About

I’m a Christian trying to live in light of what Jesus has done for me. I’m also a husband to Esther, and a father to Isaiah, Naomi, Elijah, and Miriam. I serve as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Ojai in Ojai, California. In terms of hobbies, I am a true Californian—my favorite place in all the world is the beach, and I’m also into hiking, biking, and movies.

headshotI have a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary in historical theology, and an M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary. I am the author of several books in the realm of theology and regularly write online in the realm of theology and Christian living. For a list of publications, see my CV.

Enneagram: 4w5

MBTI: INFJ

The mission of Truth Unites is to provide an irenic voice on theology, apologetics, and the Christian life. We live in such a polarizing and disillusioned time. More than ever, it is important to cultivate both graciousness and depth in the way we commend the gospel to those around us.

Truth Unites has a dual purpose as both a theological resource to the church as well as an apologetics voice to our culture. In its inward-facing role, it seeks to serve the church with theological education. My content is especially focused on historical retrieval, and shoring up evangelical theology amidst its fragmentation. In its outward-facing role, Truth Unites seeks to provide a winsome and credible voice to the culture concerning the existence of God and the truths of the Christian faith. I’m particularly interested in utilizing classical arguments in the context of beauty, story, and probability.

Become a patron: https://www.patreon.com/truthunites

You can connect with me on Twitter or Facebook or Youtube. Speaking and interview requests can be sent to: truthunitesemail@gmail.com.

The views represented on my blog are mine alone and not representative of my church or denomination.

anselm

“I do not try, Lord, to attain Your lofty heights, because my understanding is in no way equal to it.  But I do desire to understand Your truth a little, that truth that my heart believes and loves.  For I do not seek to understand so that I may believe; but I believe so that I may understand.  For I believe this also, that ‘unless I believe, I shall not understand.'”

Anselm, Proslogion, chapter 1

51 Comments

  1. Gav,

    If Facebook is an accurate indicator, word on the street has it that you may be considering doing doctoral work on Anselm. That’s pretty rad.

    The interplay between absolute divine simplicity and trinitarian doctrine have recently become an interest of mine, and I’d like to have someone to bounce ideas off of. Perhaps you could cook up some posts on Anselm and we could get some back and forth going.

    Like

    1. Drew, thank goodness for facebook – we would hardly know each other without it!! I also have thought about that interplay, as Anselm goes right there in chapter 23 of Proslogion. I will try to post a quote sometime soon, and then you can go to town.

      PS: if you are interested in more about my desires for doctoral work in Anselm, check this out: https://gavinortlund.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/an-infinite-multiplication-of-happiness/

      Like

  2. Christof Meyer

    Hey Gavin,

    I just got here through Mere-O. Matt is a good friend of mine. Are you informed by the fact that Anselm was building on Augustine’s use of the word Soliloquy? Have you heard the Mars Hill audio interview of Thomas Hibbs on the exhibit of the work of Georges Roualt and Makoto Fujimura – called Soliloquies? It really gets into the relational quality of a soliloquy and its role in leading towards dialogue.

    Anyway. It’s a great tradition and Soliloquium is a great title for a blog.

    CM

    Like

  3. Hey Chris,

    thanks for the comment! I’ll definitely check out that interview – sounds interesting. I’d be curious of any passages you know of where Augustine draws out the term soliloquium. He certainly had a massive impact on Anselm, but I’ve not explored his influence with respect to that particular term before. Thanks,

    Gavin

    Like

  4. Brad Stenberg

    I had breakfast with Mark Labberton last week and he told me he had read some of your blogs and said you were a good writer. I read your recent post on Samuel Rutherford’s book, The Loveliness of Christ. You are blessed to have parents who have enriched your life as they have. I’m going to get the book because it resonates with my life right now. Thanks Gavin.

    Like

  5. Thanks Brad! You’ll have to let me know what you think of The Loveliness of Christ.

    Like

  6. Rob de Roos

    I read your article, “Wholly Other or Wholly Given Over? What Van Til Missed in his Criticism of Barth,” and I believe you fundamentally missed the mark of understanding of Van Til’s understanding of Barth. Van Til’s fundamental disagreement is based is actualism and dimensionalism- that God is only his acts, and the theological Kantian distinction of the noumenal and the phenomenal. Barth often does appear to express perfectly sound Reformed, evangelical theology but these are based in an actualistic and dimensionalistic understanding of who God is. Apart from this basis I would agree that Van Til’s comments on Barth are just “pot shots”. But once you understand the root problem, his criticism make perfect sense.

