Ray Anderson

Ray Anderson and The Gospel according to Judas

Was chatting to an old friend tonight about Ray Anderson‘s work on Judas (my favourite saint). I indicated that Anderson’s popular-level book The Gospel According to Judas: Is There a Limit to God’s Forgiveness?, and his later book Judas and Jesus: Amazing Grace for the Wounded Soul, remain two of the most profound treatments on Judas that I have encountered. There’s also Anderson’s very powerful sermon on Judas (given, I understand, at Fuller Theological Seminary in 1998), a copy of which seems to only be available these days to iTunes users. I can’t remember where I got this copy from but I hope that I haven’t broken some ridiculous copyright law uploading it here. It begins proper 4.45 minutes into the video. The sound is not great. The theology is.

For the benefit of my dear readers, I’ve also uploaded a copy of Anderson’s chapter ‘Will Judas Be in Heaven?’ (which was freely available some years ago from Anderson’s own webpage) from his book Dancing with Wolves While Feeding the Sheep: The Musings of a Maverick Theologian (Wipf & Stock, 2001).

Some Sat’day morning stuff

  • Ray S. Anderson on God’s Presence in Dying.
  • The ever-engaging Slavoj Žižek on ‘Are we living in the end times?’
  • David Bentley Hart on anarchism and monarchism: ‘The ideal king would be rather like the king in chess: the most useless piece on the board, which occupies its square simply to prevent any other piece from doing so, but which is somehow still the whole game. There is something positively sacramental about its strategic impotence. And there is something blessedly gallant about giving one’s wholehearted allegiance to some poor inbred ditherer whose chief passions are Dresden china and the history of fly-fishing, but who nonetheless, quite ex opere operato, is also the bearer of the dignity of the nation, the anointed embodiment of the genius gentis—a kind of totem or, better, mascot’.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is ‘a new Mandela’.
  • Byron Smith posts 12 responses to a series of converging crises in our economy, energy and ecology.
  • Ben Myers on smiling and sadness.
  • David Congdon negotiates his ecclesial identity.
  • Stanley Hauerwas writes an ‘open letter to young Christians on their way to college’.
  • Tomorrow, I will engage in my first (the first of many, to be sure!) real act of parental irresponsibility for Samuel: he will be placed on the road to (or in the river of) death and made an outlaw; i.e., he will, in Kim Fabricius’ words, ‘enter this strange new household of the church, and this strange new world of being a Christian’. He will enter the castra caelestia. Exhausted by the event, he’ll then come home and sleep, or that’s the plan anyway.
  • BTW: I’m not sure what significance I should attach to it, if any, but this is my 1500th post.

Baptism, ordination and God’s calling forth of faith

ServantBen’s recent post on Baptism and ordination reminded me of some stuff that Ray Anderson once prepared on the relationship between the two. Anderson cautioned that we understand ‘ordination’ not only in relation to baptism, but also in relation to God’s work of calling forth faith, God’s work of guiding and enabling the whole community of faith, God’s care for all people. Ordination must be seen in the light of this broader movement of the divine will – that is, in the context of God’s good purposes for creation. So, the ministry to which a pastor is ordained is deeply and inherently about a life in God, and it means participation in that life. This means that ordination makes no sense not merely apart from baptism but – and more fundamentally – apart from Jesus Christ, and apart from his service to the Father on behalf of the world. So T.F. Torrance (who is not a particularly great friend of Ben’s):

Christ was Himself the diakonos par excellence whose office it was not only to prompt the people of God in their response to the divine mercy and to be merciful themselves, not only to stand out as the perfect model or example of compassionate service to the needy and distressed, but to provide in Himself and in His own deeds of mercy the creative ground and source of all such diakonia. He was able to do that because in Him God Himself condescended to share with men their misery and distress, absorbed the sharpness of their hurt and suffering into Himself, and poured Himself out in infinite love to relieve their need, and He remains able to do that because He is Himself the outgoing of the innermost Being of God toward men in active sympathy and compassion, the boundless mercy of God at work in human existence, unlimited in His capacity to deliver them out of all their troubles. – Thomas F. Torrance, ‘Service in Jesus Christ’ in Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry (ed. Ray S. Anderson; Edinburgh/Grand Rapids: T&T Clark/Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979), 718.

