In my first episode of Kindavangelical I’m going to paint a picture for you, not with acrylics, but with a handful of words. My picture is a metaphor and when you hear it you will instantly know if Kindavangelical is for you, or not.
Then I’m going to talk with Jared Byas. Jared served as a local pastor and adjunct professor for almost ten years before launching The Bible for Normal People Podcast with Dr. Peter Enns, an organization committed to bringing the best in biblical scholarship to everyday people.
READ the partial transcript here!
This won’t be a common practice, but to introduce those of you who are more used to reading than listening to podcasts, here is the first half of the first episode of Kindavangelical. Please use the comment section below to share your stories with me, I would love to interact with you.
Here we go…
Welcome to Kindavangelical
The podcast where we discuss the awkward transition between evangelicalism and… well something else, something different.
If you’re disgruntled with your religious upbringing but still love Jesus, or your kids have left the church and you don’t understand why, this podcast is for you.
I think there are better ideas out there, fresh thinkers, and beautiful ways of living the Christian life, so let’s talk about them, let’s discover them together.”
Hi, My name is Pete Briscoe, I live in an RV with my wife Libby, (the proverbial van down by the river), we have three awesome 20-something kids and a wonderful son-in-law, a perfect Golden Doodle called Happy… and that is the scope of my world.
My world used to be bigger, I pastored a mega-church in North Dallas called Bent Tree Bible Fellowship for 28 years and led Telling the Truth, a media ministry started by my parents for 10. The church was a vibrant and healthy community of faith. Through the media ministry I was preaching to over a million people in the U.S. and over 6 million around the world, every week.
But I left.
I’ll start telling you that story in the next episode. I don’t want to talk about me, I want to talk about us.
But, before I get to us, let me talk for a second about the PodCast itself. This is how this podcast is going to work: There will be two blocks, block A and block B (and sometimes a C block) with a short musical interlude in between A and B so you can get up and go to the bathroom, or run and grab a beer or something. Block A will usually be me talking about a theme, topic, current event, doctrine, practice and stuff like that. Block B will be an interview with someone who I am learning from concerning the said topic. These will be longer episodes than others you are used to, but we have a lot to talk about and I trust it will be helpful to you and your friends.
Ok, enough about that, let’s get started!
I’m going to paint a verbal picture for you… It might be helpful, if you’re able, for you to close your eyes while I talk and imagine the scene. If you can relate to this, this podcast is for you.
When leaving a house, and crossing the threshold, you are neither inside nor outside. You are in between. You are at a transitional moment.
Some transitions are disruptive but not devastating. Switching careers in your 50s, becoming empty nesters, getting married after being single into your 40s, retirement. These transitions, and others like them, turn our worlds around and shake us up, but they don’t impact us in our core like others. They turn our world around, but not upside down.
My mother recently lost my dad. He died after 63 years of marriage. Now that is a transition that turns things over. A spouse leaves, a business fails, a suicide, a drunk driver inserts himself uninvited into your family – these transitions, these guttural moments, they change us forever.
For those of us who find ourselves moving out of evangelicalism, the transition feels like one of these topsy-turvy types. We lose sleep, we experience grief feelings, we find friends not returning our calls, we feel alone, so desperately alone.
Guttural, that’s the word, guttural.
This podcast is for those of us who find ourselves in this guttural space. We have been in the evangelical house but we are discouraged, disillusioned and determined not to simply pretend that everything is ok with us. So we start moving, moving towards the door. It is terrifying. Our loved ones are saying, “where do you think you’re going?” But we are drawn to the outside. Outside the door is a whole new world. This is the world we have been warned about in our churches, I warned people about this world for over 30 years.
As you stand just inside the door, looking over the threshold, observing the “outside world,” what do you see? First you probably see some kind of yard, maybe it has a white picket fence. (Na… that’s weird)
Let’s say that the yard represents other Christians, that are not evangelicals. For many of us, we have been told our entire lives that these people are dangerous because they will “lead us astray.” I remember being told that Catholics were not Christians, that liberal Protestant denominations were deceived and didn’t really believe in the one true God, and that people who followed Jesus but didn’t attend church were “out of fellowship” and couldn’t be trusted.
