What is surprising to me is how leaders within the church have failed to understand the significance of what Jakes said or have decided that the distinction between what he believes and what we believe about the Trinity is not important enough to quibble over.
How important is our description of the Trinity? Is it a doctrine that church leaders must understand precisely or is there "wiggle room"?
The fourth-century church leader Athanasius believed that our articulation of the Trinity was so important that he was willing to face the wrath of an emperor rather than budge one little Greek mark--literally.
Arianism was a fourth century heresy that taught Jesus was not co-equal with God but rather created. In The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform, Roger Olson describes how Athanasius stubbornly held on to the biblical, orthodox understanding of the Trinity:
Athanasius served as archbishop and patriarch of Alexandria for forty-five years until his death in 373. He spent approximately one-third of that time in forced exile due to his steadfast defense of the key terminology of the Nicene Creed in the face of imperial oppposition. With good reason he has come to be known as the "saint of stubbornness" because of his uncompromising opposition to anything that smacked of Arianism--even when emperors threatened his life. It may not be much of an exaggeration to say that all Christians have Athanasius to thank that the theology of Jehovah's Witnesses is not the "orthodoxy" of most of Christendom (161).Emperor Constantine's son, Constantius, wanted to see the controversy over trinitarianism done away with. He believed that the Nicene Creed presented an obstacle to unity and believed that one, tiny, insignificant change to the creed could allow all Christians to live in peace with one another.
The emperor wanted peace, and uniformity was its path. He came to believe that the term homoousios...should be replaced in the Nicene Creed with homoiousios, which means "of a similar substance" and would be acceptable to the semi-Arians and even many trinitarians. If accepted, the new terminology would have made orthodox the belief that the Son and the Father share a "similar substance" or a "like being" instead of the belief that they are of the same substance or being.
Athanasius stubbornly resisted the change and even condemned it as rank heresy.... [H]is concern was not merely to defend some sacrosanct wording but to defend the gospel itself. For Athanasius and his supporters, salvation itself depends on the Son of God being God and not merely a great creature "like God." For him "the fundamental issue is that only very God can unite a creature to God" and "salvation is not...possible through an hierarchical chain, from the Father through an intermediate Son to creatures...."
One modern critic of early Christian orthodoxy has suggested that Athanasius played a role in the downfall of the Roman Empire because of his obstinacy over one tiny letter that in Greek is only a diacritical mark over a vowel (164-5).As is so often the case, little things matter when speaking of the Trinity. Athanasius was absolutely right and his brave defense of clear articulation of the Trinity protected many from heresy.
But where is Athanasius today? Are "manifestations" the same as "persons" when speaking about the Trinity? Do little things still matter?
The answer to the last question is "yes" and I'd encourage you to keep this in mind when reading these excellent essays: Carson and Keller on Jakes and the Elephant Room and Thabiti Anyabwile's 11 Things I'm Thinking in the Wake of Recent Events.