Interview Spotlight: Dr. Joel Hunter – “Grace is more effective than we know until we really need it.”

Dr. Joel Hunter is pastor of Northland Church, a congregation of more than 20,000 in the Orlando area. He is also a spiritual adviser to President Obama. You can hear Joel Hunter’s sermons online at northlandchurch.net and learn more about him at pastorjoelhunter.com. We talked with Joel about how American Christians can better engage the culture, what it is like to advise the President, and how grace is sufficient in our weakness.

Carmen LaBerge: You have a long history of civic engagement. For folks who aren’t aware of all of your past and how, really, how the faith became ignited for you during the Civil Rights Movement and, in particular, was triggered by the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

Can you talk to us about how that really led you to the nature of your faith in Christ and really has provided the energy for your ministry along the way?

Joel Hunter: Yeah. When I was in college, I was a part of the Civil Rights Movement. When Dr. King was assassinated, I came to a crisis of faith. That’s when I gave my full life to Christ and devotion to Christ. Part of that giving him my life, was to advocate for those who were not included. The vulnerable populations. That went all the way from being vulnerable in the womb to being vulnerable outside the womb. I’ve always had as a part of my ministry, to make sure to try to include the people that would not normally be included. That’s just been a part of the way I’ve tried to love like Jesus.

Carmen: I wanted to start the conversation there because, I think that we hear a lot of, I’ll just use the word, apocalyptic, language in relationship to the election cycle that we’re in. We hear a lot of very heated, deeply partisan conversation, even among Christians, about the future of our country. I would love for people to hear you talk about where hope is really found and that it really … It’s important who wins the White House, but no matter who wins the White House, where are Christians supposed to be finding their hope?

Dr. Joel Hunter, The Reconnect, Carmen Fowler LaBergeJoel: Christ is our hope. I keep telling my congregation, God is still going to be God no matter who’s in the White House. He’s still going to be in control, none of this is a surprise to him. He is going to be working his will through his church, through his people and if one person wins, it’s going to go one direction, if another person wins, it’s going to go the other direction, but the point is that, God is going to work his will no matter who wins this election.

I know people like to exaggerate. There’s a certain level of us that never gets out of middle school, where we kind of like to be scared and so, we kind of spook each other out and all that kind of stuff. The point is that, our system is one of checks and balances. So, no matter who wins the White House, they’re not going to have the kind of power everybody gives them credit for. It’s up to us to make our communities better and different and the real power lies with the people and that’s what we have to realize.

Carmen: Joel, if you could wave … You wouldn’t wave a wand, but if you could assert your personal will over the people, what are the issues, let’s just grab three. What are the three issues that you would really, very much like to see Christians more seriously engaging in our culture today?

Joel: The first one is, I’d urge everybody to be a bridge builder instead of a divider. Satan has only ever had one strategy and that’s division and, ultimately, trying to get us to self-isolate, whether it be our group or ourselves. That’s his direction. That’s been his direction since the Garden. God, on the other hand, has given us the minister of reconciliation …


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What’s Your 100 Year View? Lessons from Planned Parenthood’s Anniversary

The macabre celebration of the 100th anniversary of Planned Parenthood and the specter of what such eugenicists have planned for the world in the next 100 years got me thinking about what it means to take a 100 year view.

One hundred years ago, Margaret Sanger envisioned society free of the people she considered a burden to women. She observed that it was women who served as the caregivers for the weak, the frail, and the needy. So, by her reasoning, if society could be free of those people, and women could be free from having to have children if it wasn’t what they wanted at the time, then, in Sanger’s view, utopia would be on the horizon.

That was radical thought a hundred years ago. Then, abortion was not only illegal, it was almost universally condemned. One hundred years ago, the New York Times was ardently pro-life. One hundred years ago the sexual revolution was in the future, but, as we now know, on the horizon.

Today, abortion is the leading cause of death in America. There are 210 induced abortions per every 1000 live births. So, America is currently on pace to terminate the lives of more than 20% of its citizens every year for the foreseeable future. One hundred years from now, if current trends continue and the eugenics agenda of Margaret Sanger progresses unabated, the 200th anniversary of the Planned Parenthood Federation could have seen the premature death of more than 100 million Americans.

Is that the future we want to see? If not, then we need to articulate a Kingdom vision for 2116 and begin prayerfully, strategically and intentionally moving in that direction.


