Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Trueman on Andy Stanley and People With Hard Lives

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I reviewed that dreadful book by Charles Stanley’s son recently, Andy Stanley. You know: people want to be happy, so just make them happy from the pulpit. Well Andy Stanley pastors a church of 100,000 people or something ridiculous, where presumably he’s well-insulated from people who are unhappy. But I’ve got people in my congregation who have hard lives. And I would be lying to them on a Sunday if I was to say to them, “You know, trust God, and your life’s going to get better, and you’re going to get happy.”

I can’t say to the person who is eighty, and they’re chopping bits of him away, slowly but surely, because he’s got gangrene in his foot, “Just believe, and you’ll be fine. Your foot will grow back.” No! I can’t do that for a person. What can I give him? I can give him the theology of the cross. I can say, “You know, the logic of the cross is that we enter paradise, ultimately, through suffering. In order to reach paradise you’ve got to die and be resurrected, and that’s horrible and painful, but it faces us all at some point.”

The logic of the cross is this: Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom. The second thief was the one guy that day who didn’t say, “Come down off the cross, and prove you’re the King of the Jews.” He effectively said, “Lord, I know you’re going to die, and through that you’re going to come into your kingdom. And when you get there, remember me.”

Being a theologian of the cross gives you something to say to real people who are suffering. To that person who is poor, and they don’t have many qualifications, and they’re living in bad housing, and they’re never going to live in anything but bad housing, what hope do you give that person? You give them the hope of the resurrection. Andy Stanley has nothing to say to those people. I don’t care if he pastors a church of a million people: he’s got nothing to say to them.

Via Andrew Wilson at Think Theology. The review he’s referring to can be found here.

Written by Josh Philpot

May 4, 2015 at 12:08 pm

Posted in Book Reviews, Culture

Albert Mohler on Childlessness and Contraception

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Today, World Mag posted an interview with Albert Mohler about his tenure as president at Southern Seminary. It is a very interesting article. One of the questions concerns his view of childlessness and contraception. I appreciate his response: 

In the Bible, childlessness is always discussed as something that is grievous and a cause for sorrow rather than a cause for joy. There are purposes for which people were childless in the Bible, but that’s much like what Paul argued in I Corinthians 7 about someone who was unmarried. You’re unmarried for a purpose that is tied to the gospel. The idea that healthy married people, a man or woman who are married together would choose childlessness just as a lifestyle is alien from the Scripture. If that’s controversial, just try to find any hole in that argument from the Bible. I don’t think you’re going to find it. In fact, I’m confident you won’t.

Contraception is not as easy of a question to answer as you might think or people might want. The Roman Catholic Church has an easy answer, and that is no to any kind of artificial contraception. Quite frankly, their definition of natural stretches the imagination of what natural means. What we do need to recognize is that evangelicals just joined the contraceptive bandwagon unthinkingly, unreflectively, and, I think, unfaithfully, and just thought that any pill had to be a good pill. It has unleashed far more sorrow than joy in this world and has led to an understanding that babies are now simply an elective accessory and has made every pregnancy a tentative pregnancy. You have to put that alongside the availability of legal abortion. By the time you put together the triumvirate of no fault divorce, the availability of contraception, and the availability of abortion on demand, what you have is a situation that has just completely transformed the value of life as recognized by this society.

Read the whole article here

Written by Josh Philpot

March 26, 2015 at 1:27 pm

Posted in Culture, Family, Seminary

Jonathan Swift on “Wisdom”

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Keen insights from Jonathan Swift as described by the hack narrator in A Tale of a Tub

[W]isdom is a fox, who after long hunting, will at last cost you the pains to dig out. It is a cheese which, by how much the richer, has the thicker, the homelier, and the coarser coat, and whereof to a judicious palate the maggots are the best. It is a sack-posset, wherein the deeper you go you will find it the sweeter. Wisdom is a hen whose cackling we must value and consider, because it is attended with an egg. But then, lastly, it is a nut, which, unless you choose with judgment, may cost you a tooth, and pay you with nothing but a worm.

Written by Josh Philpot

August 14, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Posted in Books, Culture, Wisdom

The Mass Delusion of Transgenderism

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Time

Kevin Williamson:

Regardless of the question of whether he has had his genitals amputated, Cox is not a woman, but an effigy of a woman. Sex is a biological reality, and it is not subordinate to subjective impressions, no matter how intense those impressions are, how sincerely they are held, or how painful they make facing the biological facts of life. No hormone injection or surgical mutilation is sufficient to change that.

