Open Email: SBC Pastors’ Conference 2011 Doctrinal Concern

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Please note: Mr. Jones’ name and the link to the Potter’s House website have been removed from the Pastor’s Conference website.

On Feb. 17th I sent an email to Vance Pitman, President of the 2011 Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference about a doctrinal concern. The email is posted below and contains within it the first email that I sent on Feb. 16th to Jamal Jones who serves under T.D. Jakes at The Potter’s House. Jones is set to participate in this year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference. My concerns may be understood by reading the emails below. I thought I’d post this for others who may share my concerns and to make others aware of the issue. Of course, I’m open to being corrected too.

Mr. Pitman,

Thank you for your service as the President of the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference. The panel of speakers looks to be promising with men like Darrin Patrick and the recent addition of John Piper.

However, I do have one concern. I’m concerned about Jamal Jones and his affiliation with The Potter’s House and T.D. Jakes. It is fairly well-known that Jakes has been accused of holding to the heresy of Modalism. Judging by the language in the Potter’s House belief statement on their website it seems they do actually espouse Modalism as their doctrinal position on God.

I’ve sent Mr. Jones an email about my concerns which I’ve shared below. Mr. Jones may be a fine musician, but that would be no reason to overlook potential heretical doctrine. (Just as Phillips, Craig and Dean are fine musicians, but also hold to a modalistic view of God.)

As you will see below, the language of The Potter’s House belief statement lines up with that of the largest Oneness Pentecostal denomination. To further clarify why Jakes is accused of holding to Modalism please see the article “Spirit Raiser” (Time Magazine, September 17, 2001). Jakes is quoted as saying, “…One God, but manifest in…three different ways, Father in creation, Son in redemption, Holy Spirit in regeneration.” This statement indicates an even clearer agreement with Modalism.

It seems that we Southern Baptists should not affiliate with those holding to heretical doctrine. To have someone such as Mr. Jones participating in an official capacity and being promoted on the Pastors’ Conference website gives undo promotion/acceptance of the Potter’s House and T.D. Jakes.

Of course, I’m taking the position that I am correct in assessing that the heresy of Modalism is being espoused. It seems that anyone who examines the doctrinal statements would come away in agreement.

Finally, to be fair to Mr. Jones, and since he has not replied back to me yet, it only makes sense to ask him if he personally agrees with the Modalistic language in the Potter’s House belief statement. Yet, even if he does not agree he still serves as their Executive Director of Music and Fine Arts.

All in all, it may therefore be best for Southern Baptists if Mr. Jones is replaced by someone who personally holds to, and serves a church that holds to, an orthodox, biblical view of God as Trinity.

Begin email -

Mr. Jones,

I understand you will be involved in the worship music at the upcoming Southern Baptist Pastor’s Conference. I also notice that you work with the Potter’s House Church of Dallas, Texas. It is your affiliation with the Potter’s House which concerns me and I will briefly explain why.

The belief statement on the Potter’s House website (as of 2/16/2011) states, “There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

The troubling word is “manifestations” which portrays God more like a shape-shifter who has merely taken on different forms. This language denies the Trinitarian nature of God which states that God is one Who eternally exists in three, simultaneous persons as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In other words, the Potter’s House belief statement portrays a Oneness or Modalistic view of God.

The usage of such distinct language to describe God, for example, may be seen in the largest Oneness (non-Trinitarian) denomination, The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI). UPCI’s doctrinal statement under “Oneness of God” clearly states that it “views the Trinitarian concept of God, that of God eternally existing as three distinctive persons, as inadequate and a departure from the consistent and emphatic biblical revelation of God being one.” And that “God is manifested as Father in creation and as the Father of the Son, in the Son for our redemption, and as the Holy Spirit in our regeneration.”

I state the above to clarify my concerns as to why I am sending this email. I hope you understand that as a Southern Baptist it would be troubling to have someone serve at one of our events who held to the heretical doctrine of Modalism which is a denial of the Trinity.

