Are Martin and Justin really so heartless that they wouldn't help a duck in trouble? How can one describe the social impact of the middle finger to an eight-year-old? Is there a reason why adults are so untrusting? These questions and others are answered in this week's episode of the Two Bearded Preachers. Be sure to share with your bird loving friends.
Martin W. Bender
Having spent the past few years listening to a variety of podcasts on a regular basis I now find myself a little bored of news and discussion about pop culture (except of course for what can be found here every Thursday). In light of this, I have taken to listening to courses on iTunes U instead of my normal schedule of jokers and smokers that I had been enjoying of late. So far I have listened to courses on philosophy, preaching, the New Perspective on Paul, and have just finished a rather long collection on church history.
Having finished about seventy forty-five minute lectures on church history in last two weeks I can say with confidence I have only the slightest grasp of the most important issues on the subject. There is so much to gain from understanding the manner in which the church has come to us and yet, for some strange reason, there is surprising little interest. A solid grasp of church history helps us to know the reasons for much of what happens in the church today, and yet we dismiss it as boring or of little value. Below you’ll find some of the reasons I think church history should be studied by all Christians.
Those are just three quick reasons why we need to study church history. There are more. I hope that as I continue to learn about the history of the church I will come to a greater understanding and love of the Christian faith.
I recommend listening to:
Have you ever had to give your child "the talk"? In this episode, Justin tells the tale of how he told his son about the birds and the bees with minimal embarrassment. Martin shares some of the things that are only learned during basic training. Both describe how they learned about one of God's greatest gifts to humanity as they try to explain the reasoning behind the preacher comb over. It's all here in this week's episode. Don't forget to share on social media.
In this episode, Justin and Martin answer some questions about violence, biblical masculinity, and Beverly Hills 90210. Hear Justin try and justify his unnecessarily aggressive perspective on life. Listen to Martin's case that Justin is, in fact, a violent psychopath bent on destruction. They also discuss the rationality behind Justin's preacher comb over as some listeners attempted a hairdo intervention. This is undoubtedly podcast gold.
Martin W. Bender
Jacob Needleman asks a timeless question in his book Why Can’t We Be Good? Namely, why do all people fail in doing good and avoiding evil. The problem of wickedness in the world is identified by everyone from the philosopher to the kindergartener. Every person sees in others and in themselves a fundamental flaw: we don’t live up to our moral standards (let alone God’s). Needleman attempts to explain this problem in light of philosophy and religion and offers up a response which on the surface seems plausible, but ultimately fails when applied.
Needleman’s answer to the ethical dilemma demonstrated daily in human living is that people have to potentiality to be good, but fail to do so because they are not yet fully human. He sees a difference between humanity as it is and what it is becoming. Man’s morality is, in essence, a glimpse of what we are in the process of becoming and tragically, part of that process is failing in the ideals that formulate our ethical standards. He traces this idea in history by linking it to values displayed in the Abrahamic religions. In doing so he demonstrates a fundamental flaw in his understanding of Christian anthropology.
Christianity’s view of mankind is that it is by nature evil. This is a result of Adam’s sin in the garden and as a consequence, the nature of man has fundamentally been changed from innocence to guilt. It is this gross misunderstanding of the Christian teaching on human nature that leads me to doubt his application of Jewish and Muslim thought as well. Needleman glosses over the concept of original sin completely, dismissing the explanations of Moses, Jesus, and Paul about human nature leaning instead upon humanistic optimism loosely tied to the traditions of Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed.
Why Can’t We Be Good? Seeks to place the love an individual has for God, others, and themselves as the root of all moral behavior. Such a thought doesn’t seem terrible at face value, but fails to see that love, as a source for morality is rooted in God’s love for his people rather than the individual’s love for him. The Creator is primary in all things thus morality is rooted in the triune God rather than the perceived potentiality for goodness in man. Each individual is not on a path toward becoming good, rather some are proclaimed good on the basis of Jesus’ undeserved death.
