Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

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Behind the Bow Tie: A profile of Dr. Robert Plummer

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Here is a nice video profile of my former hermeneutics professor, Dr. Robert Plummer, a New Testament professor at Southern Seminary. I loved going to class with Dr. Plummer. He is friendly, engaging, and well-loved on the seminary campus. His hermeneutical approach is outlined in a book released by Kregel a few years ago, “40 Questions about Interpreting the Bible.” It’s an excellent book and I commend it to you. In addition he hosts a website called “Daily Dose of Greek” in which someone can learn how to read the Greek NT from the ground up. I watch Dr. Plummer’s Greek video updates every day, which is a great way to keep my Greek fresh.


Written by Josh Philpot

May 30, 2015 at 3:40 pm

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Thomas Watson on Meditation

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“Labour to remember what you read [cf. Matt. 13:4, 19]. . . . The memory should be like the chest in the ark, where the Law was put. . . . Some can better remember an item of news than a line of Scripture; their memories are like these ponds, where frogs live, but the fish die. . . . In meditation there must be a fixing of the thoughts upon the object. . . . Meditation is the concoction of Scripture: reading brings a truth into our head, meditation brings it into our heart: reading and meditation must, like Castor and Pollux, appear together. Meditation without reading is erroneous; reading with meditation is barren. The bee sucks the flower, then works it in the hive, and so turns it to honey: by reading we suck the flower of the Word, by meditation we work it in the hive of our mind, and so it turns to profit. Meditation is the bellows of the affection: ‘while I was musing the fire burned’ (Ps. 39:3). The reason we come away so cold from reading the Word is because we do not warm ourselves at the fire of meditation.” 

Thomas Watson, Puritan Sermons, vol. 2, 61-62

Written by Josh Philpot

May 29, 2014 at 8:45 pm

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The “Total” in Total Depravity

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Paul makes the point repeatedly that humans lack both the inclination and the will to do what God requires of them:

Rom 3:9-11—”Both Jews and Gentiles are under sin, as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God.'”

Rom 3:19—”Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.”

Rom 5:6, 8, 10—”While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. . . . While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”

Rom 5:19—”As by the one man’s disobedience [Adam], the many were made sinners.”

Rom 6:20-21—”When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at the time from the things which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death.”

Rom 7:18—”For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”

Rom 8:7-8—”For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Totally depraved, indeed. Salvation, therefore, can only be by grace alone apart from human works:

Rom 3:24—”Being justified by his grace as a gift, though the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Rom 4:4-8—”Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.'”

Rom 5:15,17—”But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass [Adam], much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. . . . If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in the life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

Rom 11:6—”But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

Written by Josh Philpot

May 13, 2014 at 2:25 am

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9Marks Weekender at Capitol Hill Baptist Church

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill Baptist Church for a 9Marks Weekender. The Weekender is designed for church leaders to interact/engage with the staff and elders of CHBC, and to be educated on the central aspects of healthy churches. One hundred and twenty-five leaders from all over the world met for seminars on bible doctrine, eldership, church discipline, bible education, worship, and the like. We got to witness how the elders of CHBC care for their membership and pray for one another, and to see how every part of a worship service is planned. Then we had the privilege of worshiping together during a Sunday morning service, and a prayer meeting for the evening service.

I really enjoyed the weekend (even though it snowed!) and I would recommend it to anyone serving as a pastor or lay leader, regardless of if you’re a reformed baptist or not. The weekend was instructive and beneficial, both for my own ecclesiology and for my spiritual good, the application of iron sharpening iron. I also have renewed respect and admiration for Mark Dever, one of a few pastors in the country whom God has given tremendous influence, but who has committed himself to pastoring in one place for the rest of his life, and to energizing churches to think carefully about membership and doctrine through the work of 9Marks.

