Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

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Interview with Bibliotheca’s Adam Lewis Greene at the Bible Design Blog

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I backed the Bibliotheca project after about 10 seconds on the Kickstarter page. I was excited about it from my first glance at the page, and the video only make me my excitement grow. I’m interested in this project not only because of the possibility of having another high-quality Bible, but also because the 4-volume format. Since I’m a firm believer in the threefold division of the Hebrew canon—Law, Prophets, and Writings—I was smitten and had to back the project. As long as things progress well I should have it in my hands by the end of 2014. The project caught fire across the internet very quickly and has already $120,000+ in pledges from people like me. Another blog I follow, the Bible Design Blog, has an interview with Adam Lewis, who created the Bibliotheca project. Check it out here: Interview with Bibliotheca’s Adam Lewis Greene: Part 1 – Bible Design Blog

Written by Josh Philpot

July 5, 2014 at 2:36 am

Westerholm on Justification

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I recently read Stephen Westerholm’s new book, “Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme.” It is only 100 pages and easy to digest. Westerholm assesses all of the data in the New Testament on justification/righteousness and settles on the traditional view of justification by faith (as articulated by Augustine, Luther, Calvin, et al.), even in spite of recent challenges from N. T. Wright and James D. G. Dunn. In fact, I came away from the book with the thought that Westerholm is simply arguing for the plain sense of the relevant passages about the doctrine of justification. There is no need for revisionist interpretations. His final paragraph is very helpful: 

“[The traditional view of justification by faith] cannot be dismissed by the claim that the ancients were not concerned to find a gracious God (how could they not be, in the face of pending divine judgment?); or that it wrongly casts first-century Jews as legalists (its target is rather the sinfulness of all human beings); or that non-Christian Jews, too, depended on divine grace (of course they did, but without Paul’s need to distinguish grace from works); or that ‘righteousness’ means ‘membership in the covenant’ (never did, never will) and the expression ‘works of the law’ refers to the boundary markers of the Jewish people (it refers to all the ‘righteous’ deeds required by the law as its path to righteousness). Modern scholars are correct in noting that Paul first focused on language of justification in response to the question whether Gentile believers in Christ should be circumcised. They are right to emphasize the social implications of Paul’s doctrine of justification (what it meant ‘on the ground’) in his own day, and are free to draw out its social implications for our own. But the doctrine of justification means that God declares sinners righteous, apart from righteous deeds, when they believe in Jesus Christ. Those so made righteous represent the new humanity, the people of God’s new creation (rom 5:17-19).”

Written by Josh Philpot

May 19, 2014 at 9:28 pm

Tom Schreiner on the Differences between Biblical and Systematic Theology

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In the new issue of Themelios, Tom Schreiner writes a response to Gerald Bray’s critique of his biblical theology, “The King in His Beauty.” In the first few paragraphs he offers a clear and helpful overview for how biblical and systematic theology differ but complement one another. He also lambasts Bray for totally misunderstanding his book. I was at the panel discussion at ETS last November where Bray’s review was presented, so I’m glad to see Schreiner’s rejoinder here. Many of the attendees at that presentation were likewise confused with Bray’s response. In Schreiner’s own words, 

The fundamental problem with Bray’s review is that he misunderstands both my book and biblical theology. He seems to think that I am trying to write a systematic theology, for he emphasizes that biblical theology is only a prolegomenon to a systematic theology. Here’s the rub: I agree! Systematic theology is a culminating discipline that includes exegesis, biblical theology, historical theology, and philosophy. Bray critiques me as if I were attempting to write a culminating work, a systematic theology, and by doing so he veers off course from the outset of his review. I agree with Bray that Christian theology reaches its apex in systematics. I didn’t think anyone would read my book as if I were trying to compose an alternative to a systematic theology.

