How to Listen to Lots of Lectures and Sermons and YouTube Videos

I see many interesting lectures and interviews on YouTube that I know I will never, ever have time for. I simply cannot sit in front of a computer and watch a video. Email beckons too hard. But I can listen to these videos on the bus, while doing yard work, and at many other odd times that add up fast. I listened to about five 30-minute textual criticism lectures (on more than double speed) from Dan Wallace last night while cleaning out our family car.

I listen to lots and lots of sermons and lectures and interviews and podcasts. However, I subscribe to only two podcasts: Lexicon Valley (with the inimitable John McWhorter) and Thinking in Public (Al Mohler). (I am testing out the History of English podcast right now, too.) Everything else I listen to is some kind of one-off instance.

I’ve refined my system to make it maximally easy to take any YouTube video or MP3 and get it into my podcast app. So though I’ve posted on this before, I have now reached MP3 nirvana and I have to share it with you.

I actually have two systems, one for MP3s I download directly, and another for YouTube videos. The two systems converge, as you’ll see.

Each will take some setting up, and my instructions are geared for Mac, but here’s what I do.

Preliminary Steps for Each System

  1. Sign up for Justcast, a rock-solid app which creates a podcast feed from a Dropbox folder you choose. A little bird told me that they might give you their service for $1/mo. if you tell them you’re only making your own personal podcast. But the free service may be sufficient for you.
  2. Subscribe to your own personal podcast, generated by Justcast, within Overcast.fm (iOS), Pocket Cast (Android) or whatever podcast app you prefer. I listen to most things at least double speed.

Now let’s get some MP3s into that folder so you can listen to them in Justcast.

System 1: Downloaded MP3s

  1. Set up a Folder Action in Automator that will automatically move audio files to that Justcast folder. Here are the instructions I mostly followed, but here’s what my workflow ended up looking like after I modified it for my needs. (Don’t forget to turn on Folder Actions.)
  2. Anytime you download an MP3 into your Downloads folder, it will be automatically moved into your Justcast folder and show up in your personal podcast feed.

Now let’s get a lecture off of YouTube:

System 2: YouTube Lectures

  1. Copy the URL for a YouTube video you want to listen to.
  2. Paste the link into the free app 4KYouTube to MP3 (I have the app set to produce low-quality audio, because I don’t want huge files).
  3. Set 4KYouTube to MP3 to automatically send the resulting audio file to Dropbox/Apps/Justcast.

Done.

Postliminary Steps

Every so often I move all the MP3s out of my Justcast folder and into an archive location so I can find them again if I need to—and sometime I do, like if I want to cite an illustration from one of them or transcribe a portion of it for use in an article or sermon or lecture of my own.

I got an older iPhone but spent a little extra to get 64GB of space so that I could fit as many files in feed as I needed to (plus audio books, for which I use Audible). The main thing I use my phone for is listening to stuff. I highly recommend Bluetooth headphones, and Sony has some nice ones on sale today only for Prime day.

Introduction to the New Testament for Bibles International

I wrote the following introduction to the New Testament for Bibles International; it is being translated and placed into Bibles all around the world.

The Bible tells one story, because God has one plan for all of history (Isa. 46:9–10; Gal. 4:4–6). The 27 books of the New Testament bring that story to a climax and then explain its significance.

The Story

The Old Testament was the story of how God created a good world, man plunged it into sin, and God worked through the family of Abraham to bless and fix it again.

God promised Abraham that kings would come from his line. He promised King David that his line would hold the throne of Israel forever. But at the beginning of the New Testament the Jews have no king. The Romans rules their land. How will God fulfill these promises?

The Gospels (Matthew–John) open with the answer: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ.” Jesus is the Christ, the Anointed One (Ps. 2) who would save His people from their sins (Isa. 53). He will be their king. He will establish peace in their land. And the angels who announce His birth express an even greater hope: peace on all the earth!

