Rhett’s Spiritual Deconstruction

Welcome to Ear Biscuits, I'm Link And I'm nervous

Yeah, man this has been a long time coming Actually, my name is Rhett, but I am nervous Just a quick recap, we've been– This week! You know, you gotta catchphrase it I'm off my game, man I'm gonna be off my game all day today

This week at the round table This week at the round table of damn wilding, I am telling my story of how I kinda got to where I am in terms of my belief and why I don't believe what I used to believe And of course, this is all in a larger series that we're doing The last two podcasts we called "The Lost Years" where we covered you know, all those stories, filling in the gaps of how we got from being engineers to being YouTubers and the path that we took which was a little atypical involved being missionaries for a while Yeah, if you haven't listened to those previous two podcasts, I recommend listening to those first

But this one and the next one are gonna be totally different than the previous two because they're going to be very personal in nature, very singular in nature This is your episode and then next week will be my episode But can I just acknowledge the conversation that's happened, is happening? Oh I got– You gotta put that on I got a buzzer on my– Link usually doesn't do the timer and so he doesn't I gotta turn the wifi on know the system

So I turn the wifi off? You just turn the notifications off Just wanna acknowledge how so many of you have joined in the conversation using #EarBiscuits, just letting us know how you're processing our process It's been extremely helpful and encouraging because I mean this represents what we perceived as, I was gonna say risk but I don't really wanna use the term risk I just feel like it was just a big decision to share something that's of, to be vulnerable in this way and to share these things that no one's begging us to share and we're not obligated to share but we just, as we've said before two episodes ago, we've already went into why we're talking about it I'm glad we're doing it Like I said, it's been a long time coming

We've been talking about you know, it would just come up every month or every couple of months for many years It's just when are we gonna talk about the spiritual aspect of our lives and that in our faith journey? I guess you will now Knowing that we always would so yeah Okay, so before we get into that I do have a couple of things to acknowledge First of all, for those of you watching the podcast, yes, I do have my hair pulled back into some sort of configuration

I don't know the technical name for this and I apologize for it If you're the kind of person like me who judges men who do this with their hair I would call it a sad ponytail Yeah I think you know when you're

it just seems like it's such an interesting– Choice? The timing is interesting because this is such a momentous, I have very specific, there's two very specific reasons why I'm doing it today This is how much this episode for you? Yeah, I'm doing it for two reasons, Link Reason number one is my hair has gotten to the point where I can do this and then I started realizing why people do do this Because this podcast, I'm gonna be, I got notes as you can see, I've got my iPad out

I'm gonna be going through notes I mean I don't know where this is gonna go and I don't wanna be distracted by my big old bouffant falling down in my face and having to move it all around So it's just, it's tight, it's in place and I'm not gonna think about it Now you might think about it But just stop thinking about it, okay? I wasn't even gonna mention it

Thanks The other thing I wanna say real quick is that yesterday Link and I were on the road, pitching a project that we're hoping will become something And on the way back from, now Link has been driving, Won't you wanna say the project is? Well yeah, we're trying to turn Lost Causes of Bleak Creek into a TV show so hopefully somebody will agree to that But we're coming back from a meeting and Link has been driving because he's got a new fancy electric Audi and so he drives everywhere Eventually, I'll get a fancy car and then I'll drive too but right now, we're just enjoying Link's new car

So he's been driving around town and then yesterday on the way back from the other side of town, from the West Side, red at a light and Link just kind of takes half and then it turns green And then he turns to me he says, "I almost hit that pedestrian" Now, first of all you gotta understand Yeah, because you guys didn't, you and Stevie you didn't see I almost hit a pedestrian 'Cause I'm not driving, Because when you– I mean I don't have to pay attention to the pedestrians

Maybe I do When you turn right off– Yeah, you don't have to explain it Okay You almost always hit pedestrians, okay I don't know why you're telling 'em about this but go ahead

Because last night, I got a message on Instagram A what? "Just seen y'all in the Audi, you almost hit me, lol "Love the show" Seriously! Yeah I almost hit a fan? Yeah, yeah, yeah, Yeah, you almost I almost killed a mythical beast? Almost killed a mythical beast

Oh man! Oh my gosh! So anyway– Oh my gosh– He's okay I need to process it He's a little shaken up I know Yeah, but not enough to send me a message

I wouldn't say a little, I'm a lot shaken up Link, you do this on a, you do this regularly man Okay, back to the task at hand Oh man! Never seen it, this is when the spiritual stuff really matters, right? Right It's about life and death

Exactly Okay, my goal today, first of all, I wanna let you know just like Link said Today's gonna be different I'm gonna be doing most of the talking Next week, Link will be doing most of the talking

And when I say most, I mean, like I've got these detailed notes that I've literally been making for months at this point in preparation for telling this story And so I just don't wanna get things wrong, I wanna be able to move through this It gets very detailed, I honestly don't know how anyone who doesn't come from a similar background is going to be interested in what I'm about to say because it kind of gets into the nitty-gritty of you know Christian belief and Christian doubt, about those things and my particular, what we call "a deconstruction story" of how I no longer consider myself an evangelical Christian It's very detailed because the things that were happening in my mind, in my heart is sort of a particular thread that you may or may not relate to But it is my story and I'm gonna tell it

Like Link said, I'm nervous, I'm anxious about this I mean the last two podcasts, obviously, we were nervous about talking about those years and how people might perceive that because people come from so many different backgrounds, they have so many different points of view when it comes to this issue Either you're in it, you were in it and you're out of it, you're not, you have no way of relating to it And that particular perspective that you bring to you know, listening to our stories as I've seen in these Twitter comments some people have been making People sometimes, they just don't know what to think about it, you know? Yeah

But the thing that I am, particularly with telling my story, the thing that I just wanna be very clear about is that I am not here to judge where you're at currently, right? So when you tell a story in your life, "I used to believe this and now I no longer believe that "and here's why" If you still believe that, then you may think there's implicit judgment in what you think And I wanna say that that is not my intention and I'm just trying to be as honest about my own situation as possible and approach this with as much humility as possible So, that It is gonna get detailed and I'm trying, I'll try to condense it down but this is like a year's long process

This is, we're going back I'm going back basically 20 years and kind of telling a lot of different things that happened But this is not gonna be as detailed as some of you might want it to be and it's gonna be more detailed than some of you want it to be Okay, so– And I'm here to support you Well, thank you, Link, you wanna hold my hand? If you need that, sure

I'm also gonna take notes 'cause I don't wanna interrupt you If there's something I'm thinking, I'll just jot it down And if I want you to hold my hand at any point, I will just extend it, okay Yeah, just do that I'll know that's what that means

First of all, even though we kind of covered this in one of the podcasts, what it meant to me to be a Christian Now I believed that Jesus was the Son of God, that a personal relationship with him was the only way to be saved, the only way to go to heaven when you die And this belief defined everything for me This was of my worldview, it gave me purpose and meaning and I lived with this knowledge of this spiritual reality Right, there's a spiritual reality that is constantly around us kind of permeating every decision, every relationship, every conversation

And I wanna emphasize how big of a deal it was to me It was a relationship and I wanna say that because I've noticed that when I tell my story, often people kind of conclude that I was never a true Christian right? And I'm dressing this upfront for a couple of reasons First of all I understand why people do this because this is what I did for many years when I had friends who said you know, I don't really believe that anymore And I would be like well, you must have never believed it, you must have never really had a real relationship with Jesus because according to my particular theology at the time, which was eternal security which is once you're God's child, you're always God's child and you can't get away Once you have faith, you might fall away for a little bit but you're always gonna come back and you're gonna be, you're sealed, you're delivered, you're gonna be saved

And that's a difficult thing for me now because I gotta be honest, it kind of feels very dismissive, right? And I don't think it really accounts for what actually the reality was and is And so the only thing I'm gonna ask is that you just don't reduce me to a theological footnote as you're listening to this story because as far as I'm concerned, Jesus was as real to me as he possibly could be without physically manifesting himself in my presence It was a relationship, we were in conversation So with that kind of setting the stage, I'm gonna get into the story kind of starting back with my college years But first, we're gonna do an ad break

'Cause that seems like the most appropriate thing to do Well, because we always do ad breaks I mean it's- I'm not gonna apologize for it, it's what makes this possible Yeah, that's why we're out doing this, man I mean this is not why we're doing this, it's how we're doing this

