Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Archive for December 2013

How One Woman Escaped the Mormon Temple

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Christianity Today has a fascinating story from a former Mormon and BYU professor who converted to Christianity after her son pleaded with her to read the New Testament:

In John’s gospel, I read, “These are the very scriptures that testify of me yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” Salvation did not require the Mormon Church, only Jesus. I began to see clearly that Mormonism taught a different gospel than what the Bible taught.

When I read what Jesus said in John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them,” I knew I was being drawn—sucked, pulled, conveyed, transported. In physics, an event horizon is a boundary beyond which the gravitational pull is so powerful that there is no escape. This was my event horizon. As I read the Bible, my appetite for God grew exponentially. I felt myself drawn to him at an ever-increasing speed.

Then, on a chilly October evening in 2006, Michael and I settled in with Katie in our basement to watch the movie Luther. My heart pounded as I learned of the reformer’s struggle against the Catholic Church. I seemed to be facing a similar struggle: Did I believe the Mormon system of obedience to laws and ordinances would secure my forgiveness? Or did I believe what the Bible taught, that Jesus alone was the Way, the Truth, and the Life?

Read the rest here.

Written by Josh Philpot

December 26, 2013 at 7:40 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

J.I. Packer on Christmas

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Here is J.I. Packer, in Knowing God, chapter 5

But in fact the real difficulty, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, does not lie here at all [he was discussing the atonement, resurrection, and Gospel miracles]. It lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of the resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation. The really staggering Christmas claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man–that second person of the Godhead became the “second man” (1 Cor 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that he took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was a truly and fully divine as he was human.

Here are two mysteries for the price of one–the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus. It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. “The Word became flesh” (Jn 1:14); God became man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation (Knowing God, IVP, 1973, p53).

Written by Josh Philpot

December 24, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Nifty Guitar Tuner

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Guitarists will love this: TronicalTune is a tuner that attaches to the the end of your guitar and automatically tunes the strings:

Tune

Tune1

I personally enjoy tuning my guitars, and since this tuner runs around $299 per unit and involves removing the tuning pegs on my current guitar (a feature I actually like), I’m happy to pass on this. That said, for those who do a lot of gigging and who play in a lot of differing tunings, the TronicalTune is a nifty option.

Written by Josh Philpot

December 24, 2013 at 4:34 am

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A Christmas Story with a Dragon

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From Tony Reinke:

I discuss this passage in my book Lit! to show the spiritual value of dragons (see pages 85–86). But here’s the gist of Revelation 12:1–6 in the words of D. A. Carson in his outstanding book Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus (Crossway, 2010):

The scene is grotesque. The dragon stands in front of the woman. She is lying there in labor. Her feet are in the stirrups, writhing as she pushes to give birth, and this disgusting dragon is waiting to grab the baby as it comes out of the birth canal and then eat it (12:4). The scene is meant to be grotesque: it reflects the implacable rage of Satan against the arriving Messiah.

Do we not know how this works out in historical terms? The first bloodbath in the time of Jesus takes place in the little village of Bethlehem — in the slaughter of the innocents as Herod tries to squash this baby’s perceived threat to his throne.

Jesus is saved by Joseph, who is warned by God in a dream and flees to Egypt. Herod, in a rage, “gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under” (Matt. 2:16). Satan later manifests his rage against Jesus in the temptation, and he manifests his rage against the church in every temptation. Satan’s rage manifests itself when some people try to push Jesus over a cliff, and others take up stones to stone him. Satan is after Jesus and wants to destroy him by any means possible.

Behind all these attempts to destroy Jesus is the red dragon, and behind the red dragon is God himself, bringing to pass his purposes even in the death of his Son to bring about our redemption.

But the text does not go on to talk about Jesus’ triumph here, not because this book has no interest in him but because the triumph of Jesus has already been spectacularly introduced in Revelation 4–5. The great vision of Revelation 4–5 controls the entire book. There we learn that Christ, this male child, is the only one who is fit to open the scroll in God’s right hand to bring about all of God’s purposes for judgment and blessing. He is the Lion and the Lamb, the reigning king and the bloody sacrifice, the heir to David’s throne yet the one who appears from God’s throne. Because of his struggle, men and women from every tongue and tribe and people and nation are redeemed. Countless millions gather around him who sits on the throne and the Lamb and sing a new song of adoring, grateful, praise.

