A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

This Is Us

July 14, 2020 Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker Season 1 Episode 1
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
This Is Us
Chapters
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
This Is Us
Jul 14, 2020 Season 1 Episode 1
Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker

In this episode, Randy and Kyle introduce themselves primarily by describing why they are still Christians, despite periods of "deconstruction" in their lives.

Beer featured in this episode: Brambleberry Puree by Eagle Park Brewing

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Randy and Kyle introduce themselves primarily by describing why they are still Christians, despite periods of "deconstruction" in their lives.

Beer featured in this episode: Brambleberry Puree by Eagle Park Brewing

00:00

[Music]

00:14

Welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar, the podcast where we mix a sometimes weird but always delicious cocktail of theology, philosophy, and spirituality.

00:26

[Music]

00:29

Well here we are: the first ever episode of A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar.

00:33

Can you believe it Kyle?

00:35

I can't, it feels...feels good.

00:36

Maybe, hopefully, there's some people listening. We'll find out. One or two perhaps.

00:39

I bet your wife will listen.

00:42

Maybe yours too.

00:42

Yeah, we want to take this episode to just introduce ourselves, introduce the podcast, let you know what we're about, why we're doing this, why we're throwing our hat in the ring of the podcast--just absolute craziness how many there are out there. Here we are.

00:56

So Kyle, who are you? 

00:58

Well my name is Kyle Whitaker. I am a philosopher. I recently finished my PhD at Marquette University, where I currently teach. (Amazing.) Thank you, appreciate that.

01:09

Who are you?

01:10

My name is Randy Knie. I'm the lead pastor at a little quirky church family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin called Brew City Church. And yes, that is the real name. We get lots of hate, lots of love for the name, nothing in between. But that's all right.

01:24

Oddly enough, not a brewery.

01:25

Not a brewery; we don't serve beer, we don't make beer, we just are called Brew City Church because Milwaukee is called the Brew City. Go figure.

01:31

Yeah, we should get on that though.

01:33

Let's do it.

01:35

So I don't know about you, but I've noticed that the beginning of a lot of the podcasts I like is pretty awkward. They try to, uh, create banter out of nothing. So to avoid that, we've decided we're going to start each podcast by tasting some kind of alcoholic beverage.

01:48

All right. Whether it be a beer or a whiskey or who knows what.

01:52

So that's what we're going to do today.

01:54

Perfect. What are we drinking today?

01:56

Well, real treat for you here Randy. So this is a recent release from Eagle Park Brewing Company, the best--yeah, yes--the best brewery in Milwaukee. In fact, I'd say easily the best in Wisconsin, and pretty far up there in the midwest.

02:11

So they...is it better than Miller?

02:13

Oh my god. Okay. I don't know. How are we...how are we friends?

02:20

So...this beer--and some might put "beer" in scare quotes here--this beer is called Brambleberry Puree. So this is a recent release from them--I know, I know--it's a sour ale but with blackberry, boysenberry, marshmallow, and, yes, vanilla. There are so many things in this beer that it actually says on the can "roll before opening." So that's what's happening right now.

02:40

So this is a slushy style beer.

02:43

To beer aficionados, you either love them or you hate them.

02:45

It really does taste like fruit puree, so here we go.

02:50

This is how we're starting out our podcast, huh, this is how we're starting...with the beer puree. We're from Milwaukee. (Next time, all right.)

02:58

Wow, looks like we're taking communion here.

03:01

I know, it's deep blood red, strong scent of something that I'm guessing is boysenberry.

03:08

Elliot is our friend who's producing and recording and making us sound way better than we actually do and we love him.

03:15

So cheers! (Cheers!)

03:19

That's actually better than I thought.

03:20

Yeah, yeah, everybody has this experience

03:23

Holy cow. Alright. Way to go.

03:25

This is...this is tier two for the Eagle Park slushies. They have done better.

03:30

I mean, it doesn't taste like beer.

03:31

It does not. (Let's be honest.) Fair point.

03:33

But there is alcohol in it.

03:36

So I mean, alcohol or not, it's pretty delicious, but it's not beer.

03:40

We can quibble about this at a later date.

