Trevin Wax did wonderful work yesterday summarizing the Elephant Room. If you want a complete transcript of the Jakes/Trinity discussion: here you go.
The audio/video is available (for now) here. The transcription is mine. (Insomnia is a wonderful thing.) This picks up after a brief introduction about Driscoll’s recent book, as they turn to Jakes.
Jakes: My father was Methodist. My mother was Baptist. My father’s family was Methodist. I was raised in a Baptist church. But I was raised in church but I really didn’t have a real committed experience with Christ until my father died. When my father died, I had a real experience with Christ – a real conversion in Christ, and I had it in a Oneness church.
Driscoll: By Oneness meaning? – for those who do not know all the theological terms…
Jakes: Well it would be like…ah…how do I explain it? It was not a UPC church, in spite of the blogs. It was not a UPC church, but very similar.
Driscoll: Jesus only, modalism?
Jakes: Yes, “Jesus only – modalism” which is still a theological term. That’s why I’ve been using – because it’s still a theological term – but Christians… Christians believe in Jesus Christ, that he died and rose from the dead, coming back again – all the same things that you do. Pentecostal Christians by its virtue. But how they describe and explain the Godhead in a traditional oneness sense is very very different from how Trinitarians describe the gospel. And I was in that church and raised in that church for a number of years. My problem with it as I begin to go on is that as I began to develop my ministry and I started preaching from that pulpit and that sort of thing. But I’m also informed by the infiltration from my Baptist experience and my Methodist experience. So I ended up Metho-Bapti-Costal in a way. I’m kind of like a mixed breed sitting up here. And what I begin to find out: It is easy to throw rocks at people that you don’t know, but the more you really get to know them and see Christ work in their lives, regardless of their belief system you begin to try to build bridge-building. And the reason I’d say that I [garbled] with you only in this aspect: when you try to build bridges between people who’ve been fighting for hundreds of years – hundreds of years before you ever even got in the discussion – the man who stands in the middle of the road gets hit by both sides. So I began to progress, I began to understand that some of the dogma that I’d been taught in the Oneness movement was very dogmatic and very narrow and really not the best description of how I now understand the Godhead. I still did not want to switch teams and start throwing rocks back across the street. Because much of what we do today is teach people to take sides. But I believe we are called as the Body of Christ to reconcile wherever possible.
MacDonald: Alright, but before we even get into…and I think what you’re leading us into is why is it helpful and it reflects why we’re here – how we relate to people is on subject. But before we even go to that, I’d love to give you an opportunity to…like there were some particular Scriptures that began to move you…you began to move and develop what you personally believe, I’d like to just hear you articulate that.
Jakes: My struggle after I was ordained and consecrated within the Oneness church was in some passages, sometimes the doctrine fits; sometimes it doesn’t. And when the doctrine becomes the primary thing you force it into many places where it really doesn’t fit. I really at this point in my life don’t want to force my theology to fit within my denomination. I am open to hear whatever God is saying. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, for example, coming up out of the water the Holy Spirit descends like a dove, the Father speaks from heaven – and we see all three of them on one occasion, or in Genesis “let us make man in our own likeness” or Elohim – He is one God who expressed Himself in a plurality of ways. Or what Jesus says, “I am with the Father, and the Father is in me” and understanding – or attempting to understand – and that began to make me rethink some of my ideas and some of the things that I was taught. I got kind of quiet about it for a while. Because when you are [garbled] you got to put this under the authority – sometimes you got to back up and ponder for a minute, and really think things through. And I began to realize that there are some things that could be said about the Father that can’t be said about the Son. There are distinctive between the working of the Holy Spirit – the moving of the Holy Spirit – and the work of Christ. I’m very comfortable with that. You and I have talked; Graham and I have talked; there is very little difference between what I believe and what you believe. But here is where I have a problem: I don’t think anything that any of us believes fully describes who God is. And if we would ever humble down to admit that we in our finite minds cannot fully describe an infinite God…
MacDonald: No, no, I can, I have it perfectly figured out, I understand God from a…I have it…I’m perfect so – I mean, doesn’t the concept even insult you?
Driscoll: We all would agree that in the nature of God there is mystery, and it’s like a dimmer switch: how much certainty, how much mystery. But within that, Bishop Jakes, for you the issue between Trinitarianism and Modalism at its essence is is one God manifesting Himself successively in three ways? Or one God three persons simultaneously existing eternally – so, your best What is your understanding now? And I understand, there is some mystery – for sure. Would you say its One God manifesting Himself in three ways, or One God in three persons?
Jakes: I believe that neither one of them totally did it for me, but the latter one is where I stand today.
