Chris Arnzen of Iron Sharpens Iron Radio: How it all started and his favorite theologians


Continuing our LIVE series from the Fight Laugh Feast Conference, this week we had on legendary broadcaster Chris Arnzen of Iron Sharpens Iron Radio. We discussed his beginnings in radio, as well as his journey in his 30+ year career as a broadcaster. Towards the end we got him to list his favorite theologians, and reminded him of a few he forgot. It was a great show! Enjoy! Iron Sharpens Iron Radio: Fight Laugh Feast: Dead Men Walking Podcast Website and Merch:


Exploring theology, doctrine, and all of the fascinating subjects in between, broadcasting from an undisclosed location,
Dead Men Walking starts now. Well, hello everyone, welcome back to another episode of Dead Men Walking podcast.
It's part of our series live from Fight Laugh Feast in Knoxville, Tennessee. We appreciate you guys listening.
As always, you can check us out at dmwpodcast .com, but enough shameless promotion. We have a very special guest here with us.
It's Mr. Chris Arnsett. How are you, sir? I'm doing great, and I was digging your opening theme music.
Well, thank you so much. That's high praise for you, obviously. He's the host of Iron Sharpens Iron, internationally known.
You can find it anywhere in the world. Tell us a little bit about that for the listeners who might not be familiar.
I'm sure most are. Tell us a little bit about Iron Sharpens Iron, how that got started, how long you've been doing it, and what kind of things you cover on it.
Okay, well, you can edit out as much of this story if it's too long. Never.
I have been employed in the radio business since the mid -80s, then for a while with an ad agency that included a black gospel station, which is the point where I entered into being involved in the
Christian radio industry to a degree, but then was hired in 1991 by a
Salem Media affiliate. Salem Media is the largest Christian radio network in the world, and they're stationed in WMCA, 570
AM in New York. You never forget those call letters, do you? No. And they hired me in 1991, and I worked there for 15 years as an account executive selling airtime, and we had an in -house radio program, talk show.
Originally, it was called Talk New York, and then they changed the name to the name of the host to Andy Anderson Live.
Andy was a dear friend of mine. He's now with the Lord for eternity, but because Andy was not
Reformed, in fact, I was the only theologically Reformed employee at WMCA.
I was the token Calvinist, and when I would listen to Andy Anderson's program, and I don't mean this as an insult against Andy, but I was very often, in fact, most often frustrated and angry by the guests that he had on and the theological perspectives they were endorsing.
So I started to approach Andy in his office with a Reformed book, and I would say to him,
Andy, why don't you interview this author? This guy's fascinating. And I remember his initial reaction to me was,
I don't know anything about that subject. I said, well, how about if I write the questions for you?
He lit up like a Christmas tree. I think the wheels were turning in his mind, and he said to himself, this is going to make my life a whole lot easier.
So he said, all right, sure, let's do that. So I wrote him the list of questions, and the interview went well, and it was like an epiphany to him.
I've got to start doing this more often to make my life a whole lot easier. So he started approaching me,
Chris, you've got a lot of guests lined up for me. I would love to have a guest on that you recommend. And so I would recommend the guest,
I would write the questions, and this became a matter of routine eventually, nearly every week.
And you're just working as an account manager at that time. Account executive. Executive, sorry. Selling airtime.
Yes. Okay. So you're essentially producing a show, too, it sounds like. Yes, but not being paid to do that.
Not being paid to do it, yeah. And then Andy, when he was going on vacation, began to say to management,
I want Chris Ornstein to fill in for me. He does a great job with questions, and I think he would be a spectacular fill -in host.
So that's what started happening, and apparently the audience was giving great feedback to the job
I was doing. And then, sadly, Andy passed away, and for the first,
I believe it was three weeks after he entered into eternity with Christ, I was the daily fill -in host for about three weeks until they found a permanent replacement.
And my general manager said to me, Chris, you do a great job at this, but there's no way on earth
I'm having a five -point Calvinist become the permanent host of our in -house talk show.
