Humility is one of those fleeting virtues in our world, and it feels like we need a healthy dose. Being comfortable with what we know and what we don't know, what we're good at and what we're not, and not trying to live in hubris and pretense. It's not easy, but it is really important.
In this episode, Randy and Kyle talk about humility, pride, certainty, apophatic theology, and more. In the most humble of ways, of course.
The beer we tasted in this episode is Flesh to Stone barleywine from Bottle Logic. Thank you Doreen!
To skip the tasting, go to 9:40.
You can find the transcript for this episode here.
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NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.
I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.
We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.
Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. if I were to ask you, what are the top two or three things that the American church is in dire need of? What would you say?
I was gonna say a sense of humor, good music, and a responsible orientation to politics.
Okay. Um, mean, a little bit more superficial than I was expecting.
But that's really no no be cornered me.
I know. I know. See, I've thought about this, obviously. And my top three would be in no specific order. Love, goodness, and humility.
Such as Sunday School answer those.
I would say the truth just needs more Jesus. Yeah. teach their own. Yeah, but
really, aren't they the same thing? Yeah. No, fair. Fair enough. Yeah, you're not gonna get any argument for me. But those three things, they come up from time to time on the show.
They do they do. I mean, we, we're not going to talk about two out of the three of them. But I want to talk about humility. I've just been observing lately. And I don't know why it's just lately, but maybe it's because I've spent more time on Twitter. And I've seen a lot of toxic stuff. But I think a major problem in the church today in the American church, is that we just lacked so much humility. We think we know everything. And we think everybody else is wrong all the time. And we think that because we give something authority, it has authority over everyone. You can go on and on about the lack of humility in the church and how I think it's ruining our reputation and our witness. And people find this uninteresting because we're such arrogant dicks. So let's talk about humility today. Let's do it. All right. Humility is one of those seemingly insignificant virtues that very few people seem interested in or very good at. And I myself am guilty of it, right?
Anybody that says I'm humble, no one believes medically, but
I think that the lack of humility within Christendom is actually like a cancer to the church that is making it impossible to disagree with. Or it's impossible for us to disagree with one another breaks relationships, we treasure, reputation and witness and I want to talk about the importance of humility as human beings, but in particular, as followers of Jesus, and how difficult it is to be a humble religious person. Because when you're a religious person, you kind of think you've figured it all out, right. Yeah.
Yeah, I mean, it's hard in general. But yeah, being religious makes it maybe a little harder. Quite a bit. Someone can talk about I don't think it's unique to people who you know, subscribe to Christianity or any other particular faith. I know lots of arrogant atheists. Like, you can be religious in a lot of ways today,
Mason Meninga, whatever his name is, you atheists, so sometimes it's annoying as Christians. Hilarious. Well, let's talk about,
yeah, let's do it. And honestly, this will be if you're new, this will probably be a decent introduction to the show, because we this is a recurring theme. If we had to pick like one sort of thing that we revolve around a lot. I think it's probably humility. It's what we keep coming back to So welcome, if you're new.
So round here, if you are new, we do alcoholic beverage tasting every episode of for one because it's delicious. And why wouldn't we for another because our podcast is called a pastor and philosopher walk into a bar. And so we want to create a dynamic in the feel like we're all sitting at a pub table together and just hashing things out. So kind of what do we have? We have something special today, don't we? We do.
We say that every time because we have good taste and like most of the things we drink are special. But this one is extra special because it comes to us from one of our beloved Patreon subscribers. Doreen, we're finally drinking the thing that you sent us. So Doreen actually sent us two bottles. So this is one of our favorite Patreon subscribers, not just because she sent us beer, but because she always comments on our posts, and we have nice exchanges and love Dory found out that her son in law is apparently head brewer at one of the best breweries in the country. Come on. Yeah. And that's not really controversial. And they've been around for a little while. And yeah, they're kind of they've been at the top of their game for a while. And this is bottle logic, and they make some of the more interesting stouts and also IPAs that you're gonna find on the market. Where is bottle logic in California? Okay, yeah, a lot of good beer in California bottle logic is amongst them. So Doreen sent us very kindly a couple of beers and we're going to open one of them here and this is a barley wine. I don't think we've had a barley wine on the show yet Nope. That I recall.
We had that one by central waters. That was simple to buy. That was a long time
ago. Yeah. So barley wine. is a style that I had to warm up to it wasn't immediately a thing that I liked. It's got this very thick toffee like caramelly thing going on usually, but barrel aged barleywines I've come to realize are some of the best best beverages have I mean definitely some of the best beers I mean they're fantastic. And this one interestingly it was aged in a peach brandy barrel. So this is called flesh to stone, peach barley, one English style barley, one aged in peach brandy and finished with fresh peaches. So this is an adjunct barrel aged barleywine and this one so Durrington nice little note with it here from her son in law, who is the brewer. He says it won gold at the Great American Beer Festival in the wooden barrel age strong ale category. If you haven't heard of Great American Beer Festival. It's one of the most prestigious competitions in the industry. So
cheers. Cheers. Cheers.
Doreen. I love you. Man. I don't like
this beer. Oh, I love this beer. Oh my god. I love it. I just don't like that's hilarious that you don't. It's funny because she says I'm a simple woman. I'm just glad that he keeps me stocked with great IPAs. She hates this too. She doesn't like stouts or any of that stuff. It
just smells. So no joke. This
is one of my favorite barley wines that I've had in recent memory. I absolutely love it.
I've never had a barley wine. And I think I'll drink this whole glass before I figured out like all the complexities yeah, there's a lot. I
mean, it's not it doesn't have the most barrel of any barleywine I've ever had. I like that the fruit is very subtle. If I blind tasted it, I would not immediately call out peach. It just has a little bit of citrus presence.
Citrus. Peaches notice citrus. Yeah, but
that's all you get from it. I don't It's not noticeably peachy to me.
No. Okay. No, it's not. It's. I mean, if it resembles anything peachy it's like a peach pie. Because it's gotten them like thick viscosity. That syrupy thing going on. Yeah. Busted flavor. very toasty. Yeah. Which I expect from a barley wine like a good one.
I think I'm going to leave mine on the table for because I see on the bottle it says to serve at 58 degrees. And we're probably a little more like a red wine. Like,
we can revisit it. That sounds more gross to me, but
you don't have to finish it. I will happily Yeah, no.