How is it that 33 years later, that miracle-working King lies dead in a tomb?

In Jesus’ apparent defeat lay His greatest triumph. His death was all part of the plan of God (Acts 2:23; 4:27–28). God was justly angry at human sin, and He sent His own Son to pay the massive debt for that sin (Rom 3:21–26).

But the sinless King Jesus did not deserve death. And as the divine Son of God, He was granted power over it. He conquered that enemy and rose gloriously from the tomb. He rose to sit at the right hand of God.

The Church

But He did not leave us without guidance. He sent His Holy Spirit to fill all believers and to form up a special body on this earth: the church. In the church, believers come together to hear God’s teachers deliver God’s Words (Eph. 4). They provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 3).

The 13 letters of Paul—and the other New Testament books after the Gospels—give all sorts of instructions for members of the church. And they explain the significance of Jesus’ death.

Eschatology

In the church, believers offer a foretaste of what the renewed earth will look like. Through the church at least some of mankind can have dominion over God’s world as His representatives. And they can be God’s tools to spread His rule by telling others about the good news of forgiveness in Christ for those who repent from their sins (Matt 28:18–20).

One day, through Jesus, God will fulfill all His promises to Abraham. All true believers, whether Jewish or not, will live together on the New Earth. God will dwell with men for all eternity (Rev. 21).

Introduction to the Old Testament for Bibles International

I wrote the following introduction to the Old Testament for Bibles International; it is being translated and placed into Bibles all around the world. Come back tomorrow for the intro to the New Testament.

The Bible tells one story, because God has one plan for all of history (Isa. 46:9–10; Gal. 4:4–6). The 39 books of the Old Testament begin the story but stop just short of the climax.

The Story

The first five books (Genesis–Deuteronomy) set the foundation for the story. God creates the world and declares it “very good.” And He sets apart two special beings who are made in His own image: Adam and his wife Eve. They have abilities no animals share, and they are to use those skills to complete a special task from God: they are to have dominion over God’s world as His representatives.

Very little time passes before Adam and Eve fall and sin enters God’s perfect creation. All creation falls under “slavery to corruption” (Rom. 8:21). But God promises that “the seed of the woman” will one day come and crush the head of the serpent who tempted Eve (Gen. 3:15).

Many years later, God chooses one man, Abraham, to be the father of that seed. God promises that Abraham will become a great nation and receive a special land. And God will bless all families on the earth through him.

But Abraham’s family, the nation of Israel, falls into sin too. They are not the solution to the fall; they are part of the problem (Joshua–Esther).

God, however, refuses to break His promises to Abraham. He swears to Israel’s most godly king, David, that someone from his line will sit on the throne of Israel forever (1 Sam. 7). This king will one day crush the serpent’s head and reverse the effects of the fall!

Wisdom

Wisdom books (Job–Song of Songs) tell believers how to live consistently with God’s big plan. Proverbs tells us where to start: by fearing the Lord. Ecclesiastes and Job demonstrate that that wise living is complex and difficult in a fallen world. The Psalms lead the believer to trust and delight in God.

The New Covenant and The Future

Prophetic books like Isaiah tell of that day when God will restore creation—and man in it—to the way He meant it to be (Isa 11). And even before that day, God tells of a New Covenant He will make which will start fixing the fall where it has done the most damage, in people’s hearts (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36). The prophets also give us precious truth about the Suffering Servant who will bear the sins of many. Who is this Servant? The answer—and the climax of the Bible’s story—comes in the New Testament.