03:44

I mean, I get a little bit of the back of the tongue sour beer action. (Yeah) It's the only hint of beer I get...um, the front of my tongue...the front of my palate is all fruit, which is very tasty, really nice, but the back of my tongue gets that little sour yeasty beer action. (Yeah.)

04:03

This is...this style is definitely beer for people that don't really like beer.

04:06

So what is it called again, one more time?

04:08

This is the boysenberry puree from Eagle Park Brewing Company. Support Eagle Park, support Milwaukee breweries. (Amen.)

04:17

[Music]

04:20

So the idea for this first little mini-episode--and this won't be a full-length episode--uh, but we want to kind of explain what we're about and maybe set ourselves apart a little bit from other similar podcasts that are out there, many of which we both love and are big fans of.

04:34

So there's a there's a trend you may have noticed among--I would say let's call them progressive evangelical podcasters--a trend towards a word that has become very popular: "deconstruction." Oh, yeah. Yeah, I hope we can put an echo on that word.

04:50

Maybe we could; I'll do it again, just in case Elliot wants to do that: "deconstruction." Yes.

04:56

Randy, what is deconstruction?

04:59

What is deconstruction? It's...obnoxious.

05:02

[Laughter]

05:05

But really, deconstruction is what many, many people identify with when you talk about where we are in our spiritual journeys, um, many people around us--particularly evangelicals--would identify with being just in a season of deconstructing their faith, their faith journey. 

05:19

There's questions that have risen to the surface that they just have to ask. It feels like they can't authentically continue in their faith journey and their faith tradition unless they disassemble some things in order hopefully--and this is where I feel like it gets left out a lot--but reconstruction is really important.

05:38

Hopefully that happens. It's not a must.

05:39

Some people have to walk away from faith, and that's a real thing and...and that's...that's okay. That's...there's...there's room for that, but deconstruction is this place where people are kind of asking questions and airing it out.

05:51

So as a philosopher, do you think there's a danger to a phase or an area of life, a thought pattern...journey of deconstruction?

06:01

I think there probably is, and I...I for sure don't want to deny the value of it, even the necessity of it sometimes.

06:08

I think both of us have had our own phases of deconstruction, but I think we agreed to do this podcast together partially because I think we both feel like we're not in that phase now.

06:20

Correct. 

06:20

And that we actually do have something to contribute of value--something more constructive than deconstructive.

06:28

And perhaps the danger of deconstruction would be continuing to ask questions, continuing to critique answers that are offered, but with no...no direction or no trajectory towards reforming a foundation of one's worldview.

06:47

Philosophy--if I may speak from that perspective--philosophy is all about, uh, getting at the truth. We form theories of the world. We invent systems to explain things. This is a form of construction. And there is a great deal of deconstruction involved in that process, but the overall goal is to learn to know some stuff.

07:06

That's good.

07:07

And I think that's what we're trying to do together...our goal here, if I may speak for us, is something like mutual understanding of one another, of our shared faith, of what that faith entails for our activity and social life...all that stuff.

07:23

So I don't know about you--I'll speak for me personally--I'm not particularly interested in convincing anyone to believe anything in particular. (Absolutely.)

07:32

But I'm interested in knowing more about the faith that we share, and how a pastor would approach, uh, the sort of issues that keep me awake at night.

07:42

That's good, yeah, absolutely. So, Kyle, why would you say you're a Christian?

07:48

That's quite the question. Um, so, I'm the kind of person--and I have been the kind of person for a long time--who likes to have a ready response to that kind of question.

08:00

"Always be prepared..." (Yes) Peter, 2nd Peter, I should know.

08:03

You know, it's 1st Peter 3:15, and it's funny that you should...that you should go--well hold on, don't be impressed--let me tell you why I know that.

08:11

So I had a dream all the way through college--honestly, from high school really--of being an apologist. So an apologist is someone who makes a career out of defending something--in this case, uh, Christianity. Uh...and so I...I was kind of a fanboy of a lot of popular famous apologists, many of which you would recognize, I'm sure.

08:35

And they are so fond of quoting that verse. It is kind of the...the clarion call for...for Christian apologists.

08:43

Uh, so that's why I know it off the top of my head. And, interestingly, I spent a lot of time thinking about having a ready response to that specific question. And I think the reason for that goes back to an experience that I had--or a handful of experiences--but one comes to mind as sort of the culmination of them.