It's one of those things where it's just so interesting. Like I would take an opportunity to taste something that is just kind of this far out there.
Yeah. No, I get it. I did not acclimate to probably once quickly, but now I love them.
Yeah, I admit that I'm a hack who doesn't like stouts, barely stouts or barleywines. But
if you tried PVR, though.
I mean, I love TBR.
I think they make a whiskey now. Really? Yeah, I think
we'll actually get around to that.
Now we're becoming one of those podcasts that talks about nothing and for five minutes.
Apologies. We don't want to be that person, hopefully. But there is a link that you can edit.
The timestamps are in the show. We're gonna edit this right the second. You can edit however you want. All right, staying in. So one more time, the brewery
bottle logic, the beer, flush to stone peach barleywine.
And the amazing, amazing Patreon supporter who sent it to us Dorian, thanks
so much. Cheers. Cheers. Okay. Speaking of amazing Patreon supporters, we want to shout out one of our top shelf supporters, Amanda Lindbergh. Thanks so much for being such a dedicated and consistent supporter of the podcast. We couldn't do this without you.
Cheers. Cheers, Amanda, and a great twitter follow. Heck yeah. one more shout out because that's what we like to do. We love our people. We love our community. And Karissa Vega, left a review for us and she just became a Patreon supporter like today. Whoo. How about that? So Karissa left us this review on Apple podcasts and says, I found my tribe. Just like growing up with an atheist father and a Pentecostal mother has been interesting. And politically, my parents are also complete opposites. From my love of Jesus to my love of cosmology and Carl Sagan. I've never quite fit in anywhere. But after consistently listening to this podcast for months now, I have found my people. I appreciate Randy and Kyle's introspective natures and their love for all people. The topics discussed are culturally relevant with a spiritual substance. Unlike many typical Christian podcasts, thank you for the diversity of thought and for connecting your listeners to experts from multiple fields. Thank you for leaving that kind review. Karissa and Asik. Yeah, seriously, seriously. And if you can pause it right now, if you're on Apple in particular podcasts, and leave a review for us, they mean the world to us and they help other people find us and they're just the best. Yeah.
Thanks so much. So Randy, what did anything happen recently, what made you want to talk about humility on the show?
I mean, I do think it's a common theme that we Keep should keep coming back to. So I've had a bit of a moment, a minor moment on Twitter lately where I literally one light flippantly tweeted out something about inerrancy. And how the Bible gets so much more fun and fascinating when you let go of the idea of inerrancy nothing crazy or radical, right? I mean, it's just kind of it blew up. I had no idea how a lot of people loved it. And a lot of people hate it. And the the hate in the venom that came from a tweet blowing up on Twitter was just shocking to me. And it's probably because I don't read through all the all the stuff that people talk about underneath these big tweets. But yeah, it's not a good thing for your mental health. It's bad man. Yeah. And there's the venom disgusted me the just the meanness and the people throwing you into hell and calling YOU HERETIC an apostate really, really quickly, just craziness. But as I reflected on it, the biggest thing that shocked me, I think in that depressed me about the response to that tweet, and others like it lately, has been the lack of humility, in a lot of these so called Christians on Twitter, that the hard and fast hold to certainty that so many Christians display all over the place, but especially publicly, especially in a place like social media, where we're certain that this is the truth, we're certain that this is not even. We don't believe it anymore. We know it, you know, we know it this this truth. And, and even as I was trying to talk about how you can still believe in the authority of the Bible, while not holding to inerrancy. And I was trying to say, the Bible is authoritative to me, because I choose to believe in it, and I choose to give it that authority, and others might not. And that was a shocking thing to a lot of people, as I was interacting a little bit with them of saying, Wait, what, if the Bible is authoritative for you? It's authoritative for all people. Yeah. And that was that you couldn't get it through people's heads? That No, no, I choose to believe it, which means I choose to give it authority.
Yeah, they're probably, I don't know, because I don't know this person and read their comments. But like, you know, maybe conflating authority and truth. This is something we talked about in our inerrancy episode, if you haven't heard that, but it's easy to say, I used to think like this, you probably did, too. Maybe you can remember what that was like. But it's easy to say, look, the Bible is true. If it's true, it's true for everybody, right, there's no such thing as truth for one person and not for another person. So if it's authority derives from its truth, and it's stored data for everybody, and it's not up to me, it is what it is. And I'm subject to it, just like you are. And that makes me feel humble while I'm beating you over the head. Right? Because it's coming from a place that I can justify as we're in the same boat.
Yeah, in this how you legislate from your, you know, sacred book, because you think that there's a thorat Ativ. For everyone. That's how Sharia law comes into effect. But when we're Christians, we don't think about this in the same ways we have this kind of double standard. So I want to just kind of flesh it out. And it seems to me that is ever has been reflecting on it. Humility is a really hard virtue to hold for religious people. We hinted at this in the opening, but I want to talk about just for a second right now a little bit about why being a religious person makes us we need to actually be mindful of how humble or prideful we're being because we think we literally hold the keys to the universe. Once we say yes to Jesus.
Yeah, I don't think that's a necessary part of being religious. I think I'm still religious, for example, in some way, but it is very common. For sure. If it's not a personal I hold the keys, it's at least communal that tribe they do. Yeah, right. We do. Someone before me this long tradition before me does. And again, that gives it the, the feeling of humility, because I'm subjecting myself it doesn't like the word religion, like word nerds are going to crucify me here. But like, doesn't it have something to do with your binding yourself to something larger? Right? No, I think it's something like that. And, I mean, it's literally a subjecting of myself to something larger than myself, which sounds very humbling, you know, and it is humbling, in some ways, we can talk about the ways in which it is but yeah, so it's easy to think that I'm not in possession of the truth. But I've been graciously granted access to this community. That is, and so arrogance is often veiled is humility. Yeah. And religion makes it so easy.