I'm wearing a shirt, you can get it at mythicalcom We're drinking from mugs Are they still available? I think that was a everything gonna last forever so it may not be these mugs but it's stuff that you gotta scoop up when they're at mythicalcom

Support your boys, wrap them up unless you unless something about what Rhett says just really makes you never wanna buy anything from us again Yeah Then all I can say is I'm sorry Okay, I gotta say first of all, you remember okay, Dennis Rodman? I don't know, I wasn't planning on saying this Okay, yes

Dennis Rodman used to have so much energy when he played for the Bulls that when they took him out of the game, he would go on the sideline and get on it like on an exercise bike I remember that, yeah I feel like Dennis Rodman right now You wanna be on a treadmill? I just, I'm wired, I'm just, I'm nervous Yeah, it's a– I wanna calm my breathing

When you talk about it for years, just the two of us When we talk about this moment for years, you might need to take a breath But I'm not gonna– The fact that you've got all these notes, I'm freaking nervous 'cause like I'm not, my story's totally different Don't worry, I know your story's different That's what makes it good

And my approach is totally different That's what makes it good, man We're different guys So, I'm prepared Okay, this isn't about me

Go ahead Okay You're back in the game, get some rebounds I've always, thank you I'm also gonna marry myself

Dennis Rodman jokes for days Okay, I have always been a naturally skeptical person so even in the midst of a very vibrant Christian faith, I would have doubts I'd hear a little something about how the Bible came together, how the 27 books in the New Testament were kind of put together in the way that the Canon came together and I'd be like this doesn't seem as clean as maybe I thought that it might have been I would think a little bit about the resurrection of Jesus, and I'd be like that's a tough thing It's a tough thing but that's the whole point, it's tough, I have faith you know

And what I would typically do is I would have these sessions where I would sort of re drive my faith but also, I would do what I think a lot of Christians do, is that when you have a doubt about something, you go and you read a Christian expert We call it apologetics in Christianity Somebody who can basically defend the faith These are smart people who have, they can read Hebrew and Greek and they've been to seminary, they've written books and they spend their life studying this stuff and they put out a lot of material, and they're smarter than me, and they're more knowledgeable than me So what I would do is I would just go and I would find somebody who was smarter than me and they would be like oh no, it's very reasonable to believe this

There's very good reason to believe this and that would kind of plaster over my doubt in that particular area for a while What time frame are you referring to? Are you talking about adulthood? Are you talking about as a kid? At this point, I started in high school, was happening a lot in college and then has happened ever since Mm-hmm But in college, I met some people who were really interested in the book of Genesis and were specifically what you call a young earth creationist So this is someone who believes that the book of Genesis is literal history and that the implication from that is that the world is between six and 10,000 years old

That's when this whole thing began Along with that, comes the idea that Noah's Flood like Noah and the Ark is a true story and the entire world was flooded a few thousand years ago All the animals were on a boat and then every single layer of sediment that you see with all the fossils and everything in it is a result of that flood And this isn't a small group of people This is a large group of people in evangelical Christianity who believe this, still believe this

I never thought about this My parents didn't really care much about these particular issues right It wasn't something that like we grew up being taught It wasn't taught in our youth group A lot was being taught

Yeah On a multiple times a week as we were involved but we didn't tackle this issue But I was like hmm, I haven't really thought about this, let me look into this and again, I'm gonna do this multiple times in the story today I'm gonna tell you that I looked into something and then I'm not going to give you an exhaustive or extensive There's a couple places I'm gonna go into that but here's not one of them because I just don't have time

But long story short, when I looked into this, I basically learned that no matter what scientific discipline you start from, the evidence points overwhelmingly to a world that is very old Billions of years old, to be specific And basically, the world doesn't really make sense unless it's ancient I mean there's so many things about the world that don't make sense Now to just a couple of helpful books that were helpful for me, there's lots of places you can see all this stuff but these are both from a Christian perspective

First one was "Creation and Time" by Hugh Ross which kind of takes a little bit more look at the astronomical aspect of this And then another one that gets more into geology is "The Bible, Rocks and Time" which is an incredible resource that if you're interested in this I suggest that you read But basically this was learning that there was all this evidence that kind of pointed pretty clearly to the earth being old and then realizing that there was a really large contingent of Christians who just denied that and didn't believe that It was alarming It was alarming for a couple of reasons

I mean, first of all, maintaining that young earth view, it requires sort of dismissing or reinterpreting a lot of evidence that has been gathered, right? And you got this sort of this big umbrella of Christianity and the whole idea is that we've got the truth The whole point is we have the ultimate truth, right? As Christians, God has revealed the ultimate truth to us, this is what I believed But yet, within that camp, there are these two wildly different perspectives on basically the entire natural world And I was like something about this is alarming because this isn't as clean as I thought it was So I was unsettled but I was still a Christian I mean I wasn't

The core of my Christian belief was still very much intact, still believed that the Bible was completely true and I believe that there was a pretty easy way to reconcile this Old Earth view they call it with a literal interpretation of Genesis in the Bible And of course, I still knew that evolution wasn't true, knew evolution hadn't happened, right, because what I knew is that Adam and Eve had to be real Adam and Eve had to be real because so much comes from them being real That's The Fall, that's where The Fall happens and The Fall is the reason that we have original sin and original sin is why we need a Savior It was like you can't get rid of that story plus Genesis presents all this stuff straight from Adam and Eve and you go through all the generations

Even the Gospel of Luke, the genealogy of Jesus features Adam So this, if you don't believe in Adam and Eve like where do you start believing it, right? So I knew that that wasn't I couldn't let go of that There was definitely a, the here's pervading thought that I had that evolution is just something you stay away from and if you don't wanna get into it, don't get into it It's a problem so don't and it's not right so don't worry about it

And not even beyond that, I thought evolution just didn't make sense on its face It seemed completely illogical In fact, it seemed desperate If you did start to think about it It seemed like it's so And again

It's so non-intuitive to it It was so not intuitive to me at the time that it just felt like a desperate attempt for someone who didn't believe in God to try to explain the wonderful creation that we had You got to have something Well, if God didn't do it, you got to come up with some rent You got to come up with something and evolution was the best thing that they had to offer

And that was it for me And of course I had read all the books about you know evolution not being true I was into that In fact, I would sit down and I would argue with people and convince people who believed in evolution that evolution didn't happen I loved doing that, you know what I'm saying? I can make people doubt that pretty easily

Of course, I had never looked at the evidence revolution I had read books about it written by people who didn't believe in it That's what I had done and I could roll those arguments out with the best of them Then in 2006, I read a book called "The Language of God" by Francis Collins Now, Francis Collins is currently the head of the National Institutes of Health

He's a geneticist who headed up the human genome project when they mapped the human genome there at the end of the 90s The subtitle of the book is "A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief" This is the kind of thing that I lived for I loved it when someone who was a scientific mind, who was respected by the world would come out and basically do this, make it reasonable to be a Christian, to show you that your faith was reasonable and smart people believed this I ate this stuff up

So I got into this book, I dove right in Now, pretty early in the book, Collins starts talking about the undeniable evidence for evolution, evidence that humans evolved from a common ancestor with apes And I was like hold up y'all What? This guy's a Christian? What? I know that's not true And of course because he's a geneticist, he's focusing on DNA and sort of that you know the molecular evidence for this

So one thing that he talked about was sort of earth-shaking to me And this is gonna get technical, so please hold on And that is this idea that the second chromosome in people is a fused chromosome So the second chromosome is fused According to evolutionary theory, we're closely related to great apes and most closely related to the chimpanzee

Now all great apes have 24 pairs of chromosomes, right? But we, if you've ever been at 23andMe, you know this, we have 23 pairs of chromosomes Now chromosome fusion, where literally a pair of chromosomes fuses directly on top of another pair of chromosomes is not totally uncommon It happens at about one in one 1,000 births, right? You can result in some issues sometimes but it's not always the case So if apes and humans are closely related like evolution suggests, then it seems that a common ancestor to both humans and apes had his or her chromosomes fused together Okay? So all right, do we see this in the DNA? Like what do we see in the DNA? Well, in humans the second chromosome appears to be a fusion of two great ape chromosomes

First, there are two sections of Chromosome 2 that correspond directly to two separate chromosomes in Apes Let me give an analogy if you're having trouble following this DNA is basically an instruction manual on how to build something, how to build an organism right? So let's just simplify this and just say that this book is 24 pages long And let's say on page two are the instructions on how to make a hand and on page three are the instructions on how to make a foot And so that's what you see when you look at a chimpanzee