Ben’s post, and the comments that follow (particularly those from the Revd Bruce Hamill who laments ordination ‘to a kind of generic “leadership” which covers all the bases of being a “professional Christian”), reminded me of a powerful essay that I read just last week by Dietrich Bonhoeffer wherein he warns against leadership becoming vested in the concept of the Leader (der Führer), where the humanity of the leader becomes concealed in a role:

Where there is community there is leadership … The group is the womb of the Leader. It gives him everything, even his authority. It is his person to which all the authority, all the honour and all the glory of the group is transferred. The Leader holds no office independent of the group. The group expects the Leader who derives from the group in this way to be the bodily incorporation of its ideal. This task, impossible in itself, is made easier for the Leader by the fact that the group which produced him now sees him already bathed completely in the light of its ideals. It sees him, not in his reality but in his vocation. It is essential for the image of the Leader that the group does not see the face of the one who goes before, but sees him only from behind as the figure stepping out ahead. His humanity is veiled in his Leader’s form … The Leader is what no other person can be, an individual, a personality. The relationship between those led and their leader is that the former transfer their own rights to him. It is this one form of collectivism which turns into intensified individualism. For that reason, the true concept of community, which rests on responsibility, on the recognition that individuals belong responsibly one to another, finds no fulfillment here. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, ‘The Nazi Rise to Power’ in No Rusty Swords: Letters, Lectures and Notes from the Collected Works (ed. John Bowden; London: Collins, 1970), 191, 192, 195.

Now I really need to get back to my reading on Celtic Christianity … some of us have lectures to prepare.

Things to read while eating your Saturday toast …

Ray S. Anderson (1925-2009): Requiescat in pace

Anderson RayChristian D. Kettler (via Faith & Theology), Kim Fabricius (via Connexions) and Fuller Theological Seminary note the passing of Professor Ray S. Anderson. I was introduced to Professor Anderson’s work some twenty years ago, and since then it has had an increasingly influential impact on my pastoral ministry and teaching. It was Professor Anderson who taught me that ministry precedes theology, who modelled so eloquently what a theology and ministry determined by the incarnation might look like, and who helped – perhaps more than anyone else – to earth (though not uncritically) the mammoth contributions of Barth, Bonhoeffer and TF Torrance for many a young pastor. It is difficult to voice just how indebted to God I feel for this gracious servant.

For those who never had the pleasure of hearing Professor Anderson preach, his sermon on ‘The Gospel According to Judas’ and that on ‘The Ministry of Water’ (on John 2) can be downloaded via iTunes. There’s also two interviews with Professor Anderson available here and here.

Sex and Human Existence (or, Engaging Sex in the Right Places)

Magritte loversHalden’s and Ben’s recent posts on sex and personhood reminded me of Ray Anderson’s essay ‘Bonding Without Bondage’ (in On Being Family: A Social Theology of the Family). Anderson’s essay is on marriage, and begins by identifying a subtle but important distinction between a ‘theological’ view (i.e. that determined by theology proper and its Gospel shape) and an ‘ethical’ view (i.e. that determined by appeals to natural law) of marriage. The former is that held by Karl Barth, the latter by Emil Brunner. Anderson recalls that for Brunner marriage is not good in se, but only as it provides the optimum containment for what is otherwise unbridled impulse. For Brunner, sexuality is sanctified only through marriage, unless one chooses total abstinence. In other words, Brunner suggests that the erotic sexual impulse is an ‘unnatural’ and ‘unbridled biological instinct’ which can only be consecrated through marriage, or the ethical demand of abstinence (Love and Marriage, 183, 195). Barth, conversely, contends that human sexuality is a determination of human existence as the image and likeness of God and thus exists prior to, and independent of, marriage as a true order.

Anderson highlights that whereas for Brunner sexuality is sanctified as an ethical existence under the command of God only in the marriage relation, for Barth the command of God sanctifies human persons by including their sexuality within their humanity. In other words, the sexual relation of woman and man has already been constituted a true order of humanity, as an integral part of total humanity as male and female. Marriage, therefore, however conceived, integrates sexuality into total humanity.

Anderson observes that Brunner’s position of human sexuality ad extra to human personhood has serious consequences for understanding the role of sexuality in the case of the unmarried person as well as for a discussion of the matter of homosexuality. If we follow Brunner and understand the married couple as the basic model of man and woman as a community of love and all other relations as peripheral to it, then marriage will be offered as the highest – if not the only – possibility for authentic personhood. If, on the other hand, we follow Barth that humanity as determined by God is cohumanity, existing concretely as either male or female, then marriage (however conceived) is seen not as a ‘containment’ of that which has no other ethical point of reference, but as the ‘contextualizing’ of that which comes to expression in the total encounter of persons.

loversOne of the main points that Anderson seeks to bring home is that the divine command (‘What God has joined together …’) does not take place behind our backs, independent of human response and recognition. While marriage is grounded in God’s covenant love, it involves the mutual recognition, choice, and commitment of two people who are brought together by God in covenant partnership. God joins together actually as well as theoretically. God joins together in and by the encounter and decision of the two who form the union: not only on the basis of this human act of love but coincidental with it and as its objective validation. What begins as affection and feelings of love is absorbed into personal will expressed as commitment in marriage (with or without ‘a wedding’).

