Chad interviews Dr. Glenn Kreider, a teacher at the Institute, about what it means to have a relationship with God.
Intro (Keith): Welcome to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast, where we continue to equip leaders with biblical skills for a lifetime of ministry.
Chad (00:13): And welcome back to the Kanakuk Institute Podcast, Chad Hampsch with you once again, and, kind of got a treat for y’all today. For those of y’all that are alumni out there, y’all probably remember Dr. Glenn Kreider, one of our professors, he comes from Dallas Theological Seminary every year, teaches on the theology of God, and just insightful in so many ways, and so grateful, Glenn, thank you so much for being here in Branson. It’s good to have you back.
Glenn (00:38): Great to be here.
Chad (00:41): Tell the audience, and some of our students know you, you’ve been here for a really long time. Some of you have been out for a long time. Just a little bit about your faith story, and how you came to faith, and how did you end up now, doing what you do, which is investing in the next generation.
Glenn (00:55): Yes, so I grew up in a Christian family, in a Christian home. I grew up in the church. Have been a believer, I literally cannot remember a time when I didn’t believe the facts of the gospel. And I really don’t think I can remember a time where I didn’t believe that the facts of the gospel were related to me by grace through faith. But I’ve always been the person in the room who’s asking questions and trying to figure out how stuff fits together. I didn’t know until much later that I was wired to be a systematic theologian. When things don’t fit, or when I hear contradictory things, or when I hear dismissive treatment of what seem to be important topics, I tried to figure out how to put them together. So it’s really not surprising, I guess, I ended up studying systematic theology, which is a way of integrating all the truth about God from any and every source. And then, ended up at… I went to Dallas, for both a masters and a PhD and was fortunate enough to be asked to join the faculty. And so, I mean it’s… I’ve had a handful of jobs in my life, a handful of things that I’ve done, that I’ve pursued. Most of what has come my way has come as a gift of God’s grace.
Chad (02:15): You mentioned your love for systematic theology. I think for a lot of people, Glenn, and you probably hear this in the seminary a lot, but they hear the word “theology” and then immediately pushes something inside them. “I’m not a theologian. I care about the gospel, but I don’t care about theology,” a lot of that attitude. Where do you think that stems from? What are the misconceptions that we need to unpack about that?
Glenn (02:40): I think that’s our fault. I think it comes from theologians, self-identified theologians, heresy hunters, defenders of the faith, attackers of people who hold different views, that create in the minds of people, a negative attitude. And I really do think the way we do theology is incredibly important. So what I do in my first theology course, which is on theological method, we define what theology is, and if theology is words about God, and everybody has some view of God and lives in light of that. Atheists are theologians. They reject belief in God or reject that there is enough reason to believe in God. They are A-theists, they are not-theists. So, to try to help people understand, I guess, two things. One, that in a real sense, we all are responding to this God who created the world in which we live, but then secondly, there are different categories. So, there is a sense in which everybody is a scientist, everybody is an accountant, but then there are people whose discipline is in that field. So, you know, everybody thinks about God, and our questions about the Bible are theological questions. So how do we read and why do we read these texts the way that we do? The gospel is a theological question, what is the gospel and how do we communicate it? Those are important questions, but I really do think we theologians have a public relations problem, and it is increasingly important for us to model in the world in which we live, the grace and compassion and mercy of the God we claim to represent.
Chad (04:23): Yeah, that’s good. And just so I’m making sure I’m hearing you correctly. Actually, theology is the study of God, it is what the words of God are saying in scripture and if we love God or want to know God, there is great value in us knowing theology. Is that, am I hearing you correctly?
Glenn (04:39): I’m going to push back a little bit on the language of “study of God.” We don’t actually study God, because God is not an object that we can study. In order for us to understand anything about him, he has to come to us. So the historic definition of theology is “words or discourse about God.” I think that’s a whole lot better. So, we’re talking about who this God is and we’re doing so based upon how he has come to make himself known to us in the Bible of course. But as we read through the Bible, we realize he claims to have revealed himself in the world that he has created, “His eternal power and divine nature,” Romans 1 says plain and clear. And then ultimately He is revealed in his Son. And if somebody says to me, “But we don’t have access to the Son,” well yes you do. The church is the body of Christ. In a real sense, we don’t have this one-to-one relationship with the incarnate Jesus who’s walking on the Earth, but we do have this one-to-one relationship with his eyes and hands and feet and spleen and I’m not identifying any of those things for any of us.
