Dissing Discernment

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Fork aheadThree weeks ago in church, one of our elders quoted T.D. Jakes.

My head nearly exploded.

You see, T.D. Jakes is a cult leader. He’s not a Christian—at least by the standards of orthodoxy. As a leader in a Oneness Pentecostal church group, he denies the classical understanding of the Trinity. (See update below.) Yet Jakes shows up on numerous “approved” lists of Evangelicals that circulate on the Web and in print media. Just the other day, our YMCA (an organization championed by historic Christian evangelist Dwight Moody) held a book sale to raise money. One table included Christian materials. I suspect a quarter of the books had Jakes’s doughy, smiling face on the cover.

A few days later in one of our small groups, someone mentioned a book by another Oneness Pentecostal without understanding the theology. He’d never heard of them or their beliefs.

In my younger days, cults crawled out of the woodwork. Mo Berg, Victor Paul Weirwille, Herbert Armstrong—we knew these guys and knew to stay far away from their pernicious brands of deviancy. I used to spend hours reading up on Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons just so I could show them the truth.

Now you’ve got Mormon books showing up in Christian bookstores and Mitt Romney giving the commencement address at Pat Robertson’s Regent University.

Times were that the marks of a cult stood out like a sore thumb. Three doctrinal denials will usually reveal a cult:

  1. Denial of the Trinity
  2. Denial of the efficacy of Christ’s blood to cleanse from all sins
  3. Denial of the sufficiency of faith in Christ alone for salvation

Apply those three to any religious organization or leader and they’ll snare cultists with an efficiency close to 100 percent.

In most cases, you don’t have to go any further than looking for a group’s flawed view on the Trinity to unmask it as a cult. Nothing marks the uniqueness of orthodox Christianity than the belief that God exists in three full, unique persons in one essence. We believe the unity of the Godhead in essence, the Godhead’s diversity in persons. And we’ve believed that fundamental understanding of the nature of God since the founding of the Church by Christ Himself.

How fundamental? As I see it, every doctrine we hold dear in the Church must begin with the nature of God Himself. If we fumble that, everything that proceeds from it takes on a warped perspective. For instance, the very love of God cannot be properly understood from a Oneness perspective, for the love the members of the Trinity possess for each other expresses itself in God’s love for us and our love for each other. Our concept of what love means can only be fully understood if we acknowledge that God is Trinitarian in nature.

In fact, I can’t see how anyone can possible read the Bible and not see the Trinity on every page. Consider even Deuteronomy 6:4—Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one—the word “one” there is not the word for a single person (yahid), but a unified personna (ehad). We see the same word ehad in reference to husband and wife being one (ehad) flesh. How appropriate that the ecstatic love the Triune God experiences within His persons reflects in the joining of husband and wife, while also mirroring the unification of Christ and the Church in the imagery of Bridegroom and Bride. I’m also one who believes that Man is a tripartite being (body, soul, spirit) in the same way that God is triune, further reflecting the idea that we are made in the image of God.

Just inches away on my library shelf sits James White’s The Forgotten Trinity. Check it out. For more on the error of Oneness (historically known in several minor variants as Sebellianism, Patripassionism, or Modalism), check out Theopedia.

I spoke with the elder Sunday morning about his reference. He wasn’t familiar with Oneness Pentecostals, their beliefs, or the fact that T.D. Jakes is a non-Trinitarian. He expressed surprise about Jakes and he staunchly defended Trinitarianism. While I wasn’t happy about the Jakes quote, I absolutely understood the elder made the comment without knowing the truth about Jakes.

This brings us to the meat of this post.

So why do we diss discernment? The elder made a telling statement as we talked, “There are so many variants of Pentecostalism, it’s hard to know exactly what each believes.” That’s a legitimate comment on Pentecostalism—and Christianity in general. So much fracturing and splintering over a couple millennia have left us all a bit strung out. When the Lord speaks to the seven Churches in Asia in Revelation, it’s hard to miss the different flavors of practice and belief already evident.

I’ve made the Church my study, but I still can’t tell you what the Ukrainian Orthodox believe differently from the Russian Orthodox. Or Regular Baptists from Bible Baptists. I could give you generalities, but generalities won’t cut it when trying to discern truth from error.

The sheer mass of Christian (and pseudo-Christian) thought multiplied over thousands of belief statements is daunting. No wonder so many Christians appear baffled. Still, we can’t excuse our lack of diligence.

In the charismatic and pentecostal ranks, you tend to see a lot of cult of personality issues. Folks get sidetracked by big name preachers and ministries. Prophets, apostles, deacons, elders, pastors—stick a title on someone (usually self-affixed by the Christian celebrity in question) and you’ll find people who immediately succumb to slavish devotion. Obviously, the chance for delusion runs high. Sadly, once a leader proves to have feet of clay, the defrauded simply move onto another hero. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Folks outside charismatic and pentecostal circles will, of course, laugh and mock any follower of Benny Hinn or Jack Van Impe, but those mockers aren’t immune to deception. My experience shows that rather than falling prey to dynamic individuals, the noncharismatics/Pentecostals fall for an even more insidious lie: power structures and systems. They get sucked into thinking governments, organizations (Christian or not), and even church hierarchies are the means by which the world revolves. The faithful tack a veneer of godliness over the top of power structures, but the core’s still ungodly. These folks end up perpetrating great injustices against the poor, disenfranchised, powerless, and even each other, as a result.

Don’t laugh at someone else, because I can promise that all of us have drunk (or are still drinking) from some soul-corroding teat. Even the best of us get off-track or stumble in little ways. Let’s all be humble here.

I talk about discernment quite a bit on Cerulean Sanctum. On the whole, I think it’s the greatest lack in the Church today. I think five reasons drive this:

  1. We’re too busy – Busy people nod their heads and unthinkingly accept whatever comes their way. That’s a recipe for disaster. While the sheer number of lies out there overwhelms the average person, God still holds us accountable for truth.
  2. We’re too apathetic – “Does discernment matter? Why should I care?” Paul warns that many have shipwrecked their faith by lack of discernment. Rank pragmatism within many Christian hearts pushes discernment into the background because its raison d’être doesn’t immediately leap out. We don’t understand that God’s people perish for lack of knowledge and that this knowledge is beneficial for own its sake—because God said we need to know it.
  3. We think we’ve arrived – We’re saved now, so what? But eternal security isn’t license for spiritual sloth. Too many Christians think they’re in, but then fail to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. That fear and trembling includes godly discernment.
  4. We’re naïvely optimistic – Jesus didn’t tempt God by taking a leap off the top of the Temple. The same Enemy that tempted the Lord tempts us. He’s a master at deceiving us into thinking we’re immune from the mess our neighbors made of their lives. It never dawns on us that we could go down in flames, too. So when the Enemy tells us to jump off, we do. That’s pride, and it’s from the pit of hell.
  5. We’re not drilled on discernment – People quote 1 John 1:4 (Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world), but it’s always for some other person in some other church at some other time. Our church leaders should have that 1 John 1:4 filter up at all times and show us how to keep it up as well.

As for me, I side with Jesus here:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
—John 2:23-25

In this day and age, it’s foolish for any Christian to go blindly out into the world. Jesus had His filter on at all times. He knew the evil that lurked in the hearts of men, so He did not trust them.

