God – ATCast – Episode 02


Scott Adams is the creator of one of the best comic strips ever and I don’t say that lightly. There are few comic strips that rise to a level of becoming iconic. Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes is one. Garry Trudeau’s Doonsbury is another. Gary Larson’s The Far Side, of course. Scott Adams created Dilbert. Dilbert is about a “cubical drone” at a technology company. It focuses on office politics, the stupididty of the bosses, and a healthy dose of satire. Scott Adams is a really funny guy. He also wrote a small book called God’s Debris. It isn’t about office work or software development or office politics. It’s a “thought experiement” that has the balls to ask the question, “What is God?” The book is short, only 132 pages and it is an easy read. It is set up as a conversation between a very old man and a fairly young man. It is not, however, an easy book. In the process of arguing about whether or not God exists, the young man says to the older, “Look, four billion people believe in some sort of God and free will. They can’t all be wrong.” The response is, “Four billion people say they believe in God, but few genuinely believe.” The old man continues

“A belief in God would demand one hundred percent obsessive devotion, influencing every waking moment of this brief life on earth. But your four billion so-called believers do not live their lives in that fashion, except for a few. The majority believe in the usefulness of their beliefs — an earthly and practical utility — but they do not believe in the underlying reality.”

How does that sit with you? When someone asks you if you “believe in God”, how do you answer? What is God, anyway?

Welcome to the Amateur Theology podcast. This is episode 2, entitled God. My name is Matt McGraw


Intro (part deux)




A Generous Orthodoxy by Brian McClaren

Class is in Session

(Guest, Danny Mercer)

Welcome to the main part of this episode where class is in session. Today we are talking about “God” and I am joined by my friend Danny Mercer from atlanta GA. Danny welcome to the a t cast.

  1. Who are you and how do we know each other and why did you want to come on the podcast?

  2. Do you believe in God? Who or what is God to you today? How has that changed over time, if at all?

community input

Well, thanks for joining me for this episode of the Amateur Theology podcast. I have enjoyed talking with you all about god today and a big thanks to my guest, Mr. Danny Mercer. I will link to Danny’s twitter feed in the shownotes @alstayshome. I would love it if you would drop me a line on twitter or on the show email address. My twitter is @amateurtheolog and the email is atcast@thestrangeland.net; i love to hear your feedback on the show topics or on anything else you’d like to say, so please reach out!


and that brings us to the end of Episode 2 of the Amateur Theology podcast. I hope you have enjoyed it. If you have made it all the way through, tweet at me with the hashtag “#atcastGod” and let me know you’ve listened.

The theme music for this show was created by me, mixing together some Creative Commons licensed works. I hope you like it. The show is hosted by the Internet Archive at archive.org. The Archive is an ambitious project seeking to catalog and preserve the content of the internet for future generations. You can find books, music, live concert recordings, podcasts like this one and podcasts which are NOTHING like this one. Go on over to the Archive and browse around. If you happen to be a Grateful Dead fan, they have a massive collection of concert recordings from the storied career of the Dead; it’s well worth your time to dig into.

Episode 2 is done. I hope it will not be another 3 months before episode 3 drops. I don’t have a topic picked for that episode, yet, but follow me on twitter and keep up to date with all the info. Grab the shownotes for this and every episode on the website www.amateurtheology.com.

Until next time, Grace and Peace through our Lord Jesus Christ. Bye, now.


Catechism – ATCast – Episode 01

Sometimes you have a really good idea and you start to pursue it. Then, in the
process of pursuing it, you learn something that completely changes your idea or
direction. Has that ever happened to you? Well, you are about to experience how
it happened to me in the last 3 weeks. Buckle up!


Welcome to the Amateur Theology podcast. This is episode 1 entitled,
“Catechism”. My name’s Matt McGraw

Musical Interlude

Main Content

Well, here we are; Episode 1. I’m so glad you decided to tune in! If any of you
listened to my Episode 0 entitled, “This is a Recording”, thanks for sticking it
out; thanks for waiting for Ep 1. As I alluded to in a blog post, some things
have changed since I recorded that episode. I have discovered that there is a
name for the theological journey I have been on. I have also discovered that
there are TONS of other people out there who are on the same journey. The term
is “deconstruction”, and it has a partner-term, naturally, which is
“reconstruction”. We will talk more about the definition of these terms as we
will be using them in this episode and throughout this podcast in a little bit.
In fact, defining terms has become an interesting part of this episode which I
have entitled, ‘Catechism’. If you want to follow along with the show notes for
this episode, you can find them on the website at

Catechism is defined as follows:

from Ancient Greek (“katēkhismos”), from (katēkhizō, “to catechize”), a later
extended form of (katēkheō, “to catechize, instruct, teach by word of mouth”),
from (kata, “down”) + (ēkheō, “to sound, to resound”).

