by G. Richard Fisher
If nothing else, Thomas D. Jakes appears to be very successful. Called a Bishop by Charisma magazine, this prolific writer, recently purchased sizable land holdings from the crippled ministry of jailed evangelist W.V. Grant. The Dallas Morning News reported the sale of three of Grants properties to Jakes, with an estimated tax value of over $4 million.1
The Bookstore Journal lists three of Jakes books, from a variety of publishers, on its best seller chart for several months running. Its December 1996 issue said Jakes has a gift for writing, indicating that the bishop does almost all his own writing and that he attributes his engaging prose to divine inspiration.2
The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) and the Black Entertainment Network (BET) both air various programs by Jakes up to three times weekly. In addition, the highly popular Promise Keepers organization enlisted Jakes as a member of its Mens Conferences Speaker Team in 1995 at its Seattle and St. Petersburg conferences and has invited him as a speaker for its 1997 lineup.3
In its November 1996 issue, Charisma also labels Jakes as one of the nations most popular preachers4 and quotes New Orleans pastor Paul Morton, who labels Jakes a black Billy Graham.5 Jakes publications and the conferences where he is a keynote speaker are regularly advertised in Charisma.
But the real question is not his popularity, but his commitment to the truth of Scripture. Is Jakes doctrinally sound? Does he teach the Gospel in its purity? Is this popular preacher staying within historical orthodoxy or is he (and those he influences) moving away from the mainstream?
Jakes catches attention as he struts, prances and preens across the stage. While he may be a bombastic and entertaining speaker, is he a good instructor?
Jakes is part of the Higher Ground Always Abounding Assembly, a Pentecostal fellowship of more than 200 churches begun in the late 1980s. He promotes his books and videotapes through Jakes Ministries, now based in Dallas. His orientation is decidedly Pentecostal and clearly Word-Faith. The vast majority of his messages are definitely motivational and all about empowerment. They are weighted with psychological jargon.
Yet, there are troubling things about Jakes. For instance, did he misspeak to Charisma in the above-mentioned November issue or was he simply misquoted when he spoke of people who have failed to appreciate their divinity.6 Divinity means that you are divine and it is a word that only fits with God. The word is derived from Latin (divinitatem) and means godhead or the quality of being divine.7
More importantly, man is never addressed anywhere in Scripture as having divinity or being divine. Is Jakes, by virtue of his statement, associating himself with the god-man errors of the Word-Faith Movement? If not, and at the very least, he owes the credulous readership of Charisma a clarification. To even suggest that man is divine takes empowerment too far.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER...
Jakes gives deference to the ministries of Marilyn Hickey and Joyce Meyer.8 Both these celebrated ministers are heretical and promote Word-Faith doctrine without apology. How many erroneous camps can you occupy and still be considered a good example? In 2 John 9-11, we are commanded not to endorse heretical teachers in any way.
Jakes has also shared the platform at a September 1996 conference with Roberts Liardon.9 Any discerning Christian should want to stay as far away as possible from Liardon who claims he was transported to heaven and there met Jesus face to face and that he and Jesus had a water fight in the River of Life! Liardon further claims he was shown a building filled with unclaimed body parts (hair, eyes, skin, legs, etc.). This heavenly warehouse of unclaimed body parts is overstocked, according to Liardon, simply because here on earth believers have failed to appropriate them by faith.10 Liardons charade is either lunacy or sheer deception and should be given public rebuke, not public relations.
Jakes patronizes and clearly finds himself among the celebrities of the Charismatic camps. A full-color advertisement on the inside cover of the January Charisma announced that Jakes would appear at the August Victory Word Explosion in Tulsa, Oklahoma with Benny Hinn, Richard Roberts, Rod Parsley, Joyce Meyer and Jerry Savelle. With this roster, it might better be called Heresy Explosion.
And why invite Jim Bakker to speak, as Jakes did in April 1996, before Bakker has even had a chance to demonstrate some long-term repentance since leaving prison. Placing Bakker back into the limelight and ministry too quickly may create the same dynamics that brought him down before. First Timothy 5:22 suggests that Jakes should have done just the opposite.
