My friend Trevin Wax is helping us out as he “Live Blogs” through the Elephant Room. Beyond controversy (at least in the small circles I run in) is how I would describe the invitation of T.D. Jakes to the Elephant Room to discuss spirituality, truth, and theology. He has traditionally been defined as a Modalist theologically. Essentially what this means is that he denies the traditional definition of the Trinity by describing God as one God who shows himself in three different ways. The orthodox definition of the Trinity is that there is one God who eternally exists in three different persons: One what, three whos. Modalism, sometimes described as “Jesus Only” and sometimes Oneness, to say the least, undermines our understanding of God as he has revealed himself and rapes the Trinity of the eternal relationship upon which so much of our theology is built, understood, and practically lived out.

So, is T.D. Jakes a Modalist? I don’t know. Maybe not (or at least not anymore). Here is some of the stuff that he said that caught my ear:

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.

Disclaimer: I have never read any of Jakes’ books. I barely even know his voice as I have not heard him speak much (I think he screams a lot?). I think he sweats almost as much as I do. And I think he wrote a book about losing weight. Oh, and I have heard that he is a modalist. I have even told others this. For this, I am saddened as I might have been spreading misinformation. (Theology teaching 101: if you don’t know for sure, keep your mouth shut.)

If this paragraph were put together by someone else that I have a tradition of following and know is orthodox, it is not too bad. It even has a “tweetable moment” or two in it! Let me deal with a few things though.

“I am not crazy about the word person”: You know what? Neither am I. It is sufficient, yet in no way exhausting. Anyone who has studied the history of this word “person” in a trinitarian context understands that it never, even in the Latin or Greek (persona, hypostasis, prosopa), conveyed everything it could. It often creates misunderstandings since the English “person” carries some connotations that we would not apply to God. Nevertheless, we work with what we got. Barth did not like the word “person”. I agree with Calvin who said this about our articulations with respect to the Trinity:

“Where names have not been invented rashly, we must beware lest we become chargeable with arrogance and rashness in rejecting them. I wish, indeed, that such names were buried, provided all would concur in the belief that the Father, Son, and Spirit, are one God, and yet that the Son is not the Father, nor the Spirit the Son, but that each has his particular subsistence. I am not so minutely precise as to fight furiously for mere words. For I observe, that the writers of the ancient Church, while they uniformly spoke with great reverence on these matters, neither agreed with each other, nor were always consistent with themselves.” (John Calvin, Institutes, 1.13.5)

 It is not about the words we use, but the concepts we believe. I use the word “person” and I raise and eyebrow when others don’t. But if they have trouble with it the way Calvin speaks of, I understand. Jakes comment seems to be in this vein, but I don’t know.

“Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it’s robbery to say manifest in the flesh.”

Obviously I don’t mind the use of the word “manifestations” either. However, I think we need to be very careful about the context we use this in. The way that Paul uses this to Timothy was an early Christian creed (1 Tim. 3:16) and was not speaking about the Trinity in the way that we speak about the nature and distinctions in the Trinity. As well, the KJV supplies the word “God” to “manifest in the flesh” giving some misconceptions. It is not best translated “God was manifest in the flesh” but “Christ (or simply “he” – the context being Christ) was manifest in the flesh.” And the word manifestation simply means “to reveal” or “make known”. Christ was made known to us in a body. Therefore, I don’t really like the way Jakes defended the Oneness use of “manifestation” by using Paul.

“None of our books on the Godhead will be on sale in heaven.”

Can I just be honest with you and say that were it not somewhat undignified to quote T.D. Jakes in my world (to say the least), this would definitely be a keeper? Love it.

Another paragraph from Jakes:

“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.”

“The Bible made me rethink”

The Bible makes me rethink every day. Good stuff. The context here is encouraging as it essentially says “The Bible made me rethink my view of the Trinity that I was taught in my Oneness (modalist) background.” Right?

“There are things that you can say about the Father you cannot say about the Son or the Spirit. There are distinctives.”