That’s wisdom for us, folks. Begin at skepticism. Never assume someone is telling you the truth, no matter how trusted that teacher/leader/pastor/friend might be. Let God alone be true and every man a liar (Romans 3:4). The Scriptures are our source. The Holy Spirit is our interpreter. Run everything you hear past those two. Any human is capable of error, even this writer. Don’t take everything I say as gospel truth. Prove it against the Word of God. Correct me if I need it. I expect nothing less.

Thanks to all who contributed. I’ll unpack some of your comments from Friday’s post tomorrow.

 (Update: I made an error in currently assigning Jakes to the United Pentecostal Church. He was once affiliated with that Oneness church, was ordained a bishop in another Oneness denomination, and currently is a high-ranking leader within another Oneness church group. I regret the error.)

77 thoughts on “Dissing Discernment

  1. Rob

    Absolutely Unrelated to discernment – but the mention of the differences between the roman and Ukrainian churches made me think of this email I received last week..

    I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off.
    I immediately ran over and said “Stop! Don’t do it!”
    “Why shouldn’t I?” he said.
    I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!”
    “Like what?”
    “Well … are you religious or atheist?”
    “Religious.”
    “Me too! Are you Christian or Jewish?”
    “Christian.”
    “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?”
    “Protestant.”
    “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
    “Baptist.”
    “Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”
    “Baptist Church of God.”
    “Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?”
    “Reformed Baptist Church of God.”
    “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?”
    “Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!”
    To which I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

  2. When you say that T.D. Jakes isn’t a Christian, are you saying that Oneness Pentacostals are not saved?

    You say that the Trinity is on every page of the Bible, but the examples you site take a little bit (not alot, granted) of scholarly training to understand. You have to have either been shown these words in Hebrew or you have to understand the Bible in Hebrew.

    What I’m saying is that to arrive at the conclusions about the Doctrine of the Trinity you’ve sited, it takes some education and schooling in certain religious traditions. You and I have arrived at the same conclusions about the Trinity. After I put my faith in Christ for Salvation, after I asked forgiveness for my sins, I studied my Bible along with commentaries, went to Bible college and am convinced of the very same things about the Trinity as you.

    But here’s my question for you: let’s say that after I trusted Christ for salvation I was presented with the doctrine of the Trinity and because I couldn’t understand it, I rejected the doctrine. Am I rejecting the work the Christ has done in my life up to that point? Do I need to accept the Gospel and then accept the doctrine of the Trinity? Does my salvation come in installments or am I completely God’s the moment I put my trust in Him?

    What if Oneness Pentacostals put their trust in the complete saving work of Christ but don’t accept our doctrine? Is our doctrine the only (that is the Trinity) the difference between Heaven and Hell?

    Did you beleive in the Trinity before you trusted Christ or after?

    (I know I’m rambling) can you believe in the Trinity and not have a relationship with Christ?

    can you not believe; understand; have been taught about the Trinity and still be saved?

    • Our understanding of God comes not from our personal knowledge, but from the Spirit. Someone who has accepted Christ as their Savior and trusts in the Spirit to lead, and in God to provide, should not reject what they do not understand, but rather ask for understanding, and it will be given.

      • Thanks, David…

        ByronM,

        Absolutely, the Spirit is the source of revelation about God and His nature, as are the Scriptures. They will not point to a false understanding of God’s very nature.

        Remember:

        When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
        —John 16:13-15 (Notice also the Trinitarian response from Jesus)

        But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
        —John 4:23-24

        But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
        —1 Corinthians 2:9-10

        Like the last verse said, the Spirit searches everything, even God. He makes the truth about God known. If people reject the Trinity, then they reject the truth of the very nature of who God is. They cannot then worship Him aright. Nor is there evidence the Spirit dwells in them if they refuse to accept correction about the true nature of God.

        Oneness Pentecostals also follow other twisted doctrine that stands against orthodoxy:

        1. They baptize in the name of Jesus only, in direct defiance of the words of Jesus in Matt 28:19.
        2. They insist that one speaks in tongues in order to prove one’s salvation. Even as a charismatic myself, I reject that notion because the Scriptures teach otherwise:

        Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
        —1 Corinthians 12:29-31

        The answers to Paul’s questions are all clearly “No.”

        If a person rejects the reality of God’s revealed nature, openly defies the words of Jesus, and makes the Bible say things it patently does not say, how can anyone call that person a Christian?

        • Dan, if baptizing “in the name of Jesus” is a violation of Jesus’ words, then according to what is recorded in the book of Acts, the apostles themselves violated the words of Jesus.

          I’m not trying to defend Oneness Pentecostalism, but I think you are mixing some straw men in with what would otherwise be legitimate concerns.

          Not that “legitimate concerns” is meant to be an endorsement of your judgment on the salvation of T.D. Jakes or any other Oneness Pentecostal, mind you. In that regard, I think you may be going too far.

          • Steve,

            You missed the “only” on the end of my statement. They only baptize in the name of Jesus, not “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” as Jesus said we should.

            The Acts references do not state exactly what the apostles said when they baptized. I believe they did just as Jesus instructed. The fact that this is referred to as being “baptized into the name of Jesus” is to make a distinction to John’s baptism, not to say that they baptized by leaving out the Father and the Spirit. I have no reason to believe otherwise, especially since Christ commanded what He did in Matt 28:19.

            • Dan, I still think you’re creating a straw man. The Oneness Pentecostals do not say anything about “only” when they baptize. They merely say, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus”. This is consistent with Acts 2:38, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:48, and Acts 19:5.

              The only one of those passages that uses “the name of Jesus” to draw a distinction from the baptism of John is Acts 19:5.

              Besides, if Jesus said to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and Peter orders people to be baptized in the name of Jesus, he is leaving out the Father and Spirit, by your definition.

              I don’t want to make a mountain out of a molehill here by any means. I just think you are overstating your case on points like this.

            • Louis

              francisco,

              1) Yes, baptismal regeneration.
              2) I’d say similiar to the RCC but not exactly.
              3) Ecumenism? Not at all.

              Blessings

    • You don’t need to know, nor will you, everything about God before salvation. But if you aren’t trusting in the triune God for salvation, than you aren’t trusting in the God of the Bible and you aren’t saved.

      You can believe in the Trinity without being saved, but you can’t be saved and not believe in the Trinity.

      Therefore, all professing Christians who deny the biblical teaching of the triune God are not true Christians at all.

  3. Two quick things:
    First, great post. I am always thankful for someone who thoughtfully brings together a message that makes me think. We have WAY too little of that in the church today. I am still mulling over your statement that Jakes is not a Christian though…
    Second, in response to bryonm. The scriptural requirement for salvation is found in Romans 10:9-10. It’s that simple. You also ask “can you believe in the Trinity and not have a relationship with Christ?”. To that I say a resounding YES. We can believe and know all kinds of truths and choose to reject them. I can believe with all my heart that there is a Triune God and choose to reject a relationship with Him. Is that wise? I think that we would agree that it is not but then we have the issue of free will to deal with. Sadly, people choose all kinds of lies (ie. untruths) all the time. This is the kind of thing that I believe Jesus was trying to get the Disciples to see when he told them to watch and pray so as to avoid temptation (Mark 14). We need to be on guard against false teaching as well as in general temptation. Thats why I really appreciate the 5 reasons for a lack of discernment in the original post.