And what we don't realize even when we're let's just only talk about Christianity, but I don't think it's unique to Christianity. But we even think that our interpretation, our modern interpretation of our faith tradition, is the correct one. It's the keys that unlocks the door to everything good. And that's, that's, again, something that we don't really pay attention to is that like, we're all navigating things when it comes to the Scriptures when it comes to our faith and our faith tradition. Through our interpretive lens, yeah, that is very, very specific to the art context, right? Yeah. All of this just tells me we need more humility. A
couple of questions, I guess first I mentioned like, what might humility look like on Twitter? No idea how to do that. But also, how does someone and again, this is old me and people that I still know. And then related to? How does someone who doesn't think that they are interpreting anything even even acknowledge that humility is a good thing that they don't already have? What's the wedge, I guess? Or I don't know how to summon in that position, see that they don't have it already. And that it's something that they should seek and, you know, know what it would look like so that they recognize it when they see it. These are hard questions.
Yep. We'll get into it. I will first want to ask you, as our president, philosophy PhD, how would you describe humility? What is humility?
Yeah. So this this is, believe it or not, this is you should believe it by now. Because you've known me long enough. This is a topic about which there's lots of philosophical debate. There are you don't say, yeah, yeah, there are philosophers who spend careers just talking about humility, maybe not whole careers, but at least chunks of careers talking about email. It's kind of a popular topic. Recently. The Templeton Foundation funded a big old grant to get a bunch of philosophers and psychologists and other people to think about what humility is. Interesting stuff out there. Just read a paper today is about that. So I have a take. And it's partially derived from some of those things. And it's partially derived from just the way it seems to me. And I could be wrong. I try to be humble about my take. Well, let me let me tell your story first, to kind of illustrate at least an aspect what I think is the core aspect of humility. Did you ever see Jimmy Kimmel's? He would like send people out, and like interview them at various places, and he sent some people out to Coachella, one time, their task was approach random people at Coachella and ask them if they'd heard of this band that they just made up on the spot. If you haven't seen this, stop this Google camo Coachella watch that in combat. Wonderful. You can imagine what the results were right. Lots of people asked about bands, the interviewer had just made up. And, you know, said, oh, yeah, saw them at that other music festival. Yeah, whatever. So that happened. And then I saw somebody on Twitter One time someone called Lea. Say one of my favorite things to do is make up random Dutch Reformed theologians that ever existed and asked my girlfriend's about. And so there's one of them. She said, Have you ever heard of the Dutch Reformed theologian? Yanis Divina Hauer. And her friend is like, yeah, yeah, not as much as I should. And she was like, any thoughts about this other made up reformers, refusal to condemn Arminius. And this other person was like, disappointing, but not surprising.
To a person that doesn't exist. Yeah,
yeah. Exactly. To a person. She literally just made up, follow this person on Twitter. She's brilliant. Yeah. Sassy Lee. Oh, yeah, I'll put that in the show notes. So this is a decent illustration of what's the opposite of humility, right? It's this like, I don't know, you can just picture the person leaning in to like nod with you. And like, you know, just look like they know what you're talking about. And the opposite of that. And I've known a couple people like, this is the person who will like interrupt you, to tell you, they don't know what you're talking about. Right? They get this perplexed look on their face. And they ask you to define the word that you just use through the ad, you know, I've never heard of that person. I'm sorry, can you tell me that?
I don't know what that feels like it. I've
known a couple of people like this. And I've known a couple, like brilliant people like this. I've had a couple of professors like this, who, you know, run circles around me intellectually and like, I know, their output. And so when they do it, it's like, oh, it's not, you know, it's not a defect in you, you're seeing something different here. I think that's a decent entry point into thinking about humility that grasps something core about it, something really important about it. Specifically, intellectual humility, which we're going to talk about, but humility, in general, really, it's kind of a freeness, of being who you are nice that think that that is important in relation to other people that's not ashamed. That's not boisterous, or like, you know, putting yourself out there pretending to be more than it is, it's just you are what you are, and you're comfortable in your space, and you acknowledge both your limitations and your strength, you know, what you know, and you know, what you don't know exactly, but you're not like, you don't need anybody else to know that you acknowledge your strengths. So I think that's an important part of it. And so, you know, some philosophers will argue that humility is a kind of virtue. It's a it's a character trait that makes you a good person, in other words, and they'll, you know, try to parse, what makes it a virtue, how it's different from other virtues, whether it can be identified as one kind of thing that has, you know, offshoots that are sometimes associated with it, but a really different or whether it's, you know, this polytheistic thing that includes lots of different attributes or whatever, I don't know what that meant. Thank you, Holly. Yeah, thing that includes lots of different parts, but isn't like any particular one of them. You know, philosophers go on and on about that stuff. And so do psychologists. And there's a lot of interesting empirical work too. So some people think, for example, that humility really is just associated with your, your orientation to your limits. So I know what my limitations are, I'm attentive to them. In other words, I notice when they occur, and I own them. So there was some, some philosophers who wrote a paper arguing that really, it's about owning, making it yours being okay with it. And they wanted to say, but when you own your strengths, that's something else. They don't think that that's properly humility, that's pride, which is something else I think we should maybe talk about because Christians have had a weird hang up with pride. And I think it's hampered their ability to understand humility. So they want to separate those two other people want to put them together, I want to put them together, I want to say it's really one virtue, some people think is not a virtue at all. So there's a group of philosophers who think that humility is not really even like, a character trait or a state, it's just the absence of some vices. It's like, you're not arrogant. Yeah, you're not all the things. Yeah, you're not all the things that make people want to run away from you, or hold the mic in front of you at a music festival. So you know, it's not even a state you can be in or it's just a disposition away from bad things, or vicious things. Um, so there's this whole long debate, that's really interesting, kind of nerdy. My take is the it's it's got two polls, one of those polls is an outward orientation. So I'm mostly focused on other people. When I when I have occasion to focus on myself. I'm honest about it. I don't think honesty and humility are the same, but they're closely connected in that way. So I think the second poll is kind of an accurate self assessment, or self representation. And I think if you put those things together, you either have humility, or you're well on your way to having something that I would call humility. I think Jesus had those in spades. I think he's an excellent representation of both of those things. I've known some people in my life that I would consider humble people. And when I try to figure out why, it's because they did both of those things really well. I think the the one about being outwardly focused can be illustrated by trying to think to yourself, who the most humble person you've known was. I'm interested in your take on that when I tried to do it earlier today. It took me a minute to think of a person. And I think that's indicative of the trait, because a person who's really focused on others doesn't stand out so much. Yeah, yeah. Right. So I eventually settled on one of my childhood pastors, because he was so good at getting into the space of a middle and high school, thought space, and inhabiting it, but as an adult, actually, Fred Rogers would be another great example of this. Someone who kind of became what was needed in the audience. And so you wouldn't think until years later, I didn't think that he must have had his own inner life, it must have been really interesting and had nothing to do with me. But he was always present for me in a way that I needed whatever age or whatever situation I was in. I think that's a decent example of humility. And it took me a minute to remember that because I was absorbed in myself. That whole time, the whole time. I knew him. Yeah. So what do you think of when you think of humble people in your life? Does anybody stick out? Yeah,
I mean, it took me a minute, but guy by the name of Brad LOC is he was my senior year, I went to a Lutheran High School. And he was my senior year religion teacher. And I would say he was my first pastor. And he just similarly to your, your person, just loved his students. And he would give me a pass out of class, anytime I wanted to just chat with him talk about life. And he would just ask me question after question. And I didn't know anything about him really. I did know a little bit because if he was, he would be vulnerable. But it wasn't an A. He didn't control the conversations. He was just interested in me as a human being. And he was interested in my flourishing and he was interested in my well being, he didn't have an agenda. That seems humble as well, to me when you just sit with a person as they are and who they are, rather than having a gender think about what should be. You just sit with what is that's a beautiful trait. Yeah. And I think it's a humble trait as well.
