19 January 2009

Inauguration Day Prayer #4: Phil Johnson

posted by Dan Phillips

[See the series introduction/explanation]

Phil Johnson really really needs no introduction here, but let's give it a bit of a go.

I'd say Phil's a Renaissance man, but he's more of a Reformation man. Personally, I'd trade a list of doctorates in the ETS for one Phil Johnson, with his earnest love for God and His word, and the extraordinary diligence he's applied in studying, learning, applying, doing, and communicating.

Phil is the Executive Director of Grace to You, and is a pastor at Grace Community Church. He's also the original Pyromaniac, the founder of this team blog and, to my great blessing, my friend.

Hysterically funny, deep, thoughtful, articulate, energetic, forceful, eater of strange food, wearer of strange sunglasses. That's Phil.

When he's not preaching or serving on various boards or editing books by John MacArthur or running around the country attending conferences, holding them, or guest-preaching, Phil blogs here.

So naturally, he's one of the well-known, faithful pastors I asked to offer his thoughts on praying at Obama's inauguration. Like the previous three, Phil has seen none of the other responses. This is Phil's response, which I received last Thursday:

I would decline.

Not because it’s a political event, or because I don’t agree with Obama’s foreign or domestic policies, but because Obama’s own stated intention is to make his inauguration “the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history,” and I would not want to affirm that goal, even tacitly. His passion for being “the most inclusive” is the sole reason he has involved both Rick Warren and Bishop Vicki Gene Robinson—not because he agrees or disagrees with either one of them. (Obama is clearly his own god.)

The central message he intends to give through his inaugural ceremony, then, is that truth doesn’t really matter. And I would not want to help him send that message, especially in the context of a prayer offered to God.

I had to think about my answer for awhile, because frankly I would be tempted to say yes and then use the occasion to pray a strong imprecation against the idolatry, unbelief, and pluralistic approach to truth that have drawn our culture so far away from our ancestors’ faith. But it would take a special revelation from God for me to aspire to being that kind of prophet.

-- Phil Johnson

Thank you for more solid fodder for thought, Phil.

And for a post tagged both "guest posts" and "Phil Johnson."

One more invitation is out in the ether; if that good brother's unable to submit a prayer, a very poor-substitute pinch-hitter is warming up.

Remember the Special Rule for all these posts: diss me as you see fit, but nobody disses my guests.

Dan Phillips's signature


James Scott Bell said...

God BLESS Phil Johnson! And I, for one, would love to have heard that imprecatory prayer. Followed shortly thereafter by the Second Coming.

donsands said...

"His passion for being “the most inclusive” is the sole reason he has involved [Photo]both Rick Warren and Bishop Vicki Gene Robinson—not because he agrees or disagrees with either one of them. (Obama is clearly his own god.)"

Ain't that the truth. I knew that, but it really hit me when i read this.

Phil makes a good point, and a good conviction.

I would rather see someone pray arighteous Spirit-filled prayer full of truth and grace. but I can see his point, and to decline is a strong way to proclaim righteousness and Christ's kingdom as well.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Yes Obama is his own god, but is also the darling of the Hollywood and Gay crowds, as well as the liberals and one worldlings.

His inaguration sounds the death knell for America.

Freedom of speech will be the first to go. The Radio, internet AND TV WILL BE THE NEXT.


CR said...

Phil Johnson hit the bullseye. Excellent.

Solameanie said...

"Bishop "Vicki" Gene Robinson.

Kind of sums it all up, doesn't it? I have to wonder if the good apostate "bishop" took his inspiration from Miss Vicki, the wife of the late Tiny Tim. I can sort of imagine him tiptoeing through the tulips (or cherry blossoms) on his way to the Capitol.

NothingNew said...

I saw that picture of Phil sporting the hat and wearing the cool shades and I thought it was Bono ;)

DJP said...

Bono? Bono who?

That's Phil Johnson!

Roscoe Washington said...

Phil, to each his own. Understanding the power of prayer, and the state of our nation, I don't see how a man of God could pass on this opportunity, regardless of what you personally think of Mr. Obama or the format of his inauguration.

Habitans in Sicco said...


Try Elton John.

Shame on you, Phil Johnson, for wearing glasses that look like you stole them off a woodland fairy or a psychedelic garden gnome.

I think men could be stoned for wearing that kind of attire in the OT.

Unknown said...

"But it would take a special revelation from God for me to aspire to being that kind of prophet."

To be "able" to proclaim God in that time, at that moment,and to be in place to do so, and to Boldly Proclaim The Gospel of Jesus Christ Our Lord is not something one aspires to. If you are there, you were enabled by God Almighty and he is more or less telling you that you are his prophet. I would sure like to see a prophet tomorrow but I don't think he was invited

DJP said...

Blame the feckless photog, Hab.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

The office of a prophhet away when the canon of Scripture was completed [I Corinthians 13].

wordsmith said...

