08 February 2012

Cleaning Up After the Elephants? MacDonald Takes to the Airwaves

James MacDonald has been making the radio rounds this week as he speaks to the Elephant Room 2 controversy surrounding T.D. Jakes. On Monday, he was a featured guest on Chris Fabry Live, an afternoon talk show that can be heard on Moody radio stations across the country. Audio of that show is available here. Tuesday morning, MacDonald appeared on Moody's local Chicago morning show, The Morning Ride, to speak briefly with host Mark Elfstrand. The full audio of that interview can be heard here.

As is to be expected, the topic of T.D. Jakes largely dominated these discussions. Between these two interviews, there is a lot that could be addressed, and so the intent of this post is not to embark on a minute-by-minute critique, but to simply alert the reader to a few rather interesting comments made during these two conversations. Please note that quotations made herein of these radio interviews may not be verbatim. The reader is encouraged, then, to listen to the interviews for him or herself.

Tuesday morning's discussion was quick and to the point. Not too many minutes in, we can hear MacDonald unquestioningly state, "I don't believe he's [Jakes] a modalist." This conclusion, according to MacDonald, is based upon Jakes' answers to Driscoll's questions in the Elephant Room 2. MacDonald says, "[Jakes] didn't get an A+ on the exam, but he didn't get a B either." Let's look again at part of the ER2 conversation between Driscoll and Jakes.
Driscoll: We all would agree that in the nature of God there is mystery, and it’s like a dimmer switch: how much certainty, how much mystery. But within that, Bishop Jakes, for you the issue between Trinitarianism and Modalism at its essence is is one God manifesting Himself successively in three ways? Or one God three persons simultaneously existing eternally – so, your best What is your understanding now? And I understand, there is some mystery – for sure. Would you say its One God manifesting Himself in three ways, or One God in three persons?
Jakes: I believe that neither one of them totally did it for me, but the latter one is where I stand today.
Driscoll: One God Three Persons?
Jakes: One God – Three Persons. One God – Three Persons, and here is why…there… I am not crazy about the word persons this is…most people who follow me know that that is really. My doctrinal statement is no different from yours except the word…
Driscoll: “manifestations”
Jakes: Manifest instead of persons. Which you describe as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline. When I read…let me show you what I’m talking about…when I read I Timothy 3:16 – I didn’t create this, Paul did: “And without controversy” which I think we have…we have been bickering about something which Paul describes as a mystery, and I don’t think we should do that. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. For God was manifest in the flesh.” Now Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it is robbery to the divinity of God to think God was manifest in the flesh. And I think maybe it’s semantics, because [garbled], but Paul says this before this fight was started. But He also says he “was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, believed in the world, and received up into glory.” Now, when we start talking about that sort of thing, I think that it is important that we realize that there are distinctives between the Father and the working of the Son. the Father didn’t bleed, the Father didn’t die, only a different person in Jesus Christ…is coming back for us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is with us, but only indwells us through the person of the Holy Spirit; we are baptized into the body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any of that is objectionable to any of the three of us. So that is consistent with my belief system. I’m with you. I have been with you. I teach/preach that all the time. There are many people within and outside quote unquote denominations labeled Oneness that would describe that the same way. There are some that would not. But when we get to know people by their labels, then comes all the baggage of how we define that label. And we miss…it’s almost like the stereotypical ideologies we have about races. We have ideas about denominations and movements. The reason I’m proud of what you said earlier about people who have dual affiliations: We are taught in society that if we disagree with any movement, we leave. We sever. Oh, you said something I disagree with we fall out and then we walk away. I still have fellowship, associations, relationship, and positions within and without Trinitarian and Onenness movements. Because I believe that until we bridge the gap between our thinking and humble both sides and say, “We are both attempting to describe a God we love, that we serve, and that we have not seen. And that we are viewing Him through the context of the Scriptures, but that with a glass darkly.” Why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when all that I know and understand, be it very orthodox, is still through a glass darkly? and then face to face – None of our books about the Godhead or anything else will be on sale in heaven. You know why? Because we’re only authorities down here, with our little kingdoms in this world. I think it’s important that we realize that our God is beyond our intellect. And if you can define Him and completely describe Him and say you are the end-all definition of who God is, then He ceases to be God. Because the reason Paul says it is a mystery, is that we deify the fact that God does things that don’t fit our formulas. And because people’s formulas and understandings of a description of an unbiblical God did doesn’t make them demonic. (Online Source)
It seems that James MacDonald still has not realized that he may very well have been duped by Jakes, who is a careful and skilled communicator. Yes, he affirmed "3 persons," but still prefers to use the language of the modalists. Jakes' use of 1 Timothy 3:16 especially ought to cause us to wonder if he has truly abandoned his Oneness roots, as this is a common "go to" verse for the Modalist argument. If you haven't already taken the time to listen to this discussion between James White and Voddie Baucham on this particular topic, I suggest you do so. It will shed a great deal of light on what precisely T.D. Jakes was saying in his response.