Nor is it evident that Bray understands what biblical theology is in distinction from systematics, or perhaps he believes there isn’t any place for biblical theology, because he doesn’t commend it in his review. We need both systematic and biblical theology, for in the latter the story of scripture is rehearsed, the narrative of scripture is unfolded for the reader. Such attention to the historical outworking of God’s plan (the establishment of his kingdom!) ensures that we are reading the scriptures contextually and canonically. For instance, Bray doesn’t devote much attention to the historical unfolding of God’s revelation in his book. But it is clear in reading the NT that the Mosaic covenant was an interim covenant, that it was meant to be in force for a limited period of time. We learn from this that it is imperative to read scripture epochally. We don’t offer sacrifices or wear clothes with only one kind of fabric since such regulations are part of the Sinai covenant, and we aren’t under that covenant since the new covenant has arrived in Jesus Christ.

To put it another way, systematic theologians need biblical theology, for otherwise they may make claims that violate the intention and purpose of the texts cited. Biblical theology as a mediating discipline supports systematics. Systematics may stray from the scriptures in constructing doctrines, and biblical theology serves systematics by tying us to the biblical text and by ensuring that we interpret the scriptures in its epochal framework. The structures and themes unpacked in biblical theology undergird (or should undergird) the work of systematic theologians. Biblical theology, like systematics, plays a vital role in our understanding of the scriptures. Let’s take one example of what concerns Bray. He complains that I don’t unpack the Trinity, but he misconstrues my book and biblical theology. The Trinity is central to Christian theology, and any systematic theology that doesn’t make the Trinity prominent is woefully deficient. But I didn’t write a systematic theology, nor am I claiming that the work of biblical theology is a culminating discipline. Still, biblical theology provides the raw materials for the doctrine of the Trinity by showing that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all divine, while also emphasizing that the scriptures teach that there is only one God.

You can read Schreiner’s review of Bray’s “God is Love” here. The contrast between the two reviews is startling.

Written by Josh Philpot

April 22, 2014 at 1:47 pm

The “Voice” of Moses in Deuteronomy

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In his new collection of essays, The Gospel according to Moses: Theological and Ethical Reflections on the Book of Deuteronomy (Cascade, 2012), Dan Block has a helpful chart delineating the “voices” in Deuteronomy, which I’m providing below. The content comes from a previously published article, “Recovering the Voice of Moses: The Genesis of Deuteronomy,” JETS 44 (2001): 385-408. Based on internal and external evidence, Block argues that three particular voices are clear: (1) Yahweh’s voice, (2) Moses’ voice, and (3) the narrator’s voice.

  1. Yahweh’s Voice in Deuteronomy—31:14b, 16b-21, 23b; 32:49-52; 34:4b
  2. Moses’ Voice in Deuteronomy
    1. Moses’ Lone Voice—1:6-4:40; 4:44-26:19; 28:1-69 [Eng 29:1]; 27:11-26; 29:1 [Eng 2]-30:20; 32:1-43, 46b-47; 33:2-29
    2. Moses’ Accompanied Voice—27:1-8, 9-10
  3. The Narrator’s Voice in Deuteronomy—1:1-5; 2:10-12, 20-23; 3:9, 11, 13b-14; 4:41-43, 44-5:1a; 10:6-9; 27:1a, 9a, 11; 28:68 [Eng 29:1]; 29:1 [Eng 29:2]; 31:1-2a, 7a, 9-10a, 14a, 14c-16a, 22-23a, 24-25, 30; 32:44-46a, 48; 33:1-2a; 34:5-12

Block holds the traditional view that Moses is the author/speaker (the main “voice”) of the majority of the book of Deuteronomy, and I think his article is convincing on this point and helpful, especially as I read through the biblical book. Block has also published a companion volume prior to this one, How I Love Your Torah, O Lord!: Studies in the Book of Deuteronomy (Cascade, 2011). Both volumes are great to have in my personal library, and I look forward to his forthcoming commentary on Deuteronomy in the NIVAC series, which is slated to be released in August 2012.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 22, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Counterfeit Gospels—Trevin Wax

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A couple of months ago I put my name into this site, and then I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this short review. I was please to see that the book I received was by Trevin Wax, Counterfeit Gospels (Moody, 2011). I’ve always enjoyed Trevin’s blog, and I’ve had the opportunity to speak with him a couple of times. He’s a great guy and I’m thankful for the work he is doing for the church at Lifeway.