09:01

Uh, do you know who Josh McDowell is?

09:03

Of course. I went to a Petra concert in the Eagles Ballroom on 27th and Wisconsin, and in the middle of said Petra concert in about 1993, Josh McDowell came up and shared and told everyone why we should follow Jesus, even though everybody in the dang room followed Jesus.

09:22

...makes me so happy. So...so Josh McDowell was one of those apologists that I was, uh, discussing--still is, I suppose--and he wrote a very, uh, popular book, at least popular amongst a certain sort of evangelical Christian, called Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

09:37

He wrote this back in the 70's, I believe.

09:39

Love it, sounds so 70's. (Oh, very much so.)

09:42

It's been updated several times, still exists. 

09:44

I'm sure it has; making money off that baby.

09:46

[Laughter]

09:48

And so Josh McDowell actually came to my high school one time, and he had this thing that he liked to do when he would speak in public. He's a very charismatic man, very funny, but inevitably when he's speaking, he would pause, he would have someone take a microphone around the room, he would have people volunteer to speak into this microphone, and then when they got the microphone he would ask, point blank, "Why are you a christian?" And then kind of viciously analyze their answers.

10:19

And--now he's a very sweet, kind man, so I don't mean he's vicious--but this is happening in a high school, where (It sounds terrible.) you have, yeah, adolescents trying to figure for the first time in front of all of their peers why they in fact hold the religious beliefs that they do. And inevitably--this is why he did this--people wouldn't have a justification.

10:41

They'd be caught on the spot. They'd realize they didn't know why they believed what they believed. Or they'd say something kind-of simple, like "because my family believes it" or "because the book says it" or whatever.

10:52

And of course he would have--"I'm a sinner," yeah, yeah--he would have devastating critiques of these things..."Well, you know Muslims could give the same kind of response; are you a Muslim?" That sort of thing.

11:02

Um yeah...yeah, I'm sure he's...he's done lots of good work.

11:06

But the effect that this had on me--the lasting effect--was that I need to have a clever response to this.

11:12

I need to be able to explain in detail why I believe these things. And for me at the time, Christianity was a matter of belief.

11:20

It was a set of doctrines. And so if you'd asked me this question, even--I don't know--less than a decade ago, my answer would be "because it's true." And I would say that in a kind-of baiting way, so that you would follow up with "Well, how do you know?"

11:37

And then I'd give you a litany of arguments that I had memorized.

11:41

My answer today is quite different.

11:43

So I've been really disillusioned with the state of apologetics.

11:46

I would no longer consider myself, uh, in that group of people, and my answer today would be something more honest but also more simple--almost the kind of answer some of those high schoolers gave. I would say it's simply because I've experienced God's presence.

12:02

A handful of times, not...not regularly. I don't want to sound super spiritual, but there have been a handful of times in my life where I feel like I encountered God. And then in conjunction with that--so that's part one of my answer, I suppose.

12:16

Part two--maybe this is a holdover from my apologetics days--I simply don't have a better explanation of the world.

12:23

Now, it's not that--and here I'm about to say something that might sound pretty deconstructive, so fair warning to the listeners. I do not intend this to be deconstructive; it's just where I'm at.

12:38

When I say that I don't have a better explanation of the world, I mean that. I mean that I've encountered enough alternative explanations of the world, considered them carefully, and found them to be equally rational.

12:52

So I'm now at the place where I no longer have any desire whatsoever to convince anyone else to believe the things about God that I believe. Uh...so I'm a really (It's because you're a philosopher)...

13:01

...a really terrible apologist, but I think hopefully a better philosopher for that.

13:06

Um, and so when I say I don't have a better explanation, I don't. I...I recognize that my worldview that includes Jesus explains my experience at least as well as all the other worldviews I've considered, but I would not go so far as to say that I think my worldview is somehow more rational than the others.

13:27

Now, obviously I believe it's more correct.

13:29

It would be irrational to believe a thing that you didn't think was correct.

13:33

But I...I know enough to know, and I've met enough really smart people who disagree with me to know that it is possible to reject the things that I believe and also to do so rationally.

13:43

So at the end of the day I'd have to say it's probably about 75/25 personal experience to some kind of rationally compelling explanation of the world.

13:55

That's good.

13:56

Yeah. How about you?

