A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

I Kissed Fundamentalism Goodbye

July 29, 2020 Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker Season 1 Episode 2
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
I Kissed Fundamentalism Goodbye
Chapters
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
I Kissed Fundamentalism Goodbye
Jul 29, 2020 Season 1 Episode 2
Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker

In this episode, Randy, Kyle, and Elliot discuss American Christian fundamentalism and why they have, to borrow a phrase, kissed it goodbye.

The whiskey featured in this episode is Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon.

AUDIO NOTE: There is some slight distortion and static at various places in this episode. We have since fixed these problems for all upcoming episodes. Socially distanced recording is hard.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Randy, Kyle, and Elliot discuss American Christian fundamentalism and why they have, to borrow a phrase, kissed it goodbye.

The whiskey featured in this episode is Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon.

AUDIO NOTE: There is some slight distortion and static at various places in this episode. We have since fixed these problems for all upcoming episodes. Socially distanced recording is hard.

00:00

[Music]

00:14

welcome to a pastor and a philosopher

00:16

walk into a bar

00:17

where we say the things you wish your

00:18

pastor or your philosophy professor

00:21

has said to you about god spirituality

00:23

and the church

00:24

[Music]

00:29

well hello friends uh on this episode of

00:32

a pastor and a philosopher walking to a

00:34

bar we're going to be considering

00:36

fundamentalism so we have titled this

00:38

episode lovingly

00:40

i kissed fundamentalism goodbye there's

00:43

a little

00:43

reference in there for those of you who

00:45

are paying attention yep and if you're

00:47

old enough

00:48

yeah randy and i are going to be uh

00:49

discussing sort of in a personal

00:51

narrative way

00:52

our own histories with fundamentalism we

00:55

both

00:56

would say that we used to be

00:57

fundamentalists and we're not anymore

00:59

uh so we're going to be sharing a little

01:01

bit of personal stuff about ourselves

01:03

and our journeys and how we came out of

01:04

that and what it means to us

01:06

it's going to be fun but what we do

01:08

around here

01:09

we are going to beverage sample and

01:11

taste and i don't know about you but

01:13

uh i find it difficult to talk about

01:16

fundamentalism without a whiskey in my

01:18

hands so this really works

01:20

amen yeah i got the first round this is

01:23

um

01:23

we're going classic standard can't miss

01:27

if you give it a bad review i don't want

01:30

to be your friend anymore this is

01:31

woodford

01:32

reserve now you bourbon enthusiasts

01:35

might be rolling your eyes right now but

01:37

i'm just saying

01:39

there is not a more reliable bourbon and

01:41

i haven't even tried it yet but i'm just

01:42

about to so i'm gonna yeah

01:44

get to the nose here if you're if you're

01:45

rolling your eyes then you've sailed

01:47

past enthusiasts and you're firmly in

01:49

the snob territory

01:51

absolutely and good for you roll your

01:53

eyes out here

01:55

it smells sweet so

01:58

for those of you who can't see randy is

02:00

currently performing what we lovingly

02:02

call the kentucky chew

02:04

maybe you can hear it yeah it sounds a

02:06

little slurpy that's what's going on

02:09

you pull it you suck it over your tongue

02:11

and you just it bounces over your palate

02:13

and you can really taste

02:15

the notes of what we're trying to get

02:16

here for me it helps to try to

02:18

take the air from your throat and move

02:20

it back into your mouth a little bit

02:23

can't say why but it seems to work this

02:26

this is getting weird

02:27

a little bit uh woodford is one of my

02:28

all-time favorite bourbons

02:30

it's probably it's my go-to there's so

02:32

much oak and woodford right here

02:35

i really feel like i can taste the

02:36

barrel that it was aged in right there

02:39

yeah so the double oaked is their higher

02:42

price

02:42

point expression and personally i prefer

02:45

this

02:45

same it's perfectly balanced beautifully

02:48

balanced

02:49

got that caramelly action going on it's

02:51

got the dark berries almost

02:54

and then it's got like the old antiquey

02:57

library book almost thing to it you know

02:58

what i mean

02:59

yep it's got the the right sweetness

03:01

that i identify with bourbon

03:03

i came to bourbon after scotch kind of

03:04

had a backwards journey there

03:06

and so for me um bourbon is is like a

03:09

dessert

03:10

that's associated in my mind with that

03:12

[Music]

