A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar

Two Pastors and Two Philosophers Walk Into a Bar

September 22, 2021 Randy Knie, Kyle Whitaker Season 2 Episode 5
A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar
Two Pastors and Two Philosophers Walk Into a Bar
Show Notes Transcript

This is a fun one, friends.

In this episode, we chat with Sameer and Sharad Yadav - identical twin brothers who are a pastor and a philosopher. No, really.

Sameer is a theologian and a philosopher who teaches religious studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, CA, and Sharad is Lead Pastor of Bread and Wine, a church in Portland, OR. We chatted about so much - theology, philosophy, the current reality and future of the church, mysticism, wonder, mystery, and apophatic spirituality, just to name a few. Also, we laughed. A lot. These guys are a snarky, irreverent riot.

We tasted the incredible Elliot mead from Manic Meadery in Crown Point, IN. It's joy in a cup.

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher)

00:02

so in the interview that you're about to

00:04

hear one of our guests mentions a thing

00:06

that he wrote on facebook and we never

00:08

actually got to talk about specifically

00:10

what that was but i want to read it for

00:12

you now to launch off the episode

00:14

so this is sharad yadav

00:18

if kierkegaard is right and all

00:20

distinctions between the many different

00:22

kinds of love are essentially abolished

00:24

by christianity

00:25

then the beauty of that vision which

00:27

entices me to follow the breadcrumbs of

00:29

joy found in its daily foreshadowing in

00:32

casually spoken kindnesses routine

00:35

dignities regular human regard

00:37

actually invites an impossible burden

00:40

into my life

00:41

if i were to stoop to look at the

00:43

stained and dilapidated face piled on

00:46

top of the crumpled garbage lying

00:47

against the bus stop

00:49

only to see my father

00:51

or to spy two police officers fist

00:53

bumping one another with sickening

00:54

bravado after dislocating an elderly

00:57

alzheimer's patient's shoulder

00:59

only to recognize my own brother and

01:00

sister

01:02

and on and on multiplied by every

01:03

conceivable human failure and tragedy

01:06

how would life cease to be a horror

01:09

why would anyone willingly thaw that

01:11

blessed insensitivity which allows us to

01:14

live with such ubiquitous pain

01:16

christ's passion is the only version of

01:18

love that seems to notice that when you

01:20

open yourself to the world it will

01:22

crucify you

01:24

after having fallen in love with his

01:25

vision i feel doomed to the necessity of

01:28

it because i'm wedded to the hope of it

01:31

i very often find that to be a misery

01:34

not a joy

01:35

when i hear peter's words to whom else

01:37

should we go for you have the words of

01:39

life it's hard for me not to sympathize

01:42

with the tragic desperation of that

01:44

sentiment

01:45

the idea of human brotherhood no longer

01:47

warms my heart as much as it terrifies

01:50

me with its awesome emotional demands

01:55

[Music]

01:58

welcome to a pastor and philosopher

02:00

walking to a bar today on the show we're

02:02

talking with a couple of guys that i've

02:03

been wanting to have on the show for a

02:05

long time and was fortunate enough to

02:06

get them both on simultaneously and that

02:08

is sameer and sharad yadav who are

02:11

identical twin brothers one of them is a

02:13

pastor in portland the other is a

02:15

theologian in santa barbara california

02:18

but also basically a philosopher he

02:20

works on issues that are very

02:22

philosophical so they're basically the

02:24

perfect pair of people to have on our

02:26

show yeah and this is just a really

02:27

delightful but also profound

02:29

conversation that we're going to have so

02:31

you're in for a treat yeah and i mean

02:34

super fun conversation i have i don't

02:36

think i've left that much at an episode

02:38

during an episode uh yet and also just

02:41

want to say there is a little bit of

02:43

a little bit of swearing so you might

02:44

want if you're listening in the car with

02:46

your kids

02:47

wait or put on put on ear buds but yeah

02:50

get ready it's a fun episode yeah good

02:52

stuff and we have some fun to drink

02:54

today too that i'm really excited about

02:55

so

02:56

i texted elliot today randomly asking

02:58

him when his birthday was and it turns

03:00

out that it's in like what four days

03:02

yeah so i've been sitting on this i

03:04

bought it specifically for you because

03:06

it's called elliott

03:09

so this is amazing this is the first

03:11

mead we've had on the show so not a beer

03:13

not a whiskey not a wine i'm excited

03:15

this is some people claim the oldest

03:17

beverage humans have ever made i don't

03:19

know if there's good evidence that it's

03:21

actually older than wine or beer but

03:23

maybe it is i don't know dr pepper

03:25

basically

03:26

yeah other than dr pepper the oldest

03:28

beverage basically every country that

03:30

has a long history has some version of

03:32

mead in there in their history uh

03:35

basically just a fermented honey

03:37

beverage so you can think of it as wine

03:39

but made from honeys and honey instead

03:41

of grapes uh so what we have in front of

03:43

us is from a place called manic meadery

03:46

in crown point indiana and this is a

03:48

melomell which means it's made with

03:50

fruit so this is a blueberry meat and

03:53

i'm gonna i'm gonna say something strong

03:54

here say something extreme but i think

03:57

mead particularly melamels are the best

04:00

tasting things in existence

04:03

now i haven't had this one so i can't i

04:06

can't make that claim for this one but

04:08

i've had meads that i would take over

04:10

any whiskey

04:12

any wine any beer the last thing i want

04:15

to have in my mouth when i die

04:17

is a mead

04:18

shaking

04:20

so so this one's called elliot happy

04:22

birthday yeah

04:24

cheer cheers

04:26

i have never had a meat

04:28

i've had a mead but it was the what's

04:31

what's the fermented honey in water and

04:32

that's it just traditional yeah it

04:34

doesn't really have a fancy name i've

04:35

had a traditional meat i want to sit and

04:37

smell this before i before i yeah

04:42

just crazy

04:43

oh i want a i want like air freshener

04:46

that smells like this this is just

04:49

it smells like summer

04:51

and wild flowers and like honey ish i

04:55

mean it's i could just smell this you

04:57

want to taste this

04:59

when you die i want to just

05:00

smell this when i die yeah

05:02

so they say that um this is one pound of

05:05

blueberries and half a pound of honey

05:07

for every bottle say that again whoa a

05:09

pound of blueberries and half a pound of

05:10

honey per bottle that's nice i use

05:12

orange blossom honey this is delightful

05:15

orange blossom honey yeah but it's waste

05:17

so for all of that concentrated flavor

05:20

in in this bottle i would never imagine

05:22

it because it's very subtle like it's

05:25

yeah even if you use honey and cooking

05:27

often it can overpower the dish you it's

05:29

the only thing you get you can tell

05:30

there's honey in here but not that much

05:32

honey that's oh yeah i'm insane yeah and

05:34

it's pretty expensive running too this

05:36

is such a sensual experience i mean i'm

05:39

telling you man

05:40

you lift the glass to your mouth and you

05:41

just

05:42

your world gets lightened by the aroma

05:45

and then you taste it and it's

05:47

it's less than you think you're gonna be

05:49

getting but it's just right yeah this is

05:52

it's really impossible to describe a

05:54

good metal mill to somebody who's not

05:56

had one

05:57

i mean it's it's like an after this is a

05:59

dessert one oh for sure for sure and

06:01

this is 14 so it comes out like a strong

06:03

wine basically and it's so swirly yeah

06:06

you have to be careful

06:08

i'm in love and this is a still mead

06:10

which means it's not carbonated as you

06:12

can see it's just um kind of viscous and

06:14

it would be interesting if this was

06:16

carbonated so there are

06:18

there are carbonated meats and yeah um i

06:20

don't prefer them but i've had some

06:21

pretty good ones too

06:23

oh someday i'm gonna make

06:25

something i'm gonna make that highlight

06:26

reel of all of randy's reaction noises

06:28

just back to back to back

06:30

that'll be a special i'll decide this is

06:32

a bad idea and i will not save it

06:35

special patreon release randy going

06:37

for an hour

06:41

i don't care what you say

06:43

this is the meat exists because god

06:45

loves us i mean for sure dude for sure

06:47

gosh yeah

06:49

okay yeah you're when it's my birthday

06:51

do i get a bottle of that um

06:54

i cannot give you something yeah yeah

06:57

i have no joke probably 50 bottles of

06:59

meat

07:00

so yeah

07:02

it's a little bit of a problem all right

07:04

so you're very overstated i would prefer

07:07

this to any whiskey any bourbon

07:11

i i don't know if i totally agree but

07:13

now

07:14

now what you said isn't ridiculous to me

07:16

yeah it's good yeah

07:18

yeah and this is i mean this is good and

07:20

this is i think the meat that put them

07:21

on the mat

07:22

yeah that was their most popular to

07:24

begin with and they have a bunch of

07:25

versions of it like

07:26

breakfast elliot which has like coffee

07:28

in it and i've got a chocolate one at

07:30

home so it's like chocolate and blue i

07:31

don't want that but like on the level of

07:33

needs that i've had this is pretty

07:35

middle of the road so all right so i

07:37

mean

07:38

i don't i don't want to enter into your

07:40

binary world of having to like compete

07:42

against whiskeys and beers and wines

07:44

this is just pure

07:46

delight in a cup and a lot of needs are

07:48

aged in like really nice whiskey barrels

07:50

and stuff yeah so we've already talked

07:52

about it way too long so let's finish up

07:53

the tasting to say if you find a mead

07:56

buy it

07:58

yeah

07:59

cheers yeah cheers

08:04

well sameer and sharad yadav thanks so

08:06

much for being on a pastor and

08:08

philosopher walking to a bar

08:09

thanks man thanks great for having us

08:12

awesome

08:13

can both of you tell us just a little

08:15

bit about your background or who you are

08:17

why you're why are you on the show

08:19

other than that i begged you good

08:21

question

08:22

why are we on show yeah

08:26

my press agent said this would be good

08:27

for my uh for i mean i gave you guys all

08:29

the head shots

08:30

[Laughter]

