“Death to Deconstruction”: How orthodoxy is radical: A conversation with Joshua S. Porter

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“Death to Deconstruction”: How orthodoxy is radical: A conversation with Joshua S. Porter

December 19, 2022 - Denison Forum

Denison Forum podcast logo, protraits of Dr. Mark Turman and Dr. Jim Denison

Joshua S. Porter (stage name Josh Dies) joins Mark Legg to discuss deconstruction, offensive Christian art, orthodoxy, objective truth and relativism, and how Jesus’ ministry was like a rebellion.

Show notes:

Josh Porter begins by defining deconstruction, and why we can’t neglect the emotional, personal side of the issue (1:20). They turn to talk about why Death to Deconstruction feels dark and provocative, and the place of offensive, Christian art, and literature in church tradition (9:30). They move on to discuss how faithfulness is an act of rebellion, and how Jesus was radical (16:13). Porter discusses the book’s unique, but orthodox, perspectives and his own belief in pacificism (28:41).  They talk about why Porter arrived at orthodoxy and the process of his own deconstruction (33:24). Although intellectual arguments are important, they consider the personal, emotional side of the deconstruction movement (44:59). The end by reflecting on truth itself, relativism, worldview, and apologetics (52:06).

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts

Mark Legg is an Associate Editor for Denison Forum. He graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 2021 with a degree in Philosophy and Biblical Studies.

About the guest

Joshua S. Porter (Josh Dies) is the lead singer of the American Christian hardcore punk rock band, Showbread. Though the band disbanded, he continues to take on alternative musical side projects. He is a prolific fiction writer, and pastor of teaching and creative vision at Van City Church.

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai

 

Mark Legg  00:11

Welcome back to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Mark, legg associate editor here at Denison forum. And I’m very pleased to be joined by Josh order, all the way from Washington. And we’re really happy that you’re here. Good morning. Good morning, man. Thanks for having me. Absolutely, yeah, I’m excited for this conversation. But before we jump into it, but before we jump into your new book, I mean, give you a audience before brief introduction on you. Josh is a pastor of teaching and creative vision at Van City Church in Washington. He is also a former member of the experimental art punk band Showbread, author of the novel punk rock versus the lizard people, and his most recent book, death to deconstruction, reclaiming faithfulness as an act of rebellion. So we have a lot we can dig into there. But first, you know, you go in, in some detail, it’s not about your story, the book, but you do talk a little bit about your story, and even some pretty harrowing details that you go into there. But could you just give a brief overview for audience for context for this book?

 

Josh Porter  01:20

Yeah, I, you know, as the pastor, the guy who’s responsible for talking a half hour every Sunday at our church, I’ve been talking about the phenomenon of American deconstruction. And by that, I mean, I realized that deconstruction is a term that’s has a lot of different definition means different things to different people. And it’s either positive or negative, depending on the context, but to shorthand and to, you know, oversimplify the kind of fad of mostly millennial evangelical Christians embarking on a journey to jettison most of their Christian faith or doctrine or belief until they either D convert entirely or, you know, kind of fabricate a new spirituality of their own design that may have aspects of Jesus in it, but nothing like what we would describe as the you know, the the historic Jesus tradition by any stretch of the imagination. And that’s something that I had been talking about and commenting on at our church for a long time. Were 10 minutes from Portland, Oregon, that’s where I lived for a decade. And this the Pacific Northwest, it’s not the Bible Belt. So the, the, it’s especially relevant to in our church, the demographic is very young, even younger than than me demographically. It’s a small neighborhood church, but it’s mostly made up of like 20 Somethings too early 30s, young families, that kind of thing. And it had gotten to the point where I had done enough writing and thinking and research that I wanted to pile it all in in a place and write a book I set out to actually write what would have been like intellectual arguments against the most common reasons that folks, at least in my personal experience, and reading about deconstruction, tend to deconstruct. But as I sat down to write that book, I realized that book already exists several times over, there are very good versions of that book. In fact, I was reading versions of that book to do research for the book that so I felt as if I was kind of adding to a conversation that was already well rounded. You know, if someone came to me and asked for, do you have any good books on this topic, I could point to at least three or four that I thought were very good, and resources beyond that as well. So what ended up happening in the process of outlining and researching the book was the realization that said in over, you know, innumerable pastoral conversations and experiences, not just, you know, leading a church, but in doing music and talking about Jesus with different people around the world, was that deconstruction is intellectual. But it’s primarily in my experience emotional, it’s a it’s a reactive movement, and it kind of fuels itself on hurt and trauma. And, you know, so I realized that I had a lot to say about that experientially, and I realized that almost every conversation that I had had passed orally with folks who are in the painful throes of deconstruction, they would end up saying at some point, you what makes you different than me, you have all the same landmarks in your story, and in some cases, more of them. You know, I’m from the Deep South and raised in a fundamentalist tradition and seeing lots of hypocrisy and experience lots of hurt in the in the church. And so the book became a kind of combination of those two things. There’s still intellectual arguments in the book It still has theology and but it’s also, like you said me telling my story, my survival story of the Christian experience, and how did I go from someone who should have a classic deconstruction story. And instead, not only am I still a Christian, but I’m a pastor and feel like deeply rooted in the Christian tradition, not just oh, it’s still an aspect of my life, but it is my life. So then, then you end up with this weird hybrid. It’s like kind of part memoir, and it has satire and narrative, and but it’s also has like theological arguments, though. I don’t know it is what it is now. It’s too late to change.

