My Deep Respect for Gavin Ortlund as a Protestant Apologist

My Deep Respect for Gavin Ortlund as a Protestant Apologist February 22, 2024

Dr. Gavin Ortlund is a Reformed Baptist author, speaker, pastor, scholar, and apologist for the Christian faith. He has a Ph.D. from Fuller Theological Seminary in historical theology, and an M.Div from Covenant Theological Seminary. Gavin is the author of seven books as well as numerous academic and popular articles. For a list of publications, see his CV. He runs the very popular YouTube channel Truth Unites, which seeks to provide an “irenic” voice on theology, apologetics, and the Christian life. See also his website, Truth Unites and his blog.

In my opinion, he is currently the best and most influential popular-level Protestant apologist, who (especially) interacts with and offers thoughtful critiques of Catholic positions, from a refreshing ecumenical (not anti-Catholic), but nevertheless solidly Protestant perspective. That’s what I want to interact with, so I have issued many replies to Gavin and will continue to do so. I use RSV for all Bible passages unless otherwise specified.

All of my replies to Gavin are collected in one place on my Calvinism & General Protestantism web page, near the top in the section, “Replies to Reformed Baptist Gavin Ortlund.” Gavin’s words will be in blue.

This is my 22nd reply to his material.


This is a response to and agreement with the first portion of Gavin’s video, “Defending My Views on the Canon and Icons” (5-16-23).

0:24 these are two people in the Catholic tradition [Trent Horn and Suan Sonna] that I enjoy engaging with, because I think they’re of good will and want to maintain good relationship[s] with people and interface with the best of the other side in terms of the best rigor and sincerity and professionalism and that kind of thing, and I like both those guys . . .

That’s exactly how I feel about Gavin and how he goes about things, as I state in my introductions of all my replies to him. I’m sick to death of “acrimonious” debates. And believe me, I’ve been in many of them, putting up with countless insults, out of sad necessity as an apologist. But that’s how it always is with the small anti-Catholic wing of Protestantism, and why one must find people like Gavin, who are 100% / true blue Protestant but who regard Catholics as brethren in Christ, just as I did when I was a Protestant.

It’s so refreshing to see, and it seems to be the prevailing trend now (thank heavens). We can simply discuss the issues, have fun while doing so, even become friends (as fellow passionate apologists for Christianity and teachers), and get away from all of the personal attacks and mind-reading expeditions, slanders about supposed ill will, etc. Praise God that this is possible and increasingly taking place! It’s truly a joy to see, especially after my 28-year experience on the Internet.

2:49 I am very grateful for the interaction. I’m grateful that people find my work worth engaging. I think we have an unprecedented opportunity historically because of YouTube and other technology, where we can talk [about] these different Christian traditions and engage with each other. It’s unbelievable [and] one of the deepest honors of my life to be able to be involved in these conversations. They’re so important and we need to steward this opportunity well, so I’m appreciative of the opportunity to have interfacing and interaction; people engaging my work.

Well said. I feel exactly the same about the hope for constructive dialogue (because I am as ecumenical as I am “apologetical”), and I hope I can be one of the people, too, with whom Gavin enjoys dialoguing, as much as I always enjoy and am intellectually / theologically stimulated by responding to his always thoughtful and challenging arguments (which I began doing in May 2022).

Gavin is a great representative for Protestantism and he will no doubt help and educate and be a blessing to many thousands of people throughout his career, whether in this way or in writing or as a pastor (as he also is). He’s serving God and clearly putting his whole heart into his vocation, with the best Christian spirit of charity and tolerance, and I always admire and respect that. I’m honored and delighted as well to interact with profoundly Christian folks like Gavin.

5:14  I’m sure there’s some odd Protestants out there who aren’t like most Protestants, but who just relentlessly attack Catholic apologists . . . 

Indeed, as I know very well from personal experience. And of course it works the other way, too, as Gavin noted. There is a sort of “attack mode” or hyper-polemical attitude that does not represent the best apologetics or ecumenical efforts on either side. It’s okay to be zealous for one’s own heartfelt cause, but — given our propensity as human beings to sin — it can quickly morph into hostility and acrimony and ad hominem attacks. This happens on all sides, and I utterly condemn all of it, regardless of whether it comes from my side or the other side of the theological divide. As I always say, we need to “police our own” if things are to ever change for the better. We can disagree respectfully and in good spirits.

5:21 I get weird stuff; I mean stuff in the realm of death wishes, nasty voicemails on my phone; people superimposing my face on paintings of Satan and emailing it to people in my church. I mean just weird; just the kind of stuff [where] you’re like, “I don’t know whether to laugh or pray for this person because it can’t be good for their mental health.”

I’m so sorry to hear this and apologize on behalf of Catholics. But these bitter, hateful, mentally and spiritually disturbed people do not represent us (as Gavin agrees a little later in his comments), just as the nasty anti-Catholics ought never to be seen as representative of mainstream Protestantism. This is distressing and disturbing to hear. I’ve been called every conceivable thing and accused of same in my time online (including not infrequently from fellow Catholics to the right or left of me on the spectrum), but I can’t say that I’ve ever received death wishes or the other reprehensible things that Gavin describes. I think it’s because Gavin is being read by a very large volume of people, that he is getting the crazy people as part of that. But no doubt it’s a tiny, tiny fringe group.

6:12  I’m very happy as a Protestant.

That’s why he is a good and effective apologist for Protestantism, because one can’t be that if they are not fully confident in their position.

6:14 studying these issues has made me more convinced of Protestantism, even while it’s given me more love and sympathy in certain respects for the people on the other side. But I’m more convinced of Protestantism because of studying these things. Honestly, I’m not saying that [as] a jab; that’s the honest truth.

And this has been my constant experience as a Catholic apologist as well. I become more and more convinced all the time of the fullness of Catholicism, after interacting with opposing arguments, and I always say that this is one of the blessings of being an apologist. I think that if you get two people like me and Gavin, who are both supremely confident, yet at the same time don’t have to be acrimonious in debate, and have an ecumenical attitude, too, that there can be some very good and helpful dialogues. I find it spiritually invigorating, fun, and intellectually stimulating.

That’s why I keep engaging Gavin. He causes me to come up with new arguments, or to deepen existing ones, by the points he raises. Sometimes we even agree! Whether we convince “the other guy” or not (almost always not), there is much value in greater mutual understanding. There are so many falsehoods floating around on both sides. When Protestants are being lied about, I defend them. Just yesterday, in fact, I had to ban a guy from my Facebook page for outrageous anti-Protestantism. I will have none of that, wherever I am present. I used to be a very committed evangelical Protestant, after all (and an apologist in those days, too). So in effect such attacks are also against me in my past life. I know what I thought and what I was like, and most of that is still part of me today; still my belief (regarding the large areas of agreement). These insults are outrageous and contemptible.

6:31 I think what happens is people assume, “oh all the sincere good people will see my side,” and so if they see someone and they think, “oh that person seems like a good person; surely they’re going to join my side,” and I don’t think that’s a helpful mentality. I think the better approach is [to] argue for your side, argue for your position, but just recognize [that] there’s going to be intelligent people on the other side, too. They’ll make good points at times and we can just peacefully coexist in the meantime.

I couldn’t agree more.




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Photo credit: video screengrab from Gavin Ortlund’s YouTube channel, Truth Unites.

Summary: Protestant apologist and scholar Gavin Ortlund made some ecumenical remarks and observations about online apologetics, with which I wholeheartedly agreed.

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