My Thoughts on the Elephant Room

Today, I attended the simulcast of the Elephant Room at Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale. It was a great event, listening and learning. Connecting with and making friends was a huge highlight. The big controversy, if you haven’t heard, was about the invitation of Bishop T.D. Jakes, who allegedly had denied the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. I actually registered before Bishop Jakes was invited to join the discussion, and, honestly, I would not have registered afterward. When I registered Mark Dever was lined up to participate, and I was disappointed when he was no longer going to be involved. However, I am still glad that I went, and here are some of my thoughts on the cluster of conversations.

1. I was encouraged by Bishop Jakes affirming a more orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. He explained he was converted and trained in a Oneness Pentecostal church, and that he has grown in his understanding of the doctrine of the Trintiy. He flat out said, “One God, three persons”, even though he explained that he doesn’t like the word “person” because it creates some problems. But it is clear that he has grown significantly in a biblical direction on this crucial issue, and that is worthy of celebration and joy.

2. However, I was also discouraged by the conversation between Jakes and Pastor James MacDonald and Pastor Mark Driscoll. They did address the issue of the Trinity, but there was also a lot of ducking behind the mystery of an infinite God. It disappointed me that no one distinguished between incomplete knowledge of an infinite God and incorrect knowledge of an infinite God. In other words, we can never know God completely or perfectly, but we can know him truly. There are some things about God that are simply wrong, such as Oneness (modalist) theology. This was not sufficiently addressed. I appreciated the humility and brotherly love between all of these great men, but I think all of the expressions of mutual admiration took a lot of the time, and it would have been helpful to spend more time in serious discussion about the most important subjects in the universe.

3. I was convicted and encouraged by the spirit of “assuming the best about a brother.” I have too often been guilty of assuming the worst about someone based upon their reputation. As Christians, our impulse should be to assume the best about someone who claims to be a Christian. We should not be naive. We should be shrewd and unflinching in our commitment to the truth, but we should not accept a charge against a brother unjustly.

4. I was helped by the discussions on pastoral burnout and moral failure. I was reminded again of the importance of guarding myself and my family for the sake of Christ. I believe it was Wayne Cordeiro who explained that our pastoral impulse is like being on an airplane when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling. We often do the equivalent of exactly what they tell you not to do in the safety information on the airplane. They say to put your own oxygen mask on first. Because if you pass out or die, you won’t be any good to anyone. The same goes in ministry. A pastor is always tempted to neglect his own spiritual health in an effort to help others. But that will end up being detrimental to the sheep and deadly for the shepherd in the long run. I was reminded that if I’m not close with Jesus, I’m no good to anyone.

5. I was encouraged to preach the Gospel wholeheartedly and urgently. Crawford Loritts said something that hit me between the eyes. “Don’t front-load the Gospel,” he said. I am too often guilty of not pointing people straight to Jesus in a simple and direct way. I will never be able to dot every “i” or cross every “t”. I must simply preach Jesus and him crucified and call people to repentance and faith.

6. I was impressed with the staff of the event. Last week, I emailed the generic Elephant Room information email address, because I needed to change the location I was attending. Within ten minutes, I got an email from Luke MacDonald, who got the issue taken care of immediately. Super impressive.

Overall, I’m glad I went to the event. I was encouraged, challenged, and helped. I think I will be a better pastor in the long run because I attended. If you went, what did you think?

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About Danny Slavich

I am a Christian husband, father, pastor, and poet. I lead Pembroke Road Baptist Church a multi-cultural, multi-generational church in urban South Florida.
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4 Responses to My Thoughts on the Elephant Room

  1. Pingback: Non-Trinitarian Pentecostals (Oneness) and Trinitarian Pentecostals | shelboese.org

  2. Cyndy says:

    I had heard about this event and appreciate your comments. Do you plan to attend the next one scheduled soon in Ft. Lauderdale?
    Is a Roman Catholic priest involved? As a former RC I do not understand any unity with a different gospel and this seems to be surfacing more among evangelical Christians. What do you discern about this?

  3. Michael Uebergang says:

    We need to know who we worship. It is not a small thing to say we worship one God in 3 persons. All the way through the Old and New Testaments we read that God co-existed as 3 persons in one. From Gen 1:26 ‘Let us make man in our image”, to the pre-incarnate manifestations of Christ in Joshua and the prophetic books, and the references to the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, all the way through to the New Testament. Take Jesus own teaching in John 14-17. Jesus died for his claim to be God equal with the Father, saying ‘I and the Father are one (in substance)’. We worship a God who is above our comprehension yet not a contradiction in himself. I cannot understand Nuclear Physics or Quantum Physics, though I enjoy their conversation. I cannot even understand basic mathematics. That I cannot understand something does not make them contradictory, irrelevant, or a waste of time. My God loves me so much that he sent… (john 3:16). As a consequence… (1 John 3: 16). We love because (1 John 4: 19) There is a mystery about what we shall look like (1 jonh 3:2, etc). Throughout Scripture we are cautioned about what we believe. St Paul is concerned not to misrepresent the truth (1 Cor 15) and says that division is necessary so that we come to know the truth (1 Cor 11). Truth matters. It is a matter of who we worship. Because God is Triune we are pulled out of our ego-centric worlds to live self-sacrificially the incarnate love of God in the power of His Holy Spirit. The Bendections say it all. The Bible is full of Trinitarian language. It is worth studying because theology is the worship of God and that is all there is worthwhile in this passing world.

  4. Pingback: T. D. Jakes, the Trinity, and Truth

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