Jakes, the Trinity, and the Elephant Room

At a gathering of evangelical leaders, Bishop T.D. Jakes said in an interview with pastors Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald that he now holds an orthodox view of the Trinity, but some folks are still not satisfied.

Bishop T.D. Jakes

Bishop T.D. Jakes has embraced an orthodox view of the Trinity and no longer holds a “Oneness” view of the Godhead (as noted in our interview with theologian Estrelda Alexander), that says the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three aspects of one God rather than three distinct persons, Baptist Press reported.

A Room Full of Elephants

Jakes was interviewed by Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll and pastor James MacDonald at MacDonald’s suburban-Chicago church during the second annual Elephant Room conference, where evangelical Christian leaders gathered to discuss potentially divisive topics.

Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, told Christianity Today he takes the bishop at his word about his newfound orthodoxy, but apparently wasn’t all that impressed, saying, “A Christian pastor affirming least-common-denominator Christian doctrine should hardly be news, much less an elephant in the room. This can only happen in an American evangelicalism that values success, novelty and celebrity more than church accountability.”

What Jakes believes matters a whole lot to The Gospel Coalition, a theologically conservative group whose leaders “allegedly began pressuring MacDonald to ‘pull the plug’ on Bishop Jakes’ appearance at the Elephant Room conference, which eventually led MacDonald to resign as a TGC council member,” according to The Christian Post.

Texas pastor Voddie Bauchman said in a blog post that he was invited to participate in the conference after another pastor pulled out over Jakes’ inclusion. Bauchman ultimately declined, in part because he views the Word of Faith gospel that Jakes preaches as “heterodox” and “harmful” and he says Jakes’ influence in the Dallas area has been “negative, at best.” Bauchman, who is African American, also was concerned that his invitation would be viewed as tokenism.

Loving Issues More Than People

At the event, MacDonald said hosting Jakes had cost him relationships, The Christian Post reported. Jakes said affirming belief in the Trinity had cost him relationships with Oneness Pentecostals, who now apparently view him as a heretic.

Calling theologically Reformed critics of the discussion to repent of their love of issues over people, Memphis Pastor Bryan Crawford Loritts highlighted a race angle in the controversy, writing on his blog that “the implicit message that is being sent is that the varsity section of the kingdom of heaven in 2012 is white, middle aged and Reformed.” He finds this “disheartening.”

Humbly Stepping Into the Firestorm

Loritts also noted Bishop Jakes’ humilty in response to Driscoll, who is himself under scrutiny for alleged spiritual abuse. “This is the man that’s been on the cover of Time Magazine, and yet he steps into the firestorm and is willing to be questioned and opened up for ridicule,” Loritts said of Jakes.

Texas pastor Brandon Smith also noted Jakes’ humility in an open letter to the bishop that was published at the SBC Voices blog. Smith went to college at Dallas Baptist University, near Jakes’ The Potter’s House, and expressed regret for having previously judged the bishop harshly.

At his Lifeway Research blog, Ed Stetzer noted that Jakes said much the same thing about his evolving Trinitarian views on a 2010 Australian radio program. Apparently few American evangelicals heard him.

Speaking ‘Undignified’ Truth

Credo House Ministries founder C. Michael Patton was cautiously optimistic about Jakes’ newfound orthodoxy in a post at his Parchment & Pen blog, saying he appreciated the Bishops’ reminder that “none of our books on the Godhead will be on sale in heaven.” He noted, however, that among his peers it would be “undignified” for him to quote T.D. Jakes.

What do you think?

Are you glad to hear Bishop Jakes affirming orthodox beliefs about the Godhead?

About the author, Christine A. Scheller

Christine A. Scheller is UrbanFaith's News & Religion editor. In past articles, she has explored her personal journeys in urban ministry and racial diversity. Email her at cascheller@explorationsmedia.com if you have news tips or story ideas.
  1. The main thing I wonder is what was behind Jakes’ change? Is it heartfelt or did he feel the need to do this to be accepted by the reformed circle in order to broaden his audience?

  2. thanks for the article. I’ve not figured out the fascination with Bishop Jakes, but lots of people do follow him. Also, I wonder who creates the evangelical hierarchy that gets to confer “orthodoxy” on others. Isn’t that what denominations are for? I guess I agree with Dean Moore; the quotation of his that you give expresses my own thoughts pretty well.

  3. wow… Hear O Israel the Lord our God is ONE Lord!! – even God Himself said that there was no other God’s beside Him. In the New Testament Jesus said Philip have I been so long with you, when you have seen me, you have seen the Father… One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and Father of us all… You believe in ONE GOD… thou doest well, the devil also believes and trembles… Every knee shall bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD!!

  4. As one who has experienced a personal encounter with The Lord Jesus Christ, I say that anyone who imagines that they have a firm grasp on the Nature of the Godhead is at the least an arrogant idiot and at the most a liar.

