Elephant Room 2: Carson and Keller Summary

In light of the recent controversy of the Elephant Room and T.D. Jakes I thought it may be helpful to write a summary of what Carson and Keller have said about it. The main issue in this controversy is the issue of the Trinity. T.D. Jakes has been called a modalist and was invited to the Elephant Room in Chicago to discuss this issue with MacDonald, Driscoll and others. Jakes has often played the race card in this discussion saying that those who disagree with him are hating him because of the color of his skin. That has nothing to do with the argument at hand! Many evangelicals are disagreeing with him because of his theology, not because of his skin color. Below is a summary of what Carson and Keller have said about it.

  1. Persons and Manifestations

Modalism has been around since the end of the second century. This is the belief that there are not 3 distinct persons with the God-head (the Trinity) but that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are different manifestations of that God. This eventually led believers to use the term hypostasis as in the hypostatic union. Within the three persons of the God-head there is a relationship, as seen when Jesus is on the cross and crying out to God, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?”

2. Biblicism One and Biblicism Two

“T.D. Jakes recently said he affirms that God is three persons, but prefers to speak of three manifestations.” Many people have applauded him as a hero because of this and say that we are simply arguing over terms, but the choice of words means so much. The term “manifestations” was used as an attempt to describe what the Bible said about God, yet was declared a heresy. “The “persons” terminology prevailed (along with words like “subsistence”) not because it derived directly from usage in the biblical documents themselves, but because it could be shown that this terminology did a great job of summarizing what the Bible actually says.” Words do carry meaning with them, and “We simply cannot escape the fact that our linguistic labels are shaped by prior discussion.”

3. Prosperity Gospel and Empowerment

Another critique raised against Jakes is that he is preaching a prosperity Gospel. His defense is that he is preaching a Gospel of Empowerment to the social outcasts. While there is something to be said about a Gospel of Empowerment, it is easy to hide a prosperity Gospel under that banner. The two ways to tell if it is a Gospel of Empowerment is to find if the true Gospel lies at the forefront of what is being preached and then to see how much of the “empowerment” comes to fruit in this life.

4. Love and Truth

Correction and reproof must be done in love for one another as fellow members in the body of Christ. Many times people accuse those on TGC of not having enough love, or of not correcting some people enough. Now it is impossible do this perfectly on this side of heaven, but there needs to be both, and as I said before the correction must be done in love.

5. Racism and Playing the Race Card

There are differences between different ethnicities down to the way we interpret these events. Some of the African American members of TGC were frustrated that T.D. Jakes hadn’t been adequately dealt with, yet a 22 page response was written to Rob Bell’s newest book Love Wins. Many of the African American pastors had been struggling because they had opposed Jakes’ views and felt that he was devastating to the African American church at large. Carson and Keller write:

“Subtleties and ironies surfaced everywhere in the subsequent developments. Some wanted to give T. D. Jakes a pass on the ground that African American churches are more interested in redemption than creeds. That’s a bit like giving Jonathan Edwards a pass on slavery because he was a man of his own time and class. All of us must hold one another to the standard of God’s most holy Word. In fact, it is a kind of insult to Pastor Jakes to give him a pass because of his ethnicity.”

We must help each other stay true to the Bible as a whole, no matter the ethnicity, gender or background.

6. Private and Public

The basic argument here is that these matters need to be dealt with in whatever sphere they have been influencing. T.D. Jakes isn’t an individual who may be speaking heretically about the Trinity, but someone who has a very public ministry and life. The things he’s been saying aren’t suddenly coming into the public eye, but have been for a while. Therefore, the arguments presented here are not simply for and in reaction to the Elephant Room discussion, but are arguments that Pastors need to deal with as they deal with Jakes’ ministry.

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