Jeff Iorg Blog


People

May 04 2015

            Golden Gate Seminary is relocating its primary campus to Ontario, California – leaving one of the most beautiful geographic settings in the world for an urbanized, desert location east of Los Angeles referred to as the Inland Empire. Why?

            The answer is one word – people.

            When faced with the option of relocating the seminary anywhere in the United States, we chose a location in the fastest growing area in the American West.  Recently updated population projections for 2050 indicate more than 2.2 million more people will move into Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.  In addition, more than 1.6 million more people will move into Los Angeles County and another 466,000 more into Orange County.  This means almost 4.4 million more people will move within a 50 mile radius of our new campus in the next 35 years.

            We are moving to the Inland Empire because it will be the epicenter of population growth in the next 35 years in the western United States.  More new people will move into this four county area than in any western state (with the possible exception of Arizona) in the same time frame.  Population growth equals ministry opportunities.  We are moving the seminary to the center of the greatest opportunity for church planting, multicultural ministry development, church growth, and ministry expansion in the American West.

            In the past, seminaries have followed one of two primary models in shaping their ministries and choosing their locations.  Some are retreat centers – following a monastic model and creating separated communities for concentrated spiritual formation.  Others are academic centers – often connected to larger educational institutions for intense scholarly preparation.  We have chosen a different model – a missional model – convinced students prepare best as ministry leaders (both spiritually and academically) while immersed among the very people they will be leading after graduation.

            Golden Gate has a well-earned reputation for training people to be on mission with the gospel.  Our decision to go where the most people will be is a natural expression of our missional passion and convictions.  We are planting our new primary campus in a corporate office park, at the junction point of three major freeways, and next to an airport.  We have made this choice – intentionally and strategically – because we are determined to be where the action is.  More than 4 million new people are coming and we intend to train leaders to reach as many of them as possible with the gospel!

 

Going to Court

Apr 27 2015

           This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments about laws related to the constitutionality of same-sex marriage.  While the ruling won’t come until this summer, most legal experts and court watchers believe the end result will be legalization of same sex marriage. 

            Many will decry their decision with dire warnings about the damage this decision will do to our country.  Others will celebrate it as a courageous application of the law guaranteeing the rights of everyone who wants to marry whoever they choose.  While my viewpoint is reflected in the first option, it’s also important to keep the decision in perspective.

            The Supreme Court has been wrong – disastrously wrong – on multiple occasions in the past with dreadful consequences.  For example, in Dred Scott v. Sandford the court effectively legalized slavery – leading to the Civil War.  Or another example, Plessy v. Ferguson was used to justify separate but equal reasoning - institutionalizing segregation for 60 years.  And, the worst decision in my lifetime – Roe v. Wade – has contributed to more than 55 million abortions since it became law.

            The Supreme Court decides what is legal, in the current cultural milieu, and has always been politicized in its decisions.  That’s not new or news.  The Court does not decide timeless Truth, or what is moral or ethical.  They decide what is legal, always with deference to current cultural pressures.  They interpret the Constitution, deciding what principles apply in cases that come before them.  As these examples demonstrate, they have been wrong – tragically wrong – on major issues in past years.  All indications are they are about to be wrong again.

            How should we respond?  With deference as much as possible, being models of living under the rule of law.  With disobedience, when conscience demands, and a contrite willingness to experience whatever consequences befall us.  Our country – and sub-groups in our country – have survived bad Court decisions before and can again.  It will be challenging, but it can be done.  Get ready.  You are likely to have the opportunity.

           

 

Being Catholic

Apr 20 2015

            Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, has come under fire from civic leaders, media personalities, and rank-and-file Catholics.  They are outraged and have expressed it with full-page newspaper ads and public protests.  He has been called a hatemonger and accused of being divisive, intolerant, and out-of-touch with contemporary needs.

            What has the Archbishop done to receive such vitriol?  Simple – he’s being Catholic.  That’s it.  He has announced the doctrines of the Catholic Church will be expressed in their churches, schools, and ministry policies throughout the archdiocese.  This means Catholic school teachers will honor positions on issues like abortion and homosexuality.  It means priests will structure worship services to express Catholic theology, including using young men as altar boys.  In short, Archbishop Cordileone has done what Catholic leaders should do – take their tenets seriously and let those beliefs guide their practice.

            The people who are up-in-arms claim the Archbishop does not represent “their church.”  It’s amazing any group, but particularly self-professed Catholics, would be upset with their leader.  They assume they are allowed to define the Catholic Church, on their terms, and demand their leaders fulfill their vision for their church.  Wrong on both conclusions!

            Archbishop Cordileone has not come up with any new doctrines or interpretations.  He is only upholding positions the Catholic Church has held for centuries.  For a person to claim to be Catholic, and be upset with the Archbishop, reveals one of two things.  Either they are hopelessly naïve about what their own Church believes or they are embarrassingly hypocritical – claiming to believe one thing but demanding their leader violates those convictions.  Popular opinion does not determine Truth, despite the politically-correct presumptiveness of post-modern self-absorption.

            I am a Southern Baptist leader – personally about as non-Catholic as a Protestant Evangelical can be.  But on this issue, I support the Archbishop’s right and responsibility to lead from his convictions.  A religious leader should practice what he preaches, allow doctrine to discipline decisions, and challenge people to conform their behavior to truth – not reinvent it to meet current cultural proclivities.

 

New Interpretations

Apr 13 2015

My pastor recently described how many people view the Bible today - as a self-help book filled with positive suggestions they can pick and choose from for a better life.  That’s a good summary.  More and more Christians seem to be using the Bible as a nice piece of ancient literature with many good ideas for personal improvement.  They select what they think makes sense to them, and ignore or reinterpret the rest.

Troublesome aspects of the Bible – like what it says about morality – are frequently in the “ignore or reinterpret” category.  The rationale for doing this often includes the justification that Christians have always disagreed over some aspects of biblical interpretation, and this is just the latest example.

Part of that claim is true.  Christians do disagree on some points of biblical interpretation – like whether speaking in tongues is valid, the proper form of church government, or explaining end times events.  But using these disagreements to justify reinterpreting Scripture to whatever you want it to mean ignores the substantive part of the history of biblical interpretation.  There are many issues upon which all Christians agree, and when a person or group does not believe those things, they have always been defined as cultic.

Christians have always agreed, for example, on the nature and sanctity of marriage.  That does not mean we have not violated those tenets, abused the privilege, or rebelled against the strictures of Scripture.  Believers have, for two centuries, maintained a common orthodoxy on the definition and purposes of marriage.  When we fell short of living out those beliefs, we have asked God to forgive us and moved forward – not reshaped our doctrine down to accommodate our actions.

Now, on this very important issue, some claim the Bible has been misunderstood for two centuries and needs the new interpretation they offer.  This defies logic and ignores two centuries of clear, unified biblical interpretation.  If you choose to support gay marriage, you may do so for a variety of reasons.  But please, don’t try to reinterpret the Bible to support your position.  No matter your hermeneutical gymnastics, the support just is not there.

 




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