Bishop T. D. Jakes 


Manifestation
One Throne in Heaven
Sabellius
Play the Race Card
Modalism


Manifestations

Bishop T. D. Jakes is a popular author and megachurch pastor who comes from a 'Oneness' Pentecostal background. On the web-site for his Dallas church, The Potter's House, there is a statement of faith which reads in part,

"God
"There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

"Jesus Christ
"Jesus Christ is true God and true man, having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He died on the cross, the complete and final sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. Further, He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He is now our High Priest and Advocate.

"The Holy Spirit
"The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and during this age, to convict men of sin, regenerate the believing sinner, indwell, guide, instruct, and empower the believer for godly living and service."

What does it mean to say that God eternally exists "in three manifestations?" Bishop Jakes justifies this language by pointing to the Bible,




  • “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
  • (1 Timothy 3:16).




When Hippolytus introduced the formula 'one God in three persons,' it could not plausibly be rejected as non-Biblical, because the Greek word 'prosopon' occurs frequently in the Bible, used of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The same cannot be said for the English word 'person,' which is thus viewed by 'Oneness' folk as if it were radioactive plutonium. What cannot be denied, though, is that Father, Son and Holy Spirit often use the personal pronouns, 'I-thou,' in conversation with one another, such as, "Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: . .Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God." (Hebrews 10:5-7). (Nor can this be a conversation between 'the flesh' and 'the spirit,' because 'the flesh:' "a body hast thou prepared" — is the very topic of conversation!) There are moreover in the Bible expressions of relation which are inherently personal, such as love, ". . .for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world." (John 17:24). Bishop Jakes confesses, "I am not crazy about the word 'persons.' (Elephant Room). He might hear the rejoinder that others are not crazy about 'manifestation,' because it is not evident why one manifestation might love another manifestation:




Bishop T. D. Jakes


God the Son became manifest in the flesh at the incarnation, but is it therefore proper to say the Son is a 'manifestation'? God the Son is He who was manifest, not the resultant 'manifestation.' Just prior to the incarnation, when He said, "Lo, I come," was He then a 'manifestation,' or only when He put on flesh? The word 'manifest' means to be made perceptible to the senses, oddly enough in the etymology of the English word the sense affected is primarily touch: "L. manifestus, lit., struck by the hand. . .manus hand + fendere. . .to strike." (Webster's). The several Greek words clustered around φανεροω likewise mean to appear, to become visible, evident, or unmistakable.

In the Potter's House statement of faith, the sting is taken out of the word 'manifestation' by making the three manifestations eternal, thus defeating the reader's expectation that a 'manifestation' is temporary or time-limited. However, in Bishop Jakes' proof-text for the term 'manifestation,' the manifestation in question is not eternal. God has not from eternity past been robed in flesh, rather, this happened in the fulness of time, in the days of King Herod: "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Galatians 4:4-5). In 1 Timothy 3:16 the incarnation is the manifestation, this is how He became palpable to touch and visible to the eyes. Yet He who was made flesh existed before the incarnation, so He cannot simply be the 'manifestation' in the flesh.

God in His own nature is not properly visible nor corporeal, in taking on flesh He took on also these characteristics, so that John can say they "handled" the Word of life:

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:1-3).

In several other verses also the Son is said to be 'manifested,' i.e. revealed or made evident: "Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. . ." (1 Peter 1:20), and,

"And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. . . For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil." (1 John 3:5-8).

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear [φανερωθη], we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2).

Notice that if we take 'the Son' to be, not He who is manifest but the 'manifestation' set forth in 1 Timothy 3:16, we might well conclude that 'the Son' is 'the flesh' of the incarnation. What a strange concept. . .though sadly not an unfamiliar one in 'Oneness'-land. The humanity is what is visible and palpable, at least in this present order of things. Is this what Bishop Jakes means?

A similar word is used of the Holy Spirit in "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal." (1 Corinthians 12:7). But here again, what is said is not 'The Holy Spirit is a manifestation,' but the Holy Spirit is made manifest in the various gifts imparted to believers. The gifts are the manifestation, not the Holy Spirit.

It is not evident where in the Bible the Father might be called a 'manifestation,' a desideratum for a word to replace 'persons.' Most of the Old Testament theophanies are appearances of the Son, as we know because Jesus said, "Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father." (John 6:46). So, for example, when the Bible says,

"Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness." (Exodus 24:9-10).

. . .it is a fairly safe bet that it was the Son of God, the Logos, whom they saw. So far we have two 'manifestations'. . .or to speak more precisely, we have two 'manifestors,' if there is such a word, not 'manifestations;' we require a third. If we are to count "three" manifestations, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it is desirable to see the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit each somewhere described as 'manifest.' If Bishop Jakes responds that it was God the Father who was manifest in the flesh: the Spirit manifest in the flesh, and moreover that the Son was the flesh in which He was manifest, i.e., Jesus' human nature. . .then we are right back to Square One. That is how 'Oneness' folk interpret 1 Timothy 3:16, "God was manifest in the flesh:" 'The Father (who alone is God in 'Oneness') was manifest in the Son (the flesh).' This indeed comes out with the Son a 'manifestation,' but it is garbled; God the Son, the Logos, was made flesh, not the Father.