And it's damn near impossible to do on Twitter. So that brings me back to what would coming back. Yeah. What would humility look like in a space where you're primarily interact? It's very difficult to do that, right? Because you're already oriented towards a kind of a certain kind of engagement. Yep. And just sitting and letting be is not really allowed on platforms like that. Yeah, I
mean, my two recommendations are the things that I tried to do. My first thing that I do, is I just keep moving if I disagree with someone or if I if it's an eye roll or whatever, I try to not comment. I try to not really tweet them. I try to like not humiliate them. I just am a little bit disgusted in really and I just keep scrolling because I don't need to engage in that. And I wish people would do that with would return the favor. That's if you disagree with my ticket inerrancy just keep moving, because you're gonna find someone who does. And
they're not tweeting for you about it.
The other thing, though, is that I have found people who they engage in arguments, and it's kind of annoying. And then all of a sudden, they kind of come to their senses. And they say, oh, you know what, I think I'm doing what I do on social media. And that's arguing for the sake of arguing. I'm sorry. Yeah, they'll literally apologize in the moment. And then that
later, yeah. But I like that, like being able, in the moment publicly to be able to say, I'm sorry, I've taken this too far. Or, you know what? This is just me trying to win an argument here. That's beautiful. I love seeing that from from people.
Yeah, that's a gracious attitude. Yeah. It's not the attitude I've generally been met with when I realized what I was doing. But now that's, yeah. grace and humility have an interesting relationship to which I'm gonna say something about later. I'm saying that are you? Sure? Yeah, I am. I put it in the outlet. did want to say about pride, though, cuz I remember when I was, I don't know, I must have been in high school or something. And I read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, for the first time, I was reading through all this stuff. I don't know if I started with fiction or not. But then I realized that his most interesting stuff to me at the time was his apologetics. And so he has a chapter in that book, I think it's called the great sin, if I recall. And the case he makes is that pride, I think even spells it with a capital P, is that the root of all sin. And, you know, he didn't, he's not the first to say that he was pulling from a long tradition of a Christian, I called it a hang up earlier, which maybe is a little too brusque, but it's kind of an obsession really, with pride. And, you know, the idea is that the serpent in the garden was the the, that was the sin, it was pride that started all of it and got the whole ball rolling. And fast forward to, you know, the 1990s, or whenever the LGBT Pride movement kicks off, and you have this ready made critique for evangelical Christians who are disposed to not be welcoming to LGBTQ people, because they define themselves according to what we think the great sin is. Right. And this isn't CS Lewis's fault, or anybody else. I think, if you read them carefully, you can kind of see what they're getting at. But there's always been this idea that humility and pride are somehow opposed. And that pride can never be good. And so anyone who takes pride in themselves, especially anyone who identifies with it, who builds a community around the idea of being good in themselves, that there's nothing wrong with me as I am, that that's sinful. I mentioned Fred Rogers a minute ago, he got a lot of critiques from people like James Dobson for that very thing, because he told kids that they were good, that they didn't need to earn it that they weren't, you know, than anything they had to achieve. They just were. And so that idea gets under the skin of a lot of, I want to say evangelicals, but it preexisted Evangelical, and it affected Louis who was an Anglican. And I want to say that's unnecessary there that you can, there's a good kind of pride. And it's not the it's not incompatible with humility, I want to say maybe it's not a it's not even distinct. It's maybe part of the same virtue, that acknowledging when I'm limited goes hand in hand with acknowledging when I have succeeded when I have achieved something, and being proud of it, and not using it to hurt anybody, but just being what it is. And this is especially important when it comes to communities of people who have been historically marginalized. Another focus that we come back to a lot on the show, because women and African Americans and LGBTQ people and disabled people and on and on have been told, or at least put in social positions their whole lives, where pride is not at risk for them. What it means, like the sin of pride that Lewis was talking about, is not the thing that they struggle with, let's be honest, it's a little silly to try to, you know, hold that over them. What they need is to be built up and to see themselves as equal as as just as valuable as just as good as all the people who do struggle with pride. And I'm not, you know, I'm not saying there's not a bad version of that there is we would call it vanity or conceit or selfishness or something like that. Yeah, but when you have the sharp division between humility and pride, and then you have somebody who really struggles with seeing themselves as valuable at all, humility, both of them they take on this warped sense where the one ceases to be a virtue and the other is unattainable.