Listen to the show:

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New ‘Rights’ Are Dis-establishing the First Amendment

When religious liberty advocates raised concern how the new rights to sexual expression reduce the First Amendment right of freedom of religion to “freedom of worship,” many civil rights advocates argued we were overreacting. But now that the First Amendment guarantees of speech and press are under the withering reductive forces of Planned Parenthood and the government, the chorus of concern is rising from the media and ACLU as well.

Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press? Not if they’re pro-life

At issue is a Planned Parenthood backed bill signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown that is designed to stop journalists and whistleblowers from going undercover to investigate  “health care providers.”  Why? Well, remember the videos produced by The Center for Medical Progress featuring undercover footage of Planned Parenthood personnel and doctors discussing the procurement and sale of baby parts over wine?  Planned Parenthood, with the government as its enforcer, wants to keep anything like that from ever happening again. So, although the Democrat Party wants taxpayers to fund abortions, they don’t want you to know what’s happening inside those “health care” facilities where abortions take place.

According to LifeNews which has been following, reporting on and opposing the bill:

The legislation makes it a crime for anyone to record undercover footage of ‘health care providers,’ including abortion facilities. An original version of the bill also would have punished third parties, including journalists and lawyers, who do nothing more than report or distribute the footage, the Courthouse News Service reports. Violations include stiff fines and jail time.

Concerned about the violation of First Amendment rights and Freedom of the Press, The American Civil Liberties Union of California opposed the bill. The LA Times editorial board, not a bastion of pro-life support, wrote in opposition to the bill in August:

But make no mistake, this measure would heap more criminal and civil penalties on making a secret recording — an act that’s already prohibited by state law, even when done in the public interest — simply to satisfy an interest group popular among Sacramento Democrats. In fact, it would further disincentivize potential whistleblowers from recording malfeasance when they witness it — for example, a patient who sees her doctor handing out opioid prescriptions like candy, or a farm worker who catches a veterinarian approving a sick cow for the slaughterhouse. The potential for unanticipated and unwelcome consequences is huge.

Where does the path of ideological censorship lead?

To speculate what dangers might lie further down this slippery slope is considered fear-mongering. So, let’s look instead to France where unlimited access to tax-payer funded abortion has been the law of the land since 1993.  Samantha Gobba, writing for World Magazine, reveals “France plans ban on pro-life websites” because the “government claims a minority of fanatics” is “deliberately deceiving women” by providing factual information about abortion and support for pre and post abortive women.

According to Gobba’s article, Laurence Rossignol, minister of families, children and women’s rights, upholds the right of people to their private opinions about abortion, on-line advocacy of what is now likened to pro-terrorist and pro-anorexia sites is banned. “Being hostile to abortion is an opinion protected by the civil liberties in France,” Rossignol told Rue89. “But creating websites that … give biased information designed to deter, guilt, traumatize is not acceptable.”

New “rights” are dis-establishing the First Amendment

In this country, we are right now debating what should happen when rights of sexual expression clash with First Amendment rights. And the First Amendment is losing. When religious liberty advocates raised this alarm about reducing the freedom of religious expression to “freedom of worship,” many journalists and civil rights organizations said it was much ado about nothing. But when the freedom of the press is also on the table, and we have their attention.

When the right to an abortion is sacrosanct, journalists and whistleblowers are finding their First Amendment rights of speech and press have been likewise dis-established. Indeed, the last generation’s disestablishmentarians, for whom investigative journalism and civil liberties are religion, are now being disestablished by those with new-found government enforced rights of their own.

Visit The Reconnect web site.

Listen to the 10-6-16 broadcast “New “rights” dis-establishing the First Amendment | Frank Ahrens, the Seoul Man.”

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Interview with Jim Denison on Tolerance, Absolute Truth, and Ten Life-Changing Words

Jim Denison is the Founder and CEO of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture. He’s a Senior Fellow with the Twenty-First Century Wilberforce Initiative, who are our great friends, as well. He’s a Senior Fellow for Global Studies at Dallas Baptist University, where he leads the Institute for Global Engagement. Jim joined us on Monday to talk about the issues we are all facing right now in the culture.