They will protest, but the Son does manifest the Father, i.e., display Him, make Him known: "Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?" (John 14:9). There is a sense in which the Son might indeed be said to be a 'manifestation' of the Father, not only in consequence of the incarnation, because He is the "express image" of the Father (Hebrews 1:3) and "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). But in no way is the Father thus manifested Himself a 'manifestation.' This word, proposed as a substitute for 'person,' suffers from the disability that, strictly speaking, none of the persons of the trinity is said to be a 'manifestation,' though two are said to have been 'manifested.'

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One Throne

T. D. Jakes says in the Elephant Room, "Let me just make one little comment: One of the things that you said at the end, even as we talked about it before, and I've heard Jack Graham say this, too, that there is going to be one throne and there's going to be one God we can see." Uh-oh, that sounds like 'There's one throne in heaven and Jesus is sitting on it!' The one God we can see will be seen as Father, Son and Holy Ghost, because we shall see Him as He is. In this life much is hid from sight, earthly sight might well be more accurately renamed 'blindness,' but there will then be nothing that cannot be seen:

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Sabellius

Since Bishop Jakes describes his 'manifestations' as eternal, he cannot be accused of teaching the ancient Sabellian paradigm of temporary sequential manifestations, though it remains unclear why he still likes that term. Nostalgia? This paradigm is occasionally heard from 'Oneness' folk today, though it is not their sole paradigm. Indeed they are prone to hop-scotching from one terminology set to a completely different one. According to his conversation in the 'Elephant Room,' he has abandoned the sequential paradigm (which evidently he once held), perceiving it as inadequate to the Biblical evidence:

"I am open to hear whatever God is saying. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, for example, coming up out of the water the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, the Father speaks from heaven -- and we see all three of them on one occasion, or in Genesis "let us make man in our own likeness" or Elohim -- He is the one God who manifest Himself in a plurality of ways." (Bishop T. D. Jakes, The Elephant Room transcript).

Now we have simultaneity instead of sequence, as indeed corresponds to the Bible evidence. But God "manifest[s] Himself in a plurality of ways" to whom — to man? God was triune before there were any creatures filling the spectator stands to whom He could manifest Himself. To appear or make visible implies an observer, but who observes the internal relations of the trinity? The views expressed in the Elephant Room represent progress, indeed he accepts the formulation 'one God in three persons' though he does not prefer it, but it remains unclear whether and where Bishop Jakes' upward climb has plateaued. It would have been nice to hear him say of the Son, with the Nicene Creed, "begotten of the Father before all worlds," which very efficiently disposes of 'Oneness,' the incarnational Sonship and other aberrations. Would he say instead, 'begotten at Bethlehem?'

Certainly Bible-believers must agree with Bishop Jakes that God the Father did not bleed: "Now, 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 -- [that happened] only in the person of Jesus Christ." (Bishop T. D. Jakes, Elephant Room). One of the trinity became incarnate and suffered, the Son. But the Son suffered because He became incarnate, not because He is the flesh of the incarnation. Is that what he is thinking? At times in the past, Bishop Jakes' offering of the standard 'Oneness' Pentecostal paradigm of Son=Flesh, Father=Spirit, has been received in some quarters as if it were a daring departure from 'Oneness:'

"Many things can be said about the Son that cannot be said about the Father. The Son was born of a virgin; the Father created the virgin from whom He was born. The Son slept (Luke 8:23), but the Father never sleeps (Psalm 121:3-5). The Son took on the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), but God is a spirit (John 4:24)." (T. D. Jakes, My Views on the Godhead, 2/1/2000, Christianity Today).

It is very common for 'Oneness' Pentecostals to distinguish between the Father and the Son, they draw the line between 'the Father' as 'the Spirit' and 'the Son' as 'the Flesh.' Or rather they think so some of the time; some of the time they think that these are 'offices,' or 'titles,' etc. The acid test would be for him to get in a room with someone who knows the lingo, who hops when he hops from one cluster of terms to another. In fairness to Bishop Jakes, it seems he has no interest in teaching this heresy, nor is he the one who keeps raising the issue; his misfortune is to keep crossing paths with inquisitors who don't quite understand what the fuss is all about. They are eager to exonerate, but only succeed in convicting. His questioners are on the alert for the 'Oneness' paradigm of sequential manifestations, but seem eager to welcome a different 'Oneness' paradigm, 'Son=flesh, Father=spirit,' as if it were the remedy when it's another symptom of the disease.

