Of Middle Aged White Guys and Repentance

The Christian life is a life of repentance. Every day involves a consistently repentant attitude before God, trusting in the finished work of Christ. Despite the non-gospels so prevalent today where repentance is made an after-thought, or an option, there is no gospel without repentance.

So when someone tells me to repent, I want to know exactly what they are talking about, since it is a serious topic. Yesterday I was directed to an article. It was, ironically, an article about a blog article. To be honest, the original blog article was not quite as bad as the article about the blog article made it out to be (does that make sense?). Always good to go to the source. The blog article was written by Bryan Crawford Loritts. I confess, I had never heard the name before. I also confess I was ignorant that he was on the panel at the Elephant Room 2. So, two strikes against me, I guess. (Now I’m told he is the son of the fellow on the panel…OK, I have no earthly idea. The blog said he hung out with Jakes, so—in any case, I did not hear anyone other than Driscoll and MacDonald involved in the important part of the discussion with Jakes, so I don’t see that it matters whichever it is.)

Now, Mr. Loritts professes to be Reformed. Well, with a small “r” anyway (not sure what that means). And he did express disappointment that no one even whispered the phrase “prosperity gospel,” let alone had the guts to raise the issue in the presence of Bishop Jakes. HIs exact words: “The topic of the prosperity gospel never comes up…disappointing.”

But that was a small part of his blog. Sadly, the real issue—the fact that no one actually asked specifically clear enough questions to bring about a real conclusion to the controversy—was passed over in silence. Evidently, for Mr. Loritts, the case is closed, and the brief, let’s be honest, shallow dialogue that took place was enough to mark it “case closed.” Jakes, despite all his past modalistic statements and teachings, despite the continued use of “manifestations” in his statement of faith, despite his continued misuse of 1 Timothy 3:16 even in the comments he had just made, and despite the fact that he does not use a Trinitarian baptismal formula, but continues to baptize in the name of Jesus only, is, in fact, a Trinitarian, and that is just the end of that.

So, Mr. Loritts lets us know exactly what us Reformed, middle-aged white guys (his words, as you will see) need to do now:

2. I’m actually quite angry as I write these words. My anger is at those who have attacked Bishop Jakes and James MacDonald, without even coming to the event, or considering giving Bishop a fair hearing. Some of these “gospel centered” people strike me as extremely arrogant, and while they preach a good gospel, they, in this incident, don’t seem to be living the gospel. They appear to have elevated love for doctrine over love for people, and because of this, I say to them, what Paul said to another man, Peter, who avoided people, “Your conduct is out of step with the gospel”- Galatians 2.
3. The biggest push back came from the Reformed crowd. Now please, hear me, I’m reformed (with an intentionally lower case “r”). But to be honest with you, right now I’m really embarrassed to be. The loudest voices in the conservative evangelical world are middle aged white Reformed guys. While their events are populated with a lot of young R/reformed people, on their stages and pulpits (at these same events) it is filled with middle aged white men. Because of this, the implicit message that is being sent is that the varsity section of the kingdom of heaven in 2012 is white, middle aged and Reformed. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not accusing anyone of racism. But we must be extremely careful of both the explicit and implicit messages that we send. Obviously, this implicit message is disheartening. What’s even more troublesome is to see what appears to be a few of my black brothers playing into what some have historically called white idolization in their longing to fit in with this Reformed crowd, that like crabs in a barrel they have unjustifiably attacked a dear brother, and brutha, in the Lord. This is important, because when the biggest push back comes from this Reformed camp, the implicit message that is being sent is that you have to be like us, or else. I understand what’s at stake, it’s a core doctrine of the Trinity, but when this same Reformed crowd who is pushing back refuses to come to an event, or to have honest dialog this wreaks of theological bigotry.
4. You need to repent. At issue is exactly that your love for issues has trumped your love for people. If you have attacked Bishop Jakes, or James MacDonald over Bishop’s perceived modalism, and after hearing what he has to say and how he is not a modalist, then you need to repent, and it needs to be as public as the attacks that you have made. Anything less than this is unbiblical. I’m anxious to see how truly gospel centered you are.