Carmen: Let’s talk about truth and culture. This is your area of passion and expertise, so I know you’ve got a new book that addresses seven of the challenging issues that Christians need to be thinking through, as we impact the culture. Issues including immigration, and ISIS, and religious liberty, abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, transgenderism, and so it occurs to me that as we’re addressing issues, we’re always dealing with real soulish people, and so can we talk about that first? Can we talk about how the Christian approach to issues is different, because we want to be approaching issues in a way that honors Jesus?

Jim Denison: Carmen, that’s exactly right. Jesus died for every person that we’re caring about in these conversations. As you and I know, the point is not to win a debate. The point is not to persuade somebody necessarily to a certain point of view. The point is to be used by the Holy Spirit to draw people to Jesus, and that’s why the Bible in Ephesians 4, makes it so clear that we are to speak the truth in love. That we’re certainly to know what we believe, but we’re to share God’s word and God’s truth in a way that is positive, that is encouraging, and demonstrates the Spirit of Jesus, and the grace of Christ, in everything we do, and if we don’t do that, we can absolutely win a battle, and lose a war, and it’s the eternal soul that is what matters most. That’s why what you do is important, and that’s why what we’re trying to do is being used by the Holy Spirit, as well.

Carmen: Jim, so you’ve been at this a while, so you know that the issues that we’re facing are kind of the natural fruit of a culture that’s been incubating and cultivating perverse ideas and attitudes for a really long time, so, I mean, the Bible might call it an act of suppression of the truth, but what do you see as like the root causes of the challenges that we face today?

Jim Denison: Carmen, that is the most perceptive question. That’s exactly the foundational issue that we need to be talking about, because everything in the book, and all the cultural issues we’re so concerned, and should be, about today, are really symptoms of a much larger trajectory that started some time ago. I have a Doctorate in Philosophy, and have taught Philosophy over the years, and I’ll not impose it on your listeners here very long, but let me, for just a moment, kind of take us through a very brief story. Back in the Seventeenth Century, there was this Philosopher named Rene Descartes, who decided the truth is the unaided use of the mind. Well, that begat a kind of thing in England known as Empiricism, where truth is known through the senses.

Well, that got synchronized, and put together by a fellow named Immanuel Kant, who said, “Truth is how your mind interprets your senses.” That sounds simple to us, but we’re wondering why any of that matters? Well, you might not have said that before Immanuel Kant, but here’s the downside, and this is what gets to your question, if that’s true, the truth is how my mind interprets my senses. Well, my mind is different from yours, and my senses are different from yours. There can, therefore, be no such thing as absolute truth. There’s just your truth, and my truth. Well, that idea swept Europe. It turned cathedrals basically into museums.


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With Radio Show, Carmen Hopes to Bring God Back into Everyday Conversations

The following is an interview with Carmen Fowler LaBerge, president of the Presbyterian Lay Committee and host of The Reconnect.

What is the goal of The Reconnect?
We want to equip every Christian to bring God into every conversation. Sometimes we relegate God to the “God things” at church on Sundays. The PLC wants to help people reconnect the eternal with the everyday. That starts with thinking about what we’re thinking, cultivating the mind of Christ in the matter of the day, and then serving as ambassadors of God’s perspective to others. It’s our role and responsibility to speak up for God in every context. Awkward? Yes, sometimes, but people want to know God’s perspective and we’re the ones in a position to share it. We’re helping Christians reconnect with the hope they will in turn serve as reconnectors for others.

Why is the PLC doing a radio show?

Good question! The method of delivering the message has changed and the audience has grown but the PLC continues to be on the same mission of informing and equipping Christians. Our context for many years was the PCUSA. As people and congregations left the PCUSA for the PCA, EPC and ECO, we continued in relationship with many of them. And now, the issues we have faced in the PCUSA are issues in the culture at large. So, stay or go, you need to be equipped to engage the issues in a way that honors Jesus. The radio show is a vehicle for the message and it translates into a podcast and other online resources.

listen-liveWhat are some interviews that have stuck with you?