08:32

but no we i think it's

08:34

finding out about your show is pretty

08:36

cool because it's sort of

08:38

the title of it is like the description

08:40

of our relationships

08:43

so it's kind of cool yeah so smear and i

08:46

we obviously

08:48

sucked nutrients from the same placenta

08:50

growing up

08:52

and uh we were yeah yeah you know

08:55

identical twins monozygotic so same dna

08:59

same infirmities same devastating good

09:02

looks

09:04

i think the the conversion experience

09:06

that i had in college is kind of where

09:08

all this started and then shortly after

09:11

my conversion experience uh sameer sort

09:14

of said i guess i'll walk in here and

09:15

take a look around and he he and i both

09:18

in different ways i think have been

09:21

trying to prosecute what it means to be

09:23

a christian or why we think it would

09:26

that would be something we would want to

09:27

do

09:28

as our career choices so that's the

09:30

sphere in which we work out our

09:32

anxieties and our own questions about

09:34

whether any of this stuff makes any

09:36

sense and so yeah sameer went the

09:39

academic route and i went the pastoral

09:40

route and yeah and we took a little

09:42

detour into a uh testicle crushing

09:46

fundamentalism

09:48

so anyway but yeah we just got one left

09:51

i guess

09:54

being twins we can also be donors for

09:56

each other so that's pretty cool it

09:57

worked out it worked out yeah

10:00

yeah so i mean my you know one one kind

10:03

of feature of that story is that my

10:05

parents immigrated

10:07

to the united states from from india and

10:10

so

10:11

and then moved to kansas and from kansas

10:12

to idaho and then we were born and

10:13

raised in rural idaho

10:15

and so our our uh upbringing

10:18

was one marked by a sort of profound

10:21

questions of belonging and and uh sort

10:24

of existential issues and and struggle

10:27

that raised religious questions i think

10:29

both of us

10:30

were unusually

10:32

contemplative reflective types for just

10:35

in part in response to the pressures of

10:37

the kind of environment in which we were

10:40

growing up and so

10:41

a lot of working out

10:43

of various questions about what is life

10:46

in the world and all of everything about

10:48

we're we're shaped in a very particular

10:50

kind of social context you know in which

10:53

it's easier to ask those questions when

10:54

things when pieces don't fit properly so

10:57

so i think that that's something that

10:58

we've continued in our own different

11:00

ways to reflect on and has shaped our

11:03

respective vocations in perhaps

11:05

different ways but also overlapping ways

11:07

that that we continue to work out in our

11:08

relationship over time yeah yeah well i

11:10

would love for you to take us into that

11:12

a little bit if you're willing to i mean

11:14

you said it sharad you're a pastor sameer

11:17

you're a i'm going to say philosopher

11:19

even though i think your degree is

11:20

technically in theology but you wrote

11:21

your dissertation trained theologian who

11:23

does some philosophy of religion and

11:25

sure yeah anybody that wrote a

11:26

dissertation on william alston as a

11:27

philosopher

11:29

in my opinion so uh

11:32

yeah there you go and you signed up yeah

11:34

and philosophy wilfred sellers is in his

11:36

marriage vows

11:38

he's definitely a philosopher so yeah

11:41

wife and family what they have to deal

11:42

with nice

11:43

nice so um

11:45

have there been areas where

11:48

sameer where sharad's pastoral

11:51

gifting or vocation has actually formed

11:53

your scholarship

11:55

same thing in the other direction what

11:57

what take us into your conversations a

11:58

little bit if you if you can

12:00

i i would say that i thought about this

12:03

a little bit in anticipation of of our

12:05

conversation and it's such a difficult

12:07

question to answer because

12:09

i don't think of the way in which

12:11

sharad's ministry and

12:13

pastoral

12:14

vocation informs

12:17

my work as being a really

12:20

discreet kind of thing it's much more

12:23

like the kind of work he does is

12:25

informed by

12:27

his own attempting to take seriously

12:30

his christian confession and to help

12:32

others to think about what it might mean

12:35

to take that seriously and to be

12:36

part of that discernment together in a

12:39

way that has practical stakes so that

12:41

one is

12:42

invested in the answer to that question

12:44

in the way that one

12:45

prosecutes the everyday features of

12:47

one's life and i think that that

12:50

kind of vocation is is one that overlaps

12:53

substantially with my own so

12:55

i think that one dimension to attempting

12:58

to to take one's christian confession

13:00

seriously and to help others to venture

13:03

to make a venture as to what that might

13:04

look like in their lives one one

13:06

dimension of that is is intellectual and

13:08

educative so

13:10

there's a natural connection to the kind

13:12

of work that i do as a theologian i mean

13:13

to be a theologian is just to have a

13:16

vested interest in the truth of the

13:19

subject matter that you're that you're

13:21

investigating in this case questions

13:23

about god's relationship to the world

13:25

and stuff like that and so yeah there

13:27

are there are those questions get

13:29

manifest differently in this context but

13:31

it's in in the context of doing academic

13:33

work or whatever

13:34

but there's a sense in which teaching

13:36

students is a form of is a kind of

13:39

spiritual formation by way of

13:42

contemplation

13:43

and i think that there's something about

13:45

that work that is deeply resonant with

13:47

the pastoral work and the and the

13:49

particularly the kind of pastoral work

13:50

that my brother does so

13:52

so i think that but let me put it this

13:54

way though once practical vested

13:56

interest in the questions one one asks

13:58

as a as an academic sometimes have to be

14:00

backgrounded rather than foregrounded

14:03

right they're not like what you're

14:04

actually investigating they're just kind

14:06

of a program running in the background

14:08

whereas it's front and center for what

14:09

sharad does

14:11

and so when we talk it has the ability

14:14

to be a front and center conversation

14:16

that is

14:17

explicit like why does this actually

14:19

matter how does this actually work and

14:21

those kinds of questions so that's the

14:22

kind of stuff we talk about

14:24

yeah i think that's i like the

14:25

background foreground kind of thing

14:26

because i think that that works pretty

14:29

well as an analogy

14:30

to how sameer works for me too i mean you

14:32

know what he's describing i think is

14:34

it's like all of the work that that

14:36

sameer does in theology and race and in

14:39

apophaticism and mysticism and and

14:41

concepts of wonder and all this work he

14:43

does

14:44

is deeply existentially motivated you

14:47

know it's like it's it's rooted not just

14:50

in who he is but in he's not just doing

14:53

conceptual analysis

14:54

as a kind of like gymnastic fun you know

14:58

it's he's got real

15:00

stakes in the questions that he's trying

15:02

to to come and he takes him pretty

15:04

seriously and i think maybe our

15:06

relationship uh connects with each other

15:08

over those existential concerns over

15:12

because neither one of us want to

15:13

believe [ __ ] you know

15:14

and i think

15:16

his scholarly work then sort of like is

15:19

standing in the background of my i kind

15:21

of think about like the album cover of

15:23

in fear of a black planet you know like

15:24

that public anime album where the guys

15:26

are just standing in the background with

15:28

their sunglasses on and that so every

15:29

time i am preaching or teaching or

15:32

counseling i've got

15:34

i've got sameer

15:36

in

15:36

standing in the background guarding the

15:38

door as a kind of is what i am saying

15:41

does it really make any sense

15:43

is it in good conscience something that

15:46

i can commend to somebody and not be a

15:48

kind of used car salesman you know

15:51

and i think sameer is wanting to not be

15:54

just a kind of academic fraud really you

15:58

know like somebody who's engaging this

16:00

work

16:01

for whatever the vicious reasons might

16:03

be for that to build a name or a career

16:06

or just to publish for his own

16:08

self-satisfaction i mean there's deeper

16:10

things at stake and i think we both help

16:12

shape the way we come at it with people

16:15

yeah order this descend into mere puzzle

16:17

solving you know like we're just sort of

16:19

like oh here's some something that you

16:21

can kind of fiddle with and and work a

16:24

thing so you can crank an article out of

16:26

it or something i mean that's not i'm

16:27

just not interested in that yeah and and

16:29

one of the but i to say i'm not

16:30

interested it doesn't mean i'm not

16:32

tempted to that but part of the part of

16:34

the anchoring of our relationship is to

16:37

keep keep a kind of focus on on the work

16:40

that religious questions actually do you

16:42

know like what work gets done by asking

16:45

and answering these questions

16:47

is that how it works for you guys i mean

16:48

do you have a similar dynamic with both

16:50

of you well we didn't grow up we didn't

16:52

share a womb

16:55

a little bit different yeah i mean

16:56

randy's my pastor so

16:58

we just had a bunch of conversations for

17:00

several years about intellectual and

17:02

theological things and then we started

17:04

doing these q and a's at our church

17:06

where i would emcee and then kind of

17:07

help out with some of the more academic

17:09

questions and we realized we had a nice

17:11

dynamic and people told us we should

17:12

have a podcast so here we are

17:15

it's really not that complicated

17:17

[Applause]

