has sometimes been called, “the soft bigotry of lowered expectations.”  Asking black people to adopt orthodox theology (when Lord knows they don’t have access to the same schools, books, opportunities, and, in the minds of some... lack sufficient intelligence) is asking them to negate their blackness.  While, on the other hand, the solid, Reformed, well-educated black pastor is NOT REALLY BLACK.  Therefore, he’s fair game.  Irony of Ironies... that is racist!  And that’s what has to be dragged out of the shadows.
Of course, according to the logic of MacDonald, Baucham and all he says can be written off completely because he is only saying these things in order to gain admission to the white, reformed theological world.




All this just highlight the inherent problem with abandoning truth and sound doctrine for the appearance of unity.  You take a man, Voddie Baucham, who is know for his biblical faithfulness in the pulpit, and you make him an outcast because he won't toe the line when it comes to the agenda of "unity and charity" you have established as being of first importance.  Meanwhile, you take a man who is, at best, on the very edge of orthodoxy when it comes to the crucial doctrine of the trinity and you elevate him as being untouchable by any criticism.  Biblically faithful men are shunned and biblically suspect men are welcomed with open arms. (The maddening thing about all this is that even if Jakes had publicly and convincingly repented of modalism and embraced the historical, biblical view of the trinity, he would still be a false teacher peddling a heretical and dangerous false gospel. Meaning he still would not be deserving biblically of being fellowshipped with and endorsed as a brother in the ministry.) This man made attempt at unity is just creating greater disunity in the body.  As Phil Johnson (@Phil_Johnson) so aptly tweeted:
The inevitable fruit of any fleshly attempt to engineer unity apart from truth will be worse division than ever.
We are seeing firsthand what Johnson is speaking to.  True biblical unity cannot be separated from the truth and the solution to reconciling racial divides in the church is not to force feed T.D. Jakes into mainstream "white" evangelicalism.  Nor is it to accuse those who oppose Jakes of being racist themselves.  It is to confront racist attitudes, along with every other sin, with the power of the biblical gospel.