30 July 2012

An Interview with Phil Johnson, Part 1

Photo: GraceLife Pulpit
On a sunny Southern California Wednesday afternoon, I had the privilege of spending the noon hour in conversation with Phil Johnson.

Johnson is the Executive Director of Grace to You, former blogger at Pyromaniacs and keeper of the online treasure trove known as The Spurgeon Archive. He also is an elder at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and pastors the GraceLife fellowship group there.
When I informed Phil that I would be visiting Southern California, he graciously agreed to an interview. What follows is a transcription of our conversation. We spoke for quite awhile and covered several topics, so this interview will be presented in two parts. Today we will gain some insight into Phil’s life since he retired from the Internet and hear some of his thoughts on the role of discernment ministries. Tomorrow’s post will discuss the growing problem of women in leadership in the church. Continue reading at Christian Research Network


  1. Thanks for posting this, Erin. I found Phil's thoughts on seeking balance and joy as a means of combating bitterness amidst critique to be really refreshing. Looking forward to part 2.

    1. Thanks from me as well, Ebenz. I love reading and listening to Phil Johnson and am also looking forward to Part 2.

      And by the way... love you and your blog as well, Scott. Keep up the good work. We need the truth.

  2. Love it Erin and love that God has blessed you in Christ to be able to interview Phil.

    He touched on EXACTLY what I was trying to say about discernment lately.. Phil put what I was experiencing and seeing into words where I could not.. He's always been able to express to readers what most cannot do and that's what sets him apart as more articulate than most...

  3. Phil states, "They get nasty or angry or bitter in various ways. The longer they go, they move further from a Christ-like attitude and become bitter and contemptuous."

    Couldn't help but wonder if Phil puts himself in this camp considering how he spoke so unkindly about women while at Todd Friel's conference last year. Could this be part of why he stopped blogging?


    1. I really hesitated to post this comment. I have decided to do so because I think it is an example of what an unfruitful comment can look like.

      I am unsure of what was hoped to be accomplished by sharing these thoughts, which seem to be harboring a sense of resentment for something that Phil said months ago. It is my opinion that, on Pyromaniacs, Phil more than adequately explained his comments, the reason behind them, and to whom they were referring. Admittedly, when I first heard them myself, I was a bit taken aback, and took the opportunity to examine my own style and motives. I was greatly appreciative for that reminder to engage in self-examination! While his words perhaps initially came across a bit harsh, I would hardly categorize them as bitter or contemptuous.

      Could this be part of why he stopped blogging?

      This comment potentially is the thing that rumors are made of. What is the basis for this speculation? What type of dialogue is hoped to be started by positing this question? It implies a ridiculous and unfounded reason for Phil's retirement from the Internet. A retirement which he also explained more than adequately (not that he owes anyone an explanation for this personal decision).

      I am thankful that comments like this are not common on this blog.

  4. It could be resentment, EBenz. Most likely it would be better described as eye-opening, though. I am of the opinion that Phil Johnson's explanation for his comments fell short. And the final comment on the thread reveals the bottom line for him, I think.

    “No matter how broadly you want to interpret 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, one of the clear implications of that text is that it's not fitting for a woman who has no teaching authority in the church to raise a public objection against a teaching elder whose office is recognized by the church. That's not to say the pastor is infallible or above critique, and there is (of course) a proper venue for a lay woman to share her concerns or ask her questions, but a blog on the Internet is not that venue.

    If any woman fancies herself a gift to the church as a guardian of sound doctrine because she thinks she has a special "gift of discernment" that entitles her to go online and write insulting epithets against a duly ordained and divinely-called pastor, She is seriously mistaken and grossly out of line--and she is an embarrassment to propriety and feminine modesty.” From Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs blog Oct. 11, 2011 3:18 pm

    He obviously does not believe this or any other woman's discernment blog
    is 'a proper venue' for airing your concerns.

    My intent was not to start rumors, rather to remind us that Christians are called to follow Christ, not men. Maybe this 'unfruitful' comment does nothing more than that.


    1. Well, ultimately this particular comment string ought to be addressing the interview that took place in July 2012, not a comment string on the Pyro blog from October 2011.

      Do I agree with everything Phil said in that particular blog post? Not necessarily. As a female blogger, did some of it sting a bit? Sure. I've gotten over it. I did engage Phil a bit regarding this topic when we met, and he graciously provided again the same clarification that was already aired at Pyro. Thus, I saw no point in reviving a conversation that has been hashed and rehashed.

      What bothered me most about the original comment was this statement: Could this be part of why he stopped blogging?

      While I cannot fully know the intended implications of this comment, I have yet to understand why it was necessary or upon what it is based. The reasons for Phil's retirement were clearly stated . He even provided further reasons in his interview with me. The implication that Phil's statement and reasons are not truthful is unfounded. And, in reality, he was under no obligation to provide any statement at all as to why he chose to stop blogging.

      I am not here to defend Phil Johnson, but it is my responsibility to maintain the integrity of this blog. That is why this comment bothered me, not because I want to follow men over Christ, but because I felt that unfounded insinuations were being made.

  5. It' is a bit of a disingenuous statement...The context of 1 Cor. 14;34-35 is clearly (within the Church) and not outside the Church.

    To posit that the ONLY implication of discernment blogging by women is about insulting epithets against elders, pastors etc or whatnot then well this is turning a blind eye to all the discernment blogging by women who DON'T speak with insulting epithets. Also to say that women "THINK" they have the "gift of discernment" is to pontificate impropriety on his part.

    It all depends on what your blog is for. We men and women-both are commanded to defend the faith that was once for all given to the saints. we are to expose error... Blogging to expose the false teachers and heresy is not partial to either sex and nor is it usurping a man..

    We are also to share the Gospel which again both should do.. Women were the FIRST eyewitnesses to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and ran to tell the other disciples who were men...

    "My goodness, women teach their own teenage sons (who are adult men)! And what about women who teach their unsaved husbands, leading them to Christ? What about female missionaries?"

    Women writing books, or blogs, or speaking over the radio, are not violating this command. They are not exercising any authority over men. And men don't have to listen or read."

    We DO however need to be very careful as daughters of Sarah in (how) we talk to men in blogging. I have been convicted of this. I have not always spoken with respect and kindness towards men as I should have regardless of their error... We need to be respectful and submissive to Jesus Christ and not attack them in any way but show them RESPECT and gently point to the truth...

    "A kindhearted woman gains respect but ruthless men gains only wealth"-Pr.11:16.


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