    Like

    1. Hi Rob, thanks for commenting. The focus of my article was on Van Til’s charge of Kantianism in Barth, and the notion that God is only in His activity (Van Til uses the term “activism” which contrary to some of his defenders is not the same as actualism, which is a broader term referring to a particular ontology). So I agree with you about what is at the root of Van Til’s critique. The problem, in my opinion, is that Barth never said that God is only in his acts, and in fact said just the opposite at great length and most vigorously. I therefore find the charge to be simply inaccurate. If Van Til or others feel that, contrary to all appearances, Kantianism/activism is IMPLICIT in Barth’s theology, they have the responsibility of showing how and why. Saying, “Barth may have said X, but what he really meant was Y” requires evidence. Otherwise its just putting words into someone’s mouth.

      I have no undue loyalties to Barth, but I feel we should treat others with greater attention to what they actually said when engaging in theological criticism.

      Like

  7. Rob de Roos

    Yes, I think McCormack of Princeton argues very similarly. So the debate goes on …

    Like

  8. Greetings, Somehow or another, I just came upon your blog. Very nice. I’m not a HT, but I read Anselm’s Proslogion a few years ago; loved it. So reverent and richer than how we write theology. So too Augustine’s Confessions. The quote you have here from Anselm brings Jn 6:45 to mind where Jesus is interpreting Isaiah 54. Do you know if Anselm appealed to that verse or did anything with 1 Cor 2:10-16? Grace & Joy

    Like

  9. Hi Gavin, where can I contact you for permission to translate one of your articles into French?

    Like

    1. emailed you, let me know if you didn’t receive, thanks

      Like

      1. I think I did! Don’t consult my WP.com account much.

        Like

      2. But if I want to email regarding permission to translate one of your articles, where should I write?

        Like

      3. hi stephane, you can contact me at ortlund@gmail.com

        Like

  10. lynchfamily6

    Came across your post on listening well. Good stuff! Are you by any chance related to Ray and Anne Ortlund? Ray was on our ministry board (Asian Access) for many years. Cheers!

    Like

    1. Yes they were my grandparents. Thanks! Blessings, Gavin

      Like

  11. I am a member of a reformed congregational church in Brazil. It is very comforting to know that there are still Reformed congregational churches in America. I’ve read your article about John Owen and Congregationalism. Very good! I’m trying to translate the book “the true nature of a gospel church and its government” to Portugues. It’s a huge challenge for me because I’m not a expert in english yet. God Bless you pastor!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi Gavin,

    I’m considering a Th M in Church History with an emphasis on Anselm. Which area(s) of his life and thought might make for a good thesis topic?

    Like

    1. Hi Drew, great to hear of your interest in Anselm!! There are many possibilities, and I believe much depends on your personal interest, but two areas of massive neglect are (1) Anselm’s doctrine of (spiritual) friendship (his letters could be particularly useful to study this) or (2) Anselm’s devotional writings/influence, particularly his Prayers and Meditations. In Anselm’s own day he was widely known not just as theologian but as a spiritual adviser and director, but today this aspect of his legacy is often overlooked. One other idea, if you want to study Anselm’s theology, would be his doctrine of heaven—this is also very neglected but important. Of course, there is a massive stream of literature on his view of atonement if you want to get more specific and interactive, rather than being a trailblazer. Let me know if I can help you anymore. Blessings on your studies.

      Like

  13. Gavin – I’ve been considering ordination in the 4Cs for some time now. Our church is technically affiliated with them. I had been pursuing ordination in a Presbyterian denomination. Can you give me some perspective on being ordained in the 4cs? Thanks!

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    1. Hey Peter! The CCCC has been a good home for me. They are solidly evangelical, but open on secondary issues like millennial views (this was a factor for me since I an amillennial, and some denominations require premillennialism). It was also a good fit for me given my church context during the ordination process. Email me if you have more specific questions, I’d be happy to try to help.

      Like

  14. Daniel Collver

    Wow. And I thought I was the only one. Well, at least I know I am part of the 2%(-)! Thanks for sharing your journey and struggles with theology and your willingness to conform to the will of God. Not many are willing to take that final step.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. S.R. Flowers

    Hi Gavin,

    I have benefitted greatly from your resources on baptism. I am a first year student at Reformed Theological Seminary, and I have been wrestling with the debate between believer’s baptism versus infant baptism a great deal. A question that I have, which is secondary to much of the debate but I find very important, is if children are not in the covenant, then how are we to raise them? Of course, we would want to raise them to pray and worship God, but if we are saying they are not covenant members, how are we to teach them to pray and worship in good conscience? Perhaps I am seeing an issue where there is not one, but I guess the tension I feel is whether we are to raise them as pagan, unbelievers or as little Christians.