In his appearance on Chris Fabry Live, MacDonald expanded a bit on his acceptance of Jakes - or of anyone - who doesn't hold to the precise doctrine to which MacDonald himself may adhere. He declared that the Trinity is a "non-negotiable," and that it is "central" and a "key pillar" of Christianity. Yet, he continued, he does not feel it "necessary to hold people to a creedal preciseness about their Trinitarianism to see that person as a Christian." MacDonald stated something similar to this in the past, so it is clear that his position has not changed. Yet, the Trinitarian nature of God is just that - an undeniable fact of His nature, and while none of us will fully grasp this side of Heaven how the Trinity exists as the Bible says it does, the bottom line is that the Bible is still quite clear on the subject. This isn't about "creedal preciseness" (though, creeds such as the Athanasian Creed were developed based on biblical truth), it is about accepting - or rejecting - what God has revealed in His Word.

Nevertheless, for James MacDonald, it all comes down in the end to his continued claim that ER2 "isn't about the issues." Instead, according to MacDonald in both of these interviews on Moody radio, the whole purpose was to "model how to talk to people we disagree with." Hm...really? Then why does it seem that there is actually very little disagreement between the various participants of the Elephant Room? Toward the end of his Tuesday morning interview, MacDonald stated that "most of the critique is coming from people who weren't there, at any of the 70 locations..." Well, Pastor MacDonald, in case you have forgotten, some of us did want to be there. But I digress.

At about 35 minutes into the interview with Chris Fabry, the subject of race was brought into the discussion. It was quite interesting to hear MacDonald state that "ethnicity was not part of the subject, and I [MacDonald] think that trying to make it part of the subject is troubling." What is troubling here is the complete backward nature of that statement. While many initially were critical and questioning of Jakes' inclusion in this event, the concerns ultimately had nothing to do with T.D. Jakes' race. The issue has always been the attack of the faith once for all delivered to the saints. Race was not truly brought into this controversy until a blog post (that has since been removed) was written by Bryan Loritts. The issue of race was brought even more boldly to the forefront when James MacDonald posted this video, wherein some very disconcerting and, quite frankly, some seemingly racist comments were made:

So, whether James MacDonald likes it or not, it appears as though it was his camp that unnecessarily dragged the "race card" into this situation. Nevertheless, if James MacDonald doesn't want race to be the issue, and none of the critics of ER2 ever felt that race was the issue, then let us move on.

Not long after this subject was addressed between Fabry and MacDonald, Fabry brought up the oft-neglected (by MacDonald, anyway) elephant of T.D. Jakes' prosperity gospel. In this part of the discussion, James MacDonald indicated that a private conversation had taken place (among whom, we do not know, though it is obvious that it was at least allegedly between MacDonald and Jakes). During this conversation, says MacDonald, T.D. Jakes expressed that he would "not currently accept the designation of prosperity or Word of Faith as an accurate description of what he believes. [...] As of two weeks ago [Jakes] would not accept these terms in a private conversation as an accurate description of what he believes." MacDonald continued and stated that Jakes' "ministry will have to bear that out." Indeed it will. After all, the prosperity preaching gig is quite lucrative and it is undoubtedly not abandoned lightly. And it is most certainly not forsaken without repentance. But then, when T.D. Jakes states that he would not describe himself as a prosperity preacher, is that to be viewed as an acknowledgement that he was at one time, but now has turned from such lies? Or is it merely someone rejecting a less-than-desirable title for himself?

