Kinda Christian: Podcast Asking the Biblical Questions You Want to Know

Interviewed for Risen Magazine

Risen Magazine: You’re the host and the creator of Kinda Christian, and this is a podcast and a show that is out there to seek answers. You talk with top scholars and experts. What is the show and how you came up with the idea?

Ryan Bethea: I’ve got the same questions that everyone’s been wrestling with in religion for the last 5,000 years… and actually [this] started through quarantine. There wasn’t a lot to do and I was inside a lot and quarantine kind of makes you, you have a lot of time to think. And so I was sitting there just thinking, I can’t do any of the other projects that I’d like to work on right now, but I do, like the other 200 million Americans, have Zoom and I thought, well, why not dig into something that’s been kind of a passion project for a long time.

So I have always, much to the frustration of pastors, had a ton of questions. It’s good and bad, but I’ve never been one to just accept what I’m told. You can ask my parents that. And I just wonder why is it the way it is? And you push and then one day I just realized, you know, I believe certain things but I don’t know if I believe them just because I’ve been told them over the years or if I actually believe them. And this transcends religion, this is just across the board for everything, I’ve really started getting into why as humans do we believe what we believe in general? Is it because someone told us, because we were raised that way? Or because we’ve actually dug in?

So I thought well, I’m really fortunate to, just through circumstance and life, be one or two degrees away from some of the top theologians and scholars. And I thought, what the heck, I’ll bother them. I know they’re home right now for quarantine, and so let’s ask them the tough questions. And they were nice enough to let me sit down so each episode just turned into a focus of a major question that I’ve had. And I just put my beliefs on the table and said, let’s start from scratch and see what I actually come to.

RM: Share some of the examples of the experts and scholars that you’ve been talking to, and what topics you’ve been covering so far?

RB: Totally. So I come into this mostly recreationally. I’m just fascinated, religion in general fascinates me. I think it’s interesting. Every culture has religion and with Kinda Christian, I was raised kind of Christian actually. So it wasn’t really a big deal, I didn’t have to go to church. My parents were like you probably should because that’s what you’re supposed to do. And so I thought, well, I’ll start. One thing you do is when you meet these top scholars, the first thing you learn is how woefully unintelligent you are compared to them.

Because regardless of, I think a lot of people think of religion and they think, oh, it’s a bunch of pseudoscience and a bunch of weird beliefs, but when you get to people who have multiple PhDs or doctorates and you ask them questions and they’re like, “Is that really your question?” And I was like, oh no, I’m fine. You actually worked this out. So first, it was humbling. I feel like sometimes there’s this view that science and religion are completely at odds with each other, there’s a perception that somehow if you’re buying into religion, you somehow bought into this fairytale. And then you talk to people who have PhDs from Harvard and go out and do this research and it’s not a fairy tale to them. They’re like, this is a real thing.

Everyone wants to know, does the Bible have errors in it? That’s an example of something where if you had asked me — because I was always told the Bible is all true — I’d say, sure, that makes sense. You either believe it or you don’t. And then I just had a lot of questions. You start learning and you dig around and you’re like, there’s actually contradictions in the Gospel. Not massive things, even the crucifixion story of Christ is different in John than it is in the other three gospels. And so you go, huh? Or it says He was here one day or here another day and they both have different accounts of it. So you go, all right, well, are those errors? I don’t know.

So that’s been the first one to dig into. We got to sit down with Dr. Craig Keener who’s one of the foremost New Testament scholars and it was illuminating. He says, “Look, if you saw a traffic accident and you had four different people recording their events of it, you might get four completely different accounts.” And then he said, “Some of the things can be explained and others can’t.” And so that has actually led me to be much more open minded and just realize, I actually don’t know as much as I thought I did, which is good for everybody. That’s a fun one to dig into and you’ll get different answers across the board.

RM: Well, and I love that you talked about the language because like anything, if I’m going to go have a biotech conversation, or if I’m going to go have an engineering conversation, there’s a different language that they’re speaking, because they’re so equipped within that field. So within your podcasts, are you able to break it down to us that somebody with zero background could still understand?

RB: Absolutely. I mean, so that’s the whole point was we’re putting everything on the table here. We’re actually saying, look, we’re starting from scratch because honestly I realized, I have a lot of things that I haven’t worked out, and this is something that’s so important to so many people. And so let’s just start from the ground up. So it was designed to go back to square one. We had a very prominent Old Testament scholar on a couple of weeks ago. And the first question was, what is the Old Testament? I mean, and he joked, it was a big book. And I said, “Thank you. I got that. But is it a story?” I mean, you go back and you realize you don’t know a lot. I didn’t know a lot about this. Is it one book? Is it many books? Is it one continuous story? There’s so many layers to it. And then you get into the fact that we don’t even speak the original language of it. You start getting into that and you find layers of meaning, regardless of whether you think it’s true or not, that are just fascinating. And it gets real interesting.

