Over the last two years, I’ve done several deep dives into the theological distinctives of David Jang and his community. There was a lot of detail in those posts, and it’s easy to lose the forest for the trees. So I think it makes sense to summarize briefly my theory about David Jang’s community.
- To a great extent, and certainly within the hearing of any outsider, David Jang and his churches teach recognizably orthodox Christian doctrine. If you visit any of their churches, you will find nothing obviously amiss.
- However, until 2006, within this reasonably orthodox framework, the highest leaders in David Jang’s community encouraged a very heterodox teaching that David Jang was a key eschatological figure worthy of the title “Second Christ”. This belief was not universal but was very widespread, being taught explicitly or implicitly to new members in (at least) Asia, Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America.
- Although David Jang probably (and privately) continues to claim a role for himself more significant than any mainstream Christian would be comfortable with, he has never explicitly claimed to be “Christ”. He currently disavows this teaching entirely, but there is evidence that he knew others were making this claim on his behalf and allowed them to do so.
- Since 2006, the community has ceased to actively promote the doctrine of a “second Christ”, though some members have made it clear as recently as 2012 that they still believed Jang to be Christ.
- David Jang and his community initially denied outright that this teaching had ever occurred, have continued to minimize and obfuscate its extent, and respond harshly and even viciously to silence anyone who brings it up.
So that’s the theory. But is it true?
You know – I think it is. Perhaps not in every particular. There may be nuances which I’ve missed or mistaken, and the evidence for some claims is more solid than for others. (I have the most questions around #3.) As I gather more information, I may need to revise portions of it. I first wrote this summary almost two years ago, and have continued to revise it periodically, as additional evidence came to light. I will continue to do so. But as it stands, it’s my best explanation of the facts as I have them.
Of course, I may be wrong. There may be other theories which cover the facts as well or better. Maybe the 20 or so people who have made this charge are just lying. Maybe they think they’re telling the truth, but badly misunderstood what they were told. Maybe Jang’s leaders just went horribly off the rails, and kept Jang so completely in the dark that he honestly knew nothing about it. Maybe they intercepted all the confessions people sent to him. Maybe this is all just some huge misunderstanding.
I’ve done something over the last year and a half that I had never imagined I would do: I’ve all but accused a significant figure in American Evangelicalism of serious heresy, and done it in a public forum where I was confident he and lots of other folks will hear about it and pay attention to it. This is a very sobering thing to do. Given the fate of Jang’s other critics, I continue to share my sources’ fears of retribution, that I’ll be on the receiving end of more personal attacks or even a lawsuit. And even more, I have worried throughout that I might be wrong, that in leveling these charges I have been slandering the name of good Christians and needlessly stirring up dissent and division in the body of Christ.
But even with those risks, I cannot stay silent. The evidence for the key charges seems to me not just strong, but indisputable. And the charges are serious enough that I feel eminently justified in bringing them to the attention of the Christian world at large.
And I suppose that’s why I’m bothering to wade into this fight again, after a year of sitting on the sidelines. I’m worried about the fact that despite the extensive evidence, many mainstream Christians continue to have close ties with Jang’s community. It is true that many have withdrawn. Around the time of the original Christianity Today article, Al Mohler and Daniel Akin removed themselves from the Christian Post board. The sale of Bethany University to Jang’s Olivet University eventually fell through; and Lifeway declined to sell them their Glorieta conference center. But many other groups and individuals have continued their affiliation. The World Evangelical Alliance is only the most notable and worrisome example. Walker Tzeng, a senior leader in Jang’s community, is on the board of both the Association for Biblical Higher Education and the National Association of Evangelicals. Richard Land, the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, has continued on as the Executive Editor of The Christian Post. Will Graham (Billy Graham’s grandson) and Joel Hunter (megapastor and occasional spiritual advisor to the President) continue to allow themselves to be listed as a part of the CP’s “senior editorial advisors”. Donald Tinder, a former editor at Christianity Today, teaches at Olivet University, along with many other Christians whose orthodoxy is unquestionable.
I would feel very differently about Jang’s community if they were honest, transparent and apologetic – in a word, repentant – about what had occurred. But given the extent to which the group continues to dissemble about their past, and their scorched earth tactics against their critics, I am uncertain as to why any orthodox Christian would continue to lend them their support. Their chances of playing a constructive role in the body of Christ seem diminishingly small so long as they have not mastered simple honesty.
You will of course need to make up your own mind. But whatever your conclusion, I and everyone else involved will certainly need your prayers.