RIDING IN FIRST CLASS
When questioned for his opulent lifestyle, including an expensive home and a Mercedes-Benz automobile, Jakes merely refers to himself as an investor and an author. The Apostle Peter, however, said, silver and gold have I none (Acts 3:6).
It is obvious that the religion business is very lucrative for some. The Dallas Observer magazine reports:
His conferences draw tens of thousands. His television show, broadcast on both the Trinity Broadcasting Network and Black Entertainment Television, reaches hundreds of thousands. He has spawned his own industry, T.D. Jakes Ministries, which sells his books 10 in all, with five best-sellers and videotapes, the income from which allowed him to spend nearly $1 million last year on a residence in his hometown of Charleston, West Virginia.11
The Dallas Observer goes on to report:
He says he is not embarrassed by this, even though his extravagant lifestyle has caused controversy in his hometown that will likely follow him to Dallas. His suits are tailored. He drives a brand new Mercedes. Both he and his wife Serita are routinely decked out in stunning jewelry. His West Virginia residence two homes side by side includes an indoor swimming pool and a bowling alley. These homes particularly caused the ire of the local folks. One paper wrote at length about the purchase and made much of their unusual features. A columnist dubbed Jakes a huckster.12
Yet, what is most disturbing about Jakes prosperity is not the wealth itself, but his false teaching about Jesus to justify his fortune. The Dallas Observer shares further:
Besides, Jakes says during an interview and in his sermons Jesus was a rich man. He had to have been, in order to have supported his disciples and their families during his ministry.13
To add to his false and mythical Christ, Jakes brazenly says:
The myth of the poor Jesus needs to be destroyed, because its holding people back.14
Jakes obviously perverts the true biblical picture of Jesus in an effort to advocate his own lifestyle. The Fort Worth Star Telegram reports:
Jakes, who drives a Mercedes, has moved with his wife and their five children to a luxurious seven-bedroom home with swimming pool in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. He said the home cost more than $1 million. I do think we need some Christians who are in first class as well as coach, Jakes said.15
Sadly, in the case of so many prosperity teachers, they are the ones flying in first class by way of the donations of their impoverished flock while the latter fly in coach or miss the flight altogether because they lack the money to even buy a ticket.
All this when the Scripture is so very clear: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). Our spiritual riches came only because he stripped and divested Himself of all earthly goods (Ephesians 1:3).
Archaeological excavations of Nazareth in the 1950s demonstrates the little village to have been occupied in Jesus day by poor agricultural people.16 As weve seen Scripture clearly shows the poverty of Jesus.
A WOUNDED VIEW OF SIN
In Jakes writings, he introduces so much in psychological terms that it is hard to cut through the thicket. It becomes hard to distinguish Freud from fact. He refers to immoral, lustful and sinful thinking as merely little boy thoughts.17 The Bible takes a stronger view and approach to mental sins and calls us to confession and renewal of mind. A lustful thought is as sinful as a lustful act in Gods view (Matthew 5:28-30).
In fact, very little is called sin in the above referenced book but there is much about wounding and being wounded, dysfunction and the child within.18 This is peppered throughout this book.
The above is stock and trade with the New Age-self help guru John Bradshaw. One of Bradshaws workshops is called healing your inner child. It is obvious that, whether knowingly or unknowingly, Jakes has digested large portions of Bradshaws esoteric psychobabble, including the terminology.19
No doubt, a study of the extent of Jakes borrowing from Bradshaw could be the topic of an entire paper. It appears that Jakes has absorbed many of the psychological trends of the age.
The Charisma article also mentions Jakes having courses in psychology before dropping out of college.20 Jakes, like Velcro, has had much of this influence stick with him. Velcro can have good things and things not so good (like lint and dirt) stuck to it. Such is the case with Jakes. He is tainted by some very questionable associations and endorsements and some very questionable borrowings, beliefs and teachings.
