Friday, January 27, 2012
Thoughts about TD Jakes
Dr. Bart Barber has offered a thoughtful analysis of TD Jakes conversion to trinitarianism and Christianity here.
I copy it for your encouragement.
No time to blog well here. I'm just going with a laundry-list
Jakes's statement satisfies me that he is a Trinitarian. I read him differentiating his present view from his previous view of the Godhead. He affirmed not only "three persons" but also the concept that the three persons are to be distinguished from one another. The Father is not The Son is not The Holy Spirit, although all three are the One True God. In his first reply to Driscoll, Jakes seems to have affirmed that these attributes are eternal, not just matters of assignment or appearance.
It is certainly possible that I am just not qualified enough to see the nuance that is missing here. I do not claim to be an expert in theology. And yet, I would count what Jakes has affirmed as Trinitarianism.
Jakes's statement makes it perfectly clear that he used to be a modalist. He himself characterizes his embrace of Trinitarianism as a movement away from something else. Driscoll characterized it similarly, with no rebuttal from Jakes. When did the change take place? We don't have data on that, but we do know that Jakes has never clearly articulated Trinitarianism in public before yesterday.
This is something for all of us to celebrate. When Jakes became a Trinitarian, he became a Christian. His eternal destiny changed at that moment. Now he needs to be baptized. Again, this is something to celebrate.
This is a complete vindication of those who criticized Jakes's earlier theology. As noted above, Jakes himself has now acknowledged that he used to be a modalist (not that that's news to anybody who has paid attention). There will be people who will perform a lot of self-congratulatory chest-thumping over this—people who have been defending Jakes—along the lines of "See, we were right all along, you muck-raking, ruckus-loving, slander-throwing watchbloggers!" If you're somebody who has held Jakes's feet to the fire on this issue in the past, it's really important for you not to pay attention to the minions of atheology on this question and to become defensive. Close their blog and open your Bible to James 5:20. Rejoice.
The Trinity is a big, big deal. It's a heaven-or-hell deal. Minimizing the doctrine of God is not helpful. Anyone who has pretended that this is not important is hurting, not helping. Jakes is certainly one of those people. Although he has espoused Trinitarianism, he certainly is minimizing the importance of that, both by trying to avoid specifically Trinitarian language where he can and by calling for unity between Trinitarians and modalists. Unity between us and Oneness folks would be wrong. It would be sinful for us to be one with them. Jakes must be rebutted at this point.
But I would not say that it is the same level of sin to fail to condemn modalism as it is to espouse modalism and reject Trinitarianism. Both are wrongful, but only one is heretical, I think. If a failure to condemn modalism is damnable heresy, then T. D. Jakes isn't the only person we have to worry about. If you say that T. D. Jakes has to have condemned modalism as heresy in order to be a Trinitarian, then we have good grounds to question the Trinitarianism of every other participant in the Elephant Room. From what I've seen in transcripts, none of the people there condemned modalism. Perhaps some of them would, in some other context, but with the topic right up there on the table, nobody said a single word of condemnation against modalism.
This makes them all wrong, and embarrassingly so, not only in my book but also along the lines of everything that historic orthodox Christianity has stood for. But it doesn't make them people who are going to Hell. I think, if you're going to condemn Jakes on the basis of his desire for greater unity between Trinitarians and modalists, you're going to have to condemn every other person on that platform (unless you believe that they all really do condemn modalism and are just cowards).
This is no complete vindication of T. D. Jakes. Yes, there are still massive theological problems with Jakes. He's a prosperity preacher. He's one who still desires ecumenity with modalists, even if he no longer is one. He's a terrible expositor. I wouldn't say that he's qualified to serve as a pastor. I certainly wouldn't support his presence preaching at anything at my church, anything in my denomination, or anything I was at all associated with.
But all of that, serious as it is, can take a back seat for at least a moment. He's not presently being proposed to preach at my church, at anything in my denomination, or at anything I'm associated with. I don't even have to think about that right now, and there's something better to think about in its place. A man who has preached heresy has, on a worldwide stage, recanted from it and has espoused Trinitarianism. He has become a Christian. Surely, whatever other problems are attendant, THAT is something worthy of rejoicing in and of itself.
Or maybe I'm just being naïve.”