by Ryan Turner
Who is T.D. Jakes?
Bishop Thomas Dexter “T.D.” Jakes (born in 1957) is a popular black preacher and evangelist who is the main pastor of The Potter's House church in Dallas, Texas (founded in 1996), with a congregation of over thirty thousand members. He comes from a United Pentecostal, or Oneness Pentecostal, background. He has written over 30 books with many on the New York Times bestsellers list. He has been in numerous TV interviews and has been featured in Time, Forbes, and Essence magazines, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, Fox News, and more. He also hosts conferences and events, such as Women Thou Art Loosed and ManPower & MegaFest, which thousands of people have attended. He has a weekly television broadcast called “The Potter’s House” which is televised on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and various other networks. Among his many honors, T. D. Jakes was also ranked by The Church Report as being among “The 50 Most Influential Christians in America.”1
Good things about T.D. Jakes
Interestingly, his church has been involved in numerous community outreach events both locally and internationally. Locally, to name just a few of his church’s contributions, the Potter’s House reaches out to AIDS victims through education and assistance and also has a large outreach to prison inmates. Internationally, The Potter’s House launched “Faith for Africa” which is a program to reach out to the physical and spiritual needs of people near Nairobi, Kenya. Again, this is just a small picture of the positive impact that Jakes has made through his church.
Problems with T.D. Jakes
Denial of the Trinity
Jakes unfortunately adopts an incorrect view of the nature of God.2 At The Potter House’s website, under their statement of faith regarding God, they state, “There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”3
The keywords here are “three manifestations.” If Jakes believed in the Trinity, he should use words like “simultaneous,” “coeternal,” or “coequal” when referring to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’s relationship to one another. T. D. Jakes view on the nature of God is known as modalism. Modalism is a heresy that teaches the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not simultaneously exist as distinct persons (see Modalism). Rather, God at some times and places is the Father, at sometimes the Son, and other times the Holy Spirit.
CARM defines the Trinity as follows: “There is one God in whom there are three eternal, simultaneous persons--the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. All three are the one God, coeternal, coequal, etc., yet there is only one God, not three, and not one person who took three modes or forms.” CARM’s statement of faith is correct. T. D. Jakes statement is incorrect.4
Even as a result of various criticisms, Jakes will not affirm the orthodox position on the Trinity. Instead, he skirts the issue and continues using the “manifestation” terminology.5 In one interview on a Los Angeles radio station, he even implicitly denies the Trinity and advocates a Oneness Theology view of God: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/februaryweb-only/13.0b.html.
Why the Trinity is Important
The modalist view of T.D. Jakes is a very serious Biblical error for a number of reasons.
Second, with the modalistic view of God, we are left with many errors regarding the incarnation of Christ. When Jesus is praying in the Garden of Gethsemane to the Father, some Oneness theologians argue that Jesus’ flesh is praying to His divine self. If this is the case, then Jesus’ divine self has not been truly incarnated. The incarnation is not a true incarnation if God is sometimes the Father, sometimes the Son, and then sometimes the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was incarnated on the earth, He was fully divine the entire time. His divine self did not leave His human nature to go govern the universe, etc.
Third, according to Scripture Jesus was eternally the Son (Heb. 13:8; John 1:1). According to Oneness Theology, the being that is incarnating is not the eternal Son but the eternal Father.
Fourth, for the sacrifice of God the Son (Jesus) on the cross to have any significance, He must atone for sinners before God the Father. If Jesus is dying to reconcile people to Himself, it is incompatible with the Biblical view where Jesus dies as a substitute to satisfy the wrath of God the Father (1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; cf. Rom. 5:9; Eph. 2:3-5; 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9).
While one does not have to positively affirm the Trinity to be saved, if one denies it, he or she is in serious biblical error and should not be teaching on major television networks like TBN. Furthermore, it is true that the doctrine of the Trinity is not fully comprehensible by humans, but it is problematic when people like Jakes deny this orthodox teaching of Scripture even after numerous warnings and specific clarification.
