Bishop T. D. Jakes, a Pentecostal pastor of a 30,000 megachurch in Dallas, was invited to preach to President-elect Obama and other dignitaries at St. John's Church in Washington, D.C. St. John's is an Episcopal church.
Here is another example of a poor choice of pastors. Now, I do not expect President Obama to be a theologian; he is our president and I expect him to make presidential decisions. But who advised him to invite Bishop Jakes? My issue with Jakes is that his view of the Trinity borders on the heretical. Many times, he has made statements that smack of Sabellianism, which was an early second century heresy also known as Modalism because Sabellius viewed God as one who has manifested Himself in three modes: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Christian doctrine on the Godhead confesses that God is one God, and this oneness is comprised of three separate, distinct Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Every time Jakes has explained his belief, he does not use the traditional language of Christianity, but consistently uses wishy-washy language that leaves room for doubt whether he actually believes God is comprised of three Persons.
So on Inauguration Weekend we have been subjected to:
an Episcopal bishop who is unrepentant in his homosexual sin, and refused to pray a Christian prayer;
a Pentecostal pastor who does not give a definitive confession about the holy Trinity; and
an Evangelical pastor who routinely confuses law and gospel, often preaching the law while believing it is the gospel.
The state of American civil religion is horrendous. In fact, it rarely has been unashamedly Christian. Too often it is headlined with prominent pastors who have serious doctrinal issues, issues that are at odds with the doctrine passed on by the prophets and the apostles in holy Scripture.
Now you may ask, is there anyone who would satisfy my strict criticism. Answer: yes; pastors who are sincere and bold in their confession of Jesus Christ, preach Him crucified and risen from the dead for the forgiveness of our sins, and take seriously the doctrines of the one, holy Christian and apostolic Church. Unfortunately, such pastors are not going to be chosen for such public ceremonies like a presidential inauguration, because they are little fish in a big pond that is filled with mammoth fish who get all the spotlight. Such is, and has been, the state of American civil religion.
I think President Obama deserves better than the pastors who surrounded him this inauguration. He has somber and serious responsibilities, and he deserves pastors who are less inclined to preach in their prayers but who will simply and shortly pray for him, his family, and his cabinet for wisdom, safety, and divine guidance. I am sure many faithful pastors and Christians have prayed this way for him in recent days, and for that we can take hope regarding the state of American Christianity.