My question is – Do you hold to a Modalistic/non-Trinitarian view of God or do you hold to the doctrine of the Trinity as found within orthodox Evangelical Christianity?

Thank you for your time.

- End email

Blessings,

Mark

Tags: , , , ; Categories: Church Issues,Gospel,heresy,Southern Baptist,theology
The above article was posted on February 18, 2011 by Mark Lamprecht.
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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Mark February 18, 2011 at 11:06 am

Christiane,

Please don’t come here with your Romanist doctrines trying to tear down sola scriptura which does not purport that Scripture is the “sole” authority, but the final authority. If you’d like to engage in that debate you may want to make your way over to Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura, and Apostolic Succession: A Response to Bryan Cross and Neal Judisch by Keith Mathison.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, but this post is not about sola scriptura. And regardless of Baptists’ or Protestants’ authority we profess that God is a Holy Trinity. Therefore, we deem the denial of such a doctrine which defines who God is as heretical.

I hope this helps.

2 Jared Moore February 18, 2011 at 10:25 am

Mark,
I appreciate you taking the time to write this email. It bothers me, and should bother all Southern Baptists, that a heretic has been invited to lead worship at the SBC Pastors’ Conference. It should be a big deal. I too emailed the leaders of the conference. I hope that many other SBC pastors and church members respond as well. I hope Mr. Jones is replaced. Keep on keeping on Mark.

3 Christiane February 18, 2011 at 10:39 am

On what authority in the SBC is modalism condemned as a doctrinal error? Modalism is considered an error by traditional examination of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, but it was worked out by the Church, and written about by the Church Fathers.

I expect that the complexity of the Trinitarian Doctrine leads some easily into ‘errors’, but, if the sacred Scriptures are the sole authority on this determination by the SBC that modalism is in error,
A. What Scriptures?
B. How do Southern Baptists exegete those Scriptures?

Just to say Jakes is ‘in error’ due to belief in ‘modalism’, places the SBC in the position of relying on the traditional working out of the meaning of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity,
and that cannot be what the SBC wants to project here, I am sure.

It would be more in line with the ‘sola Scriptura’ doctrine, if those in the SBC went directly to sacred Scripture, and explained their case against the Jakes people’s ‘modalism’ from there, and not from the tradition of the early Church and the catholic councils.

That ‘short cut’ of referring to traditional Christian thinking as back-up for a case, is not a good precedent for Southern Baptists’
although it is a good thing that Southern Baptists and their scholars are looking into the thinking of the early Church, the Patristic writings (ante and post-Nicene), the early Creeds, and the Councils findings,
as that study of history of Christian doctrinal thought is something all theologians and Christian scholars should be aware of.

I hope this helps.

4 Wes Kenney February 18, 2011 at 10:44 am

I was inspired to write an actual letter about this. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that. Let us hope this invitation is rescinded.

5 Joe Blackmon February 18, 2011 at 11:33 am

Wow, L’s, you always impress me with the integrity with which you make your inquiries. You are such a pure-hearted seeker of the truth.

I’m sorry, was that too obviously sarcastic? I can never tell. :-)

6 Michael DeBusk February 18, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Mark,

The Jesus of the modalist heresy is not the Christ of Scripture and is therefore no Christ at all. In the paradigm of theological “triage,” there is no higher order issue.

I think this could be an important test of the extent to which Southern Baptists have embraced the atheological bent of contemporary evangelicalism. Praying we pass.

MJD

7 Dave Miller February 18, 2011 at 11:48 pm

I, too, have contacted them, and am awaiting a response. I hope they will respond honorably and change instrumental leaders.

This is not one we can compromise on. The Trinity is not negotiable.

8 Russ February 19, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Mark,

Please keep us updated on what happens here.

Thanks,
Russ

9 Dr. James Galyon February 22, 2011 at 12:49 am

Mark,
Thanks for writing the letter! I appreciate not only your concern, but your action.