Yeah. Now, I want to say I want to disassociate the idea that self love and love of others, and acceptance of others and acceptance of yourself is associated with pride and terrible thing like that's, that's just actually just having the mindset of God, you know, in in having a gracious loving, predisposition towards humanity and towards yourself, that I'm lovely. I've been made in the image of God and my neighbor has been made in the image of God and this person that I'm talking to has been made in the image of God. My My predisposition is going to going to be to try to find the beauty and try to find the good try to find that. That goodness, that's original to them. That's not prideful. That's just having the heart of Christ biblical even I would say, I would say, yeah, yeah, no, we need to do away with that in the church won't make any
friends on Twitter. But I know I like that. Yeah, so and another, you know, the other aspect or the other side of humility here is a phrase that's come up a lot on the show is epistemic humility, right. And so this is what really kind of got me thinking about humility, initially, because it's a part of the epistemology literature that I was reading in grad school. And so it's really just humility. Sometimes this is called intellectual humility. It's humility, about what you know, and your beliefs and coming to terms with this, not even explicitly, or I don't even know if I was aware of it. I just started to be humbled. It wasn't like a conscious effort to make myself more humble, although I had periods of that too. Which is a weird thing to try to become more humble, because the more you try, it's like, the less you're doing it. But yeah, you're regularly humble and most humble man on earth. Right? Yeah. So but you know, surround yourself with people who are better than you at the thing that you identify yourself as, and you're trying to become an expert in and you're regularly humbled, you just are. And so that is what undid my fundamentalism. Yeah, even after, I'd thought that I had already done it. There were vestiges of it left, but I didn't realize we're still there. And it took that kind of repeated humbling experience, to dig it all out. And so epistemic humility, then is that same kind of orientation to others? It's just about what I know, or what I don't know. And trying to learn from others primarily is the is the orientation. And that's something obviously that has lots of ramifications and relevance for all the topics that we talked about on the show.
Yeah, yeah. And that's something so fleeting, in this world, especially in the Christian world, especially the post COVID world, right? Like, how many Google experts and doctors do we do? We find, I mean, I was with a person who, in the course of conversation, something came up about cardiologists, and the kind of cardiologist doctors, whatever, you know, has a problem with heart doctor, this person and and I kind of jokingly said, Do you really think you know more about more than cardiologists about medicine? And they were like, yeah, yeah, I think so mostly. And I said, when you have a heart problem, and you need heart surgery, are you going to go to the cardiologist? Or you're going to go to your essential oils person? And they said, Well, I just hope I never have to deal with that. Anybody, but once you're at that person, the person I was talking to doesn't literally doesn't have a bachelor's degree. Yeah. And they they've done a lot of research online, and they know what's best for them. And, you know, their people, and they think they know, this isn't unique to cardiology, it's it's across the
board. Yeah, that would be an odd thing to single out. Yeah, no, no, it's it's across the
board. They don't take vaccines, and they don't believe doctors and experts in science, they think it's all, you know, conspiracy. Yeah. That, to me is like lack of epistemic humility at its finest, that I, a person who don't have a degree in anything, think I'm smarter than a person who's been schooled for, you know, 12 years, at something in particular. That's amazing. But we do it. Yeah.
And a little ironic, because the thing that I mean, I have to try to remember when I thought something similar that it was never, obviously that extreme, but trying to be sympathetic and charitable. Like, the thing that turns that person off about cardiologist is probably a kind of arrogance. If I had to guess that they perceive in the elite, you know, the the person who has all that money and did all that education and lives that kind of lifestyle that's not accessible to me. I'm reading into this, but just based on people that I knew, yeah, there's there's a kind of envy masquerading as a contempt of arrogance. But yeah, that that is a little psychoanalyzing this person, but when I held views like that, or when my, you know, relatives, critique me in ways like that, it seems to come from a place of, I'm the humble one, right? And I'm critiquing the arrogant who are in this unearned place that I could be and if I had had the right life circumstances, yeah. So I mentioned graciousness, right and great the interesting relationship between humility and grace a minute ago. There's this quote that stuck with me. I heard I don't know when I heard it, but years ago, from Dallas Willard, who most of the listeners might know as a popular Christian author, but I knew as a philosopher, because he was an expert on Edmund Husserl wrote some really interesting analysis of his early logical work, which is some of the most difficult philosophy I've ever read. So I respected him as a philosopher before I ever read any of his popular stuff and one of the things that he was fond of doing was like pithy aphorisms, and like trying to sum up things that were very complex. And in very simple ways. This is a good example of humility, I think, because you would never know the depth of his philosophical acumen from reading his popular work, you would need to and if you met him and talk to him, you would come away thinking he was just a nice guy who was interested in you probably had a knack for phrasing things. And so he said, one time, one of the hardest things in the world is to be right and not hurt other people with it. And he likened that to grace. He said, being right is actually a very hard burden to be able to carry gracefully and humbly. And so I think those things are related. Because I think I've been read a lot. And I've heard a lot of people with it. I've I've experienced that firsthand. I've seen it in their face, have walked away from the conversation and regretted it. And it's difficult. It's not like, and, yeah, it's this. It's a discipline. He's like, well known for writing about disciplines and treating other people gently with your knowledge. As a discipline, it's, and it's, this is the way I can tie it in with Christianity, because to me, humility is a universal virtue. It's as accessible to the pagan and the atheist as it is to any Christian I've ever known. And I can't say the most humble people I've known were necessarily Christians. Some of the more some of them weren't. But graciousness. I think I need to think more about this, but I'm gonna say it is a uniquely Christian virtue. It's, it's bound up in the nature of Christ. And it's not something that out of a secular ethical system you would naturally reach for necessarily, it's not obviously justified on some secular ethical systems. And so how you wield your knowledge has, I think, some unique Christian force. You think of it through the terms of grace?