Genital amputation and mutilation is the extreme expression of the phenomenon, but it is hardly outside the mainstream of contemporary medical practice. The trans self-conception, if the autobiographical literature is any guide, is partly a feeling that one should be living one’s life as a member of the opposite sex and partly a delusion that one is in fact a member of the opposite sex at some level of reality that transcends the biological facts in question. There are many possible therapeutic responses to that condition, but the offer to amputate healthy organs in the service of a delusional tendency is the moral equivalent of meeting a man who believes he is Jesus and inquiring as to whether his insurance plan covers crucifixion.

This seems to me a very different sort of phenomenon from simple homosexuality (though, for the record, I believe that our neat little categories of sexual orientation are yet another substitution of the conceptual for the actual, human sexual behavior being more complex and varied than the rhetoric of sexual orientation can accommodate). The question of the status of gay people interacts with politics to the extent that it in some cases challenges existing family law, but homosexual acts as such seem to me a matter that is obviously, and almost by definition, private. The mass delusion that we are inculcating on the question of transgendered people is a different sort of matter, to the extent that it would impose on society at large an obligation — possibly a legal obligation under civil-rights law, one that already is emerging — to treat delusion as fact, or at the very least to agree to make subjective impressions superordinate to biological fact in matters both public and private.

As a matter of government, I have little or no desire to police how Cox or any other man or woman conducts his or her personal life. But having a culture organized around the elevation of unreality over reality in the service of Eros, who is a sometimes savage god, is not only irrational but antirational. Cox’s situation gave him an intensely unhappy childhood and led to an eventual suicide attempt, and his story demands our sympathy; times being what they are, we might even offer our indulgence. But neither of those should be allowed to overwhelm the facts, which are not subject to our feelings, however sincere or well intended.

You can read the whole thing here.

(Via Justin Taylor)

Written by Josh Philpot

June 3, 2014 at 1:37 am

Posted in Culture

Selfie-Deception

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Over at the Gospel Coalition Worship blog I have a post on “selfie-deception.” I try to point out that selfies (the Instagram kind) can be a form of self-worship, and that a way forward would be to focus on texts that emphasize the “face” of God, like Exodus 34 and Numbers 6. Here is an excerpt:

These are only a few of the many verses in the Bible that speak about the glory of God’s face and its impact on his people. But this should be what we desire. It should be our earnest hope for our congregations as we lead them, when we pray for them, and when we care for them. And it should shatter our self-interest and our selfie-deception.

Indeed, it’s the natural result of focusing on God. Considering his work, his power, his sovereign will, and his grace to us in Christ naturally leads to rejecting the sort of self- expression that so sinfully pervades our culture, because in doing so we reject one glory (the glory of our faces) in favor of a far greater glory (the glory of God).

So with these texts in mind, is it too much to ask that we refocus ourselves and our selfies, to rethink how we think about our faces? Instead of dispersing our faces among so many selfie-factories, perhaps we should focus on a single point, or rather, a single person—the face of Jesus Christ. Selfies say, “I’m here! I’m important! I matter!” God says that he is what matters, and the only image that should concern us is the one in whom rests the image of the invisible God. God says that we should dwell on the light of his face, which, as Paul states, is so clearly seen “in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). We want glory. We desire it. We want the light on our faces. But in Christ alone is the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God.” (#nofilter)

Read the whole thing here.

Written by Josh Philpot

February 21, 2014 at 8:05 pm

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

Christian Scholars and Tenure

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In the most recent issue of “The City,” a publication of Houston Baptist University, Owen Strachan interviews Douglas Wilson and asks, What words do you have for young Christian faculty members at secular institutions that are seeking tenure? What do they do in these kind of university climates?

Wilson: “I would echo the words of Robert George at Princeton, who spoke at commencement at New Saint Andrews a few years ago. At dinner afterward, Peter Leithart asked George what advice he would give to young scholars in this situation—how did you do it? Robert George said that he did it with both guns blazing. Obviously everyone’s situation is different and you can’t have a one-size-fits-all thing. The gatekeepers in these universities are pretty astute, and they watch the gates carefully. If you’re so far in the closet that you can see Narnia, when they find out and let you go, you’ve given them deniability. They can say “it wasn’t his evangelical faith, but the quality of his work” or something like that. If you’re clearly an evangelical and there’s a hit job on you in the department, that possibility will be clear to those who are watching the situation. Now, I don’t think you should be unnecessarily scrappy. But I do think it’s important for Christians to be clear, and if God wants them to be promoted then they will, like Daniel in Babylon.”

Perhaps this servers as a good illustration for how Christians should engage the general public, too, in defending the faith with conviction. Wilson had to face this issue personally in a lecture at Indiana University in 2012 on biblical sexuality. It’ll do us no good if we couch our language in vague terms, failing to define what we mean, or skirting issues entirely. We should come with both guns blazing.

Written by Josh Philpot

December 7, 2013 at 8:00 am

Posted in Culture