Saturday, January 28, 2012

Bishop T.D. Jakes, Sound Doctrine, and Sound Teaching

T.D. Jakes, left, being interviewed by Mark Driscoll, right,
with host James MacDonald at "The Elephant Room" broadcast
Bishop T.D. Jakes, a well known preacher and pastor of "The Potter's House" in Texas, shared that he now holds a trinitarian view of God in line with historic orthodoxy, as opposed to a former view that was shaped by the "Oneness" Pentecostal tradition. This announcement was made during the broadcast of "The Elephant Room," an annual dialog event put together by James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel and "Walk in the Word" Ministries. This report and video from Baptist Press tells the story and its context.

I rejoice anytime I hear someone has embraced good doctrine. Some were hesitant to appear in "The Elephant Room" this time when Bishop Jakes was announced as a participant, due to his previously known position on the Trinity. The video and follow up that has come from the event celebrates the unity between Jakes and others, and rightly emphasizes the need for conversations before separations and public criticisms.

However, I am not sure that the embrace or endorsement of good theology on this subject moves us to a point of endorsing Bishop Jakes' ministry, or anyone else's ministry. There are many who would publicly affirm all the tenets of the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds, perhaps even affirming historic Reformational truths, who nonetheless in their teaching ministry lead others away from right belief or right practice. For example, Bishop Jakes is a classical Pentecostal, and his church's doctrinal statement affirms the necessity of speaking in tongues as the sign of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  This is a significant departure from historic orthodoxy (although one held by a large number of Christians today).  Further, and more troubling to many, his teaching has historically upheld ideas such as "positive confession" and guarantees of wealth and health to believers.  He has been a close associate of Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paul and Jan Crouch, and others whose teachings have been at best problematic, and at worst heretical, over the years.

I can rejoice that Bishop Jakes has made a statement affirming the three persons of the Godhead, and has always taught salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. However I would still caution believers that right doctrine in these areas does not equal right teaching on the Christian's life, walk, or faith. Acceptance of what he has taught in the past could be detrimental to a person's spiritual maturity. He may well be revising his teaching, and I would be happy to follow up with that good news. Until then, we are all called to search the Scriptures when confronted with unfamiliar or new teaching, to see if these things are really so (Acts 17:11).