I appreciate this as well. I am not sure if it says quite enough. It certainly could be evidence that Jakes is no longer a modalist as this is the type of language orthodox Christianity uses concerning the Trinity. There are things that the Father and the Spirit did not do that the Son did (i.e. become incarnate and die on the cross). I think that this is what he is saying. I hope that this is what he is saying. I suppose that this could be also seen in a Modalist concept as well. For example, a Modalist could say this: “There are things that you can say about the role of the Father you cannot say about the role of the Son or the Spirit. There are distinctives in their roles.” So, I am not quit sure I am committing to Jakes Trinitarian orthodoxy through this paragraph. But it is hopeful.

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

This makes me somewhat nervous. In fact, it give me more pause than any of the other statements. What is this “very little” difference? I really want to know. Mormons say the same thing. What I consider very little and what he considers very little might be very different.

“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.”

I can certainly agree with this. I don’t think we can describe God fully. However, I do think we can understand God truly. The “mirror dimly” may not give us a full understanding of things, but what we do see can be accurate. “Let him who rejoice, rejoice in this: that he understands and knows me” (Jer. 9:24). God seeks to be understood. Though our minds are finite, they are made by an infinite God. He is pretty good at making things. Therefore, if he has revealed himself to us, even in a limited way, that which he has revealed can be truly understood. The mysterious (i.e. unrevealed) things belong to the Lord, but those things that have been revealed belong to us (Deut 29:29). I say this because I want to be careful that we don’t go down the there-is-no-way-to-understand-the-trinity-so-there-is-no-“orthodox”-view-that-God-cares-about path. Our view of God is that he is one God who eternally exists in three persons, all of whom are fully God, all of whom are equal. While this statement is insufficient in scope, it is sufficient in accuracy (properly understood).

Is T.D. Jakes an orthodox Trinitarian? I don’t know, but I am more hopeful than I was before. I really just want to know what that “little difference” is.

UPDTE: here is the video of what Jakes said. It has some more red flags, but he did explicitly say that the Father did not die on the cross. Of course this could mean that the manifestation of the Father did not die, but I think he meant it rightly.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    51 replies to "T.D. Jakes Not Modalist? An Update from the Elephant Room"

    • T. D. Webb

      Michael, I can see that you are already getting a jump on the upcoming Trinitarianism Class in The Theology Program beginning Monday, February 6th at the Credo House. (A little shameless promotion is not in violation of the rules here, is it?) Great post!

    • Michael

      I don’t know, Michael. He seemed to be hedging to me. He says “persons” but then he defends “manifestation” and then goes on to slyly indicate that none of us can be sure because “Who can understand God?” You pointed out the “very little difference” line, though I wonder if someone like Athanasius would think it’s just a “little difference.”

      The line about our books being sold in heaven is gold one its own but it seems like the kind of thing someone says to dismiss their critics without answering them. Awesome as it may be on its own, it would be much better in a different (i.e., clearly orthodox Trinitarian) context.

    • Michael

      Btw, Michael, I thought your post was fair and gracious and I appreciate that.

    • david carlson

      For this, I am saddened as I might have been spreading misinformation. (Theology teaching 101: if you don’t know for sure, keep your mouth shut.)

      I was thinking in related terms today about the Elephant Room/Jakes/TR bouhaha and what struck me was so much of the hot air surrounding this is just flat out gossip – people talking when they really don’t know.

      somewhere something talks about gossip…..if I could just remember where…..

    • Bob Schilling

      Whether he fudges around the label “modalist” he still thinks its a nonessential issue; and. One of that erases his health & wealth false teaching and twisting of the Scriptures. No, I do not believe this man is a Christian – That’s what needs to be said to him. Read nearly every Pauline description of false teachers and ask yourself if that does not describe this preacher for sordid gain.

    • Bob Schilling

      Should read “None of that erases…”

    • tory

      Ill try to be fair but I’m way too familiar with modalism to not recognize modalistic language when I hear it, and this man is a modalist. Growing up t.d. jakes was a staple teacher in the oness pentecostal circles I grew up in. If you get his teaching on ephesians he says the same things here but in more detail. I would term him a believer in a simultaneous modalism. Just my opinion. And like what others have said here he is a propnent of the word of faith doctrine and that to me in of itself is grounds for heresy.

