Post-T4G 2012 3: Band of Elephants
In my first Post-T4G post, I made reference to my disappointment in the Band of Bloggers pre-conference event, and said I’d have more on that later. It’s later.
My disappointment—nay, disgust—with this year’s Band of Bloggers is due to one thing: the discussion of James MacDonald’s Elephant Room II and the reactions thereto, in which it became immediately evident that the latter was more to be regretted than the former. Sure, a brief statement was made to reassure us that “we believe the Trinity is important,” but that statement followed a lengthy session of finger-wagging at bloggers who objected to a modalist heretic being embraced as orthodox.
For the sake of readers who don’t know what I’m talking about, let’s take a moment to recap the Elephant Room/T. D. Jakes mess.
James MacDonald invited modalist and prosperity gospel preacher T. D. Jakes to his Elephant Room conference, the purpose of which was to bring brothers of differing views together. After objections were made to embracing heretics like Jakes as genuine brothers in Christ, MacDonald broadened the purpose statement to accommodate all comers. So far, so good; one could still optimistically hope that the right questions might be asked, the issues might be discussed honestly, and Jakes’ answers scrutinized and analyzed biblically. That was not to be. Instead, James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll lobbed a few softballs, Jakes responded with predictable nebulosity, MacDonald and Driscoll shouted “Glory!” and ended it all with a group hug (transcript here).
That, you might think, was “the debacle of the Elephant Room.” You would be wrong. The debacle of the Elephant Room, according to the representatives of The Gospel Coalition on the Band of Bloggers panel, was the objections of numerous bloggers, and the criticism of The Gospel Coalition, of which MacDonald was a founding member, for its silence on the matter. We were scolded for expressing opinions without being privy to the inside discussions of The Gospel Coalition, as if that was at all necessary, as if T. D. Jakes was an unknown quantity instead of a public figure whose heresy is well known through multiple publications. Bottom line: if you’re not on the inside, you’re not qualified to speak.
The arrogance is astounding. But arrogance isn’t the only offense. Equally shameful is the attempt to silence critics with faux moral superiority and sweep the whole matter under the rug. First, we were told that insiders only were the legitimate observers and commenters on the affair. Then we heard from Collin Hansen, formerly of Christianity Today, now of The Gospel Coalition, that, just as everyone at CT knew Billy Graham and family were off-limits, no one at The Gospel Coalition was ever going to publicly criticize co-founder James MacDonald. So outsiders were not allowed to speak, and insiders were unwilling to speak. (I reserve high praise for Thabiti Anyabwile for breaking omerta.)
Following the Elephant Room fiasco, The Gospel Coalition has a long way to go to restore its integrity in my eyes. And the Band of Bloggers will have to show itself to be more than a mouthpiece for elites to regain my interest.
Addendum: My criticism does not extend to those outside TGC who chose not to comment on the Elephant Room. Everyone does not need to comment on everything, especially if what they would say has already been said. I do agree that enough was said. However, less could have been enough, and more would not have been too much. There is no objective measure of too little/too much, and anyone who claims to possess that measure and attempts to enforce it on others has a dangerously bloated ego. The sad fact is that those who should have spoken remained silent.
Update 1: I’ve received a lot of support for my comments here, but I think my favorite is the following, which I’ll call “praise by faint damning.”
Now, having posted that, I want to say that I have no great beef with Timmy Brister. In general, I like what he does. He was not named in this post as an active participant in the Elephant Room foolishness, and I don’t remember him saying anything specific in that regard. But, in light of the tweet above, I’d be interested in knowing just how he differs from me on this.
Update 2: You should read this: Herding the Elephants by Mike Riccardi, a roundup of good commentary on the Elephant Room 2.
Update 3: If only one of the Band of Bloggers panelists had spoken like the distinguished gentlemen in this video, I might not have written this post.