the Jakes-shakes continue

Another blog reacting to the TD Jakes invitation and defense by James MacDonald.

What makes this one interesting is…

  • That the author is a pastor in the Harvest Bible Fellowship, James MacDonald’s organization.
  • That the author is a graduate of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary
  • That some of the author’s co-bloggers are also graduates of Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. (One is the son of a very close friend from ‘back in the day’.)

Given those connections, the separatistic bent of the blog post makes a bit more sense. (Although it remains to be seen if actual separation will take place.)

Along with making the post make a bit more sense, these facts raise some interesting questions:

  • How do graduates of DBTS end up in a Harvest Bible Fellowship church?
  • How do graduates of DBTS end up attending Southern Seminary?
  • What will these young men do now?

It seems that this incident is a bit of a wake-up call to the Conservative Evangelical wannabes we seem to be producing in fundamentalist schools.

These kinds of associations are the fruit of evangelicalism. If you move into evangelicalism, you will inevitably find yourself in some partnerships that are exceedingly uncomfortable, especially for someone who still holds on to at least some of their fundamentalist instincts instilled by their fundamentalist church backgrounds and schools.

It’s got to be a bit of a shocker for these young fellows. I’ll be interested to see if they do what they must do – break fellowship with James MacDonald.



  1. d4v34x says:

    Don, in your opinion, what would the separation you seem to doubt these men will follow through on look like. Getting out of Harvest Bible Fellowship now? How long do they give JM before they leave?

    In one sense I see this public calling out as a sign of health in that church (and perhaps their fellowship). While somewhat similar callings out have happened in, say, the FBF, none have been as lucid and on point. Or occasioned by this sort of direct fellowship with an actual heretic.

    I think that last is a significant point.

  2. Dave Doran says:


    I think if you start checking educational background you’ll see that all of the DBTS grads are also BJU grads too, so if you’re going to draw tenuous inferences you really ought to expand them. Very disappointing that you’d stoop to this kind of thing.

    As for the Sourthern question, only a very narrow segment of separatists ever argued that education is an ecclesiastical relationship and that attending something other than an fundamentalist school is wrong.

    Seriouly, someone who you wouldn’t expect writes a pretty strong rebuke of what MacDonald did and just about all you can do is use it to raise questions about DBTS? There already is a blog that has that market cornered. Well, I guess there is a slot for a blog that turn all things into efforts to raise questions about ministries without misrepresenting and misquoting them. It’d be nice, though, to leave that slot open since it really doesn’t help the cause of biblical separatism.

  3. Jeff Straub says:

    Well Don . . . you and I have gone a few rounds before but lately its been quiet between us. Maybe I should shake things up a bit! :)

    Where do you propose that guys go? The movement of which we are both a part is so abysmally fragmented and weak, there is really very little to retain our younger men. Frankly, we have little to offer.

    I find it interesting the Dever has withdrawn from the Elephant Room. Does this make him a separatist? What does Dever’s withdrawal say about Anyabwile’s protest? Maybe he is one of us after all!

    As for Dan, he certainly knows better and will have to live with his choices, as will we all.

    Jeff Straub

  4. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Indeed, most interesting are these developments. I would hope and pray that these men will do what is Biblical and separate…but I’m not holding my breath on this one. They have imbibed at the fount of evangelicalism and though there is a latent impulse of fundamentalism in them, me thinks if they do not respond Biblically now then this will be in all probability the death rattle of that fundamentalist instinct.

    • The four above comments all appeared before I arrived at the computer this AM, so all were made independently of each other. I’ll make some replies to each here:

      @d4 Dave

      What would such separation look like? I think it is imperative that they break fellowship with the Harvest group right away. How much rope should they give MacDonald? None. They complain not just about Jakes but about Perry Noble, which connection happened last year. Clearly a pattern of behaviour is evident and is unlikely to change. Hopefully this is a wake-up call to the young men.

      @DMD Dave

      Given that I ask these questions about DBTS, I expected you to respond. And, knowing you, I expected you to respond as you have. Do BJU grads also have problems with their associations post-graduation? Of course. It is lamentable. But the thread that draws these young men together is DBTS. They are not all BJU grads.

      Given the climate we are currently in, I think it is legitimate to wonder if the teaching/leadership at DBTS has weakened the separatistic training that is received there. Perhaps not, I hope not. Maybe you could tell me if men like James MacDonald have been touted at DBTS as good models to follow in some ways? Or the Devers, Pipers, Mahaneys, etc?

      You are probably aware that there is some nervousness about the direction you are taking. I am trying to probe that, to see what it is all about. I don’t think you are above having your public influence being questioned, are you? We do need to have these discussions in public and transparent, don’t we?