    • Steve Martin

      I like to give every professing Christian the benefit of the doubt, on their salvation (only Jesus knows for sure)…but we still reserve the right to critcize and call them out on their bad doctrine.

      And there is plenty of that(bad doctrine) floating around in today’s Evangelicalism.

    • mbaker

      The God is three person’s thing seems to be the real hang-up with a lot of folks especially when Jesus says He and the Father are one.

      So, what does it mean to be one with someone else? Being one with someone doesn’t necessarily just mean physically but I believe refers more in this case to the spiritual position between God and his Son. Just as my children are part of me, and created by me, doesn’t mean we are the same person physically, or are meant to be, even though my children can have both a strong emotional (and hopefully spiritual connection) with me, but we are not the same.

      Now, of course my children are influenced by me (and hopefully anyway) are obedient to me, but still they are not clones of me but persons in their own right despite our shared DNA.

      Now there are those who would say that is entirely different with Christ and God, but why would God make us inHhis image if that were not so?

    • Leslie Jebaraj

      And I think we also should not miss this statement: “We should humble both sides …”.

    • Charles Specht

      Even those (such as myself) who are quick to raise their hands when the call goes up for the Trinity, still have no idea what it means. One God — three Persons. I believe it. It is in my own personal doctrinal statement, the doctrinal statement of the church I pastor, and I believe is the truth when one surveys Scripture objectively. But I still don’t know what it means, not really, at least. It is beyond me, just as it is beyond others, including Mr. Jakes.

    • Brian Huggins

      This is the statement that stands out the most to me: “There is going to be one throne and one God we can see.”, which is essentially saying that there WILL NOT be a distinction in Heaven between the Father and the Son. So what he’s really confessing is still Modalism. It can’t get any clearer than that.

    • Frank!

      I’m reminded of something someone said after the whole Harold Camping fiasco last year. A lot of people in that movement came to a rude awakening. Many would leave the church for good. Some might just come back. So what do we do when they do? Do we open the door wide open and just welcome them back as brothers? In one sense yes, they have turned and seen the error of their ways. But do we just plug them back into ministry? No, they were deceived by a false prophet, and have shown a lack of discernment and biblical understanding. If Jake’s comments really are pointing to him changing his mind on essential theology, that is great. But to all of a sudden give him the right hand of fellowship and welcome him without seeing repentance for his modal AND word-faith theology, is very dangerous. We’ll have to thread carefully.

    • Marv

      I don’t know. Language can be used to clarify, draw essential distinctions. Or it can be used to muddy the waters, blur the distinctions we need to make. Make one thing sound like another, especially when we want to minimize the difference or make the difference seem to go away. He doesn’t strike me as doing the former–making himself crystal clear. There is a way of saying I am no longer a modalist. I have understood my error, repented and now affirm the orthodox position. There is also a way to leave people kind of sort of feeling you pretty much did that in a way, but can’t quite get to a clear understanding when they actually parse out your words. I’m afraid that pretty much describes the level of clarity Jakes gives here. More Clarity, please.

    • Jeff Ayers

      The reason we should all be not so “crazy” about the word “persons” is because it is NOT biblical…. viz NOT found IN the Bible.

      Don’t get me wrong, I agree the simplest definition of the Godhead that I subscribe to would be “One God – three persons” (i.e. three who’s)

      BUT, because the doctrine of the trinity is so complex and so prone to leaning into heresy in one way shape or form, I have tried to use ONLY scripture to posit my beliefs; so that way, we are not arguing semantics, nomenclature and nuance.

      I will pick 3 of my favorites:

      Colossians 3:17 ….. Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father BY him.
      Hebrews 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever:… (And Ps 110:1; Mt 22:42-46)
      John 8:18 I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me. (based on the principle of Deut 17:6; Matt 18:16)

      I used to wonder why God put verses like 1 cor 8:6, John 17:3 etc that seem to deny the deity of Jesus Christ, but I believe they are there to help us understand Christ’s distinction within the Godhead as well as the hypostatic union.