Driscoll: One God Three Persons?
Jakes: One God – Three Persons. One God – Three Persons, and here is why…there… I am not crazy about the word persons this is…most people who follow me know that that is really. My doctrinal statement is no different from yours except the word…
Jakes: Manifest instead of persons. Which you describe as modalist, but I describe it as Pauline. When I read…let me show you what I’m talking about…when I read I Timothy 3:16 – I didn’t create this, Paul did: “And without controversy” which I think we have…we have been bickering about something which Paul describes as a mystery, and I don’t think we should do that. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness. For God was manifest in the flesh.” Now Paul is not a modalist, but he doesn’t think it is robbery to the divinity of God to think God was manifest in the flesh. And I think maybe it’s semantics, because [garbled], but Paul says this before this fight was started. But He also says he “was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, believed in the world, and received up into glory.” Now, when we start talking about that sort of thing, I think that it is important that we realize that there are distinctives between the Father and the working of the Son. the Father didn’t bleed, the Father didn’t die, only a different person in Jesus Christ…is coming back for us in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is with us, but only indwells us through the person of the Holy Spirit; we are baptized into the body of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think any of that is objectionable to any of the three of us. So that is consistent with my belief system. I’m with you. I have been with you. I teach/preach that all the time. There are many people within and outside quote unquote denominations labeled Oneness that would describe that the same way. There are some that would not. But when we get to know people by their labels, then comes all the baggage of how we define that label. And we miss…it’s almost like the stereotypical ideologies we have about races. We have ideas about denominations and movements. The reason I’m proud of what you said earlier about people who have dual affiliations: We are taught in society that if we disagree with any movement, we leave. We sever. Oh, you said something I disagree with we fall out and then we walk away. I still have fellowship, associations, relationship, and positions within and without Trinitarian and Onenness movements. Because I believe that until we bridge the gap between our thinking and humble both sides and say, “We are both attempting to describe a God we love, that we serve, and that we have not seen. And that we are viewing Him through the context of the Scriptures, but that with a glass darkly.” Why should I fall out and hate and throw names at you when all that I know and understand, be it very orthodox, is still through a glass darkly? and then face to face – None of our books about the Godhead or anything else will be on sale in heaven. You know why? Because we’re only authorities down here, with our little kingdoms in this world. I think it’s important that we realize that our God is beyond our intellect. And if you can define Him and completely describe Him and say you are the end-all definition of who God is, then He ceases to be God. Because the reason Paul says it is a mystery, is that we deify the fact that God does things that don’t fit our formulas. And because people’s formulas and understandings of a description of an unbiblical God did doesn’t make them demonic.
Driscoll: I want to say a couple of things. Thank you for joining us. You don’t have to be there. You were on the cover of Time magazine. You have options of where you go.
MacDonald: This isn’t your biggest gig ever?
Driscoll: It takes a lot of courage and humility to put yourself in an unscripted situation and to be outside of your normal crowd. And The fact you showed up to dinner last night, I was shocked. I was like, “TD Jakes is coming for dinner?” I loved you. I enjoyed you. I really appreciated hearing the story of your context, yoru family. And I walked away going, “I appreciate meeting and knowing and enjoying that man.” Thank you for being gracious; thank you for being courageous; thank you for being humble. And I think it might be helpful because, You’re coming out of a Oneness background and out of a different context than most of us are. You’ve demonstrated humility and said “I’m studying the Bible and even changing some thinking as I’m studying.” A lot of pastors will just defend their first position to death rather than reconsidering it publicly. To help others understand you, on the flip side, How have you been treated and what has the response been from some who were friends and you don’t want to throw rocks at, but because of your transition …
Jakes: You know, that’s what’s funny about this, that’s what’s really funny to me…
Driscoll: Are you the heretic to them?
Jakes: Oh, very much so in many circles.
MacDonald: …Damned if you do…
Jakes: Oh, I couldn’t say that, but – so true. We’ve always said that in some of these new circles because they define me by where I’ve been, Many of the circles I came from would never allow me in their pulpit because they consider me a heretic. I have to read the article to see which heretic I am.
MacDonald: We’d be honored if you’d come be with us and let’s all grow together.
Jakes: And that’d be great, but I think the time has come for us to be willing to take the heat to have a conversation. Because if we do not do this, and we continue to divide ourselves by ourselves and compare ourselves with ourselves, we do it at the expense of decreasing numbers of new Christians in our country. We have to mobilize. Just for your consideration: This is the only thing that Jesus prayed that we can answer. He only prayed, “Father, I pray that they may be one even as you and I are also one.” And this is the one thing we have the power to answer, or effect, and we do not do it.
