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Elder Q&A 2022 Recap

Elder Q&A 2022 Recap

On November 13, we hosted our fourth annual Elders Q&A. Why do we host an event like this? It’s not because we have problems (we have those!). It’s because we are working out God’s plan for our maturity and our mission through biblical eldership.

Elders are one reason Paul left Titus in Crete: 

This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you. —Titus 1:5

A well ordered church—a church ordered toward her maturity under the shepherding care of elders—is a chruch well loved by Christ. Our Elders Q&A is one way we seek to carry out our biblical responsibility to our Lord and to you as elders.  

Read our invitation post for some more specifics on our aims and process heading into the event.



Thank you for all of your questions. Your questions give us insight into our church as well as an opportunity to serve you with answers that we pray please our Lord. Here’s a list of the questions we asked with the timestamps for the audio. We encourage you to listen to the entire Q&A for context and the spirit of the evening.

Introductory (0:00)

Together in Membership (7:10)

  • What are HBC’s values? What particularly is the HBC leadership actually asking the HBC congregation to commit to beyond the broad mission statement? (7:28)
  • How should we lovingly lead/speak with a fellow HBC attender that is hesitant to join as a member? (17:12)
  • We haven’t baptized anyone in a while. Why is that? Also, how are baptism and the Lord’s supper related? (22:19)
  • Abe, what are we doing by way of update to our membership interview and introduction process at Family Meetings and why? (29:55)
  • Elder trivia (31:45)

Together in Truth (33:33)

  • Is the Holy Spirit a force or a personal being? (33:50)
  • Which comes first, the Spirit’s work or our faith? (36:20)
  • If we can do nothing to earn our salvation, what does living a life of faith even mean? (40:45)
  • How can we be faithful in parenting our children as we meet people/see people who identify as LGBTQIA+. (44:48)
  • Have we considered regular systematic theology electives? (52:46)
  • More elder trivia (53:05)

Making Plans Together (54:06)

  • What types of things are we doing as a church to prevent burnout of our church staff and engage more leaders? (54:25)
  • Heritage has done short-term mission trips in the past. Will we ever do them again? (56:50)
  • In the budget process, Jason mentioned that we were putting some money into a building fund. Can you expand on that? (1:00:30)
  • What is the wheel of time? Give us an update on some church calendar adjustments coming in 2023 (1:03:20)
  • Introduction and details for a new annual Spring theology conference: Unsearchable (1:05:03)
  • Still more elder trivia (1:05:58)

Open Mic (1:06:58)

  • What does a typical elder meeting look like on a Wednesday night? (1:06:58)
  • How are the elders seeing God at work in our church body? (1:10:34)
  • What are we doing collectively as a church body to serve our community? (1:14:13)
  • When you talk about baptism, practically speaking, if you have an 8-year-old who professes Christ, how long until they can be baptized? (1:19:09)
  • For the LGBTQIA+ plus if someone’s name is Justin and they want to be called Justina, what does a Christian do? (1:23:09)
  • An update from Abe on the Stratton family (1:27:09)
  • Closing prayer (1:31:31)

As promised, if you submitted a question and we didn’t answer it at the Q&A, we’ll be in touch in the coming weeks to initiate a reply either over email or in person. Of course, as questions come to mind across the year, you can always just email us at [email protected]. This event is not the only venue for engaging our elders with a question. Rather, it is an especially public forum that we hope to set the tone and invite your engagement in more personal ways across the year.

For more Q&A engagement of this sort, review our recaps from previous years: 2019, 2020, 2021.

Meet Our Fall Intern: Jim Knauss

Meet Our Fall Intern: Jim Knauss

We’re committed to investing in the gospel’s advance by investing in men who aspire to serve as vocational preachers and pastors. Remember Paul’s words to Timothy: “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2Tim. 2:2). That’s our biblical strategy for finding and appointing elders here at Heritage, and for propagating the gospel beyond our walls.

With this in mind, meet our fall intern, Jim Knauss. Jim’s internship actually began in the summer but just finished up. Over these months, Jim was busy reading, writing, joining us for elders meetings, and spending time with our pastoral team. You can read about the shape of the internship here.