17:20

then we realized we could talk to people

17:21

like you by just asking so yeah

17:24

it pays for itself but i would say that

17:27

um

17:28

kyle's influence has

17:30

definitely in some some you know whether

17:32

they're smaller large ways influenced my

17:34

the way i teach and preach particularly

17:36

bringing like this idea of epistemic

17:38

humility is something that i wasn't in

17:40

my orb until kyle came into my world and

17:42

hopefully i had some innately in there

17:45

but um he's helped me pay attention a

17:46

lot more to it and also this idea of

17:49

certainty there's a number of things

17:51

that kyle and his philosophical

17:53

questions and

17:55

just dealing with what's real has really

17:57

really shaped and influenced and helped

17:59

me like look at things differently and

18:01

also make sure that i'm not talking

18:03

[ __ ] like you said yeah yeah right

18:05

on yeah that's really cool i think

18:07

that's the gift of it is that there's a

18:09

kind of i have a form of accountability

18:11

with sameer that i don't have with

18:13

anybody else you know likewise you know

18:15

one of the i recently

18:17

not terribly recently but there was like

18:18

this this theological journal online

18:20

journal called syndicate and one of the

18:22

things that they did was to do a kind of

18:23

study of the state of theological

18:26

academy contemporary state of the

18:27

academy and and and some of the problems

18:29

that that have arisen in relationship to

18:31

certain different kinds of confessions

18:32

schools where theology gets done and one

18:34

of the perennial things that that comes

18:36

up in in conversations about theological

18:38

work is the divide between church and

18:40

academy you know so that you have

18:41

academic theologians and then you have

18:42

like actual christian constituents you

18:45

know and constituencies and that the

18:46

never the twain shall meet you know

18:48

except except if if you have

18:50

constituencies who are putting a drag on

18:53

confessional institutions to limit

18:56

academic freedom in ways that are

18:57

problematic for those people or you have

18:59

on the other hand you have a despising

19:01

of the church by the by the um the

19:03

theologian as some kind of lowbrow

19:05

sphere of people who don't know what

19:07

they're talking about or doing and so

19:09

it's really the kind of sense of mutual

19:11

responsibility to one another in terms

19:13

of academic theology and the life of the

19:14

church is voluntary yeah it's kind of

19:17

voluntary but there's a sense in which

19:19

my relationship to my brother is

19:23

you know what involuntary mean like yeah

19:25

and so there's a kind of there's a kind

19:27

of accountability in that that is

19:28

something that that i think would be

19:30

great if it were it could be propagated

19:32

more widely you know

19:33

yeah i've mentioned several times on the

19:35

show that i have a text thread that with

19:37

a couple other philosophers that we've

19:38

got going for probably five or six years

19:40

and it's it's something similar to that

19:42

like i tell my students that philosophy

19:44

gives you a superpower of [ __ ]

19:46

detection yeah yeah see through anything

19:48

but like it's nice when it's invited

19:51

yeah yeah yeah exactly to know that

19:54

someone's gonna call it like i'm you

19:55

know i'm probably i might get a text

19:57

after this episode from one of those

19:58

dudes telling me that thing you said was

20:00

really stupid

20:02

my detector was going crazy when i yeah

20:12

[Laughter]

