Monday, September 24, 2007

Bishop T.D. Jakes ...TRINITARIAN OR MODALIST?

A Protestant, state corrections chaplain told CRI that "one of the most popular TV evangelists at our institution is T. D. Jakes." He concluded by asking for clarification of Jakes's position on the Trinity. CRI has received two e-mails sent by T. D. Jakes Ministries to people inquiring about that subject. One e-mail response is that "Bishop T. D. Jakes and The Potter's House of Dallas believe there is one God who manifest [sic] Himself in the Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We have never denied the Trinity, and we are disappointed that anyone would misunderstand or misrepresent us."27
The meaning of the term Trinity, according to historic Christianity, is that within the nature of the one God co-exist three equal and eternal persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. T. D. Jakes Ministries and historic Christianity both use the word Trinity, but the meaning of the word appears to be different. Walter Martin taught us that we must scale the language barrier of the cults. We must recognize the reality that unless terms are defined, a semantic jungle will envelope us, making it difficult, if not impossible, to properly contrast orthodox Christianity with teachings outside it.28
On the T. D. Jakes Ministries Web site, an older but still accessible version of their Statement of Faith reads, "There is one God, creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and existing in three Manifestations: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."29 Their current doctrinal statement has been altered somewhat to read: "THREE DIMENSIONS OF ONE GOD (1 John 5:7, Matt. 28:19, 1 Tim. 3:16)" — "We believe in one God, who is eternal in His existence, Triune in His Manifestations, being both Father, Son and Holy Ghost AND that He is Sovereign and Absolute in His authority."30
The position taken by T. D. Jakes Ministries remains problematic. The problem lies in the word "manifestation." Manifestation is a modalistic term often used by Oneness Pentecostals. Modalism views Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as different modes of God's activity rather than three separate persons.31
Jakes was interviewed in August 1998 by Living by the Word (LBTW) ministry. This interview was aired on KKLA 99.5 FM in Los Angeles. During this interview, Jakes said, "We have one God, but He is Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in regeneration."32 This wording is identical to the Oneness Pentecostal view as described by David K. Bernard, pastor of New Life United Pentecostal Church (UPC), in his book The Oneness of God: "A popular explanation of Father, Son and Holy Ghost is that there is one God who has revealed [ie., manifested] Himself as Father in Creation, Son in redemption and Holy Ghost in regeneration."33
In his interview with LBTW, Jakes also describes the Trinity as a complex issue, saying, "I'm not sure we can totally hold God to a numerical system."34 This statement is consistent with his book Anointing Fall on Me: "The concept of the Godhead is a mystery that has baffled Christians for years. With our limited minds we try to comprehend a limitless God. How can we explain one God but three distinct manifestations?"35 This idea also reflects Bernard's Oneness Pentecostal views: "We cannot confine God to three or any other number of specific roles and titles."36
CRI Coordinator of Research Sam Wall spoke over the telephone with Pastor Lawrence Robinson, Director of Ministry Affairs at the Potter's House, inquiring about their view of the Trinity. Robinson affirmed that Jakes denies the biblical position of the Trinity, at one point saying that the Roman Catholic Church introduced the concept of three gods. Robinson gave some modalistic illustrations of the Trinity and said that Jakes has always held this position.37 Twice after that, Wall e-mailed Pastor Robinson to confirm the content of their discussion. Robinson never responded. Wall noted in his e-mail, "Should I not hear from you by e-mail, I will assume that these statements by you are correct."38
In the 1998 Wall Street Journal article on Jakes, Lawrence Robinson speaks of knowing T. D. Jakes since he was a young man.39 According to T. D. Jakes Ministries Web site, Elder Lawrence Robinson has been attached to the heart of T. D. Jakes Ministries since 1985 as a faithful partner.40
Jakes's denial of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity is further betrayed by his association with the Higher Ground Always Abounding Assembly. He is a leader and elected bishop of this group.41 CRI spoke with Elder Mike Pearson, an instructor at the Higher Ground Bible Institute. He confirmed that the Assembly has a Oneness view of the Trinity and that T. D. Jakes has been part of this association for about seven years.42
In order to appropriately discern and respond to modalism, it is vital for Christians to understand the Trinity as it is presented in the Bible. James R. White offers three suggestions:
First we need to do some major league education on what the doctrine actually teaches....In the second place, we have to impress on every believer the vital importance of understanding, accepting, and experiencing the truth that God has revealed Himself to be Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit....Finally, we have to educate, NOT with arrogance or pride, but with a passion and fervor born of love for the truth....Concerned Christians need to voice their disapproval of television networks, ministries, or publishers who tolerate poor theology just to mollify a larger 'audience.'43
The Trinity is the primary truth of New Testament theology. In his book Oneness Pentecostals and The Trinity, former Oneness teacher Gregory A. Boyd convincingly argues that "the denial that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally distinct 'persons' in the Godhead indirectly undermines the Christian view of God's character, God's revelation, and God's salvation by grace."44
Oneness believers beg to differ. As noted earlier, modalists, including T. D. Jakes, maintain the view of "one" God revealing Himself in three manifestations. This view has been known throughout history by several different names. One of them is modalistic monarchianism: "A movement which interpreted the Trinity as successive revelations of God — first as Father, then as Son, and finally as Holy Spirit. It began in the third century."45 Modalistic monarchianism emphasized the unqualified intrinsic oneness of God and the full deity of Christ.46