Christiane,
I believe you need to study Church History. Modalism (also known as Sabellianism and Monarchianism) was not “worked out” by the Church, but rejected as heretical, while the Church affirmed the three ecumenical creeds which are trinitarian. Speaking of the Church Fathers, you should read Tertullian in particular on the issue.

10 Bart Barber February 22, 2011 at 10:59 pm

Mark,

Thanks for blogging about this. I am happy to notice that Mr. Jones’s name is no longer listed on the Pastors Conference web site. I am very thankful for this development.

From the traffic on Twitter tonight, it appears that, if a grudge persists over this event, it will be based upon the allegation that Jakes and Jones actually are Trinitarians and that they are being falsely accused based upon some sort of (uncharitable) inference.

Your blog post nicely reveals the available facts. The world has yet to hear Jakes utter the words “three persons” with regard to the Godhead. He’s certainly had plenty of opportunity, but he has not done so. Carefully, explicitly, he has not done so. Instead, as you have noted, he has deliberately chosen the modalist language of manifestations.

I think that there are two possible understandings of Jakes. Either…

A. Jakes is barely and recently a Trinitarian, but he refrains from publicly using Trinitarian language in order to keep from offending non-Trinitarians. Jakes, according to this understanding, is someone who would like to help Trinitarians get over their insistence upon Trinitarianism, thereby bridging the divide between orthodox Christians and heretics. This is the most charitable interpretation of Jakes that is possible, and from a Christian perspective, it is not a very good outcome.

B. Jakes is a non-Trinitarian who has tried to find the most Trinitarian-sounding non-Trinitarian language that he can devise, because he’s trying to broaden his empire to reach into Trinitarian territory as well as the non-Trinitarian territory in which he launched his ministry and which he naturally occupies.

This is not developed from inference at all—his own statements permit no understanding of his theology other than these two, as far as I can tell. It does take some measure of inference to decide which of these two is the actual case.

Neither scenario would make it appropriate for anybody connected with that so-called church to be a marquee name at the SBC Pastors Conference.

11 Mark February 23, 2011 at 12:22 am

Bart (and everyone), thanks for the comments.

Bart, you may be right. I actually have thought about Jakes’ position and that maybe his theology has changed. But there is no evidence of that. Interestingly enough, he is sill affiliated with (provided the website is correct) Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies which is reported by various sources as being a Oneness Pentecostal group.

I have not seen twitter has my plate has become overly full in the last several weeks with family, church, my job and seminary. I do need to make a note at the top of this post though about the removal of Mr. Jones’ information.

12 Sorrel February 26, 2011 at 8:37 am

Mark – I’m sitting here in a sort of shock over how unkindly you addressed Christiane. You said that you didn’t mean to sound harsh but to this reader you did indeed.

Perhaps naively, I didn’t read Christiane’s questions as a debate but as questions. It is an interesting question, at least to this reader, how a body like the SBC determines what is heretical. I don’t ask because I seek to disprove you or debate with you, I ask because I am curious. No doubt these questions are extremely elementary to you, but to reject them out of hand feels cruel.

I understand that your intention with this post is not to elucidate for the ignorant how the SBC determines doctrine, yet as a pastor, I would imagine you will have your train of thought derailed time and again by those who seek to understand your faith better. Such is the nature of life – and the internet!

I can see where perhaps Christiane feels confused about the SBC holding as firmly to doctrine as you have exhibited in this post. It feels to be counter to some of the originating anti-creedal ideals of the Baptist movement and what some readers might expect of Baptists. So perhaps what would be helpful would be an exploration of (or link to) the more recent history of how the SBC became so doctrinal. It can feel like a circuitous road to find members of the SBC referencing Tertullian. That isn’t to critique the practice, but merely to suggest that such wondering might be met charitably rather than met as an attack.

13 Mark February 26, 2011 at 12:06 pm

Sorrel,

I understand your concern. I don’t think my reply was unwarranted. Christiane is Roman Catholic and should be highly aware of many things Southern Baptist based on the amount of time she spends on Southern Baptist blogs such as SBC Voices, to name one. She has asked similar questions of Southern Baptists and has been answered several times. Also, I did not want the purpose of the post to get side tracked and I gave a link that should answer her questions much more thoroughly than I may be able to.

