Luke Janssen: Recovering Evangelicals

Agnosticism, Critique of Apologetics, Deconstruction, ExVangelical, Philosophy, Podcast, Podcasters
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This week’s guest is Luke J. Janssen, M.Sc., Ph.D., M.T.S., Professor Emeritus, Dept. Medicine, McMaster University, and co-host of the Recovering Evangelicals podcast. He is a scientist in medical research. During a faith crisis he began taking courses on theology which turned into an M.T.S degree.

I’ve been face-to-face with faith and science my whole life.

Luke tells his story in four 15 year phases: his early years as a nominal Reformed Christian, his young adulthood as a Pentecostal/Charismatic fundamentalist, a desconstruction phase, and where he is now, with a “small part of him that won’t let go” and a belief in a creative force.

It is just that I couldn’t pretend anymore.
I just couldn’t pretend that I was a believer.
I just simply didn’t believe.

Luke and his co-host, Boyd Blundell, cover many aspects of desconstruction on the Recovering Evangelicals podcast. They discuss various apologetic and scientific arguments and honestly reveal what they do an do not believe now and why.

Recovering Evangelicals
… for those who were once very comfortable in their Christian faith until the 21st century intruded and made it very hard to keep on believing;
… for those who are intrigued by science, philosophy, world history, and world religions, and want to rationalize that with their Christian theology;
… for those who found that’s just not possible, and yet there’s still a small part of them that won’t let it go.



Recovering Evangelicals


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“Waves” track written and produced by Makaih Beats


NOTE: This transcript is AI produced ( and likely has many mistakes. It is provided as rough guide to the audio conversation.

David Ames  0:11  
This is the graceful atheist podcast. Welcome, welcome. Welcome to the graceful atheist podcast. My name is David, and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. As usual, please rate and review the podcast on the Apple podcast store, rate the podcast on Spotify, and subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening. Special thanks to Mike T for editing today's episode. onto today's show. My guest today is Luke Jensen. He is the co host of the recovering evangelicals podcast. The tagline for the podcast is for those who were once very comfortable in their Christian faith until the 21st century, intruded and made it very hard to keep on believing. Luke is a scientist who's done medical research at the university level. And he also has a master's degree in theology. And as his website describes, he has been face to face with faith and science and that debate for all of his life. As you're going to hear as he tells his story, he has gone through multiple phases, faith and deconstruction. At the latter half of the conversation, we try to dig into what he does believe currently, and that is a journey in and of itself. You can find Luke on the recovering evangelicals podcast on all the major platforms. Luke's website is That is And I will have links in the show notes. A special thanks to Joe a mutual listener to both the graceful atheist podcast and recovering evangelicals for getting us all together. I got introduced to Luke and Boyd, his co host, and I really appreciate that. Thank you, Joe, for reaching out. Here is Luke Johnson to tell his story.

Luke Jensen, welcome to the graceful atheist podcast.

Luke J. Janssen  2:20  
Thank you for having me.

David Ames  2:21  
Hey, Luke. So we had a mutual listener of ours, Joe who introduced us, he was a big fan of you and Boyd's podcast recovering evangelicals, and this one, and so that would be great for all of us to get together. And so far, our email exchanges, I really am fascinated by the work that you and board are doing. I've gotten a chance to listen to a handful of those episodes. And again, just really impressed with the level of openness and rigor that you guys handle those questions. And so I think it's gonna be a lot of fun to have you on. I want to give you just a couple of seconds to hear to say, who you are like your like your your resume, so to speak of where your education was, and things of that nature.

Luke J. Janssen  3:06  
Okay. And I'll just comment as well on that, that Joel bringing us together. He's basically sent an email to the three of us, you, myself and Boyd, and he just said, well, to us, at least he said you should go and Dave show. Yeah. And we went we looked at each other when Dave show who's and the now your email was CCD in there, but your email is graceful And so we just thought that was a moniker that was a name. For a month, we didn't know who Dave was. And then some of the things happened with oh, that's who DAVE Yes. Yes. So it was great. So to answer your question, then, so I'm 6061 years old, went to university worked as a, as a scientist in a lab for just about 30 decades, just over 30 decades. And I'm now retired from that. I just wanted to move on to other things. And the work that we did was in the in the era of asthma, looking at cell function, that sort of thing.

David Ames  4:02  
Interesting. All right. And you have a master in science, Master's in theological studies and a PhD in pharmacology and physiology. Is that correct?

Luke J. Janssen  4:13  
Yes. And actually, you know what, now that I think about it, I'll have to talk about the MCS later on, because I forgot to even mention that. But yes, so in, I did my Master's and PhD in medical sciences. And that's what that formed the basis of my career for 30 years. And it was near the end of that, that I was going through this faith crisis. And amongst other things, I thought, you know, what, I'm gonna take some courses on campus here. And one course became three became 30. And then I thought, you know, get a masters and MCs so there you go.

David Ames  4:39  
That's, that's awesome. Yeah, I think blade refers to that. You know, he says, the type of person Luke is he just went and got a master's in theology.

Luke J. Janssen  4:47  
Well, it was easy because it's on campus. I didn't have to go far and then as an alumnus, as a member of the of the university I could take the course of for free Okay, so it was easy, but it was hard work. I will say

David Ames  5:06  
Well, we're here to hear your personal story. And you have really interesting story of faith transition going kind of in multiple directions. But let's begin where we always do with the faith tradition you grew up or what was, what was your faith, like when you were young?

Luke J. Janssen  5:20  
Right? I'll break my life up into four different parts. It just seems to be that what happened to my life, fell out over 15 year blocks. The first of which then was obviously when I was a kid, we grew up in a Christian reformed setting, which for the listeners who may not know what Christian reformed is, we were very Dutch and very Calvinist, I think a lot of people will know Calvinism is all about Yeah, I found that to be, it was more of a social identity, that group that I was in there. And again, remember, I'm just a kid, I'm less than 15 years old. But it was more of a social identity, it was just an in group, it was the place where your friends were your co workers, where a lot of your family members were there. And so it was just the place you were, it was the society, the social group that you were part of. And I wouldn't really say at least for me, as such a young kid, it wasn't a personal commitment to a worldview or a religion. But it was a very formative part of my life. It it shaped my initial views on who God is, or what God was, God was a very angry god, a very judgmental God. Obviously, he was absolutely in charge. And it also shaped how he saw humans how I thought I was led to believe that he saw humans, humans are utterly evil to the core. Not much good for anything else, but burning in hell. So And how was very prominent in the thinking when I was a kid again, and I think to some extent, I can see generally speaking in the Reformed faith, it also meant that I was utterly young earth creationist, I just took the Bible, literally, but then again, not that I spent a lot of time in the Bible, it was just when things were said, or you hear from the sermon from the the pastor at the front, you just took it at face value. And again, it just wasn't a particularly personal thing with me, it was just the water that I swam, and that was the first 15 years of my life.

David Ames  7:11  
Okay, I guess my question then to you is, did you internally have faith at that point in time? Or was it truly just cultural at that point?

Luke J. Janssen  7:21  
It would, it was very much cultural and not a personal thing. I certainly had beliefs and values that were shaped by that community, and I live my life by it. Well, that's not totally true. There are many times they didn't, but you, you strove to abide by the social norms, that sort of thing. But it was not a personal thing. Certainly not a personal relationship. Okay. But even to say that it was a personal belief. I don't know that I would say that,

David Ames  7:47  
okay. That's actually relatively similar to me. I grew up in a nominally Christian family, you know, they were believers. But that wasn't talked about much we didn't go to we didn't go to church. And so, my grandmother, I remember this this moment. So clearly, I was about 13, or 14. And my grandmother realized that I didn't know what the apostles creed was, like, she just about died of shame, like she had failed. And so I kept asking, like, you know, who is this God character anyway, kind of thing. And it wasn't until my late teens, that I became very serious. But anyway, proceed. So what happens after this?

