Reformed blings invite heretic to wax eloquent...

Jesus said, "...whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. - Matthew 20:27, 28

One of Baylyblog's themes is the necessity of avoiding all the Evangelical and Reformed bling. There's gold in them thar hills and that's the point, dear brothers and sisters. Jim MacDonald and Mark Driscoll are out having Elephant Room conversations and want you to come pay them money to see how bright they are.

Except check out the man they've invited to join them and wax elephant for their customers.

He's a pastor who claims he's a Christian, but he's not...

Look at the statement of faith at the top of his congregation's web site. Here's their statement on God:

There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

The word "manifestations" clearly places T. D. Jakes outside the boundaries of orthodox Christian faith. Jakes is a modalist, pure and simple. He denies the Trinity and he's a heretic. 

Peddling the Word of God is bad enough. What should we say about peddling heresy?

(TB, w/thanks to you know who)

Comments

Every Thursday morning I meet for breakfast and bible study with two modalists and a Acts 29 fellow. Occasionally we get onto the topic of the Trinity, and my two Oneness Pentecostal friends try to tell me how irrationally Greek and un-Biblical is the concept of the Trinity. This past Thursday, one of them told me that 5 million Ethiopian Christians have been evangelized by Oneness Pentecostals. He says that his missionaries can go places that Trinitarians can't, especially into the Moslem world. Combine that with Wycliff Bible Translators recent efforts at Moslem bible translation, and my recollection of Nestorian evangelization of China, and I wondered whether there was more to this story--redemptive-historically--than meets the eye.

The subtlety of the distinction between modalism and Trinitarianism--manifestations vs. persons of the Godhead--reminds me of the significance of learning theology in a deeper way than do most evangelicals and fundamentalists.

(and yes, please correct me if I'm missing something here....)

Right on, Tim!

If someone does not believe in the Trinity, he does not believe in Jesus, who is a *Person* not a shadow, not the role of an (even divine) actor.

Modalism is heresy of the first order, and no one should listen to T.D. Jakes. Far better to listen to a rabbi, who at least is clear about rejecting the Trinity. I wasn't sure what the purpose of the "Elephant Room" room was before, but since I heard this (and this was not the first place), I see no place for it at all.

Dear Pastors Bayly (Pastor Tim, I believe from the sig line?),

While I in no way want to detract from your warnings against the lure of "flithy lucre" (to quote the KJV) detracting from ministry and even pulling pastors astray from God, I felt that your final accusations against Pastor Jakes were carelessly extravagant, if not downright unnecessary. Essentially I can't find a particular problem with the Statement of Faith's wording, despite its poor historical connotations, even though his ministry may have other faults. I've detailed my considerations in more detail on my own blog, as they stretched out somewhat beyond a reasonable comment length: http://romanceofvictory.blogspot.com/2011/09/reformed-sticking-point.html. If I simply don't know all the details you are privy to then I suppose I may be being over-cautious, but I am at the moment perplexed.

Jonathan,look at the link. Jakes' theology is not Trinitarian, hence not Christian. Nothing extravagant about that, just everything very, very sad.

Notice his wife's office as "first lady Jakes." There's a hint of feminism there, too.

>> his (modalist) missionaries can go places that Trinitarians can't, especially into the Moslem world.

Of course. Isn't that the point? Heretics aren't heretics because it's hard. They're heretics because it's easy.

All of Scripture's revelation concerning the Godhead hinges on the distinction between "manifestations" and "persons." Jakes knows this. He's a Oneness Pentecostal Modalist heretic and he won't repent of it. That's why he features his error so prominently on his church web site.

Really, it matters not one whit to me what anyone else thinks or says concerning the historic orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, nor who hangs out with whom. It's heresy, plain and simple.

Thus when cries of ecumenism or Christian unity have pressured me and our church to join in ministerial prayer groups and community worship services with Oneness Pentecostals, I've declined explaining that those who pray together must be praying to the same god.