Even the weekend was full and eventful, and even though I learned a great deal, my time away only reinforced my love for the church where I serve, Founders Baptist Church in Houston. I loved attending CHBC’s Sunday services, but I missed my own church service and church family. I’ve been extremely blessed to get to serve at a place like Founders, and to have the opportunity each week to lead them in congregational praise as their Pastor for Worship, as well as working administratively with the church staff. Founders is unique. Under the leadership of Pastor Richard Caldwell, the church holds firmly to the doctrines of grace, to elders as the shepherding authority, to complementarianism, and to baptist polity. Each week Founders sees between 500–600 believers gathering to worship the triune God, as we read the bible, preach the bible, pray the bible, sing the bible, and see the bible—for his glory and for our good. And all of this takes place in an area of the country that is a cesspool for false prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen, Paula White, and T.D. Jakes.

So, sure, I learned quite a bit from the 9Marks Weekender, some of which I will try to implement within my sphere of influence at Founders. But more than anything, I felt deep thankfulness and gratitude to the brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I have the privilege of serving with everyday in Houston, Texas.

Written by Josh Philpot

March 18, 2014 at 8:32 pm

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Peter Leithart on Political Symbolism / “Who Wears the Crown?”

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Peter Leithart has an excellent piece over at the Canon and Culture blog on political symoblism.

American Christians are often dismissive of symbolism in politics. We’re interested in substance, by which we mean the nuts and bolts of policy, law, political principle, message and governance. We’re tempted to dismiss political symbolism as an unfortunate feature of our media-saturated age, when people are too distracted by their ubiquitous glimmering screens to pay much mind to gritty and unglossy realities.

This perspective is deeply unhistorical. Politics always has been infused with symbols. Punishment is as substantial a political act as you can find, as Michel Foucault noted, until the eighteenth-century public executions were forms of drama as much as deterrents. Ancient Romans crucified rebellious slaves, saying in effect, “You want everyone to look up to you. We can arrange that.” Later Romans flayed Christians alive, poured salt and oil in their wounds and burned them at the stake, in a quasi-sacrificial procedure. Christians refused to sacrifice to the emperor and claimed to be “living sacrifices” to Christ, so the Romans designed executions of Christians to parody Christian beliefs.

Rule by spectacle is an ancient practice. Caesars projected power with monuments, temples and coliseums. It wasn’t enough to win a battle—the victory had to be followed by the propaganda of a triumphal procession. When a king died in medieval France, his corpse sat on the throne, was served meals, and processed through the streets of Paris in full regalia until a successor was crowned. The macabre drama portrayed a basic principle of Christendom’s politics: Like Christ, the king is divine and human, human by birth and divine by anointing. Individual kings die, but “kingship” never dies.

He then connects the importance of political symoblism to the recent discussion of gay marraige in the United States and the ramifications for Christians. Ultimately, Leithart says, “the martyrs will wear the crowns”:

American Christians aren’t in immediate danger of being killed for their faith, but we will face pressures soon enough. After the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, gay marriage is effectively the law of the land. No state limitations on gay marriage will stand up in court. The federal government aims to redefine human sexuality by fiat, an act of arrogance rivaled only by the most extreme totalitarian regimes.

Anyone who witnesses against this tyranny risks paying a heavy price. Speak out against sodomy, and you’ll lose your cooking show and never be a reality star on A&E. You’ll risk being labeled a bigot and having your reputation and life shredded. The GOP will buckle; if you pay close attention, you can hear it buckling as you read. Pastors and other Christian leaders will be tempted to hedge and accommodate to the new sexual orthodoxy. Christians who hold to biblical sexual standards will be mighty lonely.

But faithful witnesses will speak, and they will speak knowing that lasting political effects go to those who are willing to sacrifice reputation and stature and even their lives to tell the truth to and about power. Ultimately, the martyrs will wear the crowns.

Written by Josh Philpot

February 27, 2014 at 6:14 pm

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Article in the NY Times on Transracial Adoption

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Russell Moore has a nice piece in the New York Times this morning on the ethics of transracial adoption:

Right now there are untold numbers of children tied up in the foster care system, or languishing in orphanages and group homes all over the world. There is no place for racist bigotry or identity politics in solving this crisis. What matters is the welfare of children who need a Mom and a Dad.

Can any of us honestly suggest that it would be better for a child to remain in this bureaucratic limbo than to be a son or daughter to loving parents whose skin is paler or darker than his or her own?