Driscoll: Can I ask a couple of quick questions, and then you can do whatever you want. Do you believe this [holds up Bible] is the perfect, inspired, final authority Word of God?
Driscoll: So you believe there’s one God, Three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit? You believe Jesus was fully God, fully Man?
Driscoll: You believe he died on the cross in our place for our sins?
Driscoll: You believe he bodily rose from death?
Driscoll: You believe that He is the judge of the living and the dead?
Driscoll: And you believe that Apart from Jesus is no salvation?
Driscoll: Thank You.
MacDonald: Just, that was crazy! I’ve just got to say, I am so weary of people thinking they know – they don’t know! I think you honor us and you humble us, a man of your stature and commitment to the gospel and fruitfulness would come and sit with us in this room, let you and me ask him what he believes? Like he’s getting baptized or something? We got a one-A batter [indicates self], a two-A batter [indicates Driscoll] and a whole…j
Driscoll: A nuclear power plant?
MacDonald: Thank you. I just want to say this, I think you’ve honored us, and you’ve shown incredible humility, and I want to be in the world where I believe that Jesus Christ stands. And he’s told us again and again He stands with the humble. Get to those people who love my Son, who believe my Word, who express humility. And I’m honored to hear what you say. I want to just say, further, Mark, if I could contribute to this, that I feel deeply in my heart that God is both Three and One. Three and One. I believe the Scripture is clear when we get to heaven, we are gonna see Jesus. The Only Begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father is declared…Jesus is the only God we will ever see. When I was studying Revelation last year I was struck by that – the number of times that I saw in the book of Revelation that it almost seems in the text that the Father and the Son are on the same throne, and when I start to think about this: I believe in God eternally existing in three persons. But, the more I think of it, the more I think my head is going to explode, and I get a little weary of people who feel that they need to erase mystery and replace it with certainty as a test of orthodoxy. If what we have heard today doesn’t satisfy, then the person is insatiable, and we need to move on to a new subject. I believe that very strongly.
Jakes: You know, you know, let me just make one little comment: one of the things that you said, and [garbled] even as we talked about it before, and [garbled] said this too, that there is going to be one throne and there’s going to be one God that we can see. And I thought the more I hear everybody arguing about this… we’re all saying the same thing. And we like fight about it to the death, and I just think that in the world that we’re living in today, if if we could just connect, and I know that we’ll always be depraved, and there will always be people who define themselves by their differences rather than their connections, who are more comfortable if they’re known by what they are against than by what they are for. But when I hear you say that there’s gonna be one throne and one God on that throne, My soul leaps in celebration, and I hear both of us stumbling trying to explain how God does what He does like He does. I think That stumbling is worship. I think That stumbling is worship. I think that we would humble ourselves and say, “Your thoughts and ways are beyond human comprehension” is what makes worship fill the room.
Driscoll: Bishop Jakes, why are you here?
MacDonald: He’s been trying to figure that out himself.
Jakes: You know, uh, I love people. I love people.
Driscoll: I believe that.
Jakes: I really love people. And my heart yearns to see us know each other. Not about this theology – this whole thing, you know, you can listen to a thousand of my tapes and never hear me address this one way or the other. This is a big issue to my critics; it’s not a big issue to me since I understand where I’m at – I knew where I’m at. There are so many reasons in our contemporary society for us to come away from race, to come away from denominations, and stop allowing other people to tell us who each other is. If we don’t do better at communication as a society we will not survive. The loss of civility amongst us, within and without the church – it’s killing our nation. It’s killing our church; it’s killing our culture. We have got to learn to talk to each other, or we’re going to die.
MacDonald: Thank you. Amen. As is the case in every session, we have good men who are sitting in and listening, and I don’t want to fail to profit from them in this regard, so I’m going to ask you to confine your comments really to about sixty seconds, and be as concise as you can, and we’ll start with you, Pastor Graham, and go around this way; I really want to hear from you listening in. What’s in your heart today, Jack?
Graham: You know, I’ve been friends with Bishop Jakes for the last ten years. We started praying together in a public forum to unite our church. We’re gonna talk a little bit more about that when we get to the race question. But, I’ve found in him all these years consistency in what he has said and who he is and what he believes. And, that’s why it’s been amazing to me that these questions keep coming up. So I hope that, for anyone who wants to listen, that this puts to rest a lot of this jive that’s going on about this Trinitarian issue. And it’s my prayer that, you know, I agree that when we see God, we see Jesus. And, you never see three gods, you’re not going to have the Holy Spirit dancing around over here, and God the Father there, and Jesus there. We know the language of Jesus at the right hand of the Father, and we know that’s language. But there is one God. He has given Himself in three essential eternal Persons. So, I’m grateful that we had this discussion. I’m grateful, James, that you were willing as well James, to take a stand to allow this conversation to take place.
