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Is TD Jakes leaving Oneness Pentecostal modalism for biblical Trinitarianism?

It is reported that at a recent theological roundtable Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, “denied that he clings to a modalist position, although he confessed that he did at one time in his walk with God.”*

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church.
Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church.Toby Hudson publish it under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

The theology of modalism, which has manifested as Oneness Pentecostalism, is an ancient concept dating back to Sabellius who lived in the third century AD. It asserts the un-, non- and anti-biblical view that the persons who make up the Trinity are not distinct (three persons but one being) but that YHVH takes on roles or modes whereby at one point He is the Holy Spirit, then the Father and finally the Son.

TD Jakes’ statements are interesting in the light of our recent article:

Theology from the mouth of babes: 9 yr old debunks oneness theology

An interesting lesson to be learned is that 1) the Holy Spirit can reach us regardless of our current beliefs and 2) just because He reaches you while you are holding certain beliefs does not mean that He is validating those beliefs.

Jakes “had a real experience with Christ, a real conversion with Christ and I had it in a Oneness church.” But this does not mean that the oneness position is accurate and Jakes saw this eventually:

As I began to progress, I began to understand that some of the dogma that I was taught in the Oneness movement was very dogmatic, very narrow and not the very best description of how I now understand the Godhead…I really at this point in my life don't want to force my theology to fit in my denomination.

It is specified that with regards to verses such as Gen. 1:26, Luke 3:21-22, John 14:11, etc.:

That began to make me re-think some of my ideas and some of the things I was taught.

TD Jakes was asked, “You believe there is one God, three persons: Father, Son and Spirit? You believe Jesus was fully God, fully man?” and various other questions pertaining to traditional, historical, biblical theology and he replied in the affirmative.

Now, noted carefully the following Q&A:

"For you [Jakes], the issue between Trinitarianism and modalism at its essence is one God manifesting Himself successively in three ways, or one God, three persons, simultaneously existing eternally. Your best understanding now ... would you say it's 'one God manifesting Himself in three ways' or 'one God in three persons?'" [Mark] Driscoll asked." [ellipses in original]

"I believe that neither one of them totally get it for me," Jakes revealed, yet expressing his agreement with the description of "one God, three persons."

Jakes notes that his main issue is with the term persons as opposed to manifested as in 1 Timothy 3:16 which reads (in the English Standard Version) as:

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

Clearly a clear distinction is made between the persons of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The person who is the Son was manifested as the person Jesus.

Jakes notes:

"That is what Paul describes as a 'mystery' and I don't think we should do that," the bishop said. "Now, Paul is not a modalist, but he does not think it is robbery to the divinity of God to say God was 'manifest' in the flesh," Jakes argued.

So we should not describe this as a mystery even though the Bible does so—this is rather odd. Paul does not think it is robbery to the divinity of God to say God was “manifest” in the flesh because to manifest does not mean to transform from mode to mode, from Father into Son, from Holy Spirit into Son or from these into Jesus. Jakes seems to still be reading oneness / modalist theology into the term “manifest.”

Examples of usage of this term, which is the Greek phaneroō (Stong’s #G5319) is that, for example, in the Authorized King James Version it appears 49 times as follows:

make manifest 19

appear 12

manifest 9

show 3

be manifest 2

show (one's) self 2

manifestly declare 1

manifest forth 1

This amounts to:

1) to make manifest or visible or known what has been hidden or unknown, to manifest, whether by words, or deeds, or in any other way

a) make actual and visible, realised

b) to make known by teaching

c) to become manifest, be made known

d) of a person

1) expose to view, make manifest, to show one's self, appear

e) to become known, to be plainly recognised, thoroughly understood

1) who and what one is

So the incorporeal, non-physical eternal person who is the Son took on human form, flesh (incarnated: in the flesh), physicality as Jesus and thus was manifested to us, like one of us.

Incidentally, Jakes’ reference to robbery pertains to Philippians 2:5-7:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men.