      BTW, the Johanine comma is THE definitive statement of the trinity; and we have been duped by the “scholar’s” to be afraid to use the verse since it is “extracanonical”—ridiculous.

      Lastly, I know we Trinitarians do not subscribe to 1+1+1 = 3 Gods, rather we use 1X1X1= 1. However, I would love to hear a cogent, salient and unequivocal argument of how the Father is God, The Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God but avoid having 3 Gods. (put the jelly on the bottom shelf as if you are ‘splaining it to a 5 year old)

    • Jeff Ayers

      @ Brian (and TD) Not only is TD wrong about there being one God on one throne….the Bible begs to differ.

      Stephen disabused us of the false notion that we will see only one throne and one individual (God) sitting on the throne.

      Acts 7:55-56 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

      Additionally, the book of Revelation is replete with explaining the distinction between the “lamb” (John 1:29) and God who sits on the throne.

      Revelation 7:10 And cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.

      Revelation 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.

      This same lamb will be the judge of us all (John 5:22 and 12:48)

      2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.

      Lastly, Christ will sit on the throne of God,

      1 Corinthians 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.

      Revelation 22:1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

    • iMark

      Since Michael doesn’t seem to know much of Jakes’ background I tweeted him some information I documented about him. There are other implications to Jakes’ new(?) profession.

      For example, there are so many things to be said. A clearer statement of Trinitarian belief along with denouncing Oneness as heresy. A “Bishop” who got his ministerial title from Oneness folks and claims to have been saved in the Oneness church. This Bishop serves as a board member to a Oneness group and participates in “ministry” with them. This Bishop’s church statement is still worded as a Oneness statement. And on and on…

      How many of you would submit to a pastor who admitted that his doctrine of God was evolving? Pastors who are caught in sin and confess (i.e. Ted Haggard) normally step down for restoration, but Jakes possibly comes around to Trinitarianism and life goes on as normal?

      Jakes grew up defending Oneness doctrine so it’s not like he is unfamiliar with the issues.

    • T. D. Webb

      Jeff, in your zeal to show that the “Bible begs to differ” in reference to a position you allege I hold, you forgot one minor detail. I made ONE post on this thread (the first post), which said two things, neither of which address in the slightest the point of view to which you take exception. I heartily recommend that you order a Spurgeon Latte the next time you are in the Credo House. It does wonders for a person’s perception . . .

    • T. D. Webb

      Jeff, surely, you weren’t referring to “T. D. Jakes” ;^)

    • Brian Huggins

      “However, I would love to hear a cogent, salient and unequivocal argument of how the Father is God, The Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God but avoid having 3 Gods.”

      Jeff, it is the million dollar quaestion. And a good one. Typically we are restricted in thought regarding this because all we know is that which we are surrounded by; each one of us is one being, and one person. The concept of “God” revolves around the understanding that He is ‘holy’, which in human terms means ‘other’ or ‘otherly’, as well as pure and perfect and true. There is none like God. We cannot possibly comprehend Him, or His scope of being. But what is revealed in Scripture we can understand God as ‘one being and three persons’. They’re individual ‘persons’ in that they are ‘personal’, and relate to one another personally as we are personal, but their ‘being’ is such that they are perfectly equal, alike, the same, “one” (“I and the Father are ‘one'”; “the two become ‘one’ flesh”), in power, thought, knowledge. There is no distinction in what composes their existence; they are eternal and alike in every way. There is no earthly parallel.

    • […] C Michael Patton writes, “T.D. Jakes Not Modalist? An Update from the Elephant Room.” […]

    • Tocky

      So basically, “Is he Trinitarian enough?”

      I think T.D. Jakes has learned that folks are never going to be pleased. I, for one, am grateful for his ministry because my mother was saved through it. She now attends an A.M.E. church. I — I am Apostolic, a “Oneness Pentecostal,” and I am certain that Jesus saved me from my sins. And like Bishop Jakes, I learned not to care what people think anymore. I just treat everyone kindly.