But then when you look at a human, you see that it goes from page two to page four and there is no page three But then you look closely at page two and realize that it's page two and page three glued on top of each other and you see the instructions for the hand and the instructions for the foot on this long page two Does that make sense? Yeah That's a simple explanation or a simple analogy for kind of understanding this This is why our feet and hands are stuck together? Exactly

And Apes are not Again, this is a grossly simplified analogy but it does help to understand it Now, but furthermore, there are these things called telomeres at the end of chromosomes which basically are these like redundant material that basically protects the DNA structure, right? And so think of it like you've got a header and a footer on a page Right? So there's always a header and there's always a footer on a page and if you were to take two pages and glue them together, in the middle of those two pages, there would be a header and a footer glued together, right? If you take two pages and you glue them on top of each other like a really long page, Yeah A header and footer would be touching each other

Well, we see two telomeres, two vestigial telomeres directly on top of each other in the middle of the second chromosome, right? So all the evidence is pointing to these things being fused Now, the reason this rocked my world so much is because I was familiar with the argument that almost 99% of our DNA is the same as chimpanzees Everybody knows that because the human genome has been mapped But the creationist answer to that is well yeah, I mean God is making he's using the same building materials to make similar things It's his prerogative how he does it

So of course, you're gonna look at this instruction manual and you're gonna see that yeah, it's kind of the same and then it's sort of different in some key ways It's like God, it's God's prerogative why can't he do that? But that doesn't seem like an adequate explanation to why it definitely feels like and looks like and seems to be very conclusive that we actually have the same chromosomes and they've been fused That doesn't seem like consistent with the idea that this is just God's prerogative But that wasn't the only thing I was so interested in this particular thing, this DNA evidence because I'd heard about the fossils and all that stuff but this DNA stuff just seemed this is like how we decide court cases right and this is how we convict people, this is how we can find out if somebody actually committed a crime

This is definitive stuff And then I learned about retroviruses So, essentially there are certain RNA viruses that when you become infected with them they actually insert a copy of themselves into your DNA So you can look at your DNA and you can be like oh, you got that virus at that time And then occasionally, these viruses they're sort of retrovirus inside your DNA will be passed down to your children and that means it's endogenous, it's in your genes

Well, we actually see that we share these endogenous retroviruses with the organisms that we're closely related to and the more closely related you are to them, the more retroviruses you have in common Now, let me again take this manual, this instruction manual analogy further Let's say you look at page 19 of a chimpanzee manual and you see oh, halfway down on page 19 there's a coffee stain like somebody spilled coffee on the manual, but it looks like a copy of a coffee stain like there was an original and there was a coffee stain and this seems like a copy of that, like somebody ran it through a Xerox machine And then you look at a human instruction manual and on page 19, you see the same exact copy of the same exact coffee stain in the same exact place Why would God do that? You're thinking? And so then you think well, it seems to me that the most logical conclusion is that these two manuals come from a common manual, that there's an ancient common ancestor that is the ancestor to both humans and great apes and this is what you see

And these are just two small pieces of DNA evidence and I'm not gonna go into any more details but let me just say that the main thing that this did for me is I had been told a lot of things about evolution I had been told things growing up and now I was questioning those things because I'd been told that there's no real evidence, this is a desperate attempt to try to come up with some harebrained theory to just explain things And I'm like but this DNA stuff is pretty freakin' conclusive I can't imagine another way to know I'm not saying there aren't explanations for this

I'm not saying you can't go to a creationist website and find that, it's not like they don't know about this They have an answer, I've read the answer, I find the answer to not be compelling in the least But let me just say, this made me just question like all this stuff you've been told all this stuff like I had been told that there were no transitional fossils, there were no transitional forms, there's no transitional between this animal and this animal Well it turns out, there's a lot of them There's a lot of very convincing ones

I'd been told that there were really no vestigial structures, that there's nothing on your body or an animal's body that's like a sign of something that's no longer being used There's always a use for it and we keep finding those use for it Well, it turns out there's lots of examples of vestigial structures In fact, there's many structures that there's no other way to properly understand them other than them being vestigial, meaning that they're from the past, they're no longer in use Essentially, every criticism of evolution that I had held onto to justify my unwillingness to believe in it turned out to be a misconception or a misrepresentation of the facts

And so after reading a bunch of books, talking to a lot of people, not listen, I didn't wanna believe this I'd spent my whole life not believing this and not wanting to believe this but I kind of was just faced with this that evolution was by far the best explanation for what we actually see in the real world If you're interested in any further reading on this, there's a really good wiki entry called Chromosome 2 which breaks this down with resources It's very well referenced and there's a wiki entry called "Evidence of Common Descent" that kind of get into this and I'm gonna make some more refs at the end But let me just say, I didn't wanna believe this

It was incredibly problematic and there were plenty of Christians who I, very smart Christians, smarter than me who didn't believe in it who I could have just stayed in that camp But I just in my heart, I didn't feel like you I felt like I had to follow the truth I thought that the truth had to be more important than my commitment to my beliefs It had to be more important than my ideology and I wanna say that about, there's these plenty of Christian apologists and smart Christian people, I would say just creationists who deny evolution I don't think that they're being deliberately deceptive

I wanna be clear about that I don't think these people are saying "Oh, we see these facts and we're gonna misrepresent them "because we're gonna lie about this" I think that they're good people but I think that they're so committed to their belief system that they have become impervious to pretty straightforward information about this subject But the thing that did for me is I had placed a lot of faith not just in God, but in these people who helped me understand why I believed what I believed From an intellectual standpoint

Right, I had a very real emotional, personal, spiritual relationship with God that I was practicing but there was this intellectual foundation that whenever I had a doubt, I would kind of retreat to this intellectual foundation and all of a sudden, those people I'd been trusting in I began to doubt that I had been shown the truth or told the truth about other things, right? So get to this answer in due time as you've planned it but I guess my question is when you came to grips with evolution, was it just okay, now I'm gonna incorporate that into my faith? Yes, it was Because I know there's people thinking well, you can understand and accept the process of evolution and still have faith, I mean Well yeah, so exactly You're not an atheist all of a sudden, right? I was very unsettled but then I was like well hold up, I mean Francis Collins, the whole point of the book Yeah

Is that he believes in God because of what he's seen in the DNA and he's a Christian, he's an evangelical Christian and he believes in evolution He presented it as that was God's creative process was involved In all of this stuff Yeah Not to mention one of the most respected and revered philosophical Christian minds of all time, CS

Lewis was, you know, was a theistic evolutionist And so I knew I was in good company I was like this doesn't mean I'm not a Christian, this just means that I'm a little disappointed in the way that this subject has been misrepresented by so many Christians But again, my goal was let's stick with the truth All truth is God's truth

I'm not gonna be scared of the truth God's in control, he's the one who's established this entire universe, I shouldn't be afraid to poke and pry any of this stuff, right? So that was when I kind of got into this world of theistic evolutionist Christians There's a good book that I read called "Coming to Peace with Science: "Bridging the Worlds of Faith and Biology" the guy who believes in evolution but is a Christian That was a helpful book for me And then I got really involved or I wouldn't say involved but I spent a lot of time at the web site BioLogos which is essentially a group of Christian Scientists and there's a bunch of articles there

It's still active, I haven't been there in a long time but I checked recently, it's still there, still doing a lot of things But things get pretty complicated at this point Like once I started looking into this, so I'm gonna give you the short version if you can believe that this is the short version But basically, what you run into is that there's sort of two camps within people who sort of accept evolution One camp believes that Adam and Eve are still real, that they're either a special creation or they're sort of the result of the process but they are actually real historical people because they need to be real and historical in order for The Fall and then the Gospel to kind of make sense

Gotta be honest I did not find, all of those arguments felt really tenuous and just felt like you guys, you know that you have to have Adam and Eve and so you're sort of inserting them in a way that isn't, they're not really fitting is a little you know square peg round hole situation I remember the Tim Keller book "The Reason for God" Yeah I remember discussing that at that time and that being as I remember it, his position Yeah and this is problematic though because I didn't, basically I was like I just don't think there's a way that Adam and Eve were real as presented in the Bible

But like I said earlier, they're presented in the genealogy of Jesus in the Book of Luke so what's the deal y'all? You know I'm saying? This is a problem But what this did again, I just felt like this doubt was kind of creeping beyond the point of creation and it was creeping into the Old Testament itself because that's the way the story goes You got Adam and Eve and then you got a story that begins with them and moves all the way down to Abraham and Moses and then David you know It's all part of a system So again, I had been told

