Many of my readers may be aware of the "The Elephant Room" conference at Harvest Bible Chapel here in Chicagoland yesterday. There has been a lot of talk about the invitation of T.D. Jakes, a well known minister involved in the Word-Faith movement & has an affiliation, or at least HAD an affiliation, with the Oneness Pentecostal Movement which rejects the doctrine of the Trinity.
The invitation of T.D. Jakes by James MacDonald has been controversial, along with the interview of T.D. Jakes by Mars Hill pastor Mark Driscoll at the conference. There also has been talk about the handling of the meeting from Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald's end.
It's worth posting the discussion here.
Jakes: "My struggle is that sometimes oneness fit but sometimes it didn’t. I didn’t want to force the Scriptures to fit my theology.
Such as Jesus baptism. Or creation 'Let us.' 'I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” That helped me rethink some of the things I was taught. I began to realize there are things that could be said about the Father that couldn’t be said about the Son. There are distinctives in the work of the Holy Spirit.
Here is where I find the problem. I don’t think that anything any of us believes cannot fully describe God."
Driscoll: "We would agree there is mystery. But within that, the issue between Trinitarianism and modalism is one God three persons, or one God manifesting in three ways."
Jakes: "I stand today on one God, three Persons. You describe manifestations as modalism, I call it Pauline. 'For God was manifest in the flesh.' The semantics can be this way or that way, but before the controversy started, Paul used the word manifested.
There are distinctives. Father didn’t bleed and die. The person of Jesus did that. We are baptized into the body by the Holy Spirit. That is consistent with my belief system.
I’m with you. I have been with you.
When we get to know people by their labels. Then comes all the baggage of how we define those labels.
We are taught in our society that if we disagree in a movement, we leave. I still have relationships and leadership with in oneness because I believe that we need to humble and say we are attempting to describe a God we have not seen fully, seen in a glass darkly.
Why should I throw rocks at you when what I understand through a glass darkly?
None of our books on the Godhead will be published in heaven.
Because people’s descriptions differ, it doesn’t make it demonic."
For those who want to read the whole thing, they may read it here
Interestingly, in a February 2000 article, Jakes gave a similarly vague statement.
"My association with Oneness people does not constitute assimilation into their ranks any more than my association with the homeless in our city makes me one of them.....While I mix with Christians from a broad range of theological perspectives, I speak only for my personal faith and convictions. I am not a theologian, and I avoid quoting even theologians who agree with me. To defend my beliefs, I go directly to the Bible.
My views on the Godhead are from 1 John 5:7-8, 'For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one.' (NKJV)
I believe in one God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe these three have distinct and separate functions—so separate that each has individual attributes, yet are one. I do not believe in three Gods.....In spite of all the distinctives, God is one in His essence. Though no human illustration perfectly fits the Divine, it is similar to ice, water and steam: three separate forms, yet all H²O. Each element can co-exist, each has distinguishing characteristics and functions, but all have sameness....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 deeply appreciate the chance to respond to any misunderstandings that may have resulted in part from my silence on these subjects. Little if any attention is given to any of them in my books or sermons. My silence has not been some veiled attempt to disguise my faith, which is demonstrated daily in the works I have been called to do. My voice may have seemed muted on these subjects, but I have made a distinct sound regarding the matters that I have been assigned to discuss with my generation. I have spoken boldly against domestic violence—and against physical, sexual and emotional abuse of women in this nation. I have thundered as an advocate of reconciliation between races and denominations, and for restoration of hurting souls to the healing properties of Christ's love.
I confess that I have remained aloof from the theological controversies. And I confess I have been universal in my associations, purposely ignoring opportunities to be divisive. But it was not lack of conviction, or absence of proper Christian ideals, that had taken my attention—I love the great principles and tenets of our faith, and I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet it is not the oneness of God for which I cry, it is for the oneness of His people.
Here's my thought on this. Driscoll & MacDonald have shown gross disrespect to those who disagree with them. In fact, it must be noted that Christian (Lutheran) apologist Chris Rosebrough was threatened with arrest yesterday at the Elephant Room after having his press pass revoked.
Yet, here's my OTHER issue. T.D. Jakes has acted like this matter is just a minor quibble, as if this is a debate on eschatology. This has been an essential issue in church history. There have been various heresies in the history of the church regarding this issue.
These heresies include:
Tritheism, which teaches that there are 3 Gods in the Trinity
Arianism, which teaches that Christ, while the first of God's created beings (a point which is heretical right there), was not fully divine. In fact, this is the heresy embraced by the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Partialism, which teaches that the Father, Son & Holy Spirit are part of one God & that they only become God when they work together.
Macedonianism, which teaches that the Holy Spirit is a created being
Adoptionism, which teaches that Christ was born completely human, but was only adopted by the Father
Finally, the heresy that Jakes has been accused of adhering to is Sabellianism or Modalism, which teaches that the Father, Son & Spirit are simply "modes" or "manifestations" of the God.
Jakes, if, for the sake of argument, is not a Modalist, he would do well to strongly repudiate modalism & condemn it as heresy. He also would do well to study to the Athanasian Creed which firmly defines the doctrine of the Trinity. I also think that he would do well to apologize to those who he so cavalierly dismissed & saying that this was just a matter of semantics.
Furthermore, I also think that MacDonald needs to repent for inviting Jakes. While the particular context is different, the Apostle John is clear: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works." (2 John 1:10-11)
I close with a quote from Dutch Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck. He writes: "The doctrine of the Trinity is of incalculable importance for the Christian religion. The entire Christian belief system, all of special revelation, stands or falls with the confession of Gods Trinity....Re-creation is one divine work from beginning to end, yet it can be described in terms of three agents: it is fully accomplished by the love of the Father, the grace of the Son, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. A Christian’s faith life, accordingly, points back to three generative principles… We know ourselves to be children of the Father, redeemed by the Son, and in communion with both through the Holy Spirit. Every blessing, both spiritual and material, comes to us from the triune God. In that name we are baptized; that name sums up our confession; that name is the source of all the blessings that come down to us; to that name we will forever bring thanksgiving and honor; in that name we find rest for our souls and peace for our conscience. Christians have a God above them, before them, and within them. Our salvation, both in this life and in the life to come, is bound up with the doctrine of the Trinity."