Luke J. Janssen  8:24  
Okay, so then the next 15 year block of my life from 15, to 30. And it really begins with my parents, again, my parents were Calvinists. They were Dutch, and they both grew up in that whole system. But they had a major conversion experience. And I'd say this is they both had a major conversion experience. But it seemed to be more dramatic with my father. He had the from what he tells us, as I understand his background, he wrestled really deeply was religious issues, especially the idea of being one of the elect. This is one of those ideas that Calvinists are big on that, basically, some people have chosen to go to heaven, and some are chosen to go to hell. And that's just the way it is. It's nothing more to it. And he, my father really wrestled with that whole idea of being one of the elect, as opposed to the ones going to this very fiery hell. And he was deeply fearful that he was one of those assigned to hell. Now, I'm not clear on all the details, but what I do know is that he did have a very profound personal experience. It was a deeply religious experience. And it literally changed him overnight. He was a different person because of that. became very passionate about his new faith, which I'll now call the charismatic or Pentecostal faith. I mean, it took a few years for to really evolve fully into that Pentecostal charismatic. I'll use the word phenotype. Yeah. But certainly, it was a very sudden, emotional, profound commitment to this new kind of faith and it became the only thing that he could talk about even to this day. So that's what happened to him. And again, that was roughly when I was 15 years old. For a few years, I resisted that he of course would be one to take while he did take, take the kids to these various fellowships, various church groups, home study home groups. Every Friday night, we went to this one place called visa UK a very charismatic kind of a place. And I was very resistant to that for a couple of years. Until it basically was coerced into an all say, joining the team and air quotes there. It's it's an experience, I'm not sure how much really to get into, except to say, at one moment, I was completely against being, you know, joining this faith that he held. And just because of the circumstances that I won't get into the detail, it was basically I was pushed against my will into this new faith. Now, I don't want to just, I'm not going to put the blame all on him. I did accept that new worldview. I did. I did pray the prayer, say the words and became a Christian. And from that moment on, I was committed. But I do have to say that though the way to happen was rather coercive. And that's really all that I'm going to say. So bottom line is I've resisted for a number of years and now all of a sudden I dove in headfirst and I became one of them as well. I think I was sincere. I do think looking back on myself as a 18 year old I was committed. I sincerely held that belief. And I became Uber involved. I taught and was involved in the Sunday school groups, college and career group. I was part of that I was in a Christian rock band. This is hilarious, because I was a keyboardist even though I have absolutely to this day do not have any experience whatsoever with Keith Morgan's. I just simply had enough money to buy a synthesizer and I now became the keyboard is for this Christian rock band, which you know, toured for about a year didn't last long, but it came from the summer camp, and we played every year at the summer camp. But there you go, yeah. Went on all kinds of evangelists, evangelistic campaigns, if our church would, you know, have something going reaching out into the neighborhood or, you know, bringing your friends to Sunday, Sunday school, where their college and career group. There was one year that Billy Graham came to our city Hamilton in 1988. And so I was part of that.

David Ames  12:16  
Okay, that's probably a big deal.

Luke J. Janssen  12:19  
Yeah, so so very much I was, I was all in and I was serving, I played my guitar. I did play guitar. I didn't play the keyboard, but I played the guitar for youth group for worship services, that sort of thing.

So that's me being involved there. But then let's talk about what you know, what did that what did this mean? I went to church twice on Sundays, and at least once midweek, that midweek would be say the Wednesday night Bible study or the Friday night youth group and college and career, that sort of thing. So three days a week, if not others. And they were very emotional services, especially, you know, as you know, if the service is two or three hours long, which today is unbelievably long, but during the last half hour, things got really emotional, a lot of a lot of emotions, and especially the Sunday night service, that's really what it was all about is just driving towards that final hour, where a lot of emotions were being poured out. Went to revival meetings to various healing meetings. You know, I'm sure people have heard of Benny Hinn, there's a few others but Jesus festivals, there was the the, the folk gospel businessman conferences, they also had their events. And I was all always part of that. I was pretty committed, needless to say, and I bought into that for the first five to 10 years for sure. And what did I buy into? So I read the Bible, literally, I saw it is absolutely inerrant and infallible. Which obviously meant then that the creation accounts, they were literal. That's the way it happened six days, I was a young earth creationist. And I even started to write a book at that time. So now we're, you know, in the in, I'm past my undergrad, university experience, and getting into my postgraduate experience, where I was starting to write a book that would finally prove to the world that young earth creationism was true. And you're listening, you'll remember those days, I said, lots of coffee, lots of lunchtimes, with bread talking about young earth creationism, and I was working on this book, which needless to say, never happened. Yeah. Interesting. And it's not just the creation accounts that it took literally, of course, there's the destroyed Israel coming out of Egypt. That whole story I took literally, yeah, if you've seen the 10 commandments with Charlton Heston, Charlton, has you seen that movie? That's what was in my head? Yeah. And many of the stories, the Old Testament, the teachings of Paul, all these things I just took at face value, what it said on the page, I just took it that way, right? I was absolutely certain that we were in the end times. You know, that whole beast and the Antichrist thing. Speaking in tongues was part of it as well. The another thing that I refer often to the cosmic Vending Machine God, basically whenever you need something, you just pray for it, whether that be a healing, whether it be passing a test, or, you know, people often refer to getting a parking space, that kind of thing. Well, I believe in this cosmic vending machine, God, you just asked and expected to get it.

David Ames  15:21  
I love that analogy that that really captures kind of the the attitudinal position towards oh, I need a parking spot.

Luke J. Janssen  15:30  
Yeah. And it never occurred to us. It certainly does now, but never occurred to us that we expected God to answer that kind of a request, but not you know, this kid who's got brain cancer or, you know, kids. It's more heartbreaking when it's breaking when it's kids, but kids starving in Ethiopia, God wasn't paying attention to them, but he would find me a parking spot that just never occurred to us at the time. Now, having said that, I, part of my background there, part of my, what I grew up with, was this belief in miracles. And I I'm not sure really, I can't really remember whether I believe them or not, I certainly went to those kinds of meetings. I went along with it, not just went to it, but went along with the whole idea. But I'm not sure I can say I really believe that. Because the fact is, I didn't pray myself for healings. i If I really believed in it, then I would have done that. And I don't remember ever praying for myself or for other people for their healings. I mean, certainly not. You know, the whole. Well, there you go. Yeah, Demons, demons were everywhere. That was also part of my background, in the Pentecostal circles, we are always and that's going to play into the third part of my life where I reject the whole thing. We'll come back to that. And then the last thing that I believed in at that time, and it was a last thing that I can get rid of, that I had to wrestle through was this idea of the personal relationship. The whole idea that, you know, God is my, my, my personal buddy. And Jesus is my personal buddy. And, you know, I believe that wholeheartedly. But from time to time, if you asked me at that time, I would express some frustration that it was kind of hard to really see how it worked. Just didn't live. I didn't, didn't experience that personal relationship. In our podcast, we did a number of episodes that deal specifically with that. And maybe if your listeners are curious, you can see what I mean by that. But so there you go. Yeah. So those are the things that I believed that's the church I went to we saw the church down the road, we had this euphemistic expression the church down the road, which was basically, you know, any Baptist Church, and things like that. They were second class Christians. We were the true Christians. Oh, gosh. And of course, and of course, you know, Catholics, they weren't even Christian. Going to Hell, yes. That was what we absolutely believed. Yeah. So here's the thing is we're getting close to my 30s. The second the end of the second part, 15 year block of my life. All these uncertainties began to accumulate questions that were being raised, there was cracks forming in the wall, contradictions and mistakes that I read in the Bible, they just were becoming a bit of a problem a bit too much of a problem. I mean, I say, when I saw these contradictions or mistakes, even when I was in my 20s, I noticed them and you just quickly filed them away. But now they're beginning to sit in my brain a little bit longer. And I was beginning to puzzle with them, until I've quickly filed them away. Yeah. And here's the other funny thing that I do remember, at the time feeling odd about the idea that even though I was very Evangelical, evangelistic, I was also always, you know, not always, there were many times I was telling my friends or again, when I worked with the when I volunteered with the Billy Graham crusade, I would tell people about my face and about what I thought they needed. But, and I know I'm not sure I've articulated this, but I do remember thinking to myself, certainly become a Christian, go to church, but don't go to my church. My church is whacked. I want to be kind of a Christian. I honestly did think that even though I went there for years, and clearly, you'd think that means that I believed a good bit of it. I do remember thinking to myself, when I'm talking to people witnessing is the word that we use when I was witnessing to friends are telling other people. I was always thinking do go to church but Dakota mind because it'll weird you out. That's fascinating. Interesting. Yeah. It's funny that it never bothered me at the time. Yeah, yeah. But it did still attend for many, many years, even as these doubts and questions and concerns were building. And I do remember now, for stepping to the present here. I do remember reading your how to D convert article, David. And these are all steps that I read in there that these are all classic deconversion stories, people who are fully committed. And then one question after another begins to build and and then, as your article then talks about the whole deconversion idea. We also boy I also talked to Brian McLaren in one of our episodes about the same sort of thing. It's the exact same sequence of events. So that's the end of the second half of my life.