13:58

How about me? Why is Pastor Randy a Christian?

14:02

I would say first and foremost I'm just enamored by the story of Jesus. Um, I've never encountered another story that sucks me in and is compelling and beautiful and makes sense and gives me...just fills me with all sorts of good stuff.

14:24

I love Jesus. I'm a Jesus guy. And so the...the gospels and, uh...that narrative just...that's enough. I'm...I'm a sucker for it. I can't get enough of it.

14:33

This is why you're the pastor (There you go), and I'm the philosopher. (Yeah.)

14:38

And I would also say just this story in the scriptures--and we'll...we'll talk about the scriptures during this podcast a lot in many different ways--but I just find the story of God and his people and this God who just is compelled to share himself...herself, whatever you want to say--but this God who...this divine being who just wants to create and share and celebrate and do it over and over again...is just a beautiful story that just reminds me a lot about reality.

15:04

And it makes sense of things as I look around the world and I see people's journeys and I journey with them.

15:11

This God story that we find in the scriptures, to me, makes sense of it, and I love that it's actually a messy story.

15:18

It's a messy process. It's not clean and neat, and if you haven't encountered that, you really haven't encountered the Bible.

15:23

And I actually like that. I enjoy it. It doesn't...that doesn't cause me to question whether it's real or authentic or trustworthy. It actually makes it more trustworthy to me that, um, this was written by a bunch of people who are just broken and trying as best they can, just like you and I.

15:38

And so that story compels me. And then the feely things as well.

15:42

I would say...I mean I've...I'm charismatic enough to, um, love the Holy Spirit and the presence of God, and feeling the presence of the divine. That is just personally undeniable.

15:53

Um I've had enough--like you--enough of those encounters to make it that there's something there, and I love it. I love watching people connect with it; that's the pastoral side.

16:02

So I guess that's why I'm a Christian.

16:08

So Kyle, can you help me understand why we're doing this? Why are we adding to the obnoxious amount of choices of podcasts in the world right now--particularly done by 30 or 40-something year old white dudes, which we are.

16:22

There are many of those.

16:23

I'm in it for the money. I don't know about you. Yeah, I'm doing it in hopes that we make lots and lots of money.

16:30

As a philosopher, ideally, what philosophers are focused on is wisdom. The word literally means "the love of wisdom." We're supposed to be those who are most in pursuit of finding out the truth about the world and finding out how to live in it. And philosophy (no pressure whatsoever)...

16:48

And the idea, from its earliest days, for philosophers, was that we would simply follow the argument wherever it led.

16:56

That it wouldn't be biased...(I like that)...that we wouldn't intentionally route conversations towards a conclusion that we wanted.

17:04

But that we would simply follow the evidence. And I've noticed that in conversations with you, my perspective as someone who's trying to follow the argument, plus your perspective as someone who's trying to get to the heart of a person--that that can be a unique synthesis that has some valuable results.

17:23

Yeah, I like it. I think there's a unique perspective that comes from each of these fields--pastoral, and even a little bit theological, and philosophical--and, um, I've found myself lacking when I don't have a perspective like yours.

17:40

And so I'm excited to share that we'll be interviewing all sorts of people, and we'll be coming at that from a pastoral and a philosophical angle. And we'll be talking and bantering with one another, maybe processing together, and maybe even having, uh, episodes where we take listeners' questions and try to cut through the BS, which I've shoveled plenty of as a pastor.

18:00

And lest it be said that philosophers are short of BS, we have plenty of our own. And it's no accident that I wanted to get the perspective of a pastor, uh, because there is a kind of coldness that goes along with approaching things, uh, so rationally. So, yeah.

18:16

Well friends, we're excited to journey with you, to begin this conversation, talking about God and the universe and us and reality and lots of things in between. And also, some beer and whiskey. And we're glad to have you with us as well.

18:31

Our hope for this is that we'll form a community together, and maybe discover some important things about ourselves and about life, so stay tuned.

18:41

Our next--or I suppose first--episode will be dropping fairly soon I hope...maybe. Don't want to miss it!

18:47

Let's go.

18:48

[Music]

18:56

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19:02

Maybe leave a positive review, a rating.

19:05

Tell your friends... (We love to be loved.)

19:07

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19:08

...your cousins...

19:12

[Music]