The idea of love for the Other Needleman uses to argue for the eventual goodness of humanity did spur a thought I believe will be helpful in another area. In the soteriological argument between human free will and divine determinism (Arminianism and Calvinism, Pelagianism and Augustinianism, Monergism and Synergism, etc.) frequently the question of the individual’s love for God arises. The challenge being that love that isn’t freely given (from man to God) is meaningless. The problem with this objection is that it places the creature’s love for his Creator above the Creator’s love for his creature. Meaning that God’s love for his people is somehow secondary to their love for him. Such a thought seems ridiculous in light of passages like Galatians 2:20 and 1 John 4:19.
Back to the book, Needleman provokes deep thinking on the nature of man, the interaction of individuals within society, as well as what could prompt a person to endeavor to become this idealized person who is morally good. His misuse of Christian themes due to his gross misunderstanding of Christian anthropology is unsettling and could cause immature believers to adopt a humanistic understanding of morality. In light of this, I don’t recommend Why Can’t We Be Good? Unless one has a good understanding of the biblical teaching on the nature of man.
 Now, before you go all crazy on me understand that I am still thinking this argument through. It came to me last night while finishing the book.
It's time for the Olympics and the Two Bearded Preachers are barely aware of it. Listen as Justin and Martin try to sound like they know what they're talking about as they discuss the greatest sporting event outside of American Football and NASCAR. Before they get to that though they discuss how they deal with stress when their extended families are losing their minds. As if that weren't enough you'll also hear Justin tell a story about how he threw caution to the wind and let his congregation create his sermon illustration. Oh, and Justin wears a speedo.
The 2016 Summer Olympics have all eyes pointed to Rio as once again we send American athletes to compete with their counterparts from all over the world. The idea behind the modern Olympics is that through cooperative efforts between nations a period of peace can be experienced in our world. That was the thought when the games were brought back into prominence in 1896. 120 years later we realize the hope of world peace is much further off than was imagined.
The Olympics do, however, offer us a chance to imagine what the world would be like if countries were able to cooperate with one another consistently. There would be great accomplishments and advances in technology, art, and science. Unfortunately, the ultimate end would be destruction. In Genesis, there is an account of what happens when humanity is united together. You probably know it as the Tower of Babel. This is when the people chose to ignore the cultural mandate to fill the world and subdue it and instead built cities and a tower to their own glory.
The Tower of Babel account lets us know that when we work together we can accomplish great things, but because our nature is fallen, those great accomplishments are really great offences to our God. Real peace will only be experienced in our world when Christ returns and makes all things new. Until that time, we as the church, the bride of Christ, eagerly away the coming of our Lord and Savior. What a wonderful day that will be.
In this episode, Justin and Martin talk about baptism practically and theologically as Justin shares about some of the strange experiences he has had as a youth minister. They also talk about a recent trip to Disney World where the ride operators are good, but only in the Magic Kingdom. The discussion then turns to the most wonderful time of the year: back to school. You'll hear about how Martin's town is voluntarily segregated, how little Justin walks during the week, and the perils of big government. It's been said before, but this episode really has it all.
Oh, and there are some jokes too.
Martin W. Bender
Last week I was able to take the kids to the mountains for a few days and we decided to go camping with my sister and her family. North Georgia has a ton of great places to camp, hike, and explore so we made the most of the opportunity. I love camping but haven’t been deliberate in going since I’ve started having kids, but now that they are a little older it’s time to get back into it.
One thing I wanted to try on this trip was using a hammock instead of a tent. Hammock camping is becoming the norm for backpackers and the like which makes sense, a hammock and rain fly are a lot lighter than any tent. So I stopped off at the Bargain Barn (it’s like a Bass Pro but without all the fuss) and picked up an Eno Single Nest, some tree straps, and a tarp for cover.
We camped at Doll Mountain. It’s a great place to camp with a bunch of sites, access to Carter’s Lake, and even a bathroom with running water. I know it isn’t very hardcore but cut me some slack, one of my kids was not into the camping idea at all.
Setting up the hammock was remarkably easy. A strap around a tree followed by a carabiner, repeat the process, and the hammock is ready for sleeping. I also ran some 550 cord over the hammock to support my tarp. The tarp took longer than the hammock, but it all took less than ten minutes, not too shabby for the first time trying it out. It wouldn’t be long before I was snoozing away in the ultralight campsite.