There was something I've been told about the Old Testament and that was the Old Testament is always supported by archeological evidence I'd heard that from so many Christians It's like sometimes they see something in the Bible and they're well there's no evidence for that and then they dig a little bit deeper and they're like oh we found the evidence or they find that basically the idea that the Bible is always vindicated because the Bible is completely true and everything, that it touches upon But when I really looked into it, I started realizing that that's not true That's not really the case

Just a few things, touching on some quick things Why is there no Egyptian historical record of the Israelites' captivity? It's two million people, they kept great records, why is there no record of them? Why is there no archeological evidence of the Exodus? Basically, this massive group of people wandering in the wilderness for 40 years They've looked for over 100 years, they've looked, no evidence Why does the modern archeological evidence call Joshua's conquest of Canaan into question? Why is there good reason to believe that the Israelites arose not out of conquest or force but by simply branching off of the Canaanites? And those are just a few things but there are some pretty major events that all of a sudden I was like no, this isn't well-supported Outside of the Bible, these things are not well supported

I was even further troubled, right? And so I'm I'm losing my faith in the Old Testament but I'm also losing my faith in those same Christian thinkers who have said all this stuff that like guys, this is solid as a rock You can stake your entire life on these truths and they'll always be vindicated So I was in crisis at this point but here's what I said I said does this Old Testament stuff really matter? Like is this really what this is all about? Isn't the important thing Jesus, right? If this is about a relationship with Jesus, does this Old Testament stuff, first of all, okay maybe there's no archeological evidence for this stuff, maybe there's no historical evidence of it But you can't really make an argument from nothing

It's like just the absence of evidence is not necessarily an argument against something So these things could have happened, we just haven't found that We haven't found them yet But we can still have faith and believe them and plus like I said, isn't this just about Jesus? Now let me be clear I was still living in North Carolina at the time

I was still leading a small group of Bible study at my church that I had been leading for many years And I still considered my still myself a Christian and I was slowly letting people that I loved including my wife in on some of this stuff And every time I would bring up a piece of it, she would just start crying And just superimpose that on last week's conversation, in terms of timing from graduation to being an engineer, to being on staff with crew So where I'm at right now with this whole like losing faith in the Old Testament and the archeological evidence, we're probably talking about like 09/10 at that point

So right as we're kind of wrapping up, we had left staff by this point But the early stuff about evolution that was 06 right? So that was the year that we left staff And then a few years before that, I was where I kind of spent most of my time just thinking about like the older, the younger stuff I spent a few years and about five years in that place Again, so at least not being on stuff, there's a little bit of a pressure release to– We owe

To be able to at least start to broach these conversations When you're in full-time ministry, you have absolutely no impetus to actually explore these things because that's your well-being, that's your livelihood Why you're gonna threaten that? You don't wanna consider to consider these things because you don't wanna be like if I actually consider this I'm not gonna end up having to not be a preacher anymore I'm not gonna have to drop out of seminary I'm not gonna stop being a missionary

Yep or for us And it's so much stuff for that It was your full-time job, Yeah And it was as we've talked about, we were so fully engaged and committed to working within those parameters to pursue our dreams, even not fully understanding that that's what we were doing Yeah So subconsciously, you don't wanna really engage in anything that's gonna threaten that but you couldn't help yourself

I mean it was just your nature to this concept of truth, I think is the thread and and again it started like you said in high school but it brought us to this point So back to what you're saying We had left stuff, we were making it on our own You're still very much involved in the church, you're teaching people, you're having these conversations with Jessie and you get into a little bit of it and she breaks down Every time

This was this was traumatic for her, every time I would bring it up And of course, I would wait until it had become unbearable for me and then I would bring it up to her because I'm trying to respect her and we're raising these kids and I know how important this stuff is for her And she was very educated in all this too We would argue about the young-earth thing when we were dating in college because that was her perspective, her background And it was not easy for our marriage and– Yeah, because you don't wanna bring it up early because it's nothing It may pass

It's a tough thing It may pass, it's a tough thing to bring up so it sounds like you start to bring it up when you like you said just you can't not bring it up When I got separate– And then it's almost you've reached a conclusion about something and then you're spilling your guts to her and expecting her to, she's late to the process Yeah Which is actually even more difficult Yeah And you mentioned that thing about like the concern was with truth and I list I don't know where this comes from it, this is my disposition

My dad was a lawyer and as a law professor he's got a very specific way of kind of getting to the bottom of things and I think so it's kind of in my DNA to be concerned about truth But I think ultimately it was like again, back to what I said at the beginning, is the whole point is that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life This is the truth You find the truth, the truth sets you free Truth, truth, truth

The whole point of the Bible, why people defend the Bible and say that the Bible is inerrant without error, it is from God It's you know written by God through people The whole point of all that is because it being true is paramount on it maybe more so than any other faith The holy text being true is such a linchpin, right? Now, okay And just one more thing

You had mentioned there were two camps when you were talking about that, about the Bible being literally what actually happened versus Adam and Eve being figurative I don't know if you were coming back to that or not, but it seemed like again, we're at a point where there's how you describe, that's a certain subset of, Yeah Christian faith that believes those things about the Bible Yeah and I think it's pretty fitting that at this point, we moved to California 2011, we moved to California, we immediately got involved in a church, an evangelical church, met some great people, made some great friends and this is when I adopted what I'm going to call California Christianity to get at what Link was getting out here a second ago

In LA even within the Evangelical church, I think there is this sort of because you're in this incredibly diverse place, with so many different perspectives, you really can't maintain a Christian faith in a place like this without at least some sort of realization that there's a lot of gray It's not about having it all figured out, it's not about being completely certain It's about a relationship with Jesus and this was like a kind of a breath of fresh air for me, honestly coming to California with all these doubts

I found these Christians who had these doubts, Christians who saw the Bible differently, who were like yeah, man I don't know exactly what happened Evolution seems like it probably did happen and Adam and Eve might not have been real but like that's not my day to day with Jesus, man you know and so I have a relationship with Jesus I wrote in my journal, 2011, "My faith is still weak but it is not gone "and possibly, God is revealing a foundation "that he can build real faith upon" "Here are a few things that have hit me recently "From an intellectual standpoint, "I may never have certainty about my faith

"That pursuit may be fruitless "It's becoming clearer that the significance of my faith "or the so called proof of Christianity "is not found in a well-reasoned argument "Rather, it rings true the way a musical note would "It hits my resonant frequency" And that was very reassuring to me at the time when we moved to L

A I was like man in this kind of crazy world with people trying to be all about themselves and this place, it's all about making it an entertainment business, I've got my faith, I've got my relationship with Jesus, I've got my Christian community and I don't have it all figured out and it is gray but it feels so true and it proves itself out to be true in my daily life I tried living like this I ran into a few problems The music did not continue to resonate well in your bosom? Basically, the foundation of my faith ultimately was still the Bible even if I had sort of a more liberal view or more gray view of what the Bible might mean and represent

And so every time I read the Bible, I saw issues with it Every time I heard a sermon, I would have an issue with it My experience through Christianity was basically inflaming my doubts and my questions So the closer I got to it, the more I couldn't quite shake these questions that continue to linger And the question, the place that I had sort of put a barrier around and said we're not going there sure we can talk about evolution, we can talk about the historicity of the Old Testament but where I'm not gonna go is I'm not gonna go to Jesus

I'm not gonna question Jesus But I just couldn't help myself because I was like my understanding of who Jesus is is not just based on my experience with him personally but it's also based on what the Bible has to say about him This is how we know what there is to know about Jesus And again, when I looked into this my world was rocked in a very big way I'm not gonna give sufficient detail here

Lots of people have gone and done this who are smarter and more educated than me But basically, there are just as many views on this as there are people who study it But essentially, I live my whole life being sure that the Gospels were historically reliable, almost taking it for granted I mean I'd read Josh McDowell's "Evidence That Demands a Verdict" and Josh McDowell "New Evidence That Demands a Verdict" I had read Lee Strobel's "Case for Christ"

I could spit these arguments back out to you on an airplane and make you think that well, I must be a Christian Why on an airplane by the way? Because when you're evangelical Christian you sit next to a stranger, this may be the only opportunity you ever have to share the life-changing message of Jesus with them There were lots of conversations that involved airplane evangelism because it was just like his captive audience Yeah It's like you're gonna go this whole flight and not saying anything

