John’ s recent post on William Lane Craig’s Defender Series of podcasts brought to mind that I should update my list of recommended podcasts for the thinking Christian (here is an earlier list John and I have discussed). I do not have the time to read books as much as I would like, but the marvel of MP3 players is that I can download audio files and listen to them while I work in the yard or drive to and from work.
John’s suggestion of William Lane Craig as the “graduate school” for the next step following after Dick Woodward’s Mini Bible College is very appropriate. Dick was an amazing teacher who continues to impact the world through his unique ability to “put things on the bottom shelf” for people by exploring the basic contours of the Bible. Dr. Craig then makes it more in-depth in terms of helping you grasp and develop your own understanding of God (theology) founded on Scripture and then applied in terms of being able to offer a rational defense of the Christian faith (apologetics).
But just as there are fine and different academic graduate schools out there, there are different “graduate school” approaches to theology and apologetics. For example, Dr. Craig is probably one of the leading Christian apologists alive today, such that atheist Richard Dawkins awkwardly still refuses to debate him. But Dr. Craig is known for his “Middle Knowledge” approach to the issue of God’s sovereignty vs. free will. He is also known for his classical/evidentialist approach to apologetics. Without digging too much into those things right now, let me just say that not everybody is totally with Dr. Craig on these issues. But, PLEASE, do not let that dissuade you from digging into William Lane Craig! He is awesome! It is just important to know that there are other approaches that Christians take to these issues. You might want to check out some of the other podcast resources available to get a flavor of what is out there. So here we go!
Clarke’s List of Great Podcasts (But Let’s Start with the Bible)
Below, I will link to the main websites of where you can find and subscribe to the various podcasts. But many of these programs are available by searching for them via Apple’s iTunes. Some programs are simply recorded sermons or Sunday school classes. Others are live, call-in radio shows formatted for podcast usage.
But before I get into it, the most important thing to do when you want to challenge the growth of your mind is to make sure you have a good grounding in the Bible. For that, the best way once you have a good orientation on the overall contour of the Bible with someone like Dick Woodward is to go deeper into more intensive, verse-by-verse Bible exposition. “Exposition” simply means to give a clear explanation of something. When people read the Bible today, sometimes it can be difficult to understand the full logic of the scriptural text. Unfortunately, in our day and age of extreme Biblical illiteracy, we tend to settle for preaching that focuses on topical themes, such as looking at what the Bible has to say about various topics: like how to pray, what is God’s love, how can God help my marriage, etc. While this is all helpful for beginners in personal discipleship, it is very easy to gloss over and miss large chunks of the Bible in search of answers for particular topics. The danger in doing topic/thematic study of the Bible alone is that it is all too easy to cherry pick your favorite verses and neglect other passages in God’s Written Word.
So, here is my top list of where to go for solid, foundational, verse-by-verse Bible exposition. This is not an exhaustive list. It is simply a list of the folks with whom I am most familiar.
- Martyn Lloyd Jones was a Welsh, Reformed Bible teacher in the mid-20th century (subscribe here, or download individual messages here). Even after 50 years, his stuff is still some of the best. Time has not lessened the critical import of Jones’ expository style.
- John R. W. Stott was a contemporary of Jones, a moderate-evangelical Anglican, and he was equally a great expository preacher, though I think the Jones collection of audio sermons above is more complete. Either with Stott or Jones, you have to love that British accent!
- Moving forward to today, the recently retired John Piper from Minneapolis, Minnesota has great Bible exposition from a Reformed Baptist perspective, with a little bit of a Charismatic flavor mixed in at DesiringGod Ministries. Piper is in my mind one of the best scholar/pastors around today, though some will take issue on some of his strong stands, such as regarding the sovereignty of God.
- The GospelCoalition is a network of churches that have a broadly Reformed theological outlook, where the teachers represented have a scholarly bent. You can find a number of sermons by dozens of leading teachers on just about every passage of the Bible. Particularly look for the messages from D. A. Carson.
- Some honorable mentions should be included, namely because these men served as mentors for Dick Woodward: J. Vernon McGee and Ray Stedman. These teachers followed a dispensationalist theological tradition. The primary major drawback I see with them is that the messages and approach are somewhat dated now (if some of these terms like “Reformed” ,”dispensationalist”, etc. scare you, then I would suggest listening to some of these folks, and within a few listens, you should get the flavor of what these folks are doing)
Next Step: Theology Podcasts (Among Other Things)
Okay. Now that you have a good foundation, you might want go that next level towards theology. Here are my two top picks:
- Credo House was started by some Dallas Theological Seminary grads who now run a coffee shop. But as I have started to listen to their Theology Unplugged podcast, I was really drawn to not only how brilliant and balanced these guys are but just how practical they are, too. If you become a paid member, you can have access to their entire library of theological training geared to regular church people who do not know all of that high falutin’ God-talk. Or if you search for “Theology Unplugged” in Apple’s iTunes, you can grab some great discussions for FREE on basic theology in a systematic fashion going back to 2005. Top notch stuff. Michael Patton, the top teacher there, is my type of guy.