03:15

as you said in the beginning of the

03:17

episode we are going to be turning

03:20

into the world of fundamentalism and

03:22

talking about our journey out of it

03:24

both of us have grown up in that and

03:26

been formed by it and also

03:28

kissed it goodbye as it were so can you

03:31

first kyle

03:32

being the philosopher and the academic

03:33

that you are

03:35

could you define fundamentalism for us

03:37

because certainly

03:38

when we talk about fundamentalism we're

03:40

followers of jesus we talk about

03:42

christian fundamentalism

03:44

we're very familiar with it but it's not

03:45

the only kinder brand of fundamentalism

03:48

there's fundamentalist muslims

03:50

and those are the ones that uh everybody

03:53

the caricature that everybody thinks of

03:55

when you think of muslims that

03:57

is just a little minority within the

03:58

muslim world there's fundamentalist

04:00

jewish people there's fundamentalist

04:02

atheists

04:03

you know there's there's fundamentalists

04:05

of all sorts so could you define

04:07

fundamental

04:08

fundamentalism for us kyle sure so in

04:11

the

04:12

the christian context or i should say

04:14

the christian american context maybe

04:16

fundamentalism has a kind of specific

04:18

historical meaning

04:20

which is not always what people intend

04:22

when they use

04:23

the word so if you were to look up just

04:25

in a dictionary

04:26

fundamentalist you'd see something like

04:28

the following

04:29

a strict adherence to biblical

04:32

literalism

04:34

and maybe some isolationist social

04:37

tendencies

04:38

and the reason for that is because

04:41

around the early 20th century

04:43

in the united states there was a

04:45

movement that came to be called

04:47

fundamentalism and the reason that it

04:49

came to be called fundamentalism is

04:51

because of

04:52

a specific book or a set of essays that

04:54

were published

04:56

in about 1910 called the fundamentals

05:00

and then it had this fun tagline a

05:01

testimony to the truth

05:03

uh so it gives you an idea of how

05:05

seriously they took themselves

05:06

yep this this set of essays was

05:10

by some pretty conservative evangelical

05:14

biblical scholars who took a very

05:17

literalist very kind of narrow

05:20

reading of the bible particularly

05:22

certain parts of the bible

05:25

strong inerrantists that kind of thing

05:27

probably a reaction against the

05:28

enlightenment

05:29

yeah yeah and ended up taking some

05:31

pretty strong stances against

05:34

liberal theology against

05:37

what we what scholars would call the

05:39

historical critical method

05:41

of biblical interpretation which means

05:44

you're treating the text of the bible

05:46

scientifically

05:47

and you're trying to study it like you

05:49

would study any other

05:50

ancient text they don't they don't

05:53

approach it from a perspective of faith

05:55

biblical scholars they approach it from

05:56

a perspective of

05:58

historians or sort of secular

06:00

scholarship

06:01

and that set of essays the fundamentals

06:05

was really influential and it ended up

06:07

creating or at least spearheading this

06:10

movement within american christianity

06:13

away from

06:14

certain expert consensus on several

06:17

issues so

06:18

things like the origin of the universe

06:21

how old is how old is the physical

06:23

universe or

06:25

human sexuality or um i mean

06:29

various political issues you name it

06:31

there's all sorts of these issues that

06:33

secular experts had sort of formed

06:35

consensuses about in the environment and

06:37

what's happening to it etc

06:39

and this group of evangelicals viewed

06:42

those expert consensuses as being

06:44

in tension with or in contradiction with

06:47

their reading of the bible

06:48

and so they sort of battened down the

06:50

hatches

06:51

and became kind of insular and then this

06:54

movement picked up a lot of political

06:56

steam

06:57

and we could do a whole episode on in

06:59

fact we will do a whole episode on on

07:01

evangelicalism and

07:02

how some of that worked out and so in

07:04

the sort of historical american context

07:07

that's what

07:07

it means to be a fundamentalist it's to

07:09

be a certain kind of evangelical in that

07:13

particular tradition but the word gets

07:16

used differently

07:17

and often the word means no more than

07:20

somebody that i disagree with

07:22

it's used as a pejorative or abusive

07:24

term

07:25

so a philosopher that i admire named

07:28

alvin plantinga

07:29

one time he's trying to define

07:31

fundamentalism

07:32

and he said often the word just means

07:34

something like

07:36

ignorant son of a bitch someone whose

07:38

opinions are somewhere to the right of

07:40

my own

07:41

is what fundamentalism often means and

07:43

we want to i think

07:44

both of us would agree we want to avoid

07:46

that kind we don't want to use it in an

07:48

abusive way

07:48

right because we identify with the

07:50

community we we say

07:52

we were fundamentalists and it wasn't

07:54

because i was an ignorant of the bitch

07:57

there were some good reasons why i was

07:58

and there's also some really good

07:59

reasons why i'm not

08:01

anymore so when we use the term

08:03

fundamentalist we mean something like

08:05

the following

08:07

a a christian who is uh pretty

08:10

conservative in their theology and who

08:14

leans very heavily on a very strict

08:17

literalist

08:18

reading of the bible and who

08:22

approaches that in a somewhat dogmatic

08:24

way which means

08:27

they need it to be true they need it to

08:30

be

08:31

um that interpretation of the scripture

08:34

is the

08:34

the correct one and all competing

08:37

interpretations

08:38

are somehow dangerous or untrustworthy

08:41

yeah

08:41

so that that's the kind of context we

08:43

came out of and i think that's what we

08:45

mean

08:45

when we talk about fundamentalism yep

08:48

yeah i mean uh as we talk about how we

08:51

use the term fundamentalist

08:52

um i do currently use fundamentalists as

08:55

a as a derogatory pejorative

08:57

word but i grew up in a fundamentalist

08:59

family and still have close family

09:00

members who are fundamentalists and who

09:02

would

09:02

consider themselves fundamentalist and

09:04

don't see it as a dirty word i remember

09:06

exactly where i was

09:07

sitting with a close family member who i

09:09

love and we're talking about faith and

09:11

we normally don't talk about faith

09:12

because it's a potentially volatile

09:14

thing and

09:14

talking about faith a little bit and i

09:17

asked

09:18

this family member if they would

09:19

consider themselves a fundamentalist

09:22

thinking it's a dirty word and they said

09:24

actually yeah

09:25

and i like the idea of being a

09:27

fundamentalist because a fundamentalist

09:30

stands on the fundamentals of the faith

09:32

and at that moment i was both

09:35

surprised because it's not a attractive

09:38

term for me but also

09:40

kind of impressed that like actually i i

09:43

do stand on the fundamentals and

09:45

unfortunately that inherently means that

09:47

i don't because i'm not a fundamentalist

