Josh Philpot

Theology, the Church, and Music

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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

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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

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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:



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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The Weakness of Evil is that it Cannot Conquer Weakness

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The weakness of evil is that it cannot conquer weakness. No matter how much power evil has, it is always defeated by the free, loving renunciation of power. It can be defeated in Middle-earth as it was on Calvary. . . . Evil is limited in power; it cannot use weakness. It is limited to pride; it cannot use humility. It is limited to inflicting suffering and death; it cannot use suffering and death. It is limited to selfishness; it cannot use selflessness. But good can.

– Peter Kreeft (The Philosophy of Tolkien, 184-85)

Written by Josh Philpot

December 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm

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McDonald’s Theory

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I’m in the middle of writing my dissertation (literally—I’m right in the middle). It’s tough to manage, to be sure. But like a lot of my doctoral writing, I’m finding that the hardest part is getting started. I feel like everything must be perfect beforehand. My desk has to be perfectly clean and organized. My writing app has to be the most perfect one. My Zotero window has to be expertly placed. My Accordance window has to be perfect with the appropriate amount of tabs and all the texts in the right order. Obsessive compulsive, no?

When it comes down to actually writing, I sometimes get the feeling that every sentence needs to be perfect too, as if I cannot even begin writing a new chapter of the dissertation unless the perfect sequence of words spills out on the page. This is ridiculous, really.

This week I came across two authors that have written about this problem. I have no frame of reference for Anne Lamott’s work, but in a book about writing she makes a key point—that we should get over our intimidation of the blank page and give ourselves permission to write crappy first drafts:

“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really sh—y first drafts. The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. […] Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts. You need to start somewhere. Start by getting something—anything—down on paper.”

Writing a crappy first draft gives you something that you wouldn’t have had otherwise if you waited for all of the “perfect” set of circumstances, and that’s momentum. That’s what you need when you’re starting with nothing—like a blank page. Stephen King wrote that fear is at the root of most bad writing, or non-writing in this case. And he’s right. If I can get something down on paper—even if it’s horrible—then I have momentum to continue. And I shouldn’t fear it. After all, no one will see my first draft, and I’m much more capable of turning that horrible first draft into something presentable during the rewriting/editing process. Momentum is the key.

Author/entrepreneur Seth Godin makes this same point. He says,

“the only path to amazing runs directly through not-yet-amazing. But not-yet-amazing is a great place to start, because that’s where you are. For now. There’s a big difference between not settling and not starting.”

Blogger Jon Bell (@ienjoy) calls this the “McDonald’s Theory.” He writes,

“I use a trick with co-workers when we’re trying to decide where to eat for lunch and no one has any ideas. I recommend McDonald’s. An interesting thing happens. Everyone unanimously agrees that we can’t possibly go to McDonald’s, and better lunch suggestions emerge. Magic! It’s as if we’ve broken the ice with the worst possible idea, and now that the discussion has started, people suddenly get very creative. I call it the McDonald’s Theory: people are inspired to come up with good ideas to ward off bad ones.”

So there it is. Half of our problem as writers, pastors, theologians, etc. is that we’re afraid of failing, and then we apply it to our writing. We’re all afraid of failing at some point or another. But the path to successful writing (or a dissertation in my case) might go through McDonald’s. The bad needs to happen before the good. Having something on paper gives you something to work with and to allow your ideas to flow.

Jim Hamilton gave me some advice during my first PhD seminar that has been helpful these days. He used to say, “just write the first sentence.” When he said that, I instantly knew what he meant. Writers spend so much time just fiddling with words and desks and research and notes that they end up procrastinating their main task: writing. When Jim said, “just write something,” he means to just get something on the page and start moving with it. The blank page sucks. Half of the writing experience is rewriting anyway, so get the move on.

Written by Josh Philpot

June 2, 2013 at 3:30 am

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G. K. Beale on why the “Grammatical-Historical” approach isn’t enough

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“The usual ‘strict’ understanding of a ‘grammatical-historical’ approach is too limited in its scope, since it studies a passage primarily from only two angles: (1) investigation of only the human author’s viewpoint through a study of the historical, linguistic, grammatical, genre contexts, etc., of a passage; (2) the divine author can theoretically be left out of consideration until the ‘grammatical-historical’ study is complete, since the meaning sought for is only that of the human author. For example, even an interpreter who does not believe in divine inspiration must study a prophet like Isaiah from the viewpoint that Isaiah himself believed that he was inspired in what he wrote, and, therefore, that intention must be projected onto the process of interpreting Isaiah. How much more should this be the case for the believing exegete? Accordingly, this is only one example showing that considering divine intention should be part of a grammatical-historical approach. Thus, grammatical-historical exegesis and typology are two aspects of the same thing: hearing God speak in Scripture.”

G. K. Beale, “The Use of Hosea 11:1 in Matthew 2:15: One More Time,” JETS 55, no. 4 (2012): 700, fn. 14.

Written by Josh Philpot

January 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm

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