David Ames  20:18  
So again, you know, it's it's I know, we're going to we're going to diverge at some point. But it is interesting, the number of parallels, I think you and I are contemporaries, and two things that really struck me. My first real church experience, first of all, was my my mother, who had a dramatic epiphany and a transformation from drug to drug addicts to functioning human being that that was my impetus to become a believer. I was all in, I felt like I had a personal relationship with Jesus. So that's slightly different. But Pentecostalism was the first exposure that I that I had in the 80s timeframe of Frank Peretti. And there's demons under every boy. Yeah, that whole. So that could definitely relate to that. So and then, you know, a long period of time of attending church, but having questions and not knowing at the time that the word was deconstruction, right like that, that, you know, I slowly began to see, well, this can't be an Eric, because there are problems. And like, and grappling with that, but but still absolutely remaining unbeliever for a few decades in my case. So right.

Luke J. Janssen  21:24  
Now, I'm curious. And if you want take this out of the final cut, I'm curious, you said that you said you did have a personal relationship. I'll say that I claimed to have had one, but it didn't feel it. And here's the funny thing. There were times where I would begin to feel something and then it really is, yeah, I'm just creating these feelings. I'm just, you know, crip, tensing these muscles. And it's through the breathing and through various things. I'm beginning to feel something and I was smart enough to know at that time, you know, what, I'm just creating this feeling. And I didn't want anything to do with that. Did you have more than that?

David Ames  21:57  
Yeah. So you know, it's, I think you've probably had the same experience. When we're talking to say, an evangelical today, you have this weird experience of kind of defending your former faith. And so I'm going to do, I'm going to do a bit of that, obviously, my perspective has changed today. But I had this sense of conscious contact is what I used to call it right. I was not terribly disciplined to have prayer time, half an hour out of the day, that kind of thing. But I felt like I had continuous contact as it were. So I know that you talked about feeling I definitely had a feeling of connection to God and a feeling of of relationship. How I interpret that today is radically different. But, but at the time, that's what I experienced.

Luke J. Janssen  22:42  
Right? And no voice is obviously now. The other thing, I mean, I would hear people say, but I feel,

David Ames  22:49  
you know, feel, you know, like the the language is so hard to pin down. But like you feel guidance, you feel a sense of God wishes this or that, that kind of thing. Yeah. As opposed to, you know, literal voice, right.

Luke J. Janssen  23:10  
Okay, so I'll jump into the third quarter of my life. And I'm going to call this a slippery slope phase, which everyone can relate to that expression. You've heard it all the time. In your article to deconstruction, how to deconstruct article, I think you call this the critical mass stage. Yeah. And so here's an interesting story. I said that I was gonna come back to demons, which demons was one of the things that we believed in. And I said that played into the ending of this part of my life. I can distinctly remember that one Sunday that we were in that Pentecostal church I was going to at that time, and I think many of your listeners are going to know the name. Benny Hinn, faith healer, he had a brother or has a brother, Henry Hinn, and I'm pretty sure it was Henry, they both did the same kind of thing. But Benny certainly rose to very big fame. But I think this one was a service being led by Henry hand. And I just, I just remember in this service, again, in the background, over the over the weeks, months years, leading up to this, I was beginning to have less and less conviction about what we were doing. But in this particular service, as he was winding up, you know, turning the crank to get the emotions primed up. He had a stand up, put our hands to the front of the church, put on our palms to the front of church and said, Okay, now we're going to Castle, the demons from the North. Now, I want you to turn around, we're going to Castle, the demons from the south. And then we had to cancel the game from the east and from the west. And I distinctly remember leaning over to my wife, and even though I would still say I was a well certainly wasn't full fledged believer, and even to some extent, Pentecostal, I remember leaning over and said, We're not coming back here again. This is this is too much. This is whacked. Yeah. And we didn't. I think I was only there once again, years later when I was there for a funeral for a friend of mine who was there and otherwise we never went to that church, let alone we never attend Did Pentecostal churches and that sort of thing after that? It just was there was too much emotion and too much weirdness, I understand. Yeah. So we started going to another church and actually several churches, we had to find a place. And I'll just characterize them I was basically Baptist, because I think a lot of your listeners will get a sense of what a Baptist church is like. And that's the kind of place that we went to. At that time, I still saw united and Anglican churches, they were basically dead churches. That's what I would have said at that time that he was dead churches. But we'll go to these other churches that are certainly not on the other end of the of the spectrum, the Pentecostal type. And it was during this time, once we left that, we did find a church that we attended for quite a while for a decade at least. And I was quite happy there. But these questions were beginning to accumulate during that time and really accumulate with a vengeance with force. And I'm going to break those up into three different I'll call them forces or influences on my life. The first which would obviously be science. I was a scientist, I went to university, worked in the university and use science in my life. And it was at that time, and again, I was a young earth creationist again, at that time, every new dinosaur fossil, every new discovery of another evolutionary adaptation, when I learned about them finding basic building blocks of life in meteorites, and I read about what, so Stonehenge and Sumerian tablets, that sort of thing. Every time I read about these things, the all confronted the beliefs that I grew up with, they all challenged my faith. It was certainly the young earth creationism that I grew up with. Yeah. And it was just a constant onslaught. And I found myself developing this split brain mentality, I had the Monday to Friday brain that I took to work. And I might even use words like evolution and adaptation, that sort of thing. I will use them but I certainly didn't really think that way. And then this Sunday brain that I had, that was a whole different worldview, young earth creationism, creationism still, and I really maintained that kind of dichotomy for a long, long time, the Monday to Friday brain and the Sunday brain are two different parts of my thinking. And I kept them very compartmentalized. And I know that that's not, it's a short term strategy, it's not going to last very long, you can only hold that kind of dissonance for so long. And, and so we'll come back to that. And that's the one of those three influences in my life. The second one then would be the morals and ethics that I read about in the Bible. The classic list of things that seem to bother so many people, the Canaanite slaughters, the ones that are included, often included, apparently innocent women, children, animals, the completely male oriented thinking of so many stories and values, you see, you sell a slave, and if the slave is male, you can get this much money. But if it's a female, you get half as much or if a child dies, you get more for a son and a daughter, and so many other ways, there was very much this male oriented thinking, and a blatant discrimination against women and slaves and foreigners and children. And It puzzles me now, I don't know why I didn't see those kinds of discriminations before, or at least they didn't bother me. Somehow they made sense. I don't know what else to say about that. One of

David Ames  28:23  
my observations was, obviously Grace was a major part of my Christianity is, and I'm continuing in a secular fashion. But I talked about how I had Grace colored glasses on when I went over that Scripture. And it wasn't until I like took those Grace colored colored glasses off to just read it, the text as it is, and just see what it actually says that the horror of what is Is there really struck me.