      Whoa, Jeff. We have little to offer? I don’t think so. But it isn’t really about what we have to offer, is it? It’s about what pleases Jesus Christ, no?

      Yes, it is interesting that Dever has withdrawn from the Elephant Room. Given the controversy, I hope he will make a public statement. It isn’t enough to just quietly walk away. That’s my opinion, anyway.

      @ Brian

      Well, maybe this is the wake-up call the young men need. I hope so.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  5. Don,

    I haven’t kept up with this whole “Elephant in the room” thing. I’ve never even heard of James MacDonald before. I agree with Dave, though. I don’t understand what any of this has to do with DBTS. To me, it’s more of an evangelical dust up than anything else. It would be great if it caused some evangelicals to rethink their position to become more separatist, but I’m not in that camp so I haven’t paid it much attention.

    • Hi Andy,

      Well, the controversy itself has nothing to do with DBTS, that is true. But this particular post is about the reaction of a DBTS grad who is a partner with James MacDonald in the Harvest Bible Fellowship, MacDonald’s denomination.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. Don,

    Thanks for your post. It is spot on! I think Jeff Straub, whom I seldom agree with, has made a very interesting point about how weak our movement is. Though I don’t think it is as weak as he proposes, I do believe that there is great weakness in some of our seminaries. But the answer is not to encourage our young future preacher boys to go to compromised schools such as Southern Seminary, where they will become totally neutralized.

    When I went to seminary over 40 years ago, we had many great school to choose from. Not so today. We can’t recommend Central because of Bauder and Horn’s compromises, not to mention inviting former professor Larry Pettigrew back to speak, after he abandoned Fundamentalism years ago. Nor Calvary Lansdale, with its infamous abandoning of the founder’s stand. Now, they are continuing the slide into new evangelicalism by featuring Haddon Robinson at their spring 2012 conference.

    Those like Drs. Straub and Doran need to stop criticizing you for pointing out their compromises, and get back to being militant and separatistic Fundamentalists and quit playing footsies with compromised evangelicals.

    I read a statement recently that puts all of this into perspective for me: “Compromise is not an event, it is a journey.” How true! The above mentioned individuals, as well as James McDonald, et al have been on the journey for some time. Sadly, once a person starts down this road, they seldom ever reverse themselves. Those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, I’m afraid. Sad indeed.

  7. It seems like an Ezekiel 18:20 situation to me.

  8. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Well, I will be a bit light-hearted (and maybe a touch of sarcasm) and note I find it interesting that a “pastor of a pretty small church” has gotten the attention of those in academia…again. Oh, wait, I too am a “pastor of a pretty small church,” better leave the blogosphere before I too hear from these guys. We’d best be tending our flocks more diligently, Don.

  9. Dave Doran says:

    Well, actually, Don: (1) they are not all DBTS grads, and (2) all of the DBTS grads are all BJU grads as well.

    I am fine with someone examining our views and practices, but it is bogus to assume that ours are reflected in every graduate. Instead of insinuating, you really should investigate. How hard would it have been to ask the writer of that blog post directly about his current views on separation and to what degree he obtained those here, at BJU, or when he worked on the staff at the Wilds or another local church in the Detroit area.
    Instead, you took the lazy route that did not examine our position and influence, but just asked questions that raise doubt about it. I think I’ve seen you multiple times come running to the defense of BJU or the FBF when anybody has played this kind of game. It was a lazy, cheap shot.

    • @DMD

      (1) I didn’t say all the men participating in that blog were DBTS grads. I said that DBTS was an obvious connection. (2) It isn’t evident in their self-published online bios that they are all BJU grads.

      I am fine with you calling me lazy. It does seem a bit of an ad hominem, though, don’t you think? I asked earlier:

      Maybe you could tell me if men like James MacDonald have been touted at DBTS as good models to follow in some ways? Or the Devers, Pipers, Mahaneys, etc?

      Would you care to answer that at all?

      From your comments, one could assume that you think these young men aren’t really good representatives of DBTS and you don’t endorse their current positions. Is that true?

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. Don:

    “How do DBTS graduates wind up in a Harvest church and SBC seminary?” I think you provided the answer when you wondered, “if the teaching/leadership at DBTS has weakened the separatistic training.”

    When leadership seeks his fellowship, attends the conferences of and cooperates in ministry efforts with non-separatist evangelicals (in the SBC) that leader is pointing his students, staff and/or congregation in the direction he has gone. Follow the leader!


  11. Dave Doran says:


    Last one from me since I’m heading out of town for a few days.

    You’re technically correct on the not saying they are all DBTS grads, but you couldn’t have come any closer, could you have: “But the thread that draws these young men together is DBTS. They are not all BJU grads.” So, I’ll restate my earlier comment–they do not all have connection with DBTS, but the ones you’re concerned about all are BJU grads as well.