Chad (05:48): So you mentioned in there, you know, relationship with God. And, you know, we’re not going to get into high-level theology, but really, it’s a wonderful truth of the Christian faith that we can actually have a relationship with God. When we say we can have a relationship with God, what does that actually mean? And maybe a second part to that question, Glenn, is how is that unique to the Christian faith verses maybe other religions or belief systems?
Glenn (06:14):Yeah, it’s pretty hard to talk about that without some degree of high-level theology. Here’s what we believe: that the creator of the universe, the sovereign, transcendent, omniscient, omnipotent one so wants to be known, that he created a world that, to which he can demonstrate who he is. And he created human beings in his image and likeness, and he has condescended – I really like that word – humbled himself, and come to us. We could never have a relationship with God unless he takes the initiative. If, for no other reason, that we wouldn’t even exist unless God had taken the initiative to bring the universe into existence, make the Earth a habitable place, ordain that we were born when we were born. And all of those things that are part, so that God so wants to be known. So it’s called a relationship because it’s a real, I don’t know how to… I can’t think of a word other than relationship. We have this real interaction with a real person, actually three persons in the Godhead. So that in the same way that we understand a bit what it’s like to have a relationship with human beings, we have a relationship with the creator of human beings. Because he has taken the initiative to come to us. But what’s different about this relationship from other, from human relationships, is I can see you and I can smell you and I can touch you and I can be annoyed by you, and all of those things that make relationships hard. God, on the other hand, is not visible and tangible in the same way that a relationship with a human being is. And so there’s a sense of mystery involved that is, I think part of that comes down to the reality that according to the scriptures, particularly Jesus and the New Testament writers, the most important thing that summarizes the law and the prophets is that you love God and love others. And as John says, how can you love God, whom you’ve never seen, and not love you brother, who you have seen? So that in a real sense, our relationship to God is mediated through our relationship with other people. People other than ourselves. It’s mediated through relationship with people. I know what God is like because I’ve interacted with God’s people. And they have not always been perfectly like God, but we have this revelation of who God is and how he is, so we’re able to assess when somebody is not, and that we remember that we’re not perfect either. I think this is also true. That relationships are always evolving and changing and developing. God doesn’t change in who he is. But surely there’s a difference in the way God related to me when I was six years old, than when he relates to me now that I’m 36 years old. Don’t argue with me.
Chad (09:22): That’s good. As we interact with people walking out their faith, I know I hear a lot of people wrestling with this idea of: my relationship with God feels like a checklist. And almost, Glenn, like they’re trying to earn their Father’s love. You know? I’ve got to have a quiet time, I’ve got to go to church, and they develop, kind of, this checklist mentality in their minds. What encouragement would you have for them just to rightly orient that idea of the disciplines and their value, but also how our motives play into that?
Glenn (09:57): It’s so hard to turn back the clock. It’s so hard to get back into a world that doesn’t exist. In fact, it’s impossible. Christianity has always taken on the characteristics of the cultural context in which it is found. And in a culture like ours, which is driven by pragmatism and success, and bottom-line, and checklists.
Chad (10:34): Performance
Glenn (10:36): Performance. Legalism in all of its forms is a really attractive thing. So, Christians read their Bible, and Christians pray, but then when we try to quantify that is when it gets really difficult. So how much do I need to read the Bible? In what version of the Bible? All of these relationships are fluid and developing, and they are… What I probably should have said is this. To say: the solution to legalism and checklists is to throw the things away. But that sounds terrifying to people because, and I think that’s part of it. Because these checklists give us control. So I know I’m ok if I’ve done this amount of reading in the morning. And then confirmation bias comes in, and so I view what happens to me as if it’s a result of having something that I did. And I think a lot of it comes back to a proper understanding of who God is, and a proper understanding of his grace, which is unmerited favor, which is never earned, which is never deserved, which is never repayed, which is never owed. And it’s a gift, and it’s hard to be loved.
Chad (12:00): Yeah, so you talked about that unmerited favor and really it just, I think it, uh, a picture of the drivers and why we do the things we do. So what does the posture of our heart need to be? For a redeemed heart, for someone that has received that unmerited favor. For you practically, even with your own intimacy with the Lord? What does that posture look like for you to make sure your motives are right, your heart is right? The things you’re doing aren’t part of that performance mindset?
