The magazine lets apologetics author Mark Mittelberg warn that an increasing number of Christians are drifting away from their faith because of the lack of good answers to their spiritual questions and at the same time looks into the the second installment of the Elephant Room, a theological roundtable featuring blunt conversations among seven influential pastors.
Pastor James MacDonald, who shared moderator duties with Pastor Mark Driscoll, may have helped eliminate the fireworks that took place during Round 1 of the Elephant Room but there were plenty of repercussions before and after the Round 2 discussion.
MacDonald had drawn critics for inviting Bishop T. D. Jakes. Many Reformed Christians accused Jakes of being a “heretic” due to his purported belief in modalism – the insistence that members of the Holy Trinity are not three distinct, eternally co-existing persons, but only forms of God (a singular spirit), a doctrine held by Oneness Apostolic Pentecostals.
For that reason, conservative evangelicals and leaders at The Gospel Coalition 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.
“It has cost me some relationships,” said MacDonald during one of the final sessions on Wednesday. “I thought I knew what the Lord wanted me to do, and I had good counsel. Craig Groeschel has a lot of wisdom, and he said to me, ‘Just because someone doesn’t want you in their circle anymore doesn’t mean they can’t be in yours.’”
Mark Driscoll, founding pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, was raised Catholic. Some Catholics know about Jesus but according to him he wasn’t one of them. “A pastor’s daughter gave me a Bible. She’s now my wife.” he said. ” I was reading Romans in college for a philosophy class. I finally understood sin is pride. I thought it was just bad moral behavior and I considered myself fairly moral. I had a whole lot of pride and still do. God convicted me of my sin and opened my heart to Jesus reading the book of Romans. So, a Catholic boy reading the book of Romans. Go figure. Jesus made sense and I had to go find a church.”
James MacDonald, founding pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, gave his life to Jesus Christ when he was 7 years old. “It was February of 1967. It was after a Sunday night service. Our pastor had preached the Gospel and I was too fearful to go down front during the invitation. But when I went home I was still under conviction and I went out into the kitchen and asked my parents, and my mom led me to Christ. I wandered from the Lord during my teenage years, and though I tried to let go of the Lord, He never let go of me. I had more return experiences, but I know that I know that God knows that I am a child of God today.”
MacDonald and Driscoll organized for the first time ‘The Elephant Room discussions’ in 2011 and believe that by talking openly about their differences in series of “blunt conversations”, pastors and church leaders can assist in edifying the Church.
This year the seven pastors participating in the event all agreed that in a Gospel presentation there are five elements that are key: recognition of sin, that Jesus lived without sin, Jesus’ death and resurrection, repentance, and faith.
Weighing in on the debate, Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter’s House in Dallas warned that pastors run into problems when they start comparing different styles and methods of Gospel presentations and ministry.
“We are in an age where we want to come up with a recipe for everything,” he said. “When we try to get methodology down to a science we defy the mystery of the Gospel.”
Prior to Wednesday’s event, Pastor James MacDonald – also the moderator
of the discussions along with Driscoll – had drawn critics for inviting Bishop T. D. Jakes to the Elephant Room, in regards to his beliefs about the Godhead.
Many Reformed Christians accuse Jakes of being a “heretic” due to his purported belief in modalism – the insistence that members of the Holy Trinity are not three distinct, eternally co-existing persons, but only forms of God (a singular spirit), a doctrine held by Oneness Apostolic Pentecostals.
For that reason, conservative evangelicals and leaders at The Gospel Coalition 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. Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of The Potter’s House megachurch in Dallas, Texas, founded by Jakes in 1996, was put on the spot during a theological roundtable Wednesday in regards to his beliefs about the Godhead and why, in some Christian circles, he is considered a “heretic.”
Despite the tension, MacDonald stuck with his decision and kept Jakes in line as a speaker.
During Round 2 of the Elephant Room, the Jakes finally broke down his view of the Trinity and also addressed him being labeled a “heretic.”
Jakes himself admitted that he once clung to a modalist position due to his background – he was converted and raised at an Oneness church. But he believes differently now, embracing the conservative evangelical doctrine of the Trinity: one God, three persons (though he said he’s not crazy about the word “persons.”)