    Saying that you took a lazy route and that what you wrote was a lazy, cheap shot is not calling you lazy and I think you know that. To challenge the quality of the work you did and the product you produced is not ad hominem.

    I can say categorically and absolutely for myself that James MacDonald has never been held up as a positive example of ministry in any of my classes, teaching, or conversations. I would be very, very surprised if anybody on faculty or staff here would do so either. Same would be true for the whole Harvest chapel movement.

    I’ll bow out know and leave you to some refreshing fellowship with Lou, Brian, and Gary.

    • Dave, I’ll leave it to the readers to evaluate our conversation. I don’t know what you gain by insulting brothers, though.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  12. Dr. Doran, I have no dog in this fight. I appreciate Don and I appreciate many aspects of your ministry, including hearing you speak when I was in seminary.

    If you come back, I just have a question, and it’s not supposed to be a loaded question. I just want to know.

    It’s actually a three-part question:
    1. Do you see a significant portion of your students going into what we might call non-separatist fellowships/associations such as Harvest?
    2. Is there enough of a trend in this to concern you?
    3. If so, why do you think it is happening?

    I would appreciate your thoughts.

  13. Dave Doran says:

    Quick drop by to answer Jon’s question. To my knowledge, we have two graduates associated with Harvest. I think we have a handful of guys from over 30 years who pastor churches that fit your description, but it probably wouldn’t amount to the fingers on two hands. We have as many grads who are board members of the FBF as we do senior pastors in Harvest. :)

  14. Jeff Straub says:

    Ah, Don. You are so predictable!

    • Jeff,

      I prefer to call it “consistency”, it sounds more elegant than “predictable” and is one of those fundie character qualities.

      And,of course, none of us would have guessed how you would react in this thread, right???

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  15. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Dave, it is good to hear that there is not an encouragement at DBTS toward the Harvest Chapel Fellowship.

    Jeff, you lament the current condition within fundamentalism and mark that as possibly part of the reason the young guys are jumping ship. So what is academia doing to strengthen fundamentalism? As I have viewed this past couple of years, so-called fundamentalist academia have cooperated with a noted Southern Baptist pastor at a conference; Bruce Ware from Southern Seminary was brought in; some have gone to CA and talked to JMac and then invited Holland back to speak in chapel; they have brought in a sports hero with his summer camps; they have brought in Michael Vlach to speak; coming next year there is Haddon Robinson and Timothy Lane; Larry Pettegrew was scheduled to come. I’ve probably missed a few things, but are these things to be considered as strengthening the cause of fundamentalism?

  16. Arlyn Ubben says:

    Please bring me up to speed. I have never heard of MacDonald until reading posts about him recently. Who is he? What influence does he have? What is it about him that you do not like?

    • Hi Arlyn

      Here is the Wikipedia article on him.

      I don’t dislike him, but I am opposed to his evangelical compromises, especially his endorsing of men like Perry Noble and T. D. Jakes.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  17. Arlyn Ubben says:

    Ok, so I read his bio stuff and looked up a few things about him. My main question is this: is this important? Do we need to know the dirt on all of the public figures that are out there? How does this guy even begin to impact your life and ministry? Sure, we must stand for the fundamentals of the faith, but I am not sure I need to know all about everyone to do it.

    I think Brian had it right when he said, “We’d best be tending our flocks more diligently, Don.”


    • I think what Brian meant was that we need to be teaching our flocks carefully so that they don’t get sucked in by this, but he can address that himself.

      However, yes, I think it is important. Until there was a hue and cry, Mark Dever was a scheduled participant in the Elephant Room conference. The too easy connections of Dever with men like MacDonald and Driscoll is a problem. Many men who claim to be fundamentalists are admiring Dever. His influence and leadership is important.

      In addition, this series of posts began by highlighting the remarks of Thabiti Anyabwile in opposition to this conference and invitation. His remarks are significant and are worthy of notice by fundamentalists.

      This particular post was highlighted because some fundamentalists were touting it as another example of evangelicals taking a more fundamentalist stand. I wrote to point out that this pastor isn’t your average evangelical, he has a fundamentalist background. I think it is important for the sake of clarity. (This young fellow’s position also raises questions about certain segments of professing fundamentalism that have been concerning other fundamentalists for some time. I think it is important to ask questions about those concerns.)

      Finally, brother, let me remind you that the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy was lost by the Fundamentalists because moderate men would not take a stand against error. That pattern continues to plague anyone who will take a definite stand.

      Some might argue that fundamentalism is not a denomination and fundamentalists have no responsibility beyond their local churches or official fellowship connections. I can’t accept that. Sticking your head in the sand is not guarding the flock. (Nice mixed metaphor there – ed.)