    Related to this, I also have questions concerning how someone in the covenant can also be a covenant breaker under the baptist schema, especially in relation to Hebrews 10:28, “How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

    Any response would be helpful! Thanks!

    Like

    1. Great to hear from you. Glad you are engaging this issue. Heb. 10:28 is a tough passage that I cannot give a good answer to in a blog post but I know some of the Baptist books out there address it. My feeling about the child-rearing issue is that surely it is possible and reasonable to have a middle ground between “assuming they are regenerate” and “pagan.” There are different kinds of relationships people can have to the church. Many people stand in a relationship to the church in which they are blessed by the church but not yet members of it — for instance, when a wife becomes a Christian, and the husband is attending a church but not yet decided — he is not really a “pagan” and you would treat that situation on its own terms. This is the sense of “sanctification” that I think is in view in I Cor. 7:14, since it includes both unbelieving spouse and the children in that verse. I think it is possible to raise children with a sensitivity to the unique kind of relationship to the church that they represent — neither hostile nor alien to it, but not yet members either. I am sure Baptists would approach the specific issues of prayer and worship differently, but I for my part do not have a hesitation in encouraging children toward a kind of prayer and worship that is appropriate to their situation, with the hope (of course) that this would ultimately result in an act of receiving the gospel. That is how I see it, anyway. Hope this helps.

      Like

      1. S.R. Flowers

        Gavin, thank you for the helpful response. It is very helpful to work through the issue in conversation with someone who has already thought through these issues. I have one more question for you (I promise, as not to turn this into a Q&A message board). Concerning your article “Can We Reject Paedobaptist and Still Receive Paedobaptism,” do you think that some of the justification for closed membership falls apart with a definition of baptism that take the focus off the human action of faith and on the heavenly action of God’s work in uniting us to Christ? In a sense, could we say that the baptism of an infant is valid – while not proper – because God acts to do the work of confirming the faith when it occurs in the life of one baptized as an infant? I understand if due to the recentness of this debate online you did not wish to respond to this, but it would greatly aid me as I seek to work through this issue and articulate it. Thank you, again, for you willingness to respond!

        Like

      2. Hmmm. In general, I think open membership and a greater emphasis on the objectivity of the sacrament go together well — but this is a broad generalization that I would not want press very firmly, and I would suppose there are exceptions to it.

        Like

  16. Coleman Rafferty

    Hi Gavin!

    I am in my last semester of undergraduate studies at Messiah College, and have been wrestling with some questions about the reformation and the history of the doctrines that were rediscovered then. I know a few friends in my life who became Orthodox because of the lack of historical rootedness in evangelicalism in America, and they have challenged me on points that I have not been able to respond to adequately. But I have been helped greatly by some of your recent posts: “5 Myths about the Reformation” and “Why Evangelicals Need Theological Retrieval” (I am excited to read your book!). I would love to connect with you briefly over email to ask your direction as I try to navigate these discussions with my Orthodox friends, as well as point my fellow evangelicals towards a greater appreciation of the tradition we inherit as evangelical Protestants.

    If you have the time and are willing, I look forward to hearing from you. Either way, Lord bless you brother– thank you for helping me through your scholarship and writing.

    Coleman

    Like

    1. great to hear from you Coleman! Drop me a note at ortlund@gmail.com!

      Like

  17. Tom Leslie

    Hi Gavin

    I am currently volunteering at Know My Faith ministries- A New Zealand organisation that has launched an app named ‘YESH’ that pairs Israeli travellers in New Zealand to Christian hosts who open their homes for accommodation, enabling them to share the gospel with the travellers.
    For promotional and spiritual growth purposes for the hosts, Know My Faith is looking to publish a newspaper.
    I am contacting you because we would love to include some articles of yours in our newspaper. I have seen that you have many great articles relevant for everyday Christian life and a deeper understanding of the Word of God.
    ‘Know my faith’ believes access to articles such as your own will help better prepare the hosts for sharing the truth about Jesus Christ to the Israeli travellers. As well as this, exposure of your material and name to the saints in New Zealand would be beneficial for the promotion of your website.