09:49

you know um

09:50

but we can get into that later but sure

09:52

not all definitions of it are

09:54

are awful i'd love to hear

09:57

your story kyle of what your journey

10:01

in fundamentalism looked like yeah uh

10:04

when i was a kid i've been in church my

10:06

whole life

10:06

um i was raised in the rural

10:09

south kentucky which we consider at the

10:12

south people in mississippi probably

10:13

don't but

10:14

in kentucky listen to you i mean you're

10:17

in the south

10:18

you're from uh and uh so i was raised in

10:23

a church denomination which and i didn't

10:26

realize this until much later

10:28

was actually a fairly liberal

10:29

denomination but it was in the rural

10:32

south

10:32

and there aren't any liberals in the

10:34

rural south so

10:36

uh it was the disciples of christ

10:38

denomination if anyone is familiar with

10:39

that

10:40

and they they tend to be like if you go

10:43

to their

10:44

uh general conference or whatever you'd

10:46

be around some people who are pretty

10:48

theologically liberal and so our pastor

10:50

was trained in that denomination and so

10:52

his own personal views weren't

10:54

necessarily very conservative or

10:55

fundamentalist

10:57

but a lot of the people in the

10:58

congregation certainly were

11:00

just because of geography and my father

11:03

was definitely one of those people

11:05

and so i you know as a child was very

11:07

happy in this congregation i didn't know

11:09

anything about how it differed from any

11:10

other kind of

11:11

theological outlook all i knew was we

11:13

take communion every week

11:14

and everybody can take communion and

11:16

that's the whole that's their whole

11:18

shtick

11:18

and over time my father became less and

11:21

less

11:22

okay with that he became more and more

11:26

conservative largely as a result of

11:28

listening to

11:30

certain radio preachers and biblical

11:33

scholars

11:34

i should i just try to guess radio

11:36

preacher that was was it john mcarthur

11:39

not him specifically but i think he was

11:42

in the

11:43

the sort of group of people actually a

11:45

guy is one of those like

11:47

uh biblical prophecy guys named chuck

11:50

missler

11:50

he had a radio program that my dad

11:52

really liked and my dad had the scofield

11:54

study bible which is this

11:56

uh this very dispensationalist kind of

11:59

take on the scripture

12:00

so you know it gives you the answer to

12:02

any question you might have while you're

12:03

reading it and you just look in the

12:04

footnote and it tells you what it means

12:06

so you know he got really into this and

12:09

gradually

12:10

was less and less comfortable at the

12:11

church we were at and so we

12:14

shifted over to southern baptist he

12:16

remains to this day

12:18

a kind of fundamentalist i didn't think

12:20

much of it i didn't

12:21

really know any better to me that just

12:22

was christianity because i came of age

12:25

in that environment and when you're in

12:28

fundamentalism you don't realize that it

12:30

is fundamentalism it's just

12:32

the church i didn't even think to

12:33

question it much really until i got to

12:35

college

12:36

and as happens to many people in college

12:38

you take a few classes and

12:40

your professors say things inevitably

12:42

that our intention with

12:45

your religious upbringing what your

12:47

pastors

12:48

believe maybe they even say things that

12:49

your pastors warned you they might say

12:52

and i was always interested in being

12:54

able to

12:55

know the truth about things and be able

12:57

to explain why i believe things and so

13:00

it really didn't take long for my own

13:02

religious fundamentalism to

13:04

fall apart realize pretty quickly that

13:06

some of the doctrines they seem to care

13:08

a lot about that their

13:10

explanations of those things did not

13:12

stand up to scrutiny

13:15

and so that was the beginning of the end

13:17

of my fundamentalism

13:19

yep yep yeah for me

13:22

um i grew up in a house with a lutheran

13:25

dad and a baptist mom

13:27

and both were both sides of the family

13:30

were fundamentalists in their own way

13:32

the baptist side

13:33

particularly fundamentalist and so i

13:36

mean i grew up in the house where we

13:37

were literally

13:39

driving to school and we'd be singing

13:41

this is the day

13:42

this is the day that the lord has made i

13:46

mean we would do it in round it

13:47

makes me throw up in my mouth just

13:48

thinking about it but also

13:50

warms me strangely so i mean i grew up

13:53

in a world where i was i would

13:55

my cartoons were super book was the old

13:57

testament stories in the flying house

13:59

was

14:00

the new testament stories and i learned

14:02

the bible and

14:04

from third grade on i went to a

14:05

christian school and so i never was

14:07

educated into the way of

14:09

evolution and had to confront that

14:12

reality

14:13

creation was science to me

14:16

and uh i i had a very narrow

14:20

sheltered world view i remember sitting

14:22

in our living room growing up i was

14:24

probably 11 or 12 years old and

14:25

the local news had a story about some

14:28

gay men who were protesting something

14:30

and i still remember these men chanting

14:32

we're here

14:33

we're queer we're not going away and i

14:36

remember being

14:37

scared shitless to be honest with you i

14:40

didn't know what to do with this idea of

14:42

homosexuality and i remember my parents

14:45

reacting

14:46

in some violent ways and angry ways and

14:49

just had no space for it

14:51

and that was my upbringing i just had a

14:53

very black and white world

14:54

where god created the world and bible is

14:57

literal and

14:58

is what it says and uh is a very us in

15:01

them world

15:02

that we lived in the world was scary and

15:05

the

15:05

non-followers of jesus were seen as just

15:08

dirty

15:09

don't want to be around them that was my

15:12

world

15:12

very fearful and scary and small and

15:15

judgmental

15:16

and uh delicate extremely delicate

15:20

um and it all kind of broke further down

15:22

the road

15:23

yeah let's uh let's let's bring elliott

15:27

into this conversation producer slash

15:30

creative partner genius

15:34

genius yeah because you you as well have

15:38

uh your former fundamentalists so

15:42

you have a lot to contribute here what

15:44

was your experience there like

15:46

if i if i spin my chair from producer

15:49

mode and think about my

15:51

religious upbringing actually producer

15:52

isn't far off from that either

15:54

you know it was it was about being as

15:56

being a certain thing and having a

15:58

certain

15:59

output to my faith which really was was

16:01

just about how

16:02

um how how i looked how our family

16:05

looked my dad was the pastor of the

16:06

evangelical free church in a small

16:08

northwoods wisconsin town of 1200 people

16:11

so

16:11

something that's a part of

16:13

fundamentalism already this appearance

16:15

that needs to be maintained

16:16

if you put that in the small town

16:17

context is amplified that much more and

16:19

so

16:20

i was leading worship as soon as