  4. I had a philosophy teacher in college that was also a Presbyterian minister. He denied the Godhood of Christ, saying that Christ himself never claimed to be God. When I questioned him in class about Christ stating that He and the Father were One, the response was that the Bible should be taken as allegory. I wondered then, that if he did not believe the Bible, then why did he seek to be a minister of it?

    We are surrounded every day by lies covered in truth, and we need to have the discernment to strip off the coating and get to the issue at hand. We are occupying forces in enemy lands (in the story of the 10 servants in Luke 19 the master leaves to take a distant kingdom and he tells his servants “Occupy until I come”), hated, reviled and despised by those who know us for what we are. Our task is to live our lives as ambassadors of our Kingdom, sons of the King. It doesn’t help if we “go native” and adopt the beliefs and opinions of the land we occupy. That’s what Israel did, and look what happened to them! This is why God encouraged His people to engrave His word on their hearts so it would go well with them while they were in the land. We must know our King, so that we know our actions will please Him, and so that we will KNOW what is truth.

    This is why discipleship is so important. A new child in Christ needs to be guided by someone more mature and knowledgeable in the Scripture: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” It is so easy for a mature Christian to be led astray, imagine a new child, barely out of the old man, who can be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching”? But together, two or three can balance one another, questioning, searching, and being obedient to God.

  5. DLE,
    As you know, I very much appreciate your blog. Discernment is a critical gift that is too often despised in the church. I would contend it was ever thus.

    That being said, as much as I believe the teaching on the Trinity of Oneness Pentecostals is heretical – I would question how well most Christians can unpack the Trinity and would suggest most can’t.

    “Well, uh, you see…it’s, ahh, three in one. There’s the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – but they are all one.”

    “So you worship three Gods.”

    “No, you don’t understand. They are like, separate, but like, one.”

    “Right!”

    Forgive me, it’s early (at least for a night hawk like me) and my dialogue writing needs much work this morning but my question is, do you believe that in order to be saved one needs a proper understanding of the Trinity? I think of Mark 13 where Jesus foretells the sacking of Jerusalem from his Omniscient perspective as very God of very God – and then mere verses later, says as to the 2nd coming that even the Son doesn’t know when this will be, only the Father. How do you unpack the Trinity in this instance.

    On a side, but related note, I’m engaged in a discussion here, where a brother is contending that his Mormon friend is also a Christian.

  6. Paul Neel:

    Thanks for responding to one of my question with a great answer. Let me ask you this: Can you believe that Christ is the Son of God, not understand the Doctrine of the Trinity and therefore, not take a position on it, and still be saved.

    Don Fields: Can you get saved by reading the Bible only? In scripture the words “Triune”, “Trinity” are never paired with “God.” The ideas/doctrines of the Trinity and Triune God are organized and packaged outside of scripture. I agree that scripture declares these concepts and demonstrates these principles through out the Old and New Testaments, but if one has Scripture only, their whole lives (and there are believers on this planet that have one Bible for multiple families) and no one explains to them that God is Triune in nature and they don’t arrive at that place on their own, do they believe in a Triune God? Have they trusted a different God than you?

    • Byron,

      To answer for Don, yes, you can get saved by the Holy Spirit working through the Scriptures alone.

      I’ve never understood this idea that the Bible does not make the Trinity clear. I pick up the Scriptures and see the Trinity on nearly every page, so I don’t get this weird idea that the Trinity is somehow veiled.

      Maybe that’s just me.

  7. eric

    Dan,
    I often drop by and truly enjoy your blog…
    I do think that calling TD Jakes not a Christian might be off though…

    1 John 4-5 has several statements that seem to say “If you believe the Son is God you have life…” (simplified translation)

    I am NOT oneness and think they have it turned around a bit…but to be honest I think the Bible teaches they are saved Christians…even though their understanding is “bent”.

    This is opposed to JW’s or Mormon’s that are totally off scripturally…

    It seems the one thing they are guilty of is trying to give Jesus TOO much honor…

    • Louis

      eric,

      1) The Bible does not teach that groups are “saved Christians”. Everyone must come to Christ indivually.

      2) If you believe Oneness Pentecostal understanding is only “bent” compared to JW’s and Mormons, I do not believe you have examined their theology very closely.

  8. byronm:
    Taking a theological position or understanding is not a requirement for salvation. That is clear from scripture. For that I am very thankful. There are areas of theology that to make an educated guess is the best we can ever accomplish (ie. Eschatology). The trinity is very difficult to comprehend and explain. You want a challenge? Try and teach a group of 4-5 year olds about the Trinity so they can understand. It is like explaining that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man, not 50/50. At the same time there are things that we will learn and build a belief system around regarding this issue and others, but they are not prerequisites for salvation — Belief in Christ is all that it takes.
    Man likes to complicate things and add requirements, often because we cannot accept that the answer is so simple. It is like saying that you have to remove all sin from youe life before you are worthy of salvation; thats impossible. Thats why our view of Christ is the crucial link. It is only through Him that our relationship to God can be restored to it’s proper place. The study and understanding of Theology is vitally important but it is not THE important thing.

  9. Paul:
    I agree. I think we’re on the same page with this thing. It hurts my head to try and make sense of these things. My favorite explanation of trinitarian concepts is in Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. He had a way of explaining the most difficult to understand attributes of God in a way that even I could make sense of. But my conclusion is always: God is too big for me to explain, but the Gospel is simple enough for even me to explain. Thank goodness it’s the simple that saves and not the complex 🙂

  10. Thank you for bringing up this most necessary topic. I’ll leave the trinity debate to the resident theologians, but do want to add that there is another important component to recognizing cults: behavior. Most of my life I thought doctrinal correctness determined a group’s legitimacy, but I found out the hard way that a group can fall within the lines of Christian orthodoxy and still exhibit cult-like characteristics.

    When each of the members (in the home church I was with at the time) was asked to take sides in a conflict involving the leader and someone in another state, my friend’s and my growing uneasiness with the group’s behavior mushroomed. Still, we didn’t know of any other church with better doctrine. Finally, my friend found a where we were shocked to see a list of the very things that were disturbing us about our group. After that, it didn’t take us long to get out.

    On the continuum of minor to major insanity that goes on in many aberrant groups, we’d have registered as relatively minor. However, there’s no question that the elements were present…and no telling where we would have gone if it hadn’t disintegrated. Here’s Watchman’s run-down:

    1. Out-loud Shaming

    2. Focus on Performance

    3. Manipulation (Relationships and behaviors are manipulated by very powerful unspoken rules. Yet the unspoken rules communicate these and other shaming messages.)

    4. Idolatry (The “god” served by the shame-based relationship system is an impossible-to-please judge. It is a god invented to enforce the performance standard.)

    5. Preoccupation with Fault and Blame

    6. Obscured Reality (Members are to deny any thought that is different than those of people in authority. Anything that has the potential to shame those in authority is ignored or denied.)

    7. Unbalanced Interrelatedness (Either under involved or over involved with each other. Consequently, rules take the place of people.)