MacDonald: Thank You, we’re gonna go to Crawford now.
Loritts: I just So many things bubbling in my heart over this. I think one line, Bishop, that you just said, is that we need to stop letting people tell us who we are and to engage them. One of my concerns the last five, six years has been the subtle ways in which we justify slander, the very subtle ways in which we give credence to it, in the name of intellectual insight. Or we prostitute the word “discernment” and these kind of things. And we feel so free to draw conclusions on people without talking to them – talking to them – and doing it in a spirit of love, and compassion, and clarity. And I’m just rejoicing. And I just pray that the seventy cities and all the folks in here will take an amazing lesson from the exchange.
MacDonald: Amen, Pastor Steven?
Furtick: Yeah, thank you guys, you’re modeling something for a 31-year-old pastor that I hope will get really in my soul and help learn how to do this thing well. So thank you for that. I guess my hope is that nobody who’s watching or participating in this will think that now we’ve put individuals one by one by one by one and bring them all into a room and make sure they all line up with us. I hope that what Bishop Jakes has done and what you’ve done Pastor James will expose a pattern and that we won’t think, “Wow, OK, so Bishop Jakes is all right with us.” Because that’s not the goal of this. In the end I would say Bishop Jakes is a great man of God and I would hope that this would lead us to assume the best when we can’t hear from someone. Because everyone’s not going to be able to appear in this forum and everybody’s not going to be able to articulate as well as he does. So my hope would not only be in terms of how we feel about each other, but that it would represent something …that we would do what 1 Corinthians says, and that we would put into practice that love is going to believe the best. It is going to always hope and always protect. So, in more ways, what I’m praying for has less to do with Bishop Jakes, because I already knew that he was the baddest preacher in the land! I never had… I hope that maybe this will send a message and the spirit of it will permeate the way we feel about everyone that we don’t get the chance to know. And we would never think that we have a checklist to check to say, “Well, he’s all right.” I think the goal is love.
Cordeiro: Microcosm here, using an example of what should happen in a natural way: WWII was not won by the United States; it was by the Allied Forces. And though we didn’t agree completely with the policies of Italy or the policies of Australia or Canada, we had to join up to win the war. And these are the last days. We can’t afford divisions where we strain over gnats and swallow camels. This is the last days, and we’ve got to put all of those aside for a greater purpose, and that’s to move the kingdom forward. Don’t miss that. Otherwise we’ll get caught up in the small stuff and miss the war. There’s something ahead of us that we’ve got to accomplish. Let’s keep our eyes on that.
MacDonald: Alright. Let me try to just pull this together as we can. It’s been a great session – exceeded my expectations. I appreciate – everybody’s willing to dive off. I’m really humbled by it. Let me say a couple of things. The issue of the Trinity is not a small thing. That’s not something that we’re forgetting about. It is a real important point. It is central to Christianity; it is a pillar of orthodoxy. However, when a man confesses his trinitarianism, and people say, “Is he trinitarian enough?” Step away from me on that. That’s when we begin to need to get into more of “what do you believe about the gifts?” and “How Trinitarian are you?” “What do you believe about the role of women?” That’s when we need to turn down, as you said, the rhetoric and let a man’s confession and let a man’s fruitfulness speak for itself. I’m edified by the importance of the conversation. I’d just like to reiterate the theme that you’ve talked about, the theme that you’ve talked about, and here’s a couple of things. 6000 churches in North America close their doors every year. 3500 Americans leave the church every day. I don’t mean leave the church to go across town to the other church. I mean, “I’m done with this.” Alright? Less than 20% of Americans attend church regularly. Only 15% of churches in the US are growing numerically. Only 15%, and only 2% of those are growing by conversion. We have a massive problem. The church of Jesus Christ in North America is hemorrhaging. It is in a freefall. We will be…and some of these successful churches can cause us to be confused about the true state of things. Steven Furtick’s baptizing a lot of people; that’s not going on in a lot of places. The church is hemorrhaging massively; it’s in a freefall. We need to wake up and figure out that the constant negative, destructive rhetoric is hurting the church; it’s not helping it. Jesus was fairly clear about this: “They will all know that you are my disciples if you love each other.” That’s the ball I’m trying to carry down the field today. I think you’re all my brothers, and I think this has been a session that has taken the cause of Christ forward, Alright? Let’s move forward together.
Republished with permission. The original appears with a comments section right here.