For Ray Anderson (1925-2009) - with thanks

by Kim on June 23, 2009

“For over thirty years, Ray Anderson has been quietly writing a body of work that is remarkable in its ability to awaken both theology and the church to a theology that actually intersects with the ministry of the church and a view of ministry that dwells in a deep place of reflection… Donald Mackinnon, the noted Cambridge theologian who has received new interest in recent years, spoke of [his] ‘nervous, restless quality’ …”
–Christian D. Kettler, Friends University

The American pastor and theologian Ray Anderson died on Sunday, Father’s Day. The above quote comes from an obituary that you will find at Ben Myers’ blog “Faith and Theology”. I urge you to read it.

I first came across Ray Anderson four years into my own ministry, when I bought a book of his on spec called Theology, Death and Dying (1986). As a young minister confronting the in-your-face realities of death and dying, I found myself starving on a diet of the work of Colin Murray Parks and Elizabeth Kübler Ross - and even C. S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed - that we had been fed as ordinands. Those were the days of the church’s Counselling Captivity, from which we are just beginning to escape. Blow the psychology, I thought, I need some theology here, and something thick and filling, not the usual pastoral platitudes - grief can’t manage on gruel. Drawing on Barth, Jüngel, Rahner, Thielicke, and T. F.Torrance, Ray Anderson fed me with the bread of life.

Over the last couple of years I have met Ray electronically at “Faith and Theology”, and he has continued to nourish my soul, both in his posts and in the exchange of comments. When I was looking for some “name” theologians to do some blurbs for my book, Ben actually suggested Ray, were it not for the fact that he had heard that Ray was quite ill … Meanwhile I have bought and read his Historical Transcendence and the Reality of God (1975) and The Soul of Ministry: Forming Leaders for God’s People (1997), while On Being Human: Essays in Theological Anthropology (1982) is in my in-tray. I have just moved it to the top of the pile.

Here is an excerpt from The Soul of Ministry (pp. 12-13). I think it is nicely expressive of Ray’s restlessness.

When truth is pushed to the point of absurdity, it becomes foolishness.

“Theology that cannot stand the ‘absurdity test’ is likely to be a poor theology, if not a dangerous theology. I once participated in a debate sponsored by college students over the issue of divorce and remarriage. My counterpart in the debate argued his position strongly. It was absolutely impossible to permit the remarriage of a divorced person on the grounds that Jesus forbid it in his teaching….

“My argument that the actions of Jesus were as authoritative as his teaching did not cause him to waver. Finally, a student raised his hand and asked: Professor, you say that the sin of divorce, while it can be forgiven, allows for no remarriage; is that correct?’ The answer was yes. ‘Then is it not also true that in the case of the death of one’s spouse the surviving spouse could remarry, as that would not violate the teaching of Jesus?’ Again, the response was affirmative. I quickly saw where the good professor was being led, and remained silent as the lamb was led to slaughter!

“‘Then what about this,’ the student asked, ‘in Bakersfield there was a pastor who became angry with his wife and shot and killed her. When he gets out of prison, is he now free to remarry, seeing that instead of divorcing his wife he killed her?’

“It was too late. The branch had been sawed off, and the professor, consistent with his formal logic to the end, had to admit that, ‘yes, this man could remarry!’ The laughter of the students over the absurdity of this case reduced his agument to folly in their eyes. He, of course, expressing deep discomfort over the logical outcome of his position, remained unmoved.

“What is my point? It was the ministry of Jesus, not merely his teaching, that revealed the character and purpose of God. Over and over again, Jesus appealed to his listeners to practice discernment in evaluating his ministry.

“‘What do you think?’ was a favorite gambit of Jesus.”

And of Ray too. May he rest - restlessly - in peace.

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Famous but dead « Faith in Search of
11.09.10 at 3:15 pm

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1

DH 06.23.09 at 3:57 pm

Well with regard to the professor against divorce and remarriage, isn’t the simple answer that he didn’t give is that since any sin can be repented of that the remarriage can be forgiven? If the professor stated that then I believe the laughing of the student would not be there. So, the answer should have been “Yes he could remarry but even that could be repented of.” This also doesn’t get into the whole concept of annulments let alone divorce for reasons of sexual immorality and physical abuse which Jesus/ God (being God) does make an exception for which would not be a sin. However, remarrying while it may be sin can still be repented of so the professor didn’t answer the question so as to properly defend his position. It also is NOT “absurd” but a proper understanding of what Jesus specifically says in His Word.

2

DH 06.23.09 at 4:00 pm

It was Jesus’s ministry that was consistent with His teaching and it was Jesus’s teaching that was consitent with His ministry that revealed the character and prupose of God. So yes “It was the ministry of Jesus, not merely his teaching, that revealed the character and purpose of God.” IS correct and I agree with it.

3

Tony Buglass 06.23.09 at 4:23 pm

“remarrying while it may be sin can still be repented of”

I don’t understand how anyone can repent of a remarriage while remaining in that marriage. Repenting of sin means turning away from it, not saying sorry for it.