      And he’s right. We do have the same view of the gospel. If I met anyone of you on the street, and we spoke about the gospel, we would agree. Only when you inject your view theology, does the disagreement come. No one mentions the Trinity when witnessing to others. No Apostle did, at least.

      There are many Trinitarians that hold a Oneness view of the Trinity. Every Trinitarian who has spouted the “ice, steam, water” analogy is Oneness. The “father, brother, son” analogy is Oneness. Are they saved?

      Then again, I doubt they’ll care about your answer, because you didn’t save them.

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      Hey guys (uh, any gals posting here?),
      Don’t you find it just a bit odd that the Pauline “creed” Michael mentions in (1 Tim. 3:16) is followed by the 1 Tim. 4 prophecy saying that “now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 2 through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, 3 who forbid marriage”? Is it not peculiar that the Council of Nicea (yeah, the beginning of trinitarian creedal hegemony!) rejected marriage for those ordained to the priesthood? Do you really not get it?

      Can’t we just commit ourselves to scripture? Instead Michael vehemently affirms the traditions of men and castigates others’ views as that which “rapes the Trinity of the eternal relationship upon which so much of our theology is built, understood, and practically lived out.” Really? Whose theology are you living out? Are you so sure that the traditions you have received are from God?

      Gotta affirm the comment re Jakes saying “None of our books on the Godhead will be on sale in heaven.”
      To whit:
      “Can I just be honest with you and say that were it not somewhat undignified to quote T.D. Jakes in my world (to say the least), this would definitely be a keeper? Love it.”
      Shouldn’t we apply this to books, blogs, and post-biblical creeds as well?

      Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing from Yahweh just how far christian “orthodoxy” has deviated from His own revelation, His word in scripture. It isn’t nearly as difficult to distinguish between Mormonism’s conception of God the Father–as once being human–and biblical views, as it is between Oneness literalisms and orthodoxy’s rationalizing extrapolations beyond scripture. May we all be given grace to grow into the extent and limits of what He has revealed in His Word.
      All the best to all in Christ.
      PS: Oh, Brian Huggins @ #20: great effort and worthy contribution; what you said sounds so comfortingly familiar. However, if one is not willing to entertain alternative understandings of commonly quoted texts, or is not willing to consider how contrasting texts might constrain traditional understandings of those texts, s/he is unlikely to humbly submit to the limits of and constraints surrounding our understanding which God has ordained for us in His revelation.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP: “Is T.D. Jakes an orthodox Trinitarian? I don’t know, but I am more hopeful than I was before. I really just want to know what that “little difference” is.”

      I’m on the same page and wavelength.

      What did former President Reagan say about the Russians: “Trust but verify”?

    • Rick

      My concern was when Driscoll asked
      “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?”

      And Jakes responded “I believe the latter one is where I stand today. One God – Three Persons.”

      He did not mention “eternally”, which still leaves me then confused about where he stands.

    • […] you can say and there are some things that you can’t say. Take a look at the blog post on Parchment and Pen and the interview with the Elephant Room. Advertisement GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

    • Brian Huggins

      So, in other words, there are some people who consider themselves “Christians” who believe they have a RELATIONSHIP with a ‘manifestation’? When Jesus was praying to His Father, it was really the ‘manifestation’ of God praying to HIMSELF? I could on and on about the implications of the farcical notion that Christians worship a ‘manifestation’, and sing about a ‘manifestation’; and not even get into the modalist position that the love that Jesus and the Father shared before time began was somehow experienced between God and a ‘manifestation’ of Himself. It’s so absurd to even suggest this has any merit.

      And then there’s the resurrected BODY that ascended into Heaven…

    • Dave Z

      I’m pretty sure it’s Millard Ericksen who, in his systematic theology, fills several pages with an analysis and explanation of the Trinity. He then concludes by saying something like “Of course, in the end, it’s really incomprehensible.” I think Grudem says much the same.

