It has been recently revealed that T.D. Jakes will be a participant in Elephant Room round 2.1 Elephant Room is hosted by James MacDonald and Mark Driscoll. Its format is for influential pastors to have “blunt conversations” around “differing approaches to ministry” with the purpose of modeling “loving confrontation and gracious disagreement that honors relationship and allows diversity of opinion but stands without compromise on the revealed word of God.”2
Many of us hold that there is a biblical compromise with Jakes given his fellowship with Oneness Pentacostalism and his position on the Trinity as documented in the past by the Christian Research Institute3 and others. James MacDonald responded to the concerns over having Jakes participate in Elephant Room. MacDonald stated that he does not believe that “association is the same as categoric endorsement,” but more importantly that he does “not agree that T.D. Jakes is a Modalist.”4 Carl Trueman responded to MacDonald explaining the importance of the doctrine of the Trinity.5
But is there cause for concern regarding T.D. Jakes’ position on the Trinity? Many disagree with MacDonald and believe there is cause for concern. The most recent comments by Jakes on the Trinity that I am aware of are from a 2010 interview which is provided below.
There are some areas of discernment to consider in Jakes’ interview. This man is an influential
pastor bishop and yet he does not see the problem with differing views on the nature of God. He claims to have defended Oneness doctrine in his youth, but has been evasive for years on explaining his own views on the Trinity. He refers to those concerned with doctrine as wolves while Scripture teaches that it is the false teachers who are the wolves. He says he is not called to correct doctrine, but the Bible calls church leaders to teach sound doctrine and rebuke and silence those who don’t. False teachers are not to be partnered with, but to be exposed and corrected. Correcting false teachers is not an end unto itself, but a means to save their souls! Jakes mentions that he still fellowships with Oneness folks because he loves people. Yet, if he really loved them he would correct their false doctrine.
On July 18, 2010 Sheridan Voysey interviewed Jakes on his show Open House Interviews. The show description reads: “The pastor of the 30,000 strong Potter’s House church talks to Sheridan Voysey about his ministry, his theology and answers his critics.”6
At ~22:50 the host points out Jakes affiliation with Oneness Pentecostalism and how they deny the Trinity as one God in three persons. He then asks if Jakes has changed his view. Jakes says he still fellowships with them, infers that they are Christians, yet says his views have evolved and he was pressured to walk away from them.
Voysey: You have a criticism which is probably of more concern for those within your…your fellow Evangelical community would be the connections with Oneness Pentacostalism. Oneness Pentacostalism traditionally denying the historic understanding of God being a Trinity. One God, three Persons for eternity. You have actually had a Oneness Pentecostal background. Have you changed your views when it comes to the Triuness of God?
Jakes: Well first of all I’m laughing at the word connections because I have connections with everybody. I..atheists, agnostics, Jews, everybody and if that’s going to bother Evangelicals they’re really gonna hate me. I love people and I have not broken up with people because I don’t see everything they way they did.
And yes, I did grow up in a Oneness church. I started there. 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. I’m not sure any of us can really fully explain it as well as we think we can who God is.
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.
I believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I do. And my understanding has grown a lot about that. But I’ve not used my platform as a whipping post for any other Christian. I really don’t feel called to do that. And I’m not gonna succumb to pressure to become that. And I will not feed the wolves. I just don’t do it. I let them grip and say whatever they want to say.
I’m on a journey. I’m still learning. If they know more than me, good. But just because you graduated don’t burn down the school.
Voysey laughs and comments that Jakes is a master with his words and that he is going to be taking notes.
Jakes: You know what I am? I’ve come to a point in my life that I say what I mean. And that is a wonderful place to be ’cause I’m not trying to do anything anymore. I’m not trying to do anywhere. I’m not trying to build a career. Please accept me so I can come to your church. I’m older. I’m comfortable in my own skin. I want to know…I know Jesus for myself. I want to know Him better everyday. And you’d be surprised how much peace He gives you when you’re not trying to feed the wolves. They’re endless. They’re always gonna be coming. Jesus came that we might have peace. And I’m finally getting me some. It feels wonderful.
At ~25:40 the host brings Jakes back to the question of Modalism emphasizing the position of one god “manifesting himself as father, son and holy spirit” versus the traditional Trinitarian view of God. The host even states that Modalism was declared heresy in the 4th century. He explains it is an important issue that must be address because one who holds to Modalism is putting themselves outside of orthodoxy.
It is at this point that Jakes explains more clearly his views of the Triune nature of God.
Jakes: First of all, it’s not true. Not all Oneness people teach or believe the same thing about anything. Having been in those camps I know for a fact they don’t all teach the same thing the same way. People in our country (I don’t know about over here) they don’t really tie into denominations like they once did. So the assumption that because you go to a church you believe everything that they believe and you think they way they think is an assumption. And in the Oneness there are people that think everything from plain Trinitarian, God in three Persons, to everything imaginable. I’ve heard everything imaginable.
Voysey: But what about your 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. And even those who adhere to that say that to be true. But I think the issue is that they are distinctive. There are things that can be said about the Father that couldn’t be said about the Son and then the Holy Spirit… I believe that. I’ve grown into that, but I came into a Pentacostal church that happened to be Oneness. They loved me at a time that my father died. I became friends with them and in covenant with them and embraced them. And though I don’t agree with everything, and they don’t agree with everything, they’re evolving as a people.
I’m not gonna use my platform, again, to attack people or attack a doctrine. That’s not my mission and even though there are others who say that it is, I know my calling. And I don’t do that about anything. I mean you could listen to my tapes for hours and hours and hours and hardly ever hear me attacking people.
Far, far, far too little evidence there to justify reclassifying Jakes as Trinitarian granted all he’s said before and his continuing to consider United Pentecostals his Christian brothers. Nothing quoted there falls outside what any reasonably sly and sophisticated United Pentecostal could say. Let Jakes clearly and explicitly affirm such clear Trinitarian statements as the Nicene Creed, the Symbol of Chalcedon, the Athanasian Creed, or even just Warfield’s summary–There is but one God; the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit each is God; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each is a distinct Person–and then let him also repudiate the anti-Trinitarian statements of United Pentecostalism and other modalist sects, and it’ll be time to declare him converted to the true God. My impression is that Jakes is simply out to gain the trust of larger groups than the Oneness and Pentecostal crowd in which he’s been at home.
As I see it, there is cause for concern over giving Jakes a platform with Evangelical Christians. It would be great if Jakes were loving confronted on his positions with Scripture so he can clearly say what he means. Even if it could be shown that Jakes is now Trinitarian it would seem from the few examples listed above that he is not carrying out the pastoral duties of the role which he claims to fill.
When it comes to T.D. Jakes and Elephant Room it seems there is a lack of discernment when it comes to association.
For what it’s worth…
- Speaker #4 – T.D. Jakes ↩
- about Elephant Room ↩
- Concerns about the Teachings of T.D. Jakes and T.D. Jakes Responds to the Journal ↩
- Association vs. Discernment and Is James MacDonald Changing? ↩
- Is Nicene Christianity that important? An historical-ecumenical note ↩
- Direct MP3 download, iTunes url ↩
- E. CALVIN BEISNER, PH.D. CHRISTIAN SCHOLAR, AUTHOR, & LECTURER ↩