If T.D. Jakes truly desires to no longer preach an aberrant prosperity gospel, then may we assume that he will soon be denouncing and apologizing for the teachings contained in footage such as this?

And if Jakes has turned from his Word-Faith leanings, then it is curious that, just a week prior to the Elephant Room, he delivered a more-than-mildly Word-Faith-esque sermon at Code Orange Revival. If the reader is unfamiliar with this, I suggest visiting this careful critique of Jakes' COR sermon, written by Daniel Neades at the Better Than Sacrifice blog. Yet, James MacDonald claims that he "learned a ton" from this sermon delivered by Jakes. Perhaps this explains why MacDonald could be content with Jakes simply "not accepting" the designation of being a Word of Faith or prosperity preacher.

For those who have long respected and looked to James MacDonald for biblical teaching, it would be helpful to know just how strong his confrontation, or conversation, with Jakes was regarding Jakes' Word of Faith heresy. To simply be content with someone rejecting a title is a rather unfortunately weak position, especially when the evidence of that designation is 20+ years strong. If indeed Jakes has turned from his Word of Faith heresy, it would be edifying to the Church to see a public repentance and renunciation of it, considering that Jakes' ministry has been so public - and so detrimental - for so many years.

James MacDonald did make one comment in his Tuesday morning interview with which some might agree. He stated, "a lot of this [the critique] is rooted in fear." Agreed, but not with the same motivation and meaning behind the statement as MacDonald would claim. Yes, Pastor MacDonald, perhaps fear is a motivator of some of the critiques: fear that the Word of God is no longer being held with the same power and authority within the visible church; fear that the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith are being swept under the rug in favor of joining hands and espousing "love and unity;" fear that some of American Christianity's most influential leaders have chosen the path of compromise. Fear that perhaps we have begun to place our fear of men over and above our fear of God.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:6-10)

May We Now Regard T.D. Jakes As Trinitarian and Orthodox?
"We Can Work It Out:" Is James MacDonald Qualified to Have This Conversation?
The Elephant Room Continues to Stomp On Its Critics


  1. Lots of elephant you know what to sweep up, that's for sure. I am not duped by the damage control. I wonder if others are.

  2. The FEAR of THE LORD is the beginning of wisdom. To openly embrace and hold dear men with the teachings and practices of TD Jakes and to present Jakes as worthy to the flock of GOD is both a gross sin and should be an indicator to Holy Spirit filled Believers that snakes are now welcome to hiss and slither in and among the wheat at Harvest Bible, and all at the hand of the alleged "shepherd".

  3. MacDonald continues his imagined shrewd or rather not so shrewd but crude machiavellian want to be like manipulations, PR mirage making and "divide and conquer" age old tactics. All of that in the name of "Christian love" and God which really translated means advancement of his private and HBC corporate agenda. The man is dissolving if not dissolved already the last bits and pieces of reputation he used to had. Sad indeed but not discouraging, only instructing for those who have been sucked in the leavenjellycal culture of pastor celebrities and their spin of the Gospel.

  4. MacDonald continues his imagined shrewd or rather not so shrewd but crude machiavellian want to be like manipulations, PR mirage making and "divide and conquer" age old tactics. All of that in the name of "Christian love" and God which really translated means advancement of his private and HBC corporate agenda. The man is dissolving if not dissolved already the last bits and pieces of reputation he used to had. Sad indeed but not discouraging, only instructing for those who have been sucked in the leavenjellycal culture of pastor celebrities and their spin of the Gospel.

  5. Erin and readers,

    I wonder if you caught that in the Moody's interview with Elfstrand MacDonald flat out denied Sola Fide in this statement in the middle of his talk. Here is the incredibly damaging to the Gospel statement of MacDonald's beliefs warping if not gutting out the Gospel:

    "It is NOT ENOUGH JUST to believe right things, we have to RELATE to people. All kinds of people in a way that reflects behavior ethic of Christ."