Our purpose in this internship is to see churches led by pastors who faithfully connect the Bible’s theology of the church to the church’s worship, life, and mission. In other words, to see churches flourish in the gospel and gospel work. Pray that Jim would be that kind of shepherd for a church in the years ahead.

To begin, introduce yourself to us: tell us about your family, how the Lord led you to himself in salvation.

My name is Jim Knauss and I married Hannah a little over 14 years ago after graduating college. We have two sons: James (9) and Asher (4). After 13 years of active duty in the Air Force, Hannah and I decided to separate from the Air Force and move back to the south. We chose Greenville because it was close to both our families and, both being Clemson graduates, was close to our beloved Tigers. I am currently serving in the Air Force Reserves and piloting 757s and 767s for FedEx Express.

The Lord saved me at 13 years old when, for the first time in my life, I heard a preacher talk about repentance in our gospel response. Sadly, up to that point, I had believed all that was required for salvation was to believe in Jesus and pray a prayer. His proclamation was different. He told of the truth that if we are truly saved, we will bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Listening to him, I realized that my life did not contain this evangelical grace and there was no fruit of repentance in my life. With this preacher’s message, the Lord convicted me that I had not truly forsaken my sin and followed him. For the first time in my life, I repented of my sin and committed to following the Lord Jesus. Or, to put it differently, the Lord brought me to true and saving faith in Christ.

You’ve been with us for a little over a year and are a new member. How did the Lord lead you to find and join Heritage. Encourage our church with what you saw and have experienced here.

Church membership is something Hannah and I have always taken very seriously. In the Air Force, we had a lot of practice in what joining a church entails. Visiting, fellowshipping, and conversing with people from each congregation could become somewhat of an arduous process. Then there were elder interviews and introductions every 1.5-2 years. For most of our career, we had been stationed out west. In that context, sadly, there were normally only a handful of gospel-centered churches within a 20-minute drive. In Greenville, we ran into the opposite (but good!) problem. What gravitated us towards Heritage was the commitment to the gospel in the liturgy, the intentionality of teaching the gospel to our children, and the fellowship/warmth we experienced amongst those in the congregation. We are so grateful for the families that invested in us during our church search process and look forward to worshipping and serving alongside you for as long as the Lord will allow!

What excited you the most about serving as an intern with us?

Hannah always pokes fun at me because I continue to seek ways to educate myself further at all times. Every year we’ve been married, I’ve either been in an Air Force formal training course or enrolled in an educational degree program. She always asks when I’m going to take a break and I say, “when I’ve learned everything there is to know!” What excited me about this internship was the opportunity to learn under godly men who have been vocationally serving Christ’s church for essentially their entire adult lives. I knew seminary couldn’t teach me everything and I was thrilled for the opportunity to fill in the gaps between a seminary education and real-world practice.

You had to make some special arrangements with work for this internship to work. Hearing about those will be a nice way to learn about your vocational background.

When I separated from the Air Force, the Lord graciously provided the opportunity to fly for FedEx Express. This job gives me upward of 18 days or so a month where I am just at home investing in and discipling my wife and children. The trade-off is I’m usually on the road 8-12 days per month. With the participation requirements of the internship, that would not have met the intent for any prospective intern. Fortunately, there was an Air Force project that my superior officers needed help with and asked if I would commit to 2+ months of military orders working on the project from my house. This was a way I could financially support my family and complete the requirements of the internship. God once again in his gracious providence led me to a sweet time in my life where I could serve my country, invest in my pastoral ministry studies, and spend a large, uninterrupted time at home with my family.

You just finished your internship. You read and wrote essays on twelve books. What’s been the most insightful book you read and why?

My answer to this question would always be, “the last one I just read!” However, looking back on the internship, the most insightful book I read was Jonathan Leeman’s book entitled Church Membership. Having just gone through the membership process at Heritage, I was encouraged to see how our church takes a biblical approach in bringing new members into the congregation. The main illustration of the book compares the church to an embassy in a foreign land. We are citizens of a different kingdom gathered together under our “flag” that represents the whole group of people under Christ’s lordship who will gather at the end of history. Seeing the church member in this light was edifying and encouraging.