16:23

i was old enough and part of our youth

16:25

group and trying to invite people and

16:26

leading see you at the poll at the high

16:28

school

16:28

and bible studies and these are just the

16:30

things that as a lund

16:32

our family did this and i don't say that

16:34

to dishonor that upbringing at all it

16:36

actually was a

16:37

the biblical truth and the grounding

16:39

that's part of the foundation that i

16:40

still have but i realized looking back

16:41

that this was

16:42

almost like this manicured lawn of faith

16:45

with no unknowns and nothing that hadn't

16:47

been

16:48

considered and put in its place and so

16:50

as i stepped outside of that

16:52

my fundamentalism began to show some

16:54

cracks and that was because

16:56

i had never been around people who love

16:58

jesus

16:59

and also would swear like sometimes for

17:03

fun

17:04

or or would drink or smoke or do these

17:06

things that

17:07

like around the the lunch dinner table

17:09

these were bad things like for people

17:10

who weren't following the lord

17:12

as opposed to us and so to see

17:16

people who who i wanted to be like that

17:19

really started to break me down and

17:20

people didn't

17:21

necessarily have to act the same way

17:23

that i had always been taught to act

17:25

in order to be jesus followers and

17:28

and so that was my experience with

17:31

fundamentalism and how it started to

17:33

break down for me

17:34

so this question is directed at both of

17:37

you

17:37

was there a particular form of

17:40

disruption

17:41

was there a particular experience or a

17:44

particular conversation or something

17:45

like that that started to

17:47

crumble the house of cards so to speak

17:49

for for myself it was more of a gradual

17:51

progression of a lot of really small

17:53

things i realized for example that

17:55

creationism was not scientific and you

17:58

know i realized all these things

18:00

um and gradually came to understand that

18:02

the kind of experts that my community

18:04

had appealed to weren't really experts

18:06

and

18:07

over a long period of time and several

18:09

other experiences that we can

18:10

talk more about i just gradually came to

18:13

realize

18:14

i wasn't a fundamentalist anymore but it

18:16

was never like a single intentional

18:18

decision

18:19

what was that process like for for you

18:21

guys yeah it was definitely a process

18:23

but there's a few milestone moments that

18:26

that define that

18:27

one was just getting out of the

18:29

baptistery lutheran church and getting

18:30

into a little bit more of a

18:32

um i don't know it was very evangelical

18:37

but still

18:37

more open reality in in world view in

18:40

the church that i was

18:42

a part of in college and wanted to be a

18:44

pastor discovered i wanted to be a

18:46

pastor but within that

18:47

would have a drink every once in a while

18:48

because friends would and didn't feel

18:50

bad about it

18:51

and felt like i had to hide that from my

18:53

family and

18:54

journey from smoking cigars to clothes

18:56

to cigarettes and then got addicted and

18:58

didn't feel terrible about it actually

19:01

you know but i had to

19:02

hide it even though my mom knew the

19:04

whole time

19:05

but the biggest thing that really sucked

19:09

me out of that fundamentalism was

19:10

working at a restaurant where i was the

19:12

only christian person there and my

19:14

bubble was burst i just didn't know what

19:16

to do with all these people

19:17

who were just the furthest thing from

19:19

what i grew up in but they would just

19:20

happen to be amazing people insulted the

19:24

earth people who partied hard

19:25

but they were amazing beautiful people i

19:27

remember having my

19:29

my my world shaken when a gal who was a

19:32

server we got off at the same time on a

19:34

friday night and she said hey randy you

19:35

want to go have a drink

19:37

and internally i was like what a girl

19:40

wants to have a drink with me she must

19:41

be hitting on me

19:43

turns out she just wanted to hang out

19:45

she's a cool

19:46

cool girl the other thing the other

19:49

person that shaped that for me was this

19:51

guy named brad who

19:52

was very obviously gay the first time

19:54

you talked to him you know that he's gay

19:56

and i had no experience with gay people

19:58

i thought that they all had hiv and that

20:00

maybe if i got

20:01

into too close of contact with brad i

20:03

might get hiv myself

20:05

i started there and then observed what a

20:08

beautiful amazing person brad was and

20:09

became

20:10

great friends with him and then i

20:13

remember this moment where we

20:14

after a shift went and had martinis and

20:17

talked about him and his sexuality and

20:20

his world and me and my world and my

20:21

understanding and

20:22

he was gracious enough to let me ask

20:24

asking questions like

20:26

has he always been gay and when did he

20:27

find out and if he could choose to not

20:29

be gay would he

20:30

not be gay and his frustrations with how

20:33

hard it is to settle down

20:35

and have a family and that's all he

20:36

wants to do that's what he dreams about

20:38

and

20:38

talking about uh his struggle with the

20:41

culture and all sorts of things and it

20:42

just

20:43

in that one night of a couple of

20:46

martinis in a conversation with

20:48

brad my world just melted and it went

20:51

from black and white

20:52

to colorful and confusing

20:56

but rich and complex it went from simple

20:59

cut and dry to anything but that really

21:03

was a catalyst for bringing me out of

21:04

fundamentals i'm seeing that

21:06

the world isn't as simple and nice and

21:09

neat and concise

21:10

as i was raised to think it is and i

21:12

thank god for that moment

21:15

elliot how about you there was a point

21:18

where i realized that fundamentalism

21:20

wasn't going to be

21:21

a big enough place for me to live

21:24

happily and healthfully

21:26

and it was actually a moment in our

21:27

marriage where we were already going

21:29

through a lot

21:30

but i think we were just sitting and

21:31

watching like some

21:33

sad movie like where the red fern grows

21:35

or something

21:36

and i just i grace turned to me my wife

21:39

turned to me and said do you not feel

21:40

this at all

21:42

there's something wrong with you if

21:43

you're if you're not able to feel that

21:44

and i wasn't and i

21:45

and it was through other scenarios as

21:48

well realizing i just wasn't able to

21:49

feel anything

21:50

and it was because of this um

21:55

this weight of shame that that actually

21:58

bridged back to this fundamentalism

22:01

it was being able to know truth and to

22:04

have this responsibility for defending

22:06

truth looking out at the world that i

22:07

had also applied to myself

22:09

in the form of of self-judgment

22:12

self-loathing at

22:14

any any sin or things that i perceived

22:16

as

22:17

being against god's will and and so in

22:19

that pain i had just

22:21

shut down and realized this is the world

22:23

i was living in even relationally not

22:25

being able to connect not being able to

22:27

feel

22:28