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    God Bless
    Tom Leslie
    tom@knowmy.faith

    Like

  18. Walter Schroedter

    Hi Gavin,
    I was impressed with your recent article on the relationship between circumcision and infant baptism in Themelios. I was wondering whether you are familiar with Robert Boyte C. Howell’s book on “The Evils of Infant Baptism”? (http://www.ourbaptistheritage.org/uploads/8/1/0/2/81023264/robert_howell_the_evils_of_infant_baptism.pdf) The title might be a put-off, but the book is worth its weight in theological gold, imo. Chapter 5 about types is worthy of being framed in its entirety. :) Blessings to you.

    Like

    1. Walter Schroedter

      Sorry, Gavin, the chapter on types is chapter 3…WS

      Like

  19. Miguel Puente

    Happy New Year, Gavin. I am a Catholic Christian from Mexico. I love biblical scholarship, theology, apologetics and Church history. Although I may not agree with everything you present on youtube, I can tell you that you are one of the finest and most respectful Protestant apologists I know of. I can tell you that I follow some good Baptists like William Lane Craig and Rick Warren (his best-selling book ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ is fantastic). I also respect the life of Billy Graham, also a Baptist, from whom I have read his autobiography ‘Just as I am’. God bless you and your family (Numbers 6:24-26).

    Like

    1. Thank you for this kind blessing, Miguel. It is wonderful to be acquainted, and I pray God’s blessings upon you. I appreciate your kind words.

      Like

  20. Hey man I really appreciate all the work you’re doing. I was wondering if you would be willing if you’re not already on discord, to jump on the discord and have some discussions with Catholics that we’re going to be having some discussions with this upcoming Saturday? If so please send me an email. Thanks man.

    Like

  21. The Manifold Beauty of Genesis One, co-authored with OT/Hebrew scholar Kenneth Turner, will be released by Kregel Publications in October. Based on your articles and blogs I have read, I believe this book will be of interest to you – enough so that I would ask you to consider an endorsement. Though most of my writing has been on the intersection of science and the Bible, this book focuses entirely on the theological beauty of the creation story. Let me know if I can send you more information.

    Like

  22. Omar Morillo

    Hi Dr. Ortlund,

    I had a question I wanted to ask you but for my question to make sense I first need to know if we share the same Christology. Do you believe in the nature/person distinction as far as the hypostatic union is concerned? In other words, one person and two natures (one divine nature and one human nature). Do you believe that the one and only person in the hypostatic union is the divine person of the Son (in other words, there is no human person in the hypostatic union)? This, to my limited understanding, seems to be pretty standard orthodox Christology. Do you also agree that as one of the church fathers said that when it comes to to the incarnation “the unassumed is the unhealed”? In other words the Son assumed full human nature to completely heal human nature. Assuming we agree. Here is my question. When Jesus died at the cross, did a human person die at the cross? If, yes, we seem to have Nestorianism. If we say, no, which I think would be the orthodox answer, then how is the human person saved/healed at the cross given that the second person of the Trinity did not assume a human person?

    My apologies if this is not the best way to contact you.

    Thank you and may God bless you and your family,

    Like

    1. Hello, and happy to be connected to you! My best way to parse this is to say that the Son of God died with respect to his human nature, but not with respect to his divine nature (I don’t think this distinction necessarily becomes Nestorian), and the union of these two natures is such that it effects salvation. Confused yet? Haha, me too. I cover this a (little) bit in the chapter on Tolkien in my retrieval book. Hope this helps,

      Like

  23. Omar Morillo

    Dr. Ortlund,

    Very happy to connect as well! Your “Truth Unites” videos have been a great blessing to me.

    Going back to my question, what I am trying to say is that to the best of my understanding a human person did not die at the cross. To say that a human person died at the cross would be to say that there were two persons in Christ a human person and a divine person (hence Nestorianism). So how is my human person redeemed if Christ did not assume a human person and hence a human person did not die at the cross? I understand how my human nature was redeemed at the cross because Christ assumed a human nature and therefore a human nature (namely Christ’s perfect human nature) died at the cross. Maybe I’m being too rigid in trying to find an exact one to one mapping. However, isn’t that part of what’s behind the concept of substitutionary atonement and the phrase the “unassumed is the unhealed”?

    By the way, I completely agree that the divine second person of the Trinity experienced death only with respect to his human nature. However, I don’t think that’s what my question is trying to get at. I’m more concerned about the human person not the human nature (that’s why I reference the nature/person distinction in my earlier post).

    Blessings once again and my God continue to give you wisdom and guide you by His Holy Spirit.

    Like

    1. Hey Omar, thanks for clarifying — okay, yes, I see what you are getting at. I think we simply cannot find an exact parallel because Christ by definition is not just a human person, but a person with two natures, both human and divine. It seems to me that this doesn’t necessarily obliterate the “what is not assumed is not healed” principle, since Christ IS assuming our nature and dying. By virtue of the fact that he is the God-man, there must be points of disanalogy as well, it seems. Does that make any sense?