You joined us for elders’ meetings over a span of three months. Encourage our church with what you learned and observed in those meetings.

The elder meetings were far and away the most fruitful portion of the internship. I was amazed at the men who have been appointed to shepherd and lead our church. There are several reasons for this but the first is these men take their job of shepherding very seriously. A significant amount of time in each elder meeting is devoted to praying for members of the church by name. Be encouraged that if you asked your elder to pray for you, I am an eyewitness that it is happening in faithful adherence to the word of God. Second, the elders spend a large portion of the meeting teaching one another and expositing the Word of God. One of the elder requirements from Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus is being “able to teach.” I was encouraged to see firsthand that these men are practicing this teaching requirement and sharpening each other with faithful exposition and critical discussion of God’s word. Finally, leading always involves tough situations in which there is never a lack of different views and opinions. I watched our elders embrace each other with kindness and grace as they debated difficult situations, each submitting to the other with biblical wisdom and compassion. I am thankful to our providential and sovereign God that he led Hannah and me to a church where the elders are proactive in their submission to the word of God.

What are your desires vocationally for the future and how can we pray for you?

In the near future, I plan on continuing to enjoy my time with my wife and children as I pour into our church wherever I am called by the elders and led by our God. I enjoy flying airplanes and serving in the armed forces. Nothing short-term will change there. Perhaps someday, if the Lord wills, I will transition into an Air Force Reserve Chaplain billet. I have made some inquiries with the Air Force concerning that path, but for now there seem to be some logistical hurdles in making that happen near-term.

As for prayer, I would ask for wisdom, perseverance, endurance, and strength as Hannah and I raise our two boys. Parenting continues to be the most difficult thing Hannah and I have ever done. . .and with an active-duty career in the rear-view mirror, that’s saying a lot. My prayer is we would have patience and navigate the waters of raising our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. Pray for Hannah during the short, but difficult, durations that we are apart. Thank you for your prayers, and once again, we are grateful to be a part of an intentionally prayerful congregation.

Finally, got any favorite teams or hobbies or special skills we should know about?

I enjoy any hobby I get to do with my family. I like running and fishing with my sons and getting to go on lunch dates with Hannah on Tuesdays and Thursday when the boys are at school. We chose a Classical-Christian, University Model school for our sons and I love the days I get to teach math and science at home. I get pretty fanatical about any sport Clemson and the current World-Champion Atlanta Braves. Most recently, I’ve started teaching AP Calculus (and sometimes Greek) at my sons’ school on my “days off”. My passion is teaching, whether in a cockpit, pulpit, classroom, or dining room. I am thankful for the things the Lord has blessed me with, and I look forward to this latest chapter in the life of our family.

Why We Are Against Abortion

Why We Are Against Abortion

On Friday, June 24, at 10:10 AM the Supreme Court of the United States struck down Row vs. Wade, reversing the legalization of abortion on demand across the United States. The issue of abortion is now the legal responsibility of our state legislatures. If you were alive on September 11, 2001, you remember where you were when the planes struck the towers. That was a bad day. The striking down of Roe marks a good day and a one to remember.

While this topic has our attention, I want to spend that attention in a particular way. Others have done a good job celebrating this legal victory and I heartily concur. As one friend put it, this decision may not lead to an unmitigatedly good world, nevertheless the overturning of Roe vs. Wade is an unmitigatedly good decision and a reason to celebrate. Hats off to those who have labored in the trenches of counseling, picketing, campaigning, persuading, and praying for this day.

While I have your attention, though, I want to write something evergreen for our church that we need both now and down the road. I want to answer the question, “why are we against abortion?”

