In Wayman’s Terms pt. 2
Once again I had the chance to interview Dr. Wayman, but I ran into some scheduling issues. Therefore I asked Dr. Wayman if he would be fine typing out his answers to me, and said that he would be happy to do so. The interview aims to ask Dr. Wayman hard questions, and requires him to respond with relatable answers. I hope that these questions are in beneficial to you in some way. Know that the Q&A is meant to be practical, and useful to living a life in Christ.
1. What are some ways that people can get deeper into reading and learning more about theology?
Dr. Wayman: One of my favorite books right now for learning about God is Ron Heine’s Classical Christian Doctrine. It’s a great place to start. It’s an accessible introduction to the major beliefs Christians hold about the Trinity, creation, covenant, Jesus, the church, last things, etc. – teachings that were established in the first four centuries of the church. I’d also suggest reading the four Gospels; if you’re a careful reader, you’ll be begging for some guidance and theology to help you make sense of the four portraits of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The proper aim of theology, though, is friendship with God. Theology and devotion go together.
2. How do you think learning and exploring theology helps the average Christian grow in their faith?
Dr. Wayman: Learning about God – and specifically, God revealed in Jesus – can help Christians learn how to be better disciples. To say you don’t need theology, you just believe in Jesus, is to mislead yourself into thinking you don’t believe certain things about Jesus. That’s all theology is: learning how to see and say what Christians believe about Jesus and the difference he makes. And once we get a good sense of who Jesus is and what Jesus does (Christology), then we’ll have a better idea of what it means to follow him and become a friend of God (ecclesiology).
3. Who are some theologians who you look up to, or think are great for beginners in theology?
Dr. Wayman: Stanley Hauerwas and Sam Wells are top-tier, for sure. Their writings can be dense at times, so beginners can also check out Sam Wells’ sermons at St. Martin-in-the-Fields. I have learned a lot from so many others, but to name just a few: Justo González, Frances Young, and Robert Wilken. Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and the Cappadocian Fathers are among my favorite early theologians.
1. How do you think the relationship between the perception of The Kingdom we see in the gospels versus the church we see today? What do you think are some positives, and negatives?
Dr. Wayman: The church, when faithful, is always straining to see and live in the kingdom of God. When we’re at our best, we’re taking risks and embracing the adventure and surprise of following Jesus the best we can. When the church is getting it right, it’s still making mistakes, but it’s being honest about its failures, confessing them, being forgiven, and then restored, and trying to follow Jesus all over again. When the church is at its worst, it’s sold out to a false gospel that promises good news but only delivers recycled common sense and consumer-friendly products in the service of other gods. Bonhoeffer calls this cheap grace; I call it a fake church. Fortunately, God can (and does) work through anything.
2. I think a lot of people have a wide variety of answers when it comes to this next question. What do you think the bible means when it says “New Heavens and New Earth” and how does that factor into the Christian’s everyday lifestyle?
Dr. Wayman: I’d go to N.T. Wright for this question. He’s one of the best biblical theologians today. Key texts for new creation/new earth are Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 5, and Revelation 21. The Bible helps us imagine a new creation that’s full of God’s friends – people who are reconciled and full of love for God and one another, and people who know how to party with God. (God loves to party – just read the Gospels)
3. Finally, what are some practical ways for people to engage higher ideas into their everyday lives. How do we apply some of the more high and abstract ideas to the places of our own context? Of course, this is different for everyone, but how do we know we are applying those ideas correctly?
Dr. Wayman: I guess I’d flip this question on its head. What are some practical ways to love God better, to love the people you live with, work with, and bump into every day? I think this question is what theology is trying to address. I’m not too interested in engaging ‘higher ideas’ for its own sake. Theology is no use if it doesn’t help us love God and others better; good theology does this. So for example, the doctrine of the Trinity is not about trying to engage high ideas; it’s about trying to make sense of what it means to believe in one God and worship Jesus. Our practical, everyday lives of discipleship drive us into theology. You can’t escape it! Christians are theologians whether they like it or not; and for those who don’t like it, they’re probably bad ones.
As for application, it’s always an improvisation. The good news is, we know how the story ends (new creation and life with God – both of which God brings about), so in the meantime we have the freedom to fail. Faithfulness is about being daring enough to follow Jesus, wherever he may draw us, knowing that sometimes we will get it wrong. But God gives us resources for when we get it wrong so that we can keep following Jesus.