Yeah, no, that's beautiful. I love it. What I found when interacting with all sorts of Christians, and even many pastors and church leaders, none of my close friends, but trying to separate faith from certainty is a completely foreign idea for so many Christians. It's literally like you're speaking a different language, when you try to get a Christian to see that what they believe is just literally what they believe, and not what they empirically know. Right? Besides, we've talked about this before, but I want to, I want to drill down just a little bit more, because I think we're all susceptible to this. I'm shocked every time I come across a follower of Christ, the person who's in authority, even a leader in the church, who's like, What do you mean when you say certainty? And then we'll go into it and all that stuff. And they'll even quote from the book of Hebrews of like, hold it hold to your Faith with certainty, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. Can you talk to us a little bit about faith certainty? What like, how we can actually not be certain about what we believe in? Yeah, try to convince the skeptic
Yeah. So longtime listeners will be familiar with this rant. But here we go. certainties impossible. It's not it's not a thing that humans are capable of attaining. There were a couple of philosophers who thought that you could, and no one agreed with. Some of them were very influential in the history of philosophy, but like their arguments are notoriously weak and have been refuted, and Descartes looking at you. So like certainty, if you if you understand certainty, as there is at least one belief that I know to be true, that it's unassailable, and that it must be true, that it can't be false, that if it were false, I would know nothing that everything else would go away. And so everything rests on that foundation, that kind of certainty. It's just, it's both unattainable and dangerous, because when you, you can build a belief structure in that way. And you can feel really safe in it for a long time. But the more you build on it, the weaker it becomes. Because that foundation of belief is actually not certain. And so it can't bear that amount of weight. And so it doesn't take much to put a little puncture in it. And one puncture leads to another and leads to another and then eventually, the whole thing crumbles and you have the deconstruction that's currently happening. But this sort of thing has happened countless times throughout history. It's not a new phenomenon at all. And so certainty is impossible for anybody, the religious person, or the non religious person, it's just not a thing. What is the thing is kind of fallible confidence. So I can have evidence and I can follow that evidence. And I can build beliefs on top of it. And I can be open to new information, and I can change my beliefs as the new information comes. And I can act. It's not like I'm frozen in skepticism, right? I can do things. I can get a job and I can have a family and I can have friends and I can develop interests and projects and all that stuff, and still remain open to new information, changing what I think is true. Because there are basic number of things that I can be really sure about, right. I can be sure there's an external world, I can be sure my wife loves me because she's still here. I can be sure that bourbon is delicious. Like there's all sorts of things I can be reasonably confident about. And a lot of those things contribute a great deal of happiness to my life, and I just don't need and this is one of the things that the people but who are deconstructing are waking up to is the realization that so many fundamentalist tried to keep them from desperately, which is that I can be happy without that I don't need certainty. I don't need the feeling that this is all important and so high stakes and that if I let go this one thing the whole thing crumbles. I'm much happier person. Yeah, not thinking that in that way.
Yeah, no that's that's the thing is the minute you kiss certainty goodbye which we all should is in particular to our faith, the more enjoyable your faith journey gets, the more relaxed you get to be because you're not constantly trying to prove something that can't be proven. Right? You know what I'm
talking about? Yeah, right. So to bring it back to Faith, which asked me about certainty and faith are incompatible. It's not just that they're uneasy bedfellows like you can't have that. Like, just think about it for a minute. Like if you were certain, what role would faith play? None, there wouldn't be any you presumably if you if you're if you're a good, always been a Christian, and this is feeling difficult for you ask yourself, Does God have faith? And it just seems weird to say that God has faith in himself or herself? Like, why would God need that God knows. If if you met like, there's a inverse correlation between a confidence and faith. And if you max out one, you zero out the other. But that's fine, because faith was never intended to be that we can have a whole separate episode about faith. Yeah. But if you dig into the worldviews This is the one area maybe in which I'm like a historical critical proponent here. Yeah, I knew he'd come around the world views of the people who wrote and compiled the Bible just didn't include what we now consider certainty, like a kind of epistemic scientific precision. Yeah, they didn't have that it was pre scientific. Yeah, they had philosophy and they had ideas of high confidence and whatever knowledge. But the people that compiled the scriptures were not interested in that they were interested in trust. And they were interested in kind of relational confidence. And it's just a kind of unfortunate trick of language and translation, that the words that would have signified that to them, to us mean something like Doxastic confidence or belief, faith and belief just aren't the same thing. No. Faith and certainty are the same thing, right? But certainty is just maxing out the confidence in your belief. Sure. Right. So if you think that faith is a matter of belief, well, then the best kind of faith is the certain kind, right? But they're not if you divorce those fundamental concepts, and you think of faith is, you know, a relational kind of trust. And it's got a few other aspects to then it just it shifts your whole orientation towards what your religious life should be.
Yeah, yeah. And I've noticed we, we get words mixed up a lot. Faith doesn't just because you you're not certain about something doesn't mean something that we're liable, right? Just because something is trustworthy doesn't mean that it's certain. We get these terms mixed up. I was I made a statement recently of how I'm not interested in the question of is the Bible inerrant or infallible? The questions about the Bible that I'm interested in are questions like, Have you been transformed by the person of Christ that you met in the Bible? Or have you let these ancient stories challenged the way you actually live and interact with the real world around you today? Those are questions that I'm interested in in somebody replied and said, Man, if the church was asking those questions, 40 years ago, I might have stuck around. And it just made me sad, because that's what we're lacking. Yeah. Is this humility to the way we approach our sacred texts?
Because somebody in the church was asking those questions 40 years ago, and 100 years ago, and 1000 years ago, it's always been present. But we've created these communities where we shut all of that out because of certainty, because the smaller your kingdom is, the easier it is to hold tight control over it. So if we can make it seem like you know, villainize all that big, old tradition, then it becomes easier to control. Yeah,
I think it's why we have such a push back against the deconstruction movement. Because we choose hubris over humility. We choose certainty over humility. And I think that's why like you have said, where a lot of the deconstruction has come from, so I wonder, what might it look like to be a religious person, a spiritual person who holds firmly to humility? We've mentioned Fred Rogers, you mentioned your pastor, I mentioned my senior year religion teacher. I want to submit Mother Teresa. How much do you know about Mother Teresa a bit
she she made? After her death, her diaries were published, which I'm I feel really conflicted about because there's a lot of really interesting insight in there, but also she didn't want to publish and so reading them is kind of a weird experience. But philosophers picked up on it. Philosophers of religion did because she had some deep doubt. And she was a really good example of someone and who you would think would be a paragon of all of the religious virtues, and who for periods was probably accurately described as an atheist and may have died and that kind of space and sought, you know, extensive religious counsel to no avail. And so she became a kind of talking point amongst philosophers thinking about faith for a while,
the idea of a person who struggles with doubt, their whole life, doubt about what they've given their life to doubt about what they believe about the realest things about the cosmos, doubt about their experience of God and not hearing from God doubt about whether prayers is effective and does anything in the world. I'm describing Mother Teresa right here, like Mother Teresa is famous for having living her. She had more doubts than faith, I would say in some ways. But in spite of all that, in spite of the uncertainty in spite of the unknowability, in spite of the reality that she knew, she couldn't really know about whether God exists, she gave her life, to the least of these, she followed Jesus, in His call more clearly than I think probably anyone we could ever imagine, in recent history, and memory, and that just to me, that's this picture of humility that says, I don't know. But this is beautiful, and I'm gonna give myself to and I'm gonna give my life to it, even though I stay up every night wondering if this whole thing is real or not.