- BiblicalTraining.org is not so much a podcast as it is a repository of outstanding classes in the Bible, theology, etc. in audio mp3 format. You will find great audio lessons from the best scholars and teachers, including Craig Blomberg, Darrell Bock, and John Piper, among others. The content is free, but they survive on donations. They very much have an evangelical, interdenominational spirit in what they do. They are not on iTunes as a podcast, but they do have an iPhone app.
Podcasts Oriented Towards Apologetics
If you want to work towards a theology that is integrated more with apologetics, a.l.a. William Lane Craig style, you have a lot of great resources out there. Here is just a list of some of the best and most popular:
- Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. He is an articulate, well-read Bible teacher who knows how to talk with skeptics in urban settings.
- Ravi Zacharias is a popular apologist/evangelist out of Atlanta, Georgia. I would liken him to an Protestant evangelical version of G. K. Chesterton, and a cross between William Lane Craig and Billy Graham. Let My People Think is the popular syndicated radio show, but he has other podcasts through RZIM Ministries.
- R.C. Sproul’s Renewing Your Mind out of Orlando, Florida is a bit like Ravi in that they both use the same introduction music to their podcasts, “Sinfonia” from Handel’s Messiah. But Sproul is more consciously Reformed in his theological approach, and he holds to a type of hybrid presuppositional/evidentialist approach to apologetics somewhat different from William Lane Craig. Like Craig, the episodes of Renewing Your Mind are very systematic in the presentation. Sproul is a veteran in the fields of theology and apologetics.
- Greg Koukl of Stand To Reason in California offers a popular weekly podcast. Koukl’s program kind of has this conservative talk show feel to it, if you like that sort of thing, but he is very much geared towards assorted Christian apologetic topics.
- J. Warner Wallace, of Cold Case Christianity, was a cold case homicide detective in California before he became a popular, accessible full-time Christian apologist. Wallace, associated with Stand to Reason, is very much an evidentialist. If the idea of “CSI meets the Bible” really grabs you, you will like J. Warner Wallace. Folks like Wallace and Koukl are good at taking the really brainy stuff from folks like William Lane Craig and boiling it down to something more easily digestible for us other earthlings.
- If science is your bag, the folks at Reasons to Believe have several podcasts geared towards integrating science, theology, the Bible, and questions raised by skeptics. But perhaps my favorite one to check out now and then is Dr. Hugh Ross’ Paradoxes Sunday School class.
Debate, Discussion and InDepth Interview Podcasts
I really like podcasts that have a debate style or discussion format with various authors and thinkers. I tend to learn more when I listen to people with different viewpoints and how they interact with one another. I will start with the more entry-level podcasts and move on towards the more advanced ones. But seriously folks, at this point, I have to add a word of caution. Make sure you have a solid grounding in good Bible teaching before you get wrapped up in issues in theology and apologetics that tend towards the speculative and controversial. It is simply too easy to get too far ahead of things and veer off course when you lack a sufficient foundation of basic Bible understanding.
- Perhaps the best entry-level podcast in a debate format from a conservative evangelical perspective is Moody Radio’s Up for Debate, moderated by Julie Roys. Roys will get guests on her program who will debate a topic that has theological or apologetic importance. She is very good at allowing participants and those who call in on the recorded radio show to express their views in full without resorting to soundbites. Roys will always at the end give her view, which is always in line with the dispensational theological orientation of Moody Bible College. As they say it, Moody is “the Name that You Can Trust.”
- Now, my all-time favorite podcast is available “across the pond” from Premier Radio London. Justin Brierley sponsors a debate/discussion program, Unbelievable. Brierley is a great moderator, as he invites Christians and non-Christians into the studio to exchange ideas. What I really like about the program is that it models really well how we as Christians should be engaging in discussion with our neighbors who hold to very different views from ours in a winsome and respectful way. Brierley always gets top notch scholars and apologists on his program to engage very articulate skeptics, Muslims, atheists and others who wish to challenge the Christian faith. Simply excellent.