Right, what if it crashes? But I took a second to go one layer deeper and to look at the answers to the Christian answers that I had been given all my life And that was when I realized that this Jesus thing was very, very messy from a historical standpoint There's a few books that do a good job of outlining some of this stuff One of them is "Jesus Interrupted" by Bart Ehrman who's a professor of New Testament at UNC who incidentally Jessie was in his class and she used to come home every single day and then we would come up with ways to go back to argue against him, ironically Me and you were actually involved in a Campus Crusade initiative on the campus of UNC to kind of combat what he was doing because he was having so much influence on the students

So I understood Bart Ehrman had been the enemy for so long but what I started to realize is that he had a very similar story and I thought that he dealt with the subject matter in an honest and even-handed way There's also a book called "The Historical Jesus: Five Views" which kind of runs the spectrum once again on how you can see this But basically what I just saw is that there's so many people coming at this with an intention to uncover the truth, to find the truth and they're coming to these wildly different conclusions This isn't like science Somebody does a scientific experiment in 1985 in China and then somebody does the same scientific experiment in 2019 in California

If everything is controlled, they're gonna come to the same conclusion That's not how history works and it makes it very difficult to come to definitive conclusions about things But essentially in the end, by far to me personally, the most compelling and seemingly reasonable view was that the Gospels appear to be a mix of religious propaganda as well as actual history So there's definitely some history in there I think Jesus was a real person, so does Bart Ehrman

But I don't think that as he is presented there is completely reliable That's what I was thinking at the time So what did you believe about Jesus? You reached a conclusion about the person of Jesus at that time when you were when you're researching that I had a picture of Jesus that was the picture that I had always had of this person who did these miracles and died on the cross and rose again and died for my sins and was God in the flesh All the things that were important to believe about him

But I had doubts about those things being true but I didn't have another picture of Jesus There was no other picture of Jesus So you read all these books, you did all this research about Jesus but your conclusion was not really a conclusion at that point? Oh yeah, it was some process and so this was incredibly unsettling, right? This was way more unsettling than anything that had happened so far because this was Jesus, this was the core of everything This is who my relationship was with and all of a sudden, I've got very serious doubts about him

And I think that anyone that you would have conversations with and you did initiate with not only Jesse but with me and with other people that you confided in over this decade of going through this If you were talking to someone who was it was still very much committed to their faith, it was like much more solid, I think the response maybe it's not spoken is well yeah, as long as you as long as you hold on to Jesus and you know it's like that, you can't let go of that You can let go everything else but you can't really let go of what you believe about Jesus raising from the dead and and paying the penalty for your sins instead of you Yeah Either you go to hell or or he does which he already did and came back

Right Is the belief So you can let other stuff go and maybe not panic and again I'll share my perspective on interacting with you more next week but at times, that was part of it Yeah because what you believe about Jesus is paramount but what you believe about Jesus is still based on what is presented in the Bible If not, where else are you getting it? I mean some people might be like well I'm getting it directly from God but that's not what Christianity teaches It's coming from God and the Bible and they don't contradict one another

So when it became clear to me that it wasn't something that I could have, the same kind of faith in it that I've had, I had a meltdown I didn't do anything crazy externally but there was a lot happening internally At this point I said– Do you remember a time or a place associated with this? Well I've got a couple of journal entry in another journal entry that I'd go into which is sort of the next stage of this thing but not particularly But I do remember saying this at the time I was like "God you are bigger than all of this right

"I'm just this little human "who sees through a glass darkly my "I got this finite mind and I'm trying to understand "the infinite mind, the creator of the universe" Seems pretty arrogant actually you know And I was like is God just sitting there watching me do all this research and eventually he's gonna give me some satisfying answer and then all I said I'm gonna have faith That just doesn't seem like a relationship That's not how you conduct a relationship

I don't make my wife fit a certain criteria I don't ask her a bunch of questions about her past in order for her to qualify to be you know I'm saying? it's like I experience relationship with her on a personal level and I just felt like I was just completely in my mind and I made this whole thing like scientific and intellectual and also it seemed like I was being arrogant because I was waiting for God to fit my expectations I was creating God in my own image as opposed to creating me in His image I had flipped the script on God and was waiting for him to like be my little trick pony that does all the things that I want him to do in order for me to believe in him There's a verse that kind of gets in

Which was answers basically Isaiah 55 says "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, "neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord "As the heavens are higher than the earth "So are my ways higher than your ways "and my thoughts than your thoughts" So God saying I'm bigger than you Right

There's certain things you just can't get, dude Yeah and at this point, I was like okay you know what, I think this is probably where faith comes in It makes sense to me that this might be where faith comes in because I am sitting here trying to prove this stuff out but shouldn't I just have faith first and then maybe these answers will be given to me by God Isn't this what faith is all about? I mean the whole point is this It's evidence of things not seen, right? And so your next step was there's no way for me to know but I'm gonna try a different route which is I'm gonna maybe faith needs to come first Yeah And would then we'll open up, maybe that'll lead to something

Yeah, I can believe in the Jesus that I believe in because that's what the Bible says I can believe in the biblical Jesus even though I have reasons that from historical perspective to doubt that I can still believe in it and overcome that And this is when I ran into some problems So the first thing was how does this differentiate me from any other faith on earth right? One of the things that makes Christianity a unique is that you know it is the way, the truth and the life No man comes to the Father except through the son right? You don't get to the son through somebody else

You don't get to the Son through Buddha, right? But also evangelical Christians tend to be pretty critical of other faiths Mormonism is a perfect example right? If you're in an evangelical church or certain evangelical churches you know, they teach you that Mormons basically have it wrong, that Mormonism is a bastardization of Christianity, right It's not just another Christian group and they lots of Christians will write books that explain how all the things that Mormons believe about Joseph Smith and these things that happened are not true and here's why in the Book of Mormon is not true and here's why So they can be very critical of that faith But yet, if you say those things to a Mormon, they will say well, I have a burning in the bosom that proves to me that these things are right

So you can tell me that these things seem wrong and you can show me certain things but I believe them to be true and you can't change that because I have this sort of seal and sign from God, this indication that this faith is real and this is all true And I was like, isn't that what I'm doing right now? Now I'm just saying that I'm just gonna have faith that things are real Damn the evidence So how does that make me any different right? And ultimately, this kind of faith felt a little cowardly to me, to be honest It felt like what I was saying is yeah, there's some conclusions that I really don't wanna come to and the way I'm going to avoid those is just by having faith

But ultimately, you just can't make yourself believe You just can't make yourself have faith This was a torturous place for me, right and I was there for a very long time There was lots of praying, there was lots of reading the Bible which would inflame some of the same doubts There was lots of talking to Christians openly about what was happening

I wanna be very clear that I didn't go into a cave somewhere and come to these conclusions and never run them by I didn't wanna leave this thing man This was my life This was this defined everything for me This was the foundation of my marriage, this was the foundation the way I was raising my kids

I didn't want it to go away It was the orienting purpose-driven worldview that was what was basically defined everything about me But yet, I'm going through this process I'm talking with people, I'm talking to my wife, she's crying You're talking to me

Yeah, I'm talking to you I was talking to you the entire time about this stuff You didn't cry, thank you I didn't cry But the major shift for me occurred when I asked a question I had never asked

I'd been very very afraid to ask this question and that was what if I'm wrong? What if I opened myself up to the possibility that maybe I have been wrong about this? I wanna be clear, I'd never done that even and all these things that had like shaken me right all these doubts that I had, I still was sort of, there was this Christian core that was completely protected through all this that I wasn't willing to let go of But I was like what if I am wrong? Can I just live like that for a little bit? I'm pretty good at kind of giving myself over to things, right? I can watch a movie and get lost in it I can read a book, I can get lost in it I can read a book from a different perspective and I can adopt that perspective for a little bit to see what it feels like and I decided that I was gonna do that

So let's just consider what it would mean if you were wrong What would that mean about the Bible? And when I was honest with myself, the Bible began to make a lot more sense to me personally as a product of humans rather than God It seemed less and less like God's message to people and more like people's best guesses about God And in that, it became a lot like any other holy text And that when I came to that conclusion, or I was and I wasn't fully there I was just considering what does it feel like to think this? It led to a few more questions that I'd always been afraid to ask myself