    There you have it a FLAT OUT DENIAL of the Gospel and sufficiency of Christ work. That is NOT ENOUGH according to MacDonald. According to him it is not enough to believe in that you ALSO have to SUPPLY your best attempt at the right behavior, right social approach, your attempt of being like Christ, your ethics, your morality... In short according to MacDonald YOU HAVE TO SUPPLY CERTAIN KIND OF WORKS in addition to the WORK OF CHRIST. That is nothing but Roman Catholicism dressed up as leavenjellycalism and flat out denial of the Gospel. Of course there is a room and need of sanctification of the Believer after his justification as allowed and empowered by the Holy Spirit and sometimes that room is very small and short like with the thief on the cross who certainly did not have time for MacDonald's asserted works of "relational ethics" with other people and all he did is just simply believed on Christ and His righteousness in his sin and shame while despised by everybody else and was saved and Christ gave him His word on that... Yet this is not what MacDonald stated nor did he allow room for that. Was that just imprecise in passing comment? Was that just a slip of tongue? Or is it a reflection of MacDonald's warped and corrupted understanding that is now on full snow ball run down the hill? Again this is what James MAcDonald stated publicly on the radio while intentionally discussing and describing saving and orthodox truth:

    "It is NOT ENOUGH JUST to believe right things, we have to RELATE to people. All kinds of people in a way that reflects behavior ethic of Christ."

    And he stated that in the context of salvation. In the context of who is saved and who is not saved that is why he talked about what is true orthodoxy right before this quote and the importance of "relational ethics" as qualifying the true orthodoxy and what is orthodoxy if not another word of the truth in this context and coming from Greek ortho + doxa -> "correct thinking" i.e. correct truth?

    I noticed this denial of Sola Fide and denial of Gospel itself immediately on that morning when by chance I listened to that talk on Moody but this audio file allowed me to truly grasp the extent of what MacDonald said...

    Erin, this is extremely significant and I encourage you to re listen and do your own research of that statement and post a separate post with laser like focus on what MacDonald just said on radio station listened to by hundreds of thousands of people. Please act on it. This is too big to let it pass...

    "It is not faith that saves, but faith in Jesus Christ.... It is not, strictly speaking, even faith in Christ that saves, but Christ that saves through faith. The saving power resides exclusively, not int he act of faith or the attitude of faith or in the nature of faith, but in the object of faith."

    - B. B. Warfield

  6. When Pastor James MacDonald was asked by Mark Elfstrand (10:24 in the audio), "Has this created any internal problems for you Harvest Bible Chapel?"

    I would have to DISAGREE with His response to this. There has been a lot of questions by HBC members. There has been very little communications initiated by leaders regarding this subject. The one most in the dark regarding Pastor James activities and behavior are the HBC members, unfortunately. Loyalties seem misplaced to A man rather the to our God.

    Yes, I have immense fear that we are grieving God in what he blessed us with.

    Please pray for the Robert Jones and the Elder Board at HBC that they would offer wise biblical counsel to Pastor James.


    1. Agreed. I have brought this up more than once. There is NO public communication re: official discussion of elders etc... Just "we are in agreement". This is typical Harvest-no accountability or communication. I know many people are concerned, upset, outraged. The suggestion as always is, if you don't like it, please leave. I know some who have. I have been praying for some time-I believe all of this is part of God's plan to get through to James and the elders...

  7. There are Harvest members who are leaving the church over this. I have not left yet; hoping to see Pastor James repent of this madness. I have, however, withdrawn all financial support.

    And I would like to offer that how we relate to people directly follows from what we believe. I don't understand Pastor James' statement on this. He knows better because he has preached it.