And although that bothered me initially, I really, upon further reflection on it, realized that it would be an untenable situation for me because they would, as they did with Andy, they would want me, as an in -house talk show host, to promote things that I would not be comfortable promoting.
They would want me to, for instance, if you have an extreme, lunatic, fringe, charismatic pastor who spends $20 ,000, $30 ,000 on some huge ad campaign or even purchased a program, they would want me to promote that.
They want you down there barking like a dog while he's healing people. And they knew that I wouldn't. They knew that I wouldn't do that.
They knew that if I was interviewing that person, it would become an interrogation. So I understood that.
But I eventually, after 15 years of service there, I left there and started to begin from the ground floor up an ad agency,
Cruciform Media, still called that. What year was this? This would be 2005.
And I was going around to different radio stations getting their media kits and telling them that I would like to represent them as an ad agent to include them in a portfolio.
And this little tiny Christian station, predominantly music,
WNYG, 1440 AM on Long Island, New York, Babylon, Long Island. I walked in there.
The general manager was Phyllis. And I said to her,
I would love to represent WNYG in my portfolio to potential advertisers. And within five minutes, maybe even less, she said, wow, you have a really nice voice.
I said, do you ever host a talk show before? And I said, I used to fill in for Andy Anderson on WMCA. She said, well, the 2 p .m.
slot's open. You want it? No. That's how Iron Sherpa's Iron started. No way. That's awesome.
And she, the first day, initially hated what I was doing. She rushed into the studio during a commercial break and she said, what are you doing?
I said, what do you mean what I'm doing? She said, you're just talking about religious stuff, theology.
I thought you would be playing some music. I thought you would be giving sports scores and weather reports.
I said, you wanted a DJ. I'm not a DJ. You never said anything about a DJ. And I said, well, this is what
I'm going to do. If you don't like it, I guess we'll have to part company. She was just like, I don't know about this.
And she stormed away angry. Then I nearly nailed the coffin lid shut on the program.
When I went to, when I went, I took a break for a
Friday from the show to go to my brother's wedding and I asked a friend of mine, a pastor friend, to fill in for me as my guest host.
And he said, I don't know what to talk about. And I said, off the top of my head, I said, why don't you talk about, do a theological exposé of Joel Osteen.
He's the pastor of the largest church in the United States. And do a critical examination of his ministry.
And I will leave. And I said, I'll even call them, tell them to listen to it while you're conducting the show.
Here you go. Here's our, here's our. I just, I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I just think that only
God can judge a person's heart. I don't know. Larry King. I don't know. I can't really say. But anyway.
Yeah. So I said. There's your critical analysis. Right. I'll call up Joel Osteen's ministry and tell them to listen.
Have somebody listen. And if you ever misrepresent them, or in their minds anyway, they can call in.
It was a call -in show. So I went away to my brother's wedding. I already love this story, by the way, because I know what's going to happen.
But go on. I came back on the following Monday and I walked through the door of the radio station and I see my general manager looking out of her office, literally with tears in her eyes and a look of rage.
And she says, will you get in here? And I walked in there and she says, what on earth did you have your friend do while you were away?
I came very close to pulling the plug on him while he was right in the middle of the show and permanently pulling the plug on your show forever.
And I said, why? What do you mean? He was insulting my favorite pastor in the world,
Joel Osteen. Oh no. And I said, well, what do you mean by insulting? He was just saying horrible things about him.
And I said, well, let me listen to the recording of what he did and I'll get back to you with what
I think should be done about it. I listened to the recording and not only was he not using ad hominem or being nasty, even though the show was correct in its theological criticism, he and his co -host were too nice as far as I was concerned.
So I said, I don't know what you're complaining about. This is a theological program. As you know, I disagree with Joel Osteen's theology very, very, there's a chasm of difference between me and Joel Osteen.
And I feel it is my duty as a Christian to expose things like this. She was very upset. She said, you ever do this again,
I'm going to have to pull the plug on you. I said, well, you cannot dictate what my conscience before God dictates to me.
