Brad Jersak is an Eastern Orthodox theologian, author, and great friend of this podcast. Brad recently published a book called Out of the Embers: Faith After the Great Deconstruction. In this interview, we chat about what Brad calls the Great Deconstruction, the history and tradition of deconstruction within and outside of our faith tradition, why Brad is a devotee of Simone Weil, and how to move forward in your faith after deconstruction (if you can).
In this episode, we tasted Hooten Young's 6 Year Cabernet Cask Finished Whiskey from our friends at Story Hill BKC in Milwaukee, WI. Support is also in from Culver's Painting in Brookfield, WI.
To skip the tasting, go to 7:20
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.
So on this episode, we're bringing back one of our favorite guests that we've had on the show before and that is Brad Jurassic. Last time he was on the show he was with William Paul Young. This time he's solo he's got a new book out about deconstruction, something that we've had occasion to talk about quite a few times recently did a whole episode on it. But it's almost selling the book short to say it's about deconstruction, it's covers a wide range, as you're gonna see, in this conversation, it's called out of the embers. And he's just one of our favorite people to talk to. He's a ton of fun and very insightful, and honestly approaches Christianity from a different perspective than most of the people in my life and probably a little differently than I do. And it's always challenging. And I don't know, just good to hear from somebody who seems to live it, and has been through some stuff and has been forced to live it in a way that I have not thank God so. So I always enjoyed listening to him and learning from him. And it's an interesting book as well.
Yeah, I love bread. I spent an evening at dinner with him. And a couple of dear friends and just spending a couple of hours with him and watching him cry, real tears and feeling. Feeling his love feeling the way he experiences Christ is just a profound, almost transformative thing. He's someone that most of us have a person like this or a couple of people where you don't know the person Exactly. But you've read everything they have to offer. You've listened to everything and they're almost they almost serve as a spiritual director in your life. And I would say Brad has been that to me in many ways I love I just soak up whatever I hear from him because and I like his speaking better than his writing to be honest with you. I liked the book a lot. But when he when he communicates verbally, there's the warmth comes through. There's this wisdom and this knowledge and this depth of understanding that comes through but it comes through in a very humble, Christ centered sort of way that just routes me and grounds me in the best ways.
Yeah, it's a great conversation. We hope you get a lot out of it. And if you're a Patreon supporter, there's going to be plenty of extras because it went a little long so we're gonna have some some extra content for you guys as well. Speaking of Patreon, I want to shout out one of our top shelf supporters. Mr. Burgess, thank you so much for supporting the show. Sponsoring what we do. We literally could not do this without the support of people like you. So cheers. Mr. Shears. What are we cheers in here, Randy?
This is from our good friends at store. He'll be Casey in Milwaukee. This is called Hooten young their six year American whiskey it's finished and Cabernet casks
yeah that's a little unusual still like Sherry finishing is kind of common. There are various other kinds of finishes what you're seeing more and more often port Yeah, don't see a lot of Cabernet yet so interesting.
Yeah, there's a local one in Milwaukee called Central waters I think right. Central. Central Standard to do read Kevin Yep. Which I heard is not great. This is Hooton young, six year aged, and let's give it a try.
Oh, it's very unusual. Yeah, I don't know that I would. Does this count as a bourbon? I guess it does. Right. Well, so
it's an American whiskey but it's made in aged barrels, not new barrels. So that's why it wouldn't be considered a bourbon. Technically bourbon interesting. The mash bill is 99% corn which is wild so strange. 1% barley. I think this is fun. Like the the Cabernet finished for me is everything like you can, all of a sudden you taste a little bit different notes. It's floral. It's got it's just got non whiskey flavors to it.
I wouldn't guess the corn mashbill.
It's not as sweet and maybe as you would expect. I mean, it is a little sweet, but it's not for one almost.
Almost the first thing that I thought of it tastes like strawberries to me. It's good. I like it. Red Fruit and caramel all over. It's really smooth. Like it's dunk. If you go to the store. He'll be kissing get this Hooton young, six, six year Cabernet finished. Whiskey. Do not cut it with the rock first tried strikeouts. It's very good drinking. Yep. Just never cut anything with a rock until you've tried it. I think that's good advice. But this is it's low on the character list. I would say like it's not one of those that you taste this after that, you know, but it's actually very pleasant. And again, that Cabernet finish brings just some notes that I think really help it.
Yeah, it would be really interesting to taste it before Yeah finished to see what it did to it. Yet it Yeah, it is an interesting and very drinkable whiskey has a nice sort of mid range color on it doesn't taste young six years is usually a good age. So
this is tasty, I would say especially if you're a novice whiskey drinker. Try this for sure.
They also apparently have a 12 year which I'm interested to
try. And that's won a bunch of awards. Yeah,
I'm always looking for outlying whiskies, like just stuff that is different to put on the shelf. This is definitely one that is not going to taste like anything else that you've got.
Yeah, this is definitely one you would throw into a blind tasting to just confuse somebody.
Yeah, for 99% Corn bill, I would never imagine that. Oh, enjoy it. This is nice. It's yeah, subtle. Has some I want to know why
they bothered with the 1% barley. There's gotta be a story there.
Seriously. Yep. Well, one more time. This is Hooton, Young's six year Cabernet cask finished American whiskey. It yourself over to a store. He'll be Casey, get you some of this or any other thing. And if you're not in Milwaukee, make sure you support local. well bred your second. Welcome back to a pastor and a philosopher. Welcome to a bar. We're so excited to have you again.
I'm glad to be back. It's good to see you guys.
Yeah, I think I mentioned this before. But our episode with you and Paul Young, which was thank you for being on you kind of paved the way for us. You and Paul were first big names. And we get the comments from a number of people that that was not only possibly their favorite podcast episode of ours, a pastor and philosopher walk into a bar, but have any podcast episode. That's their favorite, which is really fun. I think you guys brought something uniquely beautiful to that mix when you get together. And there's just some some theological, spiritual goodness that happens when you mix young intersec.
