Athanasius speaks to Jakes

Athanasius didn’t think Trinitarian deviation was a case of “all one in Christ”.

Yes, I’m talking about Hillsong Conference 2013 with TD Jakes on the platform. Jakes has come from Oneness Pentecostalism—a modalist trinitarian heresy—and still equivocates about orthodox trinitarian confession.

Here’s John Piper on Anthanasius:

Within two years after taking office as Bishop of Alexandria, Athanasius was embroiled in controversy. Most of the Bishops who had signed the Creed of Nicaea did not like calling people heretics who disagreed. They wanted to get rid of Athanasius and his passion for this cause.

And Piper again on Athanasius’ response to Emperor Constantius’ two councils at Arimium and Seleucia in 359 to settle the conflict between the Arians and the supporters of Nicea.

The aim was a unifying creed for Christianity. The upshot of these councils was a compromise, sometimes called semi-Arian, that says the Son is “like the Father” but does not say how. It basically avoids the issue. For Athanasius this was totally unacceptable. The nature of Christ was too important to obscure with vague language.

Now here’s an extract from Thabiti Anyabwile on the problems for evangelicals in associating on the platform with someone like TD Jakes, given his lack of trinitarian clarity. This was written when he’d heard that James McDonald and Mark Driscoll had invited TD Jakes to a discussion panel known as the Elephant Room 2—leading to the withdrawal of Mark Dever from participation as a result.

This isn’t on the scale of Piper inviting Warren.  This is more akin to Augustine inviting Muhammad.  This invitation gives a platform to a heretic.  It’s imprudent and counter-productive – witness already the Trinity-related confusions and obfuscations happening since announcing Jakes’ involvement.

Can the Lord squeeze lemonade out of this lemon? Absolutely. I pray He does. Is it likely? We’ll see.

Do you think Thabiti is a bit upset, maybe even hyperbolically? Well, you’d understand if you read the link above and see the sort of things Jakes has said about the Trinity.

Here’s Thabiti again, some time afterwards, on why it matters when we implicitly endorse a platform that promotes someone who brings heterodoxy (prosperity) and more than flirts with heresy (modalism). Why does it matter? Because it damages some of those who flock to the platform or person as a result. And,

Recent events have given T.D. Jakes greater credibility in and access to communities that to this point were largely unaware of him. In my opinion, that can’t be a good thing.

Here is another reflection on TD Jakes, including some of Jakes’ actual comments on the Trinity when interviewed by Sheridan Voysey on Open House, during what I think was his last visit to Hillsong in 2010.

And here’s a reaction to what Jakes said at Elephant Room 2 from E Calvin Beisner, Associate Professor of Historical Theology and Social Ethics (2000–2008) at Knox Theological Seminary:

Those words are absolutely consistent with the modalist heresy of Oneness Pentecostalism, and they remind me precisely of the kind of intentionally vague, off-topic language used by Arius and his supporters at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325. Jakes will be believable in saying he believes in “One God – Three Persons” when he renounces Oneness Pentecostalism and separates from the officially modalist, anti-Trinitarian United Pentecostal and other Oneness denominations, and enunciated the doctrine of the Trinity with clarity and precision and a clear repudiation of modalism. Jakes’s language above fits perfectly with Oneness Pentecostals’ belief that the only difference between Father and Son is that the Son is the Father manifested in the flesh. The crucial element of the doctrine of the Trinity is that the distinctions of Father, Son, and Spirit are revealed in Scripture to be utterly independent of anything external to God – i.e., they are internal distinctions. Jakes’s god is not the God revealed in the Bible, and his gospel is not the gospel revealed in the Bible.

Carl Trueman has also expressed his concern about Jakes’ Trinitarian views and prosperity gospel.

Now, although Jakes may have shifted from classic Oneness Pentecostalism, he has never unequivocally repudiated the old views, nor endorsed the classic Trinitarian orthodoxy of the Nicene Creed.

To be frank, and I’m sorry to say this since some of them are friends and/or mentors, I’m surprised and disappointed some Sydney Anglicans are so phlegmatic about a conference which gives this man a prominent platform.