 

Mark Legg  05:41

Now, I’m glad it ended up that way. I totally agree with you. There’s plenty of good books about all the intellectual arguments, and it’s good that we have them. Yes, I’ve studied philosophy. And I think it’s really important to address those questions. But as you say, I think maybe even more importantly, at this time, addressing the kind of personal, emotional, deep existential kind of questions that arise that are always intellectual, are really, it’s really important. And I have to say that, you know, I love books. I’m a huge, I’m a huge nerd. And I really appreciate it your writing your writing style, in and of itself. I’ve been thinking about that more recently. And I really appreciate it. It’s really excellent. Just for that, and I, I hate to say that I had to skim it because of a time crunch. So I’m going to go back and read through it slowly. And I recommend people buy it and read through it slowly, because it even gave me there’s a little narrative you string through almost a parable, that kind of strikes of Pilgrims Progress. Yeah, what led you to write that and kind of string that through the book?

 

Josh Porter  06:50

Well, I still, you know, think of myself primarily as an author of fiction. I’ve written and self published several novels before, you know, my legitimate foray into nonfiction. And narrative comes most naturally. To me, even even the kind of memoir scenes or biographical scenes in the book are kind of told as if they’re, you know, they’re scenes from a novel. There’s like long scenes of dialogue. And so I gravitate toward word pictures, analogies and metaphors. And I inevitably braid those into the discourse. So like long teaching passages, if you want to, you know, go about it, make it sound boring, but long theological essay, like passages, sure, inevitably become punctuated by these metaphors and analogies and jokes. You know, like, worlds to me, it’s not just boring to read, it’s boring to write. Yeah.

 

Mark Legg  07:52

So sure. I had

 

Josh Porter  07:55

this thread that kept reappearing, the thing you’re talking about is like the this narrative within the narrative called The Apprentice. And the it is very much, you know, kind of influenced by Pilgrims Progress. And I was using it often on in the teaching kind of sections of the book until I realized like this, to me would be more interesting if it was just its own story. And so I wrote the whole thing as a short, you know, narrative, and then ended up kind of splicing it throughout the book.

 

Mark Legg  08:31

And would you say just give people kind of a flavor of the book, because I think, pretty much any book that’s written about deconstruction, nowadays are going to have some kind of, I want to say, catchy title, titles that are kind of provocative a little bit. So they’re going to try and draw you in that way. And then even intellectual books are typically that kind of way. But in the actual work, like you already said, it’s very emotional and deep. And is it fair to say that it’s pretty, pretty dark? As far as the kind of undertones of it? Yeah, there’s some there’s humor in there, but it’s, it’s satire. And, and yeah, you go to some pretty wild places, especially from your earlier days traveling around the country in the back of a van sleeping on the floor, that kind of that kind of experience, you know, so I mean, is that fair? And as you said, that’s definitely on purpose. And, yeah, yeah, yeah. I

 

Josh Porter  09:30

mean, not in the sense that I sat down and was like, Ooh, how can I be scintillating and provocative? But I think I realized that sounds like a pretentious thing to say. But that’s, that’s just the way that I tend to make stuff. Sure is that it comes out with that’s the kind of writing and art that’s been most influential to me and not, you know, not to make it sound as if I’m some kind of twisted personality. It’s just that I find it an effective, creative tool to To be honest and vulnerable, and when I do that, it tends to go into at least some dark places that you know, you sit down to write a book that I thought in the beginning was going to be intellectual theological arguments and ended up being a part memoir book with chapters, you know, called things like cocaine melt down somewhere in middle America. And so, you know, the, that just, if I give myself permission to be honest, and write what I would like to read, then that comes out. And that’s my philosophical approach to art and creativity is that I make the thing that I wish existed, and it may or may not land with an audience, and hopefully it does, but you end up making some unconventional things from today, especially in the world of Christian nonfiction. Sure,

 

Mark Legg  10:53

totally. Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, I think of some of the greatest, I mean, the greatest works is always from that position. They, you know, people may not have been successful when they originally wrote it. I think of Kafka. And you can’t really say and I mean, it wasn’t a Christian, but he was definitely someone who was not at all successful during his day. That’s, that’s pretty frequent, but they’ve made it from their authentic kind of experience. But even Christian authors like Dostoevsky, writing very dark things and BROTHERS KARAMAZOV or what have you. There’s definitely there’s all of that in the Christian tradition. Yeah, and

 

Josh Porter  11:36

people like Dostoevsky or Flannery O’Connor, you know, they, they are the belong to a tiny group of artists that are reputable in both the Christian tradition and in the literary tradition. You know, like, it’s incredible to me that somebody like Flannery O’Connor is so revered as a figure of literature and was yet so unapologetically Christian in her writing. And, you know, like, you can buy a copy of Flannery O’Connor’s prayer journals, and read them with in your morning quiet time. And I have, or you can read, you know, her short stories that are upsetting and grotesque and strange and, and honestly, like, would particularly offend the modern sensibility because they’re Southern Gothic, so they deal with race. And so yeah, I mean, not not in like, Oh, I’m like Flannery O’Connor at all, not pretending to belong to the same camp as Dostoevsky. But those are the the authors that influenced and inspired me the most if I’m trying to rip somebody off, it’s probably them.