Love,

I'm still not sure which link I'm supposed to be looking at. The Elephant Room is both embarrassing and to be avoided for all the reasons mentioned, but I can't find any hard evidence that Jakes has abandoned Trinitarian teaching. Certainly not in that statement from his ministry: the only "evidence" is that word "manifestations", which given the other professions in the statement - say, the bodily resurrection, not to mention the careful differentiating of the Persons' work - is very flimsy evidence to build a heresy charge on. Is it a poor word choice? Given church history, of course it is. But inherently enough to condemn a man as a heretic when nothing else he says – that's been brought forward, at least – indicates departure (on that point) from orthodox Christian teaching?

His ministry's female pastor is a example, acknowledged with pride right on the website, that could have been brought up (and I would have expected this blog to do so) of Jakes' departure from an orthodox path. That's a far more straightforward challenge than the semantic games of concocting Trinitarian heresy charges on "manifestations". At the very least, it would have prevented people like me from "playing semantic games", if I'm the one doing it, in Jakes' defense.

(I also note that the link in my last comment to my own blog post is broken. The comma at the end of the sentence got included in the link somehow - deleting it fixes the problem.)

Rob said, "one of them told me that 5 million Ethiopian Christians have been evangelized by Oneness Pentecostals. He says that his missionaries can go places that Trinitarians can't, especially into the Moslem world."

I'm not sure what you're getting at Rob, but I do hope you are implying that Oneness Pentacostalism must be very bad theology indeed since Moslems think it's close enough to their beliefs to be harmless.

God's ways are mysterious. If Trinitarian doctrines arose in the 3rd to 5th centuries of the church, rather than in the Pauline letters or the Johannine rebuttal of gnosticism, then the redemptive history of the New Testament would extend at least another few centuries. If then the Holy Spirit saw fit to develop doctrines for a few more centuries, should we not also examine history for his guidance? Can we so easily bin, say, Oneness Pentecostals into the same bins used by Athanasius? Why we willing to let history develop in some areas, but demand stasis in others?

Okay, let's try another tack. How did the Reformers distinguish between error and heresy? At the council of Dordt, how were the Arminians treated--as misinformed or as heretics? I was taught that the difference is that a heretic uses heresy as a means to an end, where the end is immorality. Since the Arminians did not espouse immorality (in contradistinction from, say, gnostics) then they were not heretics, but merely mistaken. Pelagians were immoral. Semi-pelagians perhaps redeemable. And hemi-demi-pelagians are merely mistaken.

Could not Oneness Pentecostals be hemi-semi-arians? Or do you see evidence of immorality as well?

The Evangelical and Reformed worlds should have washed their hands of Jakes ten or so years ago when his heretical beliefs were adequately covered in the Christian Research Journal and Christianity Today.

Goodness, even Promise Keepers had the sense not to invite him back after they found out about the Oneness Pentecostal/Moadlism heresy!

I say let TBN keep him.

Rob, unfortunately, you are arguing precisely the way present-day modalists argue. The doctrine of the Trinity did not arise in the 3rd to 5th centuries. The doctrine is found in Scripture and the church came to formulate it gradually. Read Ignatius of Antioch or Irenaeus of Lyon. Several of the key building blocks of Trinitarian doctrine are very evident in their writings.

And there is a massive difference between describing the three as "persons" (that means they're real and each has the attributes of personhood) and "manifestations" (that means they're not real). It is the difference between truth and error, between orthodoxy and heresy, between Jesus having a real and distinct existence before the incarnation, during the incarnation and after His resurrection and him having a shadow, ephemeral existence. Matthew 3:16-17 is vital.

I've never heard about immorality entering the definition of "heresy". A heresy is a doctrinal error so severe that if you believe it, you cannot be a Christian. All heresies are doctrinal errors. Not all doctrinal errors are heresies. Very early, the church decided that to be wrong on the Trinity (one God eternally existing in three persons) and the incarnation (one person, two natures, truly God and truly man) was a matter of life and death.

So, we shouldn't say, well, he may be a tiny bit off in his doctrine of God, but he says some great things on other topics.

I'm inclined to agree with Jonathan Frank's comments. Jakes' has apparently publicly affirmed Trinitarianism and denied modalism. Consider the following quotes by him:

from a 2010 interview: http://hereiblog.com/td-jakes-association-lacking-discernment/

>>Voysey: But what about you personally? [There is some crosstalk and the host points out that Jakes' church has a doctrinal statement that uses the word "manifestation" which is a term used by Oneness groups.]