Also, I’m not a pastor. :)

14 Sorrel February 28, 2011 at 6:39 am

Thank you, Mark, for your reply. I have no doubt you will be a pastor. :) It did occur to me that Christiane may be known to you, in some context that is not apparent to me yet, as a new reader, and hence the harsh reply.

It particularly struck me because I stumbled upon your blog because I’ve recently started going to a Baptist church and am curious about what it means to be Baptist, what the denominational history is and why on earth there are so many Baptist churches. Trying to understand what sets the SBC apart from the ABCUSA is one of my questions right now. I haven’t delved very deeply into this question yet and I don’t remember exactly what I googled that gave me your blog but it struck me as lucid and compassionate (a combination which could be more abundant online). And because I do come here to learn, in what I thought was a safe place, when you or your commenters write in ways that seem disparaging or unkind, I find it jarring.

Yes, I am holding you to a higher standard than most of the other stuff I find online. :) This may be unfair, but, frankly, thinking you wrote to a higher standard was the only reason I returned in this great morass of internet religious opinion.

15 Paul Russell March 4, 2011 at 12:08 am

Did Vance Pitman ever respond directly to anyone regarding this invitation and its revocation? Just curious.

16 Mark March 4, 2011 at 9:51 pm

Paul, I never received a response and I know of several others who also did not receive a response. All that some of us know is that Jones was removed from the conference website.

17 John Graham June 14, 2011 at 8:37 pm

While I am thrilled Southern Baptists hold to the doctrine of the Trinity, I am perplexed why there is so much emphasis on seeking the Lord without seeking out the Holy Spirit as the One who can not only lead us to Truth (the very character and Mind of Christ) in Scripture. We can do nothing without Christ, therefore we can do nothing without the Holy Spirit as we pray constantly. Anything less is walking by sight and leaning to one’s own understanding. No wonder SBC membership is declining – let’s just hope that’s just churchgoers and not disciples.

18 Brian Juntunen July 22, 2012 at 8:00 am

I find it interesting for sure that T.D. Jakes is a welcomed guest on the Oprah Winfrey network. Apparently he is able to teach a means of achieving happiness in life just by identifying one’s own destiny even if it is separate from Jesus. In other words, you don’t have to be born again to experience the blessings of life in Christ. This is simply ludicrous and I hope it is being exposed by someone with exposure to a large Christian audience. God help us…

19 Dr Moffett November 27, 2013 at 6:54 pm

@ Brian please stop making up stuff as you go. Going on OWN does not mean TD Jakes is not a Christian Pastor in every since of the word. You Southern Baptist Catholic Doctrine of Trinity is the problem, not Bishop Jakes. Wisdom is justified of all of her children, TD Jakes has wisely sought to avoid arguing about doctrine in furtherance of he larger goal of helping people overcome other human maladies.  I will tell you that Trinity is not in the Bible, even if you put on every Seminary you Baptist folks have. You are on the TITANIC which is the doctrine of Trinity!
Rev. Dr. Steve Joel Moffett, Sr. (look me up on Amazon.com)

20 Dr Moffett November 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm

@ Brian please stop making up stuff as you go. Going on OWN does not mean TD Jakes is not a Christian Pastor in every sense of the word. Your Southern Baptist Catholic Doctrine of Trinity is the problem, not Bishop Jakes. Wisdom is justified of all of her children, TD Jakes has wisely sought to avoid arguing about doctrine in furtherance of the larger goal of helping people overcome other human maladies.  I will tell you that Trinity is not in the Bible, even if you Baptists put it on every Seminary you folks have. You are on the TITANIC which is the doctrine of Trinity! At the great white throne you ARE NOT going to have what it takes THE BLOOD!
Rev. Dr. Steve Joel Moffett, Sr. (look me up on Amazon.com)

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