But at the end of their pronouncement, the Baylys leave the realm of reasonable warnings. They accuse Pastor T.D. Jakes – one of those preaching for gain, in their accounting (at least a plausible accusation, given the tone of his ministry's website) – of heresy. How so? On the basis of this statement:
"There is one God, Creator of all things, infinitely perfect, and eternally existing in three manifestations: Father, Son and Holy Spirit."The offending word is "manifestations", with its overtones of the various kinds of essentially gnostic heresies throughout the church's history. The Baylys particularly identify Jakes with the Modalists (that link is original to BaylyBlog: the possible irony of their using a Roman Catholic webcyclopedia amuses me).
To be sure, "manifestations" is not the accepted term "persons" used in the Western translations of the Church's creeds. And as mentioned, to the historically literate Christian it has unfortunate overtones. But the charge of heresy is concocted entirely on that poor word choice, with no regard for the rest of the statement. Take for instance
"Further, [Jesus Christ] arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He is now our High Priest and Advocate."and
"The ministry of the Holy Spirit is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ..." (emphases mine)Both these statements accept, even emphasize, even require the traditional and orthodox doctrine of the separate persons of the Trinity. Nowhere does Jakes' church veer into clear heresy (at least on that score) in their statement. The charge is ludicrous – and making it worse is that searching for departures from orthodoxy within the ministry of The Potter's House is easy: the Baylys might have started, say, in the church's inclusion of female pastors. Instead, they appear to be clutching carelessly at any straw of accusation they can find. That's careless rhetoric, if nothing else, but often is the hallmark of personal attacks – which I doubt either Bayly had in mind at all, but again is an appearance to avoid if possible, for rhetorical reasons if nothing else.
I might have just dismissed the post out of hand and ignored it, but I had been reading earlier today in Henry Osborn Taylor's The Medieval Mind, where in a footnote to an account of Patristic discussions he has this to say:
"... The Latin juristic word persona [is] used in the Creed. The Latins had to render the hypostaseis of the Greeks; and "three somethings," tria quaedam, was too loose.... hypostasis would have been substantia; but that word had been taken to render ousia. So the legal word persona was employed in spite of its recognized unfitness." (Chapter III, note 1)Hypostasis might literally be translated an "under-standing-ness", or more colloquially a thing which stands by itself (while supporting another), thus translations such as "foundation", "substance" (derived from the Latin word with the same literal meaning as the Greek), and the philosophical sense of the English "essence". Yes, even the "somethings" of quaedam are more definite, more material than Jakes' "manifestations", to say nothing of substantia, Taylor's (and by his account the Church Fathers') preferred word if had been possible. But we have to recognize that persona – meaning legally approximately the same thing to a Roman that "persons" now does to us, I believe – is itself an approximation, and that makes the charge look even sillier. "Manifestation" is a poor choice, given that it carries a connotation of appearance only – but none of us are perfect, and perhaps a friendly letter, rather than flinging down a gauntlet?