Complementarian and Egalitarian Straw Persons

I recently ran across the the master’s thesis of an ardent evangelical egalitarian, written at Regent University Divinity School (Virginia Beach) in 2010. You can Google it if you want to, but I don’t want to pick on the (female) author in particular, so I’ll leave her name out of it. It opens this way:

INTRODCTION [sic]

The argument has grown tiresome, redundant, and frustrating: should women be allowed to hold leadership roles over men in the Christian Church? Many Christian leaders and biblical scholars have agreed to allow women in their pulpits, but many still cling to a view that makes the Apostle Paul look like a male chauvinist, who has given a universal principal [sic] that women are to be silent, and never hold a church office.   Many from the latter group are known as complementarians. Well known complementarian frontrunners, John Piper and Wayne Grudem, reason that the Apostle Paul taught that the husband/father figure of each family is ordained by God to lead his household, wife, and children. She and their children are to submit to his every rule, whim, and decision; life as they know it is a male dominated monarchy. Boys are taught to be strong leaders and providers, while girls are taught to be good followers and dependents.

I got this far and decided I would not read further. The misspellings of “principal” and “introduction” in a master’s thesis (and a few strained phrases like “well known complementarian frontrunners”) are not what led me to throw up my hands, but rather the frankly malicious straw man she sets up in this very first paragraph. There may be self-described “complementarians” out there whose view of male-female roles in marriage means that women and children must submit to the father’s every “whim,” but I personally can’t say I’ve met these extremists. I’m a complementarian, now a published one, and my whim is generally to read quietly without interruption (though I like to have my wife nearby so we can be together). Let me tell you: my whim is rarely if ever obeyed in my household. If the only way you can get something you want is to get up an hour before the rest of the family, I wouldn’t call it a “whim.” I aspire to be a strong leader and a provider, but my home is not a monarchy; far from it. I think this author has set up a straw man.

But, mutatis mutandis, here’s the reason I didn’t read the rest of what this woman wrote: I don’t want to set up a straw-man (or straw-woman!) of evangelical egalitarianism. I recently got a copy of a CBE newsletter in the mail (unsolicited), and I stayed up past my bedtime last night reading one female scholar’s observations about the role of women in ETS. She raises some difficult and even uncomfortable questions: if ETS allows female scholars as members (its official doctrinal statement is silent on complementarianism/egalitarianism), why haven’t any of them been presidents, executive committee members, or givers of keynotes? (One or two women did give keynotes in 1986, apparently, when the topic of the annual conference was gender roles.)

I think the writer found conspiracies and malevolencies where there were none—she doesn’t seem to permit complementarians to have Christ-loving, Bible-honoring motivations for their viewpoints. But there were some objective things the writer pointed to that I had to admit I had little answer for. I’m prepared to have a conversation with egalitarians. I believe—and how can any of us know before we’re tried?—that I have an open mind, and would bend where the Scripture bends, stand where it stands.

I repeat here what I’ve said before: the evangelical left loves to critique complementarianism. And more power to them. Marshal your best exegetical arguments, egalitarians, and put pressure on us to be biblically faithful. Don’t let us remain complacent, assuming that our gender-role traditions are necessarily worth preserving. It’s hard work to weed the garden of one’s own cultural and religious customs, and sometimes the only person who can spot a particular dandelion (or even a gargantuan kudzu vine) is the gardener next door. But when you set up a straw man and paint all complementarians as extremists, you make it hard to listen. I will try, by God’s grace, to continue to believe that egalitarians have something valuable to teach me. Will you try, egalitarians, to do some field work observing complementarians? Do some statistical studies about how often men like John Piper and Wayne Grudem insist that their wives “submit”? (Hint: I’ve never done it, except when I was certain my wife needed a nap and she was resisting!)

This seems to be the crux of the issue as it’s playing out right now: how do complementarian and egalitarian viewpoints affect praxis? Does complementarianism, statistically speaking, lead to overbearing husbands and dispirited wives? On the flip side, does egalitarianism lead to liberal views on homosexuality? These are important questions, not as important as what, in fact, the Bible teaches—but they bear on our interpretation of the Bible. If all complementarian men were petty tyrants, that would tend to undercut the plausibility of their biblical interpretation. But I’m not buying it.