However, TD Jakes also made a very important statement:

When we start talking about that sort of thing, I think that it is important that we realize that there are distinctives between the Father and the working of the Son: the Father didn't bleed, the Father didn't die, only in the person of Jesus Christ, coming back for us in the person of Jesus Christ ... Jesus Christ has been with us, but only indwelt in the person of the Holy Spirit. We are baptized into the Body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is consistent with my belief system. [ellipses on original]

It is important to keep in mind that “the Father didn't bleed, the Father didn't die,” etc. because in, otherwise, solidly Trinitarian churches and amongst Trinitarian people (during meals, etc.) you very often hear prayer such as “Father God we thank you have you died for us…” etc. Many, many Trinitarians pray modalist / oneness prayers.

But Jakes seems to still be walking a line between oneness / modalism and Trinitarianism as he states that, no, “the Father didn't bleed, the Father didn't die” but “only in the person of Jesus Christ.” Does he mean that the Father did not do this as the Father but did do them as the Son Jesus? Does he mean that YHVH did not do this as the Father but did do them as the Son Jesus? Does this still speak of and/or to oneness / modalism?

The one God, the one being YHVH did this in the, as the, person of the Son Jesus. He did not do this in the, as the, person of the Father nor the Holy Spirit.

Likewise flummoxing is the phrase “Jesus Christ has been with us, but only indwelt in the person of the Holy Spirit.” It may simply be a sloppy sentence, grammatically speaking. Does he mean that “Jesus Christ has been with us, but” we believers are “only indwelt in the person of the Holy Spirit.” Or that “Jesus Christ has been with us, but” that Jesus is “only indwelt in the person of the Holy Spirit.”

Well, in any regard this gives us another example of the Trinity within the Bible as the answer to which person indwells us, is it the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, is “Yes”: see the “Indwells” section of the essay:

Trinity : Are there Other Attributes Shared by the Members of the Trinity

His actual views are made yet more unclear, or perfectly clear, by his statement:

I believe that until we bridge the gap between our thinking, and humble both sides [the “Oneness and Trinitarian movements”] and say 'we're both attempting to describe a God we love, that we serve and that we have not seen, and that we are viewing Him through the context of the Scriptures but that with a glass darkly' – why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when all that I know and understand, be it very Orthodox, is still through a glass darkly?

The reference to “a glass darkly” is to 1st Corinthians 13:12 which states:

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

Well, there is a fine line between a reason and an excuse. Certainly, no one knows all that there is to know about YHVH except YHVH Himself. However, that which He has revealed about Himself to us have been revealed so that we may know it and the Bible is literally saturated with examples of Trinitarian theology.

His reference to hatred and name throwing is because “Jakes acknowledged that he is considered a ‘heretic’ in many communities, including Oneness and Trinitarian circles.” He notes:

I think the time has come for us to be willing to take the heat to have a conversation, because if we do not do this and we continue to divide ourselves by ourselves and compare ourselves with ourselves, we do it at the expense of decreasing numbers of new Christians in our country. We have to mobilize."

Of course, there is low hanging fruit discourse which reduces itself to hate speech and there is brotherly rebuking which seeks to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

The issue is actually succinctly stated in the old Christian adage: in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty and in all things charity.

We are talking about two very different views of YHVH’s very nature and there are things which simply must not be set aside. For example, we could hear Mormons and Jehovah’s Witness, et al., stating the same thing. Yet, while both of these groups “use the Bible,” “believe in ‘Jesus,’” “are ‘Christians,’” etc. neither is monotheistic as they both believe in more than one “God.”

TD Jakes concluded with:

We have got to learn to talk to each other or we're going to die.

But what is going to die? “The church” as a manmade hierarchically authoritative structure? “Christian culture”?

But must not and will not die is true, traditional, biblical, YHVH inspired Christianity. What is false must die but what is true will live on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Nicola Menzie, “TD Jakes Breaks Down the Trinity, Addresses Being Called a 'Heretic',” Christian Post, June 14, 2012 AD

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