The glasses are definitely Elton John. Platform shoes would be helpful, but the hat clinches it. (Does Bono even wear a hat?)

Either way, not "imprecatory prayer" attire. Sackcloth and ashes would be more suitable, especially given the spiritual state of the Union.

~Mark said...

(Obama is clearly his own god.)

~and nobody got it when I obliquely referred to him as Nebuchadnezzar...

I can respect all the responses from the pastors so far!

FX Turk said...

That t-shirt he's wearing? You cant get those anymore.

Dan: I didn't make it to February.

Paul said...

I notice the tag at the bottom of the posts reminding us not to diss your guests is down on this post. Does that mean everyone's free to be rude again, since it's Phil?

Rachael Starke said...

"...wearer of strange sunglasses."

Those are forgivable, even understandable. The Crocs, on the other hand, are a complete crime of fashion. :)

It's ironic that for the very reason Phil would decline the invitation, I would pray that a man like John Frame (whose prayer is my personal favorite, if such a thing is allowed), would do it with conviction and joy.

Three reasons:

1. This is an inauguration of a national leader. It is not an ordination or even a coronation of some dualistic monarch and pseudo-defender of a pseudo-faith a la England. It is most certainly not a church service. It is a civic ceremony. To be invited to participate ought to be considered an honor, and an opportunity. Do the Christians in India or Iraq ever get offered an opportunity like this?

2. This is not just any civic ceremony. It is the pivotal civic ceremony of a democracy founded on principles of the equality of all men before their Creator, and of their right to freedom of speech and worship. Those are principles informed and undergirded by the gospel, whether either the Founders or P-E Obama acknowledge them or not. Who better than a true minister of the gospel to affirm them, and to remind the perhaps billions of people listening of those principles' origin, and their eternal implications?

3. Most importantly, it is a ceremony which, as Phil quoted above, P-E-O wants to be "the most inclusive in history."

So, what better opportunity to simultaneously give thanks to God for the blessing of such freedom, and then to pray your heart out? Pray for revival, pray for "the least of these" - the yet to be born that are imperiled because of the evil of abortion, pray for peace, which can only be accomplished through Christ. Pray for "Bishop" Robinson's salvation, and President Obama's salvation. Pray for all of it.

And then sit down, and see what Obama says and does.

Call his bluff. Be inclusive of that, Mr. President.

Are we anymore a society that is willing to permit the speech of the offensive, (a la Robinson to God and thus us, or Frame et al to any average person listening at the Mall), so that our speech is permitted to continue unfettered? Do we simply capitulate to the speech of the offensive to God, and offer no alternative, when we have been invited?

Or are we becoming a society like those in the East or Middle East, who shoot or imprison those who don't speak or act according to the government's will?

Never compromise the truth. Be willing to die, rather than deny Christ. But ought we ever to pass up an opportunity to give a reason for the true hope that is within us, when the opportunity is offered?

DJP said...

Good point, Paul.

Sewn up now. (I did say "all these posts.")

Roscoe Washington said...

Rachael said: "So, what better opportunity to simultaneously give thanks to God for the blessing of such freedom, and then to pray your heart out?" Exactly and very well said.

Rick Frueh said...

Ceremonial prayers are at best...ceremonial. What is the obvious reason that a minister could not just pray the same prayer alone but desires to pray it publicly? So others will hear, of course.

Joshua saw the captain of the Lord of Hosts and asked him if he was part of his "camp". The captain said "No", and God isn't with any camp in America. Each person must be sure to be on God's side.

To invoke God's blessing on this nation is patently absurd and an affront to everything sacred. The public inauguration prayer? I believe the "pearls before swine" principle should be invoked.

jeff said...

Seeing as this is a civic ceremony and not a religious one, I don't see why there is a prayer at all. I believe in the separation of church and state, so why say a prayer at a governmental inauguration.
I believe Obama is right to be as inclusive to all Americans as posible, and by offering a prayer to God at all, is he not alienating muslims and atheists and other pagans?
God have mercy on us all.

Brian @ voiceofthesheep said...

I understand the sentiment of not accepting the invitation to pray (I keep going back and forth myself on the issue).

The one thing I keep coming back to is this - if nothing else, agreeing to do the prayer would provide an opportunity to pray (proclaim) the gospel to millions, that there is truly only one way, which is through Christ, demonstrating how true Christians cannot be lumped in with all the rest in the big inclusion fest.

Hey, I like how that last part rhymed.

ps. Phil, you said you would have to get some special revelation to the contrary if you were to change your mind and accept. Well, since you are a cessationist (as am I), we know that that "revelation" would never come!

donsands said...

"..is he not alienating muslims and atheists and other pagans?"-jeff

No. The true Christian's heart wants to glorify His Lord, and to share his grateful heart, and his love for Christ, with the world, and to proclaim the good news of Christ, the Holy Lamb of God; the King of kings and presidents.