not only the shame but the joy of

22:31

connection

22:31

and um and the sadness that's

22:34

appropriate

22:35

in order to grieve with those who are

22:36

grieving and so i just turned that all

22:39

off and

22:40

that wound up being the kind of the

22:42

catalyst to

22:43

some work personally you know honestly

22:45

doing

22:46

going through counseling and starting to

22:48

peel back these layers it's not

22:49

something you would right away associate

22:51

with

22:52

fundamentalism but the judgmentalism

22:56

that comes with fundamentalism

22:58

had been so destructive inside of me

23:01

that it had caused some serious damage

23:03

and that was the world that i needed to

23:05

fix

23:07

it just happened to also involve

23:09

dismantling

23:10

uh that judgmental stance towards the

23:13

world and towards myself

23:15

yep you mentioned elliott which a good

23:18

fundamentalist or recovering

23:19

fundamentalist would

23:21

truth right and i've got

23:25

okay i've got a bone to pick with

23:27

fundamentalists in

23:28

in many ways but here's here's the bone

23:30

to pick i want to talk about now

23:32

is this this notion that fundamentalists

23:36

care more about truth than any other

23:39

branch of christianity

23:42

first of all i think fundamentalists

23:45

idolize truth over and above

23:48

god in many ways fundamentalism idolizes

23:51

the scriptures because they

23:53

call the scriptures truth and and it's a

23:56

member of the holy trinity which is in

23:58

completely unhealthy but secondly

24:00

fundamentals kind of feel like we have

24:03

the we are passionate about truth we

24:05

have the truth we own it we know what it

24:06

is we

24:07

we are protectors of truth

24:10

when really what we find in the

24:13

scriptures

24:14

is jesus is the fullest revelation of

24:16

who god is

24:17

and jesus himself said that i am the

24:20

truth the truth is a person the truth is

24:22

not a

24:23

a bunch of ideas the truth is not a

24:25

literal interpretation of the scriptures

24:27

the truth is not a guidebook

24:29

and a statement of faith on the church

24:30

on a church website i'm getting a little

24:32

preachy here

24:33

but actually the truth is a person and

24:36

his name is jesus

24:37

for for any uh philosophy types that

24:40

might be listening and your hackles are

24:42

going up at this usage of the word truth

24:44

uh fear not we are going to do an

24:46

episode on uh

24:48

truth specifically so stay tuned

24:51

piggybacking on your soapbox a little

24:53

bit it was specifically the desire to

24:56

know what is true that led me out of

24:59

fundamentals how about that you know i

25:00

mean it was

25:02

uh scrutinizing the assumptions

25:05

that had been given to me and

25:06

scrutinizing the arguments

25:08

for particular doctrines and points of

25:10

view

25:11

that ultimately led me to conclude that

25:14

this was not a sufficient foundation for

25:16

a religious faith

25:17

eventually anyway that and having a

25:19

really good

25:20

mentor figure who modeled for me

25:24

what a different kind of christianity

25:26

could look like i had a

25:28

good friend of mine still to this day

25:30

named hl hussman who is a pastor now

25:33

in louisville shout out to hl hey hey uh

25:36

daylight church google it check it out

25:38

and he even though

25:40

he was a little more conservative than

25:41

me and kind of still is to this day

25:43

definitely showed me that there was

25:46

there was an alternative to

25:48

either fundamentalism or atheism because

25:52

there was you know there was a point and

25:53

you guys probably experienced something

25:55

like this too

25:56

eventually you reach a point where

25:58

you're ready to chuck the whole thing

26:00

and if i didn't have a good model for

26:02

what an alternative could look like i

26:03

might have

26:05

chucked the whole thing but he and a few

26:07

other people

26:08

modeled for me like look you can be

26:11

passionately invested in this and also

26:13

simultaneously admit that you're unsure

26:16

about some stuff yeah and not pretend

26:18

that you're 100

26:19

certain about everything all the time

26:20

and that as a matter of fact a sincere

26:22

religious faith doesn't need to be a

26:24

hundred percent

26:25

certain about everything all the time

26:27

and we can have serious conversations

26:28

and serious disagreements and still

26:31

uh love each other through them and

26:32

share a religious experience together

26:35

if i hadn't had that i might not have

26:37

stayed stayed around at all

26:39

yeah thank you lord for hl i mean i i

26:41

can say pastorally

26:43

um you know i've been pastoring for

26:46

shoot i don't know 13 14 years and i've

26:49

walked through

26:51

countless faith journeys with people who

26:53

are faith

26:54

crises with people who grew up

26:57

fundamentalist

26:58

and were introduced to the wrong or

27:01

maybe even the right person who caused

27:03

them to question

27:04

their view on the scriptures or

27:06

contradictions in the scriptures

27:07

or whatever science confronted them in a

27:11

in a jarring way whatever it might be

27:13

and they had a little doubt doubt snuck

27:15

into their process

27:16

into their faith journey and they had no

27:19

idea what to do with it

27:22

because they they've been groomed in

27:23

this world of fundamentalism that says

27:26

if one thing isn't true the whole

27:30

house falls apart that is a really

27:33

really dangerous kind of faith to give a

27:36

person

27:37

because the world is just not that black

27:38

and white and in

27:40

in cut and dry and it's frustrated me

27:42

endlessly

27:43

journeying with people and by

27:45

frustrating me i mean

27:46

also like i just love him so much i just

27:49

want to be like

27:50

you don't have to freak out if the bible

27:54

isn't absolutely literal you don't have

27:56

to freak out if inerrancy

27:58

actually doesn't work out because jesus

28:01

is still

28:02

alive for crying out loud

28:05

so that's that's a a fatal flaw to

28:08

fundamentalism to me

28:10

is i don't want to pass down to my kids

28:12

a faith

28:13

that is so delicate that if one little

28:15

thing is out of whack about it and they

28:17

they kind of look under the covers and

28:19

it isn't there

28:20

that the whole thing falls apart yeah in

28:22

some ways i think this is

28:24

a justified fear that a lot of

28:27

fundamentalists have

28:29

it seems to me there's a there's an

28:30

insecurity at the the root of this

28:33

approach to religious faith and

28:36

that there's something right about it in

28:38

the sense that

28:40

once you start to question it in that

28:42

way

28:43

yes you might actually be led down a

28:45

trajectory or you begin to question

28:47

all of those other things i was down

28:50

that trajectory

28:51

and whatever form of faith you end up

28:54

with

28:55

will be a fundamentally different kind

28:56

of thing than what you started with

28:58

and to that extent the fundamentalists

29:00

are correct

29:02

to be afraid of that but you know at the

29:05

end of the day like

29:06

either you trust that god is able to

29:09

handle that kind of doubt

29:11