Luke J. Janssen  28:51  
Yeah. I guess what I was doing, I guess I'm saying the same thing you just did. In my own words, I just think it was again, my biblical literalism working against me, I believe those stories as real events, the stories of the Canaanites slaughters as an actual events. In other words, it was a God ordained event. I just use it because that's what the Bible told me. And I realized now that these are very much stories that people told. But that was another influence that began to chip away at my my faith system, the morals and ethics, the biblical morals and ethics actually ruined my faith

and then the third one was world religions, which for decades, I believe that any other world religion was was well, you can't call them demonic but we would have there there this satanic Islam, long list of world religions that you just dismissed us completely. Well, certainly non Christian, but more than that satanic because we will use those kinds of phrases that back when I was still young and naive and very foolish. But here's the thing. My job as a scientific research researcher took me into contact with so many people of these other faiths and religions, even going to their houses for dinner, going to conferences and rooming with them sometimes. And it's, it's embarrassing to admit that what I found was I was very confronted with the idea that these people were not the evil monsters I thought that I was expecting, right? I expected these to be very different people that were just night and day different from me. And they were wicked to the core. And what I found, though, was that these people were fundamentally good, they were sincere, they were kind and compassionate. And when we did talk about religion, they were not offensive. And the funny thing was that they were also just trying to be right in the eyes of a God that they believed they were just trying to be good. Yeah. And what really brought this part this influence, this destructive influence in my life, what really brought it to a boil was reading a book, I read lots of books, but this one in particular, I know it hit me like a hammer in the center of my face, Kite Runner by Colette Hossaini. And very briefly, basically, the story is of a kid who grows up in Muslim Afghanistan in a modern setting, I think was like the 1990s or something. This kid makes a decision. He's only he's a young teenager, I think he's 12, I think, when this happens, betrays a friend, which leads to some horrible consequences. And, and then this haunts the kid, right from the moment it happens for his whole life, and then the rest of the book. I mean, that's the first chapter, I think. And then the rest of the book is him as an adult trying to reconcile, not only to find this friend and to apologize, and to get forgiveness and reconciliation, but he's also going through this journey to reconcile with a God that he knew the only one he knew, which happened to be a law. And again, he grew up in a setting this, Afghanistan, Muslim iscan Stan, where there was no other story paints that as if there was no other Christian influences, it was just Muslim. And so this kid, now a man is just trying to get reconciled with God, whom he calls a law, because that's the only god he ever knew. And it struck me as I was reading the story. And still in this, this Christian phase of my life, I was thinking, as much as this kid just wanted to get right with God, too bad, he's going to hell because he's Muslim. And, and then it dawned on me that this is I couldn't tolerate this anymore did not seem right. The kid just wanted to be right with Allah and wanted to apologize to a friend. But he was going to hell because he wasn't a Christian. And I just couldn't justify that anymore. That really was the nail in the coffin on that part of my life.

David Ames  32:43  
Well, we talk a lot about that. It's not one thing. It's 1000 things. And we often focus on the first thing and the last thing. Right, right. And yet there are many points in between that, but so it sounds like this was one of the last things for you the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak.

Luke J. Janssen  33:00  
Well, certainly one of the last things that basically had me beginning to say, You know what, I'm not sure I'm a Christian anymore, that's for sure. But but it was a long list of questions that finally got me to well, we'll come to that in moments. So it did start a whole cascade of changes in my thinking questions that I now actually started asking with vigor, I didn't just kind of quickly ask me that and realize, oh, I don't want to go there and file them away. So I actually began to deal with some of these. And it was a long, hard journey of deconstruction, you know, with air quotes, that what people usually think of deconstruction, meaning just taking a sledgehammer and breaking everything, which I now have learned, deconstruction can mean, a very, excuse me, can mean a very different thing. Sure. Maybe we'll talk about that later on. But I started going out for coffee with friends with people I respected and was asking these questions and trying to reconcile them trying to have them make sense. And I just found myself giving up ground on so many things that I once believed with full conviction. And so what kinds of things naturally obviously one of the first things to go I think the first thing to go would be this, the inerrancy and infallibility infallibility of the Bible. How could that not happen? All these stories that I took at face value, and now I'm saying they could not have happened, it doesn't make sense. It's not right, you know, again, getting back to the canine Canaanite slaughters. So that was one of the first things that that definitely went, I stopped reading the Bible literally. We can talk more about that later. Things like atonement theology, I was very much I grew up Calvinist and for a long time I had I held this idea for decades held this idea of original sin, and that whole idea of Heaven and Hell and reward and punishment. Christian exclusivism though the whole idea that Christianity is the only way to get to heaven, and then that one of the other things I already mentioned this, but it was one of the last things that I had that I found myself wrestling with was that personal relationship even into my 40s and 50s, I still thought I'm supposed to have this and I just was not able to experience it not able to realize it. Without generating it myself. That's the thing. I think I could have been someone who would say, Yep, I feel that personal relationship. But I would know deep inside, I'm just generating as a friend of mine, as a friend of mine calls that the warm the warm fuzzies just generating the warm fuzzies. And then I call that God. And that was one of the last things that I've finally had to let go of. And it took me so long to get rid of that. That idea.

David Ames  35:34  
I think people will relate to that. Yeah. Yeah. And I know there's a more to the story. I'm anticipating that but yes,

Luke J. Janssen  35:40  
well, so now we're getting nearer to the end of that third 15 year span of my life, I found it necessary that I had to accept that I was no longer a believer. Definitely agnostic, that's for sure. But I've not wasn't quite comfortable calling myself an atheist. I wouldn't call myself an atheist. And that's because I'm a scientist, scientist says, Well, if you if you say this, you have to mean it in the meaning of the word. And to me an atheist is somebody who knows that there is no God. And I can't, I couldn't say that, then we can come back later to the fact that I still can't say that.

The interesting thing was leading up to that admission that okay, I'm not a believer, I'm certainly an agnostic, leading up to that there's all this fear of walking to the edge, and you know, the panic and the uneven uncertainty of coming to that. But once you do make that step, it was just a feeling of liberation. I just found that. Now I can now I can breathe easy. I can, I can be honest with myself, for starters, and I can, there was a joy and a peace. Let's put it that way. I actually enjoy MP. So I've given up this faith that I'd had for 40 or more years,

David Ames  36:55  
we talked about just the release the you know, best self honesty, you lose the need to defend your Faith anymore. And yeah, there's some very interesting things that happen. And the irony is how evangelistic it sounds when you try to describe it, you know, like, literally, you know, scales falling from one's eyes kind of thing,

Luke J. Janssen  37:18  
right? No, Dave, in your show? Do you? Have you had people talk? Or have you talked about this allegory of Plato's cave?

David Ames  37:25  
I'm very familiar with that. I don't know that. We've talked about it a lot on on the podcast. So if you want to give the listeners just a brief overview,

Luke J. Janssen  37:33  
okay, so and the reason I'm doing this is because this is now I'm feeling that in my life, in that part of my life, I was feeling this whole Plato's cave experience. Yeah. So very briefly, I haven't really thought to do this. But let me just try. So in Plato's cave, you've got this guy stuck in a cave, he's chained, and he's just seeing shadows on a wall, cast by some fire or something like that. And he just sees shadows, doesn't make sense. He's looking at it. And things don't make sense. But he eventually managed to get free, which allows him now to walk around the cave. And then he sees that these shadows are actually just, they're just shadows of A, he had been building an image of what the shadows meant. And now he knew what those shadows were all about. He knew what was creating the shadows, he saw it from from a whole different angle, He then proceeds to walk out of the cave. In the process, as he gets to the top of the cave and breaks out in the sunlight. Now he's absolutely blinded, and he's scared to death, because he can't see anything, doesn't know where he's going. But eventually, he, his eyes accommodate, he can now see clearly, things as they really are not no longer just shadows on a wall, in the cave. But now he sees the sky and the trees and everything around them. And he sees what things are really all about. And there's this feeling of of elation of joy. And then he realizes I should go back into the cave and get my buddies out of that cave. Yeah, and so so that's where I found myself at this point in my life that I had walked up to that edge with such fear and uncertainty, and the blindness of, you know, if I let go of this, and I let go of that, there's nothing there to catch me. And I didn't know what to do. But once I finally did, there was that feeling of, of release, you use word release, and joy and peace. And then I did feel that I wanted to go back and tell the people that I've been going to church with about, you know, what, all these things were talking about. Maybe there's a different way to look at these things. And I really began to as so I started a blog called reaching back into Plato's cave. I wanted to reach back to them and help them pass that those questions that we're all dealing with. Yeah. So that was very much a decision that I made to finally say, you know, what, I don't believe all those things. So in that sense, I'm not a believer, and I'm definitely agnostic. And I just want to clarify, I often want to clarify, I want to say this to people I'm talking to. I'm speaking now to two different groups of people, the ones who are Christians and the ones who are atheist. To the ones that are Christians. I want them to know that this is not a rejection of a faith. I have had, because it's not that I just chose to stop believing, and certainly not motivated by wanting to have a different lifestyle, you know, the whole sex drugs and rock and roll thing. It's just that I couldn't pretend anymore, I just couldn't pretend that I was a believer, I just simply didn't believe, at least not all the things that I used to believe. And so a lot of Christians will become judgmental. At this point, some Christians will become judgmental at this point. As if I had a choice, I didn't have a choice, I didn't just know that the faith was real. And I chose to believe differently, I just couldn't believe it anymore. And then the other thing I want to say is to the to the atheist, and it's, it's one thing to say that you can give up a lot of these faiths, but it doesn't mean that you have to reject the whole thing. And I just simply dropped the things that I couldn't hold anymore, which was a lot of things, I'll admit. But there still were some things that made sense to me, they still do, and I hope we can talk about some of those. We're in the fourth quarter of my life that I'll be getting to

