The English poet John Milton did well when he said that “Truth will rise to the top through a free and open exchange in the marketplace of ideas.” I am so encouraged when I have and see a substantive dialogue with someone concerning an issue. This is certainly important in every day discussions, blogs, and teaching. I assist in managing and teaching an Intro. to Philosophy course at university and I always encourage my students to make us work hard to convince them of what we believe to be true. Do not simply sit there and take what I say and teach prima facie–challenge me, challenge the thoughts, challenge your thinking.
The following are a list of podcasts that I’ve been following and listening to that have been quite helpful in my philosophical, scientific, and theological studies. The criteria for consideration are based on 1) quality of content, 2) accurate presentation of the material, 3) constructive and respectful criticism of opposing views, 4) frequency of podcast release, and 5) a broad range of topics/issues discussed.
Aside from my ‘official’ list I have my own podcast: Eavesdropping: Eavesdropping provides a conversational, informal podcast that is sometimes a monologue or dialogue with guests concerning various topics including philosophy, theology, science, contemporary events, and random meanderings of a philosopher. The primary focuses are philosophy of science, multiverse scenarios, and Molinism.
#1. Unbelievable? – Hosted by Justin Brierly with Premier Christian Radio. Unbelievable? is a UK-based public radio program, which airs every Saturday afternoon with an occasional podcast posting mid-week. Justin brings in several leading scholars in theological and philosophical matters and they debate and dialogue particular issues ranging from ethics, comparative religions, the existence of God, science, doctrinal differences, and current events.
Atheist biologist PZ Myers recently shared his thoughts on how an atheist is to live the good life. He constructed his opinions as counterpoints to many Christian disciplines and virtues. In the end, the happy atheist is the one who is free from religion, whose ethics are framed around societal responsibilities. Sure, helping and loving one another is good but Myers lacks a purpose or end goal for the good life.
Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas are the leading thinkers when it comes to answering the question, “What is the good life?” Both Aristotle and Thomas agreed that the good life is fulfilling one’s purpose in life but Thomas was the one who grounded the good life in divine love and purpose.
One of the common misconceptions of Christianity is that the goal of human life is happiness. The chief end of man is to love and know God—fulfilling God’s purposes for each individual. Man’s end is not happiness in this world, but the knowledge of God, which will ultimately bring humanity to it’s intended purpose and end.
I grew up going to a private Christian elementary school down in southern California. Because of my exposure to Christianity and God there, I grew up with a fear and basic knowledge of Jesus and his existence. After being switched to public school, I had retained my Christian identity but I never really followed through as a faithful believer–such as reading my bible, going to church, or praying. It was in the 8th grade when one morning my mother woke me up extremely early in the morning saying, “Get up! We’re going to church.” “What? Church? Huh?” Was my initial reaction. I had never attended a church service, outside of the chapel services I went to in my private school, in my life. I was entirely confused. We never went to church, and, out of nowhere, my mom is waking me up EARLY on a Sunday morning for his. Grudgingly, I stood up, got changed, and went with them to a small church that was couched into a little corner of a shopping center next to a pizza shop and a beauty salon.
I was born to Christian parents and I was raised by memorizing Bible verses and being taken to church three times a week. If anyone should have been a Christian by default, it was me. I was homeschooled through a Christian curriculum, and we had meetings with other Christian families quite often.
I was also a people-pleaser, and I knew that my parents wanted me to be a Christian, like them, more than anything, so I did what I could to make them happy and I said the “prayer of salvation” when I was five years old. I thought that was enough. Even as I grew up and matured, I continually ignored any misgivings I might have had about the state of my soul. I dismissed them as an “attack from Satan,” as my pastor would have called it. Eventually, however, these doubts became strong enough that I realized I could no longer ignore them. Then I realized I didn’t care.
‘I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen. Not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.’ C.S Lewis’ oft-quoted remark encapsulates much of what I will say here in rambling form.
I’m not sure how I came by faith (apart from vague notions of grace and providence) but it has been transformative. First an apology: this piece of autobiography will no doubt seem sterile compared to the other inspiring accounts I have read here however I wanted to explore Max’s request (perhaps for self-indulgent reasons): there was nothing dramatic in my conversion and I have never had anything that resembles a full-blown religious experience.