Review: Christianity and Liberalism

Christianity and LiberalismChristianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I apologize to the internet for not giving this classic five stars, but it simply didn’t quite reach the level of incisiveness and helpfulness for me in my situation that Packer’s analysis in “Fundamentalism” and the Word of God reached. It was, nonetheless, excellent. It was sad to see that we are facing some of the very same issues today, and in exactly the same way, that he faced in the early 20th century. This could have been written yesterday:

Religion, it is said, is so entirely separate from science, that the two, rightly defined, cannot possibly come into conflict. This attempt at separation, as it is hoped the following pages may show, is open to objections of the most serious kind. But what must now be observed is that even if the separation is justifiable it cannot be effected without effort; the removal of the problem of religion and science itself constitutes a problem. For, rightly or wrongly, religion during the centuries has as a matter of fact connected itself with a host of convictions, especially in the sphere of history, which may form the subject of scientific investigation; just as scientific investigators, on the other hand, have sometimes attached themselves, again rightly or wrongly, to conclusions which impinge upon the innermost domain of philosophy and of religion.

And this:

In trying to remove from Christianity everything that could possibly be objected to in the name of science, in trying to bribe off the enemy by those concessions which the enemy most desires, the apologist has really abandoned what he started out to defend. Here as in many other departments of life it appears that the things that are sometimes thought to be hardest to defend are also the things that are most worth defending.

I repeatedly had the feeling that I had heard these arguments all my life—from people who must have gotten them from Machen. This, for example, is what I’ve always been taught by my teachers and my current feeling exactly:

Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity-liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God.

The objections to inerrancy which have been presented to me in the last two months as fresh insights were familiar to Machen:

The doctrine of plenary inspiration does not deny the individuality of the Biblical writers; it does not ignore their use of ordinary means for acquiring information; it does not involve any lack of interest in the historical situations which gave rise to the Biblical books. What it does deny is the presence of error in the Bible. It supposes that the Holy Spirit so informed the minds of the Biblical writers that they were kept from falling into the errors that mar all other books. The Bible might contain an account of a genuine revelation of God, and yet not contain a true account. But according to the doctrine of inspiration, the account is as a matter of fact a true account; the Bible is an “infallible rule of faith and practice.”

If Machen is to be thought a brash fundamentalist for his carefully arranged, beautifully written take-downs of theological liberalism, just listen to his heart:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Were we not safer with a God of our own devising-love and only love, a Father and nothing else, one before whom we could stand in our own merit without fear? He who will may be satisfied with such a God. But we, God help us-sinful as we are, we would see Jehovah. Despairing, hoping, trembling, half-doubting and half-believing, trusting all to Jesus, we venture into the presence of the very God. And in His presence we live.

Machen was trying to preserve not just doctrine but piety.

And Machen was willing to let God judge individuals; he did not assume that all his opponents were wrong on every point but was willing to give grace where he could and let God preserve their souls. But he also saw an internal dynamic within liberalism that made its tenets into a slippery slope which I still see:

The plain fact is that liberalism, whether it be true or false, is no mere “heresy”-no mere divergence at isolated points from Christian teaching. On the contrary it proceeds from a totally different root, and it constitutes, in essentials, a unitary system of its own. That does not mean that all liberals hold all parts of the system, or that Christians who have been affected by liberal teaching at one point have been affected at all points. There is sometimes a salutary lack of logic which prevents the whole of a man’s faith being destroyed when he has given up a part. But the true way in which to examine a spiritual movement is in its logical relations; logic is the great dynamic, and the logical implications of any way of thinking are sooner or later certain to be worked out. And taken as a whole, even as it actually exists to-day, naturalistic liberalism is a fairly unitary phenomenon; it is tending more and more to eliminate from itself illogical remnants of Christian belief. It differs from Christianity in its view of God, of man, of the seat of authority and of the way of salvation. And it differs from Christianity not only in theology but in the whole of life.

A classic for good reason. A real pleasure. And a real sadness.