Book(s) Review: T. D. Jakes: Various Works

Review
03.22.2001

Editor’s note: These views were originally published on the 9Marks site in 2000.

Works of T.D. Jakes

Woman, Thou art Loosed! Treasure House:1993, reprinted 1999.

Jakes tries to encourage women, especially those who have been abused or hurt in some way.  The prescription he gives is to recognize that God heals, comforts, and anoints. He uses several biblical stories to talk about ways that God heals hurts.  It’s clear that salvation is necessary and that it is through the work of Christ on the cross. If there are problems, they are that 1)perhaps the book is somewhat triumphalist in that it assumes that if you believe in God enough, you will be healed of your hurt, and 2) the emphasis is on salvation through Christ from emotional and spiritual pain and discouragement rather than from sin., i.e. God as comforter and defender rather than as Savior.

Assessment:  Not surprising that it’s very encouraging to women. Its emphases are a little off, though.

*****

Can You Stand to Be Blessed? Treasure House: 1994, reprinted 1999. 

This book is more or less about dealing with hard times in life, when nothing seems to be moving.  There’s a lot about “hanging in there” and waiting on God’s promised blessing on your life.  The chapter on “Romancing a Stone?” is interesting; it’s a sermon on not marrying lost people.  He spends some time talking about what it means to be dead in sin. I’m not sure how p100 plays into his modalism.  He refers easily to Christ having a relationship with God, with God being His God.  As in Woman, I’m concerned that the blessing Jakes tells us to expect is 100% earthly.  In Woman, it was emotional and spiritual.  Here, it’s about earthly success in ministry, reaching your earthly potential, making it through the rough times of life to the times of harvest and blessing, “having an appointment with destiny.”

Assessment:  Says some true things, but it’s basically a self-help book.  “Believe that God is about to bless you.”  Much of it is an attempt to prove that.  Moves a little closer to earthly-wealth-and-success gospel than previously.

*****

Naked and Not Ashamed.  Treasure House: 1995, reprinted 1999.

Not really much different from the two above. The book talks about thought life, friends that betray, spiritual heroes, reverence for the Father, etc. I don’t see much different here.  Jakes talks more about the cross and blood of Christ than in any previous book, but the death of Christ is used to tell us to be passionate.  “What is ultimately important [in Christ’s death] is that He accomplished it with His passion,” p.33, which leads to exhortations to be passionate about living life.  “If you’re going to stand at the plate, take a swing at the ball!”p.32  The sexual language in this book gets a little embarrassing.  There’s an obsession with birth and female sexuality.  It’s not surprising that women like him—Jakes tries to connect with them explicitly through their feminine sexuality.  See p.40  Also, “Jesus normally dressed with distinction,” p.131.  Much talk about being pregnant with destiny, reaching your potential, if you’ll just believe. Pp.82-83, “Pat yourself on the back.  God did.”  The gospel isn’t absent.  He spends a whole chapter talking about the blood of Christ (p106f),  However, it’s never spoken of as penal.  Sin is “injury that comes from inner flaws and failures.”  The blood of Christ is a “solution to the tragedies of life.”

*****

So You Call Yourself a Man?  Alsbury Publishing:  1997. 

It is a terrible shame that Jakes is caught up in a false hope that God will bless us on earth.  So many of the things he says are wonderful and helpful to lazy, victim-mentality people.  I would love for them to hear some of the things he says in this book.  “Get up, shut up your whining, and start living!”  That’s good.  But the motivation he gives them to do so is completely wrong.  His teaching on a personal promised land is terrible, pp.70-71.  Also pp.147ff.  “I pleaded the blood over my finances.”  That is just a terrible misunderstanding of the gospel.  Even sin is boiled down to one more impediment on the road to reaching my potential.  See also pp.164 and 168.  It’s not that these things (racism, etc) are false, but they are not the reason Jesus died.  Jakes says little about the real reason, but even when he does, it’s about defeating insecurities and hindrances to our potential.  I think a lot of people will benefit emotionally from this teaching, but always be looking for what they can get out of it in this life; they’ll miss the point of salvation.

*****

Anointing Fall on Me.  Pneuma Life Publishing:  1997.

