A podcast about the meaning and magic of things. | Host: Ross Byrd | Regular guests: C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, George MacDonald and Jesus | Production help: Will Rodriguez & Sam Kittrell
Pope Peter? (TEASER for VB Fellows Podcast)
What does it mean that Jesus says of Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church?" Especially since only a few verses later Jesus rebukes Peter with the words, "Get behind me, Satan!"
This is just a TEASER clip from the brand new VB Fellows Podcast, which will be featuring live content from some of my lectures for the VB Fellows Program.
Check it out and subscribe here:
VB Fellows Podcast on Apple
VB Fellows Podcast on Spotify
The "Problematic" God of the Old Testament
First Q & A episode! Focusing on the theme of our problems with the God of the Old Testament. What do we make of the Old Testament's theme of religious violence (e.g. the wiping out of the Canaanites)? How should we think about salvation for people outside of Abraham's family before Christ? Why does God seem so intent on judging and punishing all the time? What is the purpose of God's choosing one specific people to the exclusion of everyone else?
A couple of years ago, famous Christian author and pastor, Andy Stanley, declared that it was time time to “unhitch” Christianity from the Old Testament. Whatever he meant by that, it created quite a stir. People were offended. (Ok, I was offended.) But if you actually go and read a few chapters of the Old Testament--just turn to almost any page--you can kind of see what he means. Many of us became Christians because of our captivation with the person of Jesus. But compared to the Jesus of the Gospels , the religion of the Old Testament--and yes, even the God of the Old Testament--can seem unrecognizable.
Our discomfort with the Old Testament has given rise to two major problems, which tend to converge and form a kind of vicious cycle: the first is a lack of knowledge. The second, a lack of trust. Personally, I'm more concerned about the second. Does it matter that the average Young Life leader has read very little of the Old Testament and/or knows almost nothing about it? Yes it matters. But you don’t have to be a Hebrew scholar or an expert on the Old Testament in order to believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ and share it with others. But if, already believing in Jesus, you open up the Old Testament and find a problematic religion you do not recognize and a problematic God you cannot trust...that is a bigger problem.
Inasmuch as we cannot recognize Yahweh in the person of Jesus (and vice versa), the vicious cycle of ignorance and mistrust will continue to erode our faith, so that, in the end, not even Jesus’s words and deeds will fully resonate. We’ll be tempted to pick and choose the parts of Jesus we like, just as we’ve already done with the rest of the Bible. Maybe we'll pick the parts that conveniently fit with our own personal narrative and unhitch ourselves from the rest. Of course, in some ways, we’re already doing this. So we have to backtrack, to dive deeper into the well (as I always say), which requires some patience--and a bit of bewilderment. But in the end, I guarantee it’s worth it.
Hope you enjoy! Special thanks to Mariel Kondas for the great question. Please keep the questions coming: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out our new website: www.meresanity.com.
On Mystery (Monkeys and the Multiverse)
A friend of mine, who knows I’m a sucker for reading things I don’t understand, sent me an article the other day entitled "Our Improbable Existence Is No Evidence For A Multiverse" from the online magazine Scientific American. I sort of understood it. But mainly it got me thinking about science and religion and especially about our ongoing relationship with what we do not know: what the Bible often calls "mystery" and what scientists sometimes calls "randomness."
A thought: Without the ability to reckon with mystery, there is no human flourishing. Being a sane person means having the ability to deal healthily with the unknown and the unknowable--with God’s seeming “silence"--as Job did, and as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. This tends to be especially hard for modern people (think: coronavirus). Nevertheless, if we can't, we're going to find ourselves in a world that is less and less...sane.
Questions? Thoughts? I'd love to hear from you. Email me at email@example.com.
And check out our new website! www.MereSanity.com
Who Stormed the Capitol?
We used to live in a physical space and get certain things on the internet. Now we live on the internet and get certain things done in a physical space. In other words, the internet is de-incarnating our existence. It gives real life to fantasies, but no real way to embody those fantasies. So our modern lives are increasingly being lived in disembodied ways. And when we do actually try to embody our internet fantasies--as in the storming of the capitol--it’s just weird. And bad. And unsustainable. It uncovers a kind of dark dream-world politics that was never meant for the light of actual day.
