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September 30, 2011

Elephant RoomThere has been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about James MacDonald inviting T.D. Jakes to round 2 of The Elephant Room, to be held on January 25, 2012. Controversy has centered around the widespread belief that Jakes does not hold to an orthodox understanding of the Trinity. Rather, some claim, he is a modalist, a person who believes that Father, Son and Holy Spirit do not refer to distinct persons, but to different modes of existence of the same person. This is no minor point of theology. These minor distinctions in trinitarian theology, a word here, a letter there, represent colossal differences, eternal differences—the difference between heaven and hell (and I say this without a bit of hyperbole). To say it as plainly as I know how, modalism is a damnable heresy; if you believe it in place of the biblical understanding of the Trinity, you are not a Christian. Period.

Hence all of the talk. By way of context, we need to remember that The Elephant Room is a meeting by Christians and for Christians, and even more, by Christian leaders and for Christian leaders. Inherent in inviting T.D. Jakes is the understanding that he is a Christian. Which presents a problem because inherent in modalism is the understanding that such a person is not a Christian.

What all this means is that the controversy largely depends on whether or not Jakes is a modalist. Is he?

I do not know, exactly. What is clear is that whatever Jakes believes about the Trinity, he has shown a continual reluctance to affirm a standard, time-proven creedal statement of trinitarian orthodoxy and that he has often used the language of modalism. This gives us valid cause for concern. This has not happened just once, but repeatedly and over many years. He has been given many opportunities to subscribe to an orthodox understanding of the Trinity and to this point he has not done so. He has not been asked to subscribe to a passing statement created by modern-day theologians, but a statement that Christians have held to for over 1,600 years. Nathan Busentiz documents some of the history of Jakes’ refusal to do so in this blog post (scroll down to point #3). He clearly offers enough evidence that we do well to question what Jakes truly believes and to be suspicious that he willfully holds to heretical theology.

It is important to note that MacDonald has come out and said that he does not believe that Jakes is a modalist. I am not going to comment on his statement except to say that I agree with Carl Trueman’s critiques (even keeping in mind MacDonald’s subsequent clarifications).

June 29, 2011

I recently added a feedback and suggestion component to this site that allows readers like you to suggest topics for me to consider writing about. This has generated a lot of fantastic ideas, many of which are going to take a lot of study to adequately answer. One that I wanted to address right away is this: Will we be able to see all three members of the Trinity in heaven? Here is the question as asked by Andrew T:

When we get to heaven, will we see all three persons of the Trinity, or only Jesus? Will the Father and Spirit still be invisible? It’s something I’ve been wondering about for a long time, especially since I was raised in Oneness Pentecostalism (UPCI), but have now come to a more orthodox understanding of the Christian faith.

My immediate reaction to the question was a simple “No.” No, we will not see all 3 members of the Trinity in heaven (and here I am assuming not the intermediate heaven, but the new heaven and the new earth). But I wanted to give it some thought and reflection and I wanted to see who else has grappled with the question. And at the end of it all I return to that answer: No, I do not think we will see all 3 members of the Trinity in heaven. Why? Because for 2 of them there is nothing to see. Kind of. Let me explain myself. After I do so, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Bible makes it clear that as sinners we cannot see God’s face. God is the one who is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). He is the one “who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). Our sin keeps us from being able to come before the holy presence of God. Yet there are several parts of the Bible that hold out seeing God, beholding him, as a great future promise. Matthew 5:8 says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Revelation 22 promises “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.”

Scripture makes it clear that it is the work of Jesus Christ that allows us to come before the Father. It is Christ who accomplishes the work that makes us holy so we can now be accepted by God. I am certain that in heaven we will see Jesus Christ face-to-face. Christ is incarnated not just for the years of his ministry here on earth, but forever. We will see him as a man eternally. And through his completed work on the cross we can embrace the biblical promise of seeing God’s face.

But does this mean that we will be able to see all 3 members of the Trinity in physical form?