  5. I read the part of the transcript where Jakes is supposed to have reprudated the oneness pentecostly doctrine…not so, read it….. don’t be to hastey in celebration, we still have his Word of Faith false gospel to deal with…. “no other gospel but the one delivered” …do yourself a favor, read his sermon or listen to it that he preached at elevation church…MAN -CENTERED false gospel and bad herminutics, twisting scripture totally making it about man getting his earthly wants from God…twisted…. Jakes still a wolf

  6. The scripture clearly teaches that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are merely titles for the same exact one true God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. If there were more than one person in the Godhead, then there would not just be 3, but rather there would be dozens of Gods because in scripture, there are many more titles for God than just 3. Jesus Christ was Almighty God manifest in the flesh…the religious Jews obtained permission from the Roman Empire to execute Him precisely because Jesus himself claimed to be the Great I Am…and he told Phillip that when he saw Jesus, he was also looking at the Father as well…yes…Jesus claimed to be the Father…and it was prophesied in Isaiah 9:6 that Messiah would be the EVERLASTING FATHER…in Revelation 4:3, John saw ONE sitting on the throne…hmmm…for a person to embrace anything else, they simply must ignore a ton of scriptures that clearly backup Deut. 6:4

      • glad about it Joe…its a peaceful thing to have basic core doctrines like this settled in one’s heart…I may not have all the answers, but at least I don’t have to wrestle with something so fundamentally simple that is plain in the Bible…and everything that I have said is out of deep respect for Bishop Jakes…I knew the man who baptized him many years ago in the name of Jesus…I ran into Bishop Jakes by accident in Times Square on my way to Israel and we had a very nice conversation…I cannot tell you how much awesome things that i have learned from Bishop Jakes…a man whom the Lord has used mightily….and IMHO I personally think the media was not really fair to him to try and corner him on this subject…just leave the man of God alone and let him believe the truth…putting pressure on him to cave is simply not the Christian thing to do…having said all of that, I do believe this subject is very important and it never ceases to amaze me how highly educated doctors of theology continue to struggle with something so basic…but often its because they don’t want to be cut off from their main stream religious friends who would label them a heretic…that’s what the pharisees did to Jesus…but He stood for truth anyway…because He was and IS the truth :)

    • So who was Jesus talking to when he said father, why have you forsaken me? And who was he talking about when he said that another will come to be the helper?

      • It was the FLESH of God talking to the eternal Spirit of God…God is a Spirit and inhabits the universe…so God was both in Heaven and on earth in the form of Messiah at the same time…same God…same person…but God purposely limited himself to a human, fallen, physical body so that He could fulfill the promise of becoming the Lamb who would be slain…the Spirit of God is like water and air…everywhere…if I have water in my body, and we all do, then that does not mean that all the water in the universe is in my body….only some…so just because Jesus was fully God does not mean that God had to evacuate Heaven to dwell inside of that body…same thing with the Comforter…its just another way of saying that He will come back to dwell inside the hearts of His believers at the Day of Pentecost…but obviously He was speaking about the same exact Spirit…NOT Jehovah junior, or Jehovah the 3rd… :)

  7. This has been debated for well…just over a century. “Oneness” is a relatively new doctrine. My question is this…does it really matter? Trinitarians believe that there is One God manifested in three distinct persons…God can do what He wants, no? The newer “Oneness” family believes that He is just One without the different personas. There are ample scriptures to back both sides. Jesus is God in the flesh, suffered and died for our sins, rose again, sat down at the right hand of the Father (hmmmm?) and sent the Holy Spirit to guide us. However you see that from whichever perspective…if you have faith in that…aren’t you just as saved?

    • Outrider, might I suggest that this issue regarding a Oneness view of God compared to a Trinitarian view of God really DOES matter. The doctrine of the trinity is an example of an “essential” doctrine, and has widely regarded so throughout church history. Outrider, many times people within the church make a big deal about, and want to divide over nonessential issues. For example, miraculous gifts, and whether all are still in operation. That would be a nonessential, and differing views can be held by brothers and sisters. Doctrines such as the virgin birth, resurrection, salvation by grace, and the trinity; however, are essential doctrines which must be guarded. If one who holds to a Oneness view that denies that Jesus existed before he was born at Bethlehem, they are in error because scripture clearly teaches that the Son (who is a person) was involved in creation. We must protect this doctrine, and brothers with concerns over this issue are not desiring to stir up trouble (or shouldn’t be at least), but simply are trying to protect the flock from wolves.

    • This Oneness doctrine being discussed is definitely not a “new” thing. If you studied Church history at length you would discover that the Trinity is actually the newer doctrine created by men at the council of Nicea in AD 325. Prior to this council , the common practice of believers in Christ was in a Oneness view of the Godhead.

    • “Oneness” is actually quite old in beliefs.. Yes, it has been revived, but it stems from Arianism, Sabellianism, Montanism, Modalism and it’s variations.

