The Discernment Gap: Showing a Lack of Passion for God’s Honor and Glory

I need to be brief, as I have many pressing duties.

Reading the commentary on the Elephant Room 2 events, and in particular, the alleged rehabilitation (repentance?) of TD Jakes has truly been brought me sadness. Sure, I know that very few Evangelicals, even scholars, have much experience with modalists and Oneness advocates, but still, the general ease with which many have been taken in by such a shallow and brief discussion does not speak well of the depth of understanding of many today. It also speaks loudly to the fact that many in Evangelicalism disconnect the honor and glory of God from the truth He has revealed about Himself. That is, they do not see that to worship and honor God demands from us our utmost effort to accurately hear and to follow what He has revealed about Himself, primarily in Jesus Christ, and the holy Scriptures. To take lightly God’s self-revelation is an affront to the divine majesty, and would not be the action of a heart that is consumed with passion for its Lord. The true source of a passion for sound doctrine comes first and foremost from a heart that has singular attention to the glory and honor of the object of its passion. Those who “argue doctrine” simply for the sake of ego or self-gratification do so to their own destruction. Sound doctrine isn’t about personalities or men, it is about truth that transcends our brief time on earth.

Let’s remember some of Jakes’ words from ER2. Keeping in mind his statement of faith, which continues to use the modalistic language of “manifestations,” and keeping in mind that Jakes does not baptize in the Trinitarian formula (he baptizes in Jesus name only—something oddly ignored by the tribunal who seemed to grant to themselves the ability to proclaim Trinitarian orthodoxy at ER2), let’s consider his words. When asked if God manifests Himself in three ways, or exists in three divine Persons, he said that “neither one of them totally get it for me.” Now there is a ringing profession of Trinitarianism if I ever heard it. Please, why are so many quick to pass over this direct statement that the historic profession of faith just doesn’t quite “totally get it” for Bishop Jakes? Does that really sound like someone who has seen the error of their ways and is ready to abjure error for a sound profession of faith in the truth? Or does it sound like someone who really thinks he is in a position to pick and choose what is comfortable for him given his goals and aims?

Ah, but Jakes went on to say, “I’m not crazy about the word ‘person.'” Yes, another ringing word of repentance form his former modalism and a sound profession of his new Trinitarian faith, is it not? Is that why he has not changed his statement of faith for his church, because this new found Trinitarianism is not something he is really all that “crazy about”? Can you imagine talking to someone who had been a Mormon, and professed belief in many gods, and now he is seeking fellowship with you, and when you inquire as to his beliefs, he says, “Oh, I believe mainly like you, but, Trinitarianism just doesn’t fully do it for me, and I’m not really crazy about the term ‘monotheism.'” Will you be inviting that person to fill your pulpit to teach on the nature of God next Sunday, I wonder?

But the most amazing statement that has somehow failed to make it into the pages of Christianity Today and all the blogs celebrating Jakes’ newfound Trinitarianism came right at the heart of the conversation. Driscoll asked him about the use of the term “manifestations” in his church’s statement of faith. And he replied:

My doctrinal statement is no different from yours except the word” [Driscoll interrupts saying, “manifestations”] “Manifest instead of persons, which you describe as modalist and I describe as Pauline. When I read…let me show you what I’m talking about…when I read I Timothy 3:16 – I didn’t create this, Paul did: “And without controversy” which I think we have…we have been bickering about something which Paul describes as a mystery, and I don’t think we should do that. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. For God was manifest in the flesh.” Now Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it is robbery to the divinity of God to think God was manifest in the flesh. And I think maybe it’s semantics, because [garbled], but Paul says this before this fight was started.”

Did you catch that? Can someone explain this to me? A prosperity preacher of a mega church has a statement of faith for years on end that is clearly modalistic in nature that says God eternally exists in “three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” He continues to defend that language in these words. When the key issue is brought forward, the use of manifestations instead of persons, his response is to dispute the identification of “manifestations” as modalistic, but instead say it is “Pauline,” i.e., it is in accordance with Biblical revelation. He then misuses 1 Timothy 3:16, as all modalists do, and as is prevalent in Oneness writings. And yet, despite these words, we are all somehow supposed to applaud Jakes’ new position as a sound, orthodox Trinitarian?

Sadly, there was no follow up. Driscoll and the rest heard what they wanted to hear, fist-bumped and applauded, and all was well. It would have been so painfully simple to bring this entire question to a complete conclusion. I could have done so by pressing a single question until a clear answer was given. But that is why I was not invited to ER2 (and won’t be invited to ER3, or 4, or…Lord help us!).
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