Two interviews, which stick out, were both with my friend Gerrit Dawson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Baton Rouge, La. Baton Rouge became ground zero this summer for the national tensions of racial violence after the high-profile, police involved shooting of Alton Sterling, and the horrifying retaliatory shootings of three police officers. Gerrit shared a gospel vision for what reconciliation could look like in the city. He shared the incredible vision of what only God can do to bring people together across historic divides. Then, only weeks later, Baton Rouge was hit by a 1,000 year flood. Although thousands of families were displaced from their homes and entire parishes affected, it took a while for the media to catch on to the gravity of what was happening. Gerrit shared with us how the Church was stepping in to be the Body and gave us irreplaceable insight into what was happening on the ground. We absolutely want to serve the Church and connect listeners to what is happening around the country.

Another episode that stands out is the interview with Nik and Ruth Ripken. They were missionaries in Somalia. They buried a son in Africa. Their sacrifice for the cause of Christ is real and their love of people deep. They spent several years recording interviews with Christians in places where the Church is thriving in persecution – Russia, China, the Middle East. The stories became a book and then a movie, The Insanity of God. Things they said on the show changed my perception of the global church. If I refer to my brothers and sisters as ‘the persecuted church,” I now stop and prayerfully correct myself. There’s only one Church and I dare not imagine I am not a part of their experience nor take for granted the freedom I have to worship Christ and share Him with others.

follow-carmen-on-facebook-for-moreWhat have you learned in the first five months of hosting The Reconnect?

There’s no shortage of topics. People ask me if I ever run out of topics for the show. I tell them, more things end up on the floor than what we can talk about in one hour a day. Not only is there so much happening in the headlines, but God cares about all of it, so we always have an entry into the conversation.

We started doing a series on Fridays called Behind the Byline, where we talk with reporters who cover religion for different media outlets. Long time religion reporter Bob Smietana came on the show and he communicated what I was feeling: every story has a “religion” angle. He told us  the “God beat” is the best beat to cover in the news world because faith connects to any story. I agree, God is as active in the mundane as He is in the miraculous. It is our call as ambassadors of Christ to make this truth known.

I have also learned 3 p.m. comes every day. Embarking on a daily radio show is just that – daily. It comes with different challenges, but also opportunities. If something happens on Monday, we don’t have to wait until Sunday to talk about it. We get the opportunity to discuss in real time the headlines everyone is also thinking and talking about around the kitchen table or coffee shop.


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Equipping Study by Carmen: The Gospel According to Ruth

In Israel’s history, the time of the Judges is largely dark. Following the death of Moses and Joshua and before the days of the kings, the nation of Israel was stuck in a cycle of sin. The people of God stopped listening to the Lord, forgot the Lord’s commands and took on the worship of other gods. Their idolatry led to immorality and the depravity was dark and deep. God disciplined them in the form of oppression by other nations. In their oppression they remembered and cried out to God for mercy. God was merciful, raising up Judges who were deliverers. There would be a period of peace but then the people would forget again and the whole cycle would repeat itself. The people of God were living in the Promised Land but they were living like pagans. These were the days of the Judges – and in these days we find the story of Ruth.

There is light that shines even in these darkest days. The book of Ruth bears witness to the faithfulness of God and the points of light among God’s people even in the darkest of days.

Read Ruth. This is a story of famine and sojourn, assimilation and grief, return to Israel and redemption by grace through faith. The sovereign hand of God is evident in the life and story of Ruth.

The book of Ruth starts out with famine – which in the times of the Judges was evidence of the people’s unfaithfulness and God’s discipline. Now the family is from Bethlehem. They are Jews. But in order to seek a better life they have to leave the Promised Land. Consider that. In order to find milk and honey they have to leave the land that once flowed with milk and honey. They go as refugees to Moab. They settle there and the two sons of this Israelite family marry Moabite wives, the husband and the two sons die, and there are three widows with no children. The woman at the center of the story to this point is Naomi and she is described as being “without her husband and without her two sons.” She sees herself and her life as barren.

But there is another woman and her name is Ruth. She married into this Israelite family and is clearly a convert to the faith. She affirms that Naomi’s people are her people and that Naomi’s God is her God. And thus the ray of hope begins to shine.

Naomi and Ruth go to Bethlehem. The narrative upon their arrival is significant because it reminds us how narrow our vision is, how little we perceive of what God is doing, how short-sighted our understanding. Naomi’s assessment of the situation is this: “when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

But let’s consider God’s perspective on all this.  Who is Ruth and why does God need her in Bethlehem?  To answer that question, we need to turn to Matthew chapter 1. It reads, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.”

