2: Prologue | Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

This episode kicks of our in-depth discussion of Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman.  We start in the Prologue and begin discussing Idleman’s core message–question of whether your are a “Fan” or “Follower” of God.  Neither of us is convinced that these are the best categories.  We also discuss Idleman’s loose handling and use of the “Feeding of the 5,000” to make a point.

John raises an issue that seems to be missing or presupposed in not a fan which is why someone should or would want to be a follower of God.  Looking ahead to chapter one, Idleman appears to be leading in the direction of suggesting that the issue of fan vs. follower is critical towards determining where a person will spend eternity.

We look at this a little deeper and question whether this doesn’t cheapen the whole meaning of love and being in relation with God–the idea that people will simply chose the “right” answer of “being a follower” because they want to go to heaven.  Is that really the only and best relationship to be in relationship with God?

Gregg talks about being overwhelmed by God’s love and that being in love is what makes him a follower, not where he is going to spend eternity or duty.  He also talks about how when we are in love we respond in different ways and are transformed–we like the people we become.  We don’t love God for naught–that isn’t a love relationship.

We also start to talk about the notion of “experience” and what that means and how it plays out in what we believe.

And there’s more too, so listen to the episode and tell us what you think.

6 thoughts on “2: Prologue | Not A Fan by Kyle Idleman

  1. Pingback: 29: Biblical Extremes and Openness to Dialog | Listener Feedback | Untangling Christianity

  2. Charlie

    Thanks for the response.

    John – you are spot on in terms of the struggle to separate belief and experience, or maybe more accurately to determine what the proper weighting for each of those in my personal life.

    Gregg – I love paragraph #1 – who we become when we are with God, and what he brings out in us, since I think it will be different. I think that is worth it’s own podcast.

    For the following section regarding beliefs vs experience, I think that I frequently find myself stuck between two worlds: (1) Bible=truth, therefore anything it says can be used to “prove your point” and (2) Bible = just another book, and therefore if you try to solely use that as the basis of your argument, then I’m going to reject or discount your point of view. In simple terms, it’s an isolated christian tribe vs a secular tribe. It feels like “exegesis” is a very scarce skill in the “non-professional” christian (e.g. non-pastors). Most people seem willing to be spoon fed someone else’s point of view with very little thought going into it. I think some of this is driven by a feelings led culture that lacks reflection.

    Once again, I think there is probably a whole series of podcasts that could spin off of this topic. I think the trick is to break it down into digestible chunks for those who haven’t spent many, many hours thinking about this.

    1. Gregg Monteith

      Hi Charlie,

      Thanks so much for your comments. Starting with your last comment first, I agree that our exchange here needs to be broken up into smaller, more bite-sized pieces in order to be of greatest value. So I want to keep that in mind in replying to your next points about being “stuck between two worlds: (1) Bible=truth, therefore anything it says can be used to “prove your point” and (2) Bible = just another book, and therefore if you try to solely use that as the basis of your argument, then I’m going to reject or discount your point of view.”

      BAM! I love the distinction that you’ve made and I want to reply to this both briefly, here, and in more depth (and with successive posts) on my blog. In brief, there has been important debate among scholars about several points related to your distinction. First, there is the question of how to view the Bible (i.e., as a special book or as a book like any other). Second, there is the questions of how to situate the interaction between the world / existence and the Bible (i.e., understanding the Bible in light of the world or understanding the world in light of the Bible).

      Point b) may require a bit more explanation: it is basically the question of which takes priority over (or “contextualizes”) the other. So on the one hand, many Christians would say that we should understand (or “read”) the world based on understandings gleaned from the Bible. A good example is 7 day creationism. On the other hand, many non-Christians would say that the we should understand (or “read”) the Bible based on understandings gleaned from the world. An example is viewing Christian forgiveness as the sublimated result of being too weak to exact vengeance (as Nietzche’s “slave will”).

      My take on the two preceding questions (Bible as a special or regular book; Bible vs. existence for first place) is that in each case the answer is “both,” though this is demonstrated via specific formulations, formulations that I will bring out in my upcoming blog posts (I was going to put out the first installment yesterday, but I got a bit distracted).

  3. Charlie Simpson

    I loved the comment that “I love who I am becoming when I am with God”. It struck me in a whole new way, since I typically think of that phrase in terms of a marriage or dating relationship.

    I question basing your beliefs on feeling and experience. Most of our culture today is driven by choices made by feelings. I don’t deny that this part of the relationship with God, but I think it is missing a lot if there isn’t more to it. I think much of the reason that I ended up at L’abri was trying to reconcile my intellectual understanding of the world (e.g. worldview) with the “just believe” approach of my childhood and upbringing.

    1. John Poelstra

      Thanks for your comment. We’d love to see continued questions and pushback on things you think we need to explore deeper or revisit.