Jakes refers to an adulterous man as a frightened little boy and a wife beater as a terrified little boy.21 The Scriptures never speak of such heinous things in such a cavalier way. If a doctor misdiagnosed a disease and called it by a different name there would be very little possibility that the cure or medication would address the issue at all. A wrong diagnosis would lead to wrong treatment and malpractice. Again Jakes has succumbed to questionable and changing psychological theory.
Lutheran pastor and radio host Don Matzat warns against the wholesale acceptance of very questionable psychological theory:
Modern psychology is not an innocent helping-discipline that we can carelessly borrow from the kingdom of the left-hand and merge with our pastoral theology. There are theories and techniques in psychology, such as self-esteem, the encounter dynamic, and psychological mysticism, that can grossly distort Christian truth and inflict grave spiritual damage upon Christian people. ... We must carefully discern the theories and practices of modern psychology before we visit them upon the people of God.22
In his excellent and perceptive book, The Biblical View Of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image, Dr. Jay Adams points out that:
The self-love movement that was begun by humanistic psychologists has already had a significant impact on the church. ... You cannot simply add the insights of this new teaching to your set of existing Christian beliefs; if you add them, you must modify or subtract many of the beliefs you already hold. ... You are choosing between two divergent views of man, his problem, and how to solve it.23
Jesus, in John 17:17, did not say, Sanctify them by building up their self image, but rather Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
It has been shown above that as far as money and riches are concerned, Jakes view of Jesus is not hard to determine. His rich Jesus is merely a figment of his imagination, or perhaps he is merely regurgitating the false teachings of Fred Price, Paul Crouch and John Avanzini.24
Jakes seems just as confused when it comes to the human nature of Jesus. He states that because the teachers in Jesus day listened to Him as a child it boosted His self-esteem.25 Here again we have Jakes psychological jargon but now, even worse, it is being dumped on Jesus. At the very least it is erroneous and irreverent to speak of Jesus in those terms. To suggest that Jesus needed a boost in self-esteem and that it took some Jewish teachers to do it is to really miss the point of who Jesus really is.
Jesus may have opted to allow His sinless manhood to progress in a normal course (Luke 2:51-52) but His Deity and perfection put Him outside mundane false human categories. Again we see the pop psychology dominating with Jakes and a different Jesus being constructed out of the paper mache of human ideas. What Jakes suggests now puts Jesus into the category of a flawed rich man needing an ego boost!
Because the incarnation is such a great mystery, we must always be careful to say about Jesus only what the Scriptures actually say. If not, we can fall into extreme and heretical views on either side. As others have suggested there must be a reverent agnosticism about some aspects of the Godhead incarnate.
In the fifth century, the Eutychians so deified Christs humanity that He was no longer truly human. On another extreme, the Nestorians at the same time so separated the two natures of Jesus as to suggest two distinct personalities.26
Jakes appears to tilt toward the Nestorian error. The Orthodox view was promulgated at the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 451 and stated:
In the one person Jesus Christ there are two natures, a human nature and a divine nature, each in its completeness and integrity, and these two natures are organically and indissolubly united, yet so that no third nature is formed thereby. In brief, to use the antiquated dictum, orthodox doctrine forbids us either to divide the person or to confound the natures.27
The Church has always held that Christs human nature was complete as Chalcedon taught. Therefore to suggest a boost was needed in Christs self-esteem is a definite move away from orthodoxy.
In chapters 13 and 15 of Loose That Man, Jakes spends 30 pages developing applications from the Lazarus story as how to live like a loosed man. That may be all well and good, but not once does Jakes state the Apostle Johns objective of clearly showing Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life Jesus as the one who conquers death for us and offers us resurrection hope for the future.
As well, this tremendous miracle confirmed Jesus as the Messiah and caused some to believe (John 11:45). Johns expressed purpose for recording any of the miracles of Christ was to confirm Jesus as Messiah and engender commitment to Him: But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:31). Jakes seems to miss the primary interpretation to spin out many secondary, subjective applications to boost our esteem.
