I’ve decided to take May completely off from social media. I’ve been pushing pretty hard on YouTube for a while now, and it’s been awesome. For some reason I just find it so much fun. But I’ve also felt pretty exhausted lately. I’ve done a lot of debates and dialogues and interviews, as well as my regular videos, on top of writing, pastoring, and seeking to be a godly husband and father. So I’m looking forward to going “dark” for a month.
Here is an overview of what I’ve been doing since my last update in January, and then my plans for Truth Unites for the next few months.
My big push in February was a dialogue with Brett Salkeld on the Eucharist. I put a lot of research into this. Absolutely fascinating topic, and I hadn’t done a deep dive before this. So I spent a lot of time in Cranmer, Vermigli, Calvin, and Bucer, trying to represent the Reformed view of spiritual presence well. Brett is a fantastic interlocutor: one of those rare people who is trying to advance understanding rather than “win.”
In March Cameron Bertuzzi had me back on Capturing Christianity to offer a case against the papacy. I did my best in about 20 minutes to lay out the basic thought process. Cameron appears to be in a place where he is considering converting to Catholicism. There are so many others in that same place, so I hope this will be helpful to them in the process. I also hope more Protestants will enter into these discussions. The Protestants are outnumbered. I think I have counted 8 total response videos from Catholics to my case here thus far!
Two days from writing this I am debating Michael Granado on whether life is meaningful from a naturalistic perspective. Looking forward to it. Please pray for me to have wisdom and grace and that Christ shines through.
Then I’m officiating a wedding over the weekend for some dear friends here, and then we have the busy Easter week. The last week of April I’m having a dialogue with Trent Horn on baptism.
Over the summer I plan (Lord willing) to start writing Reasons to be Protestant, a book drawing together much my video work defending Protestantism. In addition, I will continue my video series on theological triage. The second video in the series will address how to do triage, and then I will cover various specific topics: complementarianism vs. egalitarianism, spiritual gifts, issues related to the sacraments, and more.
Beyond that, I have four topics I would like to research and then produce videos on over the summer and into the fall:
- The essence-energies distinction (a feature of the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of God). I find this fascinating, and I think dialogue with the Eastern traditions (such as Orthodoxy) is stimulating and fruitful.
- Adam of Bremen’s account of the Christianization of Scandinavia in the 10th-11th centuries. This is a somewhat obscure academic interest of mine, but I’m fascinated by neglected periods/episodes of church history. This is one of those events we know very little about, and is often completely overlooked in history textbooks. I also believe that understanding how Christianity spread throughout Europe holds some interesting lessons for the church today as Europe and the West generally goes through the process of secularization.
- Apologetics issues related to the conquest of Canaan. I have always struggled with this topic and not felt like I had a great answer. I’d like to arrive at better personal satisfaction in my own understanding, and then share any insights I might glean with others.
- Calvinism. I’ve discovered what a controversial topic this is in YouTube circles. Many appear to have a caricature of what Calvinism teaches. So I think there could be some benefit to trying to explain some of the basic biblical and philosophical underpinnings of Calvinism, not in a spirit of conquering other views but more in a spirit of seeking understanding and clarity.
A few other matters:
- I had mentioned offering classes. I still want to do that but it will be a bit down the road simply because I don’t have the bandwidth currently.
- When I get to 12K subs I will do another live Q+A.
- My book Humility: The Joy of Self-Forgetfulness will be releasing from Crossway in early 2023. It is a brief, popular-level book designed for devotional use, easy to be engaged in small groups. Be on the lookout.
- I also have a few articles and essays that have recently come out, or are coming out soon: one on divine aseity, one on the beatific vision, and one on Anselm’s epistemology. You can see them here if you are interested.
- Thank you for those of you who support Truth Unites. I find a lot of joy in it, and by God’s grace I sincerely believe it is meeting needs. Lots of people are deconstructing and searching for answers, and I’m trying to provide assistance, stabilization, clarity, and pathways forward. I do that through theological triage, historical theology, apologetics, and defending Protestantism. I get messages nearly every day from people who are wrestling with something in these areas. I hope Truth Unites treats them like Jesus treated people.
- If you’d like to support Truth Unites, one of the best ways is through my patreon. Another thing you can do is leave reviews of my books on Amazon and/or Goodreads. I poured my heart into Why God Makes Sense in a World That Doesn’t, and I hope it’s not weird to say that I am proud of how it turned out. I really believe in that book. Help me spread the word about it by leaving a review and sharing about it with a friend.
One final thing: we are living in dark and difficult days. Many pastors I know are discouraged. Many friends I know are struggling with depression. The world often seems to be falling into pieces. I find that I often need to disengage and refocus on the simple joys of the gospel.
Here is an image that encouraged me the other day. It is when Sam is traveling through Mordor and looks up and notices a star. Tolkien writes: “The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For … the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach” (Tolkien, Lord of the Rings [Houghton Mifflin 1987], 922).
Whatever darkness we face, it is wonderful to remember that the light blazes on impoverished. The shadows around us will be, in the end, a small and passing thing.
May the Lord bless you and sustain you in 2022!
Amazing. Glorious. Bold. And all of it so worth doing!
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thank you Dad.
“The world often seems to be falling into pieces. I find that I often need to disengage and refocus on the simple joys of the gospel.” Amen, and such a good ending to your piece.