Bad, juvenile teaching on the Holy Spirit.  Clearly a second-blessing, tongues-as-a-sign teacher.  Why do we speak in tongues?  “Because Satan’s radar can’t pick up that frequency,” pp.46-47.  Tries to teach spiritual truths based on the migration patterns of doves, since the Holy Spirit was manifested as a dove, pp. 102-103.

*****

The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord.  Berkley Books: 1998.

God as Great Psychologist.  This is really no different from any other psychology/inspiration book you’ll find on the shelves.  It is full of nice little pithy sayings about how women can overcome hollowness, depression, past failures, to become the balanced and extraordinary women that they should be.  It all starts with learning to love ourselves, p.12, and moves to thinking rightly and having a good outlook on life.  Gives psychological advice on marriage, stuff that you’d find in any other secular marriage book on the market.  Jakes gives his philosophy of how the Word of God fits into all this very clearly on p.61—“The Word of God has never been fully appreciated for its medicinal purpose in treating the sick souls of a depraved humanity.  That describes all of us who, in varying forms and to diverse degrees, have been mutilated by life’s dark tragedies. It is the emancipator of the enslaved and demeaned.  To the woman it is no less liberating. Its truth is ultimately intended to assist in weaving the woman into the greatest liberty she has ever known.”  He’s not talking about sin.  He’s talking about depression, insecurity, weakness, hollowness, etc.  The Bible is medicine for psychological trauma.

*****

Maximize the Moment.  G.P. Putnam’s Sons: 1999.

The gospel is absent.  No sin, no cross, no Jesus, no atonement, no heaven.  Just a “God” who is wringing his hands to help you become successful in life.  This is “The Power of Positive Thinking” with a Scripture reference thrown in.  Jakes tells us how to manage our time, our relationships, our past, our businesses, and our thinking, and he proves it all with one misused Scripture after another.  See pp.123-124 for the Hebrews passage on faith being our ability to relax through stressful situations in life.  See pp.177-178 about having a viable plan and strategy for your life.  Here’s the conclusion, p.237—“Maximize each and every moment of your life from here on out.  Do not let anyone or anything deter you from your purpose.  As I have tried to help you see throughout these pages, evaluate your relationships, your career, your choices, but hold fast the vision of seeing yourself crossing the finish line, knowing that you have run the race with the bold integrity of who you are.  Only you can run the race to be yourself successfully. . . .  The race is against yourself to be who our Creator has made you to be.  Embrace this journey with the total passion of your mind, heart, and soul.”  None of this has any reference to holiness or living a life worthy of the gospel or serving God.  It’s all a very self-serving pursuit of “balance” and success in life that uses God as a tool to that end.

*****

The Great Investment.  G.P. Putnam’s Sons:  2000.  Jakes has clearly lost sight of everything that really matters.  The gospel, faith, even the Logos of God, are just means to the end of success and happiness.  The death of Christ is an aid to self-esteem; there is nothing to be saved from except poverty and failure.  He tries to distinguish himself from the health-and-wealth preachers, but his distinction is only that God gives us the power to be wealthy, if we do everything right.  If we plan and prepare well and make our hearts ready to be wealthy, then God will give us what we already deserve as His children.  Particularly sad is p.40, “The term used in John, Chapter 1, translated as “word” is logos.  It literally means the expression of a thought. . . .  The world was created by a thought that God had. . . .  Have you ever stopped to realize that most money is made as the result of a good idea?”  Jakes has taken the Bible, even such a passage as John 1, and vacated it of any spiritual meaning; the whole thing is one big book of principles for being successful.  In a whole chapter on faith, it is defined as seeing “the vision,” the “there” that God has planned for you.  It’s object is not the saving work of Christ, but God’s willingness or even obligation to make you successful and “balanced,”pp.162-163.  In the conclusion, p.181, he says, It is this evidence [Christ’s death] that enables the person who once had low self-esteem to reevaluate his or her own significance.”  Romans 8, the gospel has finally little to do with being saved from sin and nothing to do with being eternally with God.  It is God’s promise that whatever obstacles we may face on the road to reaching our potential and pursuing our destiny, with Him on our side, we can overcome them and finally be successful, whatever our financial situation.

*****

Six Pillars from Ephesians: Loved by God. Albury Publishing:  2000.