At least that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I’m very much a stomach sleeper. I had a really difficult time falling asleep in the hammock because I couldn’t turn over onto my back. I was perfectly comfortable but just couldn’t seem to drift off into dreamland. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances as well. Leia had been out of town for a while by this point and I hadn’t been sleeping that great. Due to the heat, I had been drinking a lot of water (if you get my meaning). And I was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sights and sounds. All that might have added to the trouble I had falling asleep.
The second day we spent in the water swimming, making rafts, and the ever popular ice cream run. By the time the kids had gone down for the night and the fire was burning low I was sure I’d knock out almost immediately. This time I was sure to do a few things: first, I put my flip flops in the hammock pocket. This meant I would be able to find them quickly without getting up. Second, I used a sheet to keep myself a little warmer (even though it was wicked hot during the day I got pretty chilled as the night wore on). Third, I turned to sleep almost totally on my side. These little changes made a huge difference in my ability to sleep in the hammock. The second night I was out like a light.
So, will I do hammock camping again? Absolutely. There’s a minimal learning curve to get things just right, but now that the first trip is out of the way I think it’ll get much easier. Some things that I’ll do a little differently are using a ratchet strap to hang my tarp, bringing a flat pillow, and maybe setting up some sort of mosquito netting. All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and think Leia will be willing to try it herself. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Episode 43 is here and the Two Bearded Preachers get into it a little bit over a subject that reasonable men wouldn't argue over. They talk about Justin's vacation, higher education, and procreation in one of their most heated discussions to date. Should preachers focus their education on theological subjects or focus on practicality? You'll hear them both weigh in and make bad arguments for both positions. They also discuss the possibility of Pokemon Go becoming a dating app. This episode has it all including koalas, so be sure to share it.
You probably anticipated a show where the two bearded brothers talk about the greatest augmented reality game ever: Pokemon Go. But did you think they would tie their conversation into the greater issue of racial violence in the same episode? And who could have anticipated that Arnold would be able to bring the apocalypse to a close after the hot mess we got ourselves into? Only true fans, that's who. Justin and Martin discuss it all in this week's wonderful episode. Enjoy.
NES Classic has been announced and it is none too soon.
Quick on the heels of Pokémon Go’s ridiculously successful release comes the announcement bound to thrill old school gamers and leave their children wondering what all the fuss is about. The NES Classic is a mini version of the NES that introduced an entire generation to video gaming. This new old system will have none of the frustration caused by the original system (remember blowing into the cartridges?), but will also have a remarkably reduced library as it is being released with only thirty games. The bonus, however, is that it comes with a controller with the same look and feel as its now ancient counterpart.
This is a great decision by Nintendo as third parties have been producing emulators and secondary systems to play those old games for years. There’s something really nice about playing the games that were so exciting to us as children with our own kids. As I write this, my Anna, Dave, and Sarah are taking turns playing battle mode on Mario Kart 64 through the Wii (I was playing them for a while, but they are no competition). These games hold up. They are still fun and come November we’ll be able to wax nostalgic about killing Ganon for the first time or explain how building an Excite Bike track is way better than playing the canned courses. I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
The Two Bearded Preachers talk about how Hillary Clinton is above the law, they aren't, and how the church should help those who suffer from addiction in this episode. Justin explains how he can maintain his innocence in prison, Martin worries about how his rights are being removed socially, and they both reminisce about their time in Bible college. It isn't nearly as convoluted a conversation as it sounds. They just talk about Ross running for mayor, Hillary escaping justice, Justin escaping rape, recovering from addiction, and ordering weed through the mail. It all makes perfect sense if you think about it. Check out this great edition of your favorite podcast.
Martin W. Bender
Yesterday, Dave and I played a little Pokémon Go. The concept of the game is simple: walk around, find some Pokémon, train them, dominate your enemies. On our outing around the block we missed some of the critters that were nearby, but eventually found a Pinsir, Doduo, and a Rattata. Sure they’re all fairly common, but going out and catching Pokémon just like Ash and the gang was pretty fun.
Pokémon Go is practically just a skin over Ingress. The game mechanics and graphics are nearly identical, but with Pokémon characters added in. PG will almost definitely be more popular as it allows the millennial generation to live out their childhood dreams of catching them all. I’ve always liked the Pokémon video games and this one certainly has a similar feel. It may hold my interest a little longer than Ingress because there is the possibility of catching a Pikachu.