>>Jakes: Yes, but my church is non-denominational. And we embrace people regardless of what denomination they come from. I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe that they are three Persons. I believe that in a way that Persons is a limited word for the Godhead... I’ve grown into that, but I came into a Pentacostal church that happened to be Oneness.

>>"I started in a Baptist church, but at around 16 or so I did become involved with Oneness. I used to adamantly defend every tenant of what they believed. I’ve evolved since then. I’m on a journey since then. But I’ve not used my journey to attack other Christians just because I don’t agree with every line of what they say about the Trinity... Uh, so I’ve kind of evolved. I still fellowship. I’m still involved and have connections with the Oneness people. And under pressure was asked to kinda step away. It would have been easy to walk away. To point my finger at them and criticize them and attack them and satisfy my critics. But in my heart it was betrayal because, because you love people."

and from a 2000 CT article, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/februaryweb-only/13.0b.html?start=1 :

>>"The language in the doctrinal statement of our ministry that refers to the Trinity of the Godhead as "manifestations" does not derive from modalism. The Apostle Paul himself used this term referring to the Godhead in 1 Timothy 3:15, 1 Corinthians 12:7, and 1 John 3:5-8. Peter also used the term in 1 Peter 1:20. Can this word now be heresy when it is a direct quote from the Pauline epistles and used elsewhere in the New Testament?"

I would agree that he could be much more forthright in his embracing of the Trinity and renouncing of modalism rather than pandering, but his statements don't seem to amount to a denial of the Trinity.

I'm more concerned about the things he does clearly profess/do that are wrong such his prosperity gospel teachings and feminist capitulation to be honest. I wonder whether anyone will challenge him on that, to me those seem to be the real elephants in the room. Challenging him on the Trinity is the easy option for Macdonald and co. How about asking him why in the world he's got a woman pastor and why he teaches the prosperity gospel?

"I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe that they are three Persons. I believe that in a way that Persons is a limited word for the Godhead"

So, he believes in three "persons", as long as "person" doesn't mean "person" the way theologians have used it for centuries. Hence, he does not believe in three distinct persons or in the Trinity.

Then you're going to point out that in CT he says they are "distinct". But he doesn't. He says, "I believe these three have distinct and separate *functions*..."

Finally, he claims that the words in the statement of faith "do not derive from modalism". Of course they don't derive from it. They define it! There is no way to understand those words except as heresy, because they teach people that the distinction between the Father and Son is simply our perception.

You're right, Henry. He's pandering, but he's pandering to both trinitarians and oneness heretics, trying to get both to be ok with his doctrine of God. And it's seemingly worked. You don't care that he is teaching people to worship another god. You care that he's got a woman pastor.

It's always our temptation to argue about the less important things. It's not the easier target to deal with him preaching and teaching a different god. It's the harder and more important target.

Praying with oneness folk is the same as praying with Muslims or Hindus or Satanists. Arguing with T.D. Jakes about what women can do in the church gives up the whole game, because you're allowing people to think that he's part of the church, which is patently false.

As is the case with all gelded discourse, what's left unsaid is usually more important than what's actually stated. The closest T.D. Jakes gets to definitively stating a belief is when he says that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons. This statement means next to nothing, however, because he quickly defines "Persons" as meaning "just another word for God."

After that murky statement, all we learn from Mr. Jakes is that he has some friends who are Trinitarian and some who are Oneness and that he doesn't judge either of them. After all, how could he, being the "evolved" and "loving" human being that he is?

Also, a quick note about semantic distinctions: they can be extremely important. Athanasius and Arius were mentioned in an earlier post. Remember, in that case the only distinction between truth and error was a single letter of a single word.

Sincerely,

Bert,

Without trying to sound racist, AFAIK that African-American congregations often call their senior pastor's wife the "First Lady". The term is meant to confer honor and respect for her as the senior pastor's wife. It does not mean that she is a co-pastor or has special responsibilities not normally accorded to other women in the congregation.