David Ames  40:58  
Yeah, I you know, I said this loop to you off Off mic. And I'm just gonna say it here that that really the podcast, as I started, it was for those people who, when they looked around at what they had left, it was so little, that what remained was so little that they maybe they don't call themselves atheists, but they they don't say that they're more than agnostic in some way or another right like that. They can't they there's nothing left for them. That was my personal experience. But I want to acknowledge that people go through the deconstruction process and land in different places, there's a wide spectrum available to people. And one of the things that I find exciting about that is that that people get to go and explore, to learn to find out what they believe and why. And that's ultimately their autonomous decision that they get to make, right. And so I just want to make sure that that's clear from my end that although the podcast does generally focus on the D convert, where I'm acknowledging there's a pretty wide spectrum for people to experience.

Luke J. Janssen  42:05  
Good. So now I'm sure there's listeners that are wondering, well, then what do you still hold on to? The one thing that I just could not shake is the idea that there's this, there is a creative force, a life force. And that's simply because again, I'm a scientist. And so when I look under the microscope, and and see what cells can do, when I look at it through a telescope, and to see what's out there, it just leaves a feeling in me that there's something bigger out there. And I just, I can't believe that this whole thing is just some crazy cosmic accident. I just can't go there. Now, I know that some people call that a God of the gaps. And I have often wrestled with the fact I've been against people, not against people, I've been against the arguments that are based on a God of the Gaps argument. I'm just against those. And that's the thing I said, all I'm doing is holding on to a God of the gaps. But I'd been corrected on that partly through some thinking. But I'll be honest, it was also in a lot of these podcast episodes that I've done with Boyd and there was a an episode we did with Steven Freeland to chemo that they're more recently as well, where the point is made. It's not that it's a God of the gaps. I'm not using it as an explanation of things. It's more it's a sense of awe, there's this awe in looking at the stuff under a microscope or at the end of a telescope, and just being in awe and just feeling that there's something bigger out there. I have no evidence that there is no God, I don't have evidence that there is a God, this is not my evidence for God, when I look through the microscope, I don't say, well, that's proof that there's a God, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying, there's an awe that there's something bigger called the life force, a creative force. And it just makes more sense to believe that, that there's this creative life force, rather than this is just a cosmic accident. That's where I stand on that whole idea.

It just makes believing certain things make more sense. For me, it's more intellectually satisfying. Again, it's not proof. For God. It's not proof that we exist for a purpose. But I also don't have definitive proof that there's no God or that we don't have a purpose. If you're going to be adamant on this, you have to acknowledge that. In this case, you're you're making a choice. I don't know that anybody has proof that there is no God or that we're not here for a reason. They don't have that proof. They just, I would say that they should acknowledge that they're making a choice to believe that and I just choose to believe that there is something bigger out there, and that we do exist here for a purpose for purpose that there is meaning to our existence. And I know that some believers will, will have problems with me referring to God as a creative life force. But here's the thing. I've moved past the idea of God is a personal God. A personal Buddy, He's not someone more closer to me than my neighbor or even than my wife, he's not a personal Buddy, he is he so I'm using, I'm using pronouns he, as if God is a person, and that's again, something that boy and I've talked a lot about in our podcast, God is not a person, he's not a he or a she or an IT, he's, he's it God is way beyond personification. And, and certainly I would call God a life force or credibly force in a lot of other things.

David Ames  45:29  
You know, it's interesting, I just want to jump in here. If you're if you ever get a chance, go back and listen to marriage Simka a, I did a an interview with an Orthodox Jewish person. And, man, the language you're using right now sounds almost exactly for what he was talking, you know, the the kind of a, the core of being, that being itself kind of force of being as it were, I'm struggling to use the language, but it just what you just said really struck me as very similar to potentially Jewish thinking,

Luke J. Janssen  46:01  
right? So I hang on to this idea that there is something bigger out there. And if I find out, I'm wrong, I don't feel I've lost anything. And even as I say those words, I don't want thinking, I don't want people thinking that I'm just, you know, the Pascal's Wager idea, I'm not just choosing to believe because it's in the hopes of being right about getting into heaven, I'm quite comfortable with finding out that we only have our life here on earth, and that there's nothing more after that I don't need to have a reward of heaven. For making this choice. I just choose based on what I see and what it feels that there is something bigger out there. And well, I certainly don't believe in the whole health thing, that's for sure. I grew up with and believed in this idea for 50 years, the idea that God hates humans, because we're so sinful, and that there's nothing he can do but just burn us up or even worse, torturous for an eternity, I find that I can't believe that. I do believe that people can create their own hell here on Earth. And I'm working my way through parsing the words of Jesus, when he's talking about hell, that he's talking about people creating hell on earth. And it goes both ways, I think you can create Hell on Earth, you can also create heaven on earth, if we can just get it together, okay. And that's where this whole meaning making thing comes together, I just choose to play in a team that's all about making meaning, making a difference, learning how to get along, learning how to love learning how to make things better, that's just a choice I made to be on a team. And if there's an afterlife, and there's a heaven, that's great, but I don't need that to make this choice.

David Ames  47:31  
So it's really interesting, Luke, because I use a lot of the same language without the underlying metaphysics. And I'm not trying to argue here, I just want you to understand where I come from, from my perspective that human beings are meaning makers, we make meaning that is part of what it means to be human. And this concept that we talked about on the podcast of secular grace is that human beings need to be accepted, we need to be known, we have a deep seated needs to be known by one another. We are social creatures. And this idea of secular grace is a proactive love, call it agape if you want. But just that that is the attitudinal direction that we should be facing is loving one another. I know that's not original, I appreciate that I'm stealing that. But that, from my perspective, there's no underlying transcendence necessary for all of that to remain true. That all is a human experience, that that all of these things can be natural. So it's fascinating how close you and I are, is what I think you're a great guest. This is this has been this is a great conversation. So I really appreciate it.

I think my question that leaps out is, what is the Bible for you now? So there's a lot of deconstruction that's happened. You have this sense of the creative force. So what does that? What does that say about the Bible? What does it mean to you now?

