Running scared: why is The Elephant Room afraid of scrutiny?

James MacDonald of The Elephant Room has already taken more than one hit this week, having been pushed to resign from The Gospel Coalition for being unwilling to rescind his invitation to alleged modalist T.D. Jakes.

Dan Phillips of the Pyromaniacs immediately weighed-in with his article, Even better than The Race Card™. Phillips called out MacDonald for implicitly claiming divine authority, and for MacDonald’s accusing The Gospel Coalition’s leadership of sin for disagreeing with him.

Today, MacDonald has given his critics yet more ammunition, even before his conversation with T.D. Jakes.

Chris Rosebrough writes on his Letter of Marque blog:

Today, I traveled to Rowling Meadows, Illinois to attend James MacDonald’s Elephant Room 2 conversations. Upon entering the event venue I was met by a security guard and Jim Rowan, an elder at Harvest Bible Chapel and was promptly told that my entrance to the Elephant Room had been revoked and that I had to immediately leave the premises or I would be arrested for trespassing.

Erin Benziger recounts a similar story on her Do Not Be Surprised blog:

About 45 minutes ago, a friend and I walked through the doors of Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Meadows, IL. Why? To attend The Elephant Room 2, of course! Upon approaching the registration desk, the volunteers noticed that they could not find my name tag. I was ushered to the side, where I was confronted by Harvest Bible Chapel elder Jim Rowan and told that my registration had been revoked and refunded and that I was to leave the premises immediately. Hm, so now what is the elephant in the room?

This is The Elephant Room’s ‘Purpose Statement’:

The Elephant Room is more than an event. It is the outgrowth of an idea. The idea that the best way forward for the followers of Jesus lies not in crouching behind walls of disagreement but in conversation among all kinds of leaders about what the scriptures actually teach. We must insist on the biblical Gospel, right doctrine and practice but not isolate ourselves from relationship even with those who believe much differently.

Why, then, is the Elephant Room turning away at the door and threatening with arrest independent apologists who have pre-registered and travelled to attend? Why do they think fellowship with modalist T.D. Jakes is acceptable, but not that with orthodox Christians contending for the true Gospel and the Faith once delivered?

Chris Rosebrough’s observation is apposite:

Seems to me that the Elephant in the Room is the fact that the ONLY voices that James MacDonald and company are willing to hear are those that agree with them.

The Elephant Room has engaged in absolutely disgraceful, hypocritical and shameful behaviour. Rosebrough and Benziger were not even accorded the basic courtesy of being informed of their disinvitation before they went out of their way to travel to the event.

Why are the organizers of the Elephant Room frightened of independent scrutiny? What are they hiding?

This is one story that isn’t going to go away.


Ken Silva of was speaking to Rosebrough on the phone when Rosebrough was turned away. The details of his account underline the dishonourable conduct of those behind The Elephant Room.

Update 2

Chris Rosebrough has uploaded a podcast discussing this event.

Update 3

Chris Rosebrough’s interview with Pastor Todd Wilken of Issues, Etc. (included in the Fighting For The Faith segment) is also available separately.

25 thoughts on “Running scared: why is The Elephant Room afraid of scrutiny?”

  1. I’m curious as to whether Mark Driscoll (who is serving as a co-moderator with MacDonald at ER2) will say anything about this publicly. I know many have huge problems with him, but he’s always struck me as someone who doesn’t back down from a fight. This strikes me as a bridge worth burning for him.

    1. Call me cynical, but I doubt it Jason. He’ll be gracious with Mac. He’ll sympathize with Mac’s position being bombarded with criticism. They are Christian brothers after all. 0.o These other people, obviously are not because they don’t swallow what’s being promulgated at this event.

  2. I read this on Ken’s blog and had to look up the word, “apposite”. Thanks for bringing light on the monkey shines of MacDonald and improving my vocabulary!

    Terriergal – nice to see ya!

  3. Driscoll: We all would agree that in the nature of God there is mystery. But within that, for you, Bishop Jakes, the issue is one God manifesting Himself successively in three ways? Or one God existing eternally in three persons? What is your understanding now? Which one?

    Jakes: I believe the latter one is where I stand today. One God – Three Persons. I am not crazy about the word persons though. You describe “manifestations” as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline. For God was manifest in the flesh. Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it’s robbery to say manifest in the flesh. Maybe it’s semantics, but Paul says this. Now, when we start talking about that sort of thing, I think it’s important to realize there are distinctives between the work of the Father and the work of the Son. I’m with you. I have been with you. There are many people within and outside denominations labeled Oneness that would be okay with this. We are taught in society that when we disagree with someone in a movement, we leave. But I still have associations with people in Onenness movements. We need to humble both sides and say, “We are trying to describe a God we love.” Why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when it’s through a glass darkly? None of our books on the Godhead will be on sale in heaven.