The book starts out with some of the same prosperity gospel that The Great Investment has, but it moves on to focus much more on Christ and His work than any other book previously.  It’s not a bad book.  The Scripture forces Jakes to major on the spiritual realities of Christ’s death rather than finances or emotional self-help or self-esteem.  He’s even clear that it’s not because of our merit that we are chosen, but just because God wanted to do it, p.55.  His old emphases peek up every once in a while, but the text forces him to focus on things that he simply does not when he’s writing from his own mind.

*****

Six Pillars from Ephesians: Experiencing Jesus. Albury Publishing: 2000.

There is not a word here of prosperity gospel.  Jakes talks about eternal darkness, damnation, and does a good exposition of being dead in sins.  I think his treatment of “children of wrath” is a little weak; he deals with it not as punishment but as our state under sin, desiring fullness but finding nothing but grief.  It is a breath of fresh air, though, from the books before.  I didn’t see anything that belittles the gospel to earthly success.  He is finally talking about spiritual things.

*****

Six Pillars from Ephesians: The Spiritual Worship of the Believer. Albury Publishers: 2000.

If these books aren’t wonderful expositions of the text of Ephesians, neither are they the harmful pills Jakes was asking us to swallow earlier.  Even in a section on the “unsearchable riches of Christ,” there is not a word about earthly riches.  The riches he talks about are the mystery of the Gentiles, the Word of God, and the Holy Spirit.  There is one  passage, pp.116-117, that sounds like old T.D., making the gospel a salve for earthly problems, but in light of the clear emphasis on the cross as a payment for sin, especially in Volume II, it’s not as stark.  He talks about heaven and reward after this life, which is something entirely different.  On the other hand, he does mention that he believes in “health and blessing,” so it’s not entirely absent.  But I hope these last three books are a new trend.

*****

On the whole, most of T.D. Jakes’s works belong on the psychology shelves at the bookstore.  They have little to do with the gospel of the Bible.  Stories and truths in the Bible are used as encouragements to think positively and overcome hardship, or to prove that God is waiting to bless us if we’ll only believe more and stop feeling sorry for ourselves.  Sin is mostly absent and when it is discussed, it is usually no more insidious than a bad self-esteem.  Sometimes Jakes makes it sound as if we are innocent victims of sin, which has evilly placed us in bad circumstances and tries to shackle us to our past.  There is no mention of hell or punishment.  God’s grace is most often talked about as a way to release us from our past, or heal old wounds, or teach us how to handle difficult relationships.

Jakes’s sexual language is embarrassing in places.  It’s not surprising that women love him—he has figured out that by talking about pregnancy and sex and femininity in explicit terms, he can convince women that he understands what they feel.

The health-and-wealth gospel is clear and unapologetic, though he sort of stumbles into it from trying to minister to women.  It starts as God’s willingness to heal emotional and psychological trauma and gets progressively worse from there.  Psychological healing leads to emotional healing leads to finding your potential or realizing your destiny leads to financial blessing.  Jakes tries to separate himself from health-and-wealth teachers.  The distinction, though, is that while the health-and-wealthers teach that God will give you riches, Jakes teaches that God gives you power to get riches.  Small difference, it seems.

The three books on Ephesians are surprisingly, even shockingly, different from what came before.  The books are not the work of any scholar; they don’t display any piercing ability at exegesis, but at least they are focused on spiritual things.  The old prosperity gospel comes through occasionally, but with nowhere near the frequency or prominence as in the other books.  (Not at all, in fact, in Volume II.)  The psychological therapy bit comes through once or twice, too, but the focus is more clearly on Christ and his atonement for sin and our spiritual blessings in Christ than it has been in any other book.

If the books on Ephesians were all that I had read, I would hesitate about the few but obvious references to a prosperity gospel, but I would not be nearly so concerned as I am about Jakes’s teaching.  I pray that through his study of Ephesians, Jakes is being taught by God the true riches of the gospel.  Even so, those earlier books are still out there, and Jakes has not disavowed them.  One of them, in fact, was published in the same year as the Ephesians series.  As a whole, the body of his works obscures the true glory of redemption and confuses the message of the gospel.

The Trinity is avoided entirely, apart from two or three sentences where he speaks of Christ and God interacting.

By:
Greg Gilbert

Greg Gilbert is the Senior Pastor of Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. You can find him on Twitter at @greggilbert.