Luke J. Janssen  49:02  
For me the Bible. So I use an analogy. And in fact, I'm trying remember we use it recently in an episode, but for the longest time, that's right, it was it was an episode we did with Peter ends. And I asked him, What do you think of this analogy? For although the longest time I had this idea of the Bible as the user's manual, you know, you've got the user's manual for your car or for your stereo system. It's a manual. It's written by the maker of the product that we're talking about. And it's written to the people who are going to buy this product and how this is how you use it. Here's what you do and that sort of thing. That's what I thought the Bible for decades. I thought that's what the Bible was written by God is, you know, I might have been had to admit, okay, yes, sure. There was a human holding the pen, but basically, God's moving his fingers God's whispering in his ear, or is putting the thoughts in his head. And it's a it's a book written by God giving given to us humans to tell us how to live. And I've since realized, that's not realized. I've since come to accept the fact that it's not a user. As manual, it's rather a diary or a notebook. The whole idea that humans for millennia for 1000s of years have been have been looking up at the sky, feeling that there is this bigger thing out there trying to make sense of it, writing down their notes, writing down the stories that they told. Some of those stories are intended to tell us, okay, here's what happens when you do things this way. And here's how you could look better. Some things are written to basically say, here's how we did it, because we thought we were right. And boy, were we wrong. Now, now they're not that boy, were we wrong is not even admitted implicitly in the story. There's a lot of stores in the Bible that people look at and go, How can that be in that Bible? And I think it's there because the people at the time, this is what they did. And you look, we can now stand back and look at what they didn't realize how it just goes, it just goes downhill from there. So a lot of words to say, I now see the Bible as much more if not, well, largely, you diary or a notebook written by humans. And we get to look at those diaries and notebooks and take some lessons from them. And, and to some extent, we're writing back into those books when we interpret those biblical books. I mean, let's face it, a lot of the things that are written in the Bible have been interpreted so, so hugely differently. And that's why we have so many Christian denominations, they take the same passages and personal differently. And that's what we're now doing. We're taking those scriptures, looking at what those people wrote down and how they saw things and we're now applying our meaning to what they wrote down as if that's what those people meant all along. That's a lot of words to say where I see the Bible now.

David Ames  51:36  
And it's okay if you I'd like to dig just one step further. In that do you see the Christian bible as special or different from say, the Koran or the Bhagavad Geeta, Geeta, or any of the other collections of human wisdom that are out there?

Luke J. Janssen  51:52  
Only special in that that's what I grew up with. Okay. It's full of strange stories. It's full of, of, of disturbing stories, and it's full of things that I'll call untruth. I have looked at pieces of the Bhagavad Gita pieces of the Quran. So I'm not an expert on those and my point. My point is this. They contain a lot of truths. They may contain a lot of untruth, I don't know what those are. So I'm not going to say that they do. But I'm led to believe that they contain some untruths, and some disturbing stories. And but then so does the Bible. I mean, I will never deny that the Bible has a lot of very disturbing stories and a lot of wrong ideas, to be honest. So here's an example of what I'm talking about. The Israelites, if you if you take this Bible at face value, it talks about the Israelites having just come out of Egypt, they've been wandering around for a while, they're now setting up a religious system in the desert, and they're looking forward to getting into Canaan. And we're given these laws, presumably from God. And one of the first things they ask about is, well, what do I do when I need to sell my kid into slavery? And there's some words there that talk about what they need to do when they sell to kids into slavery. What do you do with a raped woman? And the solution there, presumably from God was, well, you have to make that woman marry her rapist, and there's no opportunity for divorce. There were opportunities, opportunities for divorce and other situations. But here in this case of rape, no, there wasn't. How can I? I can't say that that was God speaking. I think that was a human speaking a male speaking, were a bunch of males speaking. And that would be an example of what I'm talking about. When I say that there are things that are wrong in the Bible. Okay. And I think the Bible is intended to force us to ask some really hard questions and begin to look past the words. And really, yeah, actually, that's not the best way to do things.

David Ames  53:40  
Where I think we agree is that I think the the collections of human wisdom are a particular group of people in a particular time writing about how they made sense of the world, how they interacted with one another. And what 21st century eyes, that can be horrifying. So yeah, I think from the anthropological point of view of just kind of having kind of a step back and saying, trying not to just judge it, but to recognize that's, that's what they thought at that time. And we can take what we we think is useful, and rejects critically, what we find to not fit in the 21st century anymore.

Luke, another topic that I was interested in, I heard you allude to it in relatively recent episodes of the podcast, but I was never able to go back to the the archives to hear the detail is that you wrote a book about the soul. And so I'd be really interested to hear what your perspective is on the concept of a soul.

Luke J. Janssen  54:43  
So that actually came out of my studies when I did this master's of theological studies. Again, I want to say that I didn't just decide to get an MTS, I first took a course in Genesis what to do with Genesis because I wasn't a scientist and I did not know what to do with that whole creation account. So I took that course and then another and another until it finally became a degree. Now during that time taking all those courses, one of the things I began to learn, it really became so blatantly obvious to me and certainly is now was how thinking developed over time, I used to have this mentality that, you know, the Old Testament people believed this way, if you can't see me in the, in the audio, but I'm holding my hands as if I'm holding a basketball. This is what the Old Testament believed about things. The Old Testament, the ancient Hebrews believed about things. And then there was a change in thinking when Christ came on the scene. And now the New Testament again, have their new basketball. And they see things differently. But I really saw how thinking changed over 1000s of years. And in particular, on this topic of the soul and the afterlife, I realized that the very ancient Hebrews had a very different view completely different than what you might read about later on in the Old Testament, or certainly the New Testament, and certainly compared to now. And what also became apparent was that the changes in the thinking coincide when you when you take into account when these different books of the Bible are written. Some are written well. So we can argue about exactly when they're written, but certainly some are written from the point of view of many, many 1000s of years ago, say 6000, or 4000 years ago. Some of them were written from a context that's more like say three or 4000 years ago. And when you look at the at the timing of the changes in the thinking, when different books, the Bible convey a whole new understanding of the soul and the afterlife. They coincided with when these ancient people, the ancient Hebrews were in one context or another, they spent 400 years in Egypt, for example, they had a certain view, let me back up even further. So before they were in Egypt, they were Babylonians. Abraham was a Babylonian and we know about what the Babylonians believed. And there's hints of what a Babylonian, a Hebrew wise Babylonian faith look like some things that Abraham did, and people around him talked about, you can see now this base Babylonian influence. And they very much had a Babylonian look on what the soul was like and what the afterlife was like, then they end up in Egypt, and they're there for four or 500 years 430 You can hear different numbers. But the bottom line is they're in there for for almost five centuries. And if you look at anybody today, who comes from an immigrant family, and they are second or third generation in a new country, like Canada, or the US, those second or third generation kids are so North American eyes compared to their parents and grandparents who are so old school from the old country. Yeah. And there's a complete difference in just the course of a couple generations. Now you'll look at these ancient Hebrews they've been in Egypt for for almost 500 years, they're completely Egyptian eyes. And you can see that now in what they talk about. When we're referring to the soul in the afterlife. Then there's this encounter with the Zorro, Zoroastrians, the Persian Empire, Daniel, Daniel sees a whole has a whole new perspective on the soul and the afterlife. And it's largely because of his his contact with the Persians and the Zoroastrian faith. And then you come certainly Greek Greek thinking absolutely changed the way the ancient biblical writers saw the soul and the afterlife, it became a very platonic view on the soul in the afterlife. And then then you come to Paul and Paul was a completely Hellenistic Jew, and sees things very differently. And now we're today 2000 years later see the soul in the afterlife completely different yet again? Yeah. So that was the that was the generation of that book. It was a lot of learning. It was not a particular course, it was certainly was not my thesis while I was doing that master's degree, but it was an accumulation of all kinds of examples that I came across where the thinking of the ancient biblical writers how that thinking on all kinds of issues just changed over hundreds or 1000s of years.

David Ames  59:02  
And for you, personally, what was what would your position be on the soul?

Luke J. Janssen  59:07  
So that's what the book is about. And we did a number of episodes on that. And I'm just actually editing right now, as we speak. I'm editing an episode that will come out in a number of weeks where we talked about that. For me, the soul is an emergent property of the brain. Now, what is an emergent property? Basically, it's it's, it's a property that emerges out of basic constituents that you would not have seen those things there if you just looked at those basic constituents. So for example, I'm going to just try to quickly come up with analogies. You look at artificial intelligence or virtual reality. You can play virtual reality and you feel you're in a whole new virtual, you're in a whole new reality. But that's only because of a lot of circuits, a lot of software, a lot of electrons, and all the things are coming together to produce a whole new experience. And out of that emerges of unexperienced you can't it's a lot potential, if you don't have words for people will talk with civilizations that a civilization is based on people, people are built on organs. Organs involve chemicals, chemicals involve protons and electrons. And at each of those stages, you can't predict a civilization when you just look at the electrons and protons, neutrons. You can even predict the molecules. And then once you have molecules, you can predict the civilization all these things are emergent properties of, of the basic constituents. So the brain, the soul is an emergent property of a whole lot of nerves, a whole lot of reflex pathways, a whole lot of neural processing. And from that is an experience of what it what's going on around you who am I, I see myself immersed in a world where I am situated in a, in a social setting, I'm a member of a family and a social group, and a country all have these things feed into my personal experience of what is real to me. And that's to me, what the soul is all about the soul is what defines you, it defines your hopes, your fears, it defines your memories, all of these things, and we can route those in. The neural processing is an emergent property of that neural processing.