It's all about Jesus Christ, not people, first and foremost. Of course people matter to the Lord, but not above His holy name.

Forbid it Lord that your people would ever boast but in the Cross.

"When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood."

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

The Apostle Paul admonished, ''And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.''

It's sad that today, this equation is too often true;
Thesis plus Antithesis =Synthesis.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz

Aaron said...


Robinson's first name really is Vicki - no need for the quotation marks.

Sir Brass said...

I couldn't help but see part of the inauguration today (I didn't want to, though), including the part where they had a string quartet playing "Tis a gift to be simple," right before Obama perjured himself by taking the oath of office (he's already violated a good bit of it).

And I couldn't help but think, "Oh how they are WORSHIPPING him. Disgusting!" Lord Jesus comes quickly!

There was a time earlier in my spiritual walk where I knew I SHOULD agree with that passage, but didn't want to. I liked life here right now and such, and wanted to live a long life and THEN go to heaven. Not now. Not seeing the horrific blaspheming of the Lord and what He has deemed to be good. Not when I see the hate and rage that spurts out of the world when His Truth and Word is proclaimed!

I have a twisted sense of humor (I like ironic humor), and I think actual ironic justice would be the world converting and trembling before the feet of Christ. What power to Him who created all things that those people who hated Him so, prove that they are still under His sovereignty if His Holy Spirit would break their hearts of stone! And they (and us too) who pierced Him with their sin be also those who recieve forgiveness through His blood.

Hurry, please, King Jesus!

Manda Lynn said...

Phil Johnson,

Well said, sir.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

after viewing the ceremony I fully concur with you.

''Even so come Lord Jesus''

Dr. Paul W. Foltz

philness said...

I agree with the message that Phil communicates and perhaps had we the church done enough to spread that same message we would not be witnessing such inclusiveness.

While I believe that separation of church and state pertains exclusively to government being kept out of church and not the other way around or both, it appears that we the church have failed the gospel within our own local and state governments.

But have we failed or is God letting sin run its course?

I am thankful for this blog and the great minds that post here for without such I would be less equipped to spreading the gospel. knowing what the gospel isn't is just as important as knowing what the gospel is.

Father give us great endurance to stay the course for your glory sake.

Moon said...

I completely agree with you!

"Call his bluff. Be inclusive of that, Mr. President."
Exactly! Always calling for tolerance and acceptance, oh yea except when it comes to Christianity.

Unknown said...

Dr Paul:
"The office of a prophhet away when the canon of Scripture was completed"

Some think there are 2 to come.
Rev 11:3

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Rev. 11;3 deals with Israel in the Tribulation period after the church has been snatched away. After the church is caught up, God deals with earthly Israel in fulfillment of Daniels's 70th week [Daniel 9]. rEAD zECHARIAH IN CONNECTION WITH THESE TWO ANNOINTED MEN.

Phil said...

Rachael,just a comment on your first point above,as a Brit. I'm all for the principle of separation of church and state, as the new covenant is a spiritual covenant. But there's no need to vaunt your country's set-up. 'Our' token ceremony,your ceremony, it's just that. And 'Whatsoever is not of faith is sin'. And after all, your country(barring the Indian folk) came out of ours, and when the New England Puritans realized their sacralism and theocratic persecution was no more good for founding this new country than what they'd left back in England, your country was founded with a mix of calvinists and deists,was it not? But thank God for the privileges-not rights-that ensued...maybe I'm wrong or just plain ignorant, but despite our token ceremonialism after it's sort, it proves no less civilly limiting than yours. And you guys make especially good tourists :) 1Tim2v1-6

W. Ian Hall said...

I think Phil Johnson has got it right on this one.
If a genuinely conservative evangelical was ever asked to pray at Hussein's big day I think turning down the President and publicly declaring why you told demi-God Hussein to take a hike would do more good than trying to make a point through a prayer.

Donna said...

I understand your viewpoint. However, if Christians were absent from the inauguration festivities, I wonder what message that might send. Would it send the message to the world that the Christian God is unimportant to this nation?

Donna said...

"Who better than a true minister of the gospel to affirm them, and to remind the perhaps billions of people listening of those principles' origin, and their eternal implications?"

Light shines brightest in darkness, doesn't it? I think God can use the believer's prayer to minister and show forth the Gospel. And, why not the Gospel of Peace, rather than the false peace of the world.

Unknown said...

Dr Paul
"Israel in the Tribulation period after the church has been snatched away."

I put the snatching a little later than you

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

Paul said ''God hath not appointed us to wrath.'' I THESS 5;9.
The Tribulation is the time of God's wrath and Jacob's trouble.
See also 2 thess 1;10.
Dr. Paul Foltz

Unknown said...


Tribulation and wrath sound like different things to me