Modalism, a 3rd-century teaching accredited to theologian Sabellius, purports that the members of the Trinity are not three distinct, eternally co-existing persons, but that instead God, a singular spirit, discloses Himself at different times in three modes – a doctrine espoused by Oneness Apostolic Pentecostal and United Pentecostal Church Internationaldenominations.
When asked a series of questions by Driscoll clarifying his doctrine, Jakes affirmed that there was “very little difference” between what he believed and what the Mars Hill
In October Jakes tweeted to his followers the following message: “God brings us together so that He can dwell in the midst of our unity, the church must lift up a standard of unity.”
Silva, an ordained Southern Baptist Convention minister, also questioned Jakes by tweeting to The Potter’s House pastor : “@BishopJakes Which God are you talking about? The Triune God of the Bible, or the ficticious god of modalism? Which one do you believe in?”
It was then that a minor debate ensued between Jakes and Silva regarding his beliefs about the Holy Trinity, with Jakes tweeting: “@RealKenSilva Ken I believe in Jesus
Christ the only begotten of the Father. I believe in the Holy Spirit sent to the world by the Father!”
Jakes addressed the issue already in 2000 in an op-ed article in Christianity Today, in which he wrote: “I believe in one God who is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I believe these three have distinct and separate functions—so separate that each has individual attributes, yet are one. I do not believe in three Gods.”
Criticism was hurled at MacDonald for inviting Jakes to be one of the seven pastors featured in The Elephant Room’s new round of conversations because of the Woman, Thou Art Loosed author’s perceived stance regarding the Holy Trinity.
MacDonald denied on his website that inviting Jakes to The Elephant Room was essentially an endorsement of the Texas minister’s doctrinal beliefs, as he had been accused. MacDonald, under the title “I do not agree that T.D. Jakes is a Modalist,” wrote in a September post on his website:
“I affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as I find it in Scripture. I believe this doctrine is revealed in the Bible and accurately expressed in historic confessionalism. T.D. Jakes website states that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations which is modalist language. I am looking forward to hearing him explain his position currently and how that may have changed from things he has said historically. … I believe T.D. Jakes shows immense humility by being
willing to step outside his own circles to interact with christian leaders and discuss his theology. … We are greatly honored that T.D. Jakes has agreed to participate.”
Tim Challies, one of the most influential and widely read evangelical Christian bloggers, also commented on the controversy recently.
While confessing that he does not know for certain if Jakes is a modalist, Challies wrote: “What is clear is that whatever Jakes believes about the Trinity, he has shown a continual reluctance to affirm a standard, time-proven creedal statement of trinitarian orthodoxy and that he has often used the language of modalism. This gives us valid cause for concern.”
As MacDonald and Challies also noted, the express purpose of The Elephant Room is to foster relationships with and open discussions among Christians who hold disagreements about Scripture.
During Wednesday’s “Elephant Room” conversation on the “majors” of Christian doctrine, Jakes explained where he falls on the issue.
“My father was a Methodist and my mother was a Baptist,” he explained. “I was raised in the Baptist church … but I didn’t really have a real committed experience with Christ until my father died. When my father died, I had a real experience with Christ, a real conversion with Christ and I had it in a Oneness church.”
The minister emphasized to Driscoll that the Pentecostal congregation he was referencing, which he pointed out was not a UPCI church, was home to “Christians who believe in Jesus Christ, believe he died, rose from the dead, is coming back again — all the same things you do.”
“How they describe and explain the Godhead in a traditional Oneness sense is very different than how traditional Trinitarians describe the Gospel. I was in that church for a number of years and raised in that church for a number of years,” Jakes said.
“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,” he continued.
“My struggle as I was ordained in the Oneness church was in several passages – sometimes the doctrine fit, sometimes it doesn’t. When the doctrine becomes the primary thing, you force it into fitting in places where it doesn’t fit. I really at this point in my life don’t want to force my theology to fit in my denomination.”
Referencing Gen. 1:26, Luke 3:21-22, John 14:11 and other passages that he believes point to Jesus, God the Father and the Holy Spirit as having unique distinctions, Jakes revealed: “That began to make me re-think some of my ideas and some of the things I was taught.”