Pokémon Go is the first bit of augmented reality to have mass appeal. This means you will probably see people walking around your neighborhood staring at their phones talking about imaginary animals and looking around desperately for something they lost. I realized I must look crazy to my neighbors as I was walking back and forth on the road gazing intently at my phone screen. It was worth it to get that Pinsir, though.
This game may mark a change in casual gaming (I realize at the moment it isn’t very casual) that puts people in contact with one another who otherwise wouldn’t meet. As I play around with the game more I hope to meet some folks in real life and whoop up on them with my ferocious team of digital mons. In the same way the Wii and mobile gaming appealed to a huge audience of casual gamers I hope games like Pokémon Go will shift our understanding of gaming from the isolated event it largely is today to a far more social interaction.
Martin W. Bender
Today I took the kids up to Statesboro to watch Finding Dory. I hadn’t looked at any reviews or seen trailers for the film, but I knew the general story line: the gang from the first movie try to find Dory. Simple enough.
What I didn’t know was how much the story would develop the fairly one-dimensional character from the first film. Let’s face it, Finding Nemo is half coming of age story, half rescue mission. Imagine a Pixar produced mashup of Stand by Me and Taken. Dory does little more in the original than provide comic relief and an alternative perspective to nudge Marlin away from his tendency toward pessimism to a more optimistic view of the world. Finding Dory takes a decidedly different approach to storytelling, focusing almost solely on Dory with little help from Marlin and Nemo. In fact, Marlin and Nemo essentially become the damsel in distress to be rescued by Dory and her newly found friends. This significant difference keeps the story fresh and avoids the pitfalls of what could have easily been a simple rehash of the original.
Finding Dory feels more like a detective story than a rescue mission. Dory begins her search prompted by dreams of her parents and finds that her short term memory loss seems to be helped by having some family stability in her life. The journey she took between being lost and finding Marlin is exceptionally tragic and terrifying. The imagery of her being alone in the vast ocean is startlingly bleak, both in the scenes where she is a child and later as an adult. My sweet little daughter cried as Dory found herself alone in deep trying desperately to remember where she was and what she was doing. This makes her relationship with her parents and friends all the more important and real for the movie goer. There is a true sense of dread in the film that rivals many modern horror movies. In fact, if one were to remove the shells at the end of the second act it would be a horror film.
The film works so well because it plays on a different set of fears than the original. In Finding Nemo the great fear is the loss of family. This is seen in both the death of Nemo’s mother as well as the kidnapping. In Finding Dory the great fear is the loss of self, as Dory only understands who she is within the context of her relationships. This is why it is so satisfying to see her develop relationships wherever she goes. Certainly, she needs Hank, Destiny, and other’s help to get around the aquarium, but working with them helps her to remain on task to regain that sense of self she loses as a result of her condition. Her continual search for community reflects humanity’s innately social nature and forces consideration of the communal nature of human interaction.
In a world where sequels are so often an attempt to make a second pile of money using the success of the original film, Finding Dory stands soundly on its own as an exceptional character study. The use of 3D avoided the temptation of having random objects flying at the screen and instead simply adds a field of depth that gives the viewer the experience of looking into an actual aquarium. Generally, I don’t like 3D, but Pixar used the technology well to fully immerse the audience in its undersea landscape. The animation is stellar and the short, Piper, shown before the film shows just how incredible animation and 3D technology has become since Avatar made 3D viable.
Finding Dory is an exceptional film. I loved it. I may go see it again tomorrow.
Is it ok for a preacher to run for mayor? Should the Forth of July only be called Independence Day? Can pets survive on their own? These and other riveting questions are answered in the 40th episode of Two Bearded Preachers! You'll hear tales of celebration, woe, and triumph as Justin explains his hairdo, Martin tells of Ham the porch dog, and both recount the high tempo summer. An amazing episode.
Martin W. Bender
I find myself a little torn on what to blog about today. I feel like I should say something about the Fourth of July since its Independence Day and all, but I don’t really have a whole lot to say about it. Most of my thoughts on the subject are probably pretty obvious from the conversations I’ve had with Justin on faith and politics. So I’ll skip the whole patriotism and American evangelicalism discussion for now.
