Question: I started to read The Gospel According to Judas by Ray S. Anderson. He is a pastor and also Professor of Theology and Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA. The book came highly recommended but it bothered me after reading only fifty pages. Do you know the book, and if so, what is your opinion?
Response: Endorsements on the back cover by Eugene H. Peterson and M. Scott Peck should be enough to warn any potential reader. Peterson authored The Message, a badly perverted paraphrase of Scripture (see TBC Oct 1995) and Peck, though his books are highly praised by some evangelical leaders, is a blatant New Ager who, though he deceives many with “Christian” terminology, denies the essentials of the faith—as does Professor Anderson in Judas.
The book is heretical from beginning to end. It denies that the gospel writers were inspired of the Holy Spirit (at least in what they said about Judas) and accuses them of promoting their own prejudices: “Perhaps the other eleven needed a scapegoat….Judas gained his reputation as a betrayer through the selective memory of his former friends….In telling his story they excised whatever good he had done and told us only of the bad….John remembers Judas as the one who protested the actions of the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus…then, to make sure we see the evil motive behind the action, John adds, ‘This he said, not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief…’” (p 34). Christ is even faulted for declaring that Judas was “a devil” (Jn:6:70)!
It seems that only Anderson knows the truth about the good side of Judas, a truth that the Holy Spirit dishonestly failed to reveal in the New Testament. The book presents an imaginary conversation between the resurrected Christ and the dead Judas in which he is commended by Christ of his love and loyalty, his sin is excused as arising from that love and the betrayer is given a place in heaven. In the Bible, however, Christ calls Judas “the son of perdition” (Jn:17:12) and we are told that he went not to heaven but “to his own place” (Acts:1:25). Concerning this traitor whom Anderson excuses and places in heaven, Christ declared, “…woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born” (Mk 14:21).
Had you read as far as pages 91-92 you would have found these astonishing declarations: “Thus, when Jesus died, it was His own death that He died…the death that truly belonged to Jesus of Nazareth as a descendant of Adam….It was not the cross that introduced death for Jesus; He carried His own death with Him as we all do from the moment of conception and birth.” What heresy!
According to Anderson, Jesus would have died of old age like the rest of us had He not gone to the cross! On the contrary, the death Adam’s sin brought into the world is experienced by all of his descendants because “all have sinned” (Rom:5:12). Jesus, being without sin, could not possibly have died except for the sins of others. Indeed, He couldn’t even be killed: “No man taketh it [my life] from me, but I lay it down of myself” (Jn:10:18).
It gets worse on the next page. Under the heading “An Unhealthy View of the Cross” we find, “If our sin is viewed as causing the death of Jesus on the cross, then we ourselves become victims of a ‘psychological battering’ produced by the cross. When I am led to feel that the pain and torment of Jesus’ death upon the cross is due to my sin, I inflict upon myself spiritual and psychological torment. Instead of the cross being a liberation from the consequences of my sin, it becomes a burden that I bear. My spiritual life can then only be trusted when it has risen out of the ashes of my own self-immolation through remorse and ‘death to self.’ With this kind of theological understanding of spiritual piety reinforced through psychological ‘self abuse,’ it’s not hard to find scripture texts that seem to support the ‘death to self’ approach to spiritual life….Under the influence of this tradition, self-esteem is considered to be rooted in sinful pride, not in authentic human selfhood.”
Yet the gospel clearly says that “Christ died for our sins” (1 Cor:15:3) and that rather than loving and esteeming self we are to deny it. Many scriptures don’t merely seem to support “death to self”; they proclaim it in great clarity. Surely Paul’s declaration, “I am crucified with Christ…” (Gal:2:20), is one of triumph, not psychological battering, showing that Anderson has missed the Cross entirely! Anderson argues that Christ’s death was because of grace and love, not because of our sin: “We’re mistaken when we think that it was our sin, not the love of God, that brought Jesus to the point of His own death.” Of course, it was both. Anderson forgets the obvious: that grace and love would not have led Christ to die unless we were sinners and He desired to recue us from the penalty of eternal death which God’s perfect justice demanded for sin.
Much more could be said of Anderson’s other heresies. The above, however, should be sufficient to show that here is another new book sold in Christian bookstores that offers further proof that the apostasy is gathering frightening momentum. Judas is published by NavPress.