And my fear of God should be far more great than my fear of you.
So it's up to you, but I'm not going to change. And it was kind of a...
That's why us Calvinists always get in trouble, you know? Just we have this thing called biblical exegesis in principle.
But then, in God's good timing, all of a sudden, we began, because the program is live streamed as it is now, we began getting,
I can still remember seeing Wally, way back Wally was his radio name, because he was in the radio since the 50s.
I could see him through the glass, you know, he was in the engineer side, the production side.
And he looked like the President of the United States had just called into the studio.
He had a look of shock on his face, and he holds up a piece of paper to the glass that said,
Joe Riley in Dublin, Ireland has a question. It's like, wow. So Joe had a question.
And then, it was Anna Bjorn from Sweden, and we were getting calls from different parts of the world, all over the
United States, and from that point on, my general manager was in love with the show, didn't care about the content, but I put them on the map.
And she never bothered me again. And in fact, a couple of years later,
I got a call from her one morning, and she said, Chris, I have some very bad news, don't bother coming in today.
A Christian Spanish network, Radio Contico Nuevo, bought the station, and all of us have lost jobs.
It's going to be a completely Spanish station. So you no longer have your program, and I said, oh,
I understand. And about a week later, I get a call, is this Mr. Chris?
I said, yes, who's this? My name is Josue Ayala, I am the general manager of Radio Contico Nuevo, the station where your show used to air.
And I said, yes, and he said, our phones are ringing off the hook for your show, will you come back?
Praise God. And I said, I thought you were all Spanish content. And he said, well, we don't care if you don't.
So I was the only English. No. Yes. Wow. And then the program continued for a few years.
My wife passed. She went home to glory with Christ. And I was in no frame of mind mentally, emotionally, spiritually to continue the show.
So I went on a hiatus. I moved to Pennsylvania and I re -launched the show in 2005.
And the I'm sorry, in 2015. OK. And the rest is history.
And we've been plugging away since 2015 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, live streaming.
And the audience seems to be bigger than ever. Wow. What a what an amazing story. You know,
I look at you and I've got to ask myself and I'm going to ask this question to you. You see all these podcasters out there now.
Do you ever feel a little bit responsible and kind of paving the way for that? There's a couple of guys out there that have been doing this for quite a long time on radio.
Back when you took calls, back when you were on the airwaves, we didn't have podcasting and digital and iTunes and all computers.
I mean, do you take a little pride in that in a righteous way to say, you know, I kind of help pave the way because you were doing something back then that not a whole lot of people were doing.
Now we see a podcast every 10 seconds pop up. Right. What's your kind of what are your thoughts on that, too?
When you see, you know, we have a couple of booths over here, some young guys that are, you know, gosh, they seem like they're in their early 20s.
They might even be teenagers. They seem so young to me, but they love the Lord. They're trying to want to talk about these things, things that you were talking about 20 plus years ago.
More than that. What's your thoughts on that? I just I thought it'd be interesting to ask you as a pioneer in that medium.
It's more of a view or a reaction,
I should say, of pleasant shock because I was unaware of this until I was at a
G3 conference. It was my very first attendance. I don't know if you're familiar with the G3 conference. Oh, yeah, I was. We were we podcasted live from the national conference last year in Atlanta.
Yeah. Yeah. I was at my first one, I think, seven or eight years ago at the
Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. And I was waved over to a booth by a man who
I did not know, but who I came to discover was Dwayne Atkinson, the Bar Podcast, which stands for Biblical and Reformed.
If you don't if listeners don't know people since Dwayne is a black brother, they think it's black and reformed, but it's not or they think it has something to do with alcohol and that doesn't.
But Dwayne called me over and he said, I want to thank you for hosting
Iron Sharpens Iron Radio. I've been listening to it since you first launched your show in 2005 on WNYG and you were my inspiration to start the bar.
Yeah, I had no idea. And then that started I would meet other brethren who are doing podcasting who are telling me the same thing.
So so here I'm going to tell you something right now. So I was four weeks into this in 2020 and Dwayne out of nowhere.