Another topic that interests me is the current debate on eternal functional subordination taking place in the blogosphere. The argument is essentially about whether Jesus’ subordination is an eternal position within the Trinity or if it is limited to the incarnation. My initial thoughts are that it is eternal because I hold to the impassibility of God. It seems that a change in position, whether functional or otherwise, would violate the concept of God never changing. I’ll probably write a little about it later after I have read more on the subject, but at first glance, it certainly seems Jesus eternally maintains a functionally subordinate position to the Father.
Lastly, I’m interested in talking a little bit about how Leia is doing in her work in China. As many of you know, Leia had the rare opportunity to go to China to teach conversational English for a few weeks. She’s just started and is having a good time with it thus far, but at the time of writing, she’s only had one day in the classroom. I hope to write a little about how she’s doing in a week or two since her absence is pretty heavy on my mind.
I’ll probably get to all these issues soon enough, but for right now I’m going to spend a little time with the kids before we run off to another Fourth of July party and then record and episode or two with Justin later on this evening.
Martin W. Bender
If you've listened to the podcast for any length of time you've probably heard Justin and I express our mutual love for Serial, a podcast created by the folks from This American Life. Season Two explored the situation and people surrounding the Bowe Bergdahl return, you can listen to our conversation about that here (while we disagreed fairly strongly we're still friends). Season One reviewed the murder trial of Adnan Syed, a young man convicted of the murder of his former girlfriend.
Most people who listen to podcasts are very familiar with season one. It is the starting point for the majority of people when they begin listening to podcasts and has set the standard for quality content generation. What's amazing is that the popularity of Serial is the likely reason for the recent decision to allow further appeals to be made by Adnan despite previous failures. It turns out if you can get enough people interested in your story you have greater opportunity for aquital.
I'm glad he's getting another shot. Not because I think justice has been perverted, but because it means additional episodes of Serial will almost definitely be aired as additional appeals are made. If you haven't listened to Serial season one yet I highly recommend it as it seems to be the gold standard for podcasting right after the Two Bearded Preachers.
Martin W. Bender
When one thinks of Presbyterians evangelism doesn’t exactly come quickly to mind. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised by R. C. Sproul’s little book answering the question “What is the Great Commission?” In just a few pages Sproul communicates the joys of sharing the gospel with others and how evangelism ought to be done.
This isn’t one of those instruction manuals on church growth, or organizational success. In fact, it is about as far from that as one can get. In this book evangelism is described simply, told in a simple style in an effort to relate a simple truth: sharing the gospel is something anyone can do and all who are in Christ are commanded to do. And that is the point. People seem to want a system, a checklist, and an approved method for making swift and sure converts to Christianity, but that isn’t the command. The command is to share the gospel. One doesn’t necessarily need a system for that.
Communicating the gospel to another person can be a simple as telling the story of what Jesus has done. It requires neither exhaustive knowledge of theology nor academic credentials. The only requirement is a personal experience with the gospel itself. Sproul points out the difference between education and evangelism, a difference that often gets lost in conversations about discipleship. Evangelism is sharing the wonder of Christ’s work in salvation, education is explaining the details of what has, is, and will happen. Evangelism speaks to the man where education speaks to the mind. Both are necessary, but evangelism is logically first between the two.
“What is the Great Commission” shares very briefly how the communication of the gospel is a vital part of the Christian life, Christian worship, and Christian joy.
Martin W. Bender
While Justin has made it abundantly clear that I am no gamer, I do enjoy the casual game from time to time. I play on my iPhone 6 Plus such games as Slither.io and Underworld Empire, but my current favorite is War Tortoise.
War Tortoise is essentially a tower defense game where a turtle is used as a weapons platform for destroying insects. The game opens on a green field with trees in the background and blue sky overhead. Bugs, determined to destroy you and your turtle for some reason begin to approach. As they do you shoot them, but the problem with bugs is that there are so many of them. If we’ve learned anything from Starship Troopers it’s that bugs are the worst and they deserve to die. There’s something oddly satisfying about bringing forth violent destruction upon wave after wave of irritating little critters while leveling up weapons and support units.