    • Naomi,

      No doubt. Some Christian groups can fall into cult-like behavior, especially when they start arranging their practice around the dictates of someone other than Christ, the cult of personality issue.

      The seven issues you noted can be found in many toxic and abusive churches. Thank you for your insights. I’m sorry you had to learn them the hard way. Still, God was faithful to you and now you can help others who have suffered the way you did.

  11. Yeah, Naomi, there are a ton of churches/movements lead by charismatic men/women with “perfect” theology but horrendous behavior. The “Shepherding Movement” big during the seventies, the “Boston Church of Christ” and many Pentocostal churches fall into that category.

    But this totally makes my point: Theology can be spot on, but theology doesn’t get you saved. A relationship with God through the finished work of Jesus Christ is what saves. As one grows in his/her relationship with Christ, one’s relationships with others should reflect that growth. Cults should not be the result of a healthy relationship with Christ and a healthy relationship with people.

  12. Dee

    Dan,

    If we are not teaching

    The Trinity
    The efficacy of Christ’s blood to cleanse from all sins
    The sufficiency of faith in Christ alone for salvation

    in our churches, then we are failing miserably. It seems your church elder understands basic doctrine (someone is doing their job!) but was unaware that Jakes is Oneness. Your elder probably has not had the advantage of your formal education in this area. In an attempt to educate himself (good for him!) he picked up the wrong book (bummer!).

    Having a Bible college education myself, I rely very much on my education from 20 years ago. I had a good foundation from attending Sunday school, but the formal education – well, I can’t imagine life without it. However, since I am in the regular work force like most folks out there, I also rely on those who make their life’s work studying theology to recommend books for me to read. After all, twenty years is a long time to be out of the loop. Fortunately, there are some theologians in my home church who are well read and who make recommendations for me as well as who warn against heretics. While this doesn’t negate my responsibility to myself and others, it does relieve some pressure in trying to figure out what to read that is really beneficial to me, encourages me to study for myself, and makes me aware of what is being presented as “truth” and how to recognize error.

    Perhaps you could present a list of recommended reading for the average person in your congregation (those that might not be regular readers of your blog ;0) . Maybe you could provide a brief synopsis of each new “best seller” so the regular guy at church can read with more awareness. Not everyone in your congregation has the advantage of your education, but this might be one way every member in your congregation could benefit from your education and experience.

    • Dee,

      I have Tom Kocica from Colerain to thank for this, in many ways. His comparative philosophy class showed me how many aberrant philosophies exist out there. That class forced me to know what I believe. Encountering all those JWs, Mormons, EST advocates, and astral travelers sent me back to the Scriptures. I know that Mike Becker and I used to study up before a speaker just so we knew what the Biblical response was to some of the truth claims these folks made.

      The thing is, anyone can do that! I didn’t have any special training that gave me an unfair advantage over anyone. I just went back to the Scriptures—pure and simple. That’s what the Bereans did, too, and why Paul commended them. They didn’t take what he said at face value, but compared it to the truth of God’s word.

      While your idea about pointing out good resources is taken, I still think anyone can do it if they set their mind to it and also come to everything with a skeptic’s attitude. That’s all I do. My key thought: “Prove it!” If someone can prove his or her point through an orthodox handling of the Scriptures, I’ll ponder what they have to say. Otherwise, I cleanse my brain of whatever junk they attempted to install there.

      At my own church, I’ve seriously been considering facilitating a worldview class using Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth as a resource. While that would not have addressed the Oneness Pentecostal issue, it would filter deviant secular thought systems that weasel their way into our thinking. A lot of Christians function out of Darwinism and Pragmatism without knowing they’re doing so.

      Thanks for writing.

      • Dee

        Yes, but Dan, not everyone has your natural capacity for discernment. And not everyone has the intellect to delve into these matters. As I recall, the high school class to which you refer was populated by predominantly college bound students. Your congregation isn’t comprise of people just like you. Is it?

        I think your idea for a class is an excellent idea. But keep in mind that NOT everyone can do as you suggest without being pointed in the right direction. We are all responsible for our own education as much as we are able. But remember we are all sheep and we all benefit from good leadership. Not everyone knows HOW to do what you suggest. Perhaps in your class you can also teach basic principles in hermaneutics. Bet a lot of folks at your church don’t even know what that word means.

        We are talking about basics in higher learning that those who already have been taught these principles take for granted. It isn’t as common as you think. Remember that the average IQ is probably a couple of points lower than yours.

        Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that we should treat the folks next to us in Sunday school class as morons. I am saying we need to provide them with the tools so they can study for themselves. This can be done is a manner that treats all with dignity and respect. It’s just another part of discipleship.

        I might even guess correctly that not everyone in your congregation has the benefit of having been brought up in a Christian or growing up in Sunday school. Likely, there are gaps in their religious education. Having someone with your education and experience providing some direction would be invaluable to filling in those gaps.

    • Dee,

      One last thing.

      The elder in this case is a good man who is certainly a more faithful servant of the Lord than I am. I made sure we talked before I posted this. I don’t want to denigrate him in any way! I would never do so. I simply wanted to show how this whole issue plays out in reality.

      My small group leader (in a group sponsored by a different church than the one we attend) didn’t know the book he recommended was by another Oneness Pentecostal, either. A lot of people don’t know Oneness Pentecostals even exist, though their history is long. I didn’t know about them until about a dozen years ago. Everyone learns.

      I think the key point here is to not blindly trust what comes out of the mouth of someone claiming to be a Christian. I especially learned this in California. Out there, the word “Christian” means nothing. “Christians” go to church on Sunday, have their crystals aligned on Monday, say a prayer in the Buddhist temple on Tuesday, attend a Unity “church” on Wednesday, hang out at the mosque on Thursday, and spend the weekend at an EST retreat. No exclusivity comes into play there.

      Stuart Briscoe used to say that he didn’t call someone a Christian until he’d seen evident fruit, growth, and correctly practiced doctrine over the course of five years. That may be a tough standard, but the older I get, the wiser I think it may be.

      • Dee

        Someday I will have to tell you of the discussion I had with an older lady seated next to me on an airplane. She was totally into some weird stuff involving eastern mysticism and hypnotism and past lives. Wow.

        I had managed to get the very last seat on an earlier flight than the one I was scheduled to take. I was exhausted and wanted to sleep on the plane, but obviously the Lord had other plans. I felt trapped, but I believe the Lord wanted me to just listen awhile (not a natural inclination for me!). She had at one time been a believer. Eventually I saw where her reasoning conflicted itself and I think I was able to plant a seed directing her to find Truth in Christ. It was a mentally draining conversation overheard with great interest and intensity by our neighboring passengers (who seemed to look on me with great compassion as we disembarked). I believe the Lord taught us both something new during that flight.

        Ironically, I was returning from a short missions trip in which I felt like I had accomplished absolutely nothing. I wondered if the entire trip was accomplished just so I could have that conversation.

        You would have gloried in the opportunity!

        • Dee,

          On a flight to Salt Lake City, I was seated next to an elderly Mormon missionary on the way home from her many years in the field. All gung ho to engage her, I was disheartened that she simply wanted to be left alone. She didn’t speak to me the whole time we were in the air. And I’ll I’d asked her as an opening was “Tell me about your experiences on the mission field.”

