Since for many it is in bounds to assume the worst about Brian McLaren and then go public with accusations of heresy, that he has left orthodoxy, and may not be Christian, let’s return the favor and suggest that despite his long track in ministry we assume the worst about James MacDonald. We may conclude he says all the right things but his vision of power and money do not inform him to do the proper things.
MacDonald will skate by this one. Nary a sound will be made by those who preach at his church and make mention as if to say, “See where I have preached.” Others who will mock T.D. Jakes for his prosperity gospel will in no wise go public with accusations that MacDonald has left the gospel for his own prosperity. The worst will not be assumed about James MacDonald because he says the right things.
This is eerily similar to the C.J. Mahaney – SGM kerfuffle (Posted here and here are my reflections). Those who partnered with Mahaney did not publicly chasten him but rather went public in full support. When a couple of friends read The Elephant’s Debt asked what I thought would happen with this, I replied, “Nothing.”
Our publishing house will pull Blindside because of a complaint by what does not even constitute a minority of Lifeway’s clientele. But, you can be sure we will sell MacDonald’s books. Why? Because they sell. Because he says the right things.
Now that is The Elephant in the room. What matters is what you say that conforms to the language game of those currently in power. Yes, the vocabulary changed in my tribe some years ago. But, it was true that to play then you had to use the right vocabulary and it is true today. What matters is what you say.
But it is not so in the Kingdom. It is not enough to say. Jesus casts a vision that those who do the proper thing may not even realize they are doing the right thing. Read Matthew 25 again. Those in the Kingdom live in a particular way that what is said is made known in what is done. In this, I believe Dallas Willard is right to invoke Husserl. What constitutes one’s belief is what one does. One cannot claim belief in what one will not do.
It stirs the debate all over again regarding orthodoxy and orthopraxy. It was D.A. Carson, who ironically was taking the Emerging Church to task, who said, “Damn all false antithesis.” Indeed. But, we then force those very false binaries when we require the right vocabulary but not the right practice. The irruption of the real comes when the actions of those like MacDonald come to light calling into question the empty core of our common ideologies.
I hope there is proper explanation counter to the account offered in The Elephant’s Debt. We all suffer some measure of our voice in the world when those whose pedestal rises higher than most succumb to similar temptations. The comparison between Brian and James has more to say about us than them. I fear some will not read this far to understand that is what really lies behind these observations. If we are not even handed in addressing what is said and what is done then we create the very atmosphere that makes for nominal faith. We must do better. We must do proper. We must do right.
And that my friend, is The elephant in the room.