20:14

i feel like i've been in your heads for

20:15

the last week i've been reading your

20:17

article sameer i've been listening to a

20:19

bunch of your uh sermons sharad oh my

20:21

god yeah yeah just to kind of prepare to

20:23

know all sorts of questions to ask so

20:25

i've got a few that i want to touch

20:26

things that you've written on sameer and

20:28

things that you've said sharad and i'd

20:30

love to get your take on both of them

20:32

even if it's not something you yourself

20:33

said so so one kind of big question that

20:35

i want to ask you sameer is

20:37

and it's as general as i can make it

20:39

what is theology

20:41

so so you wrote a paper uh where you're

20:44

kind of giving what you call a meta meta

20:46

dogmatics you have to go into all that

20:47

but like uh just very basically for

20:50

listeners who haven't really thought

20:51

about it here let me frame it this way

20:54

yeah there are people who call

20:55

themselves theologians who are catholic

20:58

protestant jewish muslim feminist

21:00

womanist liberation theologians analytic

21:02

theologians post-modernists even

21:04

atheists okay we had a famous atheistic

21:06

theologian at my alma mater so uh what

21:09

is it that all those people are doing

21:12

that is the same thing

21:14

if there if there is such a thing and

21:16

then the second part to the question is

21:18

how is that thing different from what

21:20

philosophers do because i know you're

21:21

very informed on the philosophical

21:23

methods as well yeah yeah

21:25

um so i mean

21:26

the i don't think that this is actually

21:28

that difficult question

21:30

which which is a good sign that i

21:31

probably got it wrong

21:34

but

21:35

but um i mean i just looked it up on

21:37

wikipedia

21:38

right there

21:40

webster's defines theology

21:53

my intro to christian doctrine students

21:55

you know that i teach every

21:56

two sections every semester

21:58

and when i that's how i start the

21:59

classes talking about what is theology

22:01

and what i say is all it is to do

22:03

theology is to ask what must or might be

22:06

the case if some

22:07

story is correct

22:09

a particular story about in the case of

22:11

christian theology it's a story about

22:13

god's relationship to the world and and

22:15

a story of creation redemption and that

22:17

kind of thing other kind of theologies

22:19

are theologies about god so theology can

22:21

only be done by asking what muster might

22:23

be the case if some story about god is

22:25

correct right but then it's just working

22:28

out some kind of ontological commitments

22:30

or like what are you committed to in

22:31

virtue of of some sad story

22:34

and and that's something that anyone who

22:36

has a story about god can do

22:39

right so anybody who has a story about

22:40

god and and what we might have to do

22:42

with god or what we don't have to do

22:44

with god or whether the concept of god

22:46

commits you to the existence of god or

22:48

not or whatever anybody can can try to

22:51

work out the implications of what muster

22:53

might be the case that story is correct

22:55

and that's all it is to do theology is

22:57

to is to think hard about that and

23:00

theology is therefore something that is

23:02

about

23:03

ontological commitment but depending on

23:05

one story about god it might also

23:08

involve certain kinds of other kinds of

23:10

commitments practical commitments you

23:12

know what must

23:13

or might i

23:14

have to do if this story is correct so

23:17

there's there's other kinds of

23:18

commitments other than the ontological

23:20

ones but those ones tend to be the

23:21

centering questions in

23:23

in the work of theology yeah didn't you

23:25

say a few minutes ago though that to be

23:27

a theologian is to have some kind of

23:29

practical investment in the questions

23:31

that you're studying it is it is to be a

23:33

christian theologian is to do that right

23:35

to be a christian theologian but i don't

23:36

presume to say what but you want you

23:38

want me to answer the question what is

23:39

theology in in the most generic across

23:41

the board sense that might be true and i

23:44

don't think that practical investments

23:45

are a given for any every kind of

23:48

theology i can write i can imagine

23:50

certain kinds of theology in which the

23:52

practical question is of little or no

23:53

consequence at all i don't i wouldn't

23:55

now given my commitments about what

23:57

theology is i might say that's bad

23:58

theology but i wouldn't say it's not

24:00

theology at all

24:01

that it doesn't count as theology sure

24:03

and so the second part of that question

24:05

sorry about the philosophy how does it

24:06

relate to philosophy i mean philosophy

24:09

can help us work at the the notions of

24:11

ontological commitment involved it can

24:13

help us with the inferential work that

24:16

that might be involved it can be a way

24:18

of helping us to understand what the

24:20

credences and epistemic status is of the

24:23

inferential work we're doing and trying

24:24

to do that work right it can there's

24:26

there's all kinds of ways in which

24:27

philosophy is useful for that task but

24:29

one can imagine doing philosophical work

24:32

where what one is trying to do is not

24:34

necessarily that task of trying to say

24:36

what muster might be the case that some

24:37

story about god is right

24:39

so so that so there can be a distinction

24:41

therefore between philosophy and

24:42

theology and and i mean there's some

24:44

version of this kind of this kind of way

24:46

of making the distinction is i think

24:47

what you find in aquinas so i think

24:49

there is a legitimate kind of philosophy

24:51

theology distinction but it's not a

24:53

mutual exclusivity kind of thing because

24:55

obviously doing the work of theology

24:56

kind of propels you into doing

24:58

philosophical kind of things reasoning

25:00

for example right so yeah and that that

25:02

commitment to a story that you begin

25:05

with trying to work out the coherence of

25:07

that of those commitments inside some

25:09

story is itself even a kind of approach

25:12

to theology a kind of post-literal

25:13

approach to theology and i think you

25:16

could even

25:17

step back and say

25:19

just in the most generic probably

25:20

unhelpful sense i guess but theology is

25:23

just it's the discipline of trying not

25:25

to say dumb things about god you know

25:28

it's like

25:29

you know how do we talk about this

25:32

you know

25:33

whatever it is you mean by it what how

25:35

do we talk about god and so you can see

25:37

why theology would be super important

25:39

for ministers i mean it's like that's

25:41

their job they have to talk about god

25:42

all the time and so theologians are

25:46

working out in different maybe narrative

25:48

contexts different amongst different

25:50

communities how to make sense of their

25:53

own communities claims about those

25:55

things um how it works inside those

25:57

communities so you sort of just answered

25:59

my next question to you which is the

26:01

version of the question i just asked

26:02

sameer like what how do you understand

26:04

the vocation of a pastor and i'm

26:05

particularly interested in

26:07

some i've talked about with friends for

26:08

a long time what is is there an

26:10

expertise involved in past years

26:13

so what is it um because i think pastors

26:16

generally speaking are hacks at other

26:19

things that they should have probably

26:21

done instead

26:24

middle managers they are bureaucrats

26:27

they are marketing people they are

26:30

musicians they are stand-up comedians

26:33

they are

26:34

fill in the blank they that's probably

26:36

what they should have done instead but

26:37

they just kind of try to hose the jesus

26:40

juice on whatever it is they

26:41

they you know whatever thing that they

26:44

that floats their boat vocationally

26:46

which means that most pastors i think

26:48

don't have a sense for what they do in

26:50

any distinction from one of those other

26:53

vocations it's almost like we're all of

26:54

those things we're we're bad

26:57

therapists and theologians and etc

27:00

anyway yeah maybe some of my

27:02

self-loathing's coming into that answer

27:04

but also

27:05

uh i think there is a historical

27:07

definition of what a pastor is that

27:09

actually is the only reason i'm

27:11

interested in it and that definition has

27:14

to do with facilitating a person's union

27:17

with god so i i think a pastor's

27:21

vocation

27:22

actually makes them mostly irrelevant to

27:25

all of those other things other people

27:27

are better at those things other

27:29

people's jobs are to do those things but

27:31

what i want to do is to be the one

27:33

person who has no agenda for your life

27:36

that's not trying to cram you into

27:38

anything and my job is to pay attention

27:41

to you

27:42

and to pay attention to the divine life

27:45

inside of you and to help draw your own

27:48

attention to the workings of god inside

27:51

the shape of your life however it's

27:53

given oh that's nice

27:55

so and that work is not

27:58

deeply sought after

28:01

not a lot of people are in line wanting

28:03

that work most people

28:05

sort of i think want a pastor to

28:07

answer unanswerable questions they want

28:10

pastors to

28:11

give

28:12

vision and direction that takes the

28:14

responsibility off of them to actually

28:16

know what god is doing in their own life

28:18

they want pastors to in some ways

28:21

take up the

28:23

unique

28:24

burdens and struggles that come that

28:27

attend christian christian vocation

28:29

christian belonging

28:30

and sort of chew that food for people

28:33

and then spit it spit it back into their

28:35

into their mouths or these days just

28:37

affirm what all the cable news

28:39

tells them to think right like from

28:40

everything that they believe right

28:41

already right so that i i stated in a

28:44

very highly individualistic sense that

28:46

this this contemplative work of

28:48

spiritual direction prayer and attending

28:50

to the voice of god inside of people's

28:52

lives but also there's a communal work

28:53

to it which is that the the job of the

28:56

people of god together is to provide

28:58

some kind of corporate witness to the

29:00

life of god in the world today so what

29:02

just like a theologian's job is

29:04

intellectually to say

29:05

how

29:06

is this story coherent what ontological

29:09

commitments

29:10

would i have to make in order for this

29:12

store to believe this story

29:14

a a church is a living community that

29:17

says what would this community have to

29:19

be like if any of this story was true

29:23

you know what what

29:24

would the shape of our

29:26

relationships be what would the shape of

29:28

our financial commitments be what would

29:30

the shape of our

29:31

emotional and imaginative lives our

29:34

vocations all of that is wrapped up in

29:37

inhabiting

29:38

this story of god's redemption in christ

29:42

and that's one of the scary things about

29:43

being

29:45

christian

29:46

and supposing that christianity is

29:47

correct it's that one of its truth

29:51

conditions or satisfaction condition or

29:53

the condition for the possibility of

29:54

truth or christianity is that a certain

29:56

kind of community exists yeah or or can

29:59

exist yeah and if it can't or doesn't

30:01

then christianity is false it's false

30:03

that's right so what

30:05

if that's right but if that's right it's

30:07

a natural joint between the work of