Yeah, well, young in anybody is magic. And it's, it's very kind of you to call those two big names. Let's have that in perspective. I sell 1000 books, he sells 40 million books. That's not exactly. You know, he's as humble as anyone I've ever met. So he doesn't ever hold that over on me. And he acts as if that doesn't exist it
Yeah. But you're a theologian, and he wrote the check. So I mean, that accounts for something.
He's a theologian, too. He's definitely a thief. But no, we still get letters about that episode. Just the other day, I got an email from somebody that said he was weeping in his cars. Listen to it. Yeah,
I read Listen, every once in a while. It's a beautiful foundational, I think episode so. But you wrote, we're not here to talk about the pastor, which was a totally, totally different book. But you wrote a book called out of the embers, Faith after the great deconstruction, can you just tell us where out of the embers came from this news book that you wrote bread?
Sure. What I've observed now, in terms of the popular use of the term, deconstruction, I think it's really now established itself as the new usage. You know, I used to think, well, the philosopher Jacques Derrida, he was talking deconstruction in the 60s. And this isn't that well, actually, this is more popular than that now. And the bottom line is it seems to be around people being able to ask questions, and be questioning their faith, questioning the their image of God questioning the faith community that they've been a part of, or the system that they embraced. And so now they're like, they need to interrogate that. And so that's happened on a massive scale. And one of the things that makes it a movement is really social media. And the other is the reality of millions 10s of millions of people leaving the institutional organized church. And so I've watched two kinds of responses to that. And I'm so dissatisfied with both I had to write a book, because I think there's a third way that's much better. So the first response that troubles me is when handwringing pastors just belittle it as backsliding. That's not what's happening for many people. Some of them may backslide, but maybe they're also just leaving because they were in a toxic environment or an unfaithful church, and we're being spiritually abused, you know, so that's, that's one aspect. Or maybe they were coming into great insights, and revelation of who God really is, and then those insights were being excluded. And maybe they were called heretics for it. So that's, that's the one side where it's, you know, treating it as backsliding like no, and then trying to control the backsliders and herd them back through the doors is just fruitless. The other extreme though, is that deconstruction is almost become an industry to write and it's so Poppy and it's so trendy, and what I see from that side is a lot of folks are just like, yeah, burn it all down empty the pews. And if we could just get rid of faith, that would be great. And then and so it's it really then there is about like sliding side to it or no it's not. It's more like apostasy, which is a renunciation and with great Glee, and it's, it's in some way. So Evangelical, it's like, deconstruction is your new testimony. And we're gonna highlight your new testimony. And isn't this great, we're going to share your testimony like, Man, this is the same thing recycled. But it's not taking seriously how traumatized people in deconstruction can be. And so the third way I bring to the table is like, I'm going to treat these questions seriously. And in fact, I'm going to double down on them. Yes, we're going to deconstruct our image of God, and we're even going to deconstruct deconstruction. But the the reality is, for some, it's been liberating. And for others, it's been traumatic. So I want to start with empathy. It's like, Tell me your story. What's happening in your heart? Yeah, I bet you are bewildered. And no, you're not crazy. And let's walk together for a bit.
So Brad, you in your book, I think you start out with talking us through this time in your life where you just felt this, you know, you felt pulled out of ministry couldn't do it anymore. You were in crisis mode. I think he talked to us a little bit in your in our last episode a little bit about it. But would you call that experience? deconstruction? Would you call it a faith crisis? Would you call it a breakdown? Would you call it all of the above? Because for some people, deconstruction means different things than others?
Yeah, absolutely. So I think that I want to highlight out in the book, and in this interview, that it is complex. And even in an individual, it can be complex. And so for me, I experienced two very different kinds that I think helped me to be able to understand the spectrum of it. So one kind of deconstruction, for me predated 2008. It was deliberate, it was fearful, it was liberating it was it was questioning my constructs of God that were keeping me from a deeper connection with God. It was about removing boxes that we had put God in is if he could fit in them. And so when my Christ like, God, Christ like way in Christ, like, we're trilogy, we're about deconstructing those false images of God and false ways of being. And it just was so great. And it was especially great, because if other pastors had done this, I know some who've been fired over it. But in my case, I had the the gift of a community who walked it with me. So that was awesome. That's the liberation side. And I think it's part of the great tradition, God is forever dismantling those things. But I also experienced the trauma side, and that was in 2008, when I just Yeah, absolutely break down. It was disabling and I could no longer function. And that was because of twofold reasons. One was a series of traumas that the people I loved most in the people who were in my church were going through week after week after week until I was overwhelmed personally. And the second aspect of that was, in being overwhelmed. I was acting out in my, in my addictions, I was, I was crossing boundaries. I was it was scandalous. And it's like, I don't know if I trust God anymore. And I had never, ever not trusted God. And I said, I can't function. So I was quite bedridden, actually, I was faking it until I finally resigned, which the resignation letter is in the book, and, and again, credit to my community, they didn't abandon me or condemn me. They were part of the healing team that carried me through that. And I'm just so lucky. And I use lucky advisedly, there. Because if it was blessed, then like, Why didn't God bless someone else? It felt like maybe the one part that wasn't lucky is that we spent a decade constructing my safety net. So thank God for that in terms of the relationships.
Yep. You've gone through quite the journey spiritually and within your Christianity from, you know, Neo reformed, charismatic, now Orthodox, and there were more steps along the way. Can you take your listeners through that really briefly? And then tell us what is that your notion of God expanding, contracting? What has that journey been like?