I don’t care if other people on the platform are orthodox. On the Trinity, even if it meant it was him against the world (and it cost him 5 exiles from his bishopric in Egypt), Athanasius would not put up with avoidance or obfuscation or ambiguity, and neither should we.

As a postscript, I have similar concerns about the whole prosperity gospel thing, preached by Joel Osteen, as well as Jakes, and ravaging many parts of Africa. It’s not just enough to have a milder, less self-focused version of it in Australia. We need to hear unequivocal repentance from and repudiation of the prosperity gospel, from Hillsong, rather than provision of a platform for its peddlers.

[EDIT: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that James Grant invited TD Jakes to the Elephant Room 2, not James McDonald. My apologies for the error.]

13 thoughts on “Athanasius speaks to Jakes

  1. Thanks Sandy, excellent points, spot on. I had the privilege of visiting the US back in 2011 when the “Elephant Room” controversy was happening, and many were concerned that Jakes had been invited on what was effectively a “platform” endorsed by respected leaders in the evangelical reformed movement like Mark Driscoll. I was at a church where they even organised a viewing session for the Elephant Room discussions, and expressed concern at the time to the pastor that this was the sort of event where ordinary church members were going to get the message that Jakes was “one of us”. Those who are elders and pastors need to be very careful not to allow the flock to be led astray in this way.

  2. There are so many churches in every denomination being led astray, both here and overseas. Yet there seem to be very few voices here in Australia speaking out against false teachers. I am greatly encouraged at your courage in raising these issues so honestly, including naming those who are leading people astray.

    I respectfully disagree (on this occasion) with Thabiti on his comparison between the T D Jakes situation and the John Piper/Rick Warren situation. I would have far more likened Rick Warren to the invited Muhammed in Thabiti’s example. After all, it is Rick Warren who signed a document with Muslims agreeing that we worship the same God, and who has stated on more than one occasion that one could follow Jesus and remain a Muslim. What a great promoter he is of Islam. Rick Warren preaches a false gospel, and with all of the marketing prowess he learned from Peter Drucker and Robert Schuller, has spread his purpose-driven church-growth lie around the world. When will the church learn that growth is not always a sign of God’s blessing…and never if the foundation is one of sand.

    On the other hand, I do heartily agree with you. True believers should be very concerned and speaking out against the false prosperity gospel that is poisoning churches everywhere, including here in Australia. Joel Osteen, Brian Houston, Joyce Myers and countless others have already trained a new generation of pastors and church leaders via the endless books, DVD’s, TV programs and conferences they have on offer. I have seen the ill-effects in many churches here in Melbourne.

    Yet there is even more to be alert to…the emergent church’s gradual deconstruction of biblical authority, its constant attack on genuine, orthodox believers, and their embracing of homosexuality and catholic/eastern mystical practices; the ‘signs and wonders’ false gospel with its unholy anointing, bizarre spiritual manifestations, unbiblical teachings, and its incessant attack on orthodox Christianity, not to mention the outright new age metaphysical teachings of mega-stars such as David Yonggi-Cho. I am increasingly seeing these teachings creep in and take hold of previously conservative Anglican and Baptist churches, causing great harm to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Please keep alerting people to these false teachings and those who promote them. There are too few voices here in Australia willing to speak out or name those whose teachings are spiritually dangerous and who promote unbiblical practices and the unity-at-all-costs of the new spirituality. May the Lord Jesus continue to bless you and your ministry. Sorry for the long post!

  3. Speaking of Athanasius, I wonder what he might have made of Syndey Anglicanism’s oddly tweaked Trinity, with its eternal subordination within the Godhead.

    If God truly is a gnat-strainer about the precise view of his/his/his eternal nature(s) held by his/his/his fanbase, then Sydney Anglicans may need to tone down their stone-casting. Otherwise, they could be marked hard in the Black Dwarf’s ‘Great Doctrine Test’ on the Last Day.

    Do not pass God, do not collect eternal life…

    • What do you mean? They are not subordinate, they are equal but different. Surely that makes perfect sense?