  8. I just listened to MacDonald's interview and talk on Chris Fabry show... It is equally troubling. Maybe I am biased but MacDonald's talk is full of evasions, manipulations, and yes outright lies with Fabry's lay ups and set ups. For example he equates conversations about the truth with those that happen in politics i.e. "as between the nations". Really? So discussing the Gospel is exactly the same as discussing politics... Unbelievable. Then he proceeds to deny and distance himself from introducing race issues into faith yet it is him who brought in three young black pastors as his puppets and a tube through which he sounded race call as an evasion and smoke screen to cover up the division he created and his mainstreaming of a wolf Jakes. Then MacDonald denied that Dr.Voddie Baucham was turned around from access to Harvest's men conference over his critique of MacDonald's embrace of wolf TD Jakes. This is an outright LIE for Dr.Voddie Baucham described exactly that as a reason for his decline of access. James MacDonald is falling and we need to pray for this man for he is bringing division and strife within the body of Christ. He is the one who started this and now he refuses to repent and admit his errors. He is prideful, cunning deceiver and very dangerous indeed.

  9. Despeville -- you bring up a very interesting point about MacDonald. I stopped listening to him many years ago because after listening to his messages, I would come away feeling that I "wasn't doing enough".

    I then heard a message from my own pastor from Colossians 1 entitled -- Christ in you, the hope of glory. The main point of the message was we have absolutely no hope of EVER living up to the standard that God wants us to live up to. We need to let HIM (Holy Spirit) live through us and give us the strength and ability we need to be the people he wants us to be. It's a life of dependence upon God, not trying my best and asking him to top up my efforts.

    Once I heard that, it was very liberating for me and while I am not perfect by any means, it stopped me from thinking that it was all up to me.

    James has NEVER understood that. I've heard a number of messages by him where it's all about our effort and I'm sorry to say that I've never heard him clearly talk about resting in the Holy Spirit and living the "exchanged life". Unfortunately, many of the pastors in his "Harvest church network" and church plants also preach the same way.

    So, it's not surprising to me to hear that he would say something like that when for years, his messages have been mostly devoid of relying on the Holy Spirit to do the work in our lives and to rely mostly on ourselves.

    ER2 has helped bring to the surface the underlying arrogance that he has in thinking that just because HE feels something is important it therefore means that others MUST as well no matter how unbiblical it may be.

    Seems to me that the poop left behind to clean up after the Elephant Room was actually bigger than the elephant itself.

  10. Dave,

    Very good points. MacDonald and his cadres do not know proper distinction between law and Gospel and their proper roles. If they do they surely do a lot to blur it and muddle it in order to guilt their sheep into more works... More giving. More volunteering. More helping. More sacrificing. Always more and more and more. Yet if we look at James MacDonald we see less and less. Less accountability where his elders are basically his clap trap team caught in their own ego trip. Less biblical stance where Trinity "is not an issue" and hanging out with heretics while video beaming it all over the country is a new norm while looting, stealing and devouring people and their souls by TD Jakes is just "an extra thing" and not a revolting sin. Less living in reality of his own sheep with MacDonald's big TWO MILLION mansion in Inverness, IL as the ultimate statement of arrogance and distance from a regular sheep he has became a master of and not shepherd anymore. More for shepherd and less for sheep or is it the other way around?

  11. Thanks for your thoughts, Despeville (and thank you Erin for allowing me to comment on an older post).

    You mention the elders as a clap trap team. Very well put. I have very little hope that they will be able to dissuade MacDonald from the path that he's going down. I've unfortunately attended a church where this same situation occurred. The pastor basically did what he wanted, surrounded himself with "YES" men on his board and those who didn't conform were politely and in most cases, not so politely told to shape up or ship out. MacDonald isn't any different.

    The other point you mentioned was how more and more was expected from the congregants but less and less seemed to be coming from MacDonald. Spot on! I have friends who were involved in the Harvest plant in my area and what I found very disturbing was how much they kept talking about doing things "the Harvest way" as if there wasn't any other way to get things done in the church. The 3 fold minimum requirement given to the congregation was that one had to attend services on Sunday AND be involved in a small group AND be involved in some sort of ministry within the church. Now I don't have a problem with that but it was presented to them in such a way as if to say this is what is expected of you and you won't get the "full benefit" of church and the christian life unless you are involved MINIMALLY in that way. More would be better. What garbage! People are busy with living (kids, work, school, family responsibilities, etc...), I thought that was unreasonable to put that yoke of expectation on people and give them the idea that that they're "missing out" and "disobedient" if they don't get on board with this. (Salvation through works) I'm happy to say, most of my friends have now left that church and are serving happily in other churches.