Isn’t that obvious for a church that confesses that all humans are made in God’s image? Yes. Still, I’m convinced that if we do not self-consciously rehearse the deepest reasons for our opposition to abortion, we will grow vulnerable to bad arguments, unimpassioned indifference, and even quieted embarrassment for our position. In fact, because of how pervasive worldly philosophies are, some of us may have already adopted these bad arguments. (1Tim. 6:20, Col. 2:8). Without working hard to think in clear ethical and strategic terms rooted in Scripture, we may even fall to “nuanced” false moral equivalencies between the legal protection of the unborn and affordable healthcare or criminal justice reform. There is a term coined to describe those with pro-life convictions who have grown weary of speaking and acting for the unborn: “fetus fatigue.”

One leg of the marathon is over with the reversal of Roe. Another leg begins with our work at the state level. Lest we get tired or buy the trope popular among some in the Christian leadership class that abolishing abortion is a pipe dream, let us answer the question “Why are we against abortion?”

There are at least four reasons.

First, abortion is the murder of a human being.

Abortion is a legally complicated topic. Yet abortion is frequently pitched as a morally complicated topic. What is the point of viability? What were the circumstances of the conception? It’s true that we care about all the people involved, including the mother and father. Two questions, however, make the ethics of abortion surprisingly simple.

The first question is this: when do human beings begin? The answer is straightforward from the Bible, and it is clear in nature. In Psalm 139, David reflected on God’s intimate knowledge of every part of his life, even his life in the womb. With David each of us can say, God “knit me together in my mother’s womb” (139:13). Biology teaches us that Homo sapiens begin at the meeting of egg and sperm with the creation of an entirely new organism, unique with its own DNA. Given a proper environment and time, that organism contains within itself all that is needed to direct its own growth from that moment until death. In other words, embryos are not a part of the woman’s body or a parasite. Rather, an embryo is a distinct human being. Standard biology textbooks agree. Many in the pro-choice community are happy to grant this view of human life, though we don’t hear that position much in popular media.

But if many in the pro-choice community are happy to grant the basic humanity of unborn life, then how can they also be for abortion?

For this reason, we need to answer a second question: what makes human beings special? We step on ants, and we eat cows. Why not human beings? One view says that human beings are valuable for the kind of thing we are as human beings. This is what Christians hold, and we believe it to be so because, as Genesis 1:27 reads, “God created man in his own image.” A two-year-old girl, a handicapped boy, and an accomplished violinist share the same humanity and, thus, the same human dignity.

To understand the alternative view, the acronym, “SLED,” comes in handy. This view holds that human beings are more or less valuable depending on their size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency. When an argument for abortion is made based on viability, the logic of dependence is at work. An argument for partial birth abortion assumes an argument from environment. Where the human being is determines whether the human being is worthy of life. Princeton Professor of Bioethics, Peter Singer, recognizes the superficial difference that environment makes and so he advocates for infanticide, the killing young children. Humans, in this view, are not valuable for the kind of thing they are but for the kind of human they are.

But not only is abortion the murder of an infinitely valuable human being, abortion is the violent murder of a defenseless human being. Differences in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are reasons for a special measure of care.

We are against abortion because we are for human life, and especially human life in its most vulnerable stage.

Second, we fear God and praise his life-knitting glory revealed in the womb.

Listen to how David felt about the scope of God’s sovereignty over his life:

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
—Psalm 138:14-18

Meditation on God’s pervasive knowledge and care for us is a reason for wonder and praise. For that reason, it should be no surprise that our Bibles are filled with the violent death of children, for God’s enemy, the Devil. We can’t help but think of Pharaoh’s order for the Hebrew sons to be thrown into the Nile (Ex. 1:22). Yet, as the story goes, “the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them” (Ex. 1:17).

What happens in the womb of a woman is not really about what happens in the womb but in heaven. It’s about a woman and her baby and the life-knitting hand of God. When our hearts are in the right place, we revel at God’s masterpiece in humanity and revile the assault of abortion on his handiwork.

We are against abortion because we fear God, and we are for the display of his life-knitting glory.

Third, we believe in the societal good of male and female bodies, of marriage, of sex, and of children.

These things are good, they are good for society, and they are integral. They go together and they are designed to go in that order. That’s what we learn from the first two chapters of the Bible.