I'm gonna read these 'cause I wrote them down These are just a few of the questions I'd always avoided "If I don't have to believe "that God ordered his chosen people "to slaughter men, women and children by the thousands, "then why would I? "If I don't wanna believe that every religious experience "of any person who is not a Christian "is ultimately illegitimate, then why would I? "If I don't have to believe that anyone "who doesn't have a relationship with Jesus ie "the majority of people who have ever lived "are going to spend eternity "being literally tortured in a fire "experiencing never-ending pain and suffering "then why, no pun intended, "in the hell would I believe that? "And if I can somehow accept the idea "that hell exists because of God's holiness "why would I believe in a God "who would choose to create that particular world "where people have no choice whether or not "they're going to be born but then once they are born, "if they don't adopt the correct understanding of God, "he will punish them forever

"Why believe in that God if I don't have to?" So where did this leave me? Because the answer to those questions are that you have, there's a lot of fear of what you might lose or experience? But there are some things to gain um if you go to the other side Well, it's funny because I had spent a lot of time in my head, a bunch of light intellectual processing of all these things right, philosophical stuff But at this point, as I felt this sort of traditional faith slipping away, I started worrying about some pretty practical things like how is my marriage gonna stay together, what am I gonna teach my kids? This is what I've been teaching them What am I gonna teach them now? What am I gonna do, where am I gonna turn? What's gonna replace this? This is community, this is purpose, this is meaning, where am I gonna find something like that? And a verse came to mind John 6 after Jesus has kind of talked about him being the flesh and he's kind of basically given the whole idea of you know, communion at this point and it's a difficult teaching and a lot of people walk away 'cause they're like he's talking about eating him and drinking his blood

This dude's nuts and it was a difficult teaching People didn't understand what he was getting at and they walked away So Jesus asked the twelve? Do you wanna leave too? Simon Peter replied "Lord to whom would we go? "You have the words of eternal life, "we believe and know that you are the Holy One of God" And that's what I said I was like listen, I got nowhere else to go

What am I gonna become? Now, let me make it clear I was in a state of panic at this point but I was like I can't, I can't, I can't let this, I can't let this go, there's too much wrapped up in this, right? But this is where being in Los Angeles did allow me to ask a different question And let me let me explain that First of all, I have no doubt that many people will probably not even listen to this story In fact, I've seen it on Twitter

I've already seen people say you know I don't wanna listen to their personal stories because I don't wanna hear somebody talk about leaving which that hurts mean that you don't wanna listen to the story I'm just trying to be honest but I know a lot of people will come to the very very easy conclusion Guys, there's nothing surprising about this You were Christians and then you went to Los Angeles and you lost your faith It's a story as old as Los Angeles

This isn't surprising, it's like what's the big deal? This is super simple but I'm trying to represent that this wasn't this wasn't something made, this wasn't some flippant decision, this wasn't like ah, man I wanna be cool and accepted in modern culture so I'm gonna shed all this stuff The reason why it hurts is because– It's a dismissal That assumption is a dismissal, it's an assumption of your of your true motives that you don't wanna state which are hey you just wanna sow your wild oats or you wanna be cool or you wanna be able to face your friends who believe different things or like they have different lifestyles And in order to be successful out there, you gotta make some changes, okay I mean watch any award show now and see how the entertainment industry is pushing change in perspectives and changes in the way people act

if not belief And so it's like, hey if I get it, if you guys wanna go out there and you wanna pursue your dreams, if that's really what's most important to you then yeah, you got to give up, you got to give up your beliefs I mean you gotta make a choice and it seems like that's the easy thing You guys made the choice and it again, it's like no one's said that out loud to us but– Oh, I've seen people say it They've typed it maybe

I've seen it typed I saw it typed actually after our first two episodes Somebody was like "What's the big deal? "It's clear what happened "They went to Los Angeles "and they lost their faith" It happens

And I'm just trying to first of all hopefully, if you've listened to this point, you at least acknowledge that this was a process that was in many ways independent of where I was at but also way more personal and torturous and it wasn't a calculated business decision It wasn't like I don't know, that particular accusation hurts a lot When people say you were never a Christian and what people say you changed because of LA, those things hurt a lot because of how untrue I know them to be

So there's an aspect, and I will get into more of this Okay So I think we'll come back to it but your point for now is that there was an aspect of you changing because of LA Yeah and this is where L

A comes into play LA did allow me to ask a new question and that was why am I still doing this? And I'll be honest, I would not have asked that question if I was in North Carolina because when you're in the Bible Belt, you're embedded in Christian culture

There are a dozens of reasons why you would still be doing it I mean why rock the boat? Why disappoint your parents? Why disappoint your friends? Why extra you know get yourself out of this and community I would have been going to the same church since I was in ninth grade I would say technically your whole life because that church came from another church that we both went to Right

Exactly I've been with the same group of believers forever and now I was leading a Bible study I had preached sermons on Sunday you know what I'm saying? There's all kinds of reasons not to leave Why damage your reputation because honestly, in the Bible Belt this can be as many people know, if you've left the faith and the Bible Belt It ain't easy

There's a lot of pressure to stick around and stay in there But what I realize is that I've been pulling on this thread for a really long time, right? Let's call it the sweater of faith which is not the armor of God This is a real offline concept The sweater of faith I've been pulling on this thread and it had sort of like turned into a vest and then a midriff and then a halter top and now it was a string bikini

It's not appropriate And I was like I'm gonna take the bikini off Really not appropriate It's just an analogy Okay

And I was LA Yeah Men in bikini tops, there's lots place you can see– Go to the convenience store And I took it off and I call this– What do you mean, how did you take it off? Well I have a journal entry, thankfully

That's great, okay Give it to me It has nothing to do with bikinis This is from 2014, okay "I understand that it is unreasonable "to expect Christianity to be a set "of scientifically verifiable principles

"It is a faith implying that some sort of believing "without seeing is involved "And more specifically, Christianity "is a relationship with Jesus "and relationships are not well defined "or experienced scientifically "However, I don't think it insignificant "that the deeper I have dug into Christianity "with a thirst for the truth, "the more difficult it has become to have faith "In fact, for me, it has become impossible" And that was kind of the reckoning for me, right? That was that was jumping ship to use a better analogy than taking off a bikini

You see, I kind of saw Christianity as this boat in a very stormy sea It's stable, there's a lot of other people on it, It's got a destination, you're gonna get through this It gives you something to hold on to It gives you stability, it gives you purpose, it gives you direction and it gives you community And when I jumped ship, I didn't jump to another boat

I jumped into the water and I pulled my wife and my children in with me I jumped into a sea of uncertainty and that's where I've lived for about six years And we're gonna spend some time talking a little bit more about where we're at now I do wanna talk about it now but we're getting more detail and like a subsequent podcast, maybe in a Q&A or something but I wanna kind of talk about what this has been like without getting into too much detail and I know because we're already pretty long This is gonna be a long one

Right after I jumped ship, I kind of went through a period of anger I was very mad at the Christian leaders and thinkers who I felt deceived by I wanna be very clear about this No one that I was in personal contact with, pastors, Christian friends, elders in my church, none of them disappointed me or let me down I did not have a personal like tragedy

A lot of people have like a traumatic spiritual experience in a church I didn't I only got good things from the church We talked about this while back that like listen, I'm a straight white dude You know you get a lot of things handed to you especially within the church if you fit that profile

In some churches, being a straight dude is the only way that you can teach There's plenty of churches right now, churches in Los Angeles that people would consider progressive where you better not tell them you're gay and if you're a woman, you probably won't be able to preach It's 2020 and this is still the case I just wanna be clear about that But for me, this had been I got so much out of this

I was riding high I could have ridden this train to the top man, you know what I'm saying? But nobody disappointed me personally but I was angry at the thinkers I was angry at the people who had written the book saying that evolution didn't have any evidence I was angry at the people who had written systematic theology books who basically made it seem like this was all pretty simple And I kind of, the pendulum swung for a time into atheism

I was like this is all bullshit and I'm gonna be the enemy of this stuff I'm gonna be an anti evangelist That's what I was thinking at the time Of course, we're still very private about all this so it wasn't like I said this to anybody publicly And that anger actually subsided rather quickly

It's interesting I kind of had my moment of anger in atheism and then that was replaced with kind of an openness and a curiosity You know it's interesting how liberating this one aspect has been I think the biggest change that has happened to me in my life is that I've lost my appetite for certainty, specifically certainty about things I don't think you can be certain about I think my struggle with Christianity for me a big part of it was I had to keep aligning my thoughts and being certain and kind of reader living my faith and why this was reasonable and being sure about this and knowing exactly what was gonna happen when I died and all this stuff