Read the rest here.

Written by Josh Philpot

February 3, 2014 at 2:09 pm

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Discernment with Movies

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Trevin Wax (here, here, and here) and Alissa Wilkinson (here and here) have been debating the portrayal of worldliness in movies, and whether or not Christians should see them. The discussion began after Wilkinson wrote a review of The Wolf of Wall Street for Christianity Today, a new film by Martin Scorsese which depicts the lavish and immoral lifestyle of a financial tycoon. Wilkinson advises caution for viewers who see the movie. Wax wonders if Christians should see it at all. I agree with Wax, and rather than engaging in the full discussion I want to post a few additional thoughts.

Doug Wilson chimed in yesterday with a comment that hits close to home. He didn’t say whether or not Christians should see certain movies that depict immortality and sin in its grossest sense. Rather, he pointed out that when viewing such movies—movies intended to show the reality of the world, the good and the bad—we should keep in mind that actors are portraying characters who are immoral, and that the actors are not necessarily immoral themselves. He illustrates this point with death scenes. If an actor shoots a gun at another actor, neither of them die in real life, and thus we should keep in mind that the murderer isn’t necessarily sinning. It’s not real. But if, on the other hand, an actor takes off their clothes in a sex scene (which is apparently frequent and explicit in The Wolf of Wall Street), that actor is actually getting naked on camera, and displaying their body for millions of viewers to see. The ramifications of these actions are harrowing, to be sure. The actor, whose body belongs to their husband or wife if they are married and should be viewed by them alone, is committing to a much different method of acting than, say, the murderer who fake-shoots a man on film. The nude actor is actually committing sins which the Bible expressly forbids, whether they are married or not, acting or not.

This brings to mind some questions that I had to sort through in high school and college when I participated in musicals and plays. Would I be willing to do and say certain things on a stage that are clearly forbidden in scripture? Obviously, sexual acts were completely out of the question. Bear in mind that I went to a Christian college and did not have the same sort of pressure that others had at secular schools. I know some Christians who went to inner-city arts schools to be a theatre majors and the like, and for many of those schools, “anything goes” is the modus operandi on stage! Just read the summaries of plays like Metamorphosis and Equus and you will know what I mean.

I basically came to the same position that Doug Wilson articulates in his blog post. If the script called for me to commit a sin by way of acting, I would refrain from doing it. For me, this included primarily explicit dialogue. It’s one thing for the dialogue to be real-world and to portray a shady character in the most realistic sense. It’s quite another for me as a Christian to be the one speaking that dialogue every weekend that the particular show is running. I would be actually saying words that are offensive, both to my character and to God.

Similarly, for an actor to play the character of a prostitute and tell the story of a prostitute in an explicit way—i.e., in which the actor would be committing sexual acts on camera or on stage—is expressly forbidden because the actor is actually being sexual in their acting (if that is what the script calls for). This is why Hollywood actors never have successful marriages. No matter now much they try to convince themselves that they are just acting, the act of sex is still taking place, and adultery is in full force if one or both of the actors are married.

Up to this point I’ve only dealt with this question from the actor’s point of view, and I’m no longer an actor. The question that Wax, Wilkinson, and Wilson are asking is whether or not Christians should view these types of movies. I’m still sorting through that question, although from Wilkinson’s review it seems clear to me that I shouldn’t go see The Wolf of Wall Street, even if my desire might be in engaging the culture at large and the questions/answers posed in that film. I think this should be a clear choice for Christians (based on the film’s review), and I agree with Trevin when he says, “At what point does our cultural engagement become just a sophisticated way of being worldly?” Discernment is key, and for those who are biblically and theologically minded, we should let our conscience guide us. Food sacrificed to idols may be sin for some, but not for others (1 Corinthians 8).

For other movies the question is much harder. Is it possible to depict the horrors of the holocaust without nudity (e.g. Schindler’s List)? A major historical issue like the holocaust is probably why network TV was willing to do away with their normal censorship requirements and show that entire unedited film during the primetime slot when it was released on video. I remember this well because my parents allowed their kids (most of us teenagers) to see the movie at that time. It was that important. It’s a difficult question, to be sure, and one worth pondering.

