In the last year and a half or so, I have almost completely cut television media out of my diet. The only time I spend any time watching television nowadays comes when I’m watching a sporting event or the occasional movie.
Some might think that in removing television from my life, I may have cut myself off from the “outside world,” and in some ways this is true. I’m usually far behind on most pop culture matters, although social media typically allows it to stream into my awareness eventually. In other ways, however, the technology and phenomenon of podcasting has kept me more informed than I’ve ever been.
Podcasting has enabled me to be more efficient in my consumption of news and current events because I no longer have to be sitting in front of a television or a computer in order to receive this information. I can workout, go for a walk, or whatever while I listen.
While I was slow to embrace the world of podcasting, once I started researching the number of podcasts out there as well as the rather well-known people and groups who are producing them, I realized that podcasts could provide an excellent avenue to discover other voices outside of the mainstream media. Numerous writers, pastors, and other various personalities have started to develop podcasts. You can just about find a podcast on any topic imaginable.
So, I wanted to share some of my favorite podcasts in order to either give you a place to start or just share those that I listen to most often. I’ll start with the ones I listen to daily then start to group them by category. I won’t link to each one, however, as they are more or less readily available through a Google or iTunes search. If you have a smartphone, I’d recommend that you download a podcast app, find shows that match your interests, and start listening.
Here are some of mine:
The Eric Metaxas Show
Eric Metaxas has been a rather prominent Christian writer and thinker who gained much of his fame with the publication of his bestselling biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and he revealed a certain acumen as an interviewer through an internet series called Socrates in the City. The Salem Radio Network eventually rewarded him with his own radio show. So, The Eric Metaxas Show is not a natural podcast, but one of my favorite things about the show is that it is a self-proclaimed “show about everything.” Eric often introduces me to authors, thinkers, movers, and shakers that I had never heard of before. He also proves to be funny and nothing short of entertaining as he does so.
The downside to The Eric Metaxas Show, however, is that I really dislike the way that Eric has come to talk about the 2016 election. Initially, I loved Eric’s show because he came across as a rather even-keeled thinker on the issues, but he’s more or less become an alarmist akin to the myriad other conservative talk show hosts. In spite of my disagreements with Eric’s rhetoric, the show is often still substantive, informative, and entertaining.
Al Mohler’s The Briefing proves to be a podcast that I listen to every day. Dr. Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Seminary, offers a twenty minute daily analysis of headlines from a Christian worldview. Unlike Eric’s style, Dr. Mohler is no-nonsense and typically keeps his comments short, sweet, and to the point. He focuses primarily on issues of religious liberty, abortion, and sexuality. This show basically serves as a way to read the pulse of the culture, and the news is often rather disheartening, at least from a Christian ethics perspective. Still, it helps to be aware of the social changes taking place in the US and the world.
Unbelievable with Justin Brierley
Hands down, this is one of the top podcasts that I listen to. As a radio show broadcast in the United Kingdom, Unbelievable brings “Christians and non-Christians” together to discuss issues contested between those with different worldviews. While the show often presents discussions between Christians who disagree on various elements of doctrine and practice, the main premise of the show is interfaith dialogue.
The show brings in some of the heaviest hitters in Christian theology and philosophy to match up with secular humanists, Islamic scholars, and scientists. The interlocutors typically remain civil, but discussions often get fairly technical. Brierley has stated that he expects a lot of his listeners when it comes to keeping up with the dialogue. He’s an excellent interviewer, though, and often helps listeners navigate difficult arguments.
Waking Up with Sam Harris
I searched for a while to find a podcast with a viewpoint entirely different from my own to challenge my thinking. The constant bashing from the majority of the secular humanist podcasts out there, however, becomes emotionally taxing. Especially considering that many of the critiques (if they can be called that) center more on being profane and blasphemous rather than serious.
While Harris certainly gives religion and theism absolutely no quarter and belittles faith every chance he gets, he does not use his show primarily as a soapbox to denigrate religion. Instead, he conducts long interviews or reads and comments on chapters from his books. That approach allows me to understand how he and others like him think, which is what I’m looking for whenever I seek out those who disagree with me.
My least favorite element of Harris’s podcasts are their length. One episode can easily last two hours, and that’s just a long time for any show.
News and Current Events
BBC The World This Week
The BBC’s weekly news podcast provides a global perspective of world events, oftentimes hitting on issues and stories from the rest of the world that simply don’t get much air time in the United States. Many of the stories even center on nonwestern regions of the world. Their bias creeps in fairly often, but the issues tend to be the primary focus.
ABC World News This Week
While “world news” is in the title, this ABC weekly news podcast typically treats the United States as if it’s the world. Rarely do the hosts discuss global headlines that do not include the US. Ultimately, that’s just fine by me considering that I go to the BBC for the global perspective.
The Townhall Review
The Townhall review is a production of the Salem Media Group. This weekly program summarizes mainly political events by collecting the week’s greatest hits from the various hosts of Salem talk shows. The perspective is unapologetically conservative, but the likes of Dennis Prager and Michael Medved bring a cache and a seriousness that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity lack.
KCRW’s Left, Right, and Center
Another podcast that focuses primarily on politics. As the name suggests, however, the show creates a sort of round table discussion between varying political views. Their approach helps me understand the motivations and logic behind different viewpoints.
Cross Examined with Frank Turek
Frank often brings good arguments and substantive thoughts to the table, but he tends to be fairly one-dimensional. His bombastic personality and rhetoric also grate against me most of the time, but he’s a decent interviewer when he does have guests on the show.
Cold Case Christianity
Of all the apologetics podcasts listed here, Cold Case Christianity is by far my favorite. J. Warner Wallace brings an excellent perspective into the discussion as a cold case homicide detective. At first, the use of his detective experience seems gimmicky, but his decades of investigating criminal cases have clearly equipped him to make an argument in ways that wind up being ingenious and compelling. He’s also an extremely effective communicator, able to make complex arguments approachable to non-experts.
William Lane Craig has been one of the more influential Christian philosophers and apologists for the last couple of decades. His show can get fairly technical, and many of the greatest episodes will be found in the back catalog of the show. It hasn’t been impressing me all that much lately.
Stand to Reason
Greg Koukl does an excellent job hosting this podcast/radio show. I mostly tune in whenever he conducts interviews. Many of the episodes center on taking listener questions, and while they are usually interesting conversations, I usually only take the time to listen when he has guests on the show.
Breakpoint Daily & Breakpoint This Week
Breakpoint’s daily commentaries are short and often provide great snapshots of the various developments in culture from a Christian perspective. Every week, John Stonestreet and Ed Stetzer host a longer discussion on such events and go into a little more detail on how Christians should respond.
The Village Church – Culture Matters
Matt Chandler’s church produces a bimonthly podcast that discusses cultural events and movements from a Christian worldview and offers insight as to how Christians should interact.
Q is an organization founded in part by Gabe Lyons (I believe, you may want to fact check me on that). Q hosts discussions on the various cultural issues in the world today and uses this podcast to bring those talks to a larger audience.
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission releases sermons and lectures that deal with topics on, well, ethics and religious liberty.
Living on the Edge with Chip Ingram
Chip Ingram is hands down one of my favorite preachers. He communicates biblical truth in a way that’s meaningful and practical. One of the greatest strengths of his preaching is that he provides his audiences with specific ways to apply the principles of Scripture as soon as they finish listening to the sermon.
Timothy Keller Sermons Podcast
Tim Keller takes a unique approach to preaching. His sermons could be described as poetic lecture, and while that approach may not resonate with some, I greatly appreciate his tact and the deftness with which he handles the Bible.