Interview with Dr. Te-Li Lau

05.05.2020  |  Season 1  |  Episode 9




SHOW NOTES

In this episode, Dr. James Arcadi and Dr. Madison Pierce interview their colleague Dr. Te-Li Lau, Associate Professor of New Testament here at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

Madison and James ask Te-Li about his time working in Silicon Valley, his transition to biblical studies, and his brand new book, Defending Shamean exciting new contribution to the field.

Tune in after the episode to hear about some of James’ and Madison’s favorite movies.

Transcript

Season 1 | Episode 9 | Dr. Te-Li Lau | May 5, 2020

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Intro
You’re listening to Foreword, a podcast from faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, hosted by Michelle Knight, Josh Jipp, Madison Pierce, and James Arcadi. Foreword invites listeners into the mission of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School through conversations with faculty, staff, and guests.

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Madison Pierce
Welcome to Foreword: A TEDS Faculty Podcast. I’m Madison Pierce.

James Arcadi
And I’m James Arcadi.

Pierce
In our episode for today, we’re interviewing Dr. Te-Li Lau, who is Associate Professor of New Testament here at TEDS. Dr. Lau’s first book, Politics of Peace, was published by Brill in 2009, and we’re going to hear more about his most recent book, Defending Shame, which has been published with Baker Academic just this week. Dr. Lau was one of my professors here at TEDS, and so I know firsthand that he is a tremendous gift to our community. I can’t wait for you to hear more.

Arcadi
…and he is my next door neighbor, actually, in our offices at TEDS, and so I’m delighted to be able to have a conversation with him. And do stick around after the episode for a bit of a “debriefing,” you might say, or conversation on movies, with Dr. Pierce and myself.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Pierce
Te-Li, thank you so much for joining us today. First off, can you just tell us a little bit about yourself, and perhaps a little bit about your role on campus—some of the things you teach, maybe how long you’ve been around TEDS?

Lau
Well, I’m from Singapore—grew up in Singapore—and then I came over to the United States from my college. I worked in the Silicon Valley for about 10 years, and then I came over to TEDS. As a student myself, I did my MDiv—I did my ThM—here at TEDS. Then, I went over to Emory, you know, see, for my doctoral studies, and then after graduating, I came back to TEDS to teach. So, I’ve been teaching at TEDS ever since 2008. So, that makes it about 11 years, around 11 or 12 years for that.

Arcadi
That’s great! What—I’m just curious—what brought about this shift from working in Silicon Valley to going to seminary?

Lau
Well, that’s quite a major shift, you know, because I worked in Silicon Valley for about 10 years, and then certain events happened in my life that really questioned in terms of, “What did I want to do with my life?” And there were certain pivotal events, for example, like a good friend of mine from Stanford had passed away from lymphoma, even at a very early age. Then, my sister-in-law needed to have hip surgery because of an acoustic neuroma. And I just remember sitting in my office one day and asking, “What am I doing here?” and ultimately, “What do I want to be remembered for? What do I want to be written on my epitaph?” And I said that I thought about it and already wanted to basically have a legacy. And I already wanted to invest my life in something that I had—I felt—was of eternal significance. You know, prior to that, I was designing computers and, you know, for computers, the shelf-life of a computer is really short. We spent four years designing computers, but after about two years, you know, it’s time for an upgrade, and another two years after that, it’s time for the dumpster. So, I just thought I really wanted to invest my life in something that had eternal significance.

Pierce
That’s wonderful. And so, did you immediately know that that would be teaching in the academy, or was there a period of…kind of processing what that eternal significance might look like for you?

Lau
I think it was ultimately a “jump ahead” to go try to teach in the academy itself. And, because I felt that I had the teaching “gift”—gift for teaching itself—it was kind of validated by different people. And, I was actually afraid of pastoral ministry because it was very demanding, and—I knew it was very demanding—and I thought that since God has given me a gift for a teaching, I would then just apply myself to academic teaching. That was the main thought, but I think that now, after teaching, I am actually more open to pastoral ministry now than I had when I first went in.

Arcadi
I’d love to hear more—a bit about that pastoral ministry you’re doing now—but just…back on the history, on the bio there. Was it Biblical Studies, and New Testament even, that brought you into going to TEDS or going to seminary, and shifting out of Silicon Valley? Or, was it something other than, specifically like, New Testament or Biblical studies, which is where you ended up?