Yeah, I think it's unfortunate when people go through a series of kind of faith movements and always treat the last one, negatively, like an ex smoker syndrome, I call it you know, so who's harder on the smokers than the ex smokers, but my experience was different than that. I can identify some dysfunctional things in every movement, including the one I'm in now. But I also picked up gifts along the way. So for 20 years I was the Baptist. That's where I learned the name of Jesus from my mother's knee. That's where my dad taught me to love the scriptures. That's where our family learned to pray, and to share the Good News of Jesus. And I've never lost any of those gifts. I lost the revivalism I lost Armageddon, I lost left behind, they lost. But that was superfluous compared to the connection that I came into a Jesus that's never left me. Then I got married. And my wife Mennonite church called me there and the gift I picked up from them was a real Christo centric view of the Bible and the call not just to cast ourselves on the grace of God, but also to follow him in real life. Especially central where the teachings and practices of Jesus at the peak of which was was the Sermon on the Mount Mennonites live the Sermon on the Mount, and I realized I needed that. After 10 years with them, we sensed a call to plant a church and, and yeah, that was charismatics, I would quote small see charismatic, it was in the renewal movement, I experienced all the, some of the best and worst, who cares mania. But the focus of our church wasn't that it was sort of post renewal. And it was on if the renewal was about anything, it was about learning how to love those in the margins, and the poor and the disabled, and prisoner and homeless and addicts. And that's who our church was made up of a third of our church, where people with disabilities and full time care. And then the Ag showed up, because they realized they weren't domestic the messiest people in the room. And then that families with children who couldn't stand being in normal churches showed up because they could run around and we didn't push them, but we would embrace them in into play. So I did that for 10 years. And so that whole Isaiah 58 kind of work with the broken and the and the marginalized, who I became one of them was really, really amazing, and will never be the same. But in the end, it's not the end, who knows, right? 20 years ago, I came into contact with Archbishop Lazar, he's a monk in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He became a spiritual father to me, I joined the Orthodox Church officially 10 years ago. And I've been a monastery preacher and and a concert reader ever since. And the thing about them is, God is mercy only. There's it's not God is love. But also know every aspect of every aspect or construct or even let's say attribute of God, those are always only facets of his one nature, which is love revealed in Christ crucified and risen. And this service is also helped me in terms of a liturgical kind of order that helped my damaged nervous system. I know, I remember loving spontaneity, and now I also love predictability, everyone's coming forward, at the end, Jesus is always going to show up because he's there in the chalice, you know that stuff. So it's a treasury, I have an embarrassment of riches, with that love
of that emphasis on God has loved period, not anything. Would you say that was rooted in the cap of the ocean fathers within the Orthodox tradition? Or where does that come from in the Orthodox tradition?
Oh, yeah, across the board. But it's capital CIOMS, for sure, at the end of the fourth century, um, you're gonna see it heavily in the Syrian fathers like everyone and Isaac of Syria, especially, you're even going to see it in the Latin West in some folks where they're like, you know. And folks that moved from east to west like St. John Kassian, who ends up being really influential on the Benedictines and the Celtic spirituality. And he would say stuff like this, you know, it's like, we God is love, and only love and we. So when we use words like anger, or wrath, understand that they are anthropomorphism. And if you literalized them, you will create an idol and commit a monstrous blasphemy. And so all of these guys, you know, in, in at the end of, let's see, which book is it? I think a more Christ like word, I actually have the primary sources, and you'll see them from across the centuries and from all different regions, and they would be of one mind on that. And yeah, sure, there was probably some other people who were thought God was more retributive, but that's the stream I flow with, because I think it's most Christ like,
nice, good. So you begin the book, out of the embers with a CS Lewis quote from A Grief Observed and it says my idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time, he shatters it himself. He began the book with that quote, Tell us why and what do you think Lewis? meant by that.
Yeah. So when Lewis says we have an idea of God, other words we use for that as a construct, which is where we get deconstruction, or a notion of God or an image of God, and all of these are not God. And so eventually, Meister Eckhart will cry out in prayer, God deliver me from God. And what he means is that no matter what we think God is like, the degree to which that idea becomes central to us will always fall short. And so it needs to be shattered. Because Ephesians three, God, let's say, the love of God is always forever, higher, wider, longer and deeper than what we can grasp or imagine. But I have to imagine God, so I will. But that imagination will always not be, you know, it's, it's an image that is less than God. And so I think it's quite natural, then for us to grow in our relationship of God with God. And shattered is a harsh word like you could also say, just like undress, you know, these clothes don't fit me anymore, or these clothes never did fit God. So I guess we'd better we'd be willing to shed smaller versions of God, and God is such and here's the one guarantee we have, it's always smaller than God is such, only he is infinite, my mind is not.
So if we follow Louis to the end, where he says, My idea of, of God is not a divine idea, it has to be shattered time after time, he shatters it himself. Could we say that this movement of deconstruction, the great deconstruction that you've called it could be a movement of the Holy Spirit?
Oh, absolutely. It can be. I mean, any. Maybe we could say, you know, it's a parallel movement to another movement, which is movements that take the same data and turn it into citizens cynicism, instead of hope. What they both have in common is a dissatisfaction with the God revealed by Christendom. And so God is not interested in that, in that, and neither are atheist. And so at times, They're conspiring in the same in the same direction. But here's a way of thinking about it. The difference between prophets and cynics is that while both see through a surface level thing that needs to go, Prophets deposit, hope, and cynic steal hope. And so I see certain summon deconstruction, that the more they deconstruct the closer they get to Christ, and others. The more they deconstruct, the more they reject Christ. So what they have in common though, is we are in a period of great questioning, and it can be employed for great things, or it can be misused for tragic things. But what you don't get to do is stay luke warm.
So your book is full of figures that I didn't expect to see in it. It was especially just reading the introduction and finding out oh, this is a book about deconstruction. And then I flipped to the middle chapters, and there's Plato. And there's Nietzsche. And there's Kierkegaard and there's, you know, Simone via which didn't surprise me as much talking to you before, I know you're a fan of hers. But you trace this fire. There's Voltaire, right, you trace this line, from not not just the aesthetic theologian in your own tradition and biblical figures, but through a lot of philosophy that I didn't expect to see there. And then some theology towards the end to some liberation theology in Black Theology that didn't necessarily expect to appear in a book, ostensibly about deconstruction. So when I think of deconstruction, and we've talked about this before on the show, I think of a fairly standard thing, like I think of rejecting the very visible and concrete and identifiable intangible, contemporary abuses and in justices and monstrosities that have come to be identified with American Christianity, that's because that's what I see online, and in my friends, and in certain experiences I've had all the time. And so when I think of what deconstruction means, it's just getting away from that. And I know lots of people who have deconstructed and who are deconstructing some of them had become atheists or agnostics, and don't want anything to do with the church. Most of them have not, though most of them have found some kind of deeper relationship with Jesus, which is a whole, you know, big chunk of your book is describing ways that that can happen. But I've never actually seen the relevance of any of those things that appear in your book to that specifically, so I was kind of surprised to see them there. I guess in my head, they were just different things right? Like, I've heard people, for example, reference Derrida when they're trying to talk about deconstruction, usually when they're trying to critique deconstruction, and it just doesn't have anything to do with what Derrida was on about. I think it's just a completely separate thing. And the reason moments in your book, if I'm honest with you, where I thought this is just not really what most people alive today are talking about when they talk about deconstruction, like I don't know, I enjoyed the chapter on Nietzsche. But I don't know how much it really has to do with, you know, the deconstruction that most of the people I know and have witnessed are going through. So I'm hoping you can give me a justification for all of that large chunk of your book, like, why did you step so far back? And, you know, have chapters dedicated to these really heavy and complex figures who were talking about very different things than the sort of things we're dealing with? Very good.