 

Mark Legg  12:48

Yeah. And, yeah, and just to, not to say that you’re putting yourself with that, but there is this rich history of Christian tradition of the arts and literature. And, you know, I was thinking the other day, I think I kind of bought into this modern mentality of like, all progress has been made by non religious people. And I had kind of subconsciously thought that, you know, in the arts, especially as I was wrestling with this, my own life and my own philosophy, and then I actually thought back to history. And I realized that I actually, I think the first novel basically ever written, I think Don Quixote was was pretty, the had some Christian themes, and then you go farther back the first quote, Autobiography of St. Augustine, his confessions, and you have the first, you know, real psychological kind of novel with Dostoevsky. And who is a believer as well. So you just see, like, actually, these advancements in literature, of even their own genres are being made by believers. There’s just such a rich history there. So just establishing that like,

 

Josh Porter  14:02

yeah, absolutely. You know, the before I wrote the deconstruction book, I wrote, you know, a currently unpublished book about a theology of art and particular of offensive art. And the, in researching and writing that book, I was, I thought that I had at least a grasp on you know, like, I maybe could have not as well as you did, but articulate that like, oh, wow, we you know, there are these great ambassadors of credible art throughout church history, and art history. But I was shocked by the depth of Christian artistry throughout across the world, really, and throughout the history of not just the church, but the study of aesthetics and you know, like some of the great figureheads of you know, art theory, you know, Thomas Aquinas and the people who studied and gave us paradigms for or what it means to be to understand art in the first place. We’re people who also claim to follow Jesus. And you know, I would argue personally that the Bible itself is the world’s most sophisticated work of, of literature. And it’s offensive and shocking and beautiful and grotesque and lovely, and all the things that I love about a work of art and when the Bible is, again, not to sound rude, or pretentious or step on toes, but when the Bible is, I believe, properly understood. It inspires that kind of art, not that at all becomes Ooh, it’s so offensive. And like Flannery O’Connor, but it, it becomes robust, and it becomes dynamic. And there’s a spectrum and there’s all there’s room for writers like Flannery O’Connor, and there’s room right at room for writers like CS Lewis, or, you know, the or mainstream current modern, Christian inspiration that all these people have different avenues for expression, even if they just borrow from the scriptures, let alone tap into the rich history of you know, like writers and artists and musicians in the Christian tradition. So I agree. Good point. Good point, Mark.

 

Mark Legg  16:13

Thank you. Thank you. No, yeah, I look back, I find it hard. So well, let me back up a little bit. A couple years ago, I was kind of going through this. Most of my friends in college were the creative types, and had all kinds of art that we’re constantly making or thinking about. And still to the same friends that I have, you know, whether it’s through poetry or writing other things, short stories, or photography, what have you. And I wrestled a little bit with where is the offensive kind of radical artists place in Orthodox Christianity, which, ironically, is a huge thing that this book touches on and kind of in a meta way, not like it’s specifically set out to address that. But it is. I mean, in the subtitle, it says, reclaiming faithfulness as an act of rebellion. So can you hit on that for just a second? How is it that faithfulness is an act of rebellion?

 

Josh Porter  17:22

Yeah, man, I’ve now that it’s out. I’ve gotten both enthusiasm and flack for that subtitle, I think that maybe there’s there’s a group of people who I can relate to and with the that are cynical of Christian writing, and, you know, pastors, and there’s a, there’s a sense that like, Oh, this guy was one of us, he was, you know, in a punk rock band, and he was critiquing evangelicalism, which I did you know, and musically and my art prior to writing this book, and still do, you know, like on and there but now there’s a feeling of what the heck he he’s he has betrayed us, you know, like, he is he now belongs to the machine he wants critiqued, which I don’t think is true. But I understand that perception because I wrote a book that’s called death to deconstruction. And there, you know, mockery of the subtitle is, you know, people are like, Oh, it’s it sounds youth groupie or something like, I’m trying to, like, Hey, fellow kids, you know, I really want to be punk rock, you should be a Christian. But what I mean by that in the context of the book, I don’t and I don’t regret calling it that, like, I still feel that way. And I still say that. It’s something that I have been saying for a long time. It’s not a critique of evangelicalism. And it’s not a critique of progressivism, and it’s not a put on to try to, you know, sell the way of Jesus. If anything, to me, it’s a bad sell. Because I think, you know, Jesus himself was just lousy with the PR, you know, like, you can follow me, but you have to die. And what the heck do you need? Right?

 

Mark Legg  19:06

I mean, he offended everyone on like, as you say, offended everyone on both sides of everything he possibly could,

 

Josh Porter  19:11

basically. Yeah, yeah. So and that’s, that’s what I mean by faithfulness is an act of rebellion. I think that the way of God, you know, the deconstruction movement is born in the the cesspool of a deeply partisan outrage culture in which the there’s a militarizing of every opinion and belief and there’s a weaponizing of every ideology and there’s a moral police on both sides of the socio political spectrum and there’s word police and you can and can’t say the right and wrong things and you’ll be punished or canceled or you know, art has to be censored. Something I’ve been talking about a lot lately is the strange phenomenon when I was a kid. The fundamentalism seemed to be localized on the right meaning the right of the theological and political aisle and there was extreme allergic reaction to culture, and we, you know, we need to control and legislate our way of life, even if people don’t agree with us or believe in the same things as us. And we need to censor art and cancel, you know, celebrities in force our way of life on a world that doesn’t even agree with us. And that fundamentalism is just migrated over to the left and expresses itself in all the exact same ways and sounds exactly the same and is concerned with the it’s the exact same thing, just with different ideology. Yeah, motivating the machine, you know, like moralism? Almost It is, yes, it’s deeply moralist and, and I think personally, it’s, it’s unthinking, and it bullies, it bullies ideologies, that the redefinition of tolerance as agree with us or we destroy you. And I think personally, that when one sets out to follow the way of Jesus, they will find themselves inevitably and consistently alienated from both sides, or both extremes in any culture in any time in place. So you know, if I, if I had been as old as I am, now, when I was a kid, if I was, you know, almost 40 in the 80s, and 90s, and wanted to consistently follow Jesus in Southeast Georgia, I would have been facing extreme pressure from the religious right. And the moralism of it, and maybe would have been, you know, like, wow, this guy is a real free thinker from the audience on the left, you know, like, he’s, he’s speaking our language. But today as somebody who’s almost 40, in 2022, consistently and faithfully following the way of Jesus puts me at odds with the left and in a really provocative and quantifiable way. It’s not like an abstract thing. It’s like you don’t you won’t say and do these things, and you won’t get on board with this concept. And therefore, you’re morally reprehensible.