LOOKING FOR MANHOOD IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES
Jakes mentions that he purchased (for all the men in his organization) subscriptions to the secular GQ Magazine to help them learn about manhood.28
Any Christian need only briefly scan the contents of a recent issue of Gentlemens Quarterly GQ Magazine to be shocked and even appalled at its contents, some of which is nearly pornographic. Consider, for example, the November 1996 issue where there is an advertisement for the Better Sex Videos. The photograph accompanying this ad left little to the imagination. This same issues table of contents listed articles on Nightlife at the Viper Room, a crime story about a crossdressing heiress, the cigar clubs of Beverly Hills, and things even worse.
This writer cannot imagine a minister endorsing a publication with such questionable contents as this for any reason. On the cover of the February 1997 issue, controversial basketball star Dennis Rodman and supermodel Rebecca Romijn were both featured in skimpy bathing suits. I am still trying to figure what any of this has to do with Christianity. How far weve come. Jakes expresses love for his children but is this the kind of material they would find around the house?
Instructions in biblical texts and biblical manhood would be far safer and far more sane, as well as more profitable and lasting. Gods Word has incredible things to say about manhood and godliness. The male leadership of the Church is given in specific, practical guidelines in 1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9. The Bible presents ideal manhood. It may not be as trendy as GQ, but it is far more life changing and God honoring.
A STROLL DOWN MYSTIC LANE
In Jakes book, Why? Because You Are Anointed, he teaches a personal guidance system that is not only strange but misleading and fraught with problems of self-deception and outright manipulation of others.
Instead of telling people to follow the clear dictates and details of Gods Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), he leads people to follow confusing detours of inner impressions and guess work by others. Listen to his advice:
God imparts to you a revelation of His plans for your life. That is how the vision begins. Then in some cases, God confirms that word he spoke personally to you through a prophecy given to you by another man or woman of God.29
Jakes does not seem to have even an elementary idea of the basic doctrines and distinctions between revelation, inspiration and illumination. Yet he purports to give direction and guidance to thousands.
In the same book he says that the guidance will be proven later by the Scripture.30 That certainly puts the cart before the horse. Suppose by that time you have created an unmitigated disaster. We must always start with the Scripture and not use Gods Word as an addendum.31
At this point some may say that all the above is unimportant and to express concern about these things is simply nit picking. Certainly the good Jakes does out weighs minor differences.
A lavish materialistic lifestyle, a vastly different Jesus, the psychologizing of Christianity, crude magazines, an unsafe guidance system may be good and acceptable to some, but not to those that take the Bible seriously and see Scripture as the sole court of appeal when it comes to religious claims and teachings.
However it get worse, especially Jakes teaching on the Gospel and salvation.
DYING TO GET SAVED
In his 1996 work, The Harvest, Jakes sends confusing signals as to whether or not he believes in salvation by grace through faith. He says he is called to preach the message of the cross and that we must preach the Gospel as sincerely and effectively as possible,32 which sounds good. And then he also warns of false gospels,33 which sounds even better. But as he elaborates he sounds totally confused and contradictory and leads one to wonder if he really understands the simplicity of the Gospel.
We find a heavily conditional, or works, salvation being developed and described by Jakes. His comments could also be called salvation by struggle:
Unless the believer is willing to lose his life for Christs sake, he cannot ever attain everlasting life. If the Master must suffer to the point of death, so likewise must the servant.34
Taken at face value, it appears that only martyrs or nearmartyrs qualify for heaven. Try to interpose this concept into the 16th chapter of Acts. You would have to say to the jailer in response to his question, What must I do to be saved?: You have to make sure you have a martyrs mind set or its no good.
There is not a shred of biblical evidence for Jakes condition. Given his lifestyle, Jakes fails the test himself. He surely is no martyr and has very little to worry about on the material plane.
To confuse things even further Jakes declares that we must: Die! Die and keep on dying daily until all of you is dead and only Christ lives. Death is the key to life and life more abundantly.35 This certainly begs the question: What has Bishop Jakes died to? Surely not materialism. He needs to show us, not preach at us.