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  5. The Athanasian Creed posits a Trinity of three co-equal persons. D Broughton Knox – godfather of Moore evangelicalism – departed from this by subscribing to a hierarchically ordered Trinity – hierarchical not merely in its economic form, but in its eternal essence. In this view, the Son is functionally subordinate to the Father, not just in his kenotic incarnation, but ontologically, in eternity. From the perspective of Athanasian orthodoxy, this is an errant view of the Trinity. And this errant view has become the officially ratified position of the Sydney Anglican Diocese, courtesy of P.Jensen and Co.

    Knox resorted to this eternal subordinationism within the Godhead to ground his view that women are essentially and permanently subordinate to men. The very nature of God – in an Athanasian sense – is thus tweaked to serve a particular anthropology.

    So it seems to me a bit rich that Canon Sandy Grant pits Athanasius against T D Jakes’ modalism, when Athanasius can also be pitted against Sydney Anglican subordinationism!

    Something about glass houses and stones.

    I don’t intend to suggest that Sydney Anglican ecclesiasts are deliberately hell-bent on being Semi-Arian; they’re just so keen on essential and permanent female subordination that it has made them confused about God.

  6. Hmm, it would appear that all the big names from Athanasius to Barth and beyond fully concur (surprise, surprise) with Sydney subordinationism (of the eternal relational kind, mark well)! Any support they appear to lend Dr Giles’ twisted carping is, of course, a mirage of Dr Giles’ making – an anathema or three be upon him, the preposterous wrecker! Truly, Dr Doyle has traced the intricate filigree of the orthodox vine from its ancient sources to its living end in Knoxic Sydney, and shorn off every cankered sprout. Any lingering suspicion that Sydney’s Trinity is not quite that of Athanasius can only be due to the merely “inelegant” phrasing of the Sydney Doctrine Commission Report. And what’s a bit of “inelegant” phrasing between theological partisans? Essence, mode of being, differences of being, very persons, order of relations … we all get the gist. It’s only para-heretical nuisances like doctors Giles and Piggin, or fullblown falsies like T D Jakes, who don’t. It’s all so clear, really.

    (All the same, might it not be a good idea to tidy up that “inelegant” form of words that has afforded the minions of Satan such a useful foothold for assailing the faithful? A task, perhaps, for the new archbishop to address? Otherwise that Semi-Arian zombie will just keep coming at you.)

    • This is a good example of how as a class theologians appear uncannily able to milk a set of absolute principles of universal application from the merest sniff of biblical support. And produce a veritable avalanche of words to back it all up.

      I would find it easier to swallow if rather than relying upon the undeniably brilliant theorizing, one could simply read in the text something that directly expressed the conclusions so certainly reached. For example; ‘Women should at all future times and in all future contexts be subordinate to men’.

      Oh well, that’s enough of my heretical musings.

  7. Heretical musings, tom? I’ll give you heretical musings ;^)

    Now if the triune Godhead really wanted Its internal hypostatic relations to model eternal female subordination for Its human creatures, you’d think the inclusion of a feminine hypostasis would be the ideal way to achieve that. Yes, you’d think the involvement of a Girl in the Godhead would help God’s female image-bearers to perceive clearly their eternal role in God’s Plan. Yet in the orthodox Trinity no Girl has ever held hypostatic membership.

    The gendered faithful are meant to take all their eternal relational cues from a male-only family of divine Hims: Father, Son … and that other one (whom soundly biblical worthies have always assured me is a masculine Person). The orthodox God, oddly, has determined that his divine hierarchy in which no female is present forms the template for human relations involving both males and females. It would seem to follow that the permanent subordination of the female within humanity simply reflects her absence from the divinity.

    Yet, for all this, the female is still claimed to be ontologically “equal” to the male, and, like him, to bear God’s image, even though the triune Godhead doesn’t bear her image as It does the male’s: half dignity “equal” to the full.

    One suspects that this sort of “equal” has been defined in consultation with Humpty Dumpty and the pigs at Animal Farm.

    “Oh dear, what nonsense I’m talking!”

    • Grant, I can understand a few reservations about the application of universal absolutes based upon such marvelous theorizing. Especially when the lurking shadow of authority skulks behind the curtain.

      But there is a cure! For this condition, I can strongly recommend a healthy dose of presupposition. I have often found such treatment can act as a curative for doubts of this nature.

      Take three times daily for as long as heretical symptoms persist.

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