But when I was like I don't think I can be certain about these things, it's like when a person I've heard this happens, I haven't done it yet When you stop eating meat, you lose your appetite for meat, a lot of people say I stopped being certain about things I lost my appetite to be certain I didn't wake up with a sense of panic

I thought there would be panic, I thought there would be chaos Especially for someone who that's how you lived your life And I thought there would be few And so attached to it Right But it's been the most liberating thing that has happened in my adult life

I'm not kidding I'm not trying to paint that, listen, it's not like I'm about to give you some philosophy that I live according to now that's got did the gives that gives me community purpose and meaning I don't have that, okay I think there's a giant sort of shift that's happening culturally and I think that we may be arriving at that some time But it doesn't exist right now for me

But what does exist is an openness, is this curiosity Listen, I still think that belief in God is very reasonable I think that the idea that the universe is ultimately purposeful, it's headed towards some ultimate purpose, not only is that comforting but it kind of feels again, it feels right to me when I just look at the history of the world and we're you know But I don't know it to be certain and I don't know anything about this source or this god that might be behind all this and I'm kind of beginning to think that I don't know if you are supposed to know a whole lot about it So I would call myself a hopeful agnostic meaning I don't know, but I hope

I hope there's something A question that I've gotten from some people who are close to me, love me is what do you think happens after you die? I don't know I'm reasonably certain that you don't burn in hell because you were intellectually curious and honest to put it bluntly But honestly, I'm more interested now in what happens while I live It's not so much what happens after you die but what happens while you're alive

And I'm trying to answer that question but it's one of the reasons I'm in therapy It's honestly one of the reasons that I get up every morning and do 20 minutes of back exercises Honestly, it's one of the reasons that I think more about what I eat because the only thing I know that I've got is this life But the other thing that has kind of happened because people ask me about your marriage, your kids, will get into this in more detail But Jesse has her own story, there's been a lot of crying but she's in a similar place now and this process because we were so, this whole process ruins a lot of marriages

I've seen it a lot because sometimes people are like I can't go They're not going there, it's over This was the whole foundation I mean yeah we made vows If you read, we wrote our own vows for our wedding and they were very much about– Jesus Jesus

But now, it's kind of like our marriage has hit a second wind where it's not so much about a structure that we both sort of assent to that tells us what our marriage should be like but it's like hey, it's pretty cool that I get to go through life with you I love you And that has actually been a pretty good thing to concentrate on And with the kids, you know I think for me the idea that the purpose and meaning and sort of like orienting your life in a certain way, all came from the Bible and from church I actually because none of that went away, you know I'm saying, like I still wanna be the same kind of person that I've always wanted to be

I wanna be the same kind of husband I want the best for my kids Meaning like your morality? Yeah Still like you– Yeah You know what? The moment that you jumped ship, you didn't start looking to cheat on your wife Right

As an example Exactly It wasn't like all of a sudden 'cause I'd always been told that and I had many Christians who I respected said "Man, if God wasn't real, "I would be out doing drugs right now, "I'd be out sleeping with whoever I want" I'm like I don't actually think you would I think you actually have an innate desire to be a pretty good person and to live a life that is good for you and the people you love

And a lot of people will attach it to a structure and an explanation like Christianity But I think very few people actually find the purpose in their faith I think they have purpose and then they bolster it with faith That's my personal opinion Or even another way to put it using the marriage example, do you think that your motive to be true to Jesse was not just out of love for her but out of love for God you know, out of respect for you know

So now you being true to Jesse is out of love for her It's a line like I'm– Yeah and it's not a fear of God It's a love for her and it's a fear of listen, there's a lot of shit that happens when you do stuff like that in your life There are natural built-in consequences to doing the things that are traditionally considered to be sinful according to every religious tradition It's not like you just

If I didn't have this I'd be out doing all kinds of crazy shit No, you wouldn't It's like first of all, my best friends now are not Christians but they're faithful to their families and– They're not horrible people

They're not horrible people And I think that's what we thought was without the Holy Spirit indwelling you, you're just going off the flesh so to speak, you're going off of your own desires and I mean that's the only thing keeping you from being a horrible person I think that's from a young age, I think that's what we felt But I think the thing you That's a particular view of people that we had in our particular like reformed Calvinistic Everyone is totally braved

Yeah, it's– And anything good that is coming from anybody is either because they are created in the image of God or they have a relationship with God I think too, I wanna get back to like that being a subsection and everything that you've talked about being applied to the whole of Christianity or faith or anything like that But before that, you were talking about you were moving to the kids from your relationship with Jesse I kind of went back to the relationship with Jesse So when you were talking about the kids, you were talking about raising them in a way to be whole people, to be good people

I don't wanna put words in your mouth but I think you were getting it Well, I think the biggest thing about kids is what I have sort of observed and being very much embedded in the church for a very long time is there's kind of this idea that it is your responsibility as parents to make sure your kids turn out all right and that it's up to you, you better teach them the right thing If you don't, they're gonna be screwed up And I'm not saying that you shouldn't teach your kids good things But what I've observed is that you know what my kids could actually teach me a lot

I think that kids orient themselves in the world much more readily based on your behavior than the specific things that you tell them I don't think that having an information session with your kids and indoctrinating them it's what's going to make them into a good person I'm not saying we're not constantly talking about issues of morality and ethical things, philosophical things We talk about that every time, our family is very much always talking about these things But the interesting the sort of freeing thing is is that when my kids have a question about God or the deeper purpose of the universe or what happens when you die, we explore those things as people

I'm not here as some authority that's gonna point you to this ironclad thing and that's gonna make it okay because you know what, it's not gonna make it okay Just because I can point to this book and tell you that you should believe this I am proof that believing those things isn't necessarily gonna make all those deeper thoughts go away And so, in getting my kids comfortable with sort of living intention and let it being okay with not having all that stuff figured out, but it's like well what can you have figured out and what does lead to a fruitful meaningful life? Well you know what a life devoted to others A life devoted to yourself is going to fail I can't explain, I don't feel like I have to explain the dynamics behind that for it to be true

And so– But you do explain it Sometimes you talk about being a parent as if like just you gonna be and I know that's not what you're saying but I think what you just said is clarifying that you are your– Well, I am saying that to an extent I know you are I am saying that to an extent I think we have a little bit of a difference in approach but that's fine Well, I think, I would say that the latest child psychology basically suggests that kids sort of they're gonna be a certain way but– But you're talking about selfishness versus self-sacrifice

You're talking about what it means to love, you're talking about who what type of person do you wanna be Yeah And also the thing I try to get my kids to do is process the consequences of their actions It's just like, "Hey Shepherd, I just asked you "if you had mom's phone and you told me no "but you do have mom's phone "Let's talk about why you did that "and let's talk about what it means to be a person "who's willing to lie, who's willing "to say something that's false about this

" And so it's like what is going to happen if you become a person who can't be trusted? What's that gonna do? What kind of life are you gonna live as a person who can't be trusted? And for me that just is a that tangible like nitty gritty getting down to the details of like what does this mean, what are the ramifications of your behavior for me it's in listen, listen I know that I've read all the Ravi Zacharias' books and I've seen him speak I know that the whole idea is well where's the morality come from if it's not coming from a moral lawgiver, God himself? I think that that argument is marginally compelling but I don't think that is conclusive and I think the point is is I don't think you wake up and make decisions to be a good person because you've got this moral lawgiver There may be a moral lawgiver I'm not saying that God doesn't exist but I think that it's a much more natural and organic process than there's a book I read it and now I know what to do

I think that's why those core qualities of what makes a human good exist in cultures everywhere You find a culture in the middle of the Amazon that's never been exposed to the gospel or any sort of religious system outside of what they believe but they're gonna think that murdering is great? Probably not They didn't need Hammurabi or Moses to tell them that, so I guess I'll move on and one other thing Whatever his name is, I don't think that's how you say his name

Hammurabi's Code I don't know how you say his name I was curious, personal question When it comes to therapy, does anything to come up? I know you talked about anger and you also talked about how there wasn't an inciting incident outside of your own intellectual exercise and research But do you find that there's baggage, that there's things that you need, things that you need to heal from? Maybe now that your perspective is shifted, is there any of that? You know again, and I feel I kind of feel like an asshole for saying this because I know that so many people, so many women and so many people who don't fit the mold, and we talked about like the LGBTQ plus experience of people in the church