Written by Josh Philpot

January 31, 2014 at 2:50 pm

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Luther on the Value of Singing the Psalms

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From Ray Van Neste:

Looking back through the excellent volume, What Luther Says (an excellent resource!), I came across this passage where Luther extols the value of singing the Psalms. I have discussed previously Luther’s love of the Psalms. Here succinctly he mentions the comfort they give, how they “preach the Messiah,” and the added impact of singing them (as opposed to only reading them).

“In view of their spiritual meaning the psalms are really lovely and sweet; for they are comforting to all depressed, wretched consciences, who are in fear of sin, the anguish and agony of death, and all sorts of trouble and misery. To such hearts the book of Psalms is a sweet, comforting, lovely song, because it sings and preaches the Messiah, although one merely reads or recites the words without notes. Nevertheless, the use of notes or music, as a wonderful creation and gift of God, helps greatly to produce this effect, especially when the people sing along and do so with fine devoutness.” (#3098)

Why would we deprive ourselves of such a resource? As Bonhoeffer wrote, “Whenever the Psalter is abandoned, an incomparable treasure vanishes from the Christian church. With its recovery will come unsuspected power.”

Get Ray’s book on Psalm singing here.

Written by Josh Philpot

January 29, 2014 at 1:46 pm

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Nobody Does Not Worship

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Tim Keller shares this illustration in his new book, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions (Dutton; 2013), 28–30:

Everybody has got to live for something, but Jesus is arguing that, if he is not that thing, it will fail you.

First, it will enslave you. Whatever that thing is, you will tell yourself that you have to have it or there is no tomorrow. That means that if anything threatens it, you will become inordinately scared; if anyone blocks it, you will become inordinately angry; and if you fail to achieve it, you will never be able to forgive yourself.

But second, if you do achieve it, it will fail to deliver the fulfillment you expected.

Let me give you an eloquent contemporary expression of what Jesus is saying. Nobody put this better than the American writer and intellectual David Foster Wallace. He got to the top of his profession. He was an award-winning, best-selling postmodern novelist known around the world for his fierce and boundary-pushing storytelling. He once wrote a sentence that was more than a thousand words long. And, tragically, he committed suicide. But a few years before that, he gave a now-famous commencement speech at Kenyon College. He said to the graduating class,

Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god … to worship … is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before [your loved ones] finally plant you… . Worship power, and you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. Look, the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they are evil or sinful; it is that they’re unconscious. They are default settings.

Wallace was by no means a religious person, but he understood that everyone worships, everyone trusts in something for their salvation, everyone bases their lives on something that requires faith. A couple of years after giving that speech, Wallace killed himself. And this non-religious man’s parting words to us are pretty terrifying: “Something will eat you alive.”

Because even though you might never call it worship, you can be absolutely sure you are worshiping and you are seeking. And Jesus says, unless you’re worshiping me, unless I’m the center of your life, unless you’re trying to get your spiritual thirst quenched through me and not through these other things, unless you see that the solution must come inside rather than just pass by outside, then whatever you worship will abandon you in the end.

(HT: Tony Reinke)

Written by Josh Philpot

January 28, 2014 at 1:09 pm

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What Macklemore Got Wrong…and Right

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A good response from Denny Burk on the same-sex wedding ceremony at the Grammys last night during Macklemore’s hit song, “Same Love”:

So here’s the question for everyone watching the Grammys and wondering what God really thinks about all of this spectacle. Are you going to believe in the God of the Bible and His way of salvation? Or are you going to trust yourself to the god of “same love.” The god of “same love” says no repentance and no savior is required. That god approves you just the way you are. The God of the Bible says you need repentance and salvation. That God will save you just the way you are. And He will take you to Himself and remake you into the image of His own dear son (Rom. 8:29). But you must repent, and you must believe.

In the wake of the Grammys, the big question is not what you thought of Macklemore. The big question is which God you will believe in. The false god of “same love,” or the God and Father or the Lord Jesus Christ? Which one will you choose?

Read the rest here.

Written by Josh Philpot

January 27, 2014 at 12:14 pm

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