David Ames  1:01:24  
One more question on this. I didn't I didn't see us going this direction. But I'm really you're just you just make me very curious. To me, you've just described consciousness. So are those synonyms for you? And I guess the ultimate question is at death, does the soul continue on for you?

Luke J. Janssen  1:01:42  
Okay. First of all, no, I would not call consciousness and soul or mind or personality, the same thing, consciousness is just an awareness. And so even bacteria will have an awareness of a chemical gradient, for example, or light source, they have that conscious awareness. And so that would be consciousness. Now, soul and mind and personality certainly would include consciousness. It's one of those fundamental ingredients, they lead to a personality and a mind and a soul.

David Ames  1:02:11  
Can I Can I jump in and just correct? How about sentience? Is that a better word?

Luke J. Janssen  1:02:16  
Okay, so I haven't thought about that. So sentience, and and sentience is, you know what? I have to think about that that day, because sentence would be I think, it is a property, but I'm thinking more it's like a, it's an action of some kind of like, it's more of an action word to me, whereas soul to me is an experience. It's a it's a property. Okay. So there's overlap, I'd have to think about that one day.

David Ames  1:02:42  
Okay, great. Yeah. Hey, I succeeded. I got you to think.

Luke J. Janssen  1:02:47  
Now, you said, What does that mean for the afterlife? So Christians will talk about the resurrection, but he'll talk about the resurrection. And I firmly believe if you're going to believe in the resurrection, I don't know that there is I don't know that there's an afterlife, I really don't know. I honestly don't know that there's an afterlife, I believe it's possible, I have no idea what it looks like. But if there is they talked about this resurrection body, that body can look like anything. It doesn't have to be this physical body that I currently own today, which is a completely different body than they had 20 years ago. And let alone 40 years ago, I've had many bodies, and they've all looked very different. I know, we all grew up and by the you had five is not what you had 15 or 30. You get the idea. Yeah. So. So this emergent property that I call the soul works in the body that I now have, the nerves that I have, and the pathways that are ingrained in my brain. But in theory, those could be embodied in something else. People today talk about being embodied in a computer when you talk about transhumanism and, and being loaded up into the where they call it the metaverse, they talked about that. And it's something that actually they actually could believe would be possible. And in theory, if they could upload all your memories, all of your experiences, your preferences, the laws, you grew up with the values, you held all these different things. I would I would struggle to say that's not me that was embodied up there. If they had all those qualities and all those things of me, it'd be hard to say, well, that's not me. And then of course, that raises all kinds of other weird philosophical questions. So I think I've answered your question, David. Yeah, the afterlife could be a reimbursement in something doesn't have to be this biological body and probably wouldn't be a computer but who knows what it could look like.

David Ames  1:04:39  
I lied to you just a second ago. I've got one more question along this line. Because and I'll set the context for so for me personally. The last two things to go were the concept of a soul, my soul, specifically mine. Right, not just not just theoretically, but the idea that I have something that that will transcend to death. went for me. And the second are the really the truly the last thing for me was the resurrection of Jesus himself as a literal event. So I'm curious if you believe that Jesus was physically, literally resurrected from death, true death.

Luke J. Janssen  1:05:16  
Right. Okay, so I will take both of those. Let me start with the first one, though. So I think people will struggle with the idea that I talked with the soldiers being just an emergent property, especially the Christian believers amongst your listeners, and who here this will struggle with that whole idea. And yet, all you need is a brain injury, and you become a different person. There's stories, and people always pull out the story of Phineas Gage, people have a grandmother who's got Alzheimer's, and all that really is is a brain injury. And they recognize that that person is becoming less of who they once were. And sometimes they become a different person, they suddenly start acting and doing things that are completely different. Lots of stories of people having other forms of brain injury and becoming a whole different person. It's just bizarre. And the point is, if there really was a separate thing called Soul, write a thing called the soul that was writing in your body, you could have a brain injury, and that soul should still be there. But it's not. It's totally dependent on the brain, the machinery. So that's, we could go on at length about why I hold this view. But okay, so enough on that, yeah. Now back to the Jesus resurrection thing. Again, I don't know, I'm still wrestling through where I stand on who God is, whether he's an interventionist God. Certainly, to me, God represents a whole lot of moral values, good and love and that sort of thing. But whether he's an interventionist I don't know, if he were, if I could somehow be convinced that he were, I could see him looking down on these humans and saying, You know what, they could do things better here, I know this, the I have a better will for them. I'm going to send someone down there. Now, before I go any further, this is not I'm not going down the path where I'm going to send somebody down there. So I can rip him apart and spill his blood and pay for since that's not what I'm getting at. I think rather, if he were an interventionist God, he could send somebody in and say, Hey, guys, there's a better way. And here's how you do it. Get along, forgive, you know, that kind of thing, all the values that Jesus stood for, and which is why he was killed. And if that were the case, if this Jesus was either, you know, well, if this Jesus was there for that reason, and was killed for that reason, I could also imagine an interventionist God saying, You know what, now they've killed them, they've really done it, I'm going to bring them back, partly to put a spotlight on this guy, this guy is not just another guy who died from some good values. Here's a guy who stood for the values that I want these humans to finally get into their heads. And I'll put a spotlight on that. I would believe that such an interventionist God could conceivably be raising from the dead. So I haven't answered your question. I can't say yep, I believe that that's what happened is consistent with. I'm obviously not done wrestling through those questions. But I want to be honest with myself, and on the one hand, say, okay, look, I can't say that. I know that that's what happened that there was this interventionist God who did raise Jesus after Jesus made the point. Hey, guys, here's how to live. I'm not going to say I absolutely believe that. But on the other hand, I can't say well, I'm not going to say, it's not it's not possible because even as a scientist, I'm going to know that there are things that are now possible that were not possible. 100 years ago, we do things now today that are routine. We bring people back to life. We resuscitate, we don't we don't resurrect we resuscitate people, we do all kinds of things that are that were impossible. And now we realize, well, we just didn't know all the rules. We didn't know all the physical laws. And so I'm not going to deny that it's entirely possible. I can't say no, it's impossible. I just don't know how to say yes, it happened beyond saying, Well, I want to believe that it did.

David Ames  1:09:03  
I think that's very honest. So thank you for, for letting me dig deep there. I definitely want to spend some time though, on your podcast recovering evangelicals. So I want to begin that with how did that come about? What what was the impetus and and how did you avoid Connect?

Luke J. Janssen  1:09:22  
Okay, so again, I begin all those questions when I was in my 30s 40s, began a lot of questions. And eventually it became a blog site. And I started the blog, a lot of these questions, reaching into Plato's cave. And, and then that transformed into a podcast because one of the people that I had coffee with was this boy who happened to be at the time he was a no, not at the time. I knew him as a kid in the youth group. I was one of the helpers I used sponsor. I worked with our youth pastor and helped run the youth program with him. He did all the work. We were helpers, but boy was one of the kids in there and And, and then years later, I mean, I haven't even stopped to think how many years later, I then encountered Boyd again, that same youth leader brought the two of us together. Boyd and I, we had coffee he was there as well, we actually was a beer and french fries and that kind of thing, that scandal there. But that's where I had a good long chat with this boy. And he began to clarify a few things for me. And at the same time, at that particular time, I was wondering about doing a podcast. And it just turned out that, you know, the everything conversion, I began doing this podcast with this boy who I knew from long before, one of the reasons I wanted to work with Boyd said, he has a whole different background. Mine is very scientific with some little bit of religious an MTS degree. Whereas boys is very much philosophical and theological, he had that training. And he's a very sharp guy very quick in his mind. And I really thought, you know, this is the kind of guy that I can work with. So that's how the podcast started. So now I'm just going to very quickly do the blurb from my my podcast, so it's recovering evangelicals, I just want to point out to anyone who's trying to find it. We did start this podcast in January 2020, with that name recovering evangelicals. And just over half a year later, another group started with the same name on Facebook, recovering evangelicals. And then it was about a year later. So now, one year after I started, then another person started with a podcast called The New Evangelical, the new evangelicals, podcast, and the new evangelicals community. So a little bit of overlap there. And then another person came up with recovering evangelical podcast, she had the singular, we had the plural, but otherwise, it's the same name. So just want to call attention to the fact that there's at least four groups with very similar names. And we were there first.