According to Barth, love, in contradistinction to mere affection,

‘may be recognised by the fact that it is determined, and indeed determined upon the life-partnership of marriage. Love does not question; it gives an answer. Love does not think; it knows. Love does not hesitate; it acts. Love does not fall into raptures; it is ready to undertake responsibilities. Love puts behind it all the Ifs and Buts, all the conditions, reservations, obscurities and uncertainties that may arise between a man and a woman. Love is not only affinity and attraction; it is union. Love makes these two persons indispensable to each other’. (CD III.4, 221)

Of course, one could – and indeed should – ask, what has love got to do with it?

Still, while certain to set marriage within the absolute determination of divine command, Anderson is equally concerned to not set marriage above the reality and practice of human existence. In this way, he avoids the idealism(s) often associated with marriage. He also notes that marriage can never be the solution to problems of personal unhappiness or loneliness. It can never be the relational horizon within which one expects to meet all his or her personal needs. Marriage, he contends, offers an expression of love and sexuality not realisable in any other human relationship, but it is no more human than any other human task or relationship. And, in particular, because marriage takes place under the divine command,

‘the sphere of the relationships of man and woman as they are embodied and lived out among us human beings is not simply a labyrinth of errors and failings, a morass of impurity, or a vale of tears at disorder and distress. For by the grace of God … there are always in this sphere individual means of conservation and rescue, of deliverance and restoration, assured points and lines even where everything seems to vacillate and dissolve, elements of order in the midst of disorder … And if there is no perfect marriage, there are marriages which for all their imperfection can be and are maintained and carried through, and in the last resort not without promise and joyfulness, arising with a certain necessity, and fragmentarily, at least, undertaken in all sincerity as a work of free life-fellowship. There is also loyalty even in the midst of disloyalty and constancy amid open inconstancy … Thus even where man does not keep the command, the command keeps man … He who here commands does not only judge and forgive: He also helps and heals’. (CD III.4, 239–40)

Ray Anderson on Marriage

‘Is it impossible for God to work in the life of one who has suffered an irretrievable loss of the “one flesh” relationship in such a way that he cannot or will not join this person together with another in a new marriage? Or, dare we suggest that the command of God can both put to death and raise again persons who experience dissolution of the marriage bond? Would it be too much to paraphrase the words of Jesus and say, “Marriage is made for man and not man for marriage!” If a theology of marriage insists that marriage is a work of God and exists under the command of God, there does seem to be a basis to suggest that in the situation where sinful humanity has experienced brokenness and loss, the commandment of God is the presence of God himself at the center of that person’s life to effect new being and new possibilities. This would be to take the authority of Scripture seriously as directing us to God himself as the one who summons us in Scripture to acknowledge him as the author of life rather than of a “law that kills.”

… Because God joins himself to the temporal social relationship consummated as a marriage and recognized by society and the church, that marriage is indissoluble on any grounds whatsoever other than the command of God. If a marriage comes to the point of utter breakdown so that it is a disorder rather than an order of human relationship, and inherently destructive to the persons involved, one can only seek to bring that relationship under God’s judgment. For Christians, this means that the breakdown of a marriage to the point of utter failure is a betrayal of the covenant love that God has invested in that marriage, and is therefore a sin. To attempt to find legal or moral grounds on which to be excused from the marriage contract is, in our opinion, untenable. The scriptural teaching on marriage and divorce clearly brings the marriage under the judgment of God as the one who has the absolute right of determining its status.

If Christians, and the church, do not have a process to deal with sin and with grace as a work of God, then there will be little hope for those who become victims and casualties of hopeless marriages. But where the work of God is understood as his contemporary presence and power under the authority of Scripture to release those who are in bondage and create a new status where “all things are new,” then the church as the community of Christ will have the courage to say NO to a continued state of disorder and YES to the forgiveness and grace of God that brings persons under a new authority of divine healing and hope. We are speaking here, by analogy, of a “death and resurrection” experience as the work of God in the midst of human lives. To create a “law of marriage” that would deny God the authority and power to put a marriage to death and to raise the persons to new life through repentance and forgiveness would appear to be a desperate and dangerous course of action. What God has joined together, indeed, let not man put asunder. But where God puts asunder as a judgment against sin and disorder, and therefore as his work, let not man uphold a law against God.

