Note: This is part 2 in the series on T. D. Jakes. If you want to read part 1 click here.
Since writing last week on Jakes and the Elephant Room, a number of other things have come up that I think warrant further comment. Let me say first, I received via Facebook and Twitter an overwhelmingly positive response to the things I wrote in the post. Yet, there were those who expressed grave concern over my “lack of discernment” and “compromise.”
Most of the criticism came not from what I said, but from what I didn’t say about Jakes, especially in regard to his commitment to preaching a “prosperity gospel.” This is the same criticism leveled at James MacDonald, Mark Driscoll, and the others who seemingly avoided that “elephant in the room.”
Let me clarify my intention in writing that first post. It was not to give a full critique of Jakes’ theology, nor was it a full endorsement of the man or his ministry. It was simply to say that since Jakes has publicly stated that he has changed his view from Modalism to Trinitarianism, we should be looking to encourage him as a brother rather than condemn him as a heretic. We are far too quick to judge, condemn, and ostracize people with whom we disagree when we should be looking to build bridges that will lead to open dialogue about the faith. That is what I perceived James to be attempting to do in inviting Jakes to participate in the Elephant Room.
Regarding Jakes and the prosperity doctrine, the doctrine itself has many variations from mild to extreme. From what I’ve heard of Jakes, I think he would come down somewhere in the middle. That the doctrine is incorrect and problematic goes without saying, but to say that those who hold to this doctrine are not Christians and should therefore be shunned is, I think, naïve. I have personally met many wonderful Christian men and women over the years who, to some degree or another, have held to the prosperity doctrine. I have discussed, debated, and challenged many who have held that view, but I’ve also found among them amazing conversion stories and a genuine love for Christ the Savior.
The likelihood of bringing these brothers and sisters to a better understanding of the faith increases as we reach out in love, but diminishes if we take a hard stance and a harsh tone. I speak from experience. For many years, I took a hard stance and found that there was little fruit in the area of helping people out of false teaching and into a mature understanding of God’s truth. After encountering several people over the years who were obviously true believers but genuinely misled in their understanding of the faith, I realized I needed to embrace them as fellow members of Christ’s family and through love seek to show them the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26). This has paid off in the long run. I’ve seen many grow out of their incorrect understanding into a balanced, biblical position, but it doesn’t happen overnight. For many, it’s a journey that can take some time and it’s important that we be full of grace, humility, and patience for people who are moving toward a biblically sound understanding of the faith.
I think this is what Jack Graham and now James MacDonald are attempting to do with T. D. Jakes. They are seeking to patiently and lovingly bring him into a more accurate understanding of the faith by reaching out in love. This is the right way to go about it.
I don’t think it is realistic or helpful to insist that it’s all or nothing and unless Jakes is ready, not only to affirm the Trinity, but also to renounce the prosperity doctrine, we’ll have nothing to do with him. The fact that he’s changed his position on the Trinity is a huge indicator that he’s open to the Spirit’s correcting influence. Continued, honest dialogue with people that he knows sincerely care about him as a person and embrace him as a fellow Christian will be the key to his progress. Harsh, critical, condescending attitudes will do nothing to advance the cause of Christ in regard to Mr. Jakes, or anyone else for that matter. Paul’s word in Galatians 6:1 is what we need to apply here: Brethren, if a man is overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness …