Apologetics Index

T.D. Jakes says he has embraced doctrine of the Trinity, but has he?

T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House, a megachurch in Dallas, Texas, has long denied the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity.

Instead he embraced Oneness theology (also known as ‘modalism’ — which teaches that there no distinction between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit: God simply takes on different roles/modes as necessary — sometimes acting as God, sometimes as Jesus, and at other times as the Holy Spirit).

Theologically someone who denies one or more of the central doctrines of the Christian faith is considered a heretic.

However, nowadays charisma and popularity often trump theology.

Among other things, Jakes’ message of empowerment for women, his dynamic preaching style and his promotion of the ‘prosperity gospel’ have made him hugely popular.

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As Christianity Today once noted, “Jakes’s core audience clearly has no qualms about the man’s doctrinal ambiguities. For his admirers, whether Jakes invokes the Trinity or the name of Christ alone when baptizing has little to do with the heart of his message of inner healing and empowerment.”

But now the Baptist Press reports that

Bishop T.D. Jakes says he has moved away from a “Oneness” view of the Godhead to embrace an orthodox definition of the Trinity — and that some in the Oneness Pentecostal movement now consider him a heretic.

Jakes — long a controversial figure among evangelicals because of his past unwillingness to affirm the Trinity — stated his belief Wednesday (Jan. 27) at the second-annual Elephant Room (theelephantroom.com), an event that brings together Christian figures from different backgrounds for what organizers call “conversations you never thought you’d hear.” This year’s Elephant Room was held at Harvest Bible Chapel in Illinois and was simulcast to other locations nationwide. […]

Jakes — who once made the cover of Time magazine, which asked if he might be the next Billy Graham — said he was saved in a Oneness Pentecostal church. Oneness Pentecostalism denies the Trinity and claims that instead of God being three persons, He is one person. In Oneness Pentecostalism, there is no distinction between the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is also called “modalism,” and it is embraced by the United Pentecostal Church International.

“I began to realize that there are some things that could be said about the Father that could not be said about the Son,” Jakes said. “There are distinctives between the working of the Holy Spirit and the moving of the Holy Spirit, and the working of the redemptive work of Christ. I’m very comfortable with that.” [See the transcript of Jakes’ comments at the end of this story.]

The doctrine of the Trinity — embraced by all three historical branches of Christianity — holds that God is three persons, each person is distinct, each person is fully God, and that there is one God.

Several key Bible passages, Jakes said, impacted his transition. […]

James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle interviewed Jakes.

Not everything Jakes said will make Trinitarians happy. He said he considers both sides of the issue to be Christians, and that his church has affiliations with both camps. He also said “we’re all saying the same thing.” But under questioning from Driscoll, Jakes again affirmed the Trinity: […]

Southern Baptist leaders applauded Jakes’ transformation while also saying Jakes isn’t fully where he should be on that and other issues.

“It is encouraging to see T.D. Jakes moving away from the heresy of modalism,” said Malcolm B. Yarnell III, director of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. “However, we should pray for him and exhort him privately and publicly to move into biblical orthodoxy without equivocation. […]

Russell D. Moore, dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said he takes “Bishop Jakes at his word that he holds to Trinitarianism.”

“But there’s still some elephants left in the room,” Moore said. “First of all, Bishop Jakes isn’t a new convert being discipled in the basics of the Christian faith. He is a celebrity mega-church pastor. Moreover, Trinitarianism isn’t the ‘meat’ of some advanced doctrine, but the most foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. 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.”

Moore added, “There still stands the issue of the prosperity gospel Bishop Jakes preaches. Joyce Meyer and Kenneth Copeland are Trinitatians but their health and wealth gospel is different from the message of Jesus and His apostles.”

The Baptist Press article includes the transcript of the conversation between T.D. Jakes, Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald on the Trinity, beginning after Jakes was asked about his background.

Malcolm Yarnell’s full statement is published as well.

At Apologetics Index we have a dated entry on T.D. Jakes, and an updated entry on Oneness Theology.

We also point to many research resources on the doctrine of the Trinity.

See Also

Jakes masterfully deconstructs the entire practice of theology. Don’t be fooled by the panel members who insist that he affirmed the Trinity. What he did was say, “I’m Trinitarian so long as I am free to express it in Sabelian terms.” He repeatedly insisted that Oneness folks and Trinitarian folks are all saying the same thing. He dismissed the question as secondary – not worth division among the people of Christ, among whom he clearly counts the Oneness churches. Once he has deconstructed the very idea of systematic theology, he can affirm anything. So yes, he answered “absolutely” or “yes” to each and every one of Driscoll’s questions, but what does that mean? Not much.
– Source: Tom Chantry, Quick-Hit Thoughts on ER2

If Jakes has truly become Trinitarian, then he needs to relinquish his title of “Bishop,” make a clean break with the HGAAA, clearly affirm and teach the Trinity to his church, and renounce modalism. Jakes has been misleading his flock with false teaching for years (this includes the Word of Faith and prosperity gospel, which is another deeply problematic issue). I certainly allow for a small possibility of Jakes’ conversion to the true God, but until these outward evidences, we cannot declare Jakes a Trinitarian.

This event, judging by some defending the claim that Jakes is now a Trinitarian, has revealed either a crack in the knowledge about the Trinity amongst some Christian leaders, and/or an apathy to the Trinity. But if Christians do not get the nature of God right, we cannot truly preach the gospel. Like sheep, we tend to stray.

A reaffirmation of the Trinity and more teaching on it in churches would be a good result of this rather depressing affair. There is no salvation in modalism; it is false. Therefore, this is of utmost important because this is a salvation issue.
– Source: Marcia Montenegro, T.D. Jakes: Through a Glass Blurrily

Note: Marcia explains, “Jakes’ title of ‘Bishop’ comes from the Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies (HGAAA), a network of Oneness Pentecostal churches. This title was given in recognition of his position as a prelate of this organization.”

Elephant Room 2: May we now regard T.D. Jakes as Trinitarian and Orthodox?
Playing Nice With Heretics
T.D. Jakes (and the like) Part One: Isn’t ‘unclear leader’ an oxymoron?
T.D. Jakes (and the like) Part Two: Thinking clearly about repentance
Research resources on the doctrine of the Trinity

Article details

Category: T.D. Jakes, Trinity
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First published (or major update) on Monday, January 30, 2012.
Last updated on April 07, 2017.

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