Oral instruction gives way to written instruction and we have written documents
called “catechisms”. One very popular one is the Westminster Shorter
. I have included a link in the show notes
to an excellent study of the WSC in plain English, with scripture references. I
invite you to check it out, if you like.

I have participated in several Episcopal churches and in the Book of Common
Prayer used in that tradition, there is a section called “An Outline of the
Faith: commonly called the Catechism” Book of Common Prayer, p.
This document is less
than 20 pages long and provides a fairly simple outline of the tenants of
orthodox Christian faith, as understood by the Episcopal Church. It is divided
up into sections (Human Nature, God the Father, The Old Covenant, The Ten
Commandments, Sin and Redemption, God the Son, The New Covenant, The Creeds, The
Holy Spirit, The Holy Scriptures, The Church, The Ministry, Prayer and Worship,
The Sacraments, Holy Baptism, The Holy Eucharist, Other Sacramental Rites, The
Christian Hope) and each section is a list of questions and answers.
Historically, when someone was being confirmed in the church, they would
memorize the entire catechism and then recite it at their confirmation ceremony.
Most churches don’t do this any more, but the inclusion of the catechism in the
BCP makes for an interesting reference.

My initial idea for this episode of the podcast, was to go through this document
and highlight some of the more interesting bits. I figured this was a good way
to lay some ground work for this podcast. Here’s what I discovered, though.
Without a common vocabulary, the catechism doesn’t really explain anything!

For example, the very first question/answer pair in the list is this:

Q: What are we by nature? A: We are part of God’s creation, made in the image
of God

Now, I don’t know about you, but if we aren’t using similar or exact same
definitions of the words , ‘God’, ‘creation’, ‘made’, ‘image’… I’m not sure
that answer is really all that satisfying. See the struggle?

So I decided, instead of going through the catechism in episode 1, let’s spend
the time defining some terms. So I thought, we should start with something
simple, like ‘God’. Not to say that God is simple, but that it should be fairly
easy to define…

Yeah, have you ever tried to define the word ‘God’? Not so easy. This is what I
came up with:

A supernatural being, the source of all that is good and beautiful, the
sustainer of life, eternally existent in 3 persons but of one substance, Lord,
Creator of the universe, Love…

as you can see, it’s not so easy. I started to get frustrated because I thought
I had my podcast episode all ready to go and then… poof Nada! So, here’s
what were going to do. We are going to introduce a “Catechism” segment to each
episode. We are going to take some time in each episode to work through some
definitions. I will be taking these from the BCP Catechism and also using some
free thought. I want to provide you all, not only with sterile, academic
definitions, but also explain how I use or have come to use these words.

So, to start us off, let’s revisit that word “deconstruction” that we talked
about earlier. Deconstruction is a word that I learned in college as an English
major. We used deconstruction criticism to analyze literature and poetry. The
basic theory is that you strip away all the prejudices that you bring to a work
based on your own location and place in time. The only thing that matters is the
context in which the author was working. Any assumptions made by the critic that
are based in his or her current context are invalid and the questions to be
asked are, “What did the author mean?” and “What did the initial audience

When we apply this type of “critical” thinking to faith and religion, we have to
strip away interpretations of holy texts and other writings that have become
filtered through the context of later societies and more modern academics. We
must read and understand as if we were contemporaries of the writers. Otherwise,
it makes no sense.

So how does this apply to me and what I have been going through? Well, I was
raised in the American Evangelical tradition. For most evangelicals there are
some “non-negotiables” when it comes to doctrine and theology. A few of these
are as follows:

  1. Monotheism
  2. The inerrancy of the Bible (many Evangelicals would add “in the original
    manuscripts”; this seems to be a cop out, allowing contradictions and
    conflicts within the text to be dismissed as “translation error”, IMHO.)
  3. The literal nature of the biblical accounts, especially regarding Christ’s
    miracles and the Creation account(s) in Genesis
  4. The virgin birth of Christ
  5. The bodily resurrection and physical return of Christ
  6. The substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross

These doctrines were laid out most distinctly in The Fundamentals: A Testimony
to the Truth
, a collection of around 100 essays published in the early 20th
century by the Bible Institute of Los Angeles; now known as BIOLA
University. (Any one of these “fundamentals” could be a catechism segment or
an entire episode in itself… perhaps we will delve into some of them in future

