The central excuse for why they invited people who deny the Gospel to a conference that is supposed to be about the Gospel is the notion of cultural co-belligerence. This idea goes back to Francis Schaeffer:
There was another term important to Schaeffer and his work—co-belligerent. “A co-belligerent,” he said, “is a person who may not have any sufficient basis for taking the right position, but takes the right position on a single issue. And I can join with him without any danger as long as I realize that he is not an ally and all we’re talking about is a single issue.”That notion is at the heart of a lot of efforts in the church to link arms with Roman Catholicism, mormonism and other "shared morality" groups that have teaching contrary to the Gospel but are allies in secular cultural and political issues. As the church loses political and cultural power and influence (and of course money), it has been more and more willing to "find common ground" and "let by-gones be by-gones" and "stop fighting the Reformation". I don't buy it, not even when it is someone like Al Mohler speaking to a crowd of blasphemers at BYU.
As two writers both pointed out, TGC… Just Social, Or Social Justice? and The “Gospel” Coalition to Include Non-Christians in Panel, the real problem here is ironically a Gospel issue. I say that because "social justice", whatever that means, and racial tension is nothing more and nothing less than the result of sin. Men hate one another, men kill one another, men steal from one another, because of sin. As a group that purports to stand for the Gospel they should realize that sitting around and talking is not the solution to sin, the Gospel is. As others have pointed out, no one is saying that unbelievers don't have anything useful to say on this issue but it is to say that unbelievers will present solutions that will fundamentally be flawed and incomplete because they are missing the central assumption of what the problem is and therefore what the solution ought to be. The confusion that results from believers trying to find solutions to Gospel problems by asking unbelievers has long been a mark of the "progressive" wing of the church but now it seems to be bleeding into the more "conservative" end as well.
Will any of the panelists who are Christian turn to the unbelievers on the panel and publicly call on them to repent and correct their proposed solutions by putting for the Gospel as the only remedy for sin? Or would that be considered impolite and politically incorrect?
I am starting to wonder if this entire enterprise is devolving into a machine to provide a platform to increase influence and sell books. From questionable theologians at conferences to unbelievers providing secular advice on a Gospel topic to censoring comments on their social media (on that topic the first link I posted above has this quote: "Yet, TGC continues to block people on Facebook and Twitter for questioning their decisions. Very thoughtful men and women, definitely not trolls, have been blocked because they have attempted to hold TGC accountable for their poor decisions. ". So it is not just me but anyone who ask awkward questions of TGC and distracts from the party line), it seems that the real focus of TGC and increasingly other "ministries" is to keep the "ministry" going, keep selling books and conference tickets and continue to be revered by others. If that is what they are out to do, that is their business but they might want to reconsider having the letter "G" in TGC.