or not either you trust that

29:14

reality really does reflect uh your

29:17

belief system

29:19

or not and if you if you do really trust

29:22

that then

29:22

you know follow the argument where it

29:24

leads and wherever you end up is going

29:25

to be a place that

29:26

is still compatible with communion with

29:29

that god

29:30

yeah that's good so let me ask

29:33

where where would you say how would you

29:35

describe your faith journey now

29:37

at this point in time i started with a

29:40

really long list of things that i was

29:42

sure of

29:43

in my faith and

29:47

i thought that's the way it was supposed

29:48

to be but over time it's actually become

29:51

a much shorter and shorter list as i've

29:53

started to realize

29:55

what the actual i mean it's ironic is

29:57

what's

29:58

what's actually fundamental to faith in

30:01

this triune god

30:03

and it's it's not a certain

30:05

eschatological view

30:07

and it's not a certain way even of

30:10

of seeing the the creation narrative or

30:14

um or or of interpreting how

30:18

how we should be on mission in the world

30:20

it's

30:21

understanding that there is a creator

30:23

god

30:24

who sent his son to save us from sin

30:27

and and now we get to be with him in

30:30

life

30:31

and that's kind of the only thing that

30:34

i've been able to cling to through this

30:35

and there are other things that i

30:36

actually hope are going to come back

30:37

into phase

30:39

that i'm going to be able to to once

30:40

again feel sure of but that doesn't feel

30:42

like a journey that can be rushed right

30:44

now it's been

30:45

more appropriate to to sit back and and

30:48

hold loosely and let the ground shift

30:50

so yeah i really i hope to be able to

30:53

continue

30:53

in this faith in in in god and to have

30:57

that type of trust

30:59

but i guess i guess to have that type of

31:01

trust requires

31:03

a loose holding of it as something that

31:05

doesn't have to be coddled or protected

31:07

and that's much more the stance i've

31:09

taken now than

31:10

when i needed to protect that the house

31:13

of cards

31:14

from uh from getting bumped it's good

31:18

for me um if i had to describe the state

31:21

of my faith

31:22

currently it would be something like

31:27

a deep fascination with

31:30

agape and agape is the

31:34

one of the greek words for love and

31:36

specifically in the new testament it's

31:38

the word that is used for divine love

31:40

the kind of love that god has for the

31:43

people

31:43

that he made the kind of love that jesus

31:46

has for

31:47

his enemies even while they hate him and

31:50

torture him and crucify him nonetheless

31:52

he loves them

31:54

and this is really what has sustained me

31:57

as a religious person is the fascination

31:59

with understanding and experiencing this

32:02

kind of love

32:03

and if i'm just totally honest totally

32:05

transparent at this point

32:06

in my religious journey i'm pretty

32:09

ambivalent about the rest of it

32:12

ambivalent in the sense of being like

32:14

torn in in

32:15

multiple directions sometimes to the

32:18

extent that i

32:19

sincerely doubt many of the things that

32:21

are probably on

32:22

elliot's list of fundamentals did you

32:25

know did jesus

32:26

really rise from the dead is there

32:28

anything after

32:30

this life does god even exist that kind

32:32

of stuff

32:34

tuesdays i'm pretty sure friday's not so

32:36

much and the thing that really keeps me

32:38

going

32:39

is this this really

32:43

deep sincere fascination almost an

32:45

addiction to understanding

32:47

whether that kind of love is possible if

32:50

we can

32:51

practice it if we can learn it where

32:54

it's available

32:55

and i've had a few like a handful of

32:57

experiences in my life that you might

32:59

call

33:00

mystical or contemplative or something

33:02

like that

33:03

where i feel like i did experience that

33:05

kind of love and it seemed

33:07

transcendent and it seemed outside of me

33:10

and that's that's what keeps me going

33:13

and i've experienced that kind of loving

33:15

various human relationships as well um

33:18

and it

33:19

i at the end of the day my faith at this

33:21

point is a combination of

33:24

sincere doubt but also sincere

33:27

hopefulness

33:29

that the world really is as described in

33:32

the new testament

33:34

and and when i can't bring myself to

33:35

believe that it is

33:37

i rest on the hope that it might be how

33:40

about you randy

33:41

as my faith has evolved which it

33:44

certainly has

33:45

with each evolution jesus

33:48

hasn't diminished he's just gotten

33:50

better

33:52

my view of god of the divine has gotten

33:55

fuller and richer and bigger

33:57

the love of god has gotten

34:00

deeper and deeper and deeper and i feel

34:02

challenged by it so for me

34:04

is my faith has evolved and grown it's

34:07

rooted me more in jesus than

34:11

my first simple self

34:20

so let me ask this as we've talked about

34:23

where we are

34:24

and how do we deal with an ever

34:28

evolving faith journey kyle what do you

34:31

think is a healthy way to

34:34

engage with god or hold our faith

34:36

journey

34:37

in a really mature healthy way that's

34:39

going to bring life

34:43

yeah so let me start answering this

34:46

question by saying

34:48

a way that i i think you should not do

34:50

it

34:52

and this is the way that i did it for

34:54

for quite a few years

34:56

and that was to try to

35:01

explore every possible avenue

35:03

intellectually

35:05

that would allow me to hold on to my

35:08

narrow interpretation of christianity

35:11

uh to the extent of reading as many

35:14

books as i could get my hands

35:16

on and engaging in as many online

35:18

arguments as i

35:20

as i needed to to try to force myself

35:24

to be as confident about my belief

35:26

system as i thought that i should be

35:29

and for a while especially if you're

35:31

clever

35:32

you can be very successful at that there

35:35

there is something to be said for

35:37

positive psychology the power of

35:38

positive thinking right

35:40

and and convincing yourself of certain

35:42

things i got

35:43

boy i got super into that and for

35:45

several years i thought it was my life

35:46

calling to be an apologist a christian

35:49

someone who you know professionally

35:51

defends

35:52

the faith but from a very intellectual

35:54

perspective marshals all the arguments

35:56

that you can to

35:57

to justify why the bible is inerrant

35:59

doesn't have any contradictions and why

36:01

each of these doctrines and our

36:02

understanding of them is

36:03

you know precisely accurate and that is

36:06

the wrong way

36:08

to go about uh recovering from

36:11

fundamentalism or something because

36:12

well there's so many dangers there and i

36:14

don't want to go into them all right now

36:15

we should have a separate discussion

36:18

about that but it's maybe the most

36:20

pernicious thing

36:22

hold timeout what does pernicious mean

36:25

yeah it's maybe the most dangerous thing

36:28

i think the most tricky

36:29

thing about certain forms you're welcome

36:32

certain forms of

36:33