I look forward to reading more of your thoughts on Eastern Orthodoxy. I have a close friend who has converted to EO from Evangelicalism. While I acknowledge the lure of the beauty, mystery, tradition, and rich symbolism that EO offers, I am at the same time concerned as to where the church stands with respect to the gospel.
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Well said, Charlie, and I wonder if our general lack of awareness of Orthodoxy (compared to Catholicism, for example) contributes to many evangelicals feeling that allure and converting. It seems we need more engagement here.
Gavin, see my reply to Charlie’s comment. In an earlier comment to one of your videos I express myself a bit uncharitably I believe and though I did Apologize and you very graciously accepted that I hope that my reply to Charlie will absolve me from being a rather narrow-minded, narrow visioned it’s my way or the highway type of Christian. And talking to other Christians including evangelicals I always adopt the approach of I’m just saying what I believe and not make any comments on the beliefs of the other side. I truly believe that trying to convince other Bible believing Christians to abandon their spirit-filled communities for Orthodoxy is nothing less than soul snatching of which I will have no part. God bless you during Great Lent. Looking forward to your presentation of the Energies vs Essence of God. This is getting into the “weeds” a bit but St Gregory Palamas’ teaching (or how it has been taught to the) really has been a blessing to me. Look forward to your take on it. Tikhon
Charlie, as someone who has been part of 3 Christian Communities (raised Southern Baptist, entered into communion with Roman Catholicism in college before joining the Eastern Orthodox Christian Community almost 40 years ago) I have found EO spirituality and it’s application of the Gospel to every day life very compelling. At St Justin Martyr Orthodox Church in Jacksonville FL we currently have 9 catechumens most of whom are Evangelical. Quite frankly I am more than a bit surprised and like you and Gavin concerned about the attraction of the exotic externals. We have an extended coffee hour at the end of every Sunday’s Divine Liturgy. When talking to these catechumens I emphasize the absolute necessity of taking things step by step and to take the time needed to discern if the Orthodox expression of Christianity brings you into a closer walk with God. If the answer is yes, then and only then should you ask to be received into Orthodoxy. If you come from another Christian Community the issue is not your salvation but the fellowship of the Christian Community in which you are best able grow in love and knowledge of God. When I first attended a English only Orthodox Church I felt I had found a home. But I had to be sure and took it several years of attendance before I asked to be received. I do not entirely agree with Gavin’s approach to asking non-Orthodox not to be dazzled by the seemingly exotic and flashy attraction of something new. But I agree wholeheartedly that anyone coming from a non-Orthodox tradition, especially evangelicals, needs to take the time to be sure that you are being led by God in your quest. I really like Gavin’s deep dive into the practices/beliefs of the early Church. I do not agree with all of his conclusions but it has given me another view on the diversity of the early Church which I have found very rewarding.
Phil, well said and thank you for your gracious response to my comment. I hope my expression of “concern” did not come across as uncharitable or condescending. It certainly was not meant to be so. My journey began in a tight-knit Italian Catholic community and school till I turned 18. It was then that I was introduced to the Bible for personal reading and in doing so discovered the simple truth of the gospel. I believed in and received Christ about that time, and for the last 40 years my wife and I have been in a wonderful independent evangelical church. While I left the RCC many years ago I still appreciate the foundation that was laid for me in those years as well as the beautiful parts of the liturgy. Rich liturgy is something that to this day I miss in evangelicalism, though some churches are now rediscovering it. Thankful for that. But back to the topic, I guess for me it boils down to the focus on Jesus and his gospel. Within the RCC my experience has been that Jesus has to compete in a crowded field of saints to be adored, feast days to be observed, and sacraments to be received. Within my extended family (still RC) Jesus hardly occupies a place in their minds and hearts that is unique. This has always troubled me. As for the proclamation of the gospel, the model in Acts seems very straightforward…that we are to go into the world and make disciples by proclaiming the simple gospel, baptizing new believers, and growing them in the faith. This is the lens that I tend to see through, and I guess I don’t yet understand how the EO and RC fit into that lens, so to speak. Likely more my issue than anything else. However, having said all of that, I certainly consider EO believers as brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s Jesus’ church. Wherever we are and however we look may he find us faithful. Blessings my friend.
Thanks for sharing your essays ol’ chap. I hope you’re coping with everything. Always praying for your ministry.
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thank you my dear friend!
Gavin, I will be praying that your upcoming “dark” month will be restful and restorative for the challenges ahead of you. God has given you a special gift for the work He has called you to.
I love that picture and quote of Sam.
Warmest greetings to you and Esther.
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Thank you so much Brad! Wonderful to hear from you. Please give our warm greetings to Pep as well.
…and on the fifth month, he rested. Or something like that. That brings up the question… by “May” do you mean a literal 31 days? I need to know what hill you are dying on. Haha!
In all seriousness, I’m glad you are resting, because it means you are trusting. Thanks for what you do, and continued prayers for you and your family.
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haha. I am not a literalist when it comes to Genesis 1, but I am when it comes to my May sabbath! :)
We at First Baptist Church of Ojai are so Blessed to have you as our Pastor. A word of encouragement!?
DO NOT BURN YOURSELF OUT!!!
I’m so glad you recognize when you are extending yourself too much. Take your well deserved rest/break.
Love you Brother
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Thanks Barry! Love you!