by Mike Ratliff
4 Ἓν σῶμα καὶ ἓν πνεῦμα, καθὼς καὶ ἐκλήθητε ἐν μιᾷ ἐλπίδι τῆς κλήσεως ὑμῶν· 5 εἷς κύριος, μία πίστις, ἓν βάπτισμα, 6 εἷς θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ πάντων, ὁ ἐπὶ πάντων καὶ διὰ πάντων καὶ ἐν πᾶσιν. (Ephesians 4:4-6 NA27)
4 As there is one body and one Spirit–as also you were called with one hope of your calling—5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism 6 one God and Father of all, the one over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6 Possessing the Treasure New Testament V1)
As I said in a comment earlier today on this blog, “I am immensely tired of the circus that the visible church has devolved into.” However, I also know that God uses these fiery trials in his church to cleanse, mature, and purify those who are his. Therefore, even though what we are about to look into is somewhat distasteful and our even bringing it up will be looked at with resentment by some, we must do this as part of standing firm and keeping watch that the sheep are made aware and are edified as they hear the truth and know who to turn from and avoid.
What is Modalism? I got the following definition from this site:
Modalism is probably the most common theological error concerning the nature of God. It is a denial of the Trinity which states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes, or forms. Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son. After Jesus’ ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another. Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ.
Present day groups that hold to forms of this error are the United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches. They deny the Trinity, teach that the name of God is Jesus, and require baptism for salvation. These Modalist churches often accuse Trinitarians of teaching three gods. This is not what the Trinity is. The correct teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Is T.D. Jakes a Modalist? James MacDonald, in response to the outcry for inviting Jakes to the Elephant Room, says he is not here where he states, “I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might. His website states clearly that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations. I am looking forward to hearing him explain what he means by that. ” What T.D. Jakes said there about God eternally existing in three manifestations is “modalistic” language and is exactly what the definition for “Modalism” (above) says. This is not the same thing at all as “One God in three eternal coexistent person: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” If you read the rest of James MacDonald’s attempt at excusing his inviting T.D. Jakes to the Elephant Room then I hope you also see that he is matching up quite well with what we were discussing here.
Another part of the Gospel Coalition, Mark Driscoll, has weighed in on this as well here. He has some well-researched points in his post. However, he takes a swipe at some of us “discernment bloggers” with a strange sideways disqualifying statement that we are not to be believed because we are not connected to any respected ministry, et cetera. Hmmm, could it be that God is using some people in his church to tell the truth to his people in the face of those in positions of responsibility who are doing nothing but telling lies and leading the sheep astray? God did that all through the Old Testament and if I remember correctly, none of the Apostles except Paul was trained in theology. However, the part that disqualified Driscoll’s piece was at the end, right before the endnotes where he said:
In closing, I want to thank Pastor MacDonald for putting together what could be an amazingly insightful event around the Trinity and many other issues that the Church needs to consider. I thank God that I have an opportunity to be involved and ask some questions. I want to encourage folks to wait until the event before making any final judgments about anyone or anything. And, I want to encourage all the men who are signed up to show up. We worship a Jesus who died for what he believed. The least we can do in his name is get on a plane for what we believe.
This reminds me so much of what certain men said a few years ago when John Piper invited Rick Warren to be the Keynote speaker at his bible conference. My brethren, when a person is a heretic, and a Modalist is a heretic, you do not invite them to contribute to a theological discussion of the Holy Trinity. No, you turn from people like that. You read their works in order to debate them, but not to learn what God’s Word says. How can you do that since they are not of God?
In closing, I want to share what Dr. James White had to say about James MacDonald’s article about T.D. Jakes. You can read the whole article here.
I have been downright encouraged to note the response that has appeared to the amazing statements of James McDonald of “Vertical Church” here wherein he basically throws Nicene orthodoxy under the proverbial bus. Here is the paragraph that drew the attention of many:
2: I do not agree that T.D. Jakes is a Modalist.
I affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as I find it in Scripture. I believe it is clearly presented but not detailed or nuanced. I believe God is very happy with His Word as given to us and does not wish to update or clarify anything that He has purposefully left opaque. Somethings are stark and immensely clear, such as the deity of Jesus Christ; others are taught but shrouded in mystery, such as the Trinity. I do not trace my beliefs to credal statements that seek clarity on things the Bible clouds with mystery. I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might. His website states clearly that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations. I am looking forward to hearing him explain what he means by that. I am also excited to hear him state his views on money, which may be closer to Scripture than the monasticism currently touring reformed world. I believe T.D. Jakes shows immense humility by being willing to step outside his own circles to interact with brothers in Christ who may see certain things differently. Getting brothers together who believe in salvation by grace alone through faith alone but normally don’t interact, is what the Elephant Room is all about. Talking about issues that separate with grace and truth is what the Elephant Room is all about. We are greatly honored that T.D. Jakes has agreed to participate.
Now I know that “emergent” folks have an odd relationship with history—they love to drag stuff out of history, without its attendant context, as if it is “new,” but when it comes to accepting that stand on the shoulders of giants and that there are things that have simply been settled in the past, they rebel and want to put everything “back on the table.” Evidently, the very definition of modalism, and the meaning of Nicea, is “up for grabs” as well, at least for these folks.
Briefly, there is no question that the language of Jakes is modalistic, as anyone who has been listening to our review of the teachings of Oneness teacher Roger Perkins can attest. For McDonald, it seems that the history of Oneness teachings and creedal statements over the past century or so can be disregarded for a “fresh discussion.” How any progress could ever be made in defining truth (or exposing error) in the light of the never-ending, never-concluding “discussion,” I do not know. As with many other groups, it is simply absurd to think that given the definition of the Trinity (which has sort of been around for a very long time now) that specific rejection of that terminology coupled with a substitution of something else is anything other than a rejection of the Trinity itself. The idea that we get to “tweak” the definition today just because we are “modern” and (implicit assumption) so much more with it than those old fogies back then is a glorious example of modernistic hubris, one that sadly shows no understanding of what took place before, during, and after Nicea.
But even more importantly than the tweaking of Modalism so that it gets a place at the table is the attitude McDonald has displayed toward the Nicene definition. He says he does not trace his beliefs to credal statements. Really? If by that he means creeds are always subject to the higher authority of Scripture, of course. But this is where you fall off the other side of the narrow path and rather than believing in sola scriptura, you end up with something much less, and in fact, much different. Nicea’s authority comes from its fidelity to Scripture. It does not stand alone as a new revelation, and it survived simply because it is, despite all the arguments to the contrary, the consistent, harmonious testimony of divine writ. To throw its authority into the dustbin of history in the service of some kind of “emergent” attitude is not only to display an astoundingly arrogant hubris, it is to show deep disrespect to those who fought, and some who died, in defense of its truth. And for what? For some kind of post-modern feel-goodism that cannot even recognize modalism when it is standing right in front of you. A truly educational example of just how far the emergent movement is willing to go in pursuit of its ultimately destructive goals.
There you have it my brethren. Is T.D. Jakes a Modalist? Yes he is. Does it matter? Yes, it does for Modalism denies the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. I have listened to those same debates Dr. White referred to and it is shocking how heretical Oneness Pentecostalism really is when compared to true Orthodox Christianity especially when it comes to the nature of God and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Take these truths to the throne of grace and by the power of the Holy Spirit obey the Lord as you stand firm as he commands.
Soli Deo Gloria!