It is obvious that Jakes is uncertain as to salvation being a free gift from God as Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 3:5 and Romans 6:23 teach. He warns about false gospels and is even so bold to say that ministers propagating false beliefs are probably greed-oriented.36 He then goes on to propose the strangest Gospel to come down the pike in a while.
Jakes view can be called a two-tiered salvation or a two-step salvation or perhaps a progressive graduated salvation. His imaginary salvation is based on a distortion of John 1:12-13. It goes as follow:
Scripture teaches that receiving Christ as your personal Savior does not necessarily make you a son of God, but if you choose to do so, the power (authority) and right to do so is present. ... Just being saved does not make you a son of God, ...only those who are willing to be led by the Spirit actually realize and manifest the sonship of God.37
So in Jakes view being a son is not something you are, it is only something you can opt to manifest. His teaching is more at home with that of the late cult leader Herbert W. Armstrong, than with orthodoxy.38
Jakes does not realize how nonsensical he sounds when he says one can be saved and not be a son of God. Does he not realize that the terms are interchangeable and that one really means the other? Being saved and being a son of God are one in the same. The moment we exercise faith in Jesus and accept Him, we are sons. For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ, Galatians 3:26 declares.
Jakes confounds and distorts the salvation process by making a distinction between accepting Jesus as Savior and being a son of God. He says that these are different states arrived at in different ways. The Bible does not recognize Jakes false dichotomy.
The truth of Scripture regarding the riches of our salvation is summarized by Thomas R. Edgar:
Every person who believes in Jesus Christ has their sins forgiven and is immediately justified. The Holy Spirit indwells every believer immediately upon salvation. Every believer has access to God in prayer and has other believers available for fellowship, edification, and counsel. Every Christian has all of this immediately upon justification.39
If we were to believe Jakes, we would have to believe that receiving Christ and being saved are one thing (doing very little if anything for you, except for being a first step) and being a son of God is something entirely different that you can choose or not choose to become. So you can be saved but not really saved. When you decide to be led by the Spirit you then manifest son-ship.
Romans 8:1 indicates, however, that walking in the Spirit is something you can and will do because you are already a son of God. Walking in the Spirit is a privilege and the manifestation of sons. Jakes totally misunderstands and confuses salvation and sanctification.
Jakes other obvious mistake is that he teaches that the authority, right or power, in John 1:12, is the authority and right of the believer to do something for himself. He misses entirely the clear thrust of Johns passage which is talking about Gods authority.
We can say we are saved, we can say we are sons of God if weve received Christ as John 1:12 indicates based on Gods right, Gods power, Gods authority to declare that of us. It is clear from this passage that God gives the right to every believer to be named as His sons and children.
The word become in the verse is not to be seen as tentative in any way but as declarative as to what we become by receiving Jesus as Savior. Gods prerogative, in John 1:12, does not become mans prerogative no matter what Jakes says. Griffith Thomas, known throughout the Anglo-Saxon world as one of the great English scholars of modern times, conveys the thrust of verse 12: Having received Christ as Word and Light, we become sons of God.40
First John 5:12 assures us, He that has the Son has life. Romans 10:17 reminds us, Whoever calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved. Being saved, being sons, being a child of God, being born again, having received Christ, having faith in Christ, and being in Christ are really nuances of the same experience and standing. Receiving Christ puts us eternally in Christ as children and joint heirs. This privilege in Romans 8 is a position that has no condemnation, no amputation and no separation. Christ in us is the hope of glory as Colossians 1:27 announces.
