I was delighted to stumble on these two video interviews with Ray Anderson (here is his brief bio).
In this interview, Dr. Ray Anderson points out the importance of having our theological viewpoint based on God’s revelation of himself in Jesus Christ. 31 minutes.
Mike Feazell interviews Ray Anderson, senior professor of theology and ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary. Dr. Anderson talks about relating our lives to God’s reality, what God has become in becoming human, adoption, the parable of the prodigal, our necessary connection with Christ, and the emergent church. Special edition — 49 minutes.
A quick scan has these paragraphs catching my attention From Interview one …
… You said my favorite word: theology. It’s a scary word, to many people. But really if you stop to think about it, it’s simply a way of thinking about God in respect to who God is and how God has revealed himself to us. So that theology, as I’ve often said, is reflection upon God’s ministry. So ministry precedes theology, I tell pastors that I often speak to, that it’s in the context of God’s ministry that theology emerges. When Jesus healed on the Sabbath day, for example, and the legalists challenged him on that, said, you can’t do that, you’re not supposed to do that on the Sabbath day. And for Jesus, that’s what God is doing. God is working and therefore, Jesus said, human beings were not made just to keep the Sabbath in a legalistic way. The Sabbath was made for human beings, for their welfare. Now, that’s a theological statement. Somebody could just have said, Jesus healed the blind man on the Sabbath – and that’s a narrative. But when interpretation is given of that, so that the work of God interprets the word of God, what God does interprets what God says. And the statement of that, that’s theology. See, Jesus had no text in the Old Testament for that. The blind man that’s healed is the text.
… you cannot be a believer in Jesus Christ, without, in a sense, implicitly saying, well, I believe he is of God, I believe he was sent of God, I believe that (as Paul says) he died on the cross for me, was raised again to overcome the power of death, and in reciting the creed, whatever creed one recites, the Apostle’s Creed – that’s a theological statement. So that the average persons in the church hearing the story and confessing their own faith in Christ. They are doing Theology.
… when Jesus asked his disciples, “who do you say that I am?” They thought it was a multiple choice type of exam. So they came up with different possible answers. Well, some say you are John the Baptist raised from the dead, some say you are the prophet that Moses talked about. They have all these kinds of answers, and each of those were theologies, they were current theologies. And Jesus probed deeper, but who do you think that I am, you’ve experienced me. And when Peter finally dared to blurt out, you’re the Messiah, you are the one we’ve been waiting for. And then Jesus said to him, blessed are you, flesh and blood does not reveal it to you, but God who is in heaven. In other words, he said, Peter you’re right, but you will never know why… because that’s a revelation of God. But Peter wouldn’t have been right, Peter wouldn’t have been able to have that theology – you are the Son of God, you are the Messiah, apart from following him, experiencing him, and being there. Standing off at a distance, the Pharisees came to different conclusions. They said this man is not of God, John 9:16. After he healed the blind man, they said, he is not of God because he does not keep the Sabbath. Jesus was killed on exegetical grounds. They had a Bible verse that gives permission to kill Jesus because he violated the law. And Jesus must have said, what’s going on here? God is doing this work, God is in your midst. God is working through me. So the problem that all pastors face is, not that people are waiting to hear theology, not that they’re waiting to be told to believe something. They all believed something. Every person that sits down to hear a sermon already believes something. And that belief has to be taken away and changed. That’s the real task. That’s why pastors have to be theologians, because they have to know the true theology that God has revealed. And that has to enter in, in such a way that corrects the bad theology.