My definition may not be 100% accurate, though, because it's part observation, part conservation with an African-American guy in a theologically orthodox historically black denomination, and some questions I asked my rector.

YMMV.

On the whole, given the background that's filled in, I am less inclined to defend Jakes than before. In fact, Henry's sources seem, at best, damning with faint praise as Jakes is too careful how he treats his position. *However*, I still find the manner of making the accusation – no background, no other information, nothing substantive except a single word which doesn't appear to be explicated poorly in the rest of that statement – unfortunate at best.

Perhaps I am at fault for not following the "Christian scene" closely enough, but even reading the blog regularly I do not remember hearing of this man or his problematical doctrines. So to me the accusation seemed to come out of the blue... and be an example of (unnecessary) Christian nit-picking.

(cross-posted on my blog)

"Notice his wife's office as "first lady Jakes." There's a hint of feminism there, too."

It's my understanding that in many black American churches, this is just a traditional title of honor for the senior pastor's wife, even in very conservative groups. Though some may use it for feminist leverage in more liberal circles, I wouldn't attach feminist implications to the bare use of the title.

Joseph thanks for the reply. I agree he is pandering to both sides and that is extremely bad, especially on such an issue.

Regarding his statement that he believes God is three Persons, I didn't see what you saw/see in his following line about the word Persons, the line just did not make sense and I thought that given that he later goes on to say that his views have 'evolved' and that he is no longer well accepted in Oneness circles that this was further evidence that one cannot label the man as a modalist. Maybe he is being disingenuous here and secretly believes modalism in his heart, but that should be established first before labelling him a heretic, and it does not seem clear (to me at least) that this has been established.

Next, let's say he is a modalist. I would like to ask why a rejection of the teaching in scripture about the distinct Persons of the Trinity is inexcusable whereas teaching the prosperity gospel and subverting the created order by ordaining a woman is ok and fine for you to still get into the Elephant Room? Both involve clear rejection of scripture. Who decides which verses you can get away with rejecting and which verses you can't? Had the issue of women's ordination came up in early church councils I very much suspect it would also have been labelled as heresy. It is something foundational that goes back to God creating male and female. Is it less explicitly taught in scripture than the Trinity?

I would also ask on what basis being a modalist means one is worshipping a different God. As far as I understand they still assign the same character as found in scripture to God but just merge it all into one Being. How is that the equivalent of them worshipping Mohammed? Many Old Testament Jews would probably also conceive of God as one person. I think the issue is that Oneness Pentecostals have NT revelation to answer to, but if you allow egals and prosperity teachers at the table then why not them?

The reason I am giving push-back here is because unity is a serious issue in scripture, the Epistles repeatedly command it, and I don't want to be guilty of casting out someone who actually might be a brother. Scrutinising and rebuking his grievous errors is certainly required, but to wrongly cast out a brother I would think is a great sin against the Lord. Equally as great as welcoming heretics. Surely we are responsible to establish the matter clearly before treating him as a Gentile or tax-collector?

Carl Trueman has weighed in here:

http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2011/09/lorthodoxie-cest-moi.php

He has little to say about Jakes, much to say (though said with typical Truemanesque pithyness) about those who endorse Jakes as orthodox while dismissing Nicene Christianity as non-essential.

I decided to take a look at the Scripture passages that Jakes claims refer to "manifestations" of the Godhead:

1) 1 Timothy 3:(14-)15 - "I am writing these things to you, hoping to come to you before long; but in case I am delayed, I write so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth."

Okay...moving on...

2) 1 Corinthians 12:7 - "But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

In this passage, Paul is talking about spiritual gifts. And it is pretty clear in this verse, that by "manifestations of the Spirit," Paul simply means spiritual gifts, not the manifestation of the Godhead in the form of the Holy Spirit.

3, 4) 1 John 3:5-8 and 1 Peter 1:20 both refer to the Son of God "appearing" or being "made manifest", but I think it is appropriate to refer to God the Son in this way, since He is the Word made flesh. However, this specifically refers to the incarnation of God the Son, not to the Godhead being modally manifested as God the Son, since "He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God" (1 Peter 1:20-21).