There's a lot of stories of trauma because as people were sort of developing their identity and self actualizing, they're doing it in an oppressive environment and that's damaging But again, because of who I am and what I look like, I pretty much just benefited and so I don't look back at my experience with the church in a traumatic way I just feel like, ah man, I was very lucky and actually, we talked about it last week Professionally, I got a lot out of it I was able to develop professionally and do and live my dream out

For me, most of my therapy is related to you know just sort of the realization that everyone's personality is essentially constructed over their child, their inner child and it's a way of sort of navigating and moving through the world It's a protective shell and so for me it's like why is that your shell and what is that child underneath saying, feeling? Do you sort of like It's just more of your early childhood stuff and it's not trauma, it's just figuring out But do you feel like everything that you having constructed that shell, the belief system that you had became a part of that, became another layer? I haven't processed it, but definitely yes I haven't gotten today I have got again an area Again, it's like the thing that you're taught your whole story is so much in your head you know it's like when you talk about Well, yeah You'd be devastated and like those moments of there's being a crack in the dam and then when when you decide to jump ship like I mean, you allude to it being a torturous time, you said that there's moments of like being really scary

But it does seem like the story is very much in your head you know there Yeah, yeah in– So maybe there's stuff under there And I understand that's one of the reasons that a lot of people won't relate to what I'm saying because they're like why is this? There's Christians that I know and love who when I talk to my telling this story, I just kind of see them just look off and quit listening 'cause it's just like why is he spending all this time talking about the second chromosome? Right Like why is that important to him and what does that have to do with God? Yeah And for me it has everything to do with my story because it's all related, you know? Again, the whole idea is that this foundation is truth and so but in terms of I I feel like my attempts to like focus on the relationship and focus on faith was my attempt to get out of my own head and get into my heart when it came to my perspective on God And to lean into the relationship

But again, it's the it's that inextricable relationship between facts and feelings It's still, you can have an incredible experience with somebody relationally and it can feel completely emotional and physical but yet, there is sort of a scientific representation, a naturalist understanding of what's happening between the two of you And I think that there's this foundation that I just kept coming back to and every time I came back to it An interesting thing is, it isn't like the Christian apologists are saying that they don't make the argument that I was trying to make them ahead They don't say don't worry about this, just have faith

They say because they know they have to Know this is defensible Here's why Here's why evolution didn't happen and here's why you can trust, and I can even prove to you I know a guy who wrote a term paper in college on why the resurrection is an undeniable historical fact

Those things being true are sort of what the founding fathers of the faith you know especially those guys in the early church who were like figuring out how to think about all this stuff They were doing intellectual work, it wasn't just happening in the heart They were laying a philosophical framework that we've built our faith on and I think that we've got more access to information about that process than we've ever had And it deserves some scrutiny and I actually think it doesn't stand up to scrutiny That's my personal opinion

I could be wrong But that's where I'm at So two things I wanna come back I wanna end on your label that you apply to yourself but I did want to ask, how do you process the anticipated criticism of everything you shared? I don't know yeah

I know I'm a three on the Enneagram and one of the characteristics of a three which is an achiever is you wanna be liked by everybody And being misunderstood or misrepresented is a direct assault on my ego and I know that that's gonna happen but it's just part of the growth process, being okay with it being okay with people mis characterizing the things that I've said, people dismissing the things that I said Obviously there's gonna be a lot of people who say that oh well it's clear he was never a Christian He didn't really, he had an intellectual understanding but he was never in a relationship with Jesus because he couldn't have been It's not consistent with my theology

That again, I like I said that's tough But I think it's only tough because I'm an egotistical asshole sometimes I think if I'm truly humble, then I shouldn't let those things bother me It's just like yeah, that's gonna happen But I don't know how I'm gonna process it

I don't I actually, I've seen that you've engaged a little bit with people on Twitter and for some reason I just haven't I just haven't had the emotional energy I've been thinking a lot about this story I think I will engage with people if they have questions

I think we will engage with people if they have questions and you know after you tell your story which I'm excited to hear your story because you're so different than me Yeah, especially for this type of experience And I think– But it's very much intertwined and I think it's you know we made a decision for you to go first and I think that's gonna be very helpful for me for people to understand my story second Yeah But go ahead

I mean I don't know I don't know how I'm definitely because I want everybody to like me which is a flaw It's not something I'm proud of I know that some people won't like this

A lot of people won't like this A lot of people are gonna be offended, a lot of people are gonna say that I misrepresented the facts A lot of people are gonna say because listen, if you agree with everything I said, then you know how could you still have faith? So it's like I understand that I remember we had we had a good friend We had a good friend who had a bunch of doubts and I remember how we treated him And I loved him but I remember when he started talking all this stuff about how he was doubting certain things I was like I remember asking I was like what are you gonna teach your kids, man? I do

I remember that now And I remember thinking things like man, I guess he just never knew Jesus because the Jesus I know I would never think those things And I know that's how, I know how I would have processed hearing this story As side note– And again, it's difficult for me I'm glad that we still have a relationship with him and that we've talked through it since then and that he was patient with us in a way that now we're asking for people to be, you're asking people to patient with you and I'm asking for people to be patient with me

Yeah Patient not in waiting for someone to change their mind but just to still be loving He was still very loving to us even though it had to have been written all over every everything we said and our faces, you know Yeah, for sure Do you– We should wrap things up

Okay, I think my last, in a desire to put a bow on something are you happy with the label that you've given yourself of hopeful agnostic? I mean is that, are you happy with that? I don't know how to answer if I'm happy with it I mean you just who It's just where I'm at I am happy I am happy Is it a destination I guess is? For me, I am open to revelation from God

like I haven't lot it's like listen, there's some things Should I step back? There's some things that I am I don't think I'll ever believe again Like I'm not ever gonna believe that the earth is 10,000 years old, like that car left the garage a long time ago I don't think I can have a worldview that doesn't embrace the reality of evolution, that every living being on the earth is related to every living being on the earth And I actually think that's beautiful even from the perspective of there might be a creator And I know that I could go into the desert or I can go into the office and have a crazy religious experience that all of a sudden I come back and I'm like I got something for you

And I'm not closing myself off to that I'm not some pure Naturalist because listen, if anything that if my story represents anything is that I'm willing to change my mind I had a faith that was so solid This was so deep, this wasn't the Sunday morning thing man, this was a lifestyle This was in my blood and I let it go because I did not believe it to be true

I'm gonna follow truth wherever it leads without fear, without fear of uncomfortable conclusions And if that means that oh and you know what, you're gonna have an encounter with God that is going to send you to some new place or send you all the way back, then so be it But the thing I don't wanna do is I don't want to I feel like the curiosity and the openness that characterizes my life right now is something I don't wanna let go of And I don't wanna be, in fact quote from Ravi Zacharias, that I used to say, I'm gonna butcher the quote, but he essentially talked about you know being, you don't wanna be so open-minded that your mind is like a sewer just letting everything in Eventually, you gotta bite down on something So I recognize that you just can't be passive but actually, I don't know I have had some experiences and come to some conclusions but I'm not ready to share all that at this point

But I would say that, if anything, it's just sort of confirmed the direction that I've been going kind of away from the faith of my childhood That's my story Thank you for sharing I do have wrecks Make a wreck and then tell me it feels good to get it out

First of all, it does feel good to tell your story You have to wait a little bit Yeah I'm gonna sleep well tonight, Link I didn't sleep well last night

I've already mentioned a couple of these wrecks but I'm gonna say it again because they relate to what I just told you about Again the Wiki entry on "Chromosome 2" Read it It's a short one, it's super easy to understand It's a better explanation of what I just said

The Wiki entry entitled "Evidence of Common Descent" which is a long one again People might be like why are you pointing people to Wikipedia? Well, Wikipedia is actually a great reference for these kinds of things because it's footnoted and referenced and you can go to those resources if you wanna dig deeper but it's a great comprehensive up-to-date list, sort of a living list of the evidence for evolution But if you're a book person, whether you wanna read or listen to it, I do recommend "Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne which is a pretty sort of easy to read explanation if you've never kinda dug into the subject And I was already on that train when I read that book but I just thought he did a great job of putting it together So those are my wrecks

Thanks for listening to this long podcast Hopefully, Link will go even longer We'll see #EarBiscuits, thanks for being a part of the conversation and for hearing us out We'll speak at you next week

To watch more ear biscuits, click on the playlist on the right To watch the previous episode of Ear Biscuits, click on the playlist to the left And don't forget to click on the circular icon to subscribe If you prefer to listen to this podcast, it's available on all your favorite podcast platforms Thanks for being your Mythical best

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