I had 12 people listening. I didn't know really what I was doing. Right. He calls me. He goes, I love what you're doing.
He goes, I was inspired by a gentleman on Iron Sharpens Iron. I want to support you.
I want to do whatever I can do to help you. And what do you need, brother? And we've been friends for the last two and a half years because of that.
But that just goes to show you generationally, I think the impact you've had by being faithful to what the Lord has called you to do to where, you know, you're affecting things that you don't even you don't even think when you do when you're just obedient to the
Lord. Right. Yeah. So yeah. And you're the third person now that I've interviewed here that has brought up Dwayne's name.
So shout out to Dwayne. He's a great brother of the Lord. He's faithful and he loves helping out that next generation of people trying to do this.
So I've got to tell the listeners to make sure you check out Iron Sharpens Iron. Where can they find it at online?
Can you pull it out real quick? Iron Sharpens Iron radio dot com. Rideau dot com. Yeah. Make sure you put the radio part in there, because if you just type in Iron Sharpens Iron dot com, you'll get a golf website.
It is. Oh, it's a Christian golf website, but it's still a golf. You guys need to do some cross promotion.
It sounds like it's Iron Sharpens Iron radio dot com. Yeah. And you and you have so many.
You know, I'm not I don't I know you won't say this, so I'll do it for you, for the listeners. You know, guys like James White and R .C.
Sproul and Justin Peters and Paul Washer, I mean, all have these glowing reviews of what you've been doing for all these years.
That says something to me about your integrity and character and staying true to the word of God as well. Like I said, you would never say that.
But for the listeners sake, I'm going to say those names do mean something. Obviously, we look to the authority of scripture and we don't follow men.
Right. But when you have other men of character like that that say, hey, we appreciate what this gentleman's doing.
What Chris has been doing, that says something to me as well. So I want to ask you this question as we put bookends on this and kind of close it out here.
For listeners listening right now, we are in a culture that, you know, we're at this Fight Left Feast conference to where we understand the secular culture.
They want the they want Christ to bow to the secular culture. They don't. OK, everything's going to bow to Christ and does bow to Christ.
What are maybe one or two of the most important things that an individual Christian or church can do to either combat this culture or to represent
Christ perfectly and biblically? One thing that immediately comes to mind is that and I think every
Christian in their heart of heart knows this, but they don't always live it out.
We have to be salt and light in the world and we cannot compartmentalize our
Christianity and behave as if this is our Sunday life or our
Wednesday night prayer meeting life. And the rest of my life, I'm not going to be overly aggressive, pushing my beliefs on people.
I don't want to offend them and hurt their feelings. And you have heard perhaps some people who say that they practice lifestyle evangelism.
Now, we are obviously to live out our faith and it's not to be a faith of word only and theology only and intellect only.
We have to we have to imitate Christ. Correct. But there are those that take that to the extent of saying that we just the main thing is that we live obedient to Christ and show love, the love of Christ to everyone.
Well, yeah, we have to show the love of Christ to everyone. But that's also involves proclaiming the gospel, because if they don't embrace the gospel, they're going to hell.
So that's one very key element of genuine love. Yeah. And there's a quote that I despise that I have heard people often quote
Christians, and it has been often attributed to St.
Francis of Assisi, although I don't know for certain whether he actually said these things. But the quote is preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.
Yeah. Now, if Jesus lived by that motto and the disciples lived by that motto, none of them would have been killed.
I mean, I mean, obviously, God ordained the death of his son. Yes. But in a human sense, that would not have gotten them killed.
The Pharisees would not have been concerned with that. And the Romans would not have been concerned with that.
And all those who have been executed for the centuries following, if they were just doing good things for people, that would not have gotten them martyred.
So we have to really make our our faith very known in the society and in the neighborhoods where we live.
And we are to never shy away or be ashamed of the gospel. And in every sphere of life, wherever we have influence, we are to import and in fact, even seek to prayerfully conquer every sphere of life for Christ in the name of Christ.