30:08

theology and the work of pastoral

30:09

ministry right because yeah because of

30:11

the attempt to figure out what are the

30:13

truth conditions and that that's why i

30:14

think sameer works for me

30:20

just an aide in my on my cabinet i feel

30:23

like you know

30:25

the fact is all of the truth conditions

30:28

of christian belief

30:29

rest

30:30

on some living breathing incarnate

30:33

community that says look what sort of

30:36

life is possible because there is a god

30:38

and he is like the crucified jesus you

30:41

know yep

30:42

uh i want to get your name right sharad

30:45

sharad how do i uh well let's what

30:47

we're going to have to do is conference

30:48

call my mom so you guys

30:51

just hold on yeah hold on no so i i say

30:54

sharad it i've said sharad since

30:55

kindergarten because that's what other

30:57

kids say and uh they must be right so

31:00

there you go

31:01

but my name is actually pronounced sharad

31:05

and not even my wife will do it i mean

31:07

so i have

31:08

when i'm dead someday which is the other

31:11

job of a pastor to focus everyone on the

31:13

day of their own death

31:14

it's going to be really amazing to have

31:15

people come through the mic and speak

31:18

tearfully about me and say my name wrong

31:20

like everyone says

31:22

i i refuse to do it though

31:26

sharad meant so much to me

31:29

who's that

31:30

yeah nice sharad could you tell us just

31:33

tell us about your church oh sure yeah

31:36

so

31:37

this is a small

31:39

what was a non-denominational community

31:42

that was planted about 10 years ago

31:46

by

31:47

a group of independent

31:49

bible church type folks from arkansas

31:52

that came into portland to save all the

31:55

sodomites

31:58

and they they so they uh

32:00

they um they planted this church that

32:04

was really a pretty beautiful little

32:06

collection of intentional communities so

32:08

they didn't even meet on sunday mornings

32:10

really they just had a kind of network

32:12

of intentional communities that would

32:13

reach out to they moved to the poorest

32:14

neighborhoods and in the city and they

32:17

did really good work inviting people

32:18

into their homes into their lives they

32:20

you know the problem was that the the

32:23

burden on these home church leaders

32:25

which were you know mostly lay folks was

32:28

enormous it was just so much work that

32:30

it was just not sustainable and then

32:32

housing prices in portland will get your

32:34

ass kicked out of a neighborhood pretty

32:36

quick so you know you'll you'll get

32:38

priced out through rent increases and

32:40

things like that so having a church

32:42

organized around these communities

32:43

proved to be pretty difficult so it was

32:44

pretty tumultuous pretty emotionally

32:46

draining the main teaching pastor

32:48

stepped out around eight years ago just

32:51

totally burned out and i was in a church

32:54

in idaho that i had planted as a

32:55

personal therapy group for myself

32:58

and this church was doing fine we had a

33:00

handful of people that said hey

33:02

as long as you want to make this thing

33:04

work we will pay your salary so

33:07

so it was a sweet little time for me to

33:09

recover from the 12 years of bible

33:11

church craziness yeah that i had in this

33:13

fundamentalist environment and in that

33:15

little halfway house of safety and

33:18

respite i kind of felt like i think i'm

33:20

i'm probably ready to go do something

33:23

new again so i moved to portland i heard

33:25

about this church from friends of

33:27

friends kind of a thing they were in

33:29

some of the same networks and so yeah i

33:32

said here's all my baggage here's all my

33:34

doubts here's all my convictions that

33:36

differ from yours and here's why you

33:39

probably shouldn't hire me and then they

33:40

said

33:43

we could probably live with that and

33:45

then they they took me on so yeah right

33:48

now we we've just made a move to the

33:50

evangelical covenant church as a

33:52

denomination so i've been moving away

33:54

from a kind of conservative

33:56

evangelicalism bible church kind of

33:58

environment towards a more i think broad

34:01

embrace of the christian tradition and

34:03

so the ecc

34:04

was founded as a denomination that said

34:08

a credible conversion is all we need for

34:10

membership and that's it no doctrinal

34:14

gauntlet to run that's it and so so it

34:17

tries to embrace lots of different

34:19

convictions in one

34:21

in one family so we're trying to live

34:22

that out with five or so other covenant

34:25

churches in portland and yeah i mean

34:28

it's a mostly white church so

34:30

that's just like i grew up and well just

34:33

like i went to school and uh just like

34:35

you'll die and just like old though

34:38

no it's i it's sad in some ways i i

34:41

after george floyd died i've been

34:44

wrestling pretty deeply with how much

34:46

racial trauma sameer and i have both

34:48

experienced growing up and uh what it's

34:50

like to be in a white evangelical church

34:52

ministering so the beautiful thing about

34:54

this denomination is that they have a

34:56

very

34:57

wonderful multi-ethnic ministry in the

34:59

nation i mean they they're one of the

35:01

most diverse churches in the country

35:03

even though they're a smaller

35:04

denomination and my

35:06

coaches and supervisors they're all

35:08

chinese korean we have a a lot of

35:11

influential black pastors in our network

35:13

and yeah the ecc is great

35:16

great denomination i i want to ask both

35:18

of you because i don't know about you

35:20

sharad but i've been doing a lot of

35:23

like

35:24

big emotional emotive thinking about the

35:26

church these days and what we see in the

35:29

church what we see going on it's crazy

35:32

it's like the wild west and the church

35:34

in america and

35:36

churches are like basically cut in half

35:38

of what they were pre-coveted in many

35:40

ways and people aren't interested in the

35:42

church or people who are interested in

35:43

the church are the crazies there's you

35:45

know there's there's just so much going

35:46

on right now as you look at the

35:48

landscape of the american church right

35:49

now

35:50

tell us your thoughts what you think

35:52

about what you pray about what you you

35:53

know keeps you up at night or not

35:56

well fundamentally

35:58

man what keeps me up at night is whether

36:02

whether christianity has anything to

36:03

offer

36:04

that's what keeps me up at night i mean

36:06

you know it's the most fundamental

36:08

questions and when i look at the

36:09

american landscape of religion and

36:12

spirituality

36:13

you know i see lots of hopeful things

36:16

you know i ministered among a lot of

36:18

a lot of younger folks portland's not

36:20

quite what portlandia and the whole you

36:23

know where 20 year olds go to retire

36:25

kind of thing that the reputation it

36:27

kind of gained but it's but it is it is

36:30

a lot of young folks yeah it's kind of

36:32

like that

36:33

and

36:34

what's amazing is that

36:36

the phenomena of deconstruction and

36:38

de-churching that people are going

36:40

through

36:40

is largely

36:42

kind of ironically out of a desire to

36:44

preserve elements of the of the vision

36:46

of jesus that says if it's between that

36:50

and my religion then kind of [ __ ] my

36:53

religion i'm done i'm i'm you know

36:56

and uh and the hopefulness of that

36:58

is that

36:59

those folks

37:01

they take their neighbors

37:03

pretty seriously

37:04

you know

37:05

and they don't view their neighbors as a

37:08

vehicle

37:09

to getting to god or in chalking up

37:12

their their neighbors or their

37:14

conversions

37:15

as a kind of like the work of the church

37:17

they they have a much broader type of

37:20

fundamental commitment to justice in the

37:22

world and i think those things are

37:24

actually very very hopeful but the

37:26

problem is of course that the work of

37:28

the church is to organize

37:31

our lives

37:33

around not just that work but our

37:36

commitments to each other

37:37

and that's where it's so scary and

37:40

difficult i mean you know as you're a

37:42

pastor like you're making calls about

37:44

masks and when and how we can gather and

37:47

you have half the people saying bro it's

37:49

fear it's fear what about faith and then

37:52

you have other people saying you know

37:54

like i said i'll see it in 20 years like

37:57

we're living in the mad max thunderdome

37:59

and i probably will be pissing out at

38:01

church for a long time because it's just

38:03

too dangerous and you're supposed to

38:05

navigate these realities and and i have

38:08

lots of you know younger folks in our

38:10

church whose parents are

38:12

very

38:12

very conservative and they are not you

38:15

know

38:16

and so this line that runs down the

38:18

middle of churches in the middle of

38:20

families that are dividing people

38:22

against each other and i think our work

38:25

is to figure out how to love your enemy

38:28

without abandoning the most vulnerable

38:32

that's though that's the work

38:34

churches are man they're right in the

38:36

middle of it because

38:38

we're supposed to be

38:40

constantly with one eye on the most

38:42

vulnerable in our communities

38:44

drawing together

38:45

these folks who really don't trust or

38:47

like each other very much yeah and so i

38:50

think forgiveness

38:52

is the biggest most practical

38:54

and powerful work of the church in this

38:58

era it's like we have to minister

39:00

forgiveness forgiveness of sins

39:03

and that starts with each other

39:05

and i know it sounds super pollyanna but

39:06

it's like we're supposed to be the one

39:08

place

39:10

in a person's life that they're gonna

39:12

sit with the with such radical

39:15

difference that the only thing that

39:16

brings them together

39:17

is jesus so

39:20

i love seeing the ways in which that's

39:22

true in my church and i i cry and i stay

39:25

up at night thinking about all the ways

39:26

it's not yeah so me or any thoughts my

39:29

experience was

39:31

with students it very much echoes what

39:33

what chart's saying about what is

39:35

driving people away from church and what

39:38

is hopeful about even some of the exodus

39:41

is a is what's hopeful about it is is

39:44

reform or or some kind of recon

39:47

reconstruction

39:48

of christianity and what it what it's

39:51

about most basically about that that i

39:53

think we should have some hope in but i

39:56

also think that

39:57

i mean i guess who was it with sociology

39:59

like robert with now maybe who who talks

40:02

about american religion as really

40:05

uniquely

40:06

indexed to political affiliation

40:09

such that

40:11

you have a more strong predictor of

40:13

unity and disunity across political

40:16

rather than religious lines even even

40:18

than racial lines

40:20

yeah

40:21

right exactly so it's in a lot of ways a

40:23

unique kind of situation

40:26

in america the american church but it's

40:28

also in a lot of ways a hangover from a

40:30

kind of past that we're not really

40:32

willing to confront yeah

40:34

what keeps me up at night is just the

40:36

thing we were talking about earlier

40:38

about

40:38

whether the truth of christianity can be

40:40

sustained by the existence of

40:41

communities

40:43

that show that it actually isn't just bs

40:46

you know yeah yeah

40:47

and all it takes in order to

40:50

to be despairing about that is proximity

40:52

to the to

40:54

christians

40:54

[Laughter]

