Review: Ministry in the New Marriage Culture

mithmc“Same-sex marriage is here. So what do pastors and church leaders do now?”

So reads the first lines emblazoned on the back cover of this book, the latest offering from Jeff Iorg, the president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary (which, disclaimer, is also where I am studying to complete my MDiv). Dr. Iorg is the editor of this book and has assembled 15 of the leading minds either from or affiliated with the seminary in order to address both this large question and many of the other related questions that follow.

Following the Introduction (chapter 1), the book is divided into three sections: Biblical Foundations for Ministry (chapters 2 & 3), Theological Foundations for Ministry (chapters 4-6), and Models and Methods for Ministry (chapters 7-15).

The first section, Biblical Foundations, is a brief overview of some of the biblical teachings and principles from the Old and New Testaments on marriage and sexual ethics. The book’s point of view on the issues is the historic (or non-affirming) teaching of the church on sexual ethics in general and homosexuality in particular. These two chapters are valuable for anyone who has not done an extensive study of the subject themselves but are also not the point of the book. Those looking for exhaustive treatments will want to look elsewhere, though these chapters serve as an appropriate starting point.

The Theological Foundations section covers Gospel Confidence, Ecclesiology, and Sexual Ethics. Of the three, the chapter on Ecclesiology by Rodrick Durst is a standout: it does an excellent job of bringing historical situations in the history of the church to bear on the current circumstances, is filled with encouragements to the reader, offers case studies of potential church issues, suggests practices that will be of benefit in resolving these issues, AND goes further than most of the other chapters by addressing trans* issues (a step not all of the authors take).

The Models and Methods section is the bread and butter of the book and will most likely be the most helpful of all the sections to pastors and other church leaders. In particular, the Preaching chapter by Tony Merida and the Legal Challenges chapter by Jim Wilson are incredibly valuable resources. I feel the chapter on legal challenges, while not for everyone, would be worth the price of the book all by itself to church leaders for its practical advice and suggestions on ways to preemptively protect churches from possible litigation and liability.

Answering Objections:

But wait, some might ask: why do we need another book by fifteen cisgender, evangelical, conservative authors (who are almost all white to boot)? What could they add that is possibly worth listening to? Don’t we need more voices who don’t represent this point of view?

The first part of the answer to that question is YES! We need more diversity in the conversation. I will not argue on that point. However, this book is diverse in its own way.

This is a book that is not directly arguing the abstract and/or theological question of same-sex marriage. It is instead focused on the practicals–what to do–in light of the legal realities that the churches maintaining the historic teaching are faced with and is mainly addressed to those who already agree with its theological perspective. For the book’s audience, this is a necessary book. There are few resources out there (to my admittedly limited knowledge!) that perform the function this book sets out to accomplish.

Is it a perfect book? No. Some chapters fall flat or come across as tone-deaf. Few will agree with every suggestion that every author makes (at least I don’t). And the book falls far short of answering every possible answer to the problems and opportunities churches will face in this arena. But while it doesn’t provide all the answers, it at least is beginning to ask the right questions and inviting the reader to answer them for themselves.

5 stars out of 5

Jeff Iorg, ed. Ministry in the New Marriage Culture. Nashville, B&H Publishing, 2015. 264 pp. Paperback. $14.99.

A Different Sort of Apology for the Crusades

With the President’s recent remarks on the Crusades at the National Prayer Breakfast, the Crusades are suddenly (seemingly) everywhere. Everyone has their own opinion on why the President was wrong or why the Crusades were wrong or why everyone else is wrong. Unfortunately, it seems many are leaping to share their opinions with nothing more than a passing/pop culture familiarity with the events in question.


I don’t intend to share much personally on the subject other than to recommend Rodney Stark’s book God’s Battalions[†] to anyone who would seek a first step in educating themselves on the subject at hand. I read and reviewed the book for a class last semester and found it to be an excellent starting point not just for a discussion of the Crusades themselves but for an examination of the lenses through which we we view the past. Stark apologizes for the Crusades not in the sense of asking someone/anyone for forgiveness but rather in the other sense of the word: that is, a reasoned argument or writing in justification of something. Stark aims to show that much of our so-called “knowledge” of the Crusades is actually not knowledge at all but misconceptions, untruths, and anachronistic impositions of modern, Western morality on a most decidedly non-Western and premodern culture. Whether or not you agree with Stark, it is important to acknowledge at least the possibility that we are not seeing everything with the equivalent of “historical 20/20 vision” (…as if that even existed). As historian Christopher Tyerman observed in a book with a similar aim as Stark’s: “To observe the past through the lens of the present invites delusion; so too does ignoring the existence of that lens.”[1]

For those not yet convinced or who want a preview of the book, I’ve excerpted a few paragraphs from my review in the rest of this post. So read on if you’re even just a bit interested in the subject.