So my goal was that anyone could come to this and try and be the questions that you might’ve had if you’ve ever gone to church. And you’ve never been able to ask the pastor. There’s usually a long line to visit the pastor after a service, and so he doesn’t want to be asked probably what are your thoughts on Genesis, right after a service. So I thought, why not corner them online and see if we could actually ask them the tough questions.

RM: Well, and that’s so great, because a lot of times we do have a lot of these questions and you feel like once you’ve passed a certain point, you should just know. And then we don’t want our faces attached to it and we’d rather have you do the tough work for us.

RB: Oh, that’s right. The best is the actual debate that is going on our Facebook page… someone posted, “No way you could fit a T-Rex on the arc.” Right? Which I think is probably a good point. On the other hand, someone responded and said, “Bro, what if it was two baby T Rex’s?” And I thought, that’s the kind of scholarship I’m really looking forward to illuminating for everybody.

RM: So there’s conversations at every level, which I love. And one that was fascinating to me is miracles. I feel like I see miracles all the time, but are they the miracles that we see in the Bible? And you recently spoke with a Harvard PhD that had medical research that supported miracles. Can you share a little bit about this?

RB: Oh yeah. That’s Dr. Candy Brown. She’s amazing and one of the most fascinating interviews I’ve ever done. So I personally have always just been fascinated by just miracle stories. I mean, who doesn’t want to know that cool things can happen, right? And that transcends every religion. Honestly, go out and talk to your family, everyone’s got a story of something where they’re like, I mean, we use that in our phrase, right? It was a miracle, right? But sure enough, there’s actual medical research done on miracles. And I thought, I have to learn about this. And she’s the most friendly person ever. And I reached out because if you go online, you can look at the Southern Medical Journal. And there it is. She went with a team of researchers to go work with Heidi Baker down in Mozambique, because there are all these rumors of people who were getting prayed for and receiving eyesight and hearing back. And I thought that’s incredible. What’s going on there. She went down there and actually tested them. And one thing that’s interesting about eyesight and hearing is it’s not really subject to placebo. You can take a hearing test, raise your hand when you hear the noise and you go, but if the noise didn’t play, you can think you’re healed, but you’re not. So it’s not like back pain where you could maybe think you’re healed and not, this is you can see, or you can’t.

And she found with a very large number of people who were prayed for that they went from being what we would consider legally blind and deaf to being able to hear fully or mostly, or see mostly after receiving this prayer. And she was very specific. Like look, we don’t know this is God. We just know something’s happening here that violates a current medical understanding of what we have. And so it’s, again, that’s one study, but it’s fascinating and it’s peer reviewed and it’s great. So I encourage, if anyone needs hope, there’s stuff out there like that. And I hear lots of stories from people and I go, they can’t all be crazy. Some are, but they can’t all be crazy, you know?

RM: There are so many topics that you can cover, there are endless conversations. The Bible has been around for such a long time. And it’s part of the fabric of so many people’s lives and being introduced to a lot more, especially now during quarantine, where you’re having time to kind of reflect on who you are and what your purpose is in life. I’m curious as to some of the topics you might be diving into the future, and I know you did do one that was talking about callings and if you could miss it, these are fascinating conversations.

RB: So the calling one is really interesting. That’s something I personally have always wrestled with because I think as humans, we all want to believe that there’s a special mission and purpose just for us, right? And so if that is true, can you miss out on that? It’s a terrifying proposition to consider. So it’s one of my favorite questions to ask. It’s actually, of all our listeners, that’s probably the number one thing that we get asked, is there something that I’m supposed to do? Because the next generation is the purpose generation. So what am I supposed to do? What should I do with my life matters far more than how much money can I earn?

And actually, much to my chagrin, the universal consensus has been, you absolutely can miss out. So I was sort of hoping that these theologians would come back and say, “Don’t worry about it. You can’t miss out. Everything’s great.” But they said obviously we have freewill, we have actions and those actions and choices have consequences. So that’s been really interesting to just to walk through. And I just think that I again, going back to it, the more I talk with these folks, the more I realize how wrong I’ve been on a lot of things. So it’s really kind of gotten me into a place where I’m very happy, I’m very open about my beliefs now, because when you realize there are brilliant people who come at these things with completely different perspectives, it’s like, who am I to say I have it all worked out? And I now shudder looking back at the absolute certainty that I would utter statements about things. And now I go, man, I didn’t know anything.

RM: Where can people listen to your podcast or where can people watch if they want to see the video?

RB: So like 5 billion other shows, you can check us out on YouTube, but you can listen to all the places where you find podcasts. So Spotify, Apple, Stitcher, you name it. Your friend’s phone if you’re embarrassed to have it on your phone, whatever, but it’s available anywhere podcasts are found, there we are. And it’s been an awesome journey. Oh, we encourage everyone to reach out. Honestly, we get most of our questions from listeners who say, “Would you ask that person that question or push back on that?” So we love it. If there’s a question that’s missing, we need to hear it. I will let people know if we find an answer to T-Rex’s being babies or actual large T-Rex’s on the arc.

Check out the podcast interviews, Kinda Christian:


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