Oh by the way, you’ll find many of your young adult children out in the yard… They left the house a while ago, but many of you are just finding this out recently. Your efforts to lasso the young uns back inside have been fruitless, and because you’ve been told that the yard isn’t safe, you find yourself heart-sick that your kids are there.
Beyond the yard is the street, let’s make this the thoroughfare of current secular thought. I was taught, in my evangelical training, to stay away from the road, that if I ventured onto it, I would be run over by speeding concepts of reality, science, philosophy and anthropology… none of which square with the bible. Archeological finds grab our attention and we start to see how some of the history in the Bible doesn’t seem thoroughly historical. We find ourselves struggling with an addiction, we don’t feel safe telling the acquaintances we have at church and so we make our way into a 12-step meeting that meets in the middle of this road, and discover people on diverse spiritual journeys and finding sobriety, peace and full life. So… confusing. We were always told that people out in the world were chronically unhappy and were hopelessly in bondage to their addictions. But that isn’t what we find on the road. Someone introduces us to scholarly works about mythology and we start to see similarities between biblical stories and other stories around the world, across the ages. This raises more questions. The road does feel dangerous, but wow, it’s stimulating too!
On the other side of the road, if you can survive the journey across, you might find yourself in the fascinating cacophony of world religions. You’ll encounter Judaism first, it is the only one allowed anywhere near your house. You might run across some wisdom from Buddhism but you won’t tell anyone, or a poem from Rumi that moves you or challenges your thinking. You’ll probably run back to the yard pretty quickly because you still love Jesus, and you want to walk with him and you want to honor him and you’re really confused as to how to do that at this seminal moment in your life. It’s almost bedtime, back into the house… until tomorrow.
Our mind tells us to stay away from anything outside the Christian tradition, don’t go anywhere near the street, don’t even go out into the yard, just stay inside the house, where it’s safe. Go into the library and read the vetted authors that align with our particular flavor of evangelicalism, and do what our pastor says, because he (it has to be a man they say) is our authority.
How’s that working for you?
Full disclosure, It isn’t working for me anymore.
There was a phrase that was popular when I was young. It went Iike this: “You don’t have to check your brain in at the door to believe in Jesus.” I think there is some truth to this notion. However, I have come to believe that one does have to check their brain at the door to align fully with evangelicalism.
Let me explain what I mean… When I was in my Baptist college, I minored in Bible. We would be studying a portion of the text (which I loved) and we would come across something that didn’t make sense to our minds or sensibilities. An example… the genocidal passages in the OT. How could a God of love allow for this, or worse yet, command his people to kill every man, woman and child, except for the young virgin women? Reading Numbers 31 as an impressionable 18-year-old freshman was, shall we say, eye-opening. IN vs. 1, God instructed Moses to ‘take vengeance’ on the Midianites. As part of this vengeance Moses gave this instruction: “Now, kill all the boys. And kill every women who have slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.” (Numbers 31:17,18). Yikes… So, sitting in my “intro to the OT class, we ask, “Professor, how can this be?” How many rules of the Geneva Convention are violated in this text, apparently, with God’s approval? Dr. OTPHD presents 4 or 5 common evangelical explanations to make us feel better. As he’s talking I’m checking each one off the list in my mind as “intellectually untenable.” When we get to the end of the list the teacher says something like: “If none of these explanations works for us, we will need to just trust that the Bible is true and inerrant, that God knows what he is doing and see this as a mystery that will make sense one day.” Did you hear that? That is another way of saying, “If these logically infeasible answers don’t work for you, check your brain in at the door.” “It is just a mystery” is another way of saying, “Stop thinking about it, we can’t figure it out.”
I just could never do this. I have been struggling with the genocidal Old Testament passages for 35 years along with multiple other problems the Bible raises or fails to address. I so wish I could just say, “It’s just a mystery” but I can’t.
Because I have come to believe and know that God is love. I see love in the person of Jesus in the pages of Scripture and I know him to be the “exact representation of God” as it says in the book of Hebrews, and there is nothing that could be considered “love” in God’s interaction in Numbers 31, so I find myself questioning my understanding of inerrancy to try to figure out how to make sense of this. I’ve read so much on this from the library inside the house and there is no one that has an answer that satisfies my abject abhorrence of those Old Testament texts. So, I find myself on the threshold, wondering if anyone out in the yard, the road, or even beyond, might be able to help me with all my questions.