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  18. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Arlyn, my comment intentionally smacks of sarcasm which I note. It is in reference to comments by a seminary professor at another blog who chided a pastor of a pretty small church (Don J.) for being on the internet interacting on blogs.
    For good and bad, the internet, and blogs in particular, are the new media for information dissemination. Many have blasted previous generations of fundamentalism for being slow or non-existent to speak up and out. Well, we have our own responsibility to stand up and speak out.

  19. Arlyn Ubben says:

    God must have placed a different call in your lives (Don and Brian) than in mine. I will drop in from time to time to see what is happening on the national scene. Perhaps you guys will be my lifeline to what is happening now on the evangelical/fundamentalist front.

  20. “I don’t know what you gain by insulting brothers, though”

    Don, I’m curious, what do you think you gained by questioning DBTS in this post? How was it not denigrating brothers (and if it was wrong to make the connection between DBTS and these guys associations, maybe worse than “insulting” a brother)?


    • Ed, a lot of us have concerns about the direction DBTS appears to be heading. I am asking questions because I wonder if this particular graduate is symptomatic of that problem. If my concerns are incorrect, they can be easily corrected. I don’t think my questions are unanswerable. I don’t think they have been completely and candidly answered to this point, however.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  21. A lot of people have concerns about BJU too. So, since all the guys who are DBTS grads are BJU grads, is it possible this is symptomatic of the problems of BJU?

    Here’s the real issue: If you truly had concerns, you could have contacted either someone at DBTS or the graduate(s) in question with your concerns. Instead, you posted an unsubstantiated musing on your blog (unsubstantiated b/c you didn’t take time to look into the facts), then assume it’s the responsibility of DBTS to publicly allay your concerns. So, how is what you are doing here different from groups like bjunumbers (or the many other BJU survivor type sites)? I fail to see any significant difference, so would appreciate your sharing why your post is different.


    • Ed, first, we have been over this ground before. Not all of these men mentioned BJU in their bios – the common public thread of connection in them is DBTS. The direction they appear to be heading is consistent with concerns that a lot of us have concerning DBTS. I think it is worthwhile to pursue them.

      In addition, some were linking to the post in question as if it were an evangelical finally taking a fundamentalist-like stand against MacDonald. This was not the case. I think it is worth pointing that out as well.

      I think that I have answered my reasons for posting sufficiently. If you want to continue pursuing this tack, you’ll have to do so by yourself. I’ll not be going back and forth on it further.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  22. Don,

    I don’t have a great desire to go back and forth on this either. I would much rather you actually deal with the issue. The reason I brought it up again is b/c you’ve basically punted on the concerns thus far. Did you know the BJU connection when you posted? No, but that’s not an excuse. It’s an indictment. It shows you didn’t look into the issue enough to really know if there was any basis to your conjectures.

    Further, once it was brought to your attention that they were all BJU grads, you basically ignored it and continued to focus on the DBTS connection.

    Finally: you didn’t answer my question. How is what you are doing different from what groups like bjunumbers (and other bju survivor type groups) are doing. (i.e., pulling random issues and then making sweeping indictments). Doran answered some pretty direct questions earlier (e.g., DBTS doesn’t endorse MacDonald…these guys are not necessarily reflective of the seminary, etc.) It would be nice if you would show the same courtesy. How is your action different from the other groups I mentioned?


    PS Unless I’m misreading you, the closest thing to an answer to these concerns was “I think it’s worthwhile to pursue the concerns of DBTS.” So, the difference would be that you consider it worthwhile to pursue concerns of DBTS, but not to pursue concerns of BJU?

    • Ed,

      No one at BJU has said anything like Dave Doran has said concerning fundamentalism. No one at BJU has joined in a conference with a well-known evangelical. The leaders of BJU are still in fellowship with groups like the FBF. That is not to say there are no concerns about BJU. I am concerned about what young men coming out of BJU are saying. But to this point the leaders of the organization have not attempted to distance themselves from other fundamentalists. There is a big difference.

      I don’t particularly want DBTS to move out of the fundamentalist orbit. I do differ with them on soteriology, but I appreciate a lot of what they have done in the past. However, I am concerned about their influence which seems to be at least uttering an uncertain sound with respect to their former fundamentalist positions.

      They aren’t accountable to me, but I don’t think it is illegitimate for me to raise questions either.

      And… I’m not going to answer your question about bjunumbers. It isn’t relevant to what I am doing here, in my opinion.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  23. Dr. Doran, thank you for responding to my question. It’s good to hear.

  24. Thought you might find it interesting that these DBTS grads decided to pull out of Harvest Bible Fellowship because of MacDonald’s direction.

    • That’s good to know. I am glad they were very clear about what they were doing and their reasons for it. They did a much better job than The Gospel Coalition on this one.

      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3