The storming of the capitol was less a political coup and more an internet meme come to life. And yes, it was actually violent and rage-filled. But some of the same people who fought so hard to get in the door were simply posing for selfies in their strange costumes once they got in.
That's the weirdest part of the whole thing. The storming of the capitol didn't do anything in the traditional political sense. What we witnessed instead was the virtual world spilling out into (and colliding with) the very real, physical symbol of traditional politics. And it was...stupid and ineffective and meaningless and laughable and sad. But it's not enough simply to point fingers at Chewbacca-bikini-guy and his sordid friends. Not enough simply to "condemn" the mob and wash our hands of the thing from the safety of our iPhone screens. Because we were cut from the same cloth. We were all born again in the womb of the internet.
Imagine a drone pilot who plays so many other video games in between his actual job that he can’t tell the difference between bombing fake people and bombing real people. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. Because his job, his entertainment, his identity is found in the virtual control chair and nowhere else.
To some degree, we are all that drone pilot. Or at least slowly moving in that direction.
Thoughts and questions? I'd love to hear from you. You can email me at rossebyrd(at)gmail.com. Also please check out our new website www.MereSanity.com for daily posts in between episodes.
The Parable of Elf
What does the North Pole have to do with Bethlehem? Why do I have a reindeer and an angel in my front yard right now? Why does the radio play “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and “Away In A Manger” back to back? What is the meaning of the magic of our secular Christmas? Why do children everywhere find it hard to sleep on Christmas Eve? What are they anticipating? The coming of Santa or the coming of Jesus? The answer is...yes.
In this (weird) episode, we do a deep dive into the unexpected parallels between the movie Elf and the story of the birth of Jesus in Luke's Gospel. In short, both are stories of blindness to the thing that’s right in front of you...and of how that blindness might be healed. In Luke, the blindness has two distinct expressions: Rome and Israel. Caesar is counting every person in the world, but he misses the one true king. Likewise, Buddy’s father is counting every dollar, but he can’t see his own son right in front of him. In the City of David, there is no room in the inn for the Son of David. Likewise, the Department Store which calls itself “The North Pole” has no room for an actual elf. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.
Join us as Ross makes the case for Santa as a kind of John the Baptist of our modern Christmas (if you are willing to accept it). Special thanks to Jonathan Pageau for helping me think through many of the symbolic patterns of the Bible mentioned in this episode. Definitely check out his channel, "The Symbolic World."
Thoughts or questions? I'd love to hear from you. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make Christianity Confusing Again
Why doesn't God just show himself? Why is he so un-straightforward? Why would Jesus say, "Ask and you shall receive?" if he didn't mean it in a straightforward way? Why did God tell Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Didn't they at least deserve a clear explanation before they ruined the world? And besides, wouldn't he have wanted their eyes to be opened?
Is Christianity a religion of clarity or confusion?
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic "Your sins are forgiven," or "Get up and walk." Who do you trust when a loved one is sick, God or the doctor? Which is better, to pour out your life savings on the ground in worship or to give it all to the poor? If God is real, why do we suffer? If Jesus came 2000 years ago to save us, why does the world still seem so un-saved? If Jesus had the power to feed thousands with a couple of loaves and fish, why did he only do it once or twice and then never again? Is Jesus not the ultimate example of the man who found the cure to cancer and then flushed it down the drain?
Is Christianity a religion of heaven or earth?
Questions? Comments? Wanna tell me where I'm off base? I'd love to hear from you. Email: email@example.com
“Mere Sanity” Podcast Review
Mr. Byrd does a great job bringing up the tough questions of where Christianity fits into our modern-secular society and our role as Christians. He is insightful, inquisitive, straight forward, intelligent, and at times humorous. Highly recommended.
Insightful, innovative, refreshing
A great listen to some cutting edge thinking and challenging perspective! Well worth the time!
Modern day Lewis
Ross is elucidating in his explanations and exacting in his ability to draw out the questions of faith in the human experience. And he is able to do so, “off the backs of giants” like Lewis, McDonald, and Chesterton. His understanding and discipleship of Jesus is extremely helpful for faith in the modern world.