    Driscoll: Thank you for joining us. You don’t have to be there. You were on the cover of Time magazine.

    MacDonald: Isn’t this your biggest gig ever?

    Driscoll: The fact you showed up to dinner last night, I was shocked. I enjoyed you. I walked away going, “I appreciate meeting and knowing and enjoying that man.” Thank you for being gracious, courageous, and humble. You’re coming out of a Oneness background. You’ve demonstrated humility that you are changing your position in light of Scripture. How have you been treated by those on the side who you used to align with? Are you the heretic to them?

    Jakes: Many of the circles I came from would never allow me in their pulpit. I have to read the blog article to read which heretic I am. The time has come for us to be willing to take the heat and have a conversation. If we do not do this, and we continue to divide ourselves by ourselves and with ourselves, we do it at the expense of decreasing numbers of new Christians in our society. This is the only thing that Jesus prayed that we can answer. He only prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. This is the one thing we have the power to answer.

    Driscoll: Do you believe the Bible is the perfect, infallible Word of God? Do you believe God is Three Persons? Jesus is fully God and fully Man? He died on the cross for our sins? He rose from the dead? He is coming again? Apart from Jesus is no salvation?

    Jakes: Absolutely.

    MacDonald: You’ve honored us and shown us humility. Jesus stands with the humble. Get to those people who love my Son, believe my Word and express humility. I feel deeply in my heart that God is both Three and One. I believe the Scripture is clear that when we get to heaven, we will see Jesus. Jesus is the only God we will ever see. I believe in God eternally existing in three persons. The more I think of it, the more I think my head is going to explode.

    From: Elephant Room 2: Live Blog Session 4

    Taking statements at face value, and with a charitable reading, T.D. Jakes no longer affirms modalism, and now affirms and supports orthodox Trinitarianism. Yes?

  4. well, what was your object for going? If your going to leap up and condemn someone you “judge” to be wrong, that would be most undesirable to a group trying to set up a meeting for people to explain their beliefs without being stomped on before they finish their explanation. You have to become all things to all people in order to get into a conversation with them

    1. J. Carlson, I’m glad you’re going to follow up on this; I hope you’re able to get (and share) an illuminating answer.

      BTW, you may not be familiar with Chris, but he’s attended quite a few events of this sort (i.e. where he would disagree with large portions of what is said), and he’s never been publicly disruptive. He may live blog or tweet some comments, but that’s not the same thing. I don’t know Erin, but I’m guessing she would also behave, if Chris was willing to attend with her.

      More to the point, based on his interview on Issues Etc. today, Chris was not attend the live event, but only one of the satellite simulcasts. I don’t know how things are set up for ER2, but I’m guessing that would make impossible any attempt to prevent the speakers from finishing their explanations.

      1. A correction: For “would disagree” I should have said “could possibly disagree.” I don’t have any prior knowledge of his expectations or attitudes regarding ER2.

  5. By the way I am a walk in the word Change Partner and I will ask them why Chris and Erin were forced out, I am concerned as to why they would stomp on them

      1. James Macdonald’s only public comment I’ve seen about this was in his blog:

        “Of course we defend our right to exclude from attendance those whose track record is unauthorized taping (a criminal act in Illinois) and out-of-context distortion.”

  6. Churchianity has abandoned Western Enlightenments precepts and protocols of free speech, open debate, reason, scientific inquiry, dedication to expunging self-interest of leaders thru constitutional restrictions, the idea the leaders’ “other hand” must be watched to guard against self-dealing, dedication to truth and not Neuro-Linguistic Programming shenanigans, the concept of opening the eyes of plebes/sheep/citizens rather than asking and creating and demanding only blind obedience, dedication to the idea no man is god hence no man is above the possibility of corruption as that man’s power over people increases (absolute power corrupts absolutely), etc., etc.

    Hence, churchianity is surprised to find itself an enemy of free speech!

    Sin is in the camp of all leaders who will not answer questions, insist on homogenous agreement, and cannot deal with the thought they might be partaking in gross self-dealing of some kind or the other. For example, who owns the assets of the ministry? Answer me that one! Who owns the assets?

    1. In many cases the duly approved members of the congregation own the assets (it depends on the denomination and how it is organized – whether it is congregational polity or a presbyterian heirarchical structure). Either way has its strengths and weaknesses and require ‘eternal vigilance’ to maintain proper freedom in Christ (without falling into legalism or antinomianism, which are at root both the same error).

      But yes you are right – the worldly side of an argument is usually the one to worry about the monetary assets and how to increase worldly wealth or hang on to what they have. Even in a congregational structure it is very easy to start to systematically push people out of membership once they challenge false teaching or bad behavior in the leadership. There are always methods to circumvent any constitution that is set up, once the people lose their ability or willingness to understand the “spirit” of the law vs the “letter.”