    I pray that God would use James MacDonald and Harvest for His glory despite what has transpired over these last few months. I also pray for those attending the church that they would be protected and that their eyes would be open to what is going on.

    Thank you Erin again for the opportunity to respond to an older post.

  12. despeville you are right on. Roman Catholicism and seeker sensitivism. I keep trying to point that out when people ask things like:

    "which of these things is more likely to keep people away from Christ"

    (1) A Joel Osteen feel good sermon?
    (2) Rick Warren's works righteousness?
    (3) The Emergent Church's antinomianism?
    (4) A doctrinally precise blogger who publicly interacts with other Christians with malice and bitterness, and yet refuses to be reconciled?

    The question itself is loaded and fallacious, and is typical of what we see from the seeker crowd, who thinks we can keep people from Christ by not speaking the truth perfectly, or even by speaking in unrighteous anger or bitterness. Sadly this same sentiment keeps getting expressed by people who are adamantly OPPOSED to seeker philosophy intruding into the church. But they can't seem to see how they themselves are almost hypnotized by it, at times.

    Paul rejoiced that the gospel was preached no matter what the motive of the preacher. Jesus had MOST people reject him though his motives were absolutely holy and perfect. Jonah was obviously feeling punitive and bitter when he preached, and yet the entire city repented at his message. These people who deflect criticism because as they judge it, it isn't being presented 'lovingly' are in effect dodging the entire issue. Our job as hearers of criticism is never to judge the person's motive, but rather we should the truth or error, always comparing to Scripture, in what they say.

    Love rejoices in the truth. It cannot rejoice in error. So for them to say we aren't being 'loving' by correcting error is patently unscriptural. I want to rejoice with James Macdonald. I can't do so when he is rushing headlong into error, remaining stiff necked after many rebukes. (Prov 29:1)

    Erin you said:
    "Perhaps this explains why MacDonald could be content with Jakes simply "not accepting" the designation of being a Word of Faith or prosperity preacher."

    I guess he leans more toward orthodoxy now but still prefers Word Faith terminology... 0.o

  13. Anonymous said ""Has this created any internal problems for you Harvest Bible Chapel?"

    I would have to DISAGREE with His response to this. There has been a lot of questions by HBC members. "

    Typical of purpose driven pastors. Every one that I have heard of has done this. "oh no, YOU are the only one that has a problem." Typical of people using the Delphi method of consensus building aka Diaprax. And they will laugh at you as if you're a conspiracy nut if you bring *that* up.

    Didn't Macdonald go to California or something for cancer treatment? I thought I had read that. I have to wonder if Rick Warren "visited" him or something like that and pushed him farther over the edge. Maybe he attended one of those transitioning seminars that pastors secretly go off to, when they take 'sabbaticals' to recharge and 'get a new vision' for the church. And they come back with all these ideas that you are bound to support or you can just "leave or die." - while simultaneously being continually and preemptively guilted for being so fickle as to leave the church over it.

    Then again, it could just be plain old sinful human nature manifesting itself without any instruction from other popular teachers in error. The problem is that people like Rick Warren have written books and books and have seminars telling you that this is all Biblical behavior and Biblical leadership, and people keep buying into it. Maranatha, come quickly Lord!

  14. Y'all have to start listening to Tullian Tchividjian. He has been superb, a breath of fresh GOSPEL air - totally understand what you mean about feeling you have to "do more." Tullian has been getting the 'antinomian' label levelled at him by this YRR crowd regularly, but he's definitely NOT antinomian. His stuff is on the Coral Ridge Presbyterian website. I just subbed to his podcast and downloaded everything.

    He is repetitive sometimes but it's good stuff. And I sit and think... why am I not getting annoyed at the reptition? Oh I know, because it's so good and grace filled! And so needed!


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