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Play the Race Card

Much of the public controversy stirred up by the Elephant Room discussion has centered round racial politics. Bishop Jakes is evidently quite popular in the African-American community and indeed with the larger public as well. One unkind little cut I keep noticing is that bloggers keep attaching him to the UPCI, though he has never had any affiliation with that group. The United Pentecostal Church ironically has a racialist heritage:

"The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World continued as an interracial church until 1924 when the white ministers withdrew to form a separate white denomination, explaining that the 'mixture of races prevented the effective evangelization of the world.' Accordingly, later in the year a largely white group called the 'Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance' was formed, an organization exercising authority over its ministerial members but not over churches." (The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition, Vinson Synan, p. 160).

The merger of this group with an independent 'Oneness' group gave birth to the UPCI. One of the impressive things about the Azusa Street revival was its genuinely interracial character, which was inherited by even its heretical 'Oneness' offspring and continued for a time. Then there was the UPCI, which remains the largest 'Oneness' church. The UPCI does not now discourage black membership, though like other churches with a similarly racist heritage, group photos of UPCI conventions tend to come out looking over-exposed.

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Modalism

Modalism evolved very rapidly from its initial appearance in the late second Christian century. At first it took the form of patripassianism: the frank statement that the Father died on the cross. This was satisfactory to almost no one; if Jesus is the Father, then to whom was He praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? In response to criticism, a more bullet-proof form of the heresy was developed by Pope Callistus I, the bishop of Rome. In this more sophisticated form, 'the Son' is identified as 'the flesh' of the incarnation, whereas 'the Father' is 'the spirit' who indwelt, occasionally and voluntarily (departing on the cross), said 'flesh.' The problems with these two completely different models is, first of all, that they are completely different: when a 'Oneness' Pentecostal first explains to you that 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit' are 'offices' or 'titles,' and then goes on to explain that 'the Son' is 'the flesh' and the Father is 'the spirit,' ask your 'Oneness' friend how 'flesh' or 'spirit' can be a 'title' or 'office.' They will reply, don't be silly; of course 'flesh' and 'spirit' are not 'titles' or 'offices.'

The fact that their teaching contradicts itself is worthy of notice. Ask them why they cannot stick to one theory, but must constantly be whirling around a merry-go-round between one paradigm and another completely different one? Each theory by itself may be readily refuted by the Bible evidence; but when the Bible facts prove inconvenient for one theory, another is substituted, though the first has not been discarded; it will be reclaimed later just as if it had not failed. Explain to them that this habit of shuffling one theory in for another when the first doesn't work presents a methodological problem: how can either theory be verified when failure is met with substitution not abandonment? Of course one must concede to the propounder of novel definitions that words do not have a single, constant or unitary meaning. Nevertheless verifying a non-obvious definition must allow the skeptic to run down a check-list; how else can it be done? Like the three-body problem in classical mechanics, verifying a theory respecting word meanings which are neither obvious, common nor revealed, while permitting free substitution when the proposed meanings fail, does not fall within the realm of the do-able.

When professors of theology encounter 'Oneness' Pentecostals of the present day, the results are generally unhappy because these learned men have heard of modalism in the form of patripassianism or of Sabellius' later complex theory (which they do not understand but simplify to sequential manifestations), but are generally unaware of the Callistan form of the heresy. Given the tendency 'Oneness' people themselves have to bop around between the various 'modes' of the modalist heresy, the result is kinetic confusion. Our esteemed theologian will often reach the very foolish conclusion that the 'Oneness' subject is not a modalist at all because he does not believe in patripassianism. In reality the Callistan form of this heresy is the worst of all, because it is functionally indistinguishable from the form of Unitarianism that explicitly denies the deity of Jesus Christ: they deny the deity and eternity of 'the Son,' who is 'the flesh' of the incarnation in their system, but confess that said 'flesh' was occasionally and voluntarily indwelt by God (who is the 'Father-only' in both systems), generally departing upon the cross. They commonly agree that 'the flesh' has by now been discarded, though will not reveal the burial site. They believe in the deity of 'Jesus' only because they claim 'Jesus' is a name of 'the Father,' who alone is God; they do not believe in the deity of 'the Son,' anymore than do their fellow Unitarians. This more popular form of 'Oneness,' taught by David Bernard, is something of a cheat: these 'Oneness' believers do not really think that the Jesus who is the Son is God; if you ask them the question directly, they will invariably rephrase it to a form more to their liking, because they do believe that the Jesus who is the Father is God; just as does any Unitarian, though it is news to conventional Unitarians that 'Jesus' is a name of the Father. Bishop Jakes, to be sure, does not believe in patripassianism: "The Father didn't bleed, the Father didn't die -- [that happened] only in the person of Jesus Christ." (Bishop T. D. Jakes, Elephant Room). . .but then neither does the UPCI.

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Word of Faith

Reportedly T. D. Jakes is an exponent of the Word of Faith teaching. I'm not sufficiently familiar with his ministry to know if this is so, but I would challenge anyone to read Joseph Smith's Lectures on Faith and not to admit Joseph Smith invented Word of Faith:

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 Joseph Smith 
Lectures
on Faith