(Photo: The Elephant Room/Alyssa Armour)
“I got kind of quiet about it for a while. When you’re a leader and you’re in a position of authority sometimes you have to back up … for a minute and really think those things through.”
Driscoll, near the end of the discussion, pointedly asked Jakes if he believes the Bible is “the perfect, inspired, final authority Word of God,” to which Jakes responded “absolutely.”
Driscoll then posed several other creedal questions in quick succession, to which Jakes responded in the affirmative:
“You believe there is one God, three persons: Father, Son and Spirit? You believe Jesus was fully God, fully man?”
“You believe he died on the cross in our place, for our sins?”
“You believe he bodily rose from death?”
“You believe that he is the judge of the living and the dead?”
“You believe that apart from Jesus there’s no salvation?”
Jakes told Driscoll once more that “there is very little difference between what I believe and what you believe.”
“For you, 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?’” Driscoll asked.
“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.”
“Here is why I am there. I am not crazy about the word ‘persons’ … most people who know me know that … my doctrinal statement is really no different from yours except for the word ‘manifest’ instead of ‘person,’ which you describe as modalist and I describe as Pauline,” Jakes insisted, before quoting 1 Timothy 3:16.
The passage in the English Standard Version reads: “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.”
“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.
“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.”
He added, “We are taught in our society that if we disagree within a movement, we leave … we sever. I still have fellowship associations, relationships and positions within and without Oneness and Trinitarian movements because I believe that until we bridge the gap between our thinking, and humble both sides 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?”
Jakes acknowledged that he is considered a “heretic” in many communities, including Oneness and Trinitarian circles, yet it does not bother him, as he is more focused on the Body of Christ working as one unit in love, despite disagreements – the one thing, he asserted, that Christians have the power to do, but fail to accomplish.
“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,” he asserted.
“We have got to learn to talk to each other or we’re going to die,” the megachurch pastor insisted.
Please do read:
- The Trinity – the Truth
- Summary on trinity
- The Great Trinity debate
- Why the trinity was accepted in Europe
- How did the Trinity Doctrine Develop + How the Doctrine of the Trinity came to the Church + Historical Development of Trinity
- Trinity functionTrinity function
- Trinity versus Tritheism
- Hashem השם, Hebrew for “the Name” of the Only One God
- God is one
- Creator of heaven and earth and everything around יהוה
- A god between many gods
- God versus gods
- Preexistence in the Divine purpose and Trinity
- 2 Corinthians 5:19 – God in Christ
- How do trinitarians equate divine nature
- The Pagan Influence of The catholic church ……The Pagan Trinity, and Saint B
- Is the Trinity a Biblical Doctrine?: http://notrinity.blogspot.com/2008/06/is-trinity-biblical-doctrine.html
- The Father is the Only True God: http://notrinity.blogspot.com/2008/08/father-is-only-true-god.html
- Who is Jesus #2 Jesus Christ, man who died
- Who is Jesus #4 Clear statements that our heavenly Father is his “God”
- Who is Jesus #8 Father greater than Jesus
- Who is Jesus #9 100% or not
- Who is Jesus #12 Conclusion
- Da Vinci Code: Was Jesus Human or Divine?
- The wrong hero
- Lord or Yahuwah, Yeshua or Yahushua (Video)
- Christendom Has Forgotten
Prior to Wednesday’s event, Pastor James MacDonald – also the moderator of the discuss
- Bishop T. D. Jakes says he now embraces the Trinity Doctrine: T. D. Jakes was interviewed by pastor Mark Driscoll and pastor James MacDonald on January 27, 2012 at Harvest Bible Chapel (rootedinchrist.org)
In fact at Berean Perspective we have two articles that have been written dealing with what T. D. Jakes has said he believes concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. T. D. Jakes did not affirm the doctrine of the Trinity and he affirmed the Oneness perspective, thus we labeled him as being in the sect of Modalism. (Oneness Pentecostalism) We believe that Modalism (Oneness Pentecostalism, Jesus Only, United Pentecostal Church International) is a false teaching and has many false doctrines. (check out Oneness Pentecostalism) Now, after reading what was posted from the Baptist Press post (affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention) I am somewhat encouraged and at the same time still not at ease with what T. D. Jakes believes concerning the Trinity Doctrine.