- One more suggestion to add: The Deeper Waters Podcast is in an interview format with a topnotch Bible scholar or Christian thinker, ranging from Hugh Ross to Craig Blomberg to Daniel Wallace. What is peculiar about this podcast is that the host is Nick Peters, a really intelligent young man who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome. It is a one man operation, and the phoned-in calls are therefore never moderated, so you never know what you are going to get at times, so the show comes off as rather quirky. But Peters always manages to get the top leading evangelical scholars on his program to discuss extremely important apologetic topics. Nick Peters is also the son-in-law of apologist Michael Licona, perhaps the most able defender of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ living today.
Proceed With Caution: Podcasts That Push the Envelope (In Different Directions)
OK. Now to give you some pretty edgy stuff to look at. If you are overwhelmed at this point, you should stop reading the blog post and just chew on what you got so far. What follows can be pretty controversial for some. That being said, please proceed at your own risk…There I warned you…
I must confess that I really like to hear from different folks who have different perspectives to offer. If you just hear from one teacher, it is very easy to get stuck with their singular point of view. I learn a lot, not simply from debate-type formats, but I also learn when the host of the program may have certain points of view that I strongly object with, but I can nevertheless tell that I need to be challenged with some of the things that are are being said.
- A perfect example of a more narrow, conservative approach is John MacArthur’s Grace to You podcast from Southern California. Some folks are really put off by MacArthur’s authoritarian, quasi-Reformed style, and I personally find that MacArthur continually and frustratingly misrepresents the positions of those with whom he disagrees. However, I have to admit that Macarthur is very easy to listen to and understand. He is a really, really good Bible expository preacher, so I would recommend him for that part alone. Just do me a favor: if you subscribe to his podcast, you might want to also subscribe to someone else’s podcast who holds to more moderate positions on various controversial issues to get a better balance.
- Another edgy example would be James White’s Dividing Line podcast (and YouTube channel) from Alpha and Omega Ministries. James White is very much in the Reformed camp, strongly emphasizing God’s sovereignty, and he favors a presuppositionalist approach to apologetics, contrary to William Lane Craig. White’s critics say that he can be somewhat on the arrogant side at times, and he tends to ramble too much on his podcasts. But here is the kicker about James White. The man is brilliant in that he has absolutely no fear in talking with anyone. James White takes books on his Kindle, transfers them to audio in mp3 format, and then he goes out on 50-mile bike rides around his home in Arizona listening to his iPod, preparing for his public debates. In years past, White has been one of the few apologists who has publicly debated Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. But nowadays, without question, James White is the leading popular Christian apologist to the Muslim world. So if you want to understand Islam in a debate setting, check out the debates of James White! You may not always agree with him, but you will always learn something.
- Now, on the more “free will” side of the equation, you will find Greg Boyd, a pastor out in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is fair to say that Greg Boyd is pretty much the total antithesis of his Minneapolis neighbor, John Piper, and all of the other Reformed apologists and teachers that I have mentioned. An outspoken proponent of Open Theism, that some Christians reject as being heretical, Boyd is a former Pentecostal now turned Anabaptist. He and fellow teacher Paul Eddy are super intelligent. If you need your envelope to be pushed a little bit, check out Greg Boyd.
- Chris Date hosts this show Theopologetics that covers some pretty heavy theological and apologetic topics, sometimes in a debate format. I always find that I have to listen to him as he interviews others several times before I can completely follow what is going on. He has the most thorough material in the podcasting world that addresses the debate between complementarianism and egalitarianism. The odd thing about Chris Date is that he holds to a curious jumble of theological beliefs: Date is a Reformed, Young Earth Creationist who holds to an annihilationist view of hell. In fact, he does not update the Theopologetics podcast as much now as he is sponsoring the RethinkingHell podcast that addresses the hell topic straight on, and that keeps him busy.
- Stepping out a bit further are those who embrace the progressive evangelical label. You have to be really careful here, because the label can mean just about anything. Remember: think discernment; i.e. the plumb line. But having some exposure to progressive thinkers who are also very articulate can give you a sense of where the culture is going, but it also shows you where the church could be going as well. There is one guy that I have found who is really a great interviewer of folks who are working with some rather controversial ideas, Randal Rauser. Randal Rauser is the Tentative Apologist. I find that Rauser, a “broadly evangelical Christian” as he puts it, and is sometimes a bit difficult to pin down (and he is probably quite OK with that!) is really in touch with the issues that drive people towards atheism, and he debates well with atheists. Rauser is unique because he interacts with folks in a very respectful way, even when he strongly disagrees, whether they be other progressive thinkers or even atheists.
Well, that should keep you busy for awhile.