See that?! God’s redemptive plan for all of human history, the incarnation, atoning sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ included a man named Boaz and a Moabite convert named Ruth to bear a son named Obed who would be the father of Jesse who would have a son named David.  The Gospel according to Ruth is not only Ruth’s redemptive story but the role she plays in redemptive history.

Naomi could not see all that. From the vantage point of her grief she could not see the eternal faithfulness of God working itself out in days of the Judges.

There’s a relative of Naomi’s husband in Bethlehem and his name is Boaz. Boaz is described as “a worthy man.”  Ask yourself, is anyone else in the days of the Judges described as worthy? A little bit like Noah, Boaz was living as righteous a life as he could in the context of a culture that was largely given over to idolatry.

Ruth is committed to taking care of herself and her mother-in-law and as a young widow she got up early one morning to glean in the fields.  Gleaning was a legal practice proscribed by the Lord to support widows, sojourners and the poor. But it also put young woman at risk of assault. Remember, these are the days of the Judges when very horrible things were happening to women and children in Israel (read Judges 19-21).

Ruth has not heard of Boaz but Boaz has heard of her. Boaz’s first act of redemption is to extend the wings of his protection over her. He says “do not touch her. Let her glean all she wants and let her drink from the water we draw for our own employees.” Boaz then speaks to Ruth, “stay close. I can’t protect you elsewhere but I can protect you here. You have come under the wings of the God of Israel.”

Ruth later learns that Boaz is a potential kinsman redeemer. The kinsman redeemer was like a protector, provider and perpetuated the name and the lineage of the deceased man. God works out all the details and in the end “Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife. And he went in to her, and the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a redeemer, and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.” Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her lap and became his nurse. And the women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

And who is David? Yes, that David, the King of Israel who is called a man after God’s own heart, the man who wrote many of the Psalms, the one God covenanted with, promising that the Messiah (Jesus) would come from David’s lineage and would establish a kingdom that would endure forever.

In the days of the Judges, when there was famine in the land and the people of God had to leave the Promised Land as refugees and many of them died in foreign lands, a woman named Naomi returned to Israel with a daughter in law who, through the redemptive plan of God became the mother of Obed who became the father of David.


  • Naomi experienced famine, the loss of her home, husband and sons. But God was working out His redemptive will for all humanity in her life. What grief and loss have you experienced that you may not see from God’s perspective?
  • Boaz was identified as “a worthy man” in the days when everyone was doing right in their own eyes.  How are we to live as people “worthy of the gospel” in days that sometimes feel like the days of the Judges?
  • What does the story of Ruth remind you about God’s provision for the widow, the poor and refugee/sojourner?  How might God be calling you to spread His wings over others through the abundance of your life?
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When the Term Oxymoron Is Generous: Atheist Clergy

Judges who lack judgement, clergy who lack faith and doctors who kill. The term oxymoron seems generous.

To say we live in an age of confusion seems so patently obvious and yet the confusion is so thorough we need to point it out. Case in point: openly atheist clergy who are ordained and paid by historically Christian denominations.

The latest heretic seeking to retain her credentials is Gretta Vosper. She says she’s not alone but in fact, “This story is about that group of people, because clergy who don’t believe are all over the place, they just don’t have a community that allows them to speak honestly about their beliefs.” How is it possible this statement was not deemed too nonsensical for The Toronto Star to print?


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Whatever Happened to Coexist Stickers?

COEXIST-OriginalThe sexual revolutionaries are not satisfied with liberty. Those who disagree are hereby excused from the table of public discourse, thus declares David Gushee in his recent column, “On LGBT equality, middle ground is disappearing.”

I agree with Gushee’s observation that there is no more middle ground. At the table of public discourse if you do not affirm the LGBT agenda you will find that your chair has been removed. He rightly observes that “most visible institutions of American life…are increasingly intolerant of any remaining discrimination, or even any effort to stay in a neutral middle ground.” As others have already witnessed, there is no coexist if you don’t agree.

Gushee’s primary argument for the abandonment of sincerely held religious beliefs and Church doctrine is personal experience. He admits setting up his own experience as the way to be followed by others. Experience, he argues, “is the major path to theological reconsideration.”

Those whose theological convictions refuse to be bent and reshaped by human sexual desire are thus described as “digging in their heels” and interpreting the “pressure to reconsider as pressure to succumb to error, or even heresy.” Gushee is right even as he misses the point.

