The Art of Manipulation?

October 8, 2008

Following on from John Piper’s excellent talk “Is there Christian Eloquence?” I’ve been pondering what is and is not acceptable in terms of Christian eloquence. To be honest, I sometimes find the lines a little blurry.

The above clip from TD Jakes is at one at level an example of powerful eloquence. Much of it, however, leaves me smiling at the irony that the clip should be entitled “The art of manipulation?” From a rhetorical point of view – not least during the last 60 seconds -Jakes is certainly ‘working the crowd.’

I’d be interested to hear what everyone thinks.

ps. I hasten to add, that I have significant problems with much of Jakes’ theology. At this point, I am only referencing his style.



  1. Very serious words…very playful delivery. Something with that just doesn’t fit. I cannot judge the man’s heart and I am sure he is a very genuine person and really believes what he is saying. I am even sure God is using Jakes for a significant purpose. But we don’t want people coming to Christ because we do the “spiritual hokey pokey” really well. We want them to come to Christ because the Gospel is true. There are glimmers of that in this talk but it gets clouded because of all the posturing and distracting antics.

  2. I completely agree, preaching ought to be the presentation of the Word, argumentation for its position and validation of its truth. He is clearly working the crowd, he’s not presenting Scripture. He’s obviously capitulating to the matriarchal leadership that is often found in the African-American churches too. A call to repentance, I presume, wouldn’t be appropriate to facilitating the emotional high they have come to experience.

  3. There is so much that comes to my mind watching this clip, being a Black American, reared in the “Black Church” tradition. In principle, I have no problem with celebration and rejoicing in connection with preaching, because there is no greater reason for joy, celebration and ecstasy than the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, the danger is emotions can sometimes be easily manipulated by unscrupulous preachers. Also, I’ve seen where achieving an emotional frenzy can become the goal for both speaker and audience, completely overshadowing any concern for biblical truth.

  4. Jonathon Edwards in ‘The Religious Affections’ advocates tha ‘such means are to be desired as have much of a tendency to move the affections’. Yet he carefully defines Godly affections as those which are illumined by the word of God. He thus does not consider any method of stirring the emotions desirable. It seems to me that this clip shows affections being stirred, however this is through the use of technique rather than a presentation of Christ as revealed in the Scriptures. To quote Edwards again ‘The right way is not to reject all affections, nor to approve all; but to distinguish between affections, approving some and rejecting others’.

  5. Colin,

    To be fair about Jakes’ style, believe it or not there are other oratory presentations where he is much more eloquent in his speech than this. I would not so much call this “powerful eloquence” as I would “whooping”, which is a term that has been affectionately used in the predominately African American hyper charasmatic churches for many years. Other than that, I am in complete agreement with you concerning his theology. In my honest opinion, there are much better examples that illustrate powerful eloquence. Since you chose to use one of us brethren from a darker hue, may I tip you off to some African American preachers that are much more doctrinally sound? Some of these brothers (especially Elder Ward), still have the call and response element to the sermon, but there is a marketable difference in the content as compared to the above clip.

    The late Elder DJ Ward

    Then there is audio from many of his other brethren at the Sovereign Grace conference blog.


    Finally, some brothers from the Council of Reforming Churches.


    I completely concer with Wyeth’s assessment of the situation concerning the “Black Church” tradition. By the way, although I am a first time poster, I enjoy your blog immensely. Be well, and I hope to hear from you soon.

    In Him,


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