The issue at hand is not one of mere wording or terminology. Rather, the theological difference between Oneness (God in three successive “manifestations”) and Trinitarianism (God in three “Persons”) is a foundational distinctive. Where a person stands on this key facet to the doctrine of God will determine the rest of their theology.
The website for Jakes’ church, The Potter’s House, states, “There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” This wording generally reflects the unorthodox view (though Jakes has explained why he prefers it) and causes concern for those who hold to an orthodox view of the Trinity—one God in three persons.
It is interesting that Jakes, as he also stated in the Elephant Room discussion, is no longer welcomed by some of his former Oneness friends. He jokingly said of his predicament, “In some new circles, I’m getting beat up. In other older circles, I’m the heretic. I have to read the article to see what kind of heretic I am!” His predicament should say something to evangelicals, as now some in the Oneness movement no longer accept Jakes because they view his Trinitarian view as problematic. Jakes has indicated that his view has changed.
Think about who participated in the Elephant Room—Driscoll, MacDonald, Jack Graham, and Crawford Loritts among them. It is telling that these men—recognized as orthodox evangelicals—readily received Jakes’ statement, with Graham having been a prayer partner with Bishop Jakes for the last 10 years. Some might say they are all just naïve, but I’ve preached for Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald and do not find them to be theologically unaware or easily fooled on matters of orthodoxy. I think they are simply willing to believe the man at his word. It appears that some still do not, and, based on the response in blogtown and the twittersphere, it seems that more do than don’t. However, some still do not.
Now, to be clear, I do not affirm all of Jakes’ theology. But, there again, I don’t affirm all of many other people’s theology either. And there are probably a few misguided people who don’t affirm mine :). However, at some point, you have to decide how (or whether) to respond to his statement on the Trinity.
Of course, some think his articulation here is just not enough. Actually, I believe that no matter what he says, some will demand more since they have already made up their mind. As James MacDonald indicated:
The issue of the Trinity is not a small thing. It is central to Christianity and a pillar of orthodoxy. However, when a man confesses his trinitarianism, and people say, “Is he trinitarian enough?” That’s when we need to turn down the rhetoric and let a man’s confession and fruitfulness speak for itself.