      Like

  24. Omar Morillo

    Hi Dr. Ortlund,

    Thank you so much for your response. I believe that in your response you meant to say that Christ is a divine person. Christ is not a human person (at least that’s my understanding).

    Your response makes sense to an extent. I have some thoughts about this based on my studies over the years. My thoughts are nothing novel since I’m not smart enough to come up with my own ideas. I’m not a good writer so I’m working on a concise way to communicate this to you without wasting your time. I’m an Evangelical/Protestant but in my opinion our soteriological scheme (I know I’m generalizing) does not fit well with a few Biblical passages. I think this is because there are some Christological nuances we may overlook.

    Like

    1. Thanks Omar! I hear where you’re coming from. Keep me posted!

      Like

  25. David schwartz

    Just listened to your Gospel coalition video on the meaning of music. I am a violinist who has pondered philosophical thoughts about music and God for decades. It’s nice to hear somebody draw conclusions and contrast Christian and atheistic conclusions.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great to hear that! Thanks for letting me know!

      Like

  26. Hi Dr. Ortlund,

    I wanted to say thank you for the work you have been doing through your YouTube channel recently. I’m a Protestant fresh out of college who has been working through my first true examination of Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy in recent months. I’ve discovered and taken down a lot of strawmen positions that I’ve held against those beliefs which, while I believe is a good thing, has also been quite difficult. It has brought challenges to my own faith that I haven’t contended with before. Your videos have really been a blessing to me in working through it all. I am more confident now that to be rooted in church history is not to cease being Protestant (despite what countless YouTube comments have told to me). I still have further studying to do, but I wanted to thank you for your help so far.

    If I did have any new difficult questions come up, would it be alright if I sent you an email asking for your thoughts? Absolutely no worries if not.

    Thanks again,
    Luke

    P.S. I just downloaded “Finding the Right Hills to Die On” from the Gospel Coalition’s free weekly offer, and am looking forward to going through it soon. Oh, and your videos on divine simplicity and math proving God are some other favorites of mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much! Yes, feel free to email, though it may be some time for me to respond as I am traveling and then swamped through the end of summer. So glad my videos have been some use to you!

      Like

  27. Anonymous

    I enjoyed your sermon at corner stone church
    I was wondering if you are related to Ray and Anne I loved the Catalina analogy we are taking a group of friends and family there this summer for our 50th

    Like

  28. I just finished your book “Finding the right hills to die on” and appreciated the thoughtfulness in addressing many topics. I wanted to specifically ask whether belief in the doctrine of hell, specifically an eternal conscious hell, is a matter of primary doctrine. In addition what advice would you give to a church attendee once they become aware that the senior pastor is “not ready to affirm such a view” (upon discussions with him and elders).

    Like

  29. Hi, can you explain the difference between ordinance and sacrament, are they to be used interchangeably? Why do some Baptists refer to only Communion and Baptism as ordinances and not sacraments. I was raised Catholic and was taught these acts where sacraments and that they imparted some additional grace upon the recipient. If we call them sacraments it seems to distract from the grace God imparted through his son Jesus alone.

    Like

  30. Shawn Benson

    Thank you for your work on Evangelicalism on Orthodoxy. Currently at an aussie Baptist church but raised in an aussie Church of Christ (think evangelical Disciple of Christ), so was raised with a mixture of evangelical, restorationism, ecumenicism. Oldest son is interested in Orthodoxy largely through some mates at his inter-dom Christian school and disillusionment with our current Baptist church. Although I read some early church writings, your have helped me with directions to read and pray through with him.
    As an outlier who believes in “effective” credo-baptism, I wonder if you have read British Baptist Wheeler-Robinson on baptism or even Baptist Bruce Milne in “Know the Truth”? I am aware of the tension in my belief (or maybe contradiction!), I believed I was in some sense saved when I publicly committed to disciple of Jesus but also that my baptism (2 weeks later) was for the remission of sins and union with Christ. I just didn’t see them as separate things but one followed from the other.
    The biblical example I would look to is the exodus, Israelites left Egypt through both the passover (faith?) and passing through the Red Sea (baptism), when they talked of the exodus both these were seen as God saving them, as one Exodus event.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this Shawn! Glad the videos have been of use. Interesting view on baptism — I think you will find my next dialogue with Jordan Cooper (comes out in a week or so) of interest….

      Like

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