TD Jakes’ Trinitarian Confusion

The following is quoted from yesterday’s Elephant Room 2:

MacDonald:
Apparently (to TD Jakes), there has been confusion about what you believe.

Jakes:
My situation is not that different from his. My father was Methodist. My mother was Baptist. I was raised in a Baptist church. But I was raised in church without a committed experience with Christ when my father died. My conversion to Christ took place in a Oneness church.

Driscoll:
By Oneness meaning?

Jakes:
It was not a UPC church. It was similar.

Driscoll:
Jesus only, modalism?

Jakes:
They believe in Jesus Christ, he died and raised again. But how they explain the Godhead is how Trinitarians describe the gospel. I was in that church and raised in that church a number of years. I started preaching from that pulpit. But I’m also informed by the infiltration from my Baptist experience. I ended up Metho-Bapti-Costal. I’m a mixed breed. It is easy to throw rocks at people who you do not know, but when you see the work of Christ in their lives, you try to build bridges. So even though I moved away from what that church’s teaching, I didn’t want to throw rocks. Much of what we do today is teach people to take sides. But I believe we are called to reconcile wherever possible. My struggle was that in some passages, the doctrine fits and in other places it doesn’t. I don’t want to force my theology to fit my denomination.

(Jakes is going through Jesus’ baptism and the “let us create man in our image” at creation.) The Bible made me rethink my ideas and I got quiet about it for a while. There are things that you can say about the Father you cannot say about the Son or the Spirit. There are distinctives. I’m very comfortable with that. There is very little difference between what I believe and what you believe. But I don’t think anything that any of us believes fully describes what God is. We in our finite minds cannot fully describe what God is.

Driscoll:
We all would agree that in the nature of God there is mystery. But within that, for you, Bishop Jakes, the issue is one God manifesting Himself successively in three ways? Or one God existing eternally in three persons? What is your understanding now? Which one?

Jakes:
I believe the latter one is where I stand today. One God – Three Persons. I am not crazy about the word persons though. You describe “manifestations” as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline. For God was manifest in the flesh. Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it’s robbery to say manifest in the flesh. Maybe it’s semantics, but Paul says this. Now, when we start talking about that sort of thing, I think it’s important to realize there are distinctives between the work of the Father and the work of the Son. I’m with you. I have been with you. There are many people within and outside denominations labeled Oneness that would be okay with this. We are taught in society that when we disagree with someone in a movement, we leave. But I still have associations with people in Onenness movements. We need to humble both sides and say, “We are trying to describe a God we love.” Why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when it’s through a glass darkly? None of our books on the Godhead will be on sale in heaven.

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Well. How should we take this? He apparently claims to agree with the orthodox view, and yet he says some things that need to be addressed. Let’s take a look:

1. So even though I moved away from what that church’s teaching, I didn’t want to throw rocks. Much of what we do today is teach people to take sides. But I believe we are called to reconcile wherever possible.

Here he says that he moved away from the Oneness church’s teaching, but didn’t want to “throw rocks.” He says that we are to reconcile wherever possible, and not teach people to take sides. We aren’t talking about minor differences. The issue with modalism isn’t that the word “modes” is icky. It is that it destroys the definition of Who God is. The propositions that God has set forth about His very nature have been robbed by modalism. But he says we shouldn’t throw stones. Now, I don’t think we should be uncharitable, but we should “throw stones” if “throwing stones” means judging. Why?

Because Paul tells us that we are to judge those within the visible church. And we don’t use our personal opinions as the standard. We use the Word of God. For crying out loud, how can you claim to love the truth, and not tenaciously devour as much of it as you can, stand for it, defend it, etc? I agree that modalists have their passages, and attempt to defend their views biblically. But that doesn’t mean that their arguments hold a lick of water. They don’t. They are not brothers or sisters in Christ. They worship a different god, preaching a different Jesus. Trying to reconcile with them and giving them the comfort in believing they are okay in this damnable error is not charitable. It would be like trying to reconcile where we can with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are Unitarians too. In fact, I wonder if Jakes would agree that we should?

“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them.” Romans 16:17 

“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?” – 1 Corinthians 5:12

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.” – 2 Corinthians 11:3-4

“If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words, out of which arise envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men of depraved mind and deprived of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.” 1 Timothy 6:3-5

2. My struggle was that in some passages, the doctrine fits and in other places it doesn’t.

His language is weird here because he says “My struggle WAS… the doctrine FITS.” He speaks of his past struggle with something that is a present reality (“fit” is being used in the present form). The doctrine fits? I’ve heard Oneness debates in the past. Yes, they make doctrine fit, but it reminds me of a toy my son once had. It was a house that had different shaped holes in its walls accompanied with different shaped blocks. The purpose of the toy was to fit the shape block to its corresponding hole. Now, I can make the triangle shape fit in the circle hole. It might mean that I beat it half to death with a hammer, but eventually it’ll fit. That’s about how I’d describe this quote.

I have to appeal to the Jehovah’s Witnesses yet again. Have you ever spoken to them? If you don’t know your Scripture, they will hand you your backside along with all their pamphlets. They know tons of Scripture. I hear that they train for hours just to go door to door. And yet, they are a cult who preaches a false Christ, a false gospel, etc. If what he means is that they use the Bible to defend their false teaching, he should say that. And hopefully that’s what he means. But for this to be true would imply that the opposite is true: In some places the orthodox view fits, and in others it doesn’t.