Here’s my favorite tweet after the fall of Roe: “Women will begin making pre-sex demands. Legally binding agreements with economic safeguards built in. Probably even expecting expensive jewelry and diamonds!”

Abortion has occupied an essential place in the moral matrix of American life for many years. Advocates for abortion speak about abortion as a “choice.” Human autonomy is one principle driving the ideology of abortion. Yet, an even stronger driver is equality. That is, the equality of the sexes. Bracketing for a moment the present confusion over what constitutes a woman, there are real life consequences to the biological fact that women have a uterus and men do not. When a man and a woman come together, a man impregnates, and a woman gets pregnant.

Abortion has been a way for men and women to engage in marital or extramarital sex without the natural consequence of bearing a human life. Abortion, with its denial of the goodness of the female body has been bad for all of us, but especially for women and children. Abortion has contributed to the pulling apart of children from sex, of sex from marriage, and of children from their parents.

We are against abortion because we are for the blessings that flow from the proper enjoyment of God’s good gifts.

Finally, we love our neighbors and long for sinners to come to repentance.

This reason is not peripheral.

Heaven will be populated with abortionists, with those who aborted their children, and every other kind of sinner who looked to Christ for forgiveness and for righteousness. But no one will be there who did not first see and confess the reality their sin and guilt before God. Feelings of guilt are good, a sign that our consciences are sensitive to eternity. Telling the truth about abortion is telling the truth about God and humanity and sin. Telling the truth about sin is one hard step on the way to the blessing of repentance and faith and eternal life.

We do not love our unbelieving neighbors by speaking only of sins most decent people are comfortable denouncing: lying, cheating, spousal abuse, and child trafficking, for example. Just read some of the stories of 26 women who committed abortions, published a few years back in New York Magazine. Some of these women have been hardened. Many of them are haunted. All of them, we know, need the grace of God—grace which is greater than all of our sin. Satan assaults the glory of God through abortion. He manipulates and uncritically affirms our felt needs and tortures those whom he has enslaved. Being honest about the evil of abortion is an important first step toward knowing the love of Christ for those who would commit an abortion.

Yes, speaking against abortion and acting on behalf of the unborn means that some—even many—harden in their opposition to our cause for the unborn, and even our Savior. But such is the case with any sin, no matter how gracious our presentation. Jesus’ own preaching blinded some while it gave sight to others. That’s how the Word works.

We are against abortion because we are for babies, we are for the glory of God, we are for the good of our neighbors, and we are for the salvation of sinners.

Keep up the good works

The expression, “Keep up the good work,” is a way of doing two things: celebrating good work and cheering on more of the same.

Brothers and sisters, good work. You have prayed. You have counseled in crisis pregnancy centers and campaigned for laws and leaders that advanced this cause. You have read and studied and taught one another about life. You have promoted marriage. You have adopted children. You have persuaded mothers to keep their children with tenderness, truth, and practical help. You have done the good work of caring for the vulnerable, just as Christians have always done. You have advocated for life in many ways over many years. In all of this, you have walked in the good works prepared beforehand by our Father.

Good work. Praise the Lord! Keep it up.

Social Justice, Pride Month, and The Two Parent Home

Social Justice, Pride Month, and The Two Parent Home

Social justice is something we’ve discussed in our preaching over the years. I’ve proposed that it’s not a helpful descriptor if we want to think and communicate in clear biblical terms. It’s overloaded with conflicting meanings. It’s also associated almost entirely in our public discourse with governmental redistributive programs aimed at resolving disparities of one kind or another.

In the last number of weeks we have heard sermons from two of the Bible’s famous chapters as it concerns human sexuality and sin, one sermon from Leviticus 18 and another from Leviticus 20. These chapters dealt with adultery, men laying with men, siblings with siblings, and on and on. In an age when the only moral principle directing sexual behavior is that of consent, these chapters stun. They were given to Israel not as a comprehensive theology and ethic of human sexuality but to protect her on entry into the land of Canaan where these practices were the norm.