Yeah, there must have been something that she was convicted of that kept her going, right. So like, I can be super unsure, in the throes of doubt, maybe full on disbelieve, some religious propositions that I think give meaning to the work that I've chosen. But when I do the work, I can see the value in it, maybe I see it in the face of the person who's dying in front of me, in the case of Mother Teresa, or I see it in my own case is very divorced from that. But like, as you know, maybe I see some value in the good that I'm doing, through, you know, my writing or through the students, I'm helping or whatever. I want to affirm as a virtue, the commitment and the resilience to stick to that good that you can perceive, despite not understanding it and not being able to justify it within your system. Yeah, I want to be cautious about saying that someone who finds themselves in that deep, dark place that the answer always is to just share sticky buns. Because she was deeply unhappy. And I can't say for sure, that she should have kept going. Right. She, you know, humbly submitted herself to her religious authorities and took their guidance and did what she did. And she did a great deal of good in the world. And she's, you know, canonized for a good reason. But saints are rarely happy. Sure. And I can't say for sure. I can't like advise that for someone else. Is that makes it Yeah, no,
I think what resonates deeply within it, for me, is the humility to say, I don't know, you know, like, I want to say, I know, I want to, I want to say, I know that the Bible is the authoritative inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God, it's perfect. The end, I'd like, that'd be really convenient. That'd be really nice. I can't say it, if I'm honest. And I'm humble, I can't say that I'm 100% certain that the resurrection actually happened or that, you know, you could go down the list, I'd love to be certain about those things, but I can't do it. But I think in this is just I'm just guessing from Mother Teresa's experience, because this is my experience. But what I do know is that the way of Jesus is the most beautiful way that I've ever come across. Like I haven't come across a better way of living a better ethic of living a better way of treating humanity a better way of living my life than what I find in the four gospels. And that I can hold to and keep moving forward with because of Jesus. And perhaps that's what Mother Teresa was holding to.
Yeah. I'm curious what what would happen is a hypothetical that may be impossible to get yourself in that position. But let's say your confidence in those things you just described as a picture of Jesus you find in the gospels, let's say that is shaken. So you continue on this trajectory away from the fundamentalism that you know, described your past. And eventually you don't see for example, love as the meta narrative of the New Testament anymore. Just the other day, a person, a philosopher, who I really respect, posted something about that very thing about love being relatively minor facet of Jesus's teaching, and it kind of shook me it made me kind of reorient and question some of the things that I'd taken for granted and I would need to dig more deeply into it to reckon with that, but let's say you got to the place where you weren't so sure anymore about the centrality of that kind of thing to Christianity. Would your humility stay in tax?
I don't know how much humility would have to do with it is as much as just if I wasn't going vents, that the way of Jesus is the way of love. I don't think I would be interested in it anymore.
Yeah, that would be the result of humble orientation. But that's an interesting thing to acknowledge. If you think that they come from a similar place, like if my picture of humility is. And then I come to think that maybe he's not the way, let's say, Does humility, look differently? For me at that point? This is all hypothetical. Yeah. I don't know. Very similar to that question that we keep returning to about resurrection. If the thing that seems core to me now, were to shift because it's shifted in the past, right, the thought record are no longer. Yeah, what would my orientation be? Would it continue in the trajectory? Or what?
Yeah, I think your humble disposition would say, I don't know. And I do know it's, I'm going to change. I don't know how I'm going to change in what direction. But as I said in the previous episode, like, I really hope I stick with Jesus because I liked Jesus a lot.
Yes, and I appreciate the honesty that the simplicity of that the I like this. There's nothing wrong with that, you know, it's the thing that James Dobson was terrified that someone would justify their life ethic with, this seems good to me. I like this, and it's not hurting anybody.
It seems good. Why? Why not be motivated by the goodness rather than fear, right? So speaking of Jesus, another reason that this came up in my headspace is because I was preaching through the Gospel of John and my church, and per city, church hall of friends. And I got to John nine, and just, you know, the book of John, it's a little anti semitic, it's, it's it's full of arguments between the religious leaders in Jesus. And in John nine, it's no different, just this massive monster argument that the religious leaders are picking with Jesus, and towards the end said something that just totally stopped me in my tracks. In because I think it gets lost on us. But in John 939, Jesus said this for judgment, I have come into this world that the blind will see, and that those who see would become blind. Say that again, for judgment, I've come into this world that the blind will see, and that those who see will become blind. Now I think we listen to a statement by Jesus like that. And we just kind of toss it into the whole, like, paradox is the last first will be last and last will be first level. But this is just the way Jesus spoke. He's kind of odd like that. But whatever, gloss over it, and go to the next clear thing. But if you actually listen to what Jesus is saying, there, I think he's saying something completely profound, and very, very rare within Christianity and with religiosity in general. So let me first before I don't want to, I wanted to be the preacher, man, what's your take on that? On that quote, by Jesus?
Oh, gosh, that's yeah, that's one of those things that I would need to know more about how it was compiled to have like any, I feel like I was just riffing on something that I didn't really understand. I know, it comes at the end of him healing the blind man with the mud, right. So you know, it's connected with an actual healing of blindness. And so there's part of that there's a play on words that the author is inserting there about, you know, spiritual blindness and physical blindness. And then there's religious leaders also in the context, who are questioning him, are we the blind ones, and just totally missing the point, right. So beyond it being a kind of rhetorical play for whoever those religious leaders were, I have no idea.