… if in fact a relationship (such as a marriage relationship) is contractual, then we hold each other accountable to keeping the contract, so to speak. And therefore as long as I’m keeping my end of the contract up, you are obligated to fulfill my needs. Well, that’s hopeless, you see. That’s a form of legalism in marriage. When I do pre-marital counseling I talk about friendship, I say that friendship is the only human relationship that only survives because it’s constantly renewed and kept alive. Husbands and wives often will end up saying things to each other in times of anger, whatever … if they said it to a friend, they wouldn’t have any friends. Friends don’t have to take it. So, people will be off guard and preserve a friendship and at the same time destroy their marriage. So that I say, the quality of friendship, … so that God is more at the level of the friend. God is the lover. God enters[?] with Israel. Hosea said, He is the lover. He is betrayed but God still said I won’t give you up. I won’t let you go. So that it’s true that the legalistic, contractual aspect enters in… seemingly to give us security and truth, in a sense, that we can control. But the fact is, the moment that we think that we control the truth, if I think I control the truth about my wife, I’ve destroyed something. She’s always a mystery to me. She’s always someone that I have to be open to. And my concepts of her have to give way to who she really is, and it’s the same with God – our concepts of God. C.S. Lewis had an amazing statement that, in his mercy he must destroy all our finest concepts of him. That our theology is already a set of concepts that have to be redeemed. Torrance said the atonement is as much the redeeming of our theology and concepts of God as it is of our sin.
… Because as Torrance often made clear in class when I sat under his teaching in Edinburgh of Matthew 11:27 he said is the key verse. Now most of us memorized Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden.” But he said, Matthew : 27 is the key verse, which says, “Only the Father knows the Son, and only the Son knows the Father, and those to whom it is given.” That’s a Trinitarian statement. Knowledge of God is self-knowledge. It’s knowledge of God that begins of the Father knows the Son, the Son knows the Father. How do you gain entry into that? You say, well, if only the Father knows the Son, then if I go to the Father, I’ll know the Son. Well, you can’t do that, because only the Son knows the Father. So, uh, ok, I’ll go to the Son to know the Father. Well, you can’t do that, because only the Father knows the Son. OK, then I’ll have to be brought into that. The Holy Spirit brings me into that inter-relationship between the Son and the Father. And then Torrance said, that’s where atonement takes place. Atonement didn’t just take place on the cross. Atonement takes place within the inner being of God – to God’s love and mercy. Jesus is the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. Jesus said, the Son is come into the world in order to assume human death, die that death, and in resurrection overcome that death. So that death no longer has the power to determine human destiny. No person’s death determines their destiny. And that’s the Judas thesis. That it’s Jesus that determines the destiny of Judas, not even his own action. But we’ll talk about that some day. But that’s Torrance’s theology of the Trinity, atonement takes place and a relationship is bound up in that. If you don’t have the Trinity then God becomes an abstract set of rules or concepts and we’re on our own – our own humanity then, has to, in a sense, bear the weight of worship and prayer. As it is, Jesus, in his own humanity, continues even now to be the one who prays with us and for us. Our worship is the worship of the Son to the Father (that’s James Torrance, the brother of Tom, wrote a book on that). True worship is the worship of the Son to the Father and we are brought into that worship. Our own humanity cannot bear the weight of authentic prayer and worship. The humanity of Christ does that.
and from interview 2
… the New Testament does not use the word Trinity. But it’s like every case, we have to think out the reality of the fact that Jesus said, "If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God." Paul said that, "In him is the fullness of the godhead dwells bodily." John says, he is the divine Logos that was with God from the beginning has now become flesh and dwelt among us. So if we accept that as the true narrative of Jesus’ life – the incarnation, then the answer to the question, "Where is God in all of this?" Well, God is both above and below. Our God is entirely God as the one above us and the one with us. God is the one carried off into captivity, God is the one with them, in their captivity. God is the one that comes out of captivity with them. But all the same time, God is the one above them.
Now in the New Testament, what was implicit or nascent has now come to birth, has now come into reality through Jesus who can now say, everything that was intimated by the presence of YHVH in the Old Testament is embodied in me, I am the temple, the temple is now within me, I embody the reality of God with you. And if you allow yourself to think in narrative form, like a story, then you can hold that together. The real advantage of a Narrative Theology is that it can hold together what otherwise would simply be paradox and we’d have to come up with one view or the other. So the Trinity then is a way in which the narrative of God’s reality can be both the one who created the world and is sovereign above us but is also the one that’s entered in along with us.