- TD Jakes Breaks Down the Trinity, Addresses Being Called a ‘Heretic’ By Nicola Menzie (trinityspeaks.wordpress.com)
- T.D. Jakes is Heretical Concerning Modalism Whether he Believes it or Not (slaughteringthesheep.wordpress.com)
Apprising Ministries continues documenting the sad slide of evanjellyfish deeper into apostasy as spiritual darkness grows.
There is a spiritual form of fascism now being perpetrated within the mainstream of the church visible. It began circa 1997 with the hatching in hell of the neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church and spreads its evil spores via Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM).
The use of the term manifestations is the language of classic modalism or Oneness Pentecostalism, not orthodox Christianity. Here’s what we do know, Jakes is with Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies, Inc. (HGAAA) where he is Vice Prelate.
Well the fact is, modalism—aka Sabellianism, after Sabellius—cannot be reconciled with the Biblical Trinitarian position; i.e. it’s a different god, which is no god at all (Isaiah 43:10; Galatians 4:8).
Yet another aspect of Modalistic Monarchianism / Modalism / Sabellianism is Patripassianism, which is the view that it was God the Father who became incarnate, suffered, died, and was resurrected. Patripassianism essentially teaches that God the Father became His own Son.
With all that said, Sabellianism, Modalism, Monarchianism (dynamic and modalistic), and Patripassianism are all unbiblical understandings of the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity. (Online source)
- Changed Heart for @StevenFurtick & @BishopJakes: Conviction in The #ElephantRoom. Lessons for dads? (orangedad.com)
These guys are not the only Christian leaders who have been the object of jokes, sarcasm, or just outright accusations of “blasphemy” by me. I am a very, very judgmental person. I hide behind my crappy attitude by saying that it’s in the name of “sound doctrine.” God, heal my heart.
In The Elephant Room With Trevin Wax (garyware.me)
Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 1 “With a Little Help from My Friends” + Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 2 “Can’t Buy Me Love” + Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 3 “Hard Day’s Night” + Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 4 “Ticket to Ride” + Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 5 “Come Together”: In what ways does being a minority worshiper hinder worship and service in the church? What churches are achieving success at breaking down these walls, and how? What do you see the other pastor doing better than your church does it?+ Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 6 “Help” + Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 7 “We Can Work It Out” + Elephant Room 2: Live-Blog Session 8 Speed Round
- An Elephant Room Roundup (garyware.me)
Trevin Wax offers a summary reflection after his marathon effort posting notes on each Elephant Room session.
Carl Trueman notes that apparently all the authorisation a celebrity pastor needs is the affirmation of other celebrity pastors and that a few questions in a talk show format doesn’t really equate to a probing examination of someone’s theology.
Ed Stetzer offers his perspective.
Frank Turk observes that there are a few other elephants in Jakes’ living room which were rather conveniently ignored so everyone could feel the love.
- Steven Furtick and Maturity (theologicalarsenal.wordpress.com)
When the question “Where do you see the Church in 20 years?” was posed Furtick quietly thought for a second, smiled and said “I’m really not old enough to speak to that… I’ve only been around for 31 years and I just don’t have the experience to answer that question.” He then went on to add that he is hopeful for the future of the Church and that he believes that we build the future, and that he would do his best to serve and honor God to the best of his abilities.
- Jakes’ Small Beginnings (endtimeebookreviews.wordpress.com)
When he speaks of his humble beginnings, Jakes speak with much fervor and passion, as the congregation agrees with him and can totally relate to what he is talking about.
- BEWARE! Rosebrough a No-Go, Bro! (justificationbygrace.com)
most of the church today has bought into the idea that challenging ANY idea is unloving and wrong. We adamantly reject this view. In fact, we think the essence of being loving is to point people to the truth, and away from lies and doctrines of demons. It is truth that sets people free. Lies cannot set people free.
- Did I Really Want to Go to Elephant Room 2? (jonwellman.com)
E.R. 2.0 has run into its share of missteps, not the least of which was the invitation of T.D. Jakes.