      In light of that, I’m kind of getting a kick out of the comments that could be summed up as “He’s a heretic because he misunderstands differently than I misunderstand!”

    • Bob Johnson

      Jakes made 62 million dollars last year so what does he care. Didn’t our Lord throw those people out of the temple?

    • Brian Huggins

      {In light of that, I’m kind of getting a kick out of the comments that could be summed up as “He’s a heretic because he misunderstands differently than I misunderstand!”}

      You obviously don’t give God much credit for how He wrote His book, or for helping His people understand what He wrote.

    • John Metz

      In reading Trevin Wax’s posts, I had a similar ambivalence concerning Jakes’ statements as you expressed above. I do think he has progressed in his understanding from the typical ‘oneness’ position. The word ‘persons’ troubled and troubles many. In All Things Made New, Lewis Smedes had this to say in a discussion of Calvin’s Trinitarianism:

      “But a modern reader must remember that Calvin did not hold a modern, psychologically defined notion of person. We moderns cannot think of a person without thinking of an individual center of consciousness; and so the traditional statement of the Trinity always takes us to the edge of tritheism. Calvin thought of the three subsistences as personal, but not as persons in the modern sense.” (p. 49)

      Now, I know of no one who considers Smedes a modalist although some of your posters may surprise me. In the Works of John Wesley, we can find this statement by Wesley (also not a modalist) on the Trinity:

      “I dare not insist upon any one’s using the word Trinity, or Person. I use them myself without any scruple, because I know of none better: But if any man has scruple concerning them, who shall constrain him to use them? I cannot”

      Many other respected teachers could be quoted on this matter.

      While we cannot avoid the use of the word ‘persons’ in speaking of the Triune God (I use the word often), we should do so in light of the cautions of these and many others. The church fathers settled on “persons” and “subsistences” but were never collectively happy about either.

      Originally “persons” referred to masks worn by an actor as the actor portrayed different characters. One actor with three masks — surely that leans toward modalism! But that was not how the church fathers used the word. Neither did they mean what we mean by the word today as Smedes stated above. Word meanings change over time. We should use these terms with the understanding that they approximate what we can realize about an unseen mystery.

      We can say that the Three (persons, subsistencies) of the Trinity, the Triune God (the Father, the Son, and the Spirit), are co-eternal, co-existent, co-inherent, and distinct but not separate. This eliminates both modalism and tritheism.

      I am at least encouraged by Jakes’ statements but not sure how he would respond to the paragraph above.

    • John Metz

      Sorry, forgot the page reference for Wesley. Should be p. 200-201.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Trevin Wax who live-blogged Elephant Room 2 has an outstanding post titled: Grace and Truth Beyond the Elephant Room.

      The whole thing is well worth reading but here are some interesting excerpts:

      “First, we should aim for grace and truth in the way we act toward one another and speak of one another. We need clarity and charity, but too often we choose one at the expense of the other. Either our emphasis on clarity causes us to act uncharitably toward one another or our emphasis on charity leads us to paper over distinctions and leave things muddled rather than clarified. The goal of this post is to push for greater clarity and precision, but with heartfelt charity and good intentions.

      Secondly, we should assume the best about people’s motives. That means that we ought to assume the best of motives on the part of James MacDonald in his hosting of this event. Likewise, we ought to assume the best of motives on the part of those who decried the event and the invited guests. Love demands we assume the best of intentions, even if ultimately we disagree with one another.

      By far, the session that was most anticipated was the one in which T. D. Jakes was asked to clarify his position on the Trinity. Thankfully, he did so – though perhaps not in a way that would satisfy all of his critics. I believe we should celebrate his affirmation of the truth that there is one God in three Persons.

      At the same time we celebrate Jakes’ affirmation of truth, we should also look at what it is that he celebrates in his preaching and teaching. Surely one must ask why we have to discover Jakes’ view of the Trinity in a friendly panel discussion in Chicago instead of in the sermons he delivers to his church in Texas. In other words, the issue is not if Jakes believes in the Trinity, but to what extent Jakes’ belief in the Trinity matters to his ministry? Does the weight of this truth come out in his preaching and teaching?