40:59

yeah and so and so the kind of hard work

41:02

that i think sharad's talking about the

41:03

hard work of forgiveness the hard work

41:05

of reconciliation that it's like when i

41:07

when i think about reconciliation

41:08

forgiveness and reparation which i think

41:10

has to be part of what we are talking

41:12

about we talk about reconciliation amen

41:13

amen we're talking about all that kind

41:14

of work it's like

41:16

some people hear that and they hear what

41:18

like what what sharad described as kind

41:20

of pollyannish kind of like oh

41:22

sentimentality of kind of whatever i

41:25

hear those words and i think of like

41:27

dismantling a nuclear weapon you know

41:29

what i mean like the shaking hands and

41:31

the plutonium you know not wanting

41:33

something to explode wow you know what i

41:35

mean um because

41:37

because the work of interpersonal

41:39

relationship

41:40

when it's sort of ramified by the kind

41:43

of context of polarization and so on

41:46

that work is something that is so

41:48

there's so much incentive that runs the

41:50

other way to give up on it and just to

41:52

draw up the battle lines and say no you

41:54

know because

41:55

i think one of the things that the need

41:58

for mutual forgiveness recovery mutual

42:00

submission to the the way of jesus you

42:02

know the mutual discernment about the

42:04

way of jesus you know

42:06

that work is so threatened by the both

42:09

scientism by the kind of like okay so

42:11

now let's come together and then here's

42:13

why we have to acknowledge

42:15

your

42:16

viewpoint and my viewpoint and they both

42:18

have to be preserved so that so that our

42:20

fundamental sense of security in our own

42:22

views can be preserved in order to as a

42:24

condition for for this discernment um or

42:27

or conciliation or whatever it is which

42:30

is uh which is why i think it's so

42:31

important to talk about the a minimal

42:33

constraint of attention to those most

42:36

vulnerable that's exactly right that's

42:38

the barometer

42:39

for

42:40

not this is not a kind of

42:42

washed out libertarian i mean jesus is

42:45

not a moderate the sermon on the mount

42:47

is not moderate so you you know

42:50

the idea of bringing together

42:52

conservatives and liberals in some

42:55

unified family together is not a kind of

42:58

live and let live compromise it's a it's

43:00

a mutual call to a deep repentance

43:04

that actually rejects much of their

43:06

shared project together in a vision as

43:09

catastrophically beautiful as the sermon

43:11

on the mount man yeah man you guys are

43:15

dropping gold right here i mean this

43:17

idea of that work that hard work of

43:19

unity in the church not being some

43:22

pollyanna bs but it's actually like fear

43:24

and trembling and shaking hands and it's

43:27

almost like it's not even just any bomb

43:28

it's a time bomb it feels like it's

43:30

about to explode right so you got to do

43:32

it quick and you got to do it really

43:34

carefully and then this this idea of

43:37

jesus isn't just asking us to all be

43:38

moderates politically jesus is asking us

43:40

to put all that bs to the wayside and

43:43

unite under the mission in the way of

43:45

christ i mean yeah yeah we just we just

43:47

solved all the churches problems right

43:48

there

43:51

and then the trick is you know doing it

43:53

and that's what you know like i love

43:55

that uh it's funny i i i was just

43:57

scrolling through the show notes on it

43:59

so i saw that you had that quote from a

44:00

facebook post and i actually didn't know

44:02

i said any of that

44:04

because i i didn't really i was skimming

44:06

and then i saw that coat and i was like

44:07

man that is that's [ __ ] that guy yeah

44:11

that is dead on and then i saw that i

44:14

said it and i was like oh

44:16

so

44:17

yeah i but but it's

44:19

i think the the call to come and die and

44:22

the call to sort of take our own

44:25

the words that we we say on a sunday

44:28

morning even when we do our routine

44:30

confession of sin together for what

44:32

we've done and what we've left undone

44:34

all of the kind of routine stuff that

44:37

has such vapid content in our minds you

44:40

know

44:40

like what you just said it's harrowing

44:43

work it's like it's a lot less like a

44:47

group therapy session and a lot more

44:49

like south africa circa 96 you know

44:52

truth and reconciliation and that that

44:55

work is it's just

44:57

it's you've got to be willing to have a

44:59

lot of your life upset by it

45:02

you know

45:03

so and that's why i think the

45:04

kierkegaard connection with you guys

45:07

that that's why i vibe with him so much

45:09

because his way of talking about

45:11

christianity will not let us off the

45:13

hook for that stuff you know right and

45:16

it's probably i mean one of the things

45:17

that i was going to say actually it's a

45:19

very nice connection to that which is

45:20

like the kicker guardian kind of

45:22

anti-hegelianism yeah and and one one

45:25

dimension of that is this kind of idea

45:27

that uh you can go with the grain of the

45:30

social and

45:31

moral and cultural context

45:33

in order to in order to enact this that

45:36

and so

45:37

the profound ways in which very

45:39

determinative features of our lives that

45:42

are not that you know have whether it's

45:44

neoliberal economic policies or whatever

45:47

it is

45:48

might have to be really basically and

45:50

fundamentally challenged just by a

45:52

certain kind of form of life which means

45:53

it it can't be sentimental because it's

45:56

kind of damned yeah i mean like there's

45:59

no way to enact something like this

46:00

without expecting failure failure in any

46:04

sense of

46:05

uh sort of the ability to go on the kind

46:08

of ability to sort of make your way and

46:10

to kind of make peace with the ordinary

46:13

course of life as it is handed to you

46:16

and that's what's so challenging to me

46:17

is that one of the distinctions between

46:19

a kind of protestant way of embodying

46:22

some recognition of this and a the roman

46:24

catholic way of western tradition is is

46:26

to think about and at least in the in

46:28

the roman catholic context there's

46:30

always been an acknowledgement of of

46:31

what charles taylor would call different

46:33

speeds you know like that is to say the

46:35

monastic community bears the work of uh

46:38

monastic communities compare the work of

46:39

doing this in a certain way in a sense

46:41

on behalf of a wider community and as a

46:44

part of a project that is a realized

46:46

eschatology that's doing battle for the

46:48

sake of the kingdom with powers and

46:49

principalities and so on that simply

46:51

cannot be realized by everyone because

46:54

it's not and

46:58

but the priest of all believers in a

46:59

protestant kind of vision attempts to

47:01

radicalize and democratize a certain

47:04

kind of vision then the question becomes

47:05

whether that also requires a weakening

47:08

of the picture and a kind of collapsing

47:10

back into something that can actually be

47:11

enacted because it can go more easily

47:13

with the way of things you know and and

47:15

so um and so that kind of tension of how

47:18

do you enact something radical in the

47:20

life of a christian community that

47:22

actually lifts up the life death and

47:23

resurrection of jesus and re-performs it

47:25

in the world faithfully is is just if

47:28

it's if it's a question that's not just

47:30

a conceptual question or one that you're

47:32

working out because you want to write a

47:33

beautiful book that sells eight copies

47:35

to other people who work on those

47:37

theological questions

47:38

and then you can put it on your cv and

47:40

then you know like live a normal middle

47:42

class or upper middle class life of the

47:44

professoriate if you want if that's if

47:46

that's not what you want but you want to

47:48

actually figure out how to do it and see

47:50

if it's doable and then if it's not then

47:51

give up on christianity and if it is

47:53

then have hope that god is in christ is

47:56

reconciling the world to himself then

47:58

you have to figure out how how that

48:00

performance is supposed and that's

48:01

that's the kind of thing that keeps me

48:02

up at night that's why you go to church

48:04

sameer that's why you go to church i mean

48:06

i know that's like like there's a lot

48:09

you have to swallow to do that but the

48:11

church lumbers towards that vision in a

48:16

sort of drunken wayward lumbering

48:18

towards but and i think the role of a

48:21

minister is you know kind of like eugene

48:23

peterson in the apocalyptic pastor says

48:25

that the job of a pastor is to ruin

48:28

people's lives and so

48:30

you stand on the back of the room amen

48:32

and people leave and say oh that was a

48:34

nice sermon and you're shaking hands and

48:35

you're like i'm trying to ruin your life

48:37

i'm trying to ruin your life i'm trying

48:38

to ruin your life and that i think what

48:40

that means is that pastors have

48:43

they have to have the vision

48:45

from

48:46

the eyes to see god enacting those

48:49

realities inside the lives of their

48:51

people and then call attention to when

48:54

they see it happening they say look at

48:56

this brother who just gave his car away

49:00

to this other brother who needed one or

49:02

look at this brother

49:04

or sister who whose family their house

49:08

just burned down they need a place to

49:09

live like all these different all these

49:11

different ways you see in not in macro

49:14

scale

49:15

socioeconomic upheaval but inside the

49:17

life of our community disruptions of the

49:20

normal course

49:22

of of this neoliberal picture of

49:24

happiness there are disruptions that

49:26

actually show

49:28

that tear little windows into the world

49:30

that you can look through those and say

49:33

this actually i'm seeing something

49:35

you know

49:36

the kingdom of god is near and and

49:38

pastors draw attention to that stuff so

49:41

that

49:42

because we're not going to see these

49:43

things enacted in wholesale

49:45

revolution although i do have i'm having

49:47

whiskey with a guy in a couple weeks who

49:49

all of his facebook posts are like uh

49:51

like so when are we gonna burn these

49:53

buildings down i mean he's like

49:55

he's

49:56

like because he we connected over the

49:58

fact that we're both christian

50:00

anarchists we both say that we're

50:01

anarchists but he's like he's like ready

50:04

to to you know he's ready to do it sure

50:07

do not go burn these buildings down with

50:09

this guy do not know

50:17

uh but but uh but you know he i think

50:20

you can get impatient with small-scale

50:23

change my friend pastor john lemon says

50:26

most of the time you want to experience

50:28

the magnificence and majesty of god it's

50:30

going to be on such a minuscule scale

50:33

that if you don't have eyes to see it

50:35

you because you're always looking for

50:37

some

50:38

sort of major eruption you know it's

50:40

kind of like elijah in the cave you know

50:41

what i mean yeah yeah yeah it's like the

50:44

god of the mundane there are whispers of

50:45

that stuff

50:47

happening

50:48

and that's that'll you know that should

50:49

keep us from killing ourselves

50:52

so before we continue we want to thank

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51:28

[Music]

