Recently, the blogosphere has heated up with the news first of James MacDonald's interview of "pastor" Perry Noble, and then his invitation of the Sabellian heretic TD Jakes to the same Elephant Room. After rightly taking flak for his invitation to Jakes, MacDonald attempts a defense of his actions, while Tim Challies, Dr. Carl Trueman and Phil Johnson have responded to the news accordingly.
The key issue that has been the focus of discussion is Jakes' orthodoxy or the lack of it. MacDonald has centered his defense in his incredible opinion that Jakes is not a Sabellian. Even if we make the incredible concession that Jakes is merely unclear about the Trinity, doesn't this fact alone disqualifies him as a Christian leader of any sort? Imagine the following:
Person X is unclear about the Deity of Christ, but he is a great Christian leader.
Person X is unclear about Jesus being the only way to God, but he is a great Christian leader
Person X is unclear about the need to be saved from sin, but he is a great Christian leader
It is astonishing that the New [Evangelical] Calvinists have devolved at such a frightful rate. Back in 2009, I wrote an article, which was later submitted to the CREDO500 conference, on the New Evangelical Calvinism as Colin Hanson's book and the formation of the Gospel Coalition around that time made it all the vogue. At that time, there were already worrisome signs of the devolution of the "New Calvinist" movement in the invitation of Federal Vision heretic Douglas Wilson to the Desiring God conference 2009. The invitation of Purpose Driven pope Rick Warren at DG'10 was a shocker as Warren denies the biblical Gospel. Now it seems that 2011 has just broke the 2 year record of YRR compromise with the watering down of evangelical distinctions such that even the doctrine of the Trinity, something even Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox believe in, is being thrown to the wind.
Note what James MacDonald, a council member of the Gospel Coalition, says in his defense. He states that "I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might." Imagine what would happen if the sentence was "I do not require Arius or anyone else to define the details of the deity of Jesus Christ the way that I might." Can we see the absolute mess the latitudinarian view of confessional doctrine brings us to? What is more fundamental than knowing WHO is this God we profess to worship? Does a husband say that he does not require that his wife knows his name before he marries her? If we cannot agree on who is this God we are worshiping, then why can't we just worship an idol while thinking we are worshiping God? Oh wait, that is called the Golden Calf incident and we know what does God think about THAT!
There are those who say that nobody will be de-converted just by listening to the interview. That may be true, but note that the compromise and damage is already done. Whether TD Jakes is a Sabellian as such has already faded in the background. Evangelicals, and YRRs especially, are being taught by this invitation and MacDonald's defense of it that how one defines or denies the Trinity is simply irrelevant for whether someone is a Christian. In other words, how one understands God is irrelevant to being a Christian. In 2009, YRRs are taught by John Piper that how one understands justification is not important to being a Christian, in 2010 it was the Gospel, and in 2011 James MacDonald tells us that how one understands God is not relevant to being a Christian. Is there no end to this New Evangelical Calvinist madness? What's next? An interview with David Yonggi Cho, the pastor of the largest "church" of the world? Maybe the YRRs can incorporate some of the name-it-claim-it rhema formulas taught by Yonggi Cho into their devotions! After all, MacDonald has already said that he is "also excited to hear him [TD Jakes who is a prosperity Gospel teacher] state his views on money, which may be closer to Scripture than the monasticism currently touring [the] reformed world."
In that article on the New Evangelical Calvinism, my last point was on the issue of Christians as ambassadors of Christ. As I have written:
As Christians, we are called to be ambassadors for Christ; to represent our King as His messenger to proclaim His Word. In the secular world, ambassadors represent not themselves or their interests but the interests of their respective countries. Even if they personally feel a certain way, they do not express their personal feelings (or at least aren't supposed to do so), but only such as benefits their countries' interests.
... Ambassadors are to represent their countries, not themselves. Similarly, in Gospel and truth proclamations, we represent God and not ourselves. We are still not perfect and are still sinful, but we are NOT representing our own human frailties but the perfect, infallible and sinless God whose greatness surpasses our puny human frames. ... We are therefore to be bold in our proclamation, because the message we have does not depend on the state of the vessel for its existence and truthfulness. Our job is in presenting it clearly through faithful exegesis of Scripture, and thus let the Scriptures speak for themselves, and we need not ever apologize or try to be humble in its proclamation. In fact, since this is God's truth we are talking about, humility is portrayed in proclaiming it authoritatively, and the "chastened" attitude is in fact false humility which devalues the Word of God by making its proclamation less authoritative than what it actually is.
As ambassadors of Christ, our job is not to be nice or to reach out to heretics via interviews. What do ambassadors do? They promote the agenda of the leadership in their countries. They are not to mediate as a third party between the leadership of their country and that of another nation! Rather, their interaction is pictured as them representing the leadership of their country. [Which is why the Libyan ambassadors around the world are heinous in their conduct during the Civil War] If they disagree with the policies of the countries they represent, they have no right to change the policies when they represent their countries, but must resign immediately!
So similarly, it is not the job of any Christians, much less pastors, to try to build bridges with those outside the faith. Again, it is not the job of Christians to build bridges with those outside the faith. You Christian, you pastor, are an ambassador for Christ. You have no right to write policies! You have no right to dictate the rules of conduct! You have no right to make judgment calls on who is inside or outside the kingdom of God except by applying the truth of Scriptures in this regard! You have no right to proclaim that TD Jakes is a brother since Scripture has already condemned him as someone who believes in another God! Shame on you, James MacDonald! Traitor to the faith and your calling!
May God grant MacDonald repentance for his compromise, or failing which, to remove his lampstand from his place (Rev. 2:5). Amen.