My childhood was one of rather superficial, middle of the road Anglicanism (CoE) but church was reserved for Christmas and Easter which I opted out of upon turning 16. Despite these biannual outings to church, my parents never expressed clear religious leanings and have become increasingly agnostic: once the children left home these excursions ceased. I was an unreflective atheist for much of my childhood but gradually this changed to a self-satisfied agnosticism when I began to study philosophy in a thoroughly secularised environment
Prior to my rather late ‘higher’ education I had begun to experiment with drugs and engage in promiscuous behaviour: my relativistic outlook provided the perfect justification for the self-centred life that I had chosen. The department in which I studied (and the university as a whole) was unashamedly naturalistic – theism was explored as an interesting historical curiosity that had been vanquished by David Hume and no contemporary theistic arguments were considered on the reading lists (or if they were, they were not highlighted by the lecturers as being worthy of the level of scrutiny which they perhaps deserved).
I am a Christian because at the age of six I embraced the Gospel, accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior through faith. At that age the Holy Spirit gave me the understanding of the burden of sin I carried after hearing the story of Pilgrim’s Progress and Christian’s journey to the foot of the cross, where upon reaching it, his own enormous backpack came loose and rolled away. I also understood from what my parents, who were recently saved themselves, taught me about God and sin and grace and heaven and hell. I was afraid of hell and comprehended Jesus as the way to heaven. That’s why I became a Christian, but it isn’t why I am a Christian now.
By that last statement I don’t mean to imply that a Christian can lose their salvation. I believe the Bible makes it clear that we are eternally secure once we give our lives to Christ (John 10:27-28; Rom. 8:38-39). But I do see that a believer can be ineffective by walking away from the reality of the Gospel in his life and ceasing to live as a Christian, as many have. I grew up in Sunday school and going to Bible camps, but lived out a pretty mediocre Christianity by the time I reached high school, and it didn’t improve much during a year at Emmaus Bible College. Although I met my future wife there, who influenced me greatly that what I learned at Emmaus was worth living out fully. She seemed to be doing just that. Tons of research suggests that Christians walk away from church and the faith because what they put faith in rather blindly as a youth doesn’t intellectually square when they’re older. I think this was a danger for me too.
One mistake many people make is to think that our intuitions are largely unreliable or intellectually irrelevant as a deliverance of reason. I am not one of those persons. To be clear, we generally trust our minds to inform us of a physical universe. Am I supposed to become skeptical just because my mind perceives truths concerning God, sin, and guilt? I think not!
Now, if one reflects on their moral condition with the corollary that God exists, we’ll see that we’re morally guilty before a Holy and righteous God. We’ll also notice that Christianity, as a justifiable set of beliefs, looks really good. The beauty and plausibility of Christianity is not merely it’s positive arguments —though I think there are many— it’s that Christianity, well at least, mere-Christianity, basically agrees with our intuitions about what God would be like in case He existed. That God would be holy, righteous, and just explains recognition of moral failure. That God would be love, explains our sense that He desires to restore us, forgive us, and rescue us from ourselves. When the Judeo/Christian account indicates that God has “lowered the bar” so that everyone can enter into a love relationship with Him, I’m buying it. When our descriptions of God match scriptures declaration that God saves because He is gracious, my intuitions are satisfied. For me the veridicality of my intuitions are satisfied with the gospel of Christ. Coincidence? Perhaps, but the peace I have from a commitment to Christ far surpasses anything I’ve ever known.
The Christian experience in the Philippines is a typical mixup of misconceptions involving the idea of an all-seeing Divine Entity whose eye is always watching what you’re doing, and ready to zap you with a punishment for a wrong that you commit. Add to that, a litany of what you should do, and what you cannot do, and continual visits to the parish church for confession, and a lot of practices like not bathing at 3pm on Good Friday and a great many other imaginative theories that make up the uniquely Spanish influenced animist Philippine religious experience.
No wonder we’re confused as a people.
I grew up in a household that was very much influenced by the Hispanic flavored Roman Catholic experience. Because of our middle class background, we were sent to Catholic schools, and we had Jesuit priests to provide our spiritual guidance.
It wasn’t very helpful. Specially because they didn’t provide very good answers to probing questions that I had about the God we were supposed to worship and the confusing literature that we had to use for our religious education.
Sometime in the early 1980’s a dear friend in a radio station where we worked together started attending bible studies with another friend and it was there that I discovered the Bible and what it taught about salvation. It was crystal clear and quite logical, even if it was the King James version.