Well, there you go. Let’s briefly examine Mr. Loritts’ words:

1) I do not have time to attend conferences, to be honest with you, unless I happen to be seeking to minister there. Besides, some folks tried, like Chris Rosebrough, and were turned away at the door, having paid their money, and threatened with arrest. Sorry, that paragraph rings really hollow in light of that reality.
2) It seems that a very large number of evangelicals today are very emotionally directed. I have asked direct, factual questions about this matter and one of the main responses I have gotten looks frighteningly like what I get from cultural leftist liberals all the time, the ones who claim to be so tolerant and loving and yet who want to silence anyone who disagrees with them. Loritts talks about how people “strike” him, and how they “appear” to him. Just general, vague statements that do not admit to any serious refutation or discussion. It “strikes” me that it is massively arrogant for men to gather in something called an Elephant Room and pretend that they can redefine the historic Christian faith to the least common denominator, too, but that has not been the substance of my argument.
3) Just as Jakes misused 1 Timothy 3:16, Loritts misuses Galatians 2. Peter was not walking straight in accordance with the truth of the Gospel because he was compromising on its very essence, making things that people did the basis of their closeness to God, allowing his cultural traditions to get in the way of the gospel of grace. Excuse me, but switching the reality of that text over to Peter “avoiding people” and trying to parallel that with asking honest, absolutely necessary, historically ground questions of a man who has been anything but consistent and orthodox in his teachings over the years is, well, absurd.
4) I do not know what the “Reformed crowd” is. I am Reformed, with a capital R. My church is Reformed, my preaching is Reformed, my ministry is Reformed. Reformed theology is not something that you can add on to non-Reformed theology and call it good. If you actually believe that God’s glory and the demonstration of the full spectrum of the glorious attributes of God is the first and foremost principle to be observed and sought in all of life, that has to impact everything else, including your worship, your church order, your preaching…everything, then you are Reformed. But saying all that, I still don’t know what the “Reformed crowd” is. Given how vague Loritts is in his accusations, I guess what he means is that Reformed folks do seem to be much more concerned about accuracy in faith and doctrine than most non-Reformed folks. And hence, when a man who has publicly taught modalism for years is allowed a “pass” into the orthodox camp (as if these men were the gatekeepers of orthodoxy—as if anyone at all holds that post!) based upon shallow and unhelpful questions, those actually concerned about the Trinity and its centrality to the Christian faith will, of necessity, “push back.” Forgive us for being less pliable in our willingness to allow incipient modalism masquerade under the name of Trinitarianism. As I said on The Dividing Line yesterday, if TD Jakes is willing to accept correction and embrace meaningful, thorough, real Trinitarianism (which would of necessity involve the identification of modalism as an error, not just another view), I will be the first one in line to provide him with answers to any questions he might have. All the grace in the world to such a person.
5) I was unaware when I first read this blog that Loritts is a black man. I was shocked that the race card had been played here. It is absolutely, positively disgusting to me that this canard, so common from the left in political arenas, would be inserted into the discussion of Jakes’ long-time standing as a modalist. I DON’T CARE WHAT COLOR THE MAN IS. It is pure distraction and absurdity to make reference to “middle aged white Reformed guys,” and if there needs to be a call to repentance for Mr. Loritts, it is right there. And don’t think that adding the obligatory “Oh, I’m not accusing anyone of racism” statement changes anything. He introduced race, period. THEOLOGY AND HERESY KNOWS NO RACIAL BOUNDARIES. Jakes’ race is irrelevant to his modalism. Modalism was defined long before any white guys had a say in it. Period.
6) How on earth is the Elephant Room an “honest dialogue”? Maybe Mr. Loritts will ask Jakes (since he seems to have an “in” now) the question that should have been asked: Did the Son, as a conscious, divine Person, distinguishable from the Father, exist as a divine Person prior to the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem? See how easy that would have been? Of course, the person asking the question would need to be ready to follow up in case of a politically correct non-answer, but an honest answer to that question rips the mask off of modalism.
7) Then the vague “Reformed crowd” of “white, middle aged men” are commanded to…repent. So, evidently, if you are not satisfied with vague half-answers that do not address the real issue, and you still wonder why someone would say they are not “crazy” about the use of the term “persons” to describe the Trinity, and you wonder why someone who really loves the Trinity continues to baptize in a non-Trinitarian fashion, well—sinner, repent! Do public penance…despite the fact that Jakes himself says he was ordained in a modalistic church, and that he taught it and was in the Oneness camp. Repent! Such a use of the call to repentance cheapens its real meaning.
TD Jakes is no longer in the middle of the Oneness movement. But my friends, he is not a Trinitarian either. He is seeking to chart a “middle course,” and it seems there are many today who think that kind of compromise is just fine with them. Would I like to see a clear and full confession of Trinitarianism from Jakes? Of course. But what would be required for someone who is on record promoting modalism to be accepted as a Trinitarian?

1) the full, unequivocal, positive response to the question noted above concerning the personal existence of the Son prior to the Incarnation.
2) the rejection of the erroneous terminology of “manifestations” and the misuse of 1 Timothy 3:16.
3) the rejection of non-Trinitarian forms of baptism.
4) the positive embrace and confession of an orthodox creedal statement of the Trinity, such as that of Nicea, Constantinople, etc.

When Bishop Jakes is willing to do that (and what true believer in the Trinity would hesitate for a moment to do so?), we can all celebrate together. Till then, the celebration is more than just a little premature.