          Well, if she didn’t want to talk about that, I wasn’t going to get anything else out of her. I was quite surprised that she didn’t want to talk with me. I guess she was drained.

          On another flight, I sat next to a guy who sold pipe organs and bell carillons to large churches. He was interesting, but already a believer. We talked the entire flight. Ironically, I seem to get seated next to people who are already believers.

  13. Dee,

    Now I’m confused. Was it Tom Kocica or Don Colussi? And weren’t you in that class, too? My history’s getting fuzzy. All I know is that I got pumped up for that class and loved the discussion. I know the JW leader spoke with me after the classes and expressed that some of the issues I raised troubled him. I have good reason to believe he left them shortly afterwards. I think I heard that from some source (Kocica? Colussi?)

    • Dee

      I think Kocica was the football coach and I had him for USHistory as a junior (he was supportive during a very difficult time for me due to my parents splitting up for awhile that year). I think you mean Colussi, although it is quite a reach to find those mental files and dust them off!

      I loved that class, too, although I was a bit freaked out by some of the really weird stuff that was presented. The cool thing was that he also welcomed speakers of the reall truth that could refute the other “crap” presented in class. My pastor was invited back to address the class for several years after we graduated.

  14. One thing about discernment: Remember the warning to the Church at Ephesus in Revelation 2. Here was a church that rigorously vetted all those who came and spoke in the name of the Lord. But they had lost their first love. Without love, all the discernment in the world is worthless.

  15. Dan:

    While I agree that Oneness Doctrine is off, I resist saying that they are not believers. I don’t think I have that kind of discernment. There are a ton of people who are Christians that have beliefs I don’t share, but that doesn’t make them less saved than me.

    Reducing the mystery of the Trinity to analogies about the eggs or water is overly simplistic. In fact, when a Oneness Pentacostl is challenged about the Trinity, the pat answer is: “Well, a man can be a father and a son and a brother all at the same time.” It’s overly simplistic. A child can grasp that, but no one can explain God. No one can explain the Trinity. It just has to be believed. But the Trinity is not the Gospel.

    • BryonM, et al.,

      John Piper wrote a book called God Is the Gospel. I believe that, too. If it’s about relationship with Him, then what we believe about Him matters.

      This post is not to speculate about T.D. Jakes’s salvation. What I am saying is that he and the Oneness Pentecostals are in no way orthodox believers in Christ. That’s indisputable! We can make up a new term, but we can’t call them orthodox Christians, by any means.

      Anti-trinitarianism, like all of the grossest heresies within the early Church, arose and got put down quickly. And those early heresies were all about the nature of God or the person of Christ. That’s bedrock stuff. The most glaring mistakes will rise early. Fouling up the nature of God is a gross mistake.

      It’s not a little one, either. You start messing with the Trinity and other doctrines start hemorrhaging immediately. This creates a ripple effect throughout all of Christian doctrine. Abandon the Trinity and you’re left having to re-envision the entire Bible. I’m not kidding, either. What happened at the cross alone becomes a nightmare of logistics, not to mention the pre-existence of Christ before the incarnation. Name a doctrine and the Trinity’s key to understanding it.

      Reading the Bible from a Modalist viewpoint mucks up everything.

      But this post isn’t just about the Trinity. I used that since it’s so foundational and yet here we are confusing the whole issue. This post is about discernment. Look how contentious it’s gotten over one doctrine! That’s how tenuous things are in this messed-up world today! We should be thinking soberly about where we stand in light of what’s going on around us. Error’s running rampant. And while you’ll never see Cerulean Sanctum turn into a watchblog, we still need to talk about discernment because it’s critical to our maturity and perseverance as saints.

      Blessings.

      • Respectfully, Dan (and I mean that! Really!!), you could have made your point so much better without the hyperbole (“the Trinity on every page”??) and without pronouncing judgment on someone else’s salvation. That’s the kind of stuff I see on the watchblogs you say yours will never become.

        I hope you can know my heart in speaking this to you. I desire to speak these things to you as a brother (although I wonder if, based on this post, you would even consider me a brother).

        Your claim that the Trinity is so foundational and is found “on every page”, but Dan, this is not even remotely true. Every page??? Can the doctrine of the Trinity be derived from Scripture? Yes, I believe it can. Does that derivation look exactly what Nicea and Chalcedon said it did? I’m not entirely sure.

        But the important point to recognize is that if the doctrine of the Trinity is so foundational and important, and it is impossible to be considered saved without adopting Nicea or Chalcedon’s definition, I find it quite baffling why the apostles were not at all bent on preaching it quite clearly. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” was the message. If the teaching of the apostles on the Trinity was quite clear, one wonders why the Councils were even necessary to define it!

        The point that I want to make is not so much about the Trinity as it is about your approach to this topic. It’s a great topic (discernment) and one that is very necessary. But if you approach it by stating hyperbole as fact, you undermine your very points.

        I appreciate your passion, Dan. And I appreciate your desire to protect truth. But I do hope you reconsider how you play that out, lest you end up with the very type of blog you decry in others.

        • BTW, I see that you did state “nearly every page” in a comment following the post. But in the post, you did say “every page”. I wanted to clarify that I did see the change in language in the comments. I still think that even “nearly every page” is highly overstated.

  16. Dan, it’s interesting how the main idea (discernment) has been subsumed by the minutae (whether T.D. Jakes is saved or not, which I don’t remember you mentioning…and the triune nature of God, which was an example).

    I think you hit a nerve, but more importantly, a point has been made about why Christians are afraid to allow the Spirit to point out error. This is beginning to look like a rugby scrum.

    • David,

      Yes, I don’t exactly understand what’s happened here. Comments started rushing in and only a few about the main point. I had problems keeping up and accidentally insulted a regular reader by trying to combine responses to him and another commenter while I was attempting to handle my son’s homeschooling and edit my business Web site.

      Maybe I’m just too busy and I’m failing to keep up. I think I won’t be posting a follow-up to this tonight like I planned. I’ve had a couple topics that set people off, but never have I felt like I lost control of the blog. I’m feeling that right now.

      🙁

      • Steve,

        Can you point me to where I say that explicitly? I take it upon myself to avoid point at individuals and saying they’re not saved, especially in a public forum. That’s not what this blog is about. I took great care not to say that. I’m not finding where you say I’m saying that.

        I explicitly stated that Jakes is not an orthodox Christian and does not practice historical Christianity. I’ve repeated that in several places. But I don’t see where I came out and explicitly said, “T.D. Jakes is not saved.” He’s going to have to answer to God for what he’s teaching, yes, and he may very well be in dire straits, but I don’t have secret knowledge of the Book of Life.

        I also stand by the “cult leader” moniker. He was ordained a bishop in a Oneness church. Here’s the applicable definition of “cult” from Dictionary.com:

        A religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.

        The unorthodox tag certainly applied to the UPC:
        1. Anti-Trinitarian/Modalist
        2. Baptismal regeneration
        3. Baptizing in the name of Jesus only
        4. Tongues as proof of salvation

        Any two of those should raise eyebrows. All four make for huge problems, especially when Modalism’s the main sticking point.