In the library I left behind at Bent Tree, the church I used to pastor, you can find a book by Dr. Gleason Archer, a brilliant and compassionate scholar from the seminary I attended. It’s called “The Encyclopedia of Bible difficulties” – There’s an Encyclopedia! It is 476 pages long! Apparently this book was not exhaustive enough because Norm Geisler came out with his own called “The Big Book of Bible difficulties” which address over 800 difficult questions people have about the Bible. This book is 624 pages long. That is 1100 pages of explanations in just two books (there are more) from inside the house. Whenever someone says, “the Bible is clear” about their passionate soap box, just raise an eyebrow and let them know that 2 of the best scholars evangelicalism produced had to write 1100 pages to explain difficult passages to the masses. The Bible is many things “clear,” not so much!
Can I just say it, for most of us, the Bible is difficult to understand. There are confusing things said in the Bible that necessitate encyclopedias to be written to explain them, and in many cases explain them away. When I was a pastor I would run across something in the biblical text that seemed to say the opposite of what I’d always believed. So I would pull Archer or Geisler off the shelf and, more times that not, finish my reading less than satisfied with the answers.
Maybe I should have been looking outside the house…
Maybe a Catholic priest, or a Greek Orthodox scholar and pastor, a Harvard-trained New Testament professor, a History Professor at Baylor University, a world-famous climate scientist, or a young pastor leading a church very different from the one I led. (Yes, these are real people and I’ve met them in the yard, and they are messing with everything I once thought I thought, and I find it terrifying and invigorating at the same time.)
Is anyone else experiencing this? Is anyone else stepping out and feeling the terror?
Meanwhile, back inside…
The women who aren’t walking out the front door are busy at work in the kitchen and nursery. LGBTQ people are told to wait outside while a group of heterosexual men convene to decide whether they can enter, and what they need to do with their partners and children if they do. (Somebody go tell those our LGBTQ friends not to hold their breath, this committee might be stalling for years). Politicians have taken over the living room for strategy sessions, donor events, and Lobbyists wine and dine the pastors of the biggest churches while in the back corridor there are two guys fighting over CRT. Oh, and the kids all just escaped but the adults haven’t noticed yet. If this house were a ship people would be jumping ship, but it’s not a ship, it’s a house, so people are jumping house.
I’m not here to burn the house down. I don’t have that kind of influence. And, honestly, I don’t want to burn it down, I’ve got family and friends in there. I’m just convinced there is a better way to walk with Jesus than what evangelicalism is offering us. I think there are better ideas out here, fresh thinkers, and beautiful ways of living the Christian life.
The kids who are running across the cornfield behind the house, we’ve run them off. I hope some of them listen to this podcast because I want them to know that Jesus is still worth following, knowing, loving and enjoying and they can do that outside the house.
This podcast is for anyone with one foot inside the house and the other stepping out.
This podcast is for anyone venturing out into the yard and wishing they had friends to talk to.
This podcast is for those dodging cars on the parkway, blown away by new ideas yet still clinging to Jesus and his vision for mankind.
This podcast is for former evangelicals who find themselves in the hinterlands, but still love Jesus.
This Podcast is for people in the house who are looking through the window, into the corn field and they see their children out there, getting farther and farther away. They want to understand why they are leaving home. And they want them to find Jesus out there somewhere.
This podcast is not for people comfortably hanging out in the house, you won’t like it and you’ll want to argue with me.
This podcast is not for folks who are in the house, in the library, writing papers about how right they are and how wrong everyone stepping toward the door is.
This podcast will frustrate you and you’ll be tempted to jump in front of the door to keep us inside, but friends, it is too late, the house isn’t working for us anymore.
So Kindavangelicals out there… let’s talk!
You can listen to the whole episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, and wherever podcasts are found. And while you’re there, click the follow or subscribe button so the podcast shows up in your feed.
Have a great day! And thanks for reading…