 

Mark Legg  22:19

And mentioned that, you know, I mean, you’re near Portland now. So there’s also the South, the Southeast Georgia versus Portland, which, in an odd way, was true in the 80s and 90s, as well, at some level, but then it’s also a matter of city versus country. But yeah, absolutely. You know, but that divide has just become so big. It has.

 

Josh Porter  22:43

Yeah, and I’d like to thank I don’t you know, I don’t mean this to sound as a like a braggart or something. But if I were doing the kinds of sermons that I do at my church, where they’re not like, you know, world shattering provocative sermons, but just ordinary teachings, what I think is about the way of Jesus in the scriptures, you know, like teaching the Bible, from my perspective, if I were to do these teachings, where I’m from in Georgia, I’m assuming that they would provoke a certain constituency of the audience in a really specific way, and conjure their outrage in a really specific way. But when I do them here, and the Pacific Northwest, exact same sermons without tweaking them at all, the stuff that would provoke the southerners there, amen, and me and clapping their hands, but the stuff that the southerners would would agree with, they’re going Oh, did he really say that? And I, and they’re stopping me after the, you know, the Sunday gathering and saying, I didn’t like when you said this, and can you know, and to me, that’s just an indication that maybe I’m on somewhat of the right track, I would never presume to say like, I’m, I’ve landed on, I figured it all out. But that’s a good indication that you’re at least headed in the right direction. So to me faithfulness to the way of Jesus is inherently rebellious against the status quo against the the culture in which we live. And it has proven itself historically to be the case down throughout history, not just in this unique cultural moment, you know,

 

Mark Legg  24:15

I absolutely have to agree. There’s at any turn in history, there’s always the faithful believers. And in those faithful believers, you find this countercultural and I think that point is what helped me think through a lot of Jesus himself was very, and I don’t want to overplay this, but a revolutionary he was a counterculture type of person. He, and as you say, what’s interesting, we actually had a sermon a couple of weeks ago at my church where he talks about the story of Zacchaeus. And there’s a lot of, you know, in my young generation, our church is pretty young as well. There’s a lot of Anna Masai towards wealthy people, it’s always some criticism of, you know, they’re making their profit off of these ridiculous margins or they’re not paying their taxes or, you know, all these different critiques, right? The whole sermon was about Jesus loved a chief tax collector, which was the the worst kind of scum of the whatever like, that we can’t even really process how offensive that will be to Jewish people, because we’re talking about a Jew, who decided to start working for the Roman oppressive government started taking taxes from his own people, and got wealthy off of it. So you’re talking about kind of the end, Jesus sought him out. And Jesus also sought out the poor and the, the marginalized, the ostracize, but he didn’t. It wasn’t this. He wasn’t a revolutionary in the way we think of, you know, I don’t know, maybe he was, he was revolutionary, because he loved radical. Yeah.

 

Josh Porter  26:02

Because yeah, the, the Rorschach test that I give to people in my church is, you know, the, pointing out the fact that Jesus called Simon the Zealot, and he also called Matthew, the tax collector. Yes. And telling them that, imagine that Jesus is kind of like, you know, making his way through a riot in Portland. And, you know, this is in a time when, for almost a year, there were regular protests that erupted into riots from time to time in Portland, just across the street. And so imagine Jesus is just making his way through this riot, and he taps you know, the guy in the ski mask, the Antifa, you know, rioter with the molotov Molotov cocktail, and says, Hey, you, you have to come follow me. And the guy’s like, okay, and turns around and follows him. And people in my church, they’re like, touch, they’re like, oh, that’s, that’s lovely. And I’m like, and then he immediately taps the, you know, the Magga hat guy with an assault rifle. And he says, You too, you have to also come follow me, both of you together, let’s go. And they’re like, Oh, I like this, this squirm that happens. And then Jesus is going to call both of them to a way of life that will render their previous ways of life untenable over time, but it starts with like, will you come if you if you’ll come, I’ll call both of you. And. And there’s something in there that you we romanticize, that you’re saying is an excellent point. But we romanticize now, the tax collector thing, because tax collectors become a religious shorthand for not perfect person, you know, right. Unless, of more, it’s more like, you know, a Jewish person in France that’s collaborating with the Gestapo officer to round up his own people during World War Two. And again, I don’t want to overplay it, but it’s more like that than it is. Jesus called us an imperfect person. Right? There’s yeah, there’s something Jesus consistently read, makes you on one page go like, Oh, my God, it speaks to my soul. It’s beautiful. And it’s encouraging. And then like the next line, or the next passage, you’re like, oh, you know, and I’m deeply skeptical of the Jesus presented by the, you know, the either extreme that never offends and never provokes. You know, he says, the kinds of things you already want to hear. And that’s just about it, you know, and the things that he says that you don’t want to hear. Yeah, he didn’t. He doesn’t mean what it sounds like he means.

 

Mark Legg  28:41

Oh, yeah. And also, I appreciated that in your, in your book. I actually, I found a place where I think, again, I was, unfortunately having to skim it at this point. But I think I found a point of disagreement. So I was able to get offended a little bit, which I appreciate it. I was like, This is good. I’m reading something, you know, and I’m sure anyone who reads it will find something like that, which again, I think like you’re not setting out to it’s not your goal to just offend people for no reason. You’re just trying to follow Jesus faithfully. And as a byproduct, as happened with Jesus is just going to offend some time. And the point of disagreement, I think is I sympathize with this. Absolutely. But I ended up not being a pacifist after studying scripture for this point. And that might be a total rabbit hole. Maybe we don’t go down but But I appreciate it that I anyway, I was just happy in my soul a little bit that I was able to be

 