Lau
It was ultimately about New Testament studies that kind of appealed to me. And actually, when I made that shift, actually, it was quite a lot of my colleagues thought it was a little bit bizarre, in terms of why I would be doing it, because this was a time where it was just before the “dot-com bubble” blew. So that was in 1998 and everybody was wanting to jump onto the IPO bandwagon. So you’re in Silicon Valley, everybody wanted to be part of a startup, and then once a startup, you know, went public, then they would all become instant millionaires at the time. So—and I also came from—I studied at Stanford, and that was a place where, if you take a look at the history, so many startups have come from Sanford alumni companies—like Netflix, HP, Cisco… You know, that even the company that I worked for—that obviously came from people that were feeding to the startup. I remember that one of my friends—his T.A. was Jerry Yang—and Jerry Yang went on to found Yahoo, you see. And so, it was just this crazy environment where everybody just wanted to basically be a part of a startup, and then jump into the IPO, and then become something else. But, I was wondering in terms of, “What kind of return on investment do I really want in my own life?” And so, I think that that was one other thing that really brought me to question in terms of what I was doing in my life. There were actually some movies that came out that were somewhat pivotal. You know that, uh… there was this movie that came out, uh…Braveheart came out during that year—in 1998—

Arcadi
Sure.

Lau
—And what does Mel Gibson say to the princess when he’s imprisoned? Do you all remember that?

Arcadi
I remember the scene, I don’t remember what he says.

Pierce
[LAUGHS] Yeah!

Lau
“All men die, but not all men live.”

Arcadi
[LAUGHS] Wow!

Lau
We all die, but we don’t live up to the full potential of who we are. And so I started thinking to myself, “How am I living my life so that I live up to the full potential that God has given me?” In that year, another movie came out, too, Forrest Gump.

Arcadi
Sure, sure.

Lau
And what does Ma always say?

Pierce
“Life is like a box of chocolates.” [LAUGHS]

Lau
“You don’t know what you’re gonna get!”—

Arcadi
Hmm.

Lau
—And if we don’t know what we’re gonna get then, again, how do we live our lives, you know, that, in a way that really pleases God. So there was all these constellations of factors that kind of prodded me along to kind of make the jump—

Arcadi
Yeah.

Lau
—to kind of move towards going into Biblical Studies and going into seminary.

Arcadi
I’m excited for the next commencement when you’re going to have blue paint all over your face! That would be fantastic!

[LAUGHTER]

Pierce
That’s excellent!

Lau
I haven’t tried that yet.

[LAUGHTER]

Pierce
Oh my goodness. Te-Li, thank you so much. I mean, it’s wonderful to hear some of these things about you. One of the things that was refreshing for me as I was reading your book—which we will come to in a minute—was, you just have so many popular culture references in there, and within a few pages, I mean, um, you know—contemporary music, movies, television…all of that. So, are you a pretty consistent consumer of media?

Lau
I enjoy watching movies—you know that. I enjoy—in fact, my favorite genre is action movies.—

Pierce
Okay!

Lau
—I know that’s kind of bizarre, but that’s my favorite genre, and I enjoy it and I like to watch it. And, I think that after doing Biblical Studies, you know, our minds are just so tired. I just want to take a break from thinking—nothing too intellectual, you know that, but just something that I could just, uh, enjoy and kind of refresh and relax.

Pierce
That’s amazing. This might bring us to a really important question. Te-Li, do you think Die Hard is a Christmas movie?

Arcadi
[LAUGHS]

Lau
[LAUGHS] Uh, it’s always set on Christmas, yeah? [LAUGHS] But, I don’t know whether it’s… uh, I would watch it during Christmas—

Pierce
[LAUGHS] Okay!

Lau
—but I remember watching it the first time it came out.

Pierce
[LAUGHS] That’s awesome. Great.

Arcadi
I mean, just curious—one thing we’ve kind of talked about sometimes is where we’re from and the places we’ve lived—and so you spent time at Stanford and Silicon Valley. So, I lived in Redwood City for a summer just up the road there from Palo Alto—

Lau
Uh-huh.

Arcadi
—loved the area. Were there particular places or things that you liked about the Bay Area, like living there, or things that you, you know, remember from that area?

Lau
Well, I love the Bay Area. The weather is awesome, the food is awesome, it’s culturally rich, there are so many diverse communities there. And I…I lived…I used to live in Palo Alto, and I remember cycling to work in Mountain View, and as I’m cycling to work, you know, I would pass by the marshlands, and so that was always a wonderful place for me to go. So, lots of wonderful memories…lots of wonderful memories there.

Arcadi
Yeah, for sure. I love that area. It