And the problem that we often face is, "how do we connect the reality of our doctrine of God with the reality of people’s lives?" And I say we do that in narrative form. Every person has a narrative – it’s their life, it’s their suffering, their losses, their pain, their questions they’re raising, "Where is God in my life?" That’s their narrative. So "My God why have you forsaken me?" – that’s the narrative of humanity. There’s also a narrative, God says, "I hear their cry" – the Old Testament. I heard them in Egypt. I love them, and because of my love, I’m going to come with them, I’m going to redeem them, I’m going to bring them out, and they will be a sign that I love, and am willing to include all the families of the earth. So there is that narrative of God’s love and God’s grace. Now the job of Pastoral Ministry is to connect those two narratives.
… Jesus makes real judgment. Jesus makes decisions, eternal decisions concerning human beings after they’ve died. That’s what Paul said, he’s the judge.
If everything was all decided like Calvin said, you can have a clerk of the court read the list. We wouldn’t need a judge.
We need a judge, we need somebody. We know who that judge is. Judge is the one sent by the Father to die for us – the one who has sent His Holy Spirit to bring us into that trusting relationship with him.
So to me that’s how the Trinity works here, it’s again, by this narrative it’s not simply an empty, formal, abstract doctrine. It can only be told as a story. That’s why I use stories, I use anecdotes, because that’s how the scripture uses narrative and story to get across these points.
… Living in relationship carries with it certain things that we believe about that. So the creed that comes along as a way in which affirm – yeah, this is true, what we live is true.
But if you simply want it to be truth and not living it, it is no longer true. And that’s where the Post-Modern comes in.
The Post-Modern tendency is to say modernity that came out of Europe and the Enlightenment took truth in place of up here as an abstract kind of propositional thing.
We’re more interested in meaning than truth. If something is true that’s not meaningful.
And people say, well, that’s all relativism, that’s purely subjective. Oh no. The reality of God – self-revelation if it’s not meaningful to our lives, the truth of it is irrelevant.
When Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life – that had to have meaning for them. Jesus said, are you going to leave also, the rest of the people have left? Peter said, to whom shall we go? Only you have the words of eternal life. We’re going to hang in there.
So, there’s an aspect of so called, Post-Modernity we have to look at carefully because aspects of it are more biblical than simply the Old-Modernity. A lot of the theology I learned was out of Modernity. Simply abstract truth and doctrine. And therefore to get back is to get back into what I call a kind of Pre-Modernity – get back into the Biblical Narrative,
… Paul’s theology was eschatological – that is to say, the Christ that he knew was the Christ already ascended into heaven. And Paul wasn’t simply a witness of the historical resurrected Christ, he is a witness to the Christ who is risen and is coming. So Paul said, it’s the coming Christ that’s our criterion, through the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the coming Christ.
So the church is emerging – it’s not emerging from the past, it’s emerging from the future. And that’s why it’s changing, and that’s why the church, the last chapter in my book, is that it’s about the Church that’s ahead of us not just the church behind us.
To go back and say, the church should be just like it was in the first century. No, no. The church should be like what it should be in the final century – when Jesus come, when Jesus come here, yeah, that’s what I have in mind. I want women to be free to preach. I had that in mind all along. I’m glad you finally discovered that.
I want Gentiles uncircumcised be part… circumcision is over. I’m glad you discovered that. So if you take the emerging church from the future as Paul said, that’s the Biblical paradigm for that. It’s not emerging out of modernity. It’s emerging out of God’s future in that sense.
… you have to recognize that people bring with them their own theology and to them it’s a matter of sometimes their personal identity and we have to sometimes make accommodations for that. So in our… that’s why even in the Reformation there had to be accommodations made to the people that one time they thought the sacraments were the means of conveying salvation. So Luther said we‘re going to still keep two of the sacraments: baptism and the Lord’s Supper and these will be very important and the real presence of Christ is there so because we can’t simply cut people off … learning how to walk in grace, like a child being adopted, it’s going to take a while.
So almost everyone of our denominations has to go through that and to have the wisdom, pastorally is to have good theology behind you. If you don’t have good theology, you’re going to knee-jerk react.
If you have good theology you can say God loves everyone, Jesus has died for everyone – God is a universalist of his love. Now when it comes to being redeemed and joined to God, then God is very particular. God is so particular he doesn’t want unredeemed people and he has a means for redemption – through the Holy Spirit.