There is an opportunity to make much of Christ in every situation, and E.R. 2.0 is no exception. We’ll see what happens. However, I do fear for viewers and attenders who are not believers or who are easily swayed, and I pray for them. Some points of view are simply not doctrinal and need to be denounced, not discussed.
- James MacDonald’s Elephant Room Conference – The Musical (slaughteringthesheep.wordpress.com)
Here is a video from the gang at Wretched Radio about James MacDonald’s Elephant Room Conference, and it is put in a perspective that can only be done by Todd Friel and the crew.
- Mark Driscoll And The Mars Hill Churches: When Discipline Becomes Control Becomes … ? (bigcircumstance.com)
Bill Kinnon understandably asks why that bastion of the neo-Reformed movement, the Gospel Coalition, hasn’t spoken out against Mars Hill. Driscoll is one of their council members, and they have had resignations before on grounds of doctrinal controversy, as Bill points out.
On the surface, Mars Hill’s devotion to neo-Reformed theology still puts it in the Christian mainstream, which is why I can raise issues about whether the Gospel Coalition is doing anything about one of its Council members. But some cults began with orthodox Christian leaders who then deviated – David Berg of the Children of God could be a case in point here. Mars Hill cannot be regarded as unorthodox, and many of its currently contentious doctrines have been held by large numbers of Christians for a long time. Theologically, it would be wrong for Christians to call it a cult.
- Heretical Modalism and T.D. Jakes Doctrine On the Trinity (antagoniz.wordpress.com)
The United Pentecostal Church (UPCI) is the largest Oneness group in America. They officially deny the doctrine of the Trinity saying: In distinction to the doctrine of the Trinity, the UPCI holds to a oneness view of God. It views the Trinitarian concept of God, that of God eternally existing as three distinctive persons, as inadequate and a departure from the consistent and emphatic biblical revelation of God being one…Thus God is manifested as Father in creation and as the Father of the Son, in the Son for our redemption, and as the Holy Spirit in our regeneration.
Again, notice the word “manifest,” which Jakes and the UPCI both use. In other words, the Son of God is the manifestation of the Father in the flesh. The Son is not eternal, nor pre-existent. Jesus is the Father and the Son: Father in his divinity and Son in his humanity. Hence, the Trinity is said to be a misunderstanding of the biblical teaching.
- Thabiti Anyabwile addresses McDonald, Jakes and The Elephant Room (theexpositor.wordpress.com)
“Thabiti Anyabwile, Senior Pastor of First Baptist Church of Grand Cayman in the Grand Cayman Islands and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition, posts a tremedous article on The Gospel Coalition website titled Collateral Damage in the Invitation of T.D. Jakes to the Elephant Room, concerning the James McDonald/T.D. Jakes/Elephant Room issue and I think Pastor Anyabwile hits the nail right on the head!” writes the expositor.
- Red Alert on Code Orange (preacherfrank.wordpress.com)
The presence of Jakes should be reason enough for the discerning Christian to avoid this event. Even if the rest of the speakers were true teachers, the presence of a false teacher pretty much ruins the whole thing.
- How Tall is T.D. Jakes Height and Weight (celebrityheightandweight.com)
T.D. Jakes stands 6 feet and 3 inches tall and weighs 240 pounds. Born in South Charleston, West Virginia, T.D. Jakes opened his first church in a storefront in Montgomery, West Virginia in 1979. By 1982, the parish had grown enough that he was able to focus on his ministry full-time.
+ T.D. Jakes Videos
- The Leader of the Episcopal Church is a Heretic (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
There’s not a driplet of Christian orthodoxy which permits her theory or accepts it as legitimate. Either access to God the Father is exclusively available through Christ or it isn’t. It’s either/or not both/and as the Episcopalian Arch-Heretic would have it (along with many pseudo-Christians these days).
- Lot’s of Christians Can Only Handle ‘Milk’ (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
The inability of many to distinguish between good doctrine and bad, good biblical exegesis and bad, good theology and bad, is all too common these days (as in ancient times as well). That’s exactly why people like Mark Driscoll, Ted Haggard, TD Jakes, Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyers, and the bevy of heretics presently passing themselves off as Christian teachers get away with it and aren’t ‘called out’ by either their churches or the Church at large.