51:30

one thing that you've written about

51:31

sameer is

51:33

apophatic theology and the ineffability

51:36

of god and i'm curious to get your

51:37

thoughts on this as well sharad

51:38

how does how does that fact if we can

51:41

call that a fact that that god is in a

51:43

deep sense unknowable

51:45

how does that

51:47

challenge or contextualize the stuff

51:50

we've been talking about about living

51:52

this thing out we're living it out for a

51:54

thing that fundamentally is beyond our

51:55

kin so and before you do that sameer just

51:59

contextualize for listeners what

52:00

apophatic theology means yeah yeah okay

52:03

well i mean i think we could we don't

52:05

have to get super high falutin here i

52:07

mean the fact is that um

52:09

apophaticism at the at the end of the

52:12

day is a way of recognizing

52:14

that the object of our worship if you

52:17

are worshiping god then the object of of

52:19

worship is beyond all creatures and

52:23

beyond all finite capacity for

52:26

comprehension and guess what we are a

52:28

creature with finite capacities for

52:29

comprehension and therefore god must be

52:32

beyond us

52:33

right and so it's the the augustinian

52:35

line he says in a sermon he says it

52:37

really clearly it's a c comprehendus not

52:39

as deus right if you can understand it

52:41

it ain't god oh that's right

52:44

um

52:45

that's something i think that is so

52:47

intuitively plausible you know it also

52:49

reminds me the groucho marx kind of line

52:51

about about not wanting to be a member

52:52

of any club that would admit him

52:55

right yeah humans should not want to be

52:57

a member of any club about god in which

53:00

god remains comprehensible can fit

53:02

inside the club right i mean like

53:04

that's that's apophaticism apophatic

53:06

just means to speak away from and the

53:08

idea of speaking away from is the idea

53:09

of being able to speak in negative terms

53:12

about god that is to say to mark

53:15

one's relationship to god by distance

53:18

by by the way in which god is at a

53:20

remove from us and then so now this

53:22

leads to puzzles like different kind of

53:23

puzzles about language and stuff like

53:25

that how can we talk about something we

53:26

can't talk about because look i just

53:27

talked about it right so uh when i say

53:30

uh you can't talk about god then you

53:32

should ask the question you can't talk

53:33

about who who did you just say right

53:35

like what are we talking about right now

53:37

yeah yeah yeah and there's always some

53:38

smarmy analytic philosophers who's gonna

53:40

be saying that and then you're going to

53:42

want to slap them but then you can't

53:44

because you're a pacifist

53:46

oh wait oh sorry and that's why you walk

53:48

into a bar with your passenger correct

53:51

so

53:52

instead i mean peter van illsby is a

53:54

philosopher of language who's done some

53:55

really great work interesting work i

53:57

think he's got an article that's going

53:58

to be coming out on meta-linguistic

54:00

negation what he means is to say look

54:02

what we're trying to say when we talk in

54:03

apophatic terms is we're not trying to

54:05

say that our language doesn't doesn't do

54:07

anything with respect to god or that it

54:09

doesn't can't express truths or stuff

54:11

like that it's that

54:12

we're when we

54:14

to be an abathist is to express a

54:16

certain kind of reluctance towards your

54:18

own speech so it's meta-linguistic it's

54:20

a way stepping back towards your own and

54:22

looking at you your own speech and going

54:25

i guess

54:26

i don't know i guess kind of right um

54:29

and

54:30

because it's a form of recognition a

54:32

form of reluctance about the capacity of

54:34

your language to accommodate what it's

54:36

about right yeah and that's i think

54:39

that's like that's a

54:42

wildly relevant

54:44

approach

54:46

to

54:46

the

54:47

overconfident technocratic uh american

54:51

religious ways of talking about god i

54:53

mean uh you know kierkegaard is

54:54

obviously all over this and so is pascal

54:56

and and the this sort of different

54:59

existential strains within the christian

55:01

faith but of course maybe most famously

55:04

augustine is this has this attitude that

55:06

says

55:07

that god should not be instrumentalized

55:09

you know he makes the uti fruity

55:11

distinction and he's like there are

55:13

things to be enjoyed and then there are

55:14

things to be used and our way of talking

55:17

about god

55:18

if we don't want to instrumentalize him

55:21

and turn him into a a weapon or a tool

55:24

in our own hands we have to constantly

55:26

recognize that we do not grasp we are

55:29

grasped by god you know and so in my

55:33

mind the apophatic attitude to use

55:35

sameer's phrase and the wonder requisite

55:39

to

55:39

christian epistemology

55:41

that all of that is a way of affirming

55:45

the most fundamental aspect of christian

55:47

conversion which is that it's god that

55:49

grasps us

55:51

you know um not we that that grasp him

55:54

and language is a huge part of the way

55:57

we we exercise categorical control over

56:00

the world you know so when when i think

56:04

you know ministers particularly have to

56:06

be very very careful to consistently

56:09

remind people through our liturgies the

56:11

shape of them the way we do them and

56:14

through the kinds of words we speak that

56:16

we are

56:17

lunging desperately at realities way

56:21

bigger than we can comprehend yeah and

56:23

what we're not doing is cataloging a

56:27

creature in a jar you know when we talk

56:30

about god so i think yeah you know what

56:32

will he what willie jennings calls like

56:33

speaking from the commanding heights yes

56:35

the command oh what a cool phrase where

56:37

eagles dare how the misfits would put it

56:39

um but um um yeah which of the choruses

56:43

i ain't no goddamn son of a [ __ ] and i

56:45

uh

56:46

i think that's a great way

56:48

yeah it's a great way of avoiding the

56:50

commanding heights is to recognize i i

56:53

have no conceptual

56:56

spiritual

56:57

emotional capacity to bear

57:01

something as

57:02

fundamental as god in my language that's

57:05

right and that and you know of course

57:07

that's what the experience of worship is

57:09

that's what wordless wonder is you know

57:11

wonder is at its at its

57:13

apogee when we have nothing left to say

57:17

you know so so yeah it's got

57:19

physiological sort of manifestation

57:21

right the slack jaw the wide eyes right

57:24

exactly yeah

57:26

on your face

57:28

we're really going back to that sort of

57:30

hick southern thing a lot here

57:32

sorry like uh

57:33

hanging fruit but some of my best

57:35

friends are from the south

57:37

yeah

57:37

[Laughter]