Josh Porter  29:42

I appreciate that. I appreciate that. You can be happily offended. I feel the same way. And I think that, you know, there was concern early on from not necessarily the the, the publisher was never like, oh my god, do you have to be do you have to say these things so that things they were really encouraging and, and didn’t, unless there was a few passages that they were like, we’re going to face legal action, if you don’t change that there was some name calling and stuff like that, which I get, that’s fine. But I, from the outset understood that it would be impossible for me to make these theological arguments. To encourage the potentially deconstructing party to consider unique perspectives back into the Christian movement, it would be impossible for me to make these arguments without either offending or just, you know, calling on the disagreement from someone in the process. So early on in the book, I say something like, you know, I can’t, I can’t step over every landmine and I won’t try to avoid offending every reader. But then later in the book, I make this argument for orthodoxy as like a vast countryside. And within it, there are there are camps. So hopefully, the perspective that I’m offering is not necessarily like, Look, if you don’t want to deconstruct your faith, you need to agree with me on every nuanced theological position. But instead, what I’m arguing is that there are perspectives within the historic Christian tradition that might provide or might alleviate some of the deconstructing party’s concerns with theology and the Bible. And, you know, like, if you’re hung up on this idea, have you considered a different perspective, I think, ideally, and hopefully, there was a time when I was younger, and you know, in grad school, doing the Bible thing that I felt extremely extreme, I’m still an opinionated person, but I felt like, you know, militant about my theological positions and was ready to argue with everyone in my class and but I was softened by years of sitting with gracious humble men and women with really radically different opinions who were patient with me and said, like them, Josh, that’s fine. If that’s what you think. And I kind of think this, what do you think, you know, and I was like, what I thought that we were gonna fight. And so now I’m happy to sit with, to me the the one of the most encouraging things, honestly, this is not a this is not hyperbole, but in my life, is to experience and talk to and sit with people who are faithfully following Jesus, you know, years into the journey, decades into the journey, or who like me have good reasons that they could have bailed out and haven’t bailed out. And it doesn’t really matter to me if we disagree on the minutiae of theology, or even big points, but still within the home of orthodoxy. And I can say, that’s fine, that’s fine. You know, like, I’m, for example, I’m Protestant, I’m not Catholic, I’m perfectly happy to read from Catholic theologians and learn from them. And then to say, like, that’s great. I’m still not Catholic, but I’m encouraged by an edified by thinking that’s outside of my own camp and tradition. And I feel like we have a lot to learn from each other within orthodoxy. So there’s a lot of room and all that to say, I’m glad I could have been you, Mark.

 

Mark Legg  33:24

Yeah, it’s a pleasure to be offended. Yeah, so how did you It’s so fascinating that, and I really appreciate this, that you go, as you say, to the depths of where someone who is deconstructing is, because you’ve gone through that process yourself. And then you bring it back up to something kind of no one would expect, which is orthodoxy and that point. And so what like, what made you choose? Orthodoxy? I think that’s really interesting, instead of because you could have chosen maybe like the Bible or following Jesus, or, you know, but you chose orthodoxy specifically. And I think that’s really wise. But what brought you to do that?

 

Josh Porter  34:14

deconstruction itself brought me to Orthodoxy. The flack that I’m getting from the deconstructionists online with a as the book is, you know, been released is usually over the title, or a presuppositions based on the title about what the book is the voice of the book or the tone of the book. So there are a lot of people who haven’t read the book and and you vocalize unwillingness to read the book, but then are accusing me of, you know, toeing the evangelical line and he has no idea something that I’ve read or that people have actually reached out to me to say is you have no idea how painful it is to go through deconstruction, that How dare you. Be so flippant and so close minded? and to which I reply, like, the book is about my deconstruction. The book is about the pain of my deconstruction. Did you read it? Right? Yeah, the I think the presupposition is that if you’re going to call your book death to deconstruction and implies, you don’t know anything about deconstruction, because if you did know, you would be deconstructed. And if you did know how painful it is, you would be on our sides, not on your side, you know, whatever that means. So,

 

Mark Legg  35:27

can you touch on how? Cuz, for people, I mean, they can read the book, and they should, but what’s the like, how painful you’re talking, you know, in the book, you go into that a little bit just for the audience, like, you know, how, how radically difficult how tumultuous are we talking about here?

 