The best part of the game is auto aim, which allows the game to play without paying any attention at all. War Tortoise is truly a game for casual players like myself. The player has the option to aim at specific targets making it more of a shooter, or just let it go and level up. As I write this, I am in the top 1,500 players and I almost always just let it run. That probably says more about my devotion to gaming than it does about the game itself.
If you’re looking for a funny little game that encourages hatred of small, annoying animals this is the game for you.
Should Justin try and get a government grant to help his congregation financially? Should Martin lighten up a little bit when it comes to his idealism? These and other questions are carefully avoided in this week's episode of the Two Bearded Preachers podcast of excellence. This time, the bearded brothers take on the challenge of separation of church and state leaving every issue completely solved to the satisfaction of all. The hamster wheels are definitely turning in this episode. Their egos may be writing checks their bodies can't cash, but you'll never know unless you listen to the entire thing.
Martin W. Bender
On one occasion when the scribes and Pharisees were trying to trick Jesus into saying something inflammatory they brought up the controversial issue of taxes. To many Jews, paying taxes to Rome was illustrative of political and cultural support. It implied religious support as well. Those seeking to cause Jesus problems asked him if it was lawful to pay taxes to a godless tyrant like Caesar. Jesus responded in such a profound manner his critics all marveled.
Jesus’ response to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” has a profound effect on how Christians ought to view their relationship with worldly authorities. Christians have a responsibility to give to the government that which it is owed, but to withhold from the government that which it does not have by right. Caesar was owed taxes, but Caesar also demanded worship. The Jews could not in good conscience render worship unto Caesar as he commanded, but they could, and in fact are compelled, to pay the taxes demanded by him. In much the same way, Christians are obliged to follow the laws of the land, provided those laws do not infringe upon giving God that which is his.
Paul builds upon the Christian’s relationship to governing authorities in Romans 13. He explains that the government is appointed by God to accomplish his own purposes in the world. As such, Christians should obey them as rulers are not a terror to good conduct. Our relationship to worldly authorities, including the government, should be one of submission, both to avoid the wrath of God and to maintain a good conscience.
Very frequently, though, American congregations I have been involved with tend to grant the nation more than that to which it has a right. As I prepare for Sunday’s service I recognize many in my congregation are expecting some sort of patriotic service rendering honor to the U.S. of A. The trouble I have with such services is that doing so takes away time we typically devote to the Lord in corporate worship. On Independence Day I encourage Americans to consider the founding of the nation, to celebrate the good we have done, and honor those who have made it possible. But on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, render unto God the things that are God’s: solemn worship and celebration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Admittedly, this episode is quite late. Martin was at camp, situations occurred, and the podcast recorded a full two weeks ago didn't get edited till this morning. That being said, remember a long long time ago when Jonathan Merritt wrote an article criticising The Gospel Coalition? Well, we talked about it and surprise surprise disagreed on whether TGC was wrong for a twitter banning spree. Justin attempts to get banned and fails leading us all to question just how effective he is at accomplishing goals. There should be another episode out tomorrow so the turnaround should be pretty quick. Also, does Martin's love for Tim Keller make him a Calvinist? Find this out and more in the spectacular episode 38!
Thanks to the wedding of Martin's saint of a mother, he travelled the arduous path to Florida, America's trailer park, for a few days. His first stop was to visit with Justin. After hours of talking and joking around, they finally decided to record a facebook live video to share their rare meeting with the bearded nation. Here, you'll hear the conversation they recorded on facebook and laugh along with them as they discuss parents getting married, church camp, and Manny's request to come on the show as a guest. It's an episode that will surely help to define the bromance between Justin and Martin for years to come.
In this episode, the Two Bearded Preachers are a little more serious as they are still reeling from the Pulse nightclub attack. They discuss how tragedy is used to further political agendas, are disgusted by it, and proceed to participate in it. Martin asks when it is ok to kill his children for disobedience and Justin can't remember who the Nephilim are in this important discussion on how Christians ought to respond to evil when it takes place. In the end, Justin lightens things up by sharing a Dad Victory that will make you proud to be a parent. This is a good one, so be sure to share it with your friends.