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Apologist Tyler Vela Talks About "The Freed Thinker"

Updated on October 8, 2016
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Joel is a writer who has spent 15 years researching and writing on topics of religion. He has a BA in psychology and an MA in education.

The Freed Thinker Podcast

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Interview with Tyler Vela

October 11 of 2016 marks the 5-year anniversary of “The Freed Thinker” Podcast. This bi-monthly broadcast is the brainchild of Apologist Tyler Vela. Vela displays his cutting wit and intellect as he mixes editorializing commentary with well-researched and well-argued responses to atheist argumentation.

Tyler Vela’s platform is almost entirely reactionary in that it is geared primarily in answering objections which have been raised against God and Christianity. Sometimes Vela’s responses are general – such as answering “why would a good God allow evil?” – sometimes they are more specific – for example, when he spends an episode rebutting a broadcast of a particular atheist podcast to which he subscribes.

This writer had the opportunity to speak with Vela about his work. Vela confessed that he, himself used to be an atheist. Because of this, the areas about which he feels the most passion are the areas that surround naturalism, atheism, anti-theism, unbelief and their views, arguments and rhetoric on Christianity, God, the Bible, Science, history, and so forth.

Vela says that he spends a great deal of his free time interacting with "online atheists," that is, atheists who frequent social media and message boards specifically to argue with Christians. Responding to the kinds of recriminations this population brings against Christianity is what he feels his show brings to the table, giving it a worthy spot among the milieu of Christian Apologetics podcasts already in existence.

The show isn’t done in the abstract or from a position of only reading about it in the papers, but whatever he talks about on the podcast, he's usually worked out over the years and through research and in hundreds if not thousands of debates on that very topic.

Growing up in a secular home, for Vela, religion was shoved to the corner, dismissed, and never discussed. In fact, he describes one of his first realizations as a Christian during the first Christmas after his conversion - hearing Christmas hymns and realizing, “Oh THAT’S what that song is about!”

Interestingly, it was Vela’s study of philosophy – not theology, ministry, or the Bible – which brought him to grips with the fact of God’s existence - especially his considerations of the sticky issue of morality. He came to the realization that either God existed or morality was just an illusion. Experiencing some real evil in his life, Vela had someone very close to him who was a victim of some really sexually abusive actions. In response to this, he thought, he was more sure that the sexual abuse of a child was evil than he was in his disbelief in God.

Unlike many atheists who see the existence of evil as a reason to reject the existence of God, Vela saw that – in order for evil to exist - there must be some ultimate grounding for moral authority: God. Once Vela had accepted Christianity, he dived headlong into his newfound faith, hungrily studying everything which might inform his worldview. He enrolled in the Philosophy program at California State University in Sonoma where he took courses on Ethics and Value Theory, Epistemology, Metaphysics, Human Consciousness, Greek and Eastern Thought and so on. The more he studied the more he realized just how more robust Christian theism was than his naturalism had been.

While Vela pursued Christian ministry, he never officially entered it, and The Freed Thinker Podcast is Vela’s primary tools of ministry at current. Vela hopes to finish up his Masters degree and become ordained at some point in the near future – as well as to get one or more of the books he is writing published.

On Vela’s podcast, the typical episodes are informed, well-thought-out, well-researched and worth the listen. Vela is clearly well versed in the philosophical and logical argumentation he employs in answering atheist objections, and does his homework on Biblical scholarship before considering attacks against Biblical content. Consequently, he typically comes off as far more informed and authoritative on the subject matter than the atheists he is answering.

This makes “The Freed Thinker” podcast worthy of listening to for both Christian and non-Christian alike because it does an admirable job of defeating objections or, at worst, forces the listener to make more informed objections.

While Vela’s podcast is not a money-making enterprise, no one can accuse him of not sounding professional. The sound quality is excellent and includes bumpers, entry and exit music and guest speakers phoned in on great audio.

Vela’s selection of guests tends to come from his network of authors, speakers, and podcasters in the philosophy and apologetics community. The guests are always as informed or moreso than Vela himself, so the episodes which include guests are plenty educational.

Typically Vela doesn’t so much interview guests as he does discuss mutual questions of interest with them. Together, Vela and his guest will tackle an atheist argument or objection and hash it out. The interplay is always stimulating and fun as Vela is not only intellectually rigorous, but also witty.


Tyler Vela's First Book

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Review of Vela's Book "Measuring McAfee"

When one reads any of the many articles or blog posts written by Tyler Vela, or listens to his podcast, “The Freed Thinker,” it becomes quickly apparent that he is man both well-educated and devoted to researching his subject matter before opening his mouth. And yet, Mr. Vela has a tendency to devote a disproportionate amount of his time arguing with people whose idea of “research” is a quick Google search with heavy bias toward infidel websites.

In fairness to Vela, his show has featured some of the most civil Christian/Atheist dialogue available for listening. His interaction with atheist Cory Markum and his interview with famed atheist philosopher Graham Oppy are both pleasant and high-minded enough to restore one’s faith in humanity. But then one need only thumb one’s way over to the episode of “The Freed Thinker” podcast titled “Books are Dogs Now,” and it quickly becomes apparent that Vela has the tragic habit of trying to hold internet “trolls” to the same high scholarship and critical thought levels as himself; and ends up working himself into a lather of frustration at their trenchant inanity.

Vela’s book, Measuring McAfee, is like a study in this kind of aggravated monologue against jeering atheists who don’t even take their own arguments seriously, much less those of their opponents. The entire book is written as an extended response to atheist David McAfee’s own book, with the creative title: Disproving Christianity.

Ideally, perhaps, the reader ought to read McAfee’s book first, then Vela’s. Or better, read them side-by-side, first reading McAfee’s arguments, then Vela’s responses. For those who don’t care to take the time, however, Vela’s characteristic devotion to accuracy and detail shines through as he takes the time to lay out each of McAfee’s arguments prior to deconstructing them.

Early in the book, McAfee’s writings show him to be a poster-boy for the so-called “internet infidel,” parroting arguments against Christianity which could be pulled from the comments section of the average message board and could be summed up in the space of a meme. Vela is not Measuring Ehrman, he isn’t even Measuring Dawkins – and with each new point he tackles, Vela’s frustration at McAfee’s utter disregard for scholarship, research or making an attempt at constructing a sound argument becomes more apparent. Vela, on the other hand, sprinkles his book with copious footnotes and references which are quite informative – almost to the point of self-indulgence.

Having said all of that, this may actually be one of the more important books that the average Christian should pick up before they go online to be pushed around and bullied by people cut from the same mold as McAfee. Why? Well, just because atheist arguments like “How did penguins get from the ark to Antarctica?” and “Why is the Old Testament God so different from the New Testament God?” are about as common as atheists themselves, doesn’t mean that average Christians will have good answers for them. In this book, Vela addresses what may very well be among the most frequent objections to Christianity (though certainly not the best) anyone is likely to find anywhere on the internet. In his book, Disproving Christianity, McAfee has done Christians the favor of distilling down the sound-bite level objections to Christianity that float so freely around the web, and in his response book, Vela has disarmed each of them in turn.

Vela’s book works as an excellent popular reference for web-bound Christians everywhere, but one gets the sense that he didn’t have any idea the gold-mine he was sitting on when he wrote it. Vela writes the book in the format of a vigorous peer review – not a convenient reference guide. The book is written entirely about another book, and it’s clear that scholarly integrity was first and foremost in Vela’s mind when he wrote it, not necessarily popular-level readability. Fortunately, Vela is a seasoned speaker and writer with a quick wit, and the text still remains relatively accessible to a popular audience.

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