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podcasts: good, bad, and ugly

It’s finally time to talk about podcasts I currently listen to. Please remember that as a former fundamentalist I don’t feel the need to listen only to content I agree with. Here they are in more or less alphabetical order by name:

  • The Dividing Line with James White; this is the only one of the bunch that isn’t primarily a radio show. White is a self-styled Reformed Baptist apologist and is apparently making a living as an author and speaker; so far as I know he isn’t compensated for his work as an elder at his church, and he isn’t currently teaching anywhere. White is probably the most plain-spoken of this bunch, the least given to jargon, and the least caught up in his own worldview. He’s a self-taught expert on Mormonism, Islam, Roman Catholicism, “KJV-Onlyism” (Ruckmanism), and textual variants. He’s also kind of a jerk, and his harangues can get a bit old after a while, especially when he’s playing excerpts from one of his upcoming debate opponents and offering commentary. On the other hand, he does at least listen to his opponents, which sets him apart from much of the field, and makes an attempt to understand their point of view. And he seems to understand that he’s part of a tradition, too.
  • Issues Etc. with Todd Wilken. This is a former LCMS media product that got turned loose a couple of years ago; I’ve only heard the IE side of the story, where they claim to have been let go because they’re too Lutheran, not on board with creeping seeker sensitivity in the LCMS, etc. Wilken mostly follows the hidebound Lutheran line that not much interesting has been said since Martin Luther died, and sometimes his guests are even more conservative than he is. I tuned in after hearing repeatedly from Lutherans at Michael Newnham’s Phoenix Preacher blog that the LCMS had it all sorted out. Wilken rarely surprises me since I know where he’s coming from: he doesn’t ask fair questions, he only asks questions that lead to a Lutheran response. In that way he reminds me of some of the people I hear on Sacred Heart Radio. I really don’t understand why Christians who aren’t Lutherans appear on his show. He apparently dislikes evangelicals generally, and rarely represents their views fairly and typically refers to them as “Pop American Evangelicals” or what they believe as “Pop American Christianity.” I get the impression he doesn’t know any of these people he labels and doesn’t understand them at all. I dislike Wilken and think he gives the LCMS a bad name, but he has interesting guests and creates a safe place for them to say things I’m surprised anyone says.
  • Renewing Your Mind with R. C. Sproul; Sproul talks a fairly straightforward Reformed line and lightly covers a wide range of topics. Each episode is 26:25 long, and the first 6 and last 5 minutes can be safely skipped because they’re either pleas for money or announcer boilerplate. In the remaining 15 minutes Sproul can be relied on to vary very little from the standard Reformed line. He’s up front about the fact that he’s Reformed, but (unlike James White) doesn’t seem to realize just how deeply into his own tradition he is. Virtually every episode gives me a real take-away, a morsel to chew on, but most of the time is spent waiting for that morsel. His son R. C. Sproul Jr. creeps me out; I don’t understand why Sr. has Jr. on his show, and I consider Jr. to be Exhibit A in an argument against sons following their fathers into the ministry.
  • Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley; this is an hour-long debate-format show from the UK that traditionally pits a Christian against a non-believer of some sort: an atheist, someone from another faith, an apostate or a self-styled eclectic whatsit. There are typically four segments: introduction, a basic, typically civil back-and-forth between two parties, the addition of a third party that is sometimes on one side or the other, sometimes not, and listener mail/comment. I rarely listen to an entire episode. There’s definitely a UK focus to the show, and lots of attention is given to issues involving and surrounding Richard Dawkins and the other UK New Atheists. Rare among Christian podcasts in that Brierley lets non-believers speak for and explain themselves.
  • The White Horse Inn with Michael Horton et al. This is the dreaded preacher’s roundtable show, featuring men from several Protestant traditions, at least a couple former evangelicals. I tend to agree with Horton that there is something terribly wrong with contemporary American evangelical Christianity, but I’m not sure that he’s got it entirely (or necessarily accurately) diagnosed as “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Because this is a pastor’s roundtable they rarely really disagree with one another, so there is typically a lot of finger-pointing at absent parties, and not surprisingly the solutions they propose tend to involve more people attending their churches, listening to and agreeing with them, accepting their authority, etc.

There is definitely a Reformed/Calvinist/Lutheran flavor to the items above; I guess I would have to say that across this spectrum there’s a common belief that something’s terribly wrong with contemporary American evangelical Christianity (especially where it intersects with Charismatic and Pentecostal traditions), and that it can be fixed by leaving evangelicalism for these traditions. I tend to agree that there’s a problem, but that they’re definitely not the solution.

I hate to say this, but I get the impression that I’m hearing a monologue from a dead church directed at a dying church, and I don’t know what to make of it.

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  1. September 14, 2010 at 1:34 pm

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