Glenn (12:34): The truth is my motives are never right. And the tendency to view myself as much more important than I am is a real thing. I think the proper response to grace is gratitude. The more we appreciate how little I deserve. In fact, I deserve nothing. I deserve to be rejected by this God. But that God is faithful and persistence and consistent. We’ve all lived in the United States of America, we’ve lived in a world where love is reciprocal, where relationships are fragile. I mean, you can lose a 50 year relationship because of one dumb thing. I mean, we know that’s true. We’ve been raised to believe that we have much more power than we think we do. And it’s really helpful for me to be constantly remined that t if the standard that the culture puts on me is one of perfection, I will never be good enough. So does that mean I don’t bother, I don’t try at all? No, I serve God and I want him to be pleased because of what he has and continues to do for me. So my response to him is out of love and gratitude. I am absolutely convinced that trying to motivate people through fear, shame, and guilt is never effective. Fear works short-term, but only for a short period of time. Because then the fear disappears or you get… How many times are you threatened not to drive above the speed limit? We slow down when we see a cop, but the speed limit signs are just a waste of resources, really, until you get stopped. And then the next couple of days, you drive the limit. And shame, I mean shame loves to live in the darkness, and as I tell people all the time, shame never comes from God, and there’s no point in trying to hide from God, because he already sees anyhow. He already knows. And to be known as I am, to be loved as I am, not because of, but in spite of, because for reasons known only to God, he has chosen to love. So fear and shame and then guilt. Many of us have been trained to live in guilt and regret, and the older I live the more I have to regret and feel sorry for. But you can’t change the past. You can’t undo it. This is what I learned growing up in my family of origin. If you’re really really (x10) sorry, then it’ll be ok. But I could never figure out how many really’s were necessary. And then they would say, “If you’re really really really really sorry, you’ll never do it again.” And I just, whoops, there we go again.
Chad (15:31): So good. So if you were to summarize for our listening audience to go, man if you just wanted to encourage them to go, “Hey, here’s what I would encourage you to do to walk in intimacy with God, to have a relationship with God, and to continue to grow out of a right heart, a right motive.” If you could just kind of summarize, what would you encourage them with?
Glenn (15:53): If you believe the gospel, if you are a child of God, he loves you and his love is not conditional. His love is permanent, his love is eternal, his love is gracious and kind, and he wants the best for you. And so, because all of that is true, that’s where you go when you mess up. That’s where you go when you’re looking for meaning and hope and encouragement. You run to him and his word, and you experience, you accept and experience that love and that’s just one of the hardest things for many of us to forgive ourselves. To acknowledge and recognize that it is possible for God so to love me that he sent his son. And he sent his Spirit, and he has promised, I will never leave. There is nothing you can do to make me stop loving you. There is nothing you can do to make me run away from you. You don’t have that much power. And I think being reminded of that, I remind myself of that on a regular basis, because I live in a world of performance. I live in a world where, “What have you done lately?” I live in a world of evaluations, and all of those kind of things. But none of those things are the way God operates. But I don’t want to be heard as saying, “Your performance doesn’t matter.” Because we should never presume that we can do whatever we want because we respond to God out of love. Because he really does love us. He really does. It is really true.
Chad (17:25): And I love that Romans 12 passage that talks about the renewing of our mind and the idea that we really have to be reminded of the gospel. We have to be reminded of God’s grace being sufficient. We have to be reminded that we’re going to fall short, and that we’re still loved. Not because of what we have done, but because of who we are. We are a child of God, and what a great reminder for our listening audience to walk in that. And man, if I just had an encouragement as a friend through the years, it would be just that, be reminded of who you are, and who he is. And he will always inform us of who we are, and we as believers get the opportunity to live out this opportunity to live out being a child of God, and to walk in obedience out of a heart posture that loves God because of what he’s done on our behalf, not because I somehow have to fill this checklist of do’s and don’t’s. And so, I hope you’re encouraged today by our time with Glenn, thank you so much for being in studio with us, and obviously teaching our students this week. We miss you, can’t wait to hear from you guys again, thanks for joining us here on the Kanakuk Institute Podcast.