Posted by Robert Sagers
This is the third installment of an interview with writer and musician Andrew Peterson. For a bit of context, see part I of the interview (and part II).
RES: Your music emphasizes two truths of the gospel that can sometimes be neglected in our churches—the resurrection of Christ and the future redemption of all things. What role does the resurrection of Jesus play in your music and writing? In what way does the longing for the new creation help you to communicate the message of the gospel to your listeners and readers?
AP: I don’t know why, but I sing about Heaven a lot. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I sharpened the focus a little to focus on the Resurrection itself. Part of that was reading Randy Alcorn’s Heaven and realizing the Bible has more to say about the subject than I realized. Part of it was my last album The Far Country, which drew on much of C.S. Lewis’s ideas about Heaven in The Great Divorce and The Weight of Glory. I was saddened to hear one of my favorite authors say he wasn’t sure Jesus’ resurrection was bodily, that he resurrected “in some sense,” but he wasn’t sure what. I almost fell over. The Bible is clear that it was a bodily resurrection, and if it wasn’t so, we’re to be pitied among men. The early church put a lot of stake in it. But it’s a part of the Gospel story that doesn’t seem to get as much attention as the crucifixion. Yes, Jesus atoned for our sins on the cross, but—hallelujah!—the story doesn’t end there. Jesus inhaled. He didn’t just appease God’s wrath, he defeated Death. He didn’t just save us from something, but for something—for an unbroken world, fellowship with the King, a life of good work without thorn and thistle to frustrate and confound. And that’s good news.
RES: Many of this blog’s readers are serving in vocational ministry, or are training to do so. Some are pastors, or hope someday to be pastors. How can a proper grasp of the narrative aspect of the Scriptures help aid the proclamation of the gospel in a way that captivates an audience, while at the same time allowing the preacher to communicate with clarity that the story is so good specifically because the story is so true?
AP: As I said, I grew up in the church. I went to Sunday school, VBS, church camp, Wednesday night Bible study—the whole shebang. But it wasn’t until my freshman year of Bible college, in an Old Testament survey class, that the light bulb finally went on. It was the first time I realized the Bible is telling one big story, and that story is the one God is telling with history. My love of fiction, of film, even of comic books began to make sense through that lens. What I had always loved about those stories was the Story, seen in glimpses, felt with goosebumps and lumps in the throat that I couldn’t explain. G.K. Chesterton said no man ever entered a brothel who wasn’t looking for God. Well, no one ever walked into a movie theater or read a novel who wasn’t hungry for the Gospel.
RES: What role does community play in your music and writing?
AP: I’m honored to be part of a group of comrades called the Square Peg Alliance. We’re all Nashville folks, Christians and songwriters who for one reason or another have found ourselves unable to fit into either the typical CCM mold or the mainstream one. We tour together as often as we can, and genuinely believe in each other’s music. I’m a better writer for having shared life with these friends, others who care about the Kingdom, their craft, about doing more with their music than just selling records (though that’s always nice).
I also started a community blog called the Rabbit Room, which is basically an online version of the back room of the pub where C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and their writer buddies used to hang out and read stories. We have a few authors, pastors, and songwriters who write about whatever’s on their minds. Some great friendships were born, which may in the long run be the greatest benefit of the Rabbit Room and the Alliance. I’m certain our relationships will outlive the finest songs and books we’ll ever write.