Saturday, February 4, 2012

Love Triumphs Over Truth?

Picture this: a group of Christian leaders from different backgrounds, ministry perspectives and life experiences coming together for the sake of unity. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? This was the essential purpose of the Elephant Room 2 (ER2). Unfortunately, ER2 was destined to encounter serious problems one of the 7 men on the list was none other than T.D. Jakes, a renowned Modalist. Other notables include the now infamous Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, and James McDonald. An interesting bunch of men, to be sure, but what did it produce?

If you’ve had your head out of the sand for any length of time you know the Internet has been buzzing about the sad results for days on end. What was most disappointing to me, personally, was the segment of time spent discussing Jakes’ view of the godhead. The big question (arguably the only decent question too) put to Jakes was by Driscoll asking him about his use of the term “manifestations.” This was an important question because Modalism believes that God consists of one divine Person who expresses himself in different modes or manifestations. Jakes replied by citing 1 Timothy 3:16, continuing to defend his use of the term manifestations!

If ever Jakes should have been asked what he meant by this, this would have been the time. But what actually happened? Nothing. Jakes was given a pass by the other 6 men, including Mark Driscoll. I am in complete agreement with Dr. James White who comments: “Driscoll and the rest heard what they wanted to hear, fist-bumped and applauded, and all was well. It would have been so painfully simple to bring this entire question to a complete conclusion.”

It was not as though Driscoll is ignorant of the essential issues at stake here. He received his Graduate degree in exegetical theology from Western Seminary, and knows all the core essential differences between the Trinity and Modalism. Yet he would not defend the Biblical view. Instead he chose to pretend all is well for the sake of unity, leaving many people with the false impression that T.D. Jakes is a Trinitarian.

The Ruling Elder had some *excellent* comments about Mark Driscoll’s views on the Trinity. In his article he brings out that Driscoll’s own views on the Trinity are at best underdeveloped, specifically with reference to the eternality of the Son-ship of Christ (that the 2nd Person of the Trinity has not only eternally existed, but that He has eternally existed as the Son in relation to the Father).

He cites from Driscoll’s book:

“The whole attempt to define the eternal relations in the immanent or ontological Trinity seems misguided. First, God has given us no revelation of the nature of their eternal relations. We should follow the command of the Bible: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God" and refuse to speculate. Second, the Apostles' Creed defines the Son as "begotten, not made." The point was that something begotten was of the same substance as the one who does the begetting. But the term "begotten" could never be defined with any clarity, so it was of little use. Third, begotten unavoidably implies a beginning of the one begotten. That would certainly lend support to the Arian heresy that the Son is a created being and not the Creator God. For these reasons it is best to omit the creedal terms "begotten" and "proceeds" from our definition of Trinity. Our authority is not in creeds but in Scripture.” (Mark Driscoll, Doctrine: What Christians Believe (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2010), 27-28)

While this might sound impressive to those unfamiliar with the subject, it is a fancy way of saying that for hundreds of years Christians have been too rigid in how they define the Trinity. I also need to just get this out there … I pray that Driscoll can come to terms with all that the Bible has to say about the triunity of God – including the eternality of Christ’s son-ship (John 1, as the classic example).

Driscoll has done many things over the years (I’ve been keeping tabs on his ministry since 2003), and by now it is hard for him to truly surprise me. But EP2 did surprise me. I have gotten accustomed to his cussing (which he did finally stop – to his credit), to his starting “relevant” church movements, becoming involved in the dramatic, his ability to “see things” through personal extra-Biblical revelation, and all around over the top activities. But I did not expect him to embrace into the fellowship of faith someone who denies the Trinity.

I expect more from a church elder. I expect him to have the discernment to recognize when a heretic is playing with words to try to muddle an issue. With Jakes specifically, I expected him to defend the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity – as taught in Scripture – and for him to have loved T.D. Jakes enough to share that truth with him.

Speaking about the qualifications of elders, Paul wrote:

7 For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, just, devout, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict. (Titus 1:7-9, NASB).

Because of his extensive knowledge of God and the gospel, I expected Mark Driscoll to “[hold] fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” This is God’s expectation of the office of elder, and the standard to which Driscoll is held.

Much more could be said (and probably has been said somewhere in the blogosphere) so I’ll conclude with this: unity should be the Christian’s goal wherever possible, but not at the expense of truth. Unity and truth work in perfect harmony together, because it is the faith that unifies the body of Christ. The Apostle Paul said it best: 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).


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