… The command of God by which marriage as a human, social relation is given the status of covenant partnership is a positive and rich resource of growth and renewal. What God “joins together” he attends with love and faithfulness. This is a promise and commitment of God himself to the marriage relation as a source of love, healing, and hope. The Christian community participates in this work of God by providing a context of support and enabling grace for each marriage that belongs to the community.

Those who undertake the calling of ministry to families through pastoral care and counseling have as their first priority the ministry of encouragement and support for marriages. This is a constructive and positive reinforcement of marriage and prevents its deterioration into a shell of the love and commitment it is meant to express. God is faithful to weak and problem-plagued marriages – not merely angry at unfaithfulness. God is patient and loving to marriages where love has been lost – not merely angry at our own anger and lovelessness. God is hopeful toward marriages that are ready to crash – not merely angry at our incompetence. God never gives up on his “joining together,” because God is himself the covenant partner of marriage. This produces a bonding that never is allowed to become bondage’. – Ray S. Anderson, ‘Bonding without Bondage’, in Ray S. Anderson and Dennis B. Guernsey, On Being Family: A Social Theology of the Family (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1986), 103–4.

Ray Anderson on theology as practical

Reading Ray Anderson is always good for the soul, the head, and the hands. He writes as one who is simultaneously clinician and patient – pointing ever away from himself to Christ as both God’s Act of reconciliation and God’s Word of revelation. Like all good theologians, Anderson does his theology apostle-like; that is, daily at the coalface with people in their doubt, grief, death, guilt and repentance. Not one word of the NT came from the pen of a cloistered cleric! NT theology was hammered out not from articles and commentaries and academic conferences but on the anvil of existential need, seeking at every turn to bring every situation under the scrutiny and grace, not of Scripture, but of Jesus Christ, mindful of the fact that Jesus did not come to preach the Gospel (or the Bible) so much as he came to make a Gospel to preach. Ray Anderson continues in this tradition … and that’s one reason why I love reading him.

Anyway, here’s a few sentences from his great introductory essay on practical theology:

‘What makes theology practical is not the fitting of orthopedic devices to theoretical concepts in order to make them walk. Rather, theology occurs as a divine partner joins us on our walk, stimulating our reflection and inspiring us to recognize the living Word, as happened to the two walking on the road to Emmaus on the first Easter (Lk 24) … At the center of the discussion of the nature of practical theology is the issue of the relation of theory to praxis. If theory precedes and determines practice, then practice tends to be concerned primarily with methods, techniques and strategies for ministry, lacking theological substance. If practice takes priority over theory, ministry tends to be based on pragmatic results rather than prophetic revelation … Barth, from the beginning, resisted all attempts to portray theory and praxis in opposition to one another, In his early Church Dogmatics he described any distinction between “theoretical” and “practical” as a “primal lie, which has to be resisted in principal”. The understanding of Christ as the light of life can be understood only as a “theory which has its origin and goal in praxis”‘. – Ray S. Anderson, The Shape of Practical Theology: Empowering Ministry with Theological Praxis (Downers Grove: IVP, 2001), 12, 14, 15.

Ray Anderson on the ‘difference’ Christ makes

‘The kenotic community as an imperative which the Incarnation demands permits no distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian which resides intrinsically in the Christian (or the church) as such. When one ‘defines’ the church or the Christian, then, the distinctive must be solely in the ‘difference’ which has its source in the historical transcendence of God. The ‘difference’ is Christ, not that redemption is set over against creation, but so that man is liberated to participate in Christ’s ek-static fulfillment of all creaturehood through the life of the Spirit. The ‘difference’ is the centre (Christ) and not in distinctions drawn between men, or between the church and the world as entities’. – Ray S. Anderson, ‘Living in the World’, in Ray S. Anderson (ed.)., Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry. Edinburgh/Grand Rapids: T. & T. Clark/Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979, 591.

Anderson on the Kenotic Community

‘The kenotic community as an imperative which the Incarnation demands permits no distinction between the Christian and the non-Christian which resides intrinsically in the Christian (or the church) as such. When one ‘defines’ the church or the Christian, then, the distinctive must be solely in the ‘difference’ which has its source in the historical transcendence of God. The ‘difference’ is Christ, not that redemption is set over against creation, but so that man is liberated to participate in Christ’s ek-static fulfillment of all creaturehood through the life of the Spirit. The ‘difference’ is the centre (Christ) and not in distinctions drawn between men, or between the church and the world as entities’. – Ray S. Anderson, ‘Living in the World’, in Ray S. Anderson (ed.), Theological Foundations for Ministry: Selected Readings for a Theology of the Church in Ministry (Edinburgh/Grand Rapids: T. & T. Clark/Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979), 591.