      I’ve had the same reservations about basing belief on experience and yet I’ve also found something missing basing belief solely on mentally assent to the truth of something. It’s a topic we come back to a lot in future episodes. I think as we discuss it more in subsequent episodes the nuance comes out more and I can see where at a first listen or passing reference it might seem suspect.

      Today’s episode Experiencing Truth digs into some of this as well.

    2. Gregg Monteith

      Hi Charlie,

      Great to hear from you. I’m glad that you found the notion of loving God (in part) for the sake of “loving who I am becoming when I am with God” (literally, in being loved by and in love with God), and I also think it’s valuable that you can relate to this from the context of your marriage relationship. The notion that I’m aiming at there–and that I’ve personally experienced in my relationship with God–is the reality that others “bring out” certain aspects of my personality, and that my best relationships bring out the best in me. And if this is so, then how much more so should the case be with my relationship with God.

      I’ve also been crafting a response to your query about basing our basing “beliefs on feeling and experience,” but my response is far from done and is already very long. So maybe what would be best is to give a few points that, at a very high level, explain some of my thinking and act as a very rudimentary response. I realize that this will likely not be satisfying, but this way I can keep the dialogue moving and perhaps offer you the chance to direct it in the way that you most interests you.

      So, my nutshell version is this (with the expanded version to follow):

      a) In life we are always interpreting—whether we are aware of it or not—because we do it so often (and often, so well) that it becomes effortless.

      b) Our interpretations of the Bible are directed in a general sense by the nature of the lens that we bring to it and that “lens” is our disposition to the text. In technical terms we call this our hermeneutic, which means is the art and practice of interpretation. So many Christians generally hold a hermeneutic of trust relative to the Bible, while many atheists would hold a hermeneutic of distrust or suspicion.

      c) Our specific interpretations of the Bible can be derived from a variety of orientations. Let’s focus on those employed by Christians, or those who approach the Bible with a generally trusting hermeneutic. So one approach is to believe that what I read is what the text means: there is no interpretation taking place and no need for me to interpret. The Holy Spirit or biblical infallibility or a combination of these two (or more) ensure that my understanding is correct. This approach may initially seem very palatable, but I have argued that in fact its implications are very problematic.

      So a second approach is to believe that the Holy Spirit guides me such that what I feel about a passage is what God wants me to understand from that passage. Here I may be equating my feeling with the passage’s meaning, or a I may just be taking my feeling as “what’s important for me right now.” In either case, what matters while reading the passage are my feelings because it is through these God communicates, through the Bible, with me.

      A third approach (and we may consider there to be more than three, but I’ll leave it at three for now) is believing that what God wants to me to understand from the text at least begins with understanding what the text means. In order to access the text’s meaning this approach emphasizes that the Bible is an ancient text written by ancient authors and addressed to an ancient audience. From this awareness that the Bible’s language, style, and cultural viewpoints are very different from those of my time and culture, I understand that I need a minimal set of skills if I am to understand what this text means. We may call this skill set exegesis. (Interestingly, there is an important kinship between the second and third approaches, as I’ve written about elsewhere).

      So far, so good.

      d) Yet—and this is the point that many people seem unaware of—in this ongoing process of interpretation we are ALSO interpreting ourselves. We interpret our actions, intentions, situations. Indeed, we each view ourselves and our interpretive abilities through a certain “lens”—we have a certain general disposition towards ourselves and our interpretive abilities, whether we are aware of it or not. So we may maintain a hermeneutic of trust relative to our interpretations: upon consideration we might say that we view ourselves as generally capable interpreters and our interpretations as being generally trustworthy. Or we may view ourselves with distrust.

      e) We are ongoingly interpreting our own actions, intentions, and situations, yet we typically do so unreflectively and even unconsciously. More accurately, I would argue that we apply the same three categories that we applied to biblical interpretation, in section c), to ourselves. So many—if not most—people do not believe that they are interpreting when they are understanding their experiences, or that any interpretation is involved in personal experience. Others believe that what they feel about a situation is what that experience means and how they should see it. Still others (and I reckon that these are very few) approach the task of self-understanding with the same degree of attentiveness and discipline as those who approach the Bible from an exegetical perspective.

      Now, how we go about exegeting our actions—becoming competent readers of ourselves—is beyond the scope of this reply. But my strong contention is that this is an essential part of being human AND of being Christian. Further, I would contend that there is always a reciprocal relationship between biblical and personal interpretation: each informs the other.

      And my belief is that this reciprocal relationship can only be productive in cases where I am a) aware of the fact that I am always interpreting, b) embracing the most fitting hermeneutic (or lens) for the situation, c) skilled in the art / practice of interpretation within each domain (whether biblical or personal), and d) developing an awareness of the interrelation of personal and biblical interpretation and of its impact. It is in maintaining these orientations and fostering these skills that I believe humans best prepare themselves to recognize truth and most readily prepare themselves to adopt it.

      I realize that this is a mouthful (and yes, this is the short version), but maybe we can see it as the start of a conversation.


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