        I don’t know what else to say except that the UPC’s been tagged a cult by every major orthodox cult watch organization, yet somehow Jakes (who grew up in that church, was ordained in another Oneness denomination, and has been Oneness’s most visible face) is off limits for rebuke.

        What makes it even worse is that Jakes has danced around this issue before. Christianity Today has examined this issue with Jakes in the past and to read his response is just maddening (http://www.ctlibrary.com/ct/2000/february7/5.58.html).

        I don’t get this. Am I saying anything that’s untrue or not previously documented?

        (Note: I edited this post to correct an error concerning who bestowed Jake’s title of “bishop” and his exact, current affiliation.)

        • Dan, I’m not sure why I have to point this out, but since you asked, I’ll explain why it appears that you have, indeed, pronounced Jakes as unsaved.

          Your post stated: “He’s not a Christian—at least by the standards of orthodoxy.” I don’t see how the “at least by” portion gives any out to your statement that he is not a Christian.

          This is backed up further when commenter Don Fields wrote:

          You can believe in the Trinity without being saved, but you can’t be saved and not believe in the Trinity.

          Therefore, all professing Christians who deny the biblical teaching of the triune God are not true Christians at all.

          You responded with a simple “Yep”. No clarification, no qualification. Just a simple one-word assent to what Don Fields wrote.

          The following quotes, all written by you in threads above continue to support your assertion that Jakes is not saved.

          [O]ne cannot continue in Christ and continue to believe and teach false things about Him, especially in the fundamental premise of His nature.

          If people reject the Trinity, then they reject the truth of the very nature of who God is. They cannot then worship Him aright. Nor is there evidence the Spirit dwells in them if they refuse to accept correction about the true nature of God.

          If a person rejects the reality of God’s revealed nature, openly defies the words of Jesus, and makes the Bible say things it patently does not say, how can anyone call that person a Christian?

          At this point, Dan, you’re playing semantics games if you think this is in any way giving Jakes any benefit of the doubt with regard to salvation.

          • Steve,

            Okay. I’ll say it. Since the “semantics” card came out, I’ll respectfully play.

            But first, let me turn the questions around a bit. I’d like to know how you feel on these questions, Steve, but they’re open to anyone:

            1. At what point have we surrendered enough of the foundational doctrines behind the Gospel that it warps into “another gospel?”

            2. JWs say they are Christians. Are they? Why or why not?

            3. Mormons say they are Christians. Are they? Why or why not?

            4. How much unorthodoxy do we tolerate in our orthodoxy before we call it “unorthodox”?

            5. At what point does a person’s belief system fail to meet God’s standard for believing faith unto salvation?

            Let’s answer those before we proceed any further in this discussion.

            Thanks.

            • Okay, you’ll “say it”? Say what? That Jakes isn’t saved?

              And “the ‘semantics’ card”? What does that mean? Does that mean that all the things I quoted to you do not, in your mind, equate to saying Jakes is not saved?

              With regard to you “turn[ing] the questions around” a bit, you’ve asked more than I care to answer in a little comment box. I have already blogged some about this in the past, but hopefully tomorrow I will write a post that gives my take on these questions.

              My current post, however (that Bill Kinnon linked to in a comment above), already makes one of the points that I’ll be making, which is that I think we make a mistake writing people off based on their associations and not on their own profession of faith.

              You want to talk about UPC, JW, Mormon, etc. I want to talk about people as individuals. That seems to present a problem to people who want to talk about “discernment”.

              Check out the comments that Bill and others made on my post. Notice how people want to insist that when someone says that they believe salvation is only through Jesus Christ (sounds very biblical to me), they obviously must mean something else because they happen to belong to one of the groups that is suspect.

              Listen, Dan, I mean it when I say that I don’t want to fight with you. You and I both have spoken out against that kind of “cat fight” in the blogosphere before. I’ll discuss this, but I don’t plan to counter hyperbole and semantics games with the same. If that’s what you want to do, count me out. Please.

            • Steve,
              How can you decide to “talk about people as individuals” when they themselves define who they are by precepts of the religious organization in which they believe. Your friend Michael (this is in reference to Steve’s post where he conflates being a Christian and being a Mormon) identifies himself as a Mormon – which he believes to be consistent with calling himself a Christian. You want to agree with him.

              You choose to ignore Michael’s agreement with the Mormon understanding of who Jesus is (brother of Lucifer for one), the denial of the Virgin Birth (God the Father had physical, carnal relations with Mary), the belief that God the Father was once a man, the belief that salvation is based on works…in fact the list of divergence from any form of historical and/or orthodox Christianity is too long to list here. Michael doesn’t disagree with any of these statements of belief – but tells you he believes salvation is only through Jesus – and therefore you have decided he is a Christian.

              Micheal’s profession of faith is, for him, consistent with what he believes as a Mormon (he was a Mormon missionary) – and what he believes as a Mormon is not consistent with orthodox Christianity.

              Dan,
              I apologize for moving this part of the discussion from Steve’s blog to here – and never should have linked to it in the first place. But I do confess shock that this is even a point of contention with Steve.

            • Bill, you have misunderstood a couple of very key points, and since you have spoken with such error here, I must (with apologies to Dan) correct it here and ask you to please take it back to my blog for further comments.

              1. “Michael”, who commented on my blog, is not the friend to whom I referred in my post. I do not know Michael, and to my knowledge, never claimed on my blog that he was a Christian. I have not addressed Michael as “brother”, have I? Or have I commented on his salvation?

              2. In my post, I did not in any way, shape or form, “conflate being a Christian and being a Mormon” and this is a very gross misrepresentation of what I wrote. I would ask that you please consider retracting that statement.

              My post dealt with a very specific friend (who has not been on the blog to comment as of this time) who evidenced both the confession of faith and the fruit of the Spirit for me to consider him as a brother in Christ, despite the fact that he is still a member of the LDS church. That is enormously different from what you have insinuated here.

              Please come back to my blog and engage your issues there rather than dragging it here. I have asked you some questions over there that you have not answered yet, and I would like to get your continued input in that discussion. But please do not misrepresent that conversation the way you have here.

            • First, Steve, let me apologize for confusing Michael with your Mormon friend. In light of the progression of the conversation at your blog and my apparent inability to communicate effectively, it is my mistake.

              I have responded on your blog and my comment was rejected as spam. However, I feel the conversation is becoming increasingly Clintonian and forgive me if I choose not to participate further.

              Again, Dan. My apologies for dragging this over here.

            • Since no one wishes to bite on my five questions, here is my final statement on this issue of judging another person’s salvation:

              1. Since two possibilities exist before a person dies, not one single one of us can say with 100 percent certainty what will happen in a person’s life before that final breath is drawn. He or she may have a deathbed confession and be warmly welcomed into the arms of Jesus. We all know that the Lord offers this possibility. Therefore, it is impossible to rule it out. Therefore, it is impossible to divine another person’s permanent eternal state. We may be able to see they are on the road to destruction, but we cannot know if that is the path they will be on when they die. As Christians, we should should treat all people as if they are on the road to destruction unless we see clear evidence of their fruitfulness in Christ and their willingness to conform to the truths of the Faith as revealed through the Spirit of Christ and His word.