      1. Thanks for the reply, Terriergal,

        Your information is interesting, but I suppose your answer applies to more traditional churches, meaning of course, denominations. Here’s my point, churchianity in general has become a hugely blinding-to-the-sheep arena.

        There is a HUGE difference between supporting a building fund of a traditional denomination church and a nondom church. BUT, the nondom pastors won’t mention it! Ever! NEVER! Why? It would expose nondom building fund self-dealings. And such a churchianity is vehemently opposed to exposing the sin of self-dealing.

        Because, as you know, a nondom church’s assets are often simply the assets of the husband and wife pastor and perhaps a few monied individuals who partnered with the church’s start up. Hence, money contributed to this kind of church’s building fund (or later, broadcast facilities) are subject to division through divorce. So the donors, who are normally kept blind of all this, need to really have insurance issued against such likes.

        For example, Zachery Tim’s church in Florida has had all this and more. Divorce. Suicide of principle due to apparent overdose? Takeover by the unstoppable Paula White, also divorced.

        And when does anybody teach sheep to love Western Enlightenment’s core principles of “watch the other hand”, expunge self-dealing in leaders, trust but verify, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, hold leaders accountable to at the bare minimum — answering questions (nondom pastors are famous for never answering questions!), top leadership must allow bad news and remedies to percolate from bottom to top, the best leaders ask for correction instead of pretending they never need it!

        But no, when the next nondom leader says his church or broadcast situation needs a new facility, all NLP witchcraft and every supporting bible verse is used… without any kind of disclosure of risks associated with proposed new asset.

        So then sheep need to be detectives, and learn how to see spiritually for themselves, since churchianity is opposed to it because too much revelation is a very bad thing for wayward ministries.

        And what, pray tell, is the solution. Why, it’s Christ-in-You! (Which churchianity leaders, if it detects it in any sheep, is dedicated to candle-snuffing, or playing whack-a-mole, or… like they did to Father-in-Jesus, crucifying.)

  7. It is interesting that the modern ‘reformed’ community is so resistant to any dialog that is outside it’s idea of the pale of Christianity. With all the serious problems within the modern refomed movement, ( new perspective on Paul, being just one) how can inviting a popular, influential pastor from a mega-church to an event like the Elephant Room, be a problem. There are serious divisions in all reformed, presbyterian denominations. The OPC and PCA are considered too liberal for most in the RPC and even in these denominations, there are serious fractures.

    I, in no way am a supporter in T.D. Jakes prosperity gospel, but I am surely not going judge the man for refuting the “oneness” view of the Trinity. Until we see evidence to the contrary, we must take him at his word. While James MacDonald is not a card carrying 5 point Calvinist, he holds to the truths of the Bible.

    One of the purposes of The Elephant Room is to have discussions, and not attack from behind a computer screen. I don’t know anything about Chris Rosenberg or Erin Benzinger, but if they were there to tape the discussions and that is against the law, the they were right to be sent packing. I suspect that this and other reasons were on their minds.

    Lest you think I am just spouting off in defense of MacDonald because I don’t know what I am talking about, I offer this. I am a deacon for 17 years and a member for 22 years of a larger OPC church in Columbus, OH. I have seen much controversy, both in the church and out. I can only imagine that our Lord is grieved by the bickering over trifles. It is a shame.
    Post Tenebras Lux!

    1. Kurt,

      Thank you for your comments. Unfortunately, you don’t seem to be terribly well informed about the whole situation. This was far from a matter of ‘bickering over trifles’. ER2 launched Jakes – with his false gospel and unorthodox view of the Trinity – into unsuspecting mainstream evangelicalism. If the integrity of the Gospel itself is now considered a trifling matter, then we truly are in need of God’s help. The Apostles seemed to think it mattered – see Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, for example: ‘As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.’ (Gal. 1:9)

      I’m all for discussions. So are Chris and Erin. They were there so that they could be first-hand witnesses of what occurred and cover the event accurately. Regrettably, the ER2 organizers chose to act in a petty way here to those whom they knew would have a different perspective from their own. Unlike you, I do know both Erin and Chris, and they were not there to ‘tape’ – that slur against them was a post hoc accusation made in an attempt to justify unjustifiable behaviour.

      Finally, this is not a matter of discussion only among the Reformed. Three congregations from MacDonald’s own Harvest Bible Fellowship have already felt compelled to dissociate over what happened at ER2. The statements from their elders are worth reading and taking seriously. Another congregation left Driscoll’s Acts 29. And, for the record, Chris Rosebrough is Lutheran – in the Reformation tradition, yes, but certainly not Reformed.

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