Josh Porter  35:46

I’m very, you know, I, I spent years estranged from the church, and then I spent years and the kind of a lived ambiguity where maybe I was open to church, but only if it met my unrealistic standards of perfection, I was completely shut off to conversations around unique interpretations of the scriptures that would alleviate my concerns with the Scriptures, you know. And I, sincerely I would have never said this, but I thought that I was smarter and that I had found the, you know, the Achilles heel to the Christian movement, and, oh, this thing ain’t real. And I can show that it’s not real by, you know, pointing at what I perceive to be mistakes in the scriptures are these numbers don’t match, you know, that kind of thing, as if I was the first person to notice. Right? And, and by pointing to the hypocrisy of the, my, my experience of the Christian movement, and, and by pointing to, you know, the kind of tragic evils perpetuated in the name of the Bible, or in the name of Jesus, as again, as if I, you know, as a teenager and early 20, something was the first to know read about the Crusades or manifest destiny. And so it became, you know, to me, it was very easy. It was kind of a cut and dry case, I was interested in preserving some dimension of Jesus. I liked the idea of Jesus. And I liked him as like you said, a revolutionary, I liked that he was offensive and alienating. I liked that. He said weird stuff, like you have to drink my blood. And people were like what, you know, and bailed out on him. So the way I figured it, you know, like everyone had gotten Jesus wrong. I would get him right and and find my people who were also getting him right. And it put me in this as anyone who’s been through the process of deconstructing really alienating place where you’re stepping outside of the tradition in which you were raised and giving everyone who loved and raised you flawed, though, they may have been deep concerns about your spiritual well being and oh my gosh, he lost his mind, is he crazy? Does he not believe the Bible anymore, he’s gonna go to hell, that kind of stuff. And, and I would provoke them for the sake of provoking them. This is my wiring to a fault. But also, at the same time, feel alone, deeply lonely, and estranged from the church community that had raised me which, as problematic as it was, and as much as much hypocrisy was kind of, you know, part and parcel of My Southern Baptist upbringing, and my unique little, you know, narrow perspective. There were also lovely things about it, beautiful things about it, you know, the No person is one thing only there were, there were people who were severely broken. But who also showed great concern for me and, and loved me at personal expense. And now, you know, so even if only subconsciously, I feel as if I’m betraying people who loved me, and I also want to betray them. And that creates this cognitive dissonance and and add to that, like I had years and years of unaddressed and kind of snowballing self hatred that were accumulating behind the scenes and my deconstruction was feeding on that sense of loneliness and estrangement from the church. And I think that on some level, I realized that there was something deeply hypocritical about my own deconstruction and that I was calling other Christians up to a standard that I was not willing to uphold myself. It was more like, prove it to me before I try it. Rather than let’s let’s try to figure out how to do this together, even though we’re both messed up. And it became a very bleak place to live and operate. And I managed to do that for a long time. But all that to say, I understand the pain of deconstruction. And that doesn’t mean that I understand every individual person’s story. I just mean broad strokes. And generally speaking, I’ve, I’ve been there, I get letters from people who are like, well, this is where I’m at, and this is how bad it hurts. And I say, I understand, you know, I empathize Not, not that I know exactly what it’s like to be you, but I empathize with what you’re describing and being in that place. So, to answer your first question, orthodoxy to me, became eventually the relief because the deconstruction movement made a lot of promises that it couldn’t keep for me personally, because deconstruction can’t build and maintain a community around itself. There’s no standard of shared belief, it’s more like we agreed not to agree with evangelicalism. And that is so amorphous and subjective, it’s open to the interpretation of the individual individual. So you have some that are, you know, gravitating toward a kind of Eastern spirituality or mysticism and you have some that are picking bits and pieces of Buddhism or Hinduism and infusing it with you know, Christianity like Gandhi or something. And then you have some who are gravitating toward this kind of new almost Universalist I understand that’s like a junk drawer term, but like, hyper vague, God is almost like a pantheistic God is everything. You know, the more Richard Rohr and universal Christ, and God is your dog, you know, Christ is your dog kind of thing. But there can be no community around something like that, other than we agree not to agree with evangelicalism, you know, the analogy I like to use is if you show up to the karate dojo, and say to the the Sensei, like, teach me Ballet, the sensei will inevitably say, like, Well, look, you can learn ballet if you want, but that’s not what we’re doing here. So you, you won’t be a part of this community or this group and this shared way of life, if that’s what you want. And if you say like, well, I want some karate, but not all of it. I want some ballet mixed in Don’t be like, I don’t know what to tell you. That’s not That’s not what we’re doing here. Orthodoxy to me is the dojo, the dojo, you know, it’s the we we are coming together with a shared standard of belief. We agree on these things, you know, there at our church we read the Creed’s a lot the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed and and we do it to ground ourselves in like, you know, centuries of Christian tradition and history to say together I think it’s beautiful. It’s stirring like it riles me up in church to say with 100 other people you know, like I believe in God the Father and in you know, in Jesus Christ is an all together at once and no, like these people actually believe this stuff with me. But inevitably, someone in the church will be like, I feel weird. I feel achy reading these things. It feels cultish. And it feels strange. And I get it, I sympathize with it, I’ve been there. But that’s what I want to belong to I want to belong to a shared standard of belief and give myself part of my autonomy to that community of belief. I you know, all my life I’ve been drawn to the that idea of giving your life to a cause sacrificing your youth and your autonomy in the name of something bigger than yourself. And I don’t think that’s exclusive to me. I think that’s part of like the human condition to want something bigger than you to want to that’s why we love movies where you know, the down and out person that the at the bottom of the barrel gives up everything to go learn a way of life under a master and we’re like, oh, man, so awesome. We love the training montage. You know, we want to live that out. And deconstruction could not offer anything like that it only I thought that it would I thought that it would like this would be the new subversive camp. But it felt to me deeply. It felt to me more herd mentality driven than the evangelicalism I had left behind. It felt to me like tribalism. It’s more built up around what we’re against rather than what we’re for. Which which speaks to part of me because I’m rebellious by nature, and you know, like a contrarian to a fault. But it it it only gets you so far. It’s like, are you hungry? Here’s cotton candy, and you’re like, well, this tastes great. And it was satisfying for a second but now what there’s no meal after this and like Well, that’s it. That’s all we have to offer. I wanted something more than that unorthodoxy to me is the more

 

Mark Legg  44:59

yeah I love that I love the picture of what deconstruction I mean, just the word itself, you’re destroying, you’re taking down, you’re deconstructing, you can’t construct with that you have to build something, but then to return to Orthodoxy and find that there is the solid foundation, this kind of building, whatever that may look like, that’s been built on Jesus’s teaching, you know, even just his parable about building your house. Yeah, on his teaching on not on sand. That strikes home to me, because it’s, I mean, I think it strikes home to pretty much every young person, because there’s always that need. Some feel it more than others, but there’s typically that need to depart from your parents ways to fight to try to find what you truly believe and buy into, and to be able to leave and then come back. Strong into orthodoxy. And then to I mean, it’s just beautiful to be able to read the Apostles Creed, the Nicene Creed, that’s centuries and centuries and centuries old. And to return to that, to me, and then to live out in the community. With people who are broken like you, I mean, that’s what the church is, man, how powerful is that? I mean, that that is what Christian community is, like, it’s so it’s so funny, I find myself rediscovering truths that I already knew by a different way. You know, sometimes if my family believed something, I’ll kind of try to depart from it and see what I think. And then I’ll return to the same belief later through a different way. Yeah, no, I know. So that’s

 

Josh Porter  46:46

part of spiritual formation, that the transformation process we all have to undergo in order to follow Jesus faithfully.