Was this called the Elephant Room before, or after, T.D. Jakes was invited?

Even a cursory reading of Jakes' books is enough to show that he does not stand on the truth of Scripture, but instead relies on emotionalism. I had the misfortune of reading his book, "Woman, thou art loosed" and quickly threw it out after trying to wade through three chapters of emotional nonsense. What little Scripture that was in there was taken way out of context and twisted to mean the exact opposite of the plain teaching of the Bible. The basic theme of the book is that any trouble in your life is not your fault, but the result of someone else's abuses. There is no mention of the fact that ALL of our hearts are deceitfully wicked and that we need to repent and turn to God. Instead, it just contains the usual psycho-babble that is found in secular self-help books. Jakes does not care about the truth, he only cares about what sells.

Alex MccNeily,

excellent points. I also went and had a look and was rather puzzled that the scriptures he cites are utterly irrelevant.

Then this morning I was reading a KJV advocate claiming that "key phrases showing that the Lord Jesus Christ is God are being set aside [in modern translations], such as "God was manifest in the flesh" (1Tim3:16). (do they realise they are encouraging modalism!!)

So I think probably Jakes may have been referring to the KJV translation of 1Tim3:16 rather than 1Tim3:15.

The ESV translates the verse as 'He was manifested in the flesh' which more obviously refers to Jesus, giving a footnote saying that some manuscripts have 'God'.

But to be fair, historically this must mean that KJV using Trinitarians have seen a latitude of meaning in the word 'manifested', since they obviously don't think it necessarily implies modalism. But given his bluff use of scripture here, I'm less inclined to put Jakes in the same category.

Phil Johnson has also linked to some rather shocking prosperity gospel videos by Jakes. I wonder if Macdonald and Driscoll saw those before they invited him?

I plagiarized the Elephant Room website so that I could build a paragraph that encourages everyone to think more of me:

Denver Todd is fired up about God's Word and God's Son. He has been a Christian for over 30 years and revels in the hope that others in ministry can learn from his mistakes. Denver Todd is down on cranky, cheerless Christians, but good with everyone who is still listening and learning and loving the Savior, whose glory is our passion and whose Word is enough.

@24 to my comment I would add that saying 'God was manifest in the flesh' is not the same as saying 'God the Father was manifest in the flesh' and nor is it the same as saying 'God the Father was present in person in the flesh'.

Thus KJV using Trinitarians have plausible ways of reading this verse that do not contradict the piercing testimony of scripture that Jesus and the Father were not one and the same person, even though they are One.

But 1Tim3:16 is one good reason to progress on from using the KJV to more accurate translations.

Wait, wait, wait. Theology aside, did you see that the price for regular registration is $99? TO SIT AND WATCH IT ON TV!!! It's a "simucast." I could understand a small fee to cover costs for a live event, and even a small fee for a tv broadcast. But a hundred bucks a head to watch a TV show? Stupid is as stupid does. Attach the "Driscoll" label to anything and it sells.

Regarding 1 Tim 3:16, instead of blaming the KJV, maybe a dictionary and some books on exegesis and hermeneutics would help? There is a difference between the idea that God being manifest and being a mere manifestation, no?

Put differently, I don't think Jakes is so dense that he can't figure it out, either.

Hadn't heard that about "First Lady," but given the political implications and such, it still bothers me.

I had an argument with a guy at work the other day about this very issue. It was like trying to explain the Trinity to my brother who is a recently converted Mormon, the blocks that keep them from grasping the concept are definitely intentional and purposefully embedded there. I tried to explain Scripture to them, but it was always shallow rebuttals that would be devoid of any real argument, and connected back to an emotional reason for denying the truth about who God is. Both groups try to claim they are Christians while openly denying the Trinity and are very proud about it.

Has anyone seen a statement from Mark Dever on this? He appears to have pulled out of ER, but I can't find any explanation as to why he's been removed from the list of participants.

Don't hold your breath waiting for an explanation from Pastor Dever. There are rules about how these men are to relate to one another. Public rebuke--not allowed.

Oh, I'm not holding me breath - fall allergy season has set of my asthma worse than it has in years:-0

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