Water Baptism, Speaking in Tongues, and Salvation
On The Potter House’s website, there is a statement of faith. Unfortunately, like many ministries, the statement of faith is vague in a number of key theological areas. For one, it is unclear whether Jakes agrees with his Oneness Pentecostal heritage which believes that baptism and speaking in tongues are necessary for salvation (see the Baptism section for a refutation). Regarding salvation The Potter's House site states, “The shed blood of Jesus Christ and His resurrection provide the only ground for justification and salvation for all who believe, and only such as receive Jesus Christ by faith are born of the Holy Spirit and thus become children of God.”6
The vagueness continues in their statement about man, “Man was created in the image of God but fell into sin and is therefore lost, and only through regeneration by the Holy Spirit can salvation and spiritual life be obtained.”7 The statement of faith apparently indicates that water baptism and speaking in tongues are not necessary for salvation, but there is no clear statement one way or the other.
The statement of faith states regarding baptism, “Water baptism by immersion soon after accepting Christ as personal Savior, is a testimony of death to sin and resurrection to a new life.”8 What does this “testimony of death to sin” mean? Is baptism a symbol, or is it a means to salvation? It would be helpful if Jakes would clarify his position on baptism and speaking in tongues since he comes from Oneness Pentecostal roots.
In the statement of faith, there is no statement of the church’s view on speaking in tongues. While it is within Biblical orthodoxy to believe that tongues are operable today, it is heretical to teach that they are necessary for salvation (see: Is speaking in tongues a necessary sign of salvation?).
While most of the pastors at The Potter’s House are males, The Potter’s House ordains women pastors.9 I am not sure exactly to what extent Jakes allows women pastors to teach and preach to men in a senior pastor position, but his ministry explicitly supports women ministering as senior pastors,10 which is against Biblical teaching (for a Biblical explanation, please see: Should Women Be Pastors and Elders?).
Summary of T.D. Jakes and The Potter’s House
- The Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.
- The Bible is the final authority on issues of doctrine.
- Jesus is God.
- Jesus rose bodily from the grave.
- Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.
- There will be a personal, imminent, pre-millennial return of Christ.
- There will be a bodily resurrection of the dead.
- Believers will go to everlasting conscious bliss, but unbelievers to everlasting conscious torment.
- Denies the Trinity.
- Allows ordination of women as pastors.
- Baptizes in the name of the Lord Jesus rather than in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- No statement whether water baptism is necessary for salvation or not.
- No statement whether speaking in tongues is necessary for salvation or not.
- 1. The following sources were consulted for the "Who is T.D. Jakes?" and "Good things about T.D. Jakes" sections: (1) http://www.tdjakes.com/site/PageServer?pagename=ms1_splash (2)http://www.thepottershouse.org/v2/ (3) http://www.tdjakes.com/site/PageServer?pagename=about_biography (4) http://www.tdjakes.com/site/PageServer?pagename=about_recognition (5) http://www.tdjakes.com/site/PageServer?pagename=tdje_books (6) http://www.thepottershouse.org/_downloads/TDJ%20Timeline%200507.pdf.
- 2. As of January 28th, 2012, I was aware of this interview with T.D. Jakes where he apparently affirms the Trinity. See: http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2012/01/td_jakes_embrac.html. It appears that Jakes has been rejected by the Oneness Pentecostal community for his allegedly heretical views on the Trinity (since, after all, Oneness Pentecostals deny the Trinity). However, Jakes still uses the "manifestation" terminology in reference to the three Persons in the Trinity. It appears that Jakes does not flatly deny the Trinity, in this latest article, but he is not necessarily affirming it...yet. We should pray for Jakes as he admitted that he is rethinking his viewpoint on the nature of God.
- 3. All references to the Statement of Faith come from the listed url: http://www.thepottershouse.org/Local/About-Us/Belief-Statement.aspx
- 4. I am not saying that Jakes must adopt the exact phraseology that CARM does, but his wording of “manifestations” and his various responses to questions indicate that He rejects the Trinity.
- 5. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2000/february7/5.58.html.
- 6. http://www.thepottershouse.org/v2/content/view/18/32/.
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. Ibid.
- 9. (1) http://www.thepottershouse.org/v2/content/view/16/30/ and (2) Ordination of woman in 2002: http://www.thepottershouse.org/v2/content/view/109/30/.
- 10. http://www.thepottershouse.org/v2/content/view/85/107/ contains a clear statement of support of women pastors,