So, this was the framework I was raised with and it was the way I interpreted
the Bible. It should also be noted that most American Evangelicals are
Calvinists…. which we will just have to talk about another time. As with many
children of fundamentalist/evangelical parents, I kept and voraciously defended
my belief system up through my first year of college where I was run smack up
against other Christians who didn’t share many, if any, of these beliefs. I
attended Westmont College, a private, Christian,
liberal arts college in Santa Barbara, CA. It was there that I met Christians
who believed in evolution, voted for Democrats, and had an understanding of
scripture that didn’t require it to be the literal truth in order to be True.
Needless to say, I was shocked, flabbergasted, a little disgusted, and very
confused. During my 4 years at Westmont, I came to learn more and more about the
world I thought I knew and by the end of it, I was holding onto mere threads of
my faith. Within 3 years out of college, myself and my first wife had given up
completely on church, faith, and God. I was a functional atheist and openly
hostile to Christians and Christianity. I had fully deconstructed to the point
where there was nothing left. I had gotten to the point where the
interpretations, teachings, and doctrines I had been raised with, that I had
been taught were the “only true faith”, were completely at odds with the world I
had come to know. Evolution was real, scientific fact. Social justice was the
true burden of humanity, not a vain attempt to be freed from “sin” and saved
from “hell”. Homosexuals were just people trying to make their way in the world
just like everyone else. The cognitive dissonance was too much and I had to
leave it all behind. I turned my back on the “sky fairy God” and ran. When the
walls fall, the house is done.

Several years later, as my first marriage was falling apart and I was pretty
convinced I wasn’t long for this world, someone reached out to me and started
pulling me back towards God. It was/has been/is a long, hard struggle and I am
not done with it, by any means. But, here’s the upside. Deconstruction has an
opposite and it is called “Reconstruction”. I don’t remember there being a
corollary to deconstruction in my literature classes. In terms of faith,
however, when one reaches the bare floor of their beliefs and begins to build
them back up again, with new tools and new understandings, this is definitely
“reconstruction”. And that’s where I find myself today. That is the place out of
which this podcast has been born. That is the journey I am on and on which I am
hoping you are keen to join me. So stay tuned, friends. We’re just getting


I want to thank you all for listening all the way through. If you have made it
to the end, I would encourage you to tweet at me with the hashtag #atcastcatechism. I look forward to hearing from you.

Speaking of hearing from you, this podcast will be nothing without your
interest, contribution, and participation. Please reach out! Contact
information will be in the show notes for this episode and you can find those at
amateurtheolgy.com. The theme music for this
show was created by me, mixing together some Creative Commons licensed works. I
hope you like it. I hope to feature some more musical interludes in future

One last thing before we’re done. I mentioned in episode 0 the possibility of
book club episodes and I really want to know what you think about that. I have 2
books that I am itching to read with you. They are “The First Paul” by the late,
great Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan and “The Teaching of the 12:
Believing & Practicing the Primitive Christianity of the Ancient Didache
Community” by Tony Jones. I will have links to both of these books in the show
notes. I invite you to check them out and let me know if you have a preference.

That’s going to do it for episode 1, “Catechism”. I’ll see you next month. Grace
and Peace to you through our Lord Jesus Christ.


  1. The Teaching of the Twelve: Believing & Practicing the Primitive
    Christianity of the Ancient Didache
  2. The First Paul: Reclaiming the Radical Visionary Behind the Church’s

Contact us:
1. twitter @amateurtheolog
2. email atcast@thestrangeland.net
3. website amateurtheology.com

The Amateur Theology Podcast is hosted by the Internet Archive. Check

them out at archive.org. They are good people doing
the great and important work of saving internet content for posterity.



As research for my podcast and also for my own personal growth, I listen to quite a few other podcasts. Being a progressive, I tend to favor podcasts with a progressive bent. One word or topic has been coming up over and over again and that is “deconstruction”. I’m gonna talk a bit about this in episode 1 of the podcast (due out Jan 12). I find it fascinating that I have known this word for a long time. I was an English major in college and we talked about deconstructionist criticism all the time. Finding it used in a spiritual, religious, even Christian context is fascinating.

I will be creating a page of links to podcasts, movies, books, etc that have challenged me as I have progressed along my journey of spiritual discovery. I hope some of them might be of interest to you, dear reader. Check back on the website and subscribe to the podcast feed so you will be ready when episode 1 drops.

If you want to reach me, please don’t hesitate to connect with me on twitter, I am @amateurtheolog or you can email me here: atcast@thestrangeland.net.

Thanks for reading and joining the journey.

Grace and Peace,

~host, Amateur Theology Podcast

“This is a recording” – ATCast – Episode 000

Introduction to the podcast

  1. What is this podcast about?
    1. Theology in a broad sense, but specifically Christian theology as that is my tradition.
    2. Encouraging differing points of view without malice.
    3. Fostering community/building a tribe.
  2. Goals of this podcast.
    1. develop a personal theology
    2. create a community
    3. make people think
  3. What will the process be?
    1. Organic
    2. I have some source material I want to go through
      • BCP Catechism
      • Creeds
      • Other statements of faith
      • Book studies / Book club
    3. Community lead / driven
      • without involvement from the listeners/community this will not happen
      • forums / FB Group / Google+ community / reddit / other
    4. Open to suggestions
  4. Why am I doing this?
    1. I need to do it. I need to develop the ways in which I think theologically
    2. I am seeking to build community and common ground in a post-2016 election world.