TD JAKES: Providing Context for the Criticism

by Riaan

bishop-jakesSo, I thought it would be good and perhaps even helpful to some if I clarify and explain my serious reservations regarding TD Jakes. As many of you know he is currently in South Africa and spent this past weekend preaching in Cape Town.

Thousands of people went to listen to him and I would assume without exception all of them were excited and happy to have been there. I’ve read a few facebook updates as people were trying to verbalize their joy and pleasure of actually seeing and hearing TD Jakes in person. Some described it as an honor to be in the presence of TD Jakes, while others were appreciative of being under the same roof as TD Jakes.

I do wish to make clear that my issue is not with how much the tickets cost for the conference. My issue is also not with the people who arranged the conference, I do not know them. I have no reason to question the character or kindness or even the intentions of those who organized the conference. It may surprise some but my issue isn’t even with TD Jakes as a person. In fact, I wouldn’t have any problem believing that he is a really nice and well-intentioned man.

I want to make clear that my reservations regarding TD Jakes extends only to what he tdteaches.  It is his handling of the Bible, and his views on various and important biblical teachings that concern me greatly and causes me to speak up and say what I have said on facebook. In short, my issue is not a personal one but a biblical one.

I have no interest in bad-mouthing any person nor do I have any intention on being mean or ugly towards someone very respected among many professing believers. I do hope that as I make my reservations clear that it would not be misconstrued as the murmurings of an unloving and hypercritical Bible-basher arrogantly throwing his toys out of his cot.  Adopting such a view of me would not
be accurate.

Now before anyone jumps up and protests as to why I would presume the right to take issue with another preacher, or bishop’s teachings, it’s important to note that the Bible instructs us to be discerning. Christians are instructed to examine and test the teachings they sit under. There is a sense in which we accept God’s Word unreservedly, but we do not accept unreservedly what is being claimed as God’s Word. We must make sure that is it indeed so, and then be eager to accept, believe and obey it!

We read in the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 18:18–19 (ESV)

18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. 19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.

Now by way of illustration, I would surmise that this is where many Christians are at today. Many are eager to receive God’s Word and are cautious about rejecting, judging, or discerning a particular message believed to be from God. However, God did not stop in verse 19 but He continues in v20

Deuteronomy 18:20–22 (ESV)

20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

It is important to note that God does not want His people to unreservedly receive everything from anyone who claim to be speaking for Him. Rather, we learn here that God expects His people to discern, and evaluate, so to determine whether someone is truly speaking His Word.

It would also be good for us to note the serious consequences for someone who speaks on God’s behalf presumptuously and falsely- “that same prophet shall die”. This high standard reserved for teachers and preachers are also made clear in the New Testament.  James writes:

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.- James 3:1 

The responsibility to be discerning is then not only taught in the Old Testament but it is also encouraged in the New Testament. Firstly, we see it illustrated in Acts 17. In Acts `17:10-15 Paul arrives in a town called Berea and there he went into the synagogue. Paul’s audience in Berea is described as “more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so”. Notice, that they were ready to receive “the word” but not unreservedly, because we are told they also examined the Scriptures to see whether the things Paul was teaching was indeed biblical.

Now imagine that! The Apostle Paul came to town and started preaching and his audience eagerly received the word but also examined the Bible to see whether what the Apostle Paul taught was so. The Bereans didn’t regard Paul’s title as something that exempts him and his message from being examined by the Scriptures. The Bereans didn’t regard whatever success Paul may have had in ministry as the criteria by which they would accept him or reject him. Rather, they examined the Scriptures to see whether the things Paul taught was so.

It is easy to examine someone’s status and grant their teachings exemption from examination because they are some high-profile “bishop” or “apostle”. It is also very common today to consider  and examine 12798949_1121955324515221_5786404537211558987_nthe outward success of a preacher and how he attracts thousands of people and on that basis accept the message of that preacher. However the biblical pattern is to examine the Scriptures and to see whether the message someone is preaching is biblical.

Therefore it would not be beneficial for me to be enamored by TD Jakes’ popularity, outward success and high profile title, but he too (like the Apostle Paul) and his message must be subject to biblical examination!

We see then that in Old Testament the way God’s Word’s was received was with eagerness and discernment and we also see in the New Testament that same approach of receiving eagerly and examining carefully is applied.

We cannot only be eager to receive everyone who claims to be speaking God’s Word, that is being gullible and that does not honor God. We shouldn’t also reject everyone and be suspicious of everyone who speaks God’s Word, that is arrogant. Instead, we are called to listen and eagerly receive the word and then with discernment examine the Scriptures to see whether what is being preached and taught is indeed God’s Word.

The New Testament further instructs in this regard:

1 Thessalonians 5:21

21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.

In fact, it may surprise some to know that most of the New Testament was written to deal with false teaching and to correct error being taught in the church. So for the most part the New Testament was occasioned (written) as a result of applying and practicing discernment.

I say this to show that discernment is not to be relegated as the practice of those who are always hypercritical, and who have nothing better to do. Testing and examining whether someone is speaking God’s Word is not an unloving thing to do but when done in love for God and people it is a godly thing to do. We read in Acts 17 that the Bereans were called “more noble that those in Thessalonica” because they searched the Scriptures and examined whether Paul’s teaching was biblical. In other words, the Bible commends the Bereans for being discerning!

A helpful definition of discernment is provided by Tim Challies, he says that discernment is “the skill of understanding and applying God’s Word with the purpose of separating truth from error and right from wrong”. So, this is the undergirding biblical motif that informs my contention that I have with TD Jakes’ teaching and theology.

I do hope that what I‘ve said so far is sufficient to provide a context for why I think it is necessary to be discerning  and what it means to actually discern. The purpose I have here is not to discuss in any great detail the topic of discernment but to speak to the reasons why I am very concerned about the teachings and theology of TD Jakes. ( I have written on discernment here and here and I think here as well)

I do sincerely hope that that is made clear and whatever you think about TD Jakes’ teachings, that at least you can accept and agree that we do have a responsibility as believers to not only eagerly receive the word but to also examine the Scriptures daily, to see whether the things we are being taught and told are biblical.

In the next post I hope to actually explain my concerns and reservation with TD Jakes’ teachings.