David Ames  1:11:51  
Yeah, I'm giving you credit, then. Okay. So maybe just give my listeners overview of some of the topics you cover. And, and then we'll get into maybe who your audience is.

Luke J. Janssen  1:12:02  
Okay. So what we what the goal of the podcast is to just deal with questions that make it hard to believe it. And it's called recovering evangelicals, we've had a number of times a number, a number of episodes, where we explain why we call it that people who are trying to recover from evangelicalism, or even people who are trying to recover evangelicalism because we think evangelicalism is very, very broken today. So we're targeting those people who come from an evangelical background, or at least want to hear about that. And people who either have left behind, they've just given up on belief entirely, or people who are struggling with it. Maybe some people, some listeners are ones who are who are fully committed to the faith themselves, but they're working, they may be youth workers and working with kids who are asking these questions. So. So a lot of words to say, our goal in this podcast is to deal with those really tough questions. And we deal with ones like, you know, Original Sin and atonement theory, that personal relationship that I referred to earlier, we'd have a number of episodes to deal with that directly. Things like heaven and hell, or controversial things. young earth creationism for sure we deal with a lot, but things like intelligent design, religious trauma we have dealt with in the past, those are the kinds of topics that we have covered.

David Ames  1:13:17  
Yeah, great. And I'll just say that you guys tackle these issues with a high degree of rigor. So you come prepared, there's clearly research that has been done. I appreciate that you, you know, you bring the scientific perspective. And Boyd has the, the philosophical background as well. And you both have a theological background. And so it's, it's exceptionally well done, and I'll give you give you props for that. So.

Who do you see as your audience who are the people who are listening?

Luke J. Janssen  1:13:55  
Well, I kind of alluded to that. So there are people who have moved from one version of Christian belief into another, or they moved out of Christianity into an entirely different religion. We've I've heard from them as well. Some people who see themselves as agnostics, and some who are outright atheists, one of the most recent while this goes back, I'm going to take a guess. Five or 10 episodes. So to go we had somebody in particular who has just moved on from the Christian faith. A great guy I loved doing that episode with him. He and Redfern is his name.

David Ames  1:14:26  
He has been on the podcast I love him. Yeah.

Luke J. Janssen  1:14:31  
And and so we want to reach out to those people as well. Some of those people just we use this phrase scratching the itch. These people who even though they've left behind, they haven't left behind. They still come back whether they're aware of it or not. Well, the fact that they're listening to our podcast means that they aren't coming back to it. But they're just often finding themselves thinking these questions, they come back to scratch the itch. And so those are the people that we're talking to.

David Ames  1:14:58  
Luke, this has been An amazing conversation, I think you and I could talk for hours upon end. If ever we are in the same town at the same time, I would love to have coffee or beer or whatever, so that we could chat and spend a few hours. I hope this isn't the last time that we work together. But thank you so much. I do want to give you just one last chance to you how can people reach out to you? Where can they find the podcasts, that kind of thing?

Luke J. Janssen  1:15:21  
Well, they can email me at Or go to the podcast, which is at Luke J. Excellent. Didn't do that too fast. They can find me on Facebook, of course. And we have a private discussion group which people can join. We do ask a couple questions, three questions, and a lot of people asked to join and they don't ask questions, well, then they don't get in. So we just want to know a few things about these people, we

David Ames  1:15:47  
do something very similar. I appreciate. Luke, thank you so much for telling your story. Good to be here.

Final thoughts on the episode. As you can hear, Luke is a really interesting person who has lived on that edge of science versus faith for all of his life. I've said this before, I really find it fascinating the number of people who have a young earth creationism as a part of their primary faith tradition. So here I mean, you know, Luke talks about not being fully committed as a younger person, and then eventually making a personal commitment, but having that be a foundational part of one's theology, and a very strong emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible. Between those two things really are the main cracks that happen, that as a person tries to hold on to the inerrancy of Scripture and a young earth creationism, against the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, begins that process of deconstruction for many, many people. I appreciated Luke's honesty and talking about his younger years and not being entirely in and his description of his deconstruction of letting go of that inerrancy letting go of young earth creationism, as well as his honesty in still believing in something that he cannot look at the complexity and the beauty of life and not have adhere. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but not have an author or a designer of some kind or another. As I mentioned, throughout my conversation with Luke, it was fascinating to me, how close he and I are. And yet, I am comfortably on the other side of deconversion. And he maintains faith. On some level, I don't know that he would call himself a Christian any longer, but he has some sense of the Divine, something transcendent. I appreciate the tone of the recovering evangelicals podcast that they are very much trying to do what I'm trying to do in being an open, safe place for people to land. I think I'm on one side of the fence, and they're on the other side of the fence. But we're really trying to do the same work. So I appreciate it very much. I want to recommend for those of you who are interested in some of the apologetic arguments and what that sounds like from people who still maintain some level of faith, but who have deconstructed and let go of an evangelical fundamentalist perspective on the Bible. It is very interesting. As I mentioned, it's very rigorously done with a lot of research and intelligence, with Luke bringing the scientific perspective and Boyd bringing a philosophical and theological perspective. And like some of my guests who are in deconstruction, but would not say that they are D converted. They are working it out. And they are working it out on Mike in public. And I think that's really fascinating and interesting to listen to. So I can't recommend enough the podcast recovering evangelicals. You can find them wherever you find your best podcasts. You can also find Luke at That's And of course, we'll have links in the show notes. I want to thank Luke for being on the podcast and for sharing his story with honesty and being willing to dig deep. There is a potential at some point in time for me and a few other people being on the recovering evangelicals podcast. We'll see if that pans out. But thank you Luke for being on the podcast. I really appreciate it you and your story. Secular Grace Thought of the Week is it is also okay to be d converted to be done. I think for those in my audience who have crossed that Rubicon and They call themselves non believer or non theist or, or even an atheist or what have you, it's less about knowing that there is no God, the way that Luke framed it, and more about being done trying to find evidence for something that no evidence has been found for yet. I've intentionally had a number of guests who are deconstructing who are not de converts, to hear that voice to hear that side of the conversation. But one of the primary reasons for this podcast is to provide cover for those of us who say there is no more, there is no baby in this bathwater, and I am done. That is okay. I completely respect the agnostic position and not being willing yet to make that call. I think a much larger proportion of people who begin deconstruction are in that space where it's much more of an agnostic point of view. But I just want to make clear that if you are a listener, and again, you don't have to use the word atheist, but you no longer believe that a god or transcendence or supernaturalism exists. You are not alone, and you are okay. Next week, we have Robert peoples of the affinis project, Robert has done a tremendous amount of work in moving secularism forward in Arizona. He is a humanist and has a secular Grace perspective on life. And I'm excited for you to hear his story. Until then, my name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist. Join me and be graceful human.

Time for the footnotes. The beat is called waves for MCI beats, links will be in the show notes. If you'd like to support the podcast, you can promote it on your social media. You can subscribe to it in your favorite podcast application, and you can rate and review it on pod You can also support the podcast by clicking on the affiliate links for books on Bristol If you have podcast production experience and you would like to participate podcast, please get in touch with me. Have you gone through a faith transition? And do you need to tell your story? Reach out? If you are a creator, or work in the deconstruction deconversion or secular humanism spaces, and you'd like to be on the podcast? Just ask. If you'd like to financially support the podcast there's links in the show notes. To find me you can google graceful atheist. You can google deconversion you can google secular grace, you can send me an email graceful or you can check out the website graceful My name is David and I am trying to be the graceful atheist join me and be graceful human beings

this has been the graceful atheist podcast

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