              2. The Bible makes it clear. Name in the Lamb’s Book of Life = In. Name not in the Lamb’s Book of Life = Out.

              3. The Lord has chosen to reveal His plan of salvation through His Word. If the Holy Spirit makes that Word alive in us, we have salvation. If He does not, then we retain our current state of damnation. Because the Spirit reveals only the Truth, the life He’s given us will reflect only Truth. All untruth must be cast aside if we are to be conformed to the image of Christ.

              4. Because the true experience of justification is wrought by the Spirit, the life He imparts will reflect the reality of who the Triune God is. Any other revelation within our souls is not of Him. If it is not of Him, it is not Life.

              5. Is it possible to not understand what the Spirit has imparted? We all gain understanding over time, but the Spirit will not hold back what is essential to salvation. We may see through a glass darkly, but we see nonetheless.

              Summary:

              Any time a person steps outside the bounds of the truths of God as revealed by the Spirit in what we hold as orthodoxy, he begins a journey down the path of error and risks shipwrecking his faith. If a person was never on the path of orthodoxy, they remain on the broad road that leads to destruction. The Bible is clear on this.

              Clearly, too, the Bible always holds out that God can shepherd anyone onto the narrow way. It is the narrow way for a reason, but the Lord knows it well.

              That means knowing the Shepherd. He has one voice and His true sheep know it. He speaks one call to return to the path, not two, not ten—one. Any other call will only return the hearer to the wide path of destruction. Many have heeded other calls.

              That’s my final word on this.

            • You already gave your “final word”, but as I said in my reply above, I took the time to approach your 5 questions in a post on my own blog.

              I don’t expect you to agree, nor even to like my answers. But I did give you, as you requested, my feedback on that.

              The post is here.

    • David,

      Actually, Dan did say in the very beginning of the post that Jakes is not a Christian “at least by the standards of orthodoxy”, which he then has defended in the comments as the true test of salvation.

      Additionally, even though the Trinity was used as an example, that’s exactly the point. He used that example as the primary (pretty much the only) example for his point about discernment.

      I can only speak for myself to say that is the reason that I pressed on those two issues.

      Dan, I find the whole “but that’s not even the point of the post” argument to be very frustrating in these types of discussions. If it’s not the point, don’t talk about it. And if you’re going to talk about it, allow for discussion about it without the martyr complex.

      Quite honestly, I’ve been really discouraged to see the way this conversation has gone. You say you’re open to correction, but when I pointed out some aspects of this that seemed to be overstating the case and hyperbole, you have just blown right past it without even appearing to take my concern seriously.

      That troubles me, Dan. Really, it does. Because I don’t think that’s really what you want to convey here. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am. But you need to understand how this is coming across to some of us who have responded with concern.

      I won’t push the issue here any longer. I respect you, Dan as my brother and as someone who obviously has a great heart of passion for our Lord. That is very admirable.

      • Steve,

        I stand by the comments about orthodoxy. Rejecting the Trinity makes one unorthodox. Rejecting the Trinity recasts all of Scripture. The dominoes begin to fall. Someone who rejects the Trinity must now come up with many unorthodox fixes to patch the holes left in Christian doctrine left by its removal.

        Do we agree on this? I would think we would. 🙁

        I wrote what I did about the Trinity as a lead-in to my point on discernment. In the last three weeks, I’ve had four run-ins on this foundational issue of the Trinity. I thought we’d all be on the same page on this, particularly when it came to Oneness theology which every respected cult watch organization I know of lists as aberrant.

        But the post wasn’t about the Trinity.

        Yes, you are right that I overstated the case in saying that the Trinity is on every page of the Bible. Yes, that’s hyperbole. The point I was trying to make is—at least to this reader of Scripture—the Bible is jam-packed with the Trinity. I simply don’t have the time to provide every instance I believe shows this. I had no idea I was going to have to make that case! Are we not in agreement on the Trinity? When I read the Scriptures, I see evidence of the Trinity everywhere and I simply don’t understand this mentality that the triune nature of God is a tough thing to prove. I certainly didn’t know I was going to have to prove it. Better minds than me have done so.

        Steve, I took one issue as my lead-in for no other reason than I could have come up with a gazillion aberrant theologies out there, but I thought we’d all be in agreement on the Trinity. As I noted elsewhere, the heresies that cropped up first in the Church all had to do with members of the Godhead. Christ’s divinity, His humanity, whether He was only a spirit and not flesh, and on and on. The Trinity debate got settled quickly before 300AD, making it one of the earlier heresies the Church squelched. The fact it rose fast and died fast only proves how sure the Church was on the issue.

        I could have listed other heresies, but honestly, it takes me a very long time to write these posts. I put hours into them at my own expense simply because I wish to serve the Body of Christ. If someone were paying me to make each one a fully researched theological treatise, I could go into even greater detail than I do. But I have to serve my family. I thought one clear example of how I’ve personally encountered lacks in discernment on an important topic like the Trinity would speak for itself. I had no idea that I’d wind up having defend this post. I can’t spend all day on this blog. I’ve lost my whole day trying to clean up what this has become over something I thought was clear and indisputable.

        I guess I was wrong to believe that.

        I feel like I’m in “The Dirty Fork” Monty Python skit that has the final punchline, “Lucky I didn’t tell him about the dirty knife!”

        • francisco

          Dan,
          You are not wrong. The doctrine of the Trinity is thoroughly biblical. I am surprised this post got more responses than your post on Hell…

      • It’s true, I was remiss. Dan specifically states: “He’s not a Christian” then qualifies by saying “at least by the standards of orthodoxy”. I would assume that most Christians would believe that if one is not a Christian, then one is not saved. I would go so far as to say that many who call themselves Christians are not saved.

        I got so caught up in the concept I forgot the proofs. IF Jakes refutes the triune nature of God, preaches and teaches it, and encourages others to do the same, then I would have to agree with Dan, Jakes is not a Christian, and in fact is anti-Christ, and faces judgement accordingly. There is a difference in not knowing or understanding something, and deliberately turning a blind eye to it and teaching others to do the same.

        At the same time, Dan is providing evidence for something he argued very forcefully against some time ago, which is the need to reference those we quote. Had this Elder quoted T.D. Jakes without saying who he was quoting there would have been no need for Dan’s head to explode and for this post to get out of hand…No one would have known that the quote was coming from an apparently apostate preacher from Texas. Which brings us to the whole focus on discernment, and the idea of who we listen to, quote and teach from. In my mind, the more direct a line to scripture, the better. Everything we hear, everything we see, everything we touch in life has got to be measured in order to have relevance. The only straight stick is scripture.

    • David Riggins,
      Since you have declared a scrum let me also weigh in from lurkdom.

      it’s interesting how the main idea (discernment) has been subsumed by the minutae (whether T.D. Jakes is saved or not, which I don’t remember you mentioning

      The post opens with TD Jakes, he is described in the first few lines as a “cult leader” and not being a Christian by orthodox standards.