He fails to see that the violation of conscience and the theological gymnastics necessary to be welcomed at the table is not a contortion evangelicals are willing to make. Orthodoxy is not so easily redefined nor abandoned.

The kind of Christians who continue to be conscience bound by the plain meaning of the Scriptures, believe that God, through His Word, informs our understanding of the world, not the other way around.  Those guided by public opinion, on the other hand, are subject to the ever rising and falling waves of human proclivity.

God, the Scriptures declare, is the same yesterday today and tomorrow. Those who strive to conform to His unchanging character are seen as hold-outs to history’s momentum.  Gushee sees us as having dug in our heels, failing to see that we care more about being found on the right side of a holy God than on the right side of history.

I particularly take umbrage at Gushee’s assertion that “they are organizing legal defense efforts under the guise of religious liberty, and interpreting their plight as religious persecution.” It’s no guise.

We live in a day and time when Christians are being actively persecuted in dozens of countries around the world by the very same forces that persecute LGBT people. The only reason we’re even having these conversations is because of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment guarantee of both freedom of expression and freedom of religion. To force compliance of my sincerely held religious beliefs to your sexual anarchist ideas is as much a violation as any other threat to my conscience. Yet those now seeking to bind the conscience of Christians who remain aligned with the overwhelming majority of Christians around the world are unable to see their religious intolerance.

The clash within our culture will prove to others around the world whether we genuinely believe everyone has a right to freely exercise their religion, even if that religion is convictional Christianity.

So, is there room at the proverbial table of public discourse for those who disagree with the prevailing winds of evermore libertine sexual ethics? Gushee is arguing a definitive no. And, by the way, he sees no need to further debate. The sexual revolutionaries have determined that the case is closed and all dissenting voices are hereby barred from the table. “Space for neutrality,” he declares, “will close up as well.”

Gushee errs elsewhere. Like when he asserts “they are confident that they have the moral high ground.” No one should know better than an evangelical Christian how we’re all equal at the foot of the cross. We all lost the moral high ground in a place called Eden in what might as well be a galaxy far far away. And as for those “shrinking places of power” from whence Gushee seems to think we’re out to get those he calls “strays,” the heart of the evangelical is for prodigals to come home and be redeemed, restored, and blessed, not punished.

Gushee has clearly become an A+ student of the sexual revolutionaries. Maybe it’s time he took up the study of the new face of evangelicalism where love for those with whom we disagree is the starting point for Kingdom advancement–not for power nor positional authority in the kingdoms of this world.

Deny us a seat at the table of here-and-now if you want. We’ve actually set our minds and hearts on taking a seat at the table in the Kingdom of now-and-forevermore.

Related articles: 

David Gushee–The Missing Link, by Jeff Gissing

Ask Not for Whom the Volcano Erupts; It Erupts for Thee: A Response to David Gushee, by Albert Mohler

LGBT Rights vs. Religious Freedom: No Middle Ground? by John Stonestreet

Discrimination That Is Necessary For A Civil Society: a Response to David Gushee, by George Guthrie

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Either God Is Omnipotent, Sovereign and Eternal, or God Is Not God

Do you find it curious that the media considers it news when a pastor — who openly serves the LGBT community and openly attends LGBT national events — makes his “coming out” in favor of same-sex marriage the subject of a Sunday sermon?

While the article in a local paper may have local significance, the content of the sermon has eternal implications.

“I have concluded, after exhaustive biblical study and theological reflection, that the Bible does condemn promiscuity of all stripes, and rape in all forms, but knows nothing of the kind of long-term loving relationships LGBT people are living. I therefore support marriage for all, with the terms and conditions of marriage being applicable for all marriages.” – Rev. Richard Gantenbein, in August 14, 2016 sermon, St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Sonoma, Calif.

Either God is omnipotent, sovereign and eternal, or God is not God.

The issue is not same-sex marriage.

The issue is not the propriety or impropriety of sex of any variety.

The issue is whether or not we receive the Scriptures as the very Word of God.

If we say that the Bible “knows nothing of the kind of long-term loving relationships LGBT people are living,” we are either saying that God knows nothing of such relationships; that God intentionally included confusion about the issue throughout the Old and New Testaments; or, that the Bible is not the Word of God.  Let’s take those in order.