  8. I think this whole debate is GARBAGE, and the best point in this article is the quote from Loritts: “the implicit message that is being sent is that the varsity section of the kingdom of heaven in 2012 is white, middle aged and Reformed.” He finds this “disheartening.” White Evangelicals operate in a theological ghetto, especially the SBC, but think they can police Christian faith for 1.5 billion people who consider themselves Christian on the planet. And Jakes, since he only hangs out with megapastors, is stupid enough to think he ought to capitulate to their tune. Karl Barth, the neo-Orthodox theologian, who many credit with the revival of the doctrine of the Trinity in Christian theology in the 20th century, he himself described the trinity as three modes of being. Karl Rahner, who mirrored Barth’s protestant resurgence of the trinity in Catholic circles also used the term “modes of being.” James McLendon, a Baptist/Reformed theologian, also used the phrase “modes of being.” It is true that Barth was accused of being a “modalist” simply for using the phrase “mode,” because Evangelicals and others have such lazy understanding of Person — which is nothing more than something that subsists. If you want to get to the Trinity on strictly a biblical basis, you can’t because Trinity, person, mode, hypostatsis, etc., none of these terms are in the Bible. These technical terms evolved from hundreds of years of debate in the church, and today, most Sunday School level Evangelicals explain or believe in the trinity in ways that are basically tritheistic. I mean damn, Billy Graham said he “believed” in the trinity, but couldn’t explain it, and these white boys give him a pass, but Jakes has to engage in histrionics and become a denunciator of his past to get his good old Evangelical (white boy) pass (to heaven)? Please. Bone up on some real trinitarian theology and then come back and talk. Nothing come out of SBC on trinitarian theology is worth digesting — NOTHING.

  9. While I’ve read many comments posted here, and though some believe one way and others- another; the button line is whether you like or dislike those Pastors, scripture reminds us to pray for those in a leadership role. So instead of wasting time voicing our opinions whether good bad or indifferent the best and most God honoring thing to do is PRAY. After all, God has provided each of us with discernment but its up to us to use it!!

  10. Shame on Pastor Bryan Crawford Loritts for playing the race card. This is not a middle-aged reformed white-guy issue. The Council of Nicea in 325ad, which gathered to address heretical views of the nature of God, weren’t middle-aged reformed white guys, Athanasius(leader against the arians at the council) was called ‘the little black dwarf’.

  11. Pingback: The Elephant in the Room « Reconciliation 101

  12. Well written summery. Where is the evidence that he really changed his view on the Trinity? A LDS may even claim to believe in the Trinity (as three gods in agreement), it is really the definition that really gets distorted. From a clip I heard, he seams to get right back to a Modalistic interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:16. He is not happy with “persons”? Why?

    I really have not found it on the net: Where is a clear, very clear, repudiation of Modalism by T D Jakes? 1. ) Showing first his right understanding of the Trinity, and preaching that to be true. 2.) Repentance for having misleading people all these year into hold Modalism. 3.) His clear repudiation of Modalism as false/heretical. Anyone one of these 3 would really confirm for me that he changed his view.

    The dumb things about an on the spot question are the word twisting that takes place. Any conversation with a JW or LDS, will know that they don’t use the same meaning for words that we use. When Jakes says that he does not like the use of “person”, then it really needs to be clarified as to why, and what would he rather use. Would he really rather use the word Mode?

    Are Christian “leaders” not grilling him as they should to really find out what his views are? Is it a matter of celebrity-itice? He was on the cover of Time, that is really to be big… in the eyes of the world. Are some Christian copping out, or has T D Jakes really changed his doctrinal view? Where is there a clear written statement from Jakes on this change? I would really like to know.

    Confusing the Evangelical community who are not theologically as aware on these matters, would only result in more confusion, and opening them up to all kind of heresy (ex: word of faith movement).

  13. My July 2010 interview with TD Jakes is getting picked up in this discussion so here it is in full: http://sheridanvoysey.com/the-td-jakes-interview . I ask whether he has changed his beliefs on the Trinity. Jakes was a most huble and gracious guest.

    It is worth noting that after the interview aired, a number of Oneness Pentecostals called into my show during talkback stating that this had been the clearest inidciation to date that TD Jakes no longer held to their beliefs.

  14. No man can change God’s Word. God is ONE and not three distinct persons. Jakes is being threatened to have his books removed from the book stores if he continues to believe in the oneness of God. Therefore he’s willing to change his stance in order to appease men. He’s afraid he will lose his lively hood. Jakes have compromised his beliefs trying please trinitarians. He should take a stand for the apostles doctrine, preach ONE GOD, let men and women know accept they repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost with the initial evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit of God gives the utterance, they cannot be saved. Don’t fear man, don’t try to appease man, but seek to please God. The trinity is a false doctrine started by pagan philosophers who didn’t know God!