particularly evangelical christian

36:35

fundamentalism

36:37

is that because it has this tool

36:40

of apologetics it gives you

36:44

kind of a framework for anticipating

36:47

and explaining away any kind of

36:50

resistant inconsistent information you

36:52

might encounter in the world

36:54

so i go to college and i take a class

36:56

and the professor says xyz

36:58

and that disagrees with what my pastor

37:00

said but

37:01

my pastor warned me that they were going

37:03

to say that and then they already gave

37:05

me a reading list

37:07

you know just in case they say this here

37:10

is what you should say

37:11

or here's how you should interpret it so

37:13

that your mind is never actually focused

37:15

on

37:15

getting an education or learning what

37:17

the expert has to teach you

37:19

it's focused on refutation and holding

37:21

on to your prior point of view

37:23

and that that's the way i i went about

37:25

it personally

37:26

and that was deeply destructive

37:29

for me a healthier approach

37:33

has been to focus first on

37:37

relationships with people

37:41

and trying to form mature

37:45

healthy loving relationships

37:48

with appropriate boundaries and all of

37:50

that and letting

37:52

the religious agreement stuff

37:56

play second fiddle to that

37:59

and it's not that it's not in the

38:01

picture ever

38:02

it is because if you're a religious

38:05

person and you're going to have a deep

38:07

friendship or a deep romantic

38:09

relationship or a deep family

38:11

relationship with someone

38:14

being religious is part of who you are

38:16

and that's going to have to come into

38:17

play eventually so it's not that it's

38:19

you know it's not that we bracketed it

38:20

out altogether it's that it's no longer

38:24

the most important thing it's not given

38:27

primary place anymore and we don't

38:28

approach it as though

38:30

if we don't agree about this it's the

38:32

end of the goddamn world

38:34

we approach it as though uh agreement

38:37

about this is secondary to us

38:39

actually having a loving relationship

38:41

with one another because we both agree

38:44

that probably god cares a little more

38:45

about that than he cares about us

38:46

agreeing about how old the earth is or

38:48

whatever

38:49

um so that's that's the kind of general

38:51

approach that i've developed

38:53

to this sort of thing and what i've

38:55

found interestingly

38:56

is that when you approach the

38:58

relationship first

39:00

the other stuff becomes a lot more

39:02

manageable

39:04

the disagreements that might be

39:05

inevitable now take place in the context

39:09

of trust and we're willing to listen to

39:12

one another

39:13

in a way that we wouldn't have been if

39:15

the entry

39:16

into the relationship was let's

39:19

you know hash all this out immediately

39:21

that's good it's really good

39:23

how do we see god in our faith journey

39:26

in a healthy way i would say first of

39:27

all for me

39:29

it looks like my faith journey is not

39:31

something that needs to be protected

39:34

it's something that should be enjoyed

39:36

that's a very

39:37

fundamentally different perspective on

39:40

my faith journey

39:41

another one is that it's a dangerous

39:43

thing to think that i've arrived at

39:44

truth

39:45

the scriptures are authoritative to me

39:48

but to think that i've arrived at truth

39:50

and i have a

39:52

full understanding of who god is it's a

39:54

very arrogant

39:56

position to hold rather than to say

39:59

i'm on a journey towards truth that i'm

40:01

going to be on for the rest of my life

40:03

and i'll never arrive until i stand

40:05

before

40:06

truth and look him in the eyes when i

40:08

when i see jesus

40:11

so thinking back over um everything

40:14

we've said about our journeys out of

40:16

fundamentalism i know all of us still

40:18

have family members and good friends who

40:21

are fundamentalists who are still very

40:23

much in it some of them struggling with

40:25

it some of them

40:26

proud of it how how should we relate

40:29

to these people do we consign them to

40:33

the you know trash bin of history

40:35

they're just behind the times and

40:38

uh they're a minority and so we're just

40:40

going to move on without them

40:42

do we view them as the other the you

40:45

know the

40:46

the enemy to be fought and defeated

40:49

or is there a better alternative

40:52

so how have you guys approached this

40:54

personally with respect to

40:55

fundamentalists that you're still in

40:57

relationship with um

41:00

all sorts of ways basically i have

41:03

confined them to the trash heap of

41:04

history and i have

41:05

just tried to ignore the fundamentalists

41:08

and done all sorts of things but then

41:09

i go back to what you said kyle in the

41:11

beginning of um

41:12

your where your faith journey is and you

41:15

said it's this obsession with an

41:17

addiction to

41:18

agape love and then that begins to

41:20

challenge me again

41:22

because if god is love and if jesus the

41:25

fullest expression of who jesus is

41:27

is agape love then i have to choose to

41:31

love

41:31

my family members who are

41:32

fundamentalists i don't get a choice in

41:34

that

41:34

actually and um and that's helpful it's

41:38

it's easier for me to love my family

41:40

because your family is something that

41:41

you

41:41

you know you can say no to but man

41:44

that's hard to do

41:45

my family is my family and so i don't

41:48

have a ton of

41:48

fundamentalist friends because you can

41:50

choose

41:52

pick and choose your friends and i don't

41:53

choose a whole lot of fundamentalist

41:54

friends

41:55

but the fact that my family i can still

41:57

love them and i can still appreciate

41:59

them and i can still see beauty in them

42:00

even though i disagree

42:02

fundamentally with their fundamentalist

42:04

beliefs tells me that maybe i should

42:06

open my world up a little bit more to

42:08

people who

42:09

i see as having a smaller more confined

42:12

faith

42:12

journey than myself that i condescend

42:15

upon you know and i've been

42:16

condescending through this

42:18

uh podcast it checks me a little bit and

42:20

says i don't know if that's what agape

42:22

love looks like

42:23

agape love probably looks like making

42:25

room and space for people who i disagree

42:27

with in

42:28

in in just finding the beauty in them a

42:31

little bit more now i know this is a

42:32

really pastoral churchy

42:34

answer but um i think this is a more

42:36

christ-like answer

42:38

and sometimes that looks like not

42:39

talking about things like politics or

42:41

faith

42:41

and that's best that's choosing love

42:43

that's choosing

42:45

a person over my agenda and loving a

42:47

person for who they are rather than what

42:49

they

42:50

do or don't believe in choosing to see

42:52

the beauty in them so

42:53

that's my reality is i have

42:55

relationships that i just can't go there

42:57

with because it's not constructive

43:00

i won't love them as much as i as i

43:02

would as if we just don't go there

43:04

and hopefully i hope and pray that we

43:06

will get to a point where we can talk