Continue reading

Finding Jesus in the Apocrypha

Money. Sex. Power. Piety. This is the name of the class that I’m taking this week at Golden Gate in between the Fall and Spring semesters (during the J[anuary]-term). The class focuses on the period between 500ish BC and 50 AD, or what’s known as the Second Temple Period of Judaism.

As part of prep for the course I’ve read many writings that I’d never read before, including books and excerpts of books from the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha–categories that have slippery definitions depending on who/what you read but which at the minimum equate to various levels of “Jewish or Christian writings that are outside the canon of Scripture.”

One of the major characteristics of this period of Jewish history and the literature produced within it is a further development and discussion of ideas about eternal life. We clearly see the evidence of this discussion in the New Testament in passages like Acts 23:1-10, where the Apostle Paul is examined before the Sanhedrin and shrewdly uses the differing opinions of the Pharisees (the theological progressives) and the Sadducees (the theological conservatives) on the idea of whether there is a resurrection to his advantage.

51ZMUSgfpNL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_In Early Judaism: Texts and Documents on Faith and Piety (one of our texts for this course), authors Nickelsburg and Stone summarize one such excerpt from the Wisdom of Solomon chapters 2-5 as:

…the case of a righteous man whose enemies condemn him to death, believing that there is no reckoning after death. To their surprise, after their death they are confronted by the righteous man, exalted in the heavenly courtroom. As their judge, he condemns them to that punishment whose existence they had denied. (p. 134)

To be sure, this already sounded like an interesting portion from this document of Early Judaism. However, I was surprised by the powerful emotions the passage stirred as I recognized within it echoes of various New Testament descriptions of Jesus.

From Wisdom of Solomon 2:

2 17“Let us see if [the righteous man’s] words are true, and let us test what will happen at the end of his life; 18For if the righteous man is God’s son, He will help him, and He will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries. 19Let us test him with insult and torture, that we may find out how gentle he is and make trial of his forbearance. 20Let us condemn him to a shameful death, for, according to what he says, he will be protected.”

In 2:21-4:19 the book takes a detour from the narrative to discuss God’s purposes in destining the good for eternal life, examining Him allowing the righteous to suffer in this life, the eventual fate of the righteous in the life to come as well as rewards and punishments, and Biblical examples of the righteous who died before their time. The scene following the wicked men’s murder of the righteous man and their own eventual deaths picks up in 4:20:

4 20“They will come with dread when their sins are reckoned up, and their lawless deeds will convict them to their face. 5 1Then the righteous man will stand with great confidence in the presence of those who have afflicted him and those who make light of his labors. 2When they see him they will be shaken with dreadful fear, and they will be amazed at his unexpected salvation. 3They will speak to one another in repentance, and in anguish of spirit they will groan and say, 4‘This is the man whom we once held in derision and made a byword of reproach-we fools! We thought that his life was madness and that his end was without honor. 5Why has he been numbered among the sons of God? And why is his lot among the holy ones? 6So it was we who strayed from the way of truth, and the light of righteousness did not shine on us, and the sun did not rise on us.'”

Wow. There’s a lot I could say about this passage, but I’ll content myself with simply saying that parallels in the Gospels immediately popped up and I couldn’t help but be thankful for the Righteous One–God’s son– who suffered on my behalf and will stand in judgement at the end of all things and intercede on my behalf. Thanks be to God!

For those interested, here are two passages from Matthew that came to mind:

“In the same way the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked Him and said, ‘He saved others, but He cannot save Himself! He is the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in Him. He has put His trust in God; let God rescue Him now–if He wants Him! For He said, ‘I am God’s Son.'”  -Matthew 27:41-44 (HCSB)

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as  a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left…Then he will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels…And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.'” -Matthew 25:31-33, 41, 46 (HCSB)

The Blog Awakens

The hills around our apartment are greener than ever following all the rain we've gotten lately
The hills around our apartment are greener than ever following all the rain we’ve gotten lately

Hello All!

It’s been a crazy few weeks as my first semester here at Golden Gate has wrapped up. Life’s been full (in mostly good ways 🙂 ) but one of the things to fall by the wayside has been this here blog.