We can't be retreative in our mindset. We have to really push forward and be conquerors.
Yeah. No, that's so good. I totally agree. All right. As we end this here, we're going to do something
I didn't discuss this with you, but you're at, much like an NFL draft, you're at the theologian draft.
And strangely, you've been given the first five rounds, the first five picks. Okay. Doesn't usually go that way.
Usually goes to 18, but they say, Chris, you get the first five rounds. Who are you drafting in your theologian draft on the top five?
Wow. These are living and dead? Living or dead. Okay. Well, even though people will accuse me of being a sycophant for this, as they have,
Dr. James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. He is one of the most brilliant living theologians
I've ever met. Yes, agreed. And no one has, I've never seen anyone come close to being his equal in the debate arena.
That's a very specific gift. Yes. And a unique calling. So, Dr.
James R. White of Alpha and Omega Ministries. John Calvin. How could I not include
John Calvin? And you do. How many did you say? You get five. You got three left. You got three left.
Well, he said, all I need was two. I got White and Calvin. You know, people would debate over whether Charles Edmund Spurgeon was one of the greatest theologians of history.
At the same time, as far as his impact, his writings, impact on my life and the shaping of my understanding of theology, even though he was not formally educated,
I would have to include Spurgeon. Yep. Okay. I'm tracking with you.
And let's see, I would think that, you know, even though I am not a dispensationalist,
I would include in that group, especially when you're considering living people who have had an impact on my life,
John MacArthur. Yeah. Yeah. I know John MacArthur. There are issues that are championed by people who are at this conference where we are, that John would be in disagreement with them and he would be in disagreement with me over some issues as well.
But on the things that really matter the most, John MacArthur has been an amazing influence in my way of thinking and so on.
Let's see. I think. You're doing pretty good for me putting you on the spot.
All right. J .C. Ryle, the 19th century European bishop, a really extraordinary man of God who, if you're not familiar with him, you've got to start buying his books and reading them.
Absolutely. And don't let the term, if you're not familiar with Anglicanism other than some kind of stereotype that you have from what you see today, because truly
Reformed Anglicans are a tiny minority today. And even much of what is called
Reformed Anglicanism today is polluted with Anglo -Catholicism. Yeah.
Even if they don't describe themselves that way, there's too much of an influence. But J .C. Ryle, reading him, you would not specifically know, unless he is specifically mentioning it, that he was an
Anglican because he was just a great, brilliant mind. And I think that was, what, four?
Yeah, that's five. That's your five right there. And I think, you know, that's a great list. And I think I agree with you, too.
We were just talking about this at lunch today with some friends and going, you know, if Christ doesn't return, let's say, a hundred years from now,
I think people are going to be looking back and going, could you believe if you were in the generation that grew up with John MacArthur and R .C.
Sproul? I mean, I really think those two men of God are going to be reflected back on as theologians. And I shouldn't have forgotten
R .C. Sproul, in spite of his Thomism, which, you know,
I think, and I could be wrong, but I think some Thomists think that that element of Sproul's belief in teaching was far greater than the reality would prove.
Because even though I know, I've heard with my own ears, Sproul highly regard Thomas Aquinas as one of the greatest minds of the faith, in the majority of what
I have heard him preach and teach, it didn't really come up as much as people would pretend to.
Wanted to, yeah. No, absolutely. Well, Chris, we thank you so much for taking time out, being gracious with your time to come on the podcast.
Guys, make sure that you go to IronsSharpensIronRadio .com, check him out.
All your contact information, anywhere you're online is there too, correct? They can get a hold of you there.
If you're listening to this podcast right now, go right over there. We're going to link it up when it goes live everywhere, but make sure you go there, follow that and listen.
We absolutely love your ministry and what you've been doing, Chris. Thank you so much. Thank you. All right, guys. As always, thanks for listening to another episode of Dead Men Walking Podcast.
God bless. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram at DeadMenWalkingPodcast for full video podcast episodes and clips, or email us at deadmenwalkingpodcast at gmail .com.