Yeah. So So I think one thing I'm doing is, I am noting that, that when a person uses the word deconstruction, they mean one little thing, and I'm saying this is this movement is a much bigger umbrella, there's a lot more going on, then just like you having some doubts, and so so I want I'm expanding. I'm expanding the umbrella, but I'm not really expanding the definition and the where the definition becomes interrogating our assumptions, about faith about God about meaning, and how those assumptions become idols and ideologies. And so I'm saying it's much bigger than, then we're thinking. And then I'm also wanting to say, the stuff that super popular on Instagram about deconstruction, it is just playing, and it's playing in a way that's harming people. And the problem is not that we've gone too far, the problem is that we've done it half assed. So that's where I bring in, you know, the analogy of my dear mom who went through a mastectomy and there was something cancerous in her breasts that was going to kill her. And it had to go it had to undergo surgery. So she had a mastectomy. And then we realized, wow, she lost a lot more than she thought she was going to, and it even including around identity, and stuff like that. And this analogy, then I'm looking at deconstruction movement. I'm like, you guys, you guys are farting around and, and it's like inviting a plumber to a mastectomy. And this is people are leaving their families. Big because they've been encouraged to throw it all away. And I'm like, No, we so we don't only have to deconstruct our Christendom, which I think Nietzsche does ruthlessly, so he he's relevant in that sense. You need everybody who's really good at deconstructing the Christian culture, wherever it's become like a counterfeit kingdom. And so so all of those folks do that for Moses on but Nietzsche is especially brutal. And then I'm like, Yeah, but Kierkegaard is even harsher. And he doesn't. He doesn't abandon the faith. So so there's that element. The other element is, I'm like, Why isn't anyone deconstructing deconstruction? And I don't mean condemning it like the handwringing pastor. I mean, saying, let's examine the assumptions of deconstruction and where that's heading. And we know where it's heading because Nietzsche told us ahead of time, dusty ski told us ahead of time, and they because they could see it like from, let's say, the early 1800s, the deconstruction by progressive by liberals of the aristocracy and the church. And so now you've got these mid 18 1800s, liberals, and then the progressives come along and say, You guys are still you're just a new aristocracy, and there's still all this abuse and you're just as corrupt as they were. And so then the progressive starting but then the progressive just turned into nihilists and the nihilists turn into the Bolsheviks, and the Bolsheviks are successful in getting rid of Christianity. And then we have the gulags and 10 million people get killed. And Nietzsche tells us this is going to happen. So Nietzsche in one of his books that I cite there, he's like, let me tell you what's going to happen for the next 200 years. And I'm like, well, let's see if he was right. Whoa, he was exactly right. And we're not done the 200 years yet. Would you like to know the rest of what he says? And so that then I think what I'm doing is I'm I call them the Seven Sleepers because if they woke up right now, in this context, do they have a word for us? I'm like, absolutely they do. And they're not just plumbers. These are the surgeons and so yeah, that's, I went off there but that was, Can you name it? I just so happy when I could talk to a philosopher.
Okay. Can you name the seven off the top of your head? Oh, geez,
let me think. Because I confuse it a bit in the sense that I've got the apophatic theologians kind of bundled. But you know, I start with Moses and, and melting down the golden calf. That's what we're doing right now. And got, there's been an identity theft, where Jesus name even has been employed for nationalism, and for politicization, and all of that. And I'm like, that's a golden calf that needs to be melted. That's not even Jesus at all. And then I go into Plato, who does his cave analogy coming out of delusion, the shadows of delusion into the light. So it's shedding our delusions and our chains in the darkness. Then I do the early church fathers, the apophatic, or negative theologians, and they're the ones who say, who were like, your idea of God is not God. You even think God is a being but he's beyond being, you know, they're very negative about an agnostic. So I have a lot of agnostic friends, like they would love these guys. They're super agnostic, but they have Jesus still. And then I fast forward to Voltaire. And so he was considered in his century, the greatest enemy of Christian faith, but in fact, what he does, he starts by dismantling religious intolerance by the church, and he ends up defending heretics who are being killed and tortured. And in, in, in the sense of defending freedom to believe. And then he sees these other guys come along who are deconstructionist and, and, and and they're just so cynical, and he goes after them, too. I mean, he goes after everybody. I'm like, Okay, so maybe he has something to say to our cynical progressives today, right. And then we go into the 19th century. So there we've got Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, and Kierkegaard. And then I, and then for me, Simone de is is the pinnacle, and I'm, he's called me a fan, I would even go deeper, I would say, I'm a devotee of Simone de. So that sort of covers the range. And that's just a sampling. I've written a whole nother booklet about Tolstoy's great deconstruction. It's just not out there yet. But it was going to be an appendix to this one. And it's he goes through 20 stages. And but they said that it looks too long already. Yeah.