      This post which is rightly about the important subject of discernment is so important that there is really no room for vagueness. Unfortunately by using a high profile example such as TD Jakes in the way it comes across in the opening paragraph Dan Edelen runs the risk that all the important statements he makes in the closing paragraphs will be muddled or clouded by the lingering thought expressed many commenters above. ie Is he really questioning the salvation of TD Jakes?

      and the triune nature of God, which was an example

        • This is a fundamental doctrine so it is no surprise that it will generate the kind of discussion above. I have had no problem believing the doctrine of the Trinity at all. I think part of the reason is that I was raised Catholic and was taught “God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity” from infancy. And it made more sense when I was saved and started reading the Bible aided by the Holy Spirit. I do not understand it completely but see I see it in many pages of the Bible.

          Dan Edelen,
          I have a question. Was the quote used by the Elder in your church not Biblical? I mean, did it go against the teaching of Scripture? The point I am getting at is that does the “oneness pentecostalism” of TD Jakes completely disqualify him from being of any benefit to any believer? In which case should a Christian who has discerned this treat him as a heretic and hand him over to be taught how not to…..? Would you go as far as that? If not, would you agree then that you were unfair or possible wrong in the opening part of the post?

          I really do not know a lot about TD Jakes, never read any of his books, and never listened to a complete sermon of his. I have some other questions about his theology. He certainly does not wear “oneness” on his sleeve and that is why many of us including the Elder and the small group leader have never heard about this until recently. My church sometimes uses excerpts/quotes from TD Jakes in small devotional pamphlets. Now I am going to have to ask one of the Pastors about this. Thanks for a great blog – Robbo.

          • Robbo,

            At issue here is confusion. If a church leader quotes someone who practices a heretical belief system, then some caveat must be noted, especially since the heretical nature of that person’s beliefs may not be commonly known. Otherwise, that quoting becomes tacit approval and we simply can’t fool around with that.

            We simply can’t casually quote folks who are in error on major, major, major doctrinal points. Discernment requires us to test all spirits and be serious about error. Some points like eschatology will not be resolved in our lifetimes. But other points have long been decided by the catholic (little “c”) Church in history. Those we need to enforce and uphold.

  17. bpb

    My husband is from Russia and was “raised” in the Russian Orthodox Church. He refers to it as “the true Church.” When he would visit (and now that he’s moved here), he attended the church of Christ because their order of worship was the most similar to the Orthodox Church. There are differences. He also reminds me that the church started in the East and the apostles went everywhere preaching the gospel. The Church did not start on Main Street U.S.A. And there was not a church by the name church of Christ until a few hundred years ago. Oh, and there are LOTS of Bibles in Russia – they don’t us to send any to them.

  18. bpb

    and my small mind has trouble grasping the three persons (God, the Father; God, the Son; and Go, the Holy Ghost). It’s three but it’s ONE!! A lot for my human mind to even try and comprehend.

  19. bpb,
    There are many things about God and Christianity that are hard to comprehend. The trick is to never stop trying 🙂

    Dan,

    Enjoyed the read. I absolutely agree that we need to use good judgment when chosing reading materials. Just because someone says that they follow God doesn’t mean they are teaching the truth. Paul warned us of individuals who would come out of the church and lead others astray. False docrine is so common and extremely danergerous.

    -Paula

  20. Louis

    David,

    “Without love, all the discernment in the world is worthless.”

    I would say that without love there can be no discernment. Spiritual gifts only operate in those that love the Lord.

  21. MMM

    Many believe in Christ.

    Our Lord knew all men, their nature, dispositions, affections, designs, so as we do not know any man, not even ourselves. He knows his crafty enemies, and all their secret projects; his false friends, and their true characters. He knows who are truly his, knows their uprightness, and knows their weaknesses. We know what is done by men; Christ knows what is in them, he tries the heart. Beware of a dead faith, or a formal profession: carnal, empty professors are not to be trusted, and

    however men impose on others or themselves, they cannot impose on the heart-searching God.

    –I am not taking credit for this. I got it off the BibleGateway commentary about John 2. But it seemed apropos, so I I drove a tent stake. 🙂

    Good discussion, and good points. I remember a few years ago when I renounced churches as a whole because I wanted to face up to God with no crutches.

    That’s still a little scary, but still Best Case Scenario for me. With Jesus at my side, it won’t be so hard. 😉

  22. Brandon

    Dan,
    I read this post earlier today and have been thinking about it all day, I have been somewhat hesitant to comment on this… The original intent of this post is good, and I believe, a very necessary topic for discussion. I agree with Robbo that the opening statement that Jakes is not a Christian tainted the rest of the post. As I read I was distracted by that and for me that’s where this fell apart.

    I think Steve did a good job of expressing what I’ve been thinking about this post so there’s no need to go back through it.

    I really respect you and have learned a great deal from your blog. This post has not tainted that respect. I look forward to reading future posts here at C.S.

    Be blessed…
    Brandon

  23. I have a hard time following this post. Jakes is a hell bound heretic because of his deviation from orthodox Christianity. Yet your friend the elder who quoted him is more of a godly man then you are.

    If I believed your post then I would expect you to post that people should not attend a church such as yours with such ignorant leaders.

    Or perhaps it is your discernment that is off.

    • I hit post before I had a chance to edit. This post is far more mean spirited than I had intended. I just wanted to pose the possibility that since such godly men do not regard him to be a heritic then it may be your discernment that may need adjusting.

      I have attended a OP service once and would not go back. But the whole service they worshiped the resurrected Jesus and declared his work in their lives. I felt in my spirit that they were saved but badly amiss.

      I came out of a church that was spiritually abusive. I would say the same about them yet their doctrines do far more damage to the cause of Christ.

      Please accept my apologis for the tone of the last comment.

      • Carl,

        I will not condemn someone because he lacked the information to know this fact or that. But as Jesus Himself said, once they have heard, they are without excuse.

        That’s where I stand on that issue.

        If I correct someone with truth and they choose to ignore it, then they are responsible for that slight.

        The elder I spoke of expressed shock about Jakes. He simply did not know. That’s good enough for me. If he takes that info and does nothing with it, then I have real cause for concern.

        You are right in a way, though, that we should not be quoting or holding up as standards folks we are not certain about. I don’t cite anyone unless I’m well-versed in their theology.

        Part of the problem with the way we casually deal with those who self-label as a “Christian” is the implicit imprimatur we give them when we assent to their self-labeling. We’ve got to be careful with that. As I said in a previous comment, when I lived in California, all sorts of people called themselves Christians, but when you dug deeper, you realized their definition of Christian wasn’t even close to orthodox. They were masters of syncretizing every religion they encountered so that they were not only a Christian, but a Buddhist, Taoist, Jain, Muslim, Astral Projector. Same is true in SW Ohio, where 95% of folks will self-identify as Christians. But that’s simply not true. Many are lapsed Roman Catholics or spiritual dabblers.

        We need to plumb those depths. The day may very well be coming when our ranks will be filled with pretenders who will pull a Judas on us faster than we can say “30 silver coins.”

  24. AWHall

    Dan – I’ve been lurking here for a while and never commented. Great stuff, always thought provoking.

    Your reference about testing the spirits should be 1 John 4:1, not 1:4.

    Keep up the great writing! I look forward to your thoughts each day.

  25. Tom Haddox

    I believe that the real issue that was supposed to have been addressed has been lost. That issue: the need for being discerning and the standard for that discernment. We need to return to that topic.

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