Joshua Gibbs

Joshua Gibbs teaches online classes at He is the author of How To Be UnluckySomething They Will Not Forget, and Blasphemers. His wife is generous and his children are funny.

Joshua Gibbs Feb 8, 2016

In the sixth chapter of The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy gives us several powerful and contradictory statements about Ivan’s thoughts on death.

Ivan Ilych saw that he was dying, and he was in continual despair. In the depth of his heart he knew he was dying, but not only was he not accustomed to the thought, he simply did not and could not grasp it.

Joshua Gibbs Feb 5, 2016

Ivan’s salvation is bound up in his things. His things— his home, his reputation, even his friendships— are his great consolation against the awfulness of his life, and when his consolation begins to give way, he feels himself slipping into mediocrity. Most people are generally battling similar idolatries; whatever it is which consoles a man against ultimate loss is that which he worships.

Joshua Gibbs Feb 4, 2016

This morning a colleague and I lead our Theological Aesthetics class through the task of cutting up an onion after the fashion Robert Farrar Capon commends in The Supper of the Lamb. It took an hour. 

Joshua Gibbs Feb 3, 2016

Talking points about the direct citation of Scripture as proof of an argument in a senior thesis.

1. It is my experience that students have generally found Bible verses to apply to their thesis from as opposed to the Bible. They have often hunted through different translations of a certain passage and found the one worded to best support their argument. This is not research and has no place in a research paper. 

Joshua Gibbs Feb 2, 2016

Tolstoy and Hemingway couldn't be further apart, but their characters are obsessed with the same things. In A Farewell To Arms, Frederic Henry refers to that which is "pleasant," "unpleasant," or "fine" a total of 85 times. In The Death of Ivan Ilyich, a much shorter work, "pleasant" or "unpleasant" appear 34 times. For Frederic and Ivan, there is no more important quality for a man's life to attain to than the pleasant, and there is nothing worse than "unpleasantness."   

Joshua Gibbs Feb 2, 2016

This is the first of two essays which follow the recent publication of two articles by Peter Leithart on First Things about the relationship between creation, symbols, and sacraments. I have often borrowed from these articles, but would like to apply both his thoughts and his sources to the world of the high school teacher. 

The symbol is in a crisis.

Joshua Gibbs Jan 26, 2016

I. Back when I was single, I would regularly watch three or four hours of television a night. Mostly dating shows with titles like Elimidate or Ship Mates.

I once opened a freezer and found an unopened pint of Godiva ice cream. I ate the whole pint while standing with the freezer door open. With every bite, I was on the verge of putting the carton back. I never put the carton back. Even at the time, the fact that I did not close the freezer door seemed important to me.

Joshua Gibbs Jan 19, 2016

The teacher comes to instruct the student on freedom, the will, sin, temptation, astronomy. The teacher fears for the safety of the student’s body and soul and is at pains to show the student how to live a happy life, how to resist Satan, and how to find joy in God.

The student wants to hear about sex, though.

I speak of the middle act of Paradise Lost.

Joshua Gibbs Jan 7, 2016

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own country,” teaches Christ, presumably because a prophet’s countrymen can remember back to when the prophet flunked second grade, or when the prophet’s junior high voice was set squeaking by puberty. Twenty years later, that formerly squeaky voice is now beginning every other sentence with “Thus says the Lord,” and he is a little hard to take seriously.  Cool it, Isaiah. I remember when Candace turned you down for prom. Now God listens to you? Sure He does.

Joshua Gibbs Dec 1, 2015

Let me begin with three claims:

A. Stephen thought about his wife’s new haircut. “She does not look good,” he thought.

B. Stephen thought about his wife’s new haircut. He did not think she looked good.

C. Stephen thought about his wife’s new haircut. She did not look good.

Which of these three narrative styles is the most divine? Which is the truest? Which is the most just? Which is the most Christian? But can a narrative style be just, in and of itself?