It is hefty. It is I'll send you a PDF know that it needed an appendix. I would love that PDF, though. I love Tolstoy. And so I'm cited a few times. Yeah, I guess, as I'm hearing you talk, I'm realizing the I think part of my surprise, and maybe a little like, Where's this coming from, you know, reaction might be that I don't know anyone who I've seen it on Twitter. Okay. So when you describe cynicism, and you describe, going off the deep end too far in that direction, and just like celebrating, burning it all down. And it's all, you know, that kind of progressivism that ends up like consuming itself or whatever, I can see how some of the figures in this book would be a good corrective to that and how I would really like it if a lot of those people would think more carefully about what they're saying and read some of these figures and try to take their project on board, even if they end up you know, staying atheists or agnostics or whatever. Yeah, I can respect the Nietzsche and atheist or a, you know, Dostoevsky and agnostic or something far more than that stuff. And I do see that on Twitter. I just don't take it seriously. And you seem to take it seriously. And I don't know anyone who does that. And I can't, I try to be specific as often as I can, especially when I'm making critiques. And I can't name a person who I think is thoughtful and careful and who should be listened to who takes that view. And has a large platform. You know what I mean? Well,
I don't know what thoughtful and careful but let's say the new Darwinists not that they're not Darwinist. So let me be let me be super fair. I really like Sam Harris.
I don't so you're already more generous than me. Yeah.
But here's the thing with Sam Harris. It's like, he actually believes we need to outgrow religion completely. And if we do, we'll come into some kind of enlightened sort of social situation. And then like, when did you not read the 20th century? We've already done this. We experimented with it. Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, succeeded in the very project you're promoting. And so unfortunately, I see a lot of a lot of, let's say, stumbling Christians. And they're, they're really they really like Sam Harris suddenly, and I'm like So he becomes an apostle for apostasy in that sense. And unlike I even like the guy and I think in debates, he's often quite fair, but wow, what is he pretending to be ignorant about? The very thing he's saying we should do we've already done and the body count out numbered every religious war in history. Just, you know, so that'd be an example. The other one, I'm trying to remember that Oh, Bart Ehrman, Bart Ehrman, as you know, he comes across as a biblical scholar. People are like, okay, at least with him, we have a real expert. Frankly, he's super entertaining. But people don't seem to understand how sloppy he is. And when you leave his seminars, you feel like, well, I'm really clever now. And I can see why we shouldn't believe anymore. And like, No, you don't, you don't know anything. And so, so he'll make he'll make statements about this is as if they're accepted facts, and like, this isn't much better than the Davinci Code half the time. And so that would be two examples where I would regard them as more dangerous than Nietzsche and Voltaire in the sense that they're doing something that's that, well, maybe they're not more. But anyway, that'd be so dangerous in
different ways, right? I mean, Nietzsche is far more dangerous if you take his project seriously, if the thing if you're trying to hold on to a specific kind of Christian faith is more dangerous to it, but it's Yeah, far more, at least
he says, go try it out. Like go go take Christianity seriously in a particular way and see if see if, if you abandon it. Did you need it? After all? Yeah,
so let me ask you this, and then I'll turn it back over to Randy for a minute. Like, all right, this is almost more of a pastoral concern. I'm realizing that a philosophical one, but like, I don't, for example, recommend that people pick up Nietzsche. I've had people ask me, I've had students ask me, where should I start with Nietzsche, and I'm, like, don't like unless you have a guide. And you know, if I'm your professors, and I can help do that for you. And so I will assign some, but like, just friends who are Christians who are wanting to get a good critique of their faith, I'm like, you probably don't want to do that on your own. It's just, you're not going to understand it, first of all, and it's going to be dangerous. And if you actually take it seriously, it might lead you somewhere, you don't necessarily want to go. So you have to go into it with your eyes open. It's very hard to do with somebody that complicated. So and that's similar things would be true for Kierkegaard, maybe even Dostoevsky. So you're probably not saying, aren't you that like the average American Christian who would call themselves deconstructing right now? Should go pick these people up and try to read them and try to go that far with it? Like, it seems like most of the people I know, deconstructing would be satisfied to just get out of a toxic church. And,
yeah, well, I mean, I've written the book for multiple audiences, right? So I'm thinking like, Okay, so here, here's some folks sweat, you know, the university crowd that thinks it's cool to read Nietzsche, well, then I'm like, what they don't need to hear is like, they don't need a book burning. But what they what I tried to do is guide them into saying, he asked some important questions. And here's why. Here's where I think he missed it. Like, so I critique him too, I don't just say go read them. I'm like, let me be your guide. Let me be your guide for a couple of chapters. So that you can undergo the full weight of his critique, and walk away from it with faith. Because we've not only let him deconstruct something toxic in us, but we actually are going to deconstruct something toxic in him, which I intentionally leave then unsatisfying, and say, well, thanks for the help. But I think now we're going to check in on Kierkegaard and here's why we're going to check in on Kierkegaard because he goes, he's his harshest nature is but he doesn't lose his faith. And here's why he doesn't. And by the way, here's where Kierkegaard goes off the rails, in my opinion, but like still, he's got a word for us. And you know, so I am kind of bringing them in as guest lectures rather than sending you off to do the work yourself.
The bit from Nietzsche that you talk us through in the book about Nietzsche recommending that maybe you should walk away from your faith for at least a while and see if and see if you want to go back to it reminded me of current philosopher named Pete Rollins. I'm sure you're familiar with his Pyro theology idea, and also atheism for Lent where he get he'll got a group of people online, through 40 days of basically going through Nietzsche and other agnostics or atheists and talking about why we shouldn't believe maybe and then see what happens at the end of it does. Do you know anything about that? Anything about that work and how familiar or similar it might be?
I'm not super familiar with it, but I think maybe what Pete's doing is is, is helpful. So, what Nietzsche was suggesting is is just doesn't work actually. So. And I wanted to say that, you know, so for example, when he says, maybe take a break from your faith, it's like, What do you mean? Like, disconnect from all the people I love? And because by the way, my faith is about loving one another, it's not just a belief system? Or do you mean, you know, and so, so I deconstruct his deconstruction. So some of these is not just about promoting these thinkers, it's about saying, if we're going to do deconstruction, let's find out who the greatest ones were. And then dismantle them with the same rigor that they want to dismantle us. And I think that's a worthwhile project just in thinking right. But it's about question everything, including the questioners.