Denver Seminary's Dr. Gordon Lewis offered this response to T. D. Jakes's statement about God being Triune in His manifestation: "The revised statement on God revives Sabellian Modalism. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not merely three manifestations of one God in history, three different hats he wears."47
Whether it is called modalism, Sabellianism, Oneness, or "Jesus only," this view of the Trinity is heretical. As White observes, "Whatever its name might be, it is a denial of the Trinity based upon the denial of the distinction between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It accepts the truth that there is only one true God, and that the Father, Son, and Spirit are fully God, but it denies that the Bible differentiates between the persons."48
OTHER DOCTRINAL CONCERNS
While the biggest concern with Jakes's teaching is the modalistic language he uses in regard to the Trinity, several aspects of his message and ministry are problematic. In a Wall Street Journal article, which described Jakes as a country preacher with a multimillion-dollar religious empire, he was quoted as saying, "I am the power and the kingdom and the glory, and I think I kind of like it that way."49 Even if he spoke these words in jest, he mocks God, who will not share His glory with another (Isa. 42:8).
Jakes's teaching on sin leaves much to be desired. In a three-hour video broadcast on TBN of his July 1999 WTAL conference in Atlanta, he addressed the women's immediate emotional and social needs, but nothing was said on the issue of sin and the need for a Savior, nor on the atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.50 In Loose That Man and Let Him Go! Jakes describes men who have extramarital affairs as doing what they do because they fear confronting unresolved issues with their spouses.51 He depicts men who carry weapons as living in fear that others will see the frightened little boy hiding behind the big gun.52 He characterizes men who beat their wives as little boys having a temper tantrum.53
Jesus goes straight to the heart when He describes adultery (Matt. 5:28) and evil thoughts, murder, fornication, stealing, lying, and blasphemy (Matt. 15:19) for what they are. Jakes teaches that we have problems because we are victims of our environment or circumstances and minimizes the concept of personal sin. Along with victimization, he emphasizes self-empowerment; we can find the power to pull ourselves out of our problems. Yet Paul taught that all have sinned and come up short before God (Rom. 3:23). The way out of our sins is Christ-empowerment, not self-empowerment (Phil. 4:13).
Prosperity teachings stand out more than other Word of Faith teachings in T. D. Jakes's ministry. Jakes is a very wealthy man and enjoys it. The 19 November 1998 People magazine describes his $1.7 million Dallas home, his blue BMW convertible, and his colorful expensive clothing.54 (He also drives a Mercedes.) He feels his financial success is a sign of growing economic empowerment for African-Americans. The Charleston Gazette published a story that focused on his $600,000, 16-room Charlotte mansion with its bowling alley and indoor swimming pool. The story didn't accuse him of any wrongdoing, but Jakes felt betrayed, saying that if he couldn't get better press coverage, he'd take his wealth elsewhere.55 This may be one reason Jakes moved from Charleston to Dallas.
It's not disturbing that Jakes is wealthy and has this lifestyle, but it's very disturbing that he portrays Jesus as being rich in order to justify his wealth. He describes Jesus as having been rich in order to support His disciples and their families during His ministry. Jakes says the myth of the poor Jesus has to be destroyed because it's holding people back.56 Indeed, Jesus Christ owns everything and possesses all power, authority, glory, honor, and majesty. In His earthly life, however, He became poor for our sakes (2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 8:20). He laid aside His divine prerogatives and died on the cross, owning nothing, like a common criminal.57 In fact, archaeological excavations of Nazareth in the 1950s demonstrate that poor agricultural people occupied the village in Jesus' day.58
The ministry's doctrinal statement makes it clear that Jakes adheres not only to the doctrine of guaranteed wealth for the believer but also guaranteed health: "We believe that it is God's will to heal and deliver His people today as He did in the days of the first Apostles. It is by the stripes of Jesus that we are healed, delivered and made whole. We have authority over sickness, disease, demons, curses, and every circumstance in life."59 This belief is reflected in Woman Thou Art Loosed! "Jesus has promised to set you free from every curse of the past. If you have suffered abuse, please know that He will bring you complete healing."60 Biblically, however, our faith does not dictate God's will; God's sovereign will dictates our faith (1 John 5:13–14). Healing in the New Testament is not a guarantee, but a benefit of the Atonement. God sometimes answers our prayers with a yes and sometimes with a no. He always answers our prayers according to His will and for our best. Paul's thorn in the flesh was never removed, even after he asked God three times to remove it (2 Cor. 12:7–10).
In addition to teaching the unbiblical (1 Cor. 12:27–30) classical Pentecostal doctrine that the gift of tongues is the necessary sign of being baptized in the Holy Spirit,61 T. D. Jakes has been observed "slaying people in the Spirit" on a TBN program that was aired on 6 August 1998. Hank Hanegraaff, in his Counterfeit Revival, has written about being "slain in the Spirit": "Despite the pious attribution of this phenomenon to the Holy Spirit as well as the pragmatic addition of 'catchers,' multitudes continue to suffer spiritual, emotional and physical damage from this practice. Some have even died."62

3 comments:

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Anonymous said...

Well... that's interessting but frankly i have a hard time visualizing it... I'm wondering what others have to say....