Monday, November 14, 2011

Phil Johnson, Todd Friel, And Another Elephant In The Room

I have refrained from commenting thus far on the much debated Elephant Room conference. The Elephant room conference is a concept developed by Pastor James MacDonald which, in the words of the conference website:

Getting brothers together who believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone but normally don't interact, is what the Elephant Room is all about.

The idea is to get Christians together who agree on the Gospel but have major methodological differences, and thrash out those differences in a no holds barred public conversation. I think it would be fair to say that MacDonald is trying to give off a combative vibe about the conference when people are invited to "get their ringside seats".

I think the concept has a lot of merit in principle and I have always liked James MacDonald and the content of his preaching. I think people like Mark Driscoll, Francis Chan, and Matt Chandler are the perfect candidates for a brotherly debate on methodology. But I took issue with the first Elephant Room conference earlier this year because, I would contend, there was another elephant in the room. When MacDonald invited wannabe rock star pastor Steven Furtick and wannabe tough guy pastor Perry Noble I was quite shocked. I would think that a lot of other things need to be discussed with these guys before we talk about methodology. What about the Gospel elephant in the room? And what about the way they speak to their sheep? (Though I do find the thought of speaking with Steven Furtick without the interference of one of his bodyguards quite appealing.) When Perry Noble has ACDC's Highway To Hell as part of his worship service I think the problems go way deeper than song selection. This all just seemed so beneath Pastor James MacDonald. Many of us scratched our heads and just chalked it up as one of those strange things akin to JI Packer signing the ECT (Evangelicals and Catholics Together statement) or John Piper's association with Rick Warren.

But when MacDonald announced Elephant Room 2 (the sequel) and said that TD Jakes would be one of the guests a cyber volcano erupted. A lot of respected theological heavyweights weighed in with very sharp responses. MacDonald does not seem to have taken the criticism especially well but has softened somewhat more recently. But the way he has dealt with the opposition to his invitation of a well known anti-Trinitarian heretic (and that is just one of the myriad of problems with Jakes prosperity man centered theology - see the video at the bottom of this post) by changing the vision statement from "getting brothers together" to "conversation among all kinds of leaders". I seriously question this kind of solution to a problem of this magnitude.

Todd Friel publicly questioned Phil Johnson on this very subject recently and I am grateful that someone was around to video this fascinating conversation. It is 43 minutes long but well worth the listen because Johnson's insights really get to the core of this issue and discernment in general. This is an interesting discussion that would be exceedingly appropriate for the Elephant Room (without the need to buy "ringside" seats):

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Can you smell the elephant?