43:08

about that in a generous loving fashion

43:10

but not right now we can't and that's

43:13

that's okay for me

43:14

and it's actually enhanced our

43:15

relationship and given me a way forward

43:18

so that's how i do it or how i try to i

43:21

should say

43:22

it's not that easy

43:26

yeah it seems like often words aren't

43:28

the right way to get this across

43:30

to to break down fundamentalism it's uh

43:33

it's

43:34

more so uh yeah living it out in

43:37

in a way that that shows a better way

43:39

and so it's it's looked different ways

43:41

with different people but

43:42

it just feels like something that needs

43:44

to be shown

43:45

rather than told yeah that that's

43:48

excellent um

43:49

so that really dovetails with with my

43:51

approach to this as well

43:53

or i should say my ideal approach to

43:54

this because there's the way that i

43:55

would like it to go and then there's the

43:57

way that it

43:58

sometimes often does go the way that it

44:00

sometimes does go is we have a weird

44:02

argument on

44:03

facebook and then we don't talk to you

44:04

oh facebook um

44:06

there's a lot of avoidance right i mean

44:07

in some of my relationships it's gotten

44:09

to the place where

44:10

uh kind of a conscious decision uh if

44:13

we're going to continue to enjoy each

44:15

other's company

44:16

issue x just doesn't come up and

44:18

sometimes i think that's where you have

44:20

to go

44:21

that can be the most responsible

44:23

decision to make

44:24

given the dynamics of a relationship but

44:27

for me it's not ideal

44:29

and so how i think about the ideal

44:31

there's some philosophy for you if

44:33

you're if you're ready for this

44:35

so a philosopher named soren kierkegaard

44:39

talks about a concept that he calls

44:41

indirect discourse

44:43

and this is a way of communicating

44:45

without saying directly

44:46

what it is that you want the other

44:47

person to believe or understand

44:50

and for him it's really bound up with

44:52

his whole approach to philosophy

44:54

he wrote under pseudonyms most of the

44:57

time

44:58

so most of the works that we have of

44:59

kierkegaard are under different names

45:02

and sometimes he will say things in one

45:04

work that will directly contradict

45:05

something he says in another work and

45:07

sometimes in the same book

45:08

even he'll write under different names

45:10

and argue back and forth

45:11

with these characters and so it's very

45:13

hard to pin down major issue in kicker

45:15

card scholarship is

45:16

what the hell did kierkegaard think

45:18

about anything um and

45:20

but he does this very intentionally

45:23

because he believes his view of faith

45:25

is that you cannot get to christian

45:28

faith

45:29

intellectually it's not possible he was

45:32

an anti-apologist before there was ever

45:34

such a thing as

45:35

evangelical apologetics uh the your

45:39

reason is gonna

45:40

only ever get in the way of you having

45:42

the encounter with god

45:44

that is necessary for sincere christian

45:47

faith

45:47

and so if you're going to lead somebody

45:49

to that kind of encounter and

45:51

let's be honest when we're dealing with

45:54

our

45:54

fundamentalist friends and family that's

45:57

what we're doing

45:58

i mean our hope anyway i think

46:01

is that we want them to experience what

46:04

we experienced

46:05

to use another philosophical metaphor

46:08

leaving the cave

46:09

and seeing the sunshine and figuring out

46:12

what

46:13

a freer more sophisticated faith can be

46:15

like we want that for them too

46:18

but approaching that intellectually

46:21

you know shooting arguments at them

46:23

trying to get them to see

46:25

that their position is irrational

46:27

probably not the way to do it

46:29

and so you have to figure out a form of

46:31

communication that is indirect

46:34

and that can take a lot of different

46:35

forms and for me the form that it tends

46:37

to take

46:38

is building a relationship of trust

46:42

around whatever i can find in common

46:45

with that person even if it's just

46:47

we both like woodford reserve that could

46:50

be the whole basis

46:52

of our relationship at the beginning but

46:54

building some trust

46:55

first and then also secondarily

46:58

not having an agenda for where i need

47:02

this to go

47:04

and that that requires a lot of

47:05

self-work getting to the place where

47:08

i'm genuinely okay if this does not lead

47:11

to their conversion

47:12

if this does not lead to their departure

47:15

from fundamentalism

47:17

my goal is this relationship and

47:21

loving them well and modeling for them

47:23

what i think

47:24

christian faith looks like to me or what

47:27

i think agape looks like

47:29

and i don't need it to necessarily turn

47:31

out a certain way

47:32

and that's just something i have to work

47:34

on for myself but in my experience when

47:36

you

47:36

approach a relationship that way it's

47:39

much more likely to end up in the place

47:41

that

47:42

you would hope that it would but

47:44

indirectly

47:48

a couple of years ago i was sitting on a

47:50

beach

47:52

on a northwoods wisconsin lake just

47:54

beautiful

47:56

place and what i consider just paradise

47:59

this beautiful place and i was

48:01

on a bonfire it was probably midnight or

48:04

later and just by myself and there was

48:06

no moon and the sky was just

48:08

full of stars and i could see the milky

48:11

way everything was just brilliant

48:13

and i remember just it just took my

48:14

breath away and i remember thinking

48:17

how could i ever think that i could

48:20

wrap my hands around you

48:21

[Music]

48:23

how could i ever think that i could know

48:25

you

48:26

fully it just seemed silly in that

48:30

moment

48:30

and that was the actual i felt closer to

48:33

god in that moment than i had

48:35

in a lot of different worship

48:37

experiences or

48:39

enlightened times and that's kind of

48:42

what my journey's been like

48:44

god has just gotten bigger and better

48:46

and more beautiful

48:47

i expect that in five years my my vision

48:50

of god and my

48:51

my understanding of god is going to be

48:53

bigger and better and more beautiful i

48:54

just expect it to happen i expect it to

48:56

change

48:57

and to morph and to grow and to get

48:59

better because

49:01

god has never been more beautiful and

49:03

attractive to me

49:04

than he is right now the person of the

49:06

christ

49:08

has blown up my world and the scriptures

49:11

really are responsible for it but many

49:13

of us

49:13

just don't want to pay attention to what

49:16

the scriptures actually say

49:17

about who god is in jesus christ so

49:20

that's where i am i'm

49:22

i'm enthralled i'm all in i'm more in

49:24

than i ever have been

49:25

um and that doesn't mean i don't have

49:27

doubts or don't think that

49:29

this might i might be you know getting

49:31

paid to mislead people sometimes i think

49:33

that

49:34

but more often than not i'm just i'm all

49:37

in on jesus

49:53

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49:58

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