Option 1: God knows nothing of “the kind of long-term loving relationships LGBT people are living.” If so, then God is not God in that God is not omnipotent. And, if God knows nothing of these relationships then what is a pastor or church doing when they bless such relationships? How can could God’s representatives in the world be actively blessing something that they admit God does not even know?  Clearly, those who claim that the Bible doesn’t know about the kinds of LGBT relationships that exist today are saying something other than God doesn’t know about it.

Option 2: God knew and God knows about “the kind of long-term loving relationships LGBT people are living” but God put misleading and contradictory information in the Bible for some purpose known only to God.  You cannot get around the fact that the Bible says what it says about gender identity, homosexual acts and bisexual behavior. Even the pastor at the center of this article admits as much:  

“People say to me, ‘Everybody knows what the Bible says about this,’ and yeah, I know what the Bible says,” Gantenbein remarks. “But I think what’s being talked about in the Bible is not Ron and Dan, or Mike and Brian. I think the Bible’s talking about promiscuity. I think it’s talking about sex for the sake of sex, outside of a covenant relationship. When I get to Heaven, if I find out that I read the scripture wrong, well, I’d rather risk that, than risk being on the side of those who stand against being loving and accepting…”

The pastor is making a choice that includes the active suppression of what the Bible clearly says.  So, if the Bible says what it says and yet means something different than what it says, then God is a God who cannot be trusted. That doesn’t seem like a good place to land.

Option 3: The Bible isn’t really the Word of God. You don’t have to believe what the Bible says if the Bible is merely the words of men.

Pastors in the Presbyterian Church (USA) — of which Rev. Gantenbein is a member — are taught this in the denomination’s Confession of 1967 which says in part: “The Scriptures … are nevertheless the words of men.”¹  Having undermined the foundations of the authority of the Scriptures as God’s Word, it is easy to set oneself up as an authority over what the Bible says.

There are errors in the article not least of which is the statement that “Gantenbein’s view on same-sex marriage is now shared by a majority of American Presbyterian congregations.”

While post-Obergefell research from Pew says that 64 percent of white mainline Protestants now approve same sex marriage, a 2012 Presbyterian Panel survey of the PCUSA found that “around one-half of members (51 percent) and ruling elders (48 percent) oppose same-sex marriage, while more than one in three are in favor (34 percent; 38 percent); the rest are not sure.”  

Furthermore, Gantenbein’s view is anathema in every expression of Presbyterianism except for the PCUSA. So, Presbyterians in the Presbyterian Church in America, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church, and on and on, do not share Gantenbein’s view but hold instead to the 2,000 year teaching of the Church on the subject.
1. See page 291 of the PCUSA’s Book of Order, paragraph 9.29.




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Crossing the Bridge of Racial Reconciliation in Baton Rouge

What does it look like to cross the bridge of racial reconciliation in Baton Rouge? Friend and Pastor of First Presbyterian Baton Rouge, Gerrit Dawson, shared a gospel vision for what reconciliation could look in the city.

Listen to Pastor Gerrit Dawson’s interview on The Reconnect Tuesday.

His friend, Pastor Albert White, who is black and serves on the North side of Florida Avenue – symbolic of the racial, economic and social moat that divides Baton Rouge – said to his white brother in Christ, Gerrit Dawson who serves on the South side of the moat, “I want 50 on 50.”

“Look,” he said, “It’s not going to work until people begin to have what we have: a real relationship. Only God’s people can show this city a better way. I want my people and your people to meet together.” He went on to explain his vision of his people with Dawson’s people, in each other’s homes, sharing a meal.

Dawson cast this vision to his congregation on July 17:

There it is, a vision Pastor Albert and I have together: 50 on 50, A Face to the Race. That’s really just 20 to 25 couples or groups. Commit to four dinners over four months. Two in our homes, two in their homes. What do you think? A Face to the Race. There is already a connection between those who know we are the same, created and called. There is a bridge. It’s just tangled and overgrown and seldom travelled. Could we clear it out? Could we walk across to each other? Beneath politics. Beneath difference. In Christ?

So the plan was crafted: each pastor would challenge his congregation to be a part of a first step onto a bridge that had not been crossed in many years – a bridge toward racial reconciliation in Baton Rouge built by Jesus Christ.

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Listen to the show:

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