So let's get personal and, you know, specific in a number of places in the book, you kind of use some letters or some communications that you've received from people who trust you, who are going through deconstruction, or through dark, dark nights of the soul, or just moments of unbelief or faith crisis and use those as kind of a type or a theme. In one of them. I think the name is Nathan. And it's a really, it's a beautiful correspondence. But in it, I think he's a former pastor of a form of a really big evangelical church who basically just lost his faith and didn't believe in Jesus anymore. He said, I feel like I don't believe in Jesus anymore. But then in my lowest, I found myself calling to him. Is that a common refrain? You hear? Because you obviously receive these letters and correspondences from people very regularly? Is that a common refrain? You hear from people? I don't feel like I believe in Jesus anymore. But when I feel like I'm at my lowest, I find myself calling to him. Is that a common refrain? And if so, where does that come from? What's that rooted in? Do you think?
I wish it were more common? You know, I hear probably more often, it's, it's just like, I've lost Jesus. And so with Nathan, the beauty of it is something came out of the embers, right? Like the fires of his deconstruction took them down, right to the ashes. And then Jesus pops out of his mouth. He it even surprised him, you know. But I would say the more common thing I get that is frustrating, and sad and lamentable, is people just saying I thought I was leaving my church. But I ended up losing Jesus altogether. And I'm like, how do you lose Jesus, he's not this thing that was in your pocket, like a wallet that fell out on the street someday. This is a living person who lives in you, and is never leaving. So what's really happened is they've lost sight of Jesus. Some of them are not interested in finding them again, but some of them are, they're really worried and that it's like this. He's like sand that's slipping through their fingers, and they know something is off. So there's that element. And then there's those who just like, they're happy to lose Jesus. But when they did, they lost everything. So now I don't have meaning. So you've got a bunch of people, you know, messaging me from the psych ward? You know, even while even let's see what's tonight, Thursday, yeah. So even Tuesday night, you know, another person is like, there's no hope. And I'm just gonna give up and then. And it's weird, because if you if you bring up Jesus, they may just say, I already tried that they were inoculated from Jesus. But I'm like, did you meet him? Well, what do you mean? And what turns out is many of our folks have only had a relationship with an idea, or a notion or a doctrine, or some kind of, and and I'm just like, you don't get to have a second hand relationship with Jesus. Rahner was right there, the future of Christianity will be mystical, or it will be nothing at all, like you, there must be a direct living connection. Or it's or you can just easily give up the idea of Jesus for the next good idea. Well, how sad is it that churches have facilitated the inoculation, you know, and replaced him with something else in many cases, but I just like, man, there's got to be a way. Maybe it's just going to be not a very big movement, but those who when they pray, they know they're praying to someone who's there, and who hears them. So and by the way, I seem to see this working just as well in 12 step recovery as in churches, and I don't mean like Christian 12 step recovery, I mean, agnostics and behind and Wicca and Christian and whatever. But if they begin to pray as if God is there, they begin to discover that he's loving, caring, personal responsible, responsive and relational and and in so doing a miracle of transformation happens that they couldn't do in their own power. So they know that there's a God who is there and I just think that's, I think that's Jesus. But Jesus may have to do that anonymously. But he's doing so. Well. Wouldn't it be nice if Christians had that?
So let me ask you about Simone vaca. She she comes up a lot in the book. She has a whole at least one chapter dedicated to her. I want to ask specifically about her concept of rootedness. Yeah, up rootedness. And what that has to do with deconstruction, but feel free to just riff on why you love her so much if you want. Yeah, okay.
Well, I'll start with riffing and then we'll come back to rootedness. So for me, what happened was in the midst of my trauma, so the traumatic aspect of my deconstruction, a lot of that had to do around the problem of pain and suffering evil. And every attempt to rationalize that we call that a theodicy, every attempt to rationalize it felt like calling good evil or evil good to me. And she comes along and says exactly that. My mentor says, You need to read her. So what she did for me in the midst of my deconstruction as, as my idea of God was falling apart so badly, I didn't even know if he was good. She comes along, and she says things like this. First of all, the goodness there is an infinite distance between the goodness of God and the affliction of humanity. It's a real contradiction. Second, don't try to rationalize it, or you'll end up blaspheming God. Third, let the contradiction act like pinchers that grab you and arrest you and throw you down. Well, it already had in my case, so I'm reading this and I'm going, this is exactly what happened to me. She's describing my inner world and my external circumstances perfectly. And she said, And when when it throws you down, it will throw you into the abyss. And, and in the abyss, you know, what did he see he saw the abyss, it was just darkness to him. But she said, look up. And when you look up, you will see God hanging on a cross. And on that cross, the cross spans the infinite distance, so that the entire timeline of human history and before lies between the two nail wounds that pass right through his heart. And then she says, and your affliction, functions like a nail that hammers you, right into his heart. So now, in that person hanging there, you see the goodness of God and the affliction of humanity to the nth degree intersecting in that one person. And from his wounds, then flow, supernatural love that could actually heal the world. And makes sense makes meaning of your wounds. And I'm like, Whoa, this. So when I say that, it can just be another theodicy, but I didn't just say I experienced it, you know, and she took me into that experience. And it was, I owe her my life. Specifically, now she had my attention. And one thing she does, she writes a book called need for the need for roots. And she describes the human need for rootedness. And she believes that the most violent act you can commit to another human being is to uproot them. So for example, this is what Babylon discovered that you do forced, you forced relocation of the people you occupy, and it dehumanizes them and it disempowers them and then you can control them. And then America discovered this and played off of it with the great forced marches of the First Nations peoples indigenous peoples that were relocated. Like the the, the American Indians in Milwaukee are not from Milwaukee, they were part of that uprooting, right. And so she looks at that, and she even goes after it in terms of foreign missions. She's like, why are we why are we going to try to uproot someone from their faith? Jesus Christ sends us to the Hindus with good news, not with a new religion that will uproot them. So that's her opinion about that. That's quite intense. But it's all about that up rootedness. So then what she speaks to our generation of deconstruction is this, there can be a double trauma that happens when first of all, you start deconstructing inside of a church, let's say for negative reasons. Let's say you are spiritually abused, controlled and manipulated in your church, and that's traumatic. So then you need to leave. But having left now you go through a second trauma of being uprooted and you move from even just Functional communion into alienation, which is a good modern term for hell. And it's big. And so we need to what do we do with that? Well, we empathize. We're like, so a lot of the a lot of the emails I get every week are about people who are experiencing the trauma of their upper rootedness. And they're like, I knew I had to leave. But now, you know, they've lost church, they've lost family. I got like, on silly stuff, too. Like one guy was saying, you know, he just could no longer believe that hell is eternal conscious torment. So his wife was threatening to divorce him. Like, what? Over though? And so yeah, so that so once you that is that is that second trauma. And that's a reason why. Sometimes it's better to stay in a church where you disagree with the theology, as long as the people still love you. Now, if the, because they probably are better than their theology. But if the theology trickles down into poor treatment and and, and misbehavior, that's another thing, but it's just like, they it's very costly if if you're gonna go through a period of alienation, and hopefully it won't last long, but sometimes it's yours.