4

Kim 06.23.09 at 6:03 pm

DH - he makes Pavlov’s dogs look like radical free-thinkers.

5

DH 06.23.09 at 8:16 pm

Tony, wouldn’t staying in the marriage mean turning away from it? Also, if one has a marriage that is annuled solely for sexual immorality and physical abuse then the remarrying is not remarrying and therefore not sin. However, if one reamrries and repents and stays in the marriage irregardless of annulment (which I addressed) or not then by staying in the remarriage that IS turning away from it by not remarrying again.

6

Tony Buglass 06.23.09 at 8:47 pm

Sorry, pal, your convoluted logic has completely lost me. Let me put my point quite simply:
- the argument is that to remarry is sinful;
- to repent (Hebrew “shub” to turn) means to turn away from sin - so if my sin was getting drunk, repentance must mean turning away from the booze and staying sober, or it isn’t repentance; so if getting remarried is sinful, to repent of this (adulterous?) relationship must mean turning away from it;
- therefore repenting of a remarriage cannot happen as long as I stay in that relationship.

That simple.

7

DH 06.23.09 at 9:41 pm

Tony, you are asking the person to do further sin by divorcing again so you are promoting further immorality. So therefore repentence is where a person is honest about the situation and repents and God responds by making it pure. Therefore when a person repents of remarrying God desires for the person to stay married post repentence. Therefore the logic IS correct.

So I still stand by this “Also, if one has a marriage that is annuled solely for sexual immorality and physical abuse then the remarrying is not remarrying and therefore not sin. However, if one reamrries and repents and stays in the marriage irregardless of annulment (which I addressed) or not then by staying in the remarriage that IS turning away from it by not remarrying again.”

8

Tony Buglass 06.23.09 at 11:31 pm

I’ll agree with your comments about remarrying after annulment for abuse not being sin. But you simply don’t understand what repentance means. In fact, I’m NOT asking a person to divorce again, rather I’m arguing that under your definitions in the case you offered, repentance for the marriage is not possible. Regret, yes, repentance, no.

In such a situation, grace and forgiveness must be otherwise explained.

9

Wood 06.24.09 at 8:45 am

Lads, someone has just died.

Is this really the place?

10

Tony Buglass 06.24.09 at 10:09 am

You tell me - would Ray want us to maintain a respectful silence, or grapple with getting it right?

11

DH 06.24.09 at 2:03 pm

Wood, is it really the place to have at a time when a person died to present discussions that put a person down in an argument? Maybe other examples of Ray’s life that would endear people to him would be more appropriate?

The post should have stopped at ““When truth is pushed to the point of absurdity, it becomes foolishness.” The rest of the post just invites people to respond.

I still stand by the repentence by way of this: “So therefore repentence is where a person is honest about the situation and repents and God responds by making it pure. Therefore when a person repents of remarrying God desires for the person to stay married post repentence.” by way of turning away by not divorcing (other than sexual immorality and physical abuse) and remarrying again (outside of those previous situations).

12

DH 06.24.09 at 2:10 pm

Tony, it appears we agree with what is sin annulment for adultry and physical abuse not being sin; divorce for adultry and sexual immorality not being sin and remarrying after annulment not being sin. However, it appears it is a “semantics thing” with regard to the word repentence. I still stand by the word term you appear to not.

Either way the professor that Ray discussed with gave an incomplete answer and it would have been interesting what Ray’s answer would have been if the professor would have stated the complete details we have discussed.

13

Tony Buglass 06.24.09 at 3:00 pm

Well, I reckon understanding what a word actually means is more than a “semantics thing.” Too many concepts have been devalued - I’ve heard people talk about grief when they mean feeling sorry, about repentance when they mean remorse, about depression when they mean feeling sorry for themselves, etc.

The biblical ideas in which our response to God are expressed are big ideas, embracing the whole person and the whole life. The words addressing his approach and response to us are even bigger - I reckon “grace” is by far the biggest and probably most trivialised word in the lexicon; if our reflections on holiness, justification, repentance, etc, are not bathed in the light of his grace, they become so much self-righteousness. And that’s why I think this issue is one of which Ray would approve.

14

DH 06.24.09 at 4:28 pm

Tony, when I said “semantics” I was referring to the agreement on “turning away”. I’m focusing on one thing you are focusing on another.

All that aside, I totally agree that holiness,justification, repentence, etc. needs to be looked at in light of His Grace. At the same time, God’s Grace needs to be looked at in light of His Holiness, justification, repentence, etc. This passage comes to mind and I’m sure you have heard it before but I feel it still pertains:

“What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin that Grace may abound? God forbid! How are we who are dead to sin live any longer in it?”

Just to give further insight, notice it says “who are dead to sin”. Not everybody is “dead to sin” by way of the passages: “….be dead to sin and alive to God. Therefore don’t let sin reign in your mortal budy so that you obey its evil desires.” “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, IF the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does NOT have the Spirit of Christ, he does NOT belong to Christ.”

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