Yet standing behind these prohibitions and punishments is the precious gift of our bodies, of marriage, and of human society. Basic to God’s plan for our flourishing and his glory is our behavior in bed. If we we’re going to use the terminology of social justice, then we need to speak about sexual sins, about marriage, and about children and family.

With this as background, I want to commend two articles to you.

Article 1: “Welcome to Pride Month, Christian”

In this piece, “Welcome to Pride Month, Christian,” Carl Truman helps us see that “social justice demands our opposition to [pride month’s] celebration and symbols.” He is calling out a contradiction here, as you may pick up. Some of this is tongue in cheek, a rhetorical calling out of those who have given themselves over to a new Phariseeism on one topic or another who are nevertheless quiet on this one. Even if you’re not privy to that discussion, you may be shocked in a good way at Trueman’s plainspokenness. It seems we have gotten used to frank moral demands on some topics but overly couch or avoid them on others. It’s important to ask ourselves, “why do I feel like I should say this?” or “why do I feel like I can’t say that?.” Carl’s piece is a kind of tune up for your justice sensibilities.

Here’s an excerpt:

If anybody wants to understand what is happening to the public square in America—indeed, if anyone wants to know how America, or at least her ruling class, wishes to understand itself, they need look no further than Pride Month. If the arrival of the Pilgrims, the founding of the nation, and even the contribution of Martin Luther King Jr. receive no more than 24 hours on the national calendar, the LGBTQ+ alliance has an entire month to party in the streets. And this street party is enabled by the countless commercial ventures that post rainbow flags in their windows and on their websites.

. . . But there is a silver lining here. Pride Month does offer those Christians who are passionate about social justice a chance to reassure those of us who fear their commitment to such is always tailored to appeal to the broader tastes of the day. For if Confederate flags and statues are deemed social justice issues by many (a point with which I am sympathetic), how much more so is the rainbow flag? The use of the rainbow symbol should be particularly egregious to Christians. It is the primary instrument by which the LGBTQ+ movement asserts its ownership of the culture. And it is the means of telling those of us who dare to dissent that we should have no place in the public square anymore. It tears at God’s creation order and design for family relations and social stability. And it is also a blasphemous desecration of a sacred symbol, taking that which was intended as a sign of God’s love and faithfulness and of our dependence upon Him and turning it into an aggressive symbol of human autonomy and sexual decadence.

Read the full piece. Read more from Trueman at World Opinions and First Things. For Trueman’s book-length work on the present cultural confusion, pick up, Strange New World: How Thinkers and Activists Redefined Identity and Sparked the Sexual Revolution.

Article 2: “The Power of The Two-Parent Home”

If Trueman’s piece gets its force from its rhetoric, this next piece gets its force from its research. On a different but related topic, Kevin DeYoung has written an important journal article: “The Power of The Two-Parent Home.” Less critique in this case and more construcive. We need both.

He offers his own caveats, which any pastor will want to do. We love and support single mothers and fathers and recognize the diverse ways in which those circumstances come about. But the reason we need to acknowledge them is precisely because the single-parent home is an exception to the good norm the Lord established at creation. The two-parent home is one of the most needful and yet neglected topics in the public conversation about social good. Thomas Sowell has written for years on this topic in his work, for example, on Discrimination and Disparities. Kevin’s piece includes his own footnotes to recent studies along with a good example of theological and ethical reasoning. 

Here’s how DeYoung begins:

Humanly speaking, there is nothing more important for personal well-being, positive social behavior, and general success in life than being raised by one’s biological parents committed to each other in a stable marriage. Over the past forty years, a vast body of research has demonstrated conclusively that children are deeply affected by family structure and that married parents are best for children. Any efforts — whether governmental, educational, or ecclesiastical — that mean to encourage human flourishing must take this reality into account as both an explanation for many societal ills and as a means to the end of hoped-for societal health and vitality.

