Posted On August 7, 2018

Podcasts you need

by | Aug 7, 2018 | Theology

You need sermons

It’s important to not only read the word but have it explained in an understandable way. There’s a reason God gave us teachers and preachers.

John MacArthur (photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Grace to You – John MacArthur is the undisputed best preacher in the world. Grace to You provides 5 new podcasts a week taken directly from his sermons; with a repeat on Saturday and Sunday. There have been few men in history who can match his exegetical brilliance and fewer still that can hold your attention for as long as he can. And all while making it look effortless! If you want to know the Bible, listen to MacArthur. It’s as simple as that.

Truth for Life – There’s a debate about who is second for best preacher in the world, but Alistair Begg has my vote. Truth for Life delivers 6 brand new sermons a week straight from Alistair’s Parkside Church pulpit in suburban Cleveland. Begg has a way of making the Word of God hit home. He expertly weaves humor, profundity, rebuke, exhortation, and comfort throughout his ministry bringing God’s word alive and making it accessible for every listener. I could listen to Begg all day.

The Word Unleashed – Tom Pennington is probably the best illustrator of the text I have ever heard. His ability to relate the text to common ideas or understandable, graspable stories, serves him well as he delivers a fully orbed explanation of his text. I always feel as if I’m drinking from a fire hose when I listen to Tom. His podcast updates once a week with sermons from his Sunday services in Southlake, Texas.

You need news

The world moves fast and the effects of the culture are almost immeasurable. To engage the world, you have to know the world, and to know the world you have to know something about current events.

The Briefing – “News and events from a Christian Worldview”. Al Mohler‘s The Briefing is absolutely indispensable for the Christian thinker. Mohler is a teacher, not a preacher. He’s an analyst, not a policy maker. He’s the guy who’s seen a lot of stuff, thought about it all and still manages to approach every news cycle as if it’s this very moment that matters. His insights are just as much thought provoking as they are rare in a Christian landscape largely given over to Republican propaganda. My only complaint is I wish he could do more than 5 days a week, 20 minutes a day.

60 Minutes – Yes, THAT 60 minutes. Their audio podcast is nothing but the audio from their TV show. It runs on the TV schedule which means there are a lot of repeats, especially over the summer, and the replay of the TV production does leave something to be desired. That said, while it’s undeniable that everyone on the show is a leftist, there’s a reason 60 Minutes has stood the test of time. These guys break more stories a season than most outlets break in their lifetime and their deep dive analysis is usually full of asking the tough questions and fleshing out the details of every issue. They aren’t our friends, they’re leftists, but it is the genetic fallacy to believe they can’t do any good because of that fact. Besides….

You need perspectives

Albert Mohler (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

When I was 17 years old, I skipped my final year of high school to attend college 550 miles away from home. When I arrived on campus, I realized I was the only Christian. When I began to meet the students, I realized I was far more conservative than most of them. When I met the professors, I realized I was in the midst of radicals. But I didn’t wither and die. It challenged me, pushed me, made me want to fight for my faith and ideals. I spent many nights pouring over Scripture and thinking through complex things to respond to what I was hearing. Sometimes God used those things to smooth my rough edges, occasionally to change my mind, but it always made me better. The well rounded Christian thinker doesn’t need to be an expert on everything, but he/she DOES need to think on more than one dimension. Welcome the challenge!

The Ben Shapiro Show – Five days a week, Ben Shapiro goes through mostly political news with a wit, edge, and brilliance that most envy but few have. An Orthodox Jew, and long time Republican columnist and writer, Shapiro surely approaches his topics from the hard political and cultural right. Yet he’s not a shill for the party line like a Sean Hannity or Tuker Carlson. For example, he famously withheld his vote and support for Donald Trump in 2016 but has stated publicly that barring an unforeseen change in direction, Trump has his vote in 2020. Ben’s Bible interpretation is beyond atrocious, but the rest is well worth your listen even if you don’t always agree with him.

Thinking in Public – Al Mohler’s second appearance on this list is one of my favorite podcasts. This sporadically updated podcast is a pet project of Dr. Mohler; a voracious reader. He reads books and then spends nearly an hour interviewing the author and outright grilling them on everything their book is about. Mohler demonstrates his outstanding talent for cutting to the heart of the matter and asking the hard questions. If you like to read, this podcast will be an addiction. If you hate to read, this podcast will cure you of that affliction.

This American Life – NPR’s first entry on this list is their cornerstone radio show. Let’s be honest: NPR is cultural leftism with classical music. They give no quarter to the right wing, to evangelicals, or Republicans. To hear NPR is to immerse yourself in the world of the woke mainstream left. But, wow… is it ever interesting! Once a week, This American Life brings us a new slice of the world through the eyes of the left focusing on the places where culture and everyday life intersect with current events. I look forward to the show every week, even if I often fear the average NPR listener gaining any real power in this world.

Dan Carlin’s Common Sense – And now a word from the left leaning middle. Dan Carlin is an old school democrat with an IQ in the stratosphere. He has little time for the socialists of the new left, and even less time for the partisan right. He approaches things pragmatically, logically, and with a well informed proper sense of history and philosophy tucked away in his encyclopedic brain.

You need history

The old canard is true: “Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And, those who learn from history are doomed to know it is repeating! History is humanity’s collective brain, and our way of passing on what it has learned. You aren’t tall enough to face the challenges of today; so instead stand on the shoulders of giants.