      Here is a question that needs to be asked: Within the realm of orthodoxy, how much does emphasis matter? It is possible to check off the doctrines on a list, and yet not give these truths the weight they deserve, to not let these truths affect what and how we preach. To me at least, the issue at stake here is not the content of one’s theology but the importance of that theology.

      The humility of the participants in the Elephant Room was refreshing. Everyone seemed self-aware and open to correction, even if very little correction took place during the event.

      I also appreciated the warning given to conservative evangelicals (particularly the Reformed) who appear to celebrate critique. It’s true that in our circles critics are lifted up as courageous, often undeservedly. (And, trust me, the irony that I am offering a critique of the Elephant Room is not lost on me!)

      Furthermore, Driscoll was right to admonish his Reformed friends to have a passion for reaching people that exceeds a passion for reviewing books. Still, I don’t want to drive a wedge between reviewing books and reaching people.

      In the end, I admire James MacDonald’s intention to bring about more civil discourse between believers. We need charity and clarity.

      So when we engage in conflict, let’s make sure it is out of love for the truth, love for Jesus, love for one another, and love for the people we shepherd. Sometimes we may even stand against a brother on a certain issue, but even when we take an adversarial stance, it ought always to be for the good of that brother and the glory of King Jesus. Let’s take the goal of The Elephant Room seriously and be people who are full of grace and truth.”

    • Brian Huggins

      So if ‘persons’ is relative to a particular language, English, does the word ‘individuals’ lend any clarity to the dialogue/doctrine? But like I commented above, all we know or have experienced on earth as humans is one being and one person. So One Being and Three Persons, or Individuals, is not something we can relate to or compare anything with.

    • Tocky

      Jesus is a manifestation of God.

      Both Oneness and Trinitarians think this. If you don’t believe that Jesus is Yahweh, you will die in your sins. Jesus is a manifestation of God. They differ because Oneness believers would say that Jesus is not distinct from the Father. Therefore, Jesus is a manifestation of the Father. This is actually where I agree with Trinitarians… and with Bishop Jakes. Jesus is IN the Father and revealed the Father, and in that way, He manifests the Father. But I don’t think Jesus IS the Father.

      Oneness doesn’t always fit, and neither does the traditional Trinitarian view. I should add Oneness is not Modalism, and I wish people would stop saying that. Modalism holds that God exists in three modes, but Oneness hold that God is completely one in number and manifests Himself in three ways. I see God in three manifestations, which are the three manifested Persons of the Trinity.

      But that is the mystery of Who God is. You can’t understand a mystery. So I don’t think about it much.

    • […] I don’t think we can describe God fully. However, I do think we can understand God truly. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry was posted in bible study. Bookmark the permalink. ← Bad theology hurts people. […]

    • Francis

      I’ve always thought that modalism means that when God manifests Himself in different ways at different times, never more than one at a time. How does that make “manifestation” a bad word to use if “manifestation” means “one way to reveal oneself” with no spatial or temporal connotations?

    • Jeff Ayers

      T.D.Webb– are you kidding me?

      Did you read my post???
      Did you read Brian Huggins post about TD JAKE’S statement “that stands out the most to me: ‘There is going to be one throne and one God we can see’.” ???

      In your “ZEAL” to correct me, maybe you should have gotten that Spurgeon latte yourself and actually READ my post…. Actually reading the content does wonders for a person perception.

      BTW, of course I was referring to TD Jake’s and not you; did you comment about one God on a throne…NO>…… Did TD Jake’s in the article and Brian Huggin’s post…. YES. ahhhh perception.

    • T. D. Webb

      Lighten up, Jeff. . .I was kidding.

    • Dave Z

      Came across these comments from MacDonald and found them very encouraging, especially when so many seem to consider doctrine the ultimate priority:

      “On Friday, MacDonald wrote in his blog post, “Bishop Jakes, 2nd Decisions and Coming Home,” that, “The nuance of relationship is sadly lost in the world of those who believe doctrinal accuracy (which they have no corner on) is the pinnacle Christian priority….