I’ve got a nice break between this semester and the next, however, and some ideas for new blogs have been building up even though I haven’t been posting. I’ve got some new book reviews, top _____ of 2014 lists, thoughts about OT stories, and more in the pipeline. Just like the hills around our apartment have sprung to life after the deluge, look for new updates to spring up here soon!

Monday Morning Music-“This I Believe” by Hillsong

Part of our reading for my Church History class here at Golden Gate was some of the various creeds that the Church has used over the past few centuries. It reminded me of this song that I enjoy from Hillsong and want to share with you.

What an amazing privilege to share these beliefs with those who have gone before us in the journey of faith that following Jesus is!

(…of particular interest to me is what portions of the song are actually from prior creeds and what the songwriters added themselves. But no need to go into all that detail analyzing it if you don’t want to! 🙂 )

I Am Groot-Transition, New Beginnings, and Isaiah 6



A few weeks ago at our orientation for GGBTS, Dr. Durst shared a devotional on Isaiah 6. He started from the beginning of the chapter-Isaiah’s vision of the Lord on the throne and Isaiah’s call to go and speak to the people of Israel on God’s behalf. The chapter is a familiar one to me and yet God still spoke a distinctly new thing to me through it. (side note: isn’t it amazing and wonderful to hear new things continually through the Word? I love it!)

I’d never really focused on the last verse of the chapter before. After volunteering to accept God’s call, Isaiah asks in verse 11 how long this mission to speak for the Lord is to last (which is a good question, although the timing brings to mind Merry and Pippen’s stunt in the movie version of The Fellowship of the Ring where they insist on accompanying Frodo with the Ring and only after being accepted say, “Great. Where are we going?”).

God’s answer is that Isaiah is to speak until judgement comes upon the people (v-11-12). This is probably not what Isaiah wanted to hear (although I have no way of knowing and this is just informed conjecture). I know if I were in Isaiah’s shoes (sandals?), what I’d want to hear from God would be more along the lines of “Until the whole nation repents and you are a national hero!” or “Until I call you to a different task” or even “Until you’ve faithfully obeyed me even though not many have repented.” But to hear the Lord effectively say “Obey my call until the nation is destroyed in judgement for its sins and taken into captivity and the land is mostly forsaken”? Wow…I don’t know how I’d react to that, honestly.

But, hard as the answer is, that’s not where God leaves things. He’s told Isaiah that it won’t be an easy ministry by any means and that there’s an incredibly hard transition coming, but his last words to Isaiah here leave him with hope:

And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again, like a terebinth or an oak, whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump. -Isaiah 6:13

A remnant will remain. Even in his judgement on the people who have forsaken him, God will spare and preserve some. And from this stump will come new life! (Hence the Guardians of the Galaxy reference-sorry if that’s spoilers for any of you, but c’mon! It’s been out for quite a while now.) It’s hard not to think of God’s messianic promise in the midst of cursing the snake in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s offspring (literally seed in Hebrew) will crush the serpent’s offspring under his heel. From this remnant comes a Messiah.

God’s promises have not failed, his purposes have not been thwarted. He remains faithful. post-tbird

What a joy and comfort to know that God is a God who-even in the midst of judgement and punishment- is in the business of fresh starts, new life, restoration, and reconciliation for his chosen people. New life from the ashes of the stump.

Golden Gate Bound

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Lauren and I the weekend we got engaged

In my inaugural post here I shared that “I currently find myself at the end of one particular season of life and at the beginning of another. The particulars are still in flux and I’ll share them at a later point.” That was just over two months ago and I haven’t followed up on that promise…yet. So without further ado…

I have recently been accepted as a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, which is in the North Bay Area. Classes begin next month and Lauren and I will move out that direction and live on campus. Going to seminary has been something I’ve always thought of as a possibility for myself but the timing has never been right and I’d never felt God leading that direction. However, those factors have changed recently and we’ve seen God redirect us towards this via a variety of circumstances (not all of them “easy” or “fun”).


Lauren and I are excited about this next phase of our lives. Although the unknown is seriously scary and the road that’s led here has not been all smooth sailing, the fact that we can look to God through it all is a constant encouragement and refuge for us.

A verse that’s been especially encouraging to me lately is Psalm 37:3, which says:

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Wherever He has put you or is bringing you: trust him. Do good, dwell there, and be faithful. He’s worthy of our trust.

For those of you who have followed us as we’ve ministered to college students with The Navigators, this move was the subject of our most recent (and most likely last) newsletter, which you can read here if you did not receive one. -> Summer 2014