Dan Carlin Hardcore History – I’ve never understood why so many approaches to history are so dry.  Why do people think that history is nothing more than dates and names?  Dan Carlin dispenses with that kind of thing and really makes history come alive for his listener.  Typically, he dives in to a topic or event that interests him and explores EVERY. LAST. DETAIL of it.  Quoting from experts, keeping with a theme, and patiently working through the facts you arrive with him at a story to be uncovered, told, and retold again.  The podcasts are anywhere from 3-6 HOURS long, but every gripping second is worth your time.  My only complaint?  He’ll often go months without posting an episode.

Ben Shapiro (photo by Wikimedia Commons)

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History Addendum – Carlin’s audience never ceases to cry out for more, and their chief frustration is that they don’t get more (trust me on this one). He created the Addendum as a forum to spend less time chasing down tangents that interested him when he was creating his main podcast. The problem is that it’s updated rather infrequently too. He often uses the Addendum to do interviews or to talk about the implications of the history he’s going through on the main podcast.

5 Minutes in Church History – One of the most under studied subjects in the church today is history. The truth is, the church has a rich and vast history which is not well understood. Stephen Nichols of Ligonier Ministries is trying to change that. His podcast is 5 minutes of him explaining a topic, event, person, and sometimes talking to present day figures that will one day be considered historic. I have two minor complaints about it: He’s too slavish to the “5 minute” construct and it should be a daily, not weekly, podcast. Nichols, however, is a great teacher and genuinely loves the church’s history; a true gift to the church today.

You need information and skills

It’s a rare thing to be smart. It is even rarer to be smart AND informed. But the most scarce thing of all: smart, informed, and skilled. The truth is, there will always be some area of knowledge where you don’t enough if anything at all. There will always be gaps in your skill set. But you can close those gaps and expand your expertise by being teachable.

The Dividing Line – Dr. James White is one of the most intelligent men in Christianity today. An unapologetic apologist, Dr. White focuses on any number of ideas and movements that oppose the Gospel. His skills in debate are the stuff of legend. If you want to know what Christians ought to believe and why, this is your go to podcast. Spend enough time with it and the things you learn will work their way into everyday life. I don’t always agree with Dr. White, and I could do without the occasional show where he feels the need to spend large chunks of time defending himself from some random person being stupid, mean, or both. But if you’re facing a particular issue that Dr. White confronts, you could do a lot worse than filling up on past episodes related to that topic.

Echo Zoe RadioMy twitter “frienemy” Andy Olsen produces this once a month podcast wherein he interviews various great theological thinkers about a single topic on their mind. It’s a great way to feel like you’ve spent an hour with the likes of Nate Pickowicz, Phil Johnson, or Michael Coughlin. Andy is a great interviewer! He mostly tries to stay out of the way of his guest while managing to keep them on topic and asking excellent questions. I also greatly appreciate how he uses the “show notes” feature to provide more information. This podcast is worth a lot more, but it is CERTAINLY worth an hour of your time every month.

Freakonomics – Modeled after the iconic book he co-authored, Stephen Dubner offers this once a week, hour long deep dive into some random off the wall idea that springs from the strange results of viewing culture through an economic mindset. Never ceasing to be interesting, and often quite compelling, Freakonomics has taught me a lot and opened my eyes to things I didn’t know I needed to know.

Truth in Love – The need for Biblical Counseling came into my life when I became a foster parent and as I got more involved in my church as a Bible Study leader. I realized two things: 1) As my pastor always says “you don’t know what you don’t know” and 2) I need to know more than just the facts of a matter; I have to know how to apply those facts and remedy the problems those facts present. Truth in Love is 15 minutes a week and it typically takes on one aspect of counseling to ask some questions and provide answers. It’s a slow build, but over time you start to put the pieces together and hide away little truths for when the need arises. It’s a “must listen” if you are at all involved in Biblical Counseling.

You need to have some fun

Hear me on this: You WILL burn out if you don’t turn your brain off and just have fun every now and then. Regular rest, relaxation, and recreation should NEVER EVER become the main thing or a prominent thing in a Christian’s life. We should strive to die tired and to make the most of our time on the Earth. But every machine will break down unless you shut off every now and then and maintain it. The 3 Rs above are the way that’s done for humans.

For me, I do a number of things for fun. I play chess, play music, watch a little TV including sports, read just for fun, play some video games, and a few other odds and ends. I probably spend a few hours a week total doing ONLY those things. But the thing that probably takes up the largest percentage of those few hours is fantasy sports. I really enjoy playing fantasy football and baseball, so I listen to 2-3 good podcasts a week on the issue.

There are a GAZILLION podcasts and it seems 80% are devoted to a hobby or interest. Find a few that talk about whatever it is that is fun for you and give it a listen; and find one or two that give you a good laugh or just plain fascinate you with good stories.

You need more Things Above Us

My friends and fellow bloggers Stephen, Allen, and Eddie are hard at work providing you with quality content and filling your ears with Biblical goodness.  Be sure to check out The Bald Calvinist Podcast and The Rural Church Podcast over on our TAU network.

Happy listening!

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  1. Allen Jerkins

    Excellent; thanks, Jason. Have been eager for the second part.

    • Jason Marianna

      You’re welcome, Allen. Glad it was helpful to you!


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