 

Mark Legg  46:54

Yeah, and that it’s, it’s true. And I think that’s also the other piece of the puzzle, that it’s not just that we find great community, although that’s true. It’s not just that we find this very cohesive, old tradition, because that’s also true. But it’s actually true. Like, Jesus is the Son of God. You know, it’s not just like we’re saying it. It, it actually reflects reality. And that’s something that, but you can’t always get there through the intellectual means, you know, as a philosopher, I kind of wish you could, almost everyone would just be objective. I don’t know if I actually wish that but you know, you kind of like, well look at this argument, look at this argument. And yes,

 

Josh Porter  47:38

it’s easier, that’s for sure. It would be comforting to rely exclusively on empirical and objective, well, it’s settled. But I you know, as an and maybe this is, you know, as an artist, or maybe it’s just part of the human condition as well. I think inevitably that we all follow something we all believe something, the deconstruction movement also makes this claim that you’ll find a comfortable seat in the ambiguity and a kind of lived agnosticism where, you know, you can be like, who knows whatever, and we don’t fought, we’re not we’re not, you know, given over in subservience to any one master, but we are, we all follow a way of life. And we because you can’t live out a worldview any other way you we all believe in some kind of objective truth. And we all believe, whether we vocalize it aggressively or not, that one thing is true. And another thing is not true. And that and we also all believe that it would be better if other people agreed on the true thing and left behind the thing we think isn’t true. And that’s that’s the case whether you’re religious or non religious, it’s just an inevitability of life in the world. But I think that you know, I get I dispensed with the the reaching for metaphysical certainty in the world of theism a very long time ago and have always, I think that that was something that I was comfortable with. Even in the throes of deconstruction, it seemed to me that there would be some level of irresolvable mystery to life in the world as a finite human being and I could make my peace with that. It was these other trappings and infrastructures that were more troubling to me or it was, you know, the Bible or it was the church that were more troubling to me I could, I could sign off on the idea of God and, and again, like I said, I liked the idea of Jesus’s his teacher and a provocateur, not so much when he told me to do stuff I didn’t want to do already. But I was just reading last night. You know, Nick Cave, who’s a musician and songwriter and has written extensively about Jesus and God and the scriptures and wrestled with them publicly in his music and And he was he was talking about the idea of something being, quote, true enough, unquote. And by that he meant that he was coming to a place as he got older, where he no longer would became less and less concerned with objectivity and like closing the chapter on things like, you know, the Christian tradition and like, okay, fine, I’ve settled it, I’ve wrestled through them, and being comfortable with True enough. And by that I think that he met them. And this is me reading into him a bit. But by that I think he met being like, I just this is what I choose to believe, you know, it sounds like a lazy, intellectual perspective. But we all make that connection of faith. And this This sounds like an old Christian, like everybody has to have faith in something, you know, or we, we like to theists like the make the jab at atheists, as if we’re the first people to think of it, like I just don’t have enough faith to be an atheist, you know, but what we mean by that is that every worldview requires some level of faith and belief in the faith in in when while we are in want of metaphysical certainty. And, you know, I’m getting letters now from people who are making totally legitimate claims or asking legitimate questions about like, Well, what do you do with the fact that if you were born and raised in a different country and culture, you probably would have been a devout Muslim? And? Or what do you do with the fact that this thing or you know, like, classic philosophical arguments, and, and I’m fine with them, I’m fine with the intellectual journey? I’m fine with asking the questions. They don’t offend me. They don’t bother me. I don’t think they offend or bother God either. And I’m also fine with being like, this is what I believe I believe these things deep down in the depths of my soul, I believe them. I don’t think that I believe them ignorantly or with no evidence, but they are beliefs. You know, they are it is not like, let me show you the, the flowchart, and how I got here, I don’t have a Venn diagram for you, for

 

Mark Legg  52:06

and for any kind of worldview claim that, as you say, there, it’s not that kind of question are not mathematical questions that you can. Two plus two is four. You know, this argument, I mean, the closest thing if you want to look it up any of our audience, you can look up the ontological argument for God’s existence, that’s kind of the closest thing you can get to. But to your point, the certainty, there’s actually a fascinating, I was on a podcast with Patrick Miller, who is over a place called a truth over tribe. And he was talking about how certainty is actually a good indicator of relativism. So and he basically put it like this, if you ask someone about their opinion, and you say, on a scale of one to 10, how certain are you about this thing? If they say 10, they’re probably relativistic. Or if you ask them, What outside evidence would convince you otherwise? And they say nothing, then that, by definition means that they’re finding it from internal, which means they’re relativistic, meaning they don’t believe in an absolute truth. And so you see that kind of thinking on the right and the left, you know, you might not have the name postmodern or relativist, you might not associate with that. But say you believe in some conspiracy theory, and you have that kind of certainty. And that was actually a big eye opener for me, that was helpful to me to think about, and even just a practical way to ask people that question, are you 100% certain about this, then you’re probably not going to change your mind by some kind of outside influence by the actual truth.