The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible lays out the simple Biblical truth that seems to elude Jakes:
In the three Johannine epistles the figure of the child is brought to its fulfillment with the repetition of the apostolic love for the Church in terms of family endearment (1 John 3:10, et. al.). The legal proposition of children, inheritance, adoption, illegitimacy and naming are all used as figures of the application of the Atonement in the epistles (Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5; Phil 4:3; Heb 12:8; 1 Pet 1:4; et. al.)41
Thus there are two BVs to choose from. The first, Bishop Velcro with his earthly mansions, his wealthy Rolex Jesus, his psychological trappings, the pep rallies, the questionable reading material and the truncated Gospel. Or the second BV, the old trustworthy BV Bible verses that tell us of mansions in glory, the man of sorrows, the provision of free grace with immediate and eternal sonship for desperate needy sinners who will in faith repent and receive Christ.
We must choose the stakes are enormous and
eternal. Put away the Jakes materials and revisit the Bible. It
will tell you the truth minus the velcro.
1. Tim Wyatt, Televangelist
reportedly to plead guilty, The Dallas Morning News,
April 14, 1996.
2. The Bookstore Journal, December 1996, pg. 59.
3. Phone conversation between Jim Levy, conference speaker spokesman for Promise Keepers, and M. Kurt Goedelman, Jan. 29, 1997.
4. Ken Walker, Thunder From Heaven, Charisma magazine, November 1996, pg. 37.
5. Ibid., pg. 42.
6. Ibid., pg. 43.
7. Daniel G. Reid, Robert D. Linder, Bruce L. Shelley and Harry S. Stout, Editors, Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1990, pg. 359.
8. Walker, op. cit., pg. 39.
9. East Coast Church Conference Run with the Vision advertisement, Charisma magazine, July 96, pg. 70.
10. See further, John MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1992, pp. 28-31 and The Glory Of Heaven, Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1996, pp. 44-45.
11. Kaylois Henry, Bishop Jakes Is Ready. Are You?, The Dallas Observer magazine, June 20-26, 1996, pg. 19.
12. Ibid., pg. 22.
14. Ibid., pg. 31.
15. Jim Jones, Rising-star evangelist ministers to interracial congregation, The Fort Worth Star Telegram, Aug. 11, 1996.
16. Jack Finegan, The Archaeology of The New Testament. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1972, pp. 27-33.
17. T.D. Jakes, Loose That Man and Let Him Go. Tulsa: Albury Press, 1995, pg. 5.
18. Ibid., pp. 8-16.
19. See further, Tal Brooke, A Brief Look At John Bradshaw, Spiritual Counterfeits Project Journal, Vol. 18, No. 3, pp. 4-11.
20. Walker, op. cit., pg. 41.
21. Jakes, Loose That Man, op. cit., pp. 123-124.
22. Don Matzat, The Intrusion of Psychology into Christian Theology, Issues, Etc. Journal, Sept. 1996, Vol. 1, No. 9, pp. 16-17, emphasis in original. This excellent article should be read in its entirety.
23. Dr. Jay E. Adams, The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1986, pp. 39-40.
24. See further, Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1993, pp. 187-190.
25. Jakes, Loose That Man, op. cit., pg. 3.
26. See further, Henry Thiessen, Introductory Lectures In Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1952, pp. 285.
27. Ibid., pg. 286.
28. Jakes, Loose That Man, op. cit., pg. 42.
29. T.D. Jakes, Why? Because You Are Anointed. Bakersfield, Calif.: Pneuma Life Publishing, 1994, pg. 43.
31. For a sane, biblical, and far safer approach to guidance and Gods will see pages 23-37 of Jay E. Adams More Than Redemption.
32. T.D. Jakes, The Harvest. Bakersfield, Calif.: Pneuma Life Publishing, 1996, pg. 10.
33. Ibid., pg. 36.
34. Ibid., pg. 28.
35. Ibid., pg. 29.
36. Ibid., pg. 37.
37. Ibid., pp. 46-47.
38. See further the PFO tract, The Plain Truth of Herbert W. Armstrong, under the heading Salvation.
39. Thomas R. Edgar, Satisfied by the Promise of the Spirit. Grand Rapids: Kregal Resources, 1996, pg. 11.
40. Griffith Thomas, The Apostle John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965, pg. 154.
41. Merrill Tenney, Editor, The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975, Vol. 2, pg. 500, emphasis added.
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