      But if 1 Corinthians 13 is teaching anything, it’s that even doctrine that removes all mystery (a facetious impossibility) – apart from love – is worthless. I make no apology for prioritizing relationship in these conversations.”

    • Ahmed

      I agree with the view that we may not “like” the word “Persons” in describing the Trinity. No single word(s) can capture the fulness/mystery of God. But the word “Persons” has been sufficient, and considered orthodox for centuries. Manifestations has not been orthodox, nor helpful, and actually confusing in the very least. While I still believe Jakes to be a modalist, in the very least I would tell him to use the traditional words the church has confessed – why confuse the average blue collar church member? Especially when Paul’s “manifest” is different, I believe, than the typical “manifestation” used in the circles that Jakes moves in.

      And if it’s really just semantics I wonder if Jakes can affirm this (something the church fathers affirmed ad nauseum): “the Father is not the Son, who is not the Holy Spirit, who is not the Father”?

    • […] T.D. Jakes was labeled a “modalist” (e.g. C. Michael Patton’s “T.D. Jakes Not Modalist?”) it came to the surprise of some Oneness Pentecostals that their theology proper was equated with […]

    • […] T. D. Jakes Not a Modalist? An Update from the Elephant Room — Michael Patton […]

    • Dan

      I was reared in a Pentecostal church. Our doctrine was Trinitarian. I have remained a Trinitarian. I believe in the Trinity. I understand the Trinity. I will mostly likely graduate from “labor to reward” embracing the doctrine of the Trinity.

      With that being said, I must also admit that I am a long-time fan of T.D. Jakes. Unlike the author of this post, I have no apprehensiveness quoting Jakes in print or in sermons. Some of the biblical insight that he has taught on the tabernacle, the letter to the church at Ephesus, the letters to the Corinthians, etc, have been some of the most Christ-exalting teachings I have ever heard.

      I also am a huge fan of John MacArthur, Alister Beggs and those in that circle. Obviously, they are cessationists and I am not, but they are excellent teachers and although I believe in a present-day operation of the “gifts of the Spirit” i.e. speaking in tounges, I consider it a peripheral issue that should not become an impediment to fellowship and appreciation of what God has revealed to these different men.

    • Preacher Guy

      Assuming Jakes’ testimony about embracing Trinitarian theology is legit, then good.

      One heresy down; (at least) one to go.

    • Dan

      What has always been interesting to me is how we set ourselves up to be the “standard-bearers” of what is Christian and what is not. Every version of Christian doctrine has been labeled as heresy by some other opinion group within the Christian faith. I’m not sure I’m concerned with whether T.D. Jakes is a modalist or Trinitarian. I think I would be more concerned if the Scriptures actually made it a point of contention relative to one’s salvation.

      Sometimes I just think Christians get bored and we need something and someone to talk about to continue to boost our ego.

    • Kelly Barbour

      There is only one God and he came to earth as Jesus, and as he promised he sent the Holy Ghost as told of in the book of ACTs. Egos want to be what their version of “right” is. The only person who really needs to re evaluate things is the person who believes there is more than one God.

    • […] his reasons for how the Trinity can be misunderstood ( more shared here, here, here, here, here and here ). As James McDonald said, "I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of […]

    • Pastor Xerxes

      Here is the problem with this synthesis. T.D. Jakes ignored clear language. I did the original interview back in 1998 that exposed Him as a Oneness. That interview was then forwarded to C.R.I. There should not be any ambiguity with any Pastor teacher which has studying properly. Christ was not a ventriloquist, being baptized on earth , and placing His voice in the Heavens stating that “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well Pleased”. We must not remove persons when pertaining to the Godhead, Which Jakes did in defining God! Thanks Pastor Xerxes

    • […] his reasons for how the Trinity can be misunderstood ( more shared here, here, here, here, here and here ). As James McDonald said, "I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of […]

    • […] his reasons for how the Trinity can be misunderstood ( more shared here, here, here, here, here and here ). As James McDonald said, "I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of […]

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