 

Josh Porter  53:52

It’s scares people it’s a scary idea to relinquish your purported claim on, you know, belief, or to describe it as a belief. Yeah, I’ve I one point, I don’t think it was my analogy. I probably got it from someone else. But I, I think I publicly made the the comparison to my worldview and my faith as something akin to flying commercially in the sense that Yep, you know, I, I have enough faith and belief that if I buy the plane ticket and get on the plane, it’s gonna go from point A to point B, land safely, and I will get where I’m going. And I live that faith out, I go and get on the plane and I fly. I understand that I could be I couldn’t be wrong in the great metaphysical scheme of the universe. Sure, but I’m willing to practice that faith. And for some people, I remember saying that in some public sphere, and some people were like, oh, that’s helpful. Yeah, I get that. And I agree, and others were like, oh my god, it sounds so 10 us that way it sounds as if it’s really, really up in the air. And I don’t mean that because for me, it’s not up in the air. And at the same time, I’m able to acknowledge like, well, of course, I could be wrong about anything that I think. But I believe these things, you know,

 

Mark Legg  55:16

yeah. And there’s a difference, like, it’s good to draw the difference between God is certain. He is all powerful. He is not questioning himself. He’s not questioning his own existence. There is there is objective reality to that there are, he knows all truth. He’s not questioning that he’s not confused. He. So in that sense, he is a fortress, regardless of our belief, if no one believed in God, he would still be there. So in that way, he’s objective, but then our knowledge of that, as you say, I mean, just admitting, you know, I can be wrong about anything. I mean, there’s I mean, I could be I don’t believe that I am. But you know, that that word faith even just means trust. I think there’s another way to translate his trust, I think. So I 100% agree with that. And it’s, and I don’t want our audience to think we’re saying, like, we’re just gonna make this leap into the darkness. Like, we don’t have any kind of, but we’re actually like, the Lord is there. It’s just that we’re not we can’t be certain, but we can still trust him. And comfort and trusting Him is Jesus. Like, I’m trusting a person? I’m not just trusting these arguments that I have. Because I know Jesus. Yeah. So

 

Josh Porter  56:34

yeah. And I think, you know, the, there was a time and there probably is a time in the discipleship journey of anyone who sets out to follow Jesus, when apologetics and arguments for the existence of God, the legitimacy of the Bible, the historicity of the resurrection become really important. And I, you know, I went through that process as well. And I read the, you know, you read and reread Mere Christianity, and you read people like, I don’t know, William Lane Craig, or the early books of Greg Boyd, when he was an apologist and and you go through the, you know, or even what was the big best of the case for Christ or something like that? And, and, you know, I had a professor once who pointed out that books like The Case for Christ, and he didn’t mean it as a jab at all. But he’s he said that those kinds of works are probably most sought out by Christians looking to fortify their faith, which I think is a an important part of the discipleship journey for certain types of people who gravitate toward a kind of question asking or skepticism, and I was one of them. I am that by nature. But at this point, it seems to me that the silt, one of the sillier arguments that both the Christian and the non Christian could make is that there are no good arguments for either thing, or that either side has the silver bullet to the others perspective, or that there are no intelligent, credible people on either side of this discussion. You know, if you and I were to have integrity, we would have to admit that there are intelligent educated people who do not believe that God exists or who do not believe that Christianity is legitimate and its historicity or, or claims or Jesus claims, you know, that the Bible is, has been tampered with, or flawed, or that kind of thing, that there are intelligent research people who believe these things, but it would be equally ridiculous for the person in that camp, to make the same kinds of claims to the other side to say that there are no intelligent disciples of Jesus or that there are no credible historians or philosophers or mathematicians, or apologists, who believe that the Bible is historically reliable, that the Gospels are historically accurate, that you know, that God, arguments for God’s existence are credible philosophically, and so it you know, it becomes a kind of choose this day who you will serve moment, and which, yeah, you can obviously, you know, I would never presume to say like, Oh, these atheists are all so dumb, and they haven’t just, they just haven’t read enough books. That’s one of the most hilarious arguments against anyone that you know, and even even within Christianity, little theological debates, well, well, you just need to read this one book, and you’ll be as if, you know, if you just knew what I knew, you’d believe the same thing, I believe, right? And sometimes that maybe that’s the case, but the argument that, you know, like, oh, they just don’t know anything. And no, there are lots of people who know a lot of stuff and they’re really smart. And they believe things that I don’t believe and vice versa. So if what you’re looking for is the find the camp who’s the who’s most credible, you’re essentially just picking a team based on sensibilities and you can do that if you want to but it’s not necessarily the most intellectual way to go about things or the most satisfying, ultimately way to go about things. So I’m happy to acknowledge that dichotomy embrace and embrace it and be like, This is what I have chosen. I have, you know, I have selected for myself a master, and I’m going to follow him forever. And I’m, and I’m happy to acknowledge mystery. And I’m happy to say that you know, that I’ve got to be wrong about something inevitably, right? Even within the things that I say and teach and believe. And I think I’m right. And whilst knowing that I have to inevitably be wrong about something, but I’m going to continue in faith, I think that’s all any of us can do really is continue in faith.

 

Mark Legg  1:00:46

Yeah, that’s a good word. Josh, thank you for your perspective, as an artist, with the background that you’ve had with the story that you have, the writing capability that you have, the Lord has clearly using you exactly where he wants to use you. Especially in writing this book, which I’m so thankful you wrote, that’s death to deconstruction, reclaiming faithfulness as an act of rebellion. You can look him up as Joshua s Porter online and see what he’s up to. I understand you’re still involved in some musical projects and things of that nature. So you can definitely go look to those things as well. And we’re so thankful for you and appreciate all your insight. And yeah, thanks for coming on the podcast

 

Josh Porter  1:01:34

dude. Thanks for having me. It was a lot of fun. Thanks for entertaining my rambling and talking with me.

 

Mark Legg  1:01:39

Yeah, forever in Dallas. We should hang out totally for an hour doesn’t quite cut it. But we’re thankful to all of our listeners as well. Please rate and review the podcast and check out Josh’s book. God bless.

 

Josh Porter  1:01:53

Thanks, dude.

 

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