I was skeptical about Counterfeit Gospels at first, mainly because so many books on the gospel have been printed recently and I didn’t think that we needed another. But I really enjoyed this one in particular. Trevin’s writing style is engaging and personal. Many of his stories and illustrations I can relate to, which kept me reading. The book is broken up into three parts: (1) Story, (2) Announcement, and (3) Community. These three parts form the backbone of the biblical gospel. There is a story that culminates in Jesus (his life, death, and resurrection), an announcement that all people should repent and believe, and a community that gospel believers should be a part of—the church. Trevin frequently refers to this as a three-legged stool: the gospel story provides the context for the gospel announcement, which then births the gospel community. The best way to do evangelism, Trevin says, is to emphasize all three.

Within each part Trevin highlights two “counterfeits” that subvert the gospel. For part 1 there is the therapeutic and judgmentless gospels, each offering a counterfeit story/announcement/community. In part 2 Trevin mentions the moralistic and quietistic gospel counterfeits, and in part 3 the activist and churchless counterfeits. I won’t explain them here, but Trevin provides a helpful chart on pg. 210. All of the counterfeits are false gospels that ensnare the church. Thus the purpose of the book is to articulate the true gospel and to show how attempts to change it ultimately fall flat.

The implications of the gospel are far-reaching, so the church must get it right. Every generation will need to understand the biblical gospel and apply it to appropriate contexts. Trevin Wax has given us a great little aid for doing that in this generation, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to read Counterfeit Gospels and recommend it to others.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, Gospel

Unbroken—Laura Hillendbrand

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This is a fantastic book about Louie Zamperini, a WWII vet who survived a plane crash, 47 days adrift at sea in a life raft, and then nearly three years of hard labor and torture at the hands of the Japanese. He’s eventually rescued after the atom bomb ends the war. The story takes so many unexpected turns it’s almost unbelievable. And the best part is that after the war Zamperini comes to grips with his own sinfulness and despair and somehow finds his way to a Billy Graham crusade in Los Angeles. There he puts his faith in Christ and is forever changed.

When this book was released I kept avoiding it because I knew I would get sucked in and be distracted from seminary reading. But I’m glad that I finally read it. I would encourage anyone interested in WWII history to pick it up.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 15, 2012 at 3:27 am

Posted in Book Reviews, Books

New Preaching Commentary by Jim Hamilton

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I first met Jim Hamilton three years ago in 2009 in an attempt to convince him to be the preaching pastor at my church, Kenwood Baptist. He was intrigued and agreed to come preach for two Sundays and pray about it. Which text did he preach on as a candidate for pastor? Revelation 9 for the first and Revelation 10 for the second. Although skeptical at first (I say that with a smile), I was blessed afterward.

When we called him as pastor a month later he preached through the entire book of Revelation in a little over a year. The sermons are outstanding and you can find them on Kenwood’s website here. He has preached through four more books since that time (Titus, Ezra, Nehemiah, Mark, and now Jeremiah), but the sermons on Revelation are favorites of mine.

The sermons are now in manuscript form and part of the Preaching the Word commentary series. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches is Jim’s newest book, and I’m thankful for the copy I have in my hands. Jim sets Revelation in a biblical theological context, combining exegetical precision with pastoral sensitivity. I’m grateful for his efforts in this regard. Jim communicates in a way that sticks, so to speak. I never left the pew on Sunday without having grasped both the meaning of the text in context and the need to “do” and apply. Jim is unique in this way. After all, who else do you know who would preach on the Seven Angels and Seven Plagues (Rev 15) on Christmas!

I want to encourage readers to get a copy of this commentary, and you won’t be disappointed.

 

 

Written by Josh Philpot

January 28, 2012 at 7:17 pm