But here in Revelation 12 we move from Jesus’ birth to his ascension; we run through his entire life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension in two lines: he “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter” and “was snatched up to God and to his throne” (v. 5). The male child, Jesus, is born and snatched to heaven. In other words, this passage focuses not on Christ’s triumph — that is presupposed — but on what happens to the woman and her children, the ones left behind. And that is us: the messianic community, the people of God, the blood-bought church of Jesus Christ. This side of the cross they are described as “those who obey God’s commands and hold the testimony of Jesus” (v. 17). The woman (the messianic community) is the focus of the passage.

Written by Josh Philpot

December 23, 2013 at 9:13 pm

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Where do we find wisdom?

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Proverbs 8 is a beautiful passage of scripture, although it’s very difficult to interpret. One of the central questions in that chapter is, “where can we find wisdom?” Wisdom is personified in Proverbs 8 as elsewhere in the book and is presented by the author (Solomon, I believe) as an extremely attractive, beautiful woman—Lady Wisdom. So where does one find such an attractive woman? The chapter gives details about finding her and also about the the places where she can be found:

  1. She is “on the heights, beside the way” (v. 2a)
  2. She is “at the crossroads” (v. 2b)
  3. She is “beside the gates in front of the town” (v. 3a)
  4. She is “at the entrance” (v. 3b)
  5. She is “among the paths of righteousness/justice” (v. 20)
  6. She is “at the beginning of Yhwh’s way” (v. 22)
  7. When God established the heavens, she was there (v. 27)
  8. She is “beside him [God], like a master workman” (v. 30a)
  9. She is “before him [God]” (v. 30b)
  10. She is always “rejoicing in his inhabited world” (v. 31)

What can we conclude from this list? Two things: 1) “Wisdom”—Lady Wisdom—is with God, and 2) she is amongst us in the world.

These concepts obviously have to do with God’s presence. Wisdom, therefore, is much like the “angel of Yhwh” in the OT. Wisdom is “with” God (indeed, the personified wisdom is God in some sense), but also in the world at the same time. To grasp wisdom, taking hold of her, not forsaking her, loving her, and prizing her highly (Prov 4:5-9), is to partake in the presence of God himself.

Written by Josh Philpot

December 12, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Old Testament, Theology

The Preface of My Dissertation

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On Friday I will graduate for the second time from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. The first time was when I completed the MDiv in 2009, and now four years later from the PhD program. I had the opportunity to write a “Preface” for my dissertation, which I had never done before. So in reflecting on this process, I wrote the following:

This project would not have been possible without the guidance of the many people who encouraged me to pursue a seminary degree, and who were faithful to support me through to its completion. This entire dissertation was written from Spring, Texas while serving as Pastor for Worship at Founders Baptist Church. I am deeply thankful to Founders for allowing me to spend this last year writing. The people of Founders have been truly amazing in their display of love for me and my family. I am especially thankful for Pastor Richard Caldwell for his constant care and support, as well as his interest in my topic.

My interest in Exodus 34 and the episode of Moses’ shining face began with a discussion outside of the office of my supervisor, Dr. Duane A. Garrett, who was completing a commentary on Exodus at the time. He suggested that I write a paper on this passage seeing that it was commonly misunderstood, especially in evangelical circles. My later work on Exodus 34 was generally well received, and so Dr. Garrett suggested that I consider it for my dissertation. I am extremely grateful to him for his support and guidance during this process, and for taking me on as one of his doctoral students.

My doctoral studies began while I was serving with Dr. James M. Hamilton Jr. on the pastoral staff at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Dr. Hamilton has influenced me pastorally and theologically more than any other person. I am grateful to him for his friendship and love for me and my family, not to mention his keen insight on all Old Testament matters and comprehensive biblical knowledge. Out of all the things I miss about Louisville, I miss serving with Dr. Hamilton the most. Thank you for modeling a strong work ethic, humility, sincerity, and biblical preaching.

My wife, Jenn, has been the constancy one needs when completing a large-scale project. Thank you for your endless prayers and encouragement, and your devotion to me when I grew weary from time to time. Thank you for your love, most of all, and for your commitment to being a godly wife and a mother. You bring more joy to me than you will ever know! And, “The heart of her husband trusts in her” (Prov 31:11).