I'm just going to say this, because I know you don't think it, but it's, it seems in your book, you're trying to replace a bad version or a bad a bad theology, bad idea or picture of God with a better one. And maybe that could solve our deconstruction and kind of, that's what emerges out of the embers. I kind of think that when we deconstruct we're tempted to exchange one fundamentalism for another, which is to say, this didn't work. wasn't God wasn't Jesus. And that's true. Now I'm going to find the real thing, the true thing and the answers, and now I'm not we're good to go. And I think that's just we're setting us up for an an endless lifetime of deconstructing what we thought was the answer, right. But that's not probably not what you're saying. Can you tell me?
That's almost what I'm saying? If you mean, like, are we infer an endless lifetime of deconstructing? Yes, we are okay. Because we will never arrive. Yeah, right. But there is better than there is worse. Yes. And even though we can be very agnostic, like, we still have the Incarnation, you know, so even the great apophatic theologians, they, they say, oh, that's only one side, we're not absolute agnostics. We, we have the image of God in the person of Jesus Christ, who embodied it for us. And if God is love, a central aspect of love is self disclosure. This is not a God who just hid away from us to be mysterious, that he has come down. And he has heard the cries of our groaning. And he has taken on the human condition and that he has endured it with us. And that he is and that He says, If I am lifted up, I will I will draw everyone to myself. So most of my deconstruction is about getting there. Then once I'm there, like, well, then what needs to be shed? Well, my, my understanding of the cross is continually under deconstruction, my understanding of of love is under deconstruction, but at least now I believe in that. That's better. But woe to me if I believe the same things. 10 years from now that I do now, I probably just got stuck somewhere.
We kind of touched on this a minute ago, but like a recurring theme, both in your book and on our podcast is how hard Christianity is. And we had an episode on Kierkegaard where that was a major part of what we talked about. But I think it was in your one of your chapters on Dostoyevsky, where it actually jumped out at me somewhere around page 200. I think, how I don't know how to want to ask this. But how much of the current deconstruction wave, if you want to call it that, do you think is due to Christians in general, just misunderstanding that Christianity, as Dostoyevsky would have, and as I think you concurred with in that chapter, is a kind of struggle. It's not just that it involves it. It is that like, all the way down. Yeah. And so to be surprised by the difficult bits or the deconstructing the need for deconstruction is a little odd when you look at it that way, like what did you think you were in for?
Yeah. What what part of take up your cross and follow me Did we miss there? It's weird to you know, I met a guy the other day and he's he's just lost his faith after like a lifetime of faith. He's lost his face because his dad died. It's like, that's it. Yeah, my dad died. That wasn't fair. I prayed the prayers what prayer while prayed prayers that he'd be healed and he wasn't healed. So my dad died like, Jesus, the death rates 100% You know? And, and so that was weird, but Like, I want to, I want to be fair though, too. There are aspects of, of, of the Christian invitation. I mean, I mean Jesus invitation where it's like, Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give your you rest. Take my yoke upon you, because my yoke is easy. And my burden is light. So you do have that. And then simultaneously you have, you know, take up your cross and follow Me because faithfully following Jesus is you're going to face resistance and perhaps martyrdom. And I don't even even know if I need to say Christianity is hard. How about this life is really, really hard. This was a shock when I, I told my son, you know, we just tried to encourage them all the time and lift him up. He's a sensitive soul, he has struggles with anxiety and depression. And, and so you just tried to encourage and then one day, I'm like, hang on a second. Life is hard. And I mean, it was like, I punched him in the face or something. And it's like, no, it's really, really hard. And this is why I love Tolstoy, he says, following Jesus is hard. But the alternative is way harder. So example. Forgiving, your enemy is really hard. But try living with resentment for 40 years, that'll kill you, you know. So I think if we're faithful to Jesus, we're gonna run into obstacles and hardships. But I like to, I like balancing him out against the alternatives. And I'm like, No, that was that was worse, you know, and my addict friends really confirmed that.
I've got two more questions for you, Brad. One is pretty simple. Let's just play a little game. And fast forward. 200 years from now, I thought about 100. But let's make it 200. So we can really think that something's gonna happen out of the season that we're in 2223 Do you think this great deconstruction that we're in is the next great reformation of the church? Will we look back on this moment and say that was the spark that lit the bomb lit the fuse? Or is this just a blip on the radar in church history?
It may, it may be that it's a blip on human history. 200 years from now, I don't see any reason to think we won't be extinct. That doesn't involve magical thinking. So I imagined my grandson's grandson. Will Will he have faith? I don't, I don't know. He might be he might be. He might be living in a dystopia where faith looks very different. Now. That sounded glum. But ask yourself that name one one thing that makes us think why we shouldn't be extinct by them. And it'll be some religious fantasy or some utopian fantasy, which we're sowing nothing into. We're going to reap what we sow. Now, here's the whole I love this picture by Father John Berry talks about you know, our eschatology is one of restoration. It might be the restoration of like the 12 last humans or something there's there's just no guarantees we get to decide that but but if you think about Christ being God being all in all and everything coming under Christ's feet Bear says we get to see the end okay, now as we look for it, think about we're in this there's still snow covering the ground. But watch there's snow drops and crocus's poking through the snow here and there. So I don't know if it'll be a great movement or a big blip but I actually have hope because I've seen the crocus's in the snow drops and so the deep the great deconstruction may be a blip or it may just continue like indefinitely until there's almost no people of faith left I don't know but it we're more we're made for meaning we're made for faith there's something God put in our hearts so it's I don't think we could just kill it.