This should be spoken of with more clarity. See, I can say that I believe that in some places amillennialism fits, and in others it doesn’t. I can say that postmillennialism fits in some places and others it doesn’t. Those are two views I find myself struggling with, trying to figure out where I stand with them. But though they have different conclusions, they are still well within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy.

3.  There is very little difference between what I believe and what you believe.

Here Jakes was speaking to Driscoll. Despite what you think about him, we can confidently say that Mark Driscoll agrees with the orthodox view of the Trinity. No one would question that. He makes it clear. This, by the way, is another troubling thing about Jakes that he should need to clarify his position like this. How many other teachers would you never wonder about because they are so clear and open about what they believe? Anyhow, back to the point:

I am interested in hearing what the “little differences” are that exist between them.

4. Why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when it’s through a glass darkly? None of our books on the Godhead will be on sale in heaven.

In other words, we can’t judge because since we are looking through “a glass darkly,” we can’t really define truth and stand on it. Here he mashes two things together in a way that anyone would agree with him. “Why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you.” There are people we should fall out with, that is, not consider them brothers. There are people who fall under labels regardless of how much you want to say you don’t like labels. After all, a person is a set of propositions – “He is a man. He has a name. His name is Chris. He is a Christian. He has a wife. He has children.” But then smack dab in the middle he adds “hate.” Well, yah, as Christians we ought to love our enemies, especially our Christian brothers and sisters. Placing that word hate in there not only causes anyone to agree with Jakes on his question, but also causes people to associate discernment as hatred.

He implies that theology doesn’t really matter because there won’t be theology books in heaven. “Let’s all just love Jesus. Forget what your definition of Him might be. Let’s just love on Him. You can have your modalism. You can have your Roman Catholicism. You over there can have your tritheism. You there can have your Michael the archangel Jesus. Still another may have his Jesus, the brother of Lucifer. It’s all g. Spread the love. We all agree in a higher power, and that the name Jesus exists out there somewhere. Let’s just focus on our similarities.”

To quote that famous theologian, Mr. Horse, from Ren and Stimpy, “No sir, I don’t like it.” It’s this postmodern line of thought that not only DOES (not may) open the front door for wolves, but keeps feeding them as they grow bigger and stronger. Stand firm with the traditions taught by the apostles and of the Lord Jesus Christ.  

“So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15

Aside from all of this, TD Jakes has explaining to do concerning his heretical Word Faith doctrine, teaching others that if they perform a certain way, give a certain way, then God will bless them. In fact, I’ve been going through his book “Reposition Yourself” in which he begins by speaking of his amazing life, success and all the opportunities he has had. He then gives the impression that any reader can have the same thing. They just need to live a certain way. His views on the Trinity are one thing, and certainly important, but they are just one hallway in a labyrinth.

5. My conversion to Christ took place in a Oneness church.

Earlier in the quote, he said he converted in a Oneness church. Converted to what? Oneness theology? I would have to assume so since he later says he leaves the denomination. Given Jakes’ views, what real reason does someone who holds to modalism have to reject that view? They are still converted according to him. In other words, this is only further affirmation that Jakes doesn’t believe that the definition of God is of great importance. Maybe he’d say that we must say God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent, but not to get too dogmatic after that.

It’s obvious that Jakes may not hold to the same view, but he might as well because he still sees them as brothers. That may sound harsh, but think about it. Logically, he is saying that it is true. Though he might be saying it isn’t true with his lips, he still believes that it can be true for someone else. Pray that God would grant TD Jakes repentance from this doctrine, from Word Faith, and would believe the true gospel of the true Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his sin.

Lastly, if I told you that I knew TD Jakes, and described him this way, “Aw, man! Heck yah! I love TD Jakes. She is such an awesome janitor. She plays cards like no one I’ve ever seen. Have you seen her insane red hair lately? She’s always dying it! Well, at least she shaves her mustache. Her kids are great, they are going off to college next year, but at least it’s close to home so they can all hang out still.” You’d probably be like, “What in the world was that? Are you serious right now? You have NO IDEA who I am talking about.” Bingo. The same thing is true of Jesus. Just because you know His name doesn’t mean you know Him. I’m not implying here that knowing Him requires a certain amount of works or tithing or healing or anything. It is believing the right things about Him. How can we know our brothers and sisters? By what they profess.

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” – John 17:17

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2 thoughts on “TD Jakes’ Trinitarian Confusion”

  1. From my understanding of what modalism is, to say that Oneness believers believe in modalism is the same as saying trinitarians believe in three distinct Gods. It’s apples to oranges. But regardless, from what I read about this interview in which TD Jakes now embraces the trinity, reading ‘between’ the lines, if mainstream Christianity wants to believe that and it makes them feel better about him, go right ahead; he’s still Oneness, just like the vast majority of Christians….they just don’t know it.

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    1. “Oneness believers believe in modalism is the same as saying trinitarians believe in three distinct Gods. It’s apples to oranges.”

      Oneness maintains that God is one being and one person who manifests Himself in different ways. And though there may be different moralistic views, they all boil down to the same thing – that God is one being and one person who functions, or has functioned in different ways.

      TD Jakes is definitely Oneness. I do agree with you that a majority of folks have no idea what to believe about the Trinity.

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