57:39

um so

57:41

the other thing i want to say is like

57:42

the inevitable thing about this right is

57:44

what about revelation what about like

57:45

aren't there truths that we know about

57:47

god and what about jesus i think is the

57:48

biggest what about jesus right oh man

57:51

but so here's the beautiful thing about

57:52

calcidonian formulations of jesus and

57:54

about trinitarian theology in general

57:57

region that the more you understand

57:59

about these realities the deeper your

58:02

incomprehension goes so mysteries are

58:05

not placeholders for knowledge we don't

58:08

have yeah that's not what a mystery is a

58:10

mystery is something that as you

58:12

approach it and you grow in the

58:15

understanding of a thing it opens even

58:17

wider fields of absolute

58:21

yeah so gregory incomprehension nissa

58:22

calls a peck to see right there they're

58:23

screening and stretching in which yeah

58:25

so what i was going to say though is

58:27

that like um so what about truth values

58:28

of the of the claims we make about

58:30

trinity and you know all this kind of

58:31

stuff about about the incarnation and

58:33

whatever no and how does no ability and

58:36

unknowability kind of connect to one

58:37

another and

58:38

i like this little paper of bill

58:40

alston's called two cheers for mystery i

58:43

don't know if you ever read that one

58:45

i like the title it's a good title and

58:47

i think he says he just gives an analogy

58:49

that i think is really apt and uh he

58:52

says look you know i explained to my

58:55

i don't remember how old he said his

58:56

granddaughter like three five four five

58:58

year old granddaughter what i'm doing

59:00

when i go to work i might do that in a

59:02

way that i have to accommodate my

59:05

explanation to the limits of her

59:07

comprehension and so i have to be able

59:09

to say something within terms that are

59:12

graspable for her because i'm trying to

59:15

express something

59:16

that i know can only be expressed

59:20

and received if it's accommodated right

59:22

right

59:23

and so the accommodation is like okay so

59:25

hey you know how you color with crayons

59:27

on your

59:28

on your i mean and i extend the analogy

59:30

in a little way but he's like you know

59:31

you know how you call her on crayons and

59:33

on your paper and then when we really

59:34

like it you know if it doesn't suck we

59:36

put it on the refrigerator like this is

59:37

like a really meritocracy kind of a

59:41

little cry while you're explaining yeah

59:42

yeah right this one that's what i do you

59:44

know i go to work and i and i write i i

59:47

think of uh i think of arguments and

59:48

whatever and i write them down and i and

59:50

then peer review and publication really

59:52

is just they get put on the refrigerator

59:53

or whatever right

59:55

so the the basic idea is he says well

59:57

look

59:58

it's it's not the case that um

60:00

that she doesn't know anything i that

60:02

she hasn't been sufficiently informed it

60:04

has truth values and you know and and

60:07

whatever

60:08

but she can't stand back and see how the

60:10

analogy works

60:12

in order to see what the correlations

60:14

are right because she only has one half

60:16

of it she only has her standpoint right

60:19

and if that's what we're saying about

60:22

whatever about you know and calvin says

60:24

this this is what this is very

60:26

traditional it's standard to said to say

60:28

god stoops you know to reveal

60:31

and even even god's self-revelation in

60:35

christ in the incarnation is a veiling

60:38

of god

60:39

through

60:39

the manifestation of

60:41

of the humanity of jesus

60:43

god comes through the humanity of jesus

60:44

and so

60:45

that's a kind of veiling of god and

60:47

through manifestation right and um and a

60:50

kind of ultimate accommodation to us and

60:54

foreign is also the revealing right it's

60:57

like the veiling is the revealing and

60:59

the stymieing wonder

61:02

of that indescribable union of god and

61:05

man in jesus is the most profound and

61:09

direct knowledge we can have of god

61:12

this incomprehension

61:14

is actually what is the only pathway to

61:16

any comprehension you know what i mean

61:18

so that's kind of the i think the the

61:20

relationship between mystery and

61:23

knowledge yeah the other thing i'll say

61:25

about this is that oftentimes in these

61:28

contexts the talk about the the relevant

61:31

kind of ignorance involved the relevant

61:33

kind of mystery involved because in in

61:36

philosophy religion context this this

61:38

talk often happens around the

61:41

metaphysics and epistemology questions

61:43

and the questions about the semantic

61:45

content of propositions and stuff like

61:47

that it it often gets separated from the

61:50

question of appreciation

61:52

so there's a certain way in which

61:54

mystery is a normative concept it's

61:56

something that is to be appreciated as a

61:58

mystery so it's not just a a knowledge

62:00

gap or an information gap or something

62:02

like that that's what that's the kind of

62:03

the the way in which like which i was

62:04

talking about earlier and so

62:06

that's the sense in which mystery the

62:08

kind of mystery involved is what leads

62:11

people who think and reflect on it

62:12

theologians who have reflected on it to

62:14

to want to put the modifier in to call

62:16

it like a holy mystery you know

62:18

because it's a kind of something that's

62:19

supposed to generate

62:21

its own sense of sacredness or

62:23

separateness you can't just be like oh

62:25

that's interesting i mean it's arrest

62:27

it's a resting yeah it's interesting

62:30

it's actually it's not curiosity it

62:31

grabs your face and pulls it in in fact

62:34

i think one of the most animating

62:36

convictions in my own vocation is the

62:38

deep belief

62:40

that human beings are inexhaustible

62:44

wells of mysterious glory and goodness i

62:48

mean

62:49

if you are that's why you know in

62:51

characterizing what a pastor does saying

62:53

that it's about paying attention

62:55

means

62:56

that you if you are not arrested

62:59

by

63:00

the glory resident in other human beings

63:04

however you find them you can't do this

63:07

work

63:08

you know yeah

63:10

no matter who they are you know and you

63:12

can name test cases of people who are

63:14

particularly difficult to do that with

63:16

but it's not sanctimonious or saccharine

63:20

to say

63:21

that in that person is

63:23

depths of profound wonder that if only

63:25

they knew you know they probably

63:26

wouldn't be such an

63:29

yeah that's [ __ ]

63:29

howard thurman calls the uh altar in

63:32

every human in every heart

63:33

the way of the heart that's in the way

63:34

of the heart yeah yeah

63:36

yeah yeah and i think if there is any

63:39

uniqueness or expertise to pastoral work

63:42

and if that does have something to do

63:44

with drawing attention to the presence

63:46

of god and drawing people into union

63:49

with god that means

63:51

not creating spaces

63:53

and experiences and language that's all

63:57

separate from the daily course of a

63:59

person's life

64:01

it means recognizing

64:03

all the stuff of being alive

64:05

is an encounter with god

64:08

and that's what i that's what i like

64:10

about the democratizing aspect of

64:12

protestant thinking is that it says that

64:15

is everybody's

64:17

spiritual vitality it's in their ability

64:20

to

64:21

perceive the presence activity

64:25

beauty

64:26

power

64:27

sustenance nourishment of god

64:31

in the basic features of the life you

64:33

already live you know

64:35

and to me that's that's why mysticism

64:38

is really also just another way of

64:40

talking about christian experience

64:43

yep it's not a special form or a

64:46

heightened plane

64:47

it's just

64:49

being a christian yeah i think yep yep

64:52

so maybe in the church we need a little

64:53

a few less bible studies and a little

64:56

bit more contemplative prayer

64:58

in silent retreats perhaps

65:00

yeah

65:01

and don't get me wrong bible studies are

65:02

important don't don't you know email

65:04

that i hate bible studies

65:07

why do you hate the bible i don't

65:09

understand why these guys hate the bible

65:10

so much

65:11

but yeah but i think maybe

65:14

you know generally speaking it's it's

65:15

probably accurate to say

65:17

uh anything augustine and gregory both

65:19

said gregory said it better but um but

65:23

the but i do like

65:25

sometimes especially in the confessions

65:28

the way that augustine talks about

65:30

the world almost as a kind of portal to

65:33

god i mean it's like the sacramentality

65:36

of the world is

65:38

i think the beating heart of christian

65:40

experience it's like you have to have

65:43

the imagination to be able to sit on the

65:46

max train

65:47

next to

65:48

you know some dude tweaking out on

65:50

mushrooms and

65:52

hear the the running of the rail under

65:55

the car of the train and smell the musty

65:58

odor of human beings packed like

66:00

sardines and look at this person sitting

66:02

next to you out of his mind because he's

66:05

running from who knows what and you have

66:07

to be able to look around and with your

66:10

senses apprehend

66:12

something more than what you're seeing

66:14

you know and that

66:16

that ability to do that is the ability

66:19

to experience god which is why

66:21

most of my atheist friends that we when

66:24

we have conversations and we do i you

66:26

know sit sit smoke cigarettes on his on

66:29

my friend's porch talking about his this

66:32

the stuff he's going through

66:33

what i'm hearing is this dude experience

66:35

god all day long you know

66:38

and and he and

66:40

what's what's interesting are ways in

66:42

which

66:43

he does and doesn't see that you know so

66:46

mysticism also blurs the line between

66:49

the believers and the unbelievers

66:51

it's like

66:52

everything and everyone participates in

66:55

the goodness of god and there's sliding

66:58

scale of apprehension of that but it

67:00

blurs those lines in uh exciting ways

67:03

yeah yeah that's really good

67:06

really good sharad should we be done or

67:07

do you want to talk about racism

67:12

that's actually a great uh motto for the

67:14

united states

67:18

do you want to talk about race

67:22

but it's a rhetorical question right

67:23

it's a rhetorical question

67:26

yeah

67:29

yeah let's be done but i think we need

67:31

to like whether it's in a year from now

67:32

or whatever it'd be fun if you guys are

67:34

willing to sit with uh another pastor

67:36

and another philosopher um and that's us

67:39

by the way uh to do it again do do this

67:42

again this is fun oh so great man thank

67:44

you guys so much for for giving us the

67:46

chance to do it yeah a lot of fun we

67:48

always enjoy the chance to be able to

67:50

sort of you know hang out and talk with

67:52

each other so this is nice anywhere

67:54

anywhere our listeners can find

67:56

your whether it's your papers your

67:58

sermons i don't know if you have any any

67:59

books or anything between the two yeah

68:01

you don't need to listen to my sermons

68:02

uh um really they're really no you

68:05

should you should they're not that great

68:07

but um if you ever want to come visit me

68:10

in person i'd love to chill and drink

68:12

coffee or beer or whiskey and just shoot

68:14

the breeze and our church is in uh

68:17

portland oregon it's called bread and

68:18

wine and you can find us at

68:20

breadandwine.org and we're on facebook

68:23

uh we have a bread and wine page on on

68:24

facebook as well or you could just

68:26

friend friend me on facebook i'm a um

68:28

i'm profligate on there i'm a real [ __ ]

68:31

anyone who's like uh it shows moderate

68:33

interest to me i'm like

68:35

yeah i'm your friend i'm your friend i'm

68:37

your friend so uh so i would you know

68:39

message me uh but yeah that's how you

68:41

can reach me there's the website and the

68:42

facebook page so sameer i i've got uh a

68:46

book with fortress press 2015 it's

68:48

called uh the problem of perception and

68:50

the experience of god amazing um

68:54

it's really it's really not but it's

68:56

it's a uh so it's about religious

68:57

experience about you know i the last few

68:59

chapters are about gregor of nissa and

69:01

it's about the structure of religious

69:03

experience and then i um also have

69:05

various papers and

69:07

articles and stuff on various topics

69:09

about religious experience and about

69:10

race i'm very interested in something we

69:12

haven't talked about the connection

69:14

between the stuff we were talking about

69:16

with respect to mysticism and um with

69:18

respect to the sort of vocation of

69:20

theology and also thinking about race

69:22

and racial formation and how how we

69:25

should think about the intersection

69:27

between race and religion so i have

69:29

written on some of that stuff in the

69:31

philosophy of religion as well as in

69:33

theology and i those are projects that

69:35

i'm still working on

69:36

so i you know i suppose somebody can

69:38

just i have a research gate and an

69:40

academia page and people could just

69:42

awesome yeah we'll put we'll put some of

69:43

that stuff in the show notes if anybody

69:45

wants to go deeper yeah having read some

69:47

of that i'd recommend it

69:48

yeah sameer also has some stuff on the

69:51

conversation i think right online don't

69:54

you um i have just like an article i

69:56

co-wrote with um helena cruz and

69:58

whatever but i you know yeah you can

70:00

just sort of google me if you're

70:01

interested or you know shoot me a note

70:03

i'm at westmont uh it's seota

70:05

westmont.edu and you can

70:07

send me send me any

70:09

questions

70:10

if you want to show up at his house this

70:12

the following is

70:26

[Applause]

70:28

well

70:29

thanks so much for being on the show

70:31

yeah thank you guys it's so fun awesome

70:42

thanks for listening to a pastor and a

70:44

philosopher walk into a bar we hope you

70:46

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70:48

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70:49

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70:51

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70:53

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70:56

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71:01

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71:03

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71:05

until next time this has been a pastor

71:06

and a philosopher walk into a bar

71:12

[Music]