So with that in mind and kind of thinking about your last your last answer talking about how you know Christians who don't who don't follow Jesus and you know Muslims who do you end your book with the voice of someone that I would never expect to seek activist by the name of Valerie is in our car car, fell every car, and you quote her, so I'm gonna read that quote, because I found it profound and beautiful. And then I want to ask you a couple of questions that okay, yeah, The only way we will survive as a people is if we show up. I believe that you are the midwives in this time of great transition tests with birthing a new future for all of us. So I've come to ask you, how will you show up? How will you let bravery lead you? And how will you show up with love? The greatest social reformers in history have built and sustained entire nonviolent movements to change the world that were rooted, that were grounded in love. Love is a wellspring for courage, not love as a rush of feeling but love as sweet labor, fierce and demanding and imperfect and life giving. Love is a choice that we make over and over again, revolutionary loves the choice to enter labor for others, for our opponents, and for ourselves. The first practice, see no stranger, all the great wisdom traditions of the world carry a vision of that oneness, the idea that we are interconnected and interdependent, that we can look upon the face of anyone or anything and say the spiritual declaration and a biological fact. You are a part of me. I do not yet know. Now, that's beautiful. And thank you for sharing that with us. I know right? I would never expect you know, a Christian author, or you bred to end a book and deconstruction with the seek voice. What made you want to do that? And what are you saying by doing that, and you even go further than just a quote her, but you actually say you quote an unnamed colleague of yours and says Valerie Carr's love revolution is where I'd like to see Christianity get some day. It's a big statement. Yep. Tell us about Valerie Carr, tell us why you ended your book with some quotes from a Sikh activist.
Okay, so just on the surface of it, her book, what is it is I think the book is called see no stranger. And it is about a love revolution. I would simply regard it as, as the closest thing I've heard to the Sermon on the Mount. Ever. It's it's exactly in alignment with the kingdom that Jesus proclaimed. And that blew me away. Her second, her own history, you can see it in chapter one of her book. Here's a Sikh girl living in California, she's, she's the only non white girl in her class, the only not Christian girl in her class, and she experiences racism, she experiences hatred of and exclusion because and she's told by the other kids that she's going to hell. And she's just so so belittled by this and then and then 911 happens and, and there's murders of Sikh people all over the United States, as if they had anything to do with 911. Wrong religion, people, but it was horrendous. So she's seeing this and, and she's just befuddled. So she ends up going home to visit, she's now kind of marginally Sikh. But she goes home to visit her grandpa, and he takes her to the temple. And they start chanting, and I'll come back, I'll come to what they're chanting in a minute. But she has an experience profound renewal, like a charismatic renewal of her faith in in, in the one true God. One true Creator goddess with the call. But it also makes her angry about what Christians have done. So she gets up and leaves the temple to go down to a church to review them on a Sunday morning. But it was already afternoon. So the doors were locked. So she goes to the next church doors are locked, but she hears an organ inside, knocks on the door. little old lady comes to the door. And it's the organist who's just practicing and instead of rebuking or she says, Can I listen? So the organist brings her into the church, sits her down and just starts playing, and she's surrounded by all this Christian imagery that would represent what's oppressed and excluded and belittled her. But what she what happens is that Jesus speaks to her in the language of her guru from their scriptures. And it blows her mind and it makes her into a peacemaker. And so now, she's out doing this love revolution. And who's inviting her the black churches are inviting her to, to bring really the message of Jesus, but from her perspective, so I'm like, This is so inspiring. So I went and I got an audio book of the Sikh scriptures, 90 hours, it's like, this is like big, it's bigger than our Bible. And I'm listening. The whole thing is like Song of Solomon, I mean, the whole thing. And it's saying, Get a load of this from their scriptures. It says, you can, you could do all those rituals. You could do all those pilgrimages. You could do all that fasting and never get anywhere. Don't you know? No, if you turn to him, with one glance of His grace, He will wash all your sins away. So I was immersed in their scriptures for about 90 hours. And I came out of that thinking, you know, 35% of my city's seek. A lot of Sikhs hear a lot of Christians too. And we don't know them. And I'm like, I have I, from a, I'm not a pluralist in that in the bland sense that water is everything down. But as a Christian, I have to give an account for how it is that they are hearing Christ better than we are. And I think it's because Christ is the light of the world. And we have a doctrine of common grace, and they, some of them are tuning in. So I'm looking for those connections now, just to anybody who I think it demonstrates an authentic relationship with God and we can compare notes. And it seems to me, everyone seems to think Jesus was on to something. But we have different you know, I would differ with him too, but probably not much more than I differ with a Calvinist.
Yep, Richard work calls that the perennial wisdom, right, yeah, transcends traditions. I love it. Kyle, thanks
for all your philosophical input. I am starved for that. So you just made my day and
I'm sorry to hear that. Call me anytime.
Yeah. Well, Brad, you're sick. The book is out of the embers faith after the great deconstruction thank you for writing and thank you for your for your time spending time with us. It was been a pleasure.
Thanks, Randy. Appreciate that. You guys gave the time to have a look at it and and bring me on that was very kind.
I didn't ask you what you were drinking.
Oh, I have to confess it was it was wine from a box.
There's a place drinking bourbon from a plastic bottle. So
there you go. drinking whiskey from a paper cup actually nice.
Yeah. Nice. Awesome. Well, again, Brad, really Thanks for Thanks for the time I was looking forward to it. It's always fun to spend some time with you. And I really hope this isn't our last time on the podcast. Oh, I
hope not. Yeah, I'll run the next book by and see what you think. Bless you guys.
Bless you have a good night. Thanks, bro. Okay, so yeah.
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