To our kids, Isaiah, Eliana, and Mikaela, thank you for confirming for me each day that “the light of the eyes rejoices the heart” (Prov 15:30). I am looking forward to having many more mornings and evenings together!

Lastly, I am dedicating this dissertation to my parents, Gary and Pam Philpot. Your influence on me as a young man was a significant blessing throughout. And now, as a husband and father, I am beginning to understand just how important Christian parents are in the lives of their children. Thank you for your prayerful encouragement and loving example of a godly marriage. My prayer is that the Lord would “make his face to shine upon you” (Num 6:25) as you persevere in the gospel of grace.

Joshua Matthew Philpot
Spring, Texas
December 2013

Written by Josh Philpot

December 9, 2013 at 8:00 am

Switchfoot and Christian Music

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There is a very interesting interview with Jon Foreman posted over at the CTK Blog. Jon is the lead singer/writer of the band Switchfoot, which is sort of a quasi-Christian band that emerged in the late 90’s. The irony in that statement is that the term “Christian band” is exactly what the interview is about, and Jon offers a thoughtful critique of the entire notion of labeling his music “Christian” (or any other music from someone who is a “Christian” artist, like J.S. Bach).

I won’t quote the interview here. The key for me is contextualization. I have no problem with a bunch of Christians having a band that writes songs that aren’t explicitly “Christian,” whatever that means (it means various things to various groups; does he mean evangelical? would he define it in a gospel-centered way, as I would?). I would ask, initially, what is the purpose of Switchfoot? To communicate truth? Or, beauty? These things are inherently good because, in a sense, all truth is God’s truth (a la Philippians 4). But does Jon have to be singing about the “gospel” explicitly in order to be a “Christian” band? I don’t think so. A good poet doesn’t just come out and say what is true in explicit terms; he creates beautiful language, and in turn causes his reader to think hard about what he is saying. Switchfoot’s songs communicate something true about God, and in that sense, it is for his glory. Even if Jon’s songs don’t mention “Christ,” the songs still “reedemed,” I would say.

But is Switchfoot trying to communicate the gospel in their songs? I don’t think that they are, at least in the songs that I’m familiar with. If singing the gospel is their intent, then I would argue that they should be more explicit, or at least state this intent at their concerts and in their albums. Using someone like J.S. Bach as an example (as Jon does in the interview) isn’t exactly helpful to what Jon is saying. No one doubted the real intent behind Bach’s music because he put “S.D.G.” (soli deo gloria — to God alone be glory) at the end of every piece he wrote! Lewis and Tolkein—to whom Jon also points as examples of “Christian” authors who don’t mention “Christ” in any of their stories—serves as another example. Even so, does anyone really doubt the biblical allusions to Christ and redemption in those stories? What Jon is doing is different. When Jon sings, “We were meant to live for so much more,” what does he mean? Does he mean, “live for Christ,” or, “live to do something good in the world?” And, does it help his audience at all if they don’t know what he really means? I remember hearing that song on an ESPN highlight reel, and I doubt that the editors of Sports Center were thinking “live for Christ.” So in the secular context those words mean one thing. In the “Christian” music scene, they mean something else.

Lastly, I would say as one commenter does at the bottom of that post that that this entire question is not an either/or proposition—to be an explicitly Christian band or not. Switchfoot is trying to make a living too, and if they want to be in the non-Christian market to make more money, fine by me. I don’t understand why so many Christians have a problem with this, as if being a Christian requires you to write only explicit Christ-on-the-cross lyrics. In a way, Switchfoot is more free to be a positive Christian influence by not adopting that label as part of the music scene. Thus, I generally agree with most of what Jon is saying. I would not, however, use their songs in a worship service. I conclude with a particularly poignant quote from Jon that I found refreshing:

“None of these songs has been born again, and to that end there is no such thing as Christian music. No. Christ didn’t come and die for my songs, he came for me. Yes. My songs are a part of my life. But judging from scripture I can only conclude that our God is much more interested in how I treat the poor and the broken and the hungry than the personal pronouns I use when I sing. I am a believer. Many of these songs talk about this belief. An obligation to say this or do that does not sound like the glorious freedom that Christ died to afford me. I do have an obligation, however, a debt that cannot be settled by my lyrical decisions. My life will be judged by my obedience, not my ability to confine my lyrics to this box or that.”

Written by Josh Philpot

December 7, 2013 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Culture, Music