I mean, this guy was he had just gotten kicked out of the synagogue, which means you got kicked out of, he was already a marginalized person, he was a blind beggar. And all of a sudden you receive site. And the religious leaders are kicking out anybody out of the synagogue who affiliate themselves with Jesus or who follow Jesus, the guys parents even disavow their kid because they don't want to be kicked out of the synagogue, which isn't totally to their discredit, it's because they want to have a livelihood. Like if you get kicked out of the synagogue, you're kicked out of the power chain, and you're, you're kicked to the side, this guy didn't care. And he let himself and he Jesus, then it's ironic to me that after he gets kicked out of the synagogue after he gets kicked out of the place of power and religion, then Jesus comes and talks to him. And they, they they chat a little bit, and then he says that, for judgment have come into the world that the blind would seen that those who see you are blind. And here's my take on it. And this is very, very simplified. And I don't think it's the correct tick. But I just think Jesus is trying to say, look, dudes, you're all blind. And when you think you see actually when you think you found the truth, is the moment that you become blind? Yeah. Like when you when you actually feel like, I know this, certainly, that my scriptures are true. And I have I have researched and studied the scriptures and I'm confidence in the Bible tells me to be confident and have an answer day in and day out, you know, for in whatever conditions I'm in, and I've got it dammit. Yeah, I feel like Jesus is saying, the moment you have that feeling. You become blind, and not in a good way. You actually can't see the truth anymore. God Himself comes in the incarnation. And it's the religious people who think they got everything figured out. out who can't see God himself when they're standing right before their eyes. Yeah. And so, to me, the challenge is Pastor Randy guy who has been preaching from the scriptures for 16 years and studying them and think I know a lot, and I'm pretty good at it. Don't you dare ever think that you've you found the light, you've you've been illuminated in this way that like you've seen now, and you're going to help others. See, that's that's how I think that's how we think is that I'm going to bring the truth to other people. And I'm going to illuminate the scriptures in God's Word in your job description. Pretty much it. But actually, probably I think Jesus is saying here in John 939, your job is to let everybody know that you don't know what you're talking about. You haven't found the truth, you haven't attained so much. And you're still seeking and your disposition is that of a seeker your disposition is that of like Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, seek and you will find knock and the door will be open to ask and you will have an answer. And I think Jesus is just saying, have a life disposition of seeking, have a life disposition of asking questions, have a life disposition, of knocking on doors, because then you'll actually in the end, you'll find things you'll you'll the revelation will come to you if you spend your life having the posture of the humble seeker, not a person who's figured it all out.
Yeah. And a couple of verses later, he says to the Pharisees, now that you say, we see your sin remains, which I think really confirms what you're saying, I'd totally overlooked that. Not that I read the Bible a lot these days. But I don't want that passage because it's easy to skip. Because it's really short. It's right at the end of that healing, and then it goes on to a different thing. Now, that's kind of profound. Yeah. It's the, the confidence of being sure you know, that I'm the one that has figured this out because of my training. And
that's actually keeping you from seeing the truth. Yeah. The last thing I want to hit on is this is not something newfangled, right, we're not talking about this new postmodern, you know, millennial mumbo jumbo that's trying to wreck you know, I'm saying this in just like, I'm trying to become a theory.
That's not new anymore. We're like two generations past. Yeah.
But there's this whole tradition that our faith was kind of founded on really, in many ways called the apophatic tradition or empathetic theology. We talked about this many episodes ago with Samir and that's yes, Sameer in shared, shared, yada, thank you. Some you're out of is a Duke educated theologian. He's brilliant. He's fun. You should listen to the episode to pastors and to philosophers walk into a bar if you haven't listened to it. We plugged a lot episodes in too many, because we talked about this so much, because we're so humble. But some mere has studied extensively in the apophatic tradition. And he quoted Augustine. And he said, basically, Augustine said in this, he said it in the Latin and I don't know how to speak Latin. So we basically, Augustine said, if you can understand it, it's not God. Right? And that's basically going to this ineffability of God, or the unknowability of God, we get most modern day Christians, we get really scared with the tradition, but actually, like, Clement of Alexandria, was kind of a father of the apophatic movements. Gregory of Nyssa. I mean, these are giants of church fathers Augustine, again, basically, we're very clear that we can't know God. Like Augustine said, the minute you think you understand God, you're not talking about God anymore. Stanley Howard was we were talking to Stanley months ago. And he said basically the same thing, right? But our faith is founded on and has its roots from this idea in this tradition, that we're going to try our best to know God throughout our lives. That's that's our life's vocation is to, to know Christ, to know God, to pursue God to follow after the way of Jesus, while knowing that we can't ever know God, like God is God is not a being like we are being God is beyond us. God is completely other. I think it was Paul Tillich who said, God is the ground of all being Yeah,
I do. Remember Stanley saying one time don't read Paul Taylor.
There you go. Sorry. But we live in this paradox in the church fathers have handed this paradox to us as followers of Christ in 2022, which is pursue Jesus, follow Jesus. Do your best to live like Jesus while knowing you'll never know God, you'll never fully understand God because once you feel like you fully understand God, Augustine said, you know, you're not talking about God anymore because we can't understand them.
Yeah, and that's a Gustin folks that's not argue with a fringe figure here. That's yeah, for a highlight hilarious take on the ineffability of God, you should read Terry Pratchett's book, small Gods interesting, thank me later. So maybe we should just define apophatic for those listeners who might be a little confused. So there's this again, not a theologian here. So not my area, but there's a distinction between apophatic and Katha phatic. So apophatic is approaching God from the posture of unknowing and negation, so God is not so the the way we can approach knowledge of the ineffable is by saying what it isn't And interestingly, there's, that happens a lot in the east. It's kind of known for that. But it also happened some in the western people as, you know, central to Roman Catholic doctrine as Augustine and Aquinas had very firm apophatic strains in their thought. And then the Kalafatis side is we can have knowledge of God we can. We can have arguments, we can have rational arguments about metaphysics, and we can know something about God's nature. And I don't think anybody ever thought we could exhaust it, but we can, we can have firm knowledge. And there's also revealed knowledge. And there's room for both right? Exactly, yes, yes. All the great theologians are most of them anyway. Recognized. There's truth in both traditions, and it's important to try to marry them if you can.
Yeah, the reason I wanted to finish with these Church Fathers who began this apophatic tradition that really didn't start with them, it goes back through the Jewish tradition and who knows where it started. Because this is what we've been given in our faith. It's not what we've received from the James Dobson's, and the John MacArthur's in the holding to certainty with everything that we have. It's Jesus way of saying, We're all blind. And the more you know that, the more you'll understand me, the more you're you'll you'll find me. If you realize that you're blind. I want to be part of a tradition that holds that humility, and holds it as a virtue and not as a weakness. I want to be part of a faith tradition that looks more like Jesus and Fred Rogers, than James Dobson and John MacArthur, amen to that.
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