Family life in America has changed dramatically in a relatively short period of time. In 1960, 73% of children lived with two parents in their first marriage. By 2014, less than half (46%) of children were living in this type of family. Conversely, the percentage of children living with a single parent rose from 9% in 1960 to 26% in 2014. An additional 7% of children now live with cohabiting parents. Moreover, the increase in non-traditional family arrangements has coincided with the decoupling of marriage and childbearing. In 1960, just 5% of all births occurred outside of marriage. By 2000, around 40% of all births occurred outside of marriage (a percentage that has held steady over the last twenty years). As of 2014, 29% of births to white women, 53% of births to Hispanic women, and 71% of births to black women were out-of-wedlock. In the span of only 60 years, what were once considered exceptional family circumstances have become the norm.

Kevin traces the social implications of these trends and ends by expanding on four suggestions:

  • First, pastors, Christian educators, parents, and church leaders need to do more to teach on this subject.
  • Second, we ought to encourage public policies that make pro-child marriages more attractive and less healthy family arrangements more difficult.
  • Third, we should consider how we have normalized behavior that harms children and does not lead to human flourishing.
  • Fourth, unless called to singleness for kingdom purposes, we must encourage Christians to get married, have children, stay married, and raise those children in a stable two-parent family. 

Read the full piece, or listen Kevin read it at his podcast, Life and Books and Everything.

Are God’s Wrath and God’s Love Compatible?

Are God’s Wrath and God’s Love Compatible?

D.A. Carson has written a helpful book, The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God. Kristi gave me this book when we were dating, actually. It was our six month anniversary. Now, twenty years and about two weeks later, I commend it to you.

The occasion for this recommendation is, of course, Sunday’s sermon from Leviticus 20, “What can we learn from the Bible’s shocking judgments?” This chapter brought us up close and personal with some of the Bible’s most shocking judgments. For example, stoning for child sacrifice (which perhaps sounds reasonable) but also the death penalty for adultery (which may give us pause). There is an important biblical theological context for these commands. Remember that Adam was banished from the garden for his sin. These laws concern Israel’s life when she enters the land of promise, a new Eden. In short, the comfort we can take in Leviticus 20 is that there won’t be any such sin in the new creation. Where does that leave us, sinners that we are? Trusting only and wholly in the perfect advocate, Jesus Christ the righteous, our propitiation for sin (1Jn. 2:1–3).

Chapters like this raise tensions not only in the question of how any of us can be saved, but a tension in the question of who God is in himself. Is he wrathful or is he loving? Aren’t these descriptors mutually exclusive? Is this just one of those mysteries we have to accept? Yes, we must accept it if that’s the Bible’s portrait of our God, a God beyond all comprehension. But that doesn’t mean we are left without any sense of coherence in our picture of God. 

For help with that question, Don Carson has served us well on pages 67–70 in his chapter, “God’s Love and God’s Wrath.”

Carson on the difference between wrath and love:

“Wrath, unlike love, is not one of the intrinsic perfections of God. Rather, it is a function of God’s holiness against sin. Where there is no sin, there is no wrath-but there will always be love in God. Where God in His holiness confronts His image-bearers in their rebellion, there must be wrath, or God is not the jealous God He claims to be, and His holiness is impugned. The price of diluting God’s wrath is diminishing God’s holiness.”

He continues, on the compatibility of God’s wrath and his love focused on the same person:

“God’s wrath is not an implacable, blind rage. However emotional it may be, it is an entirely reasonable and willed response to offenses against His holiness. But His love…wells up amidst His perfections and is not generated by the loveliness of the loved. Thus there is nothing intrinsically impossible about wrath and love being directed toward the same individual or people at the same time. God in His perfections must be wrathful against His rebel image-breakers, for they have offended Him; God in His perfections must be loving toward His rebel image-bearers, for He is that kind of God.”

How God’s love redirects God’s wrath to save sinners:

“Both God’s love and God’s wrath are ratcheted up in the move from the old covenant to the new, from the Old Testament to the New. These themes barrel along through redemptive history, unresolved, until they come to a resounding climax – in the cross.”

As Carson has asked elsewhere, “Do you wish to see God’s love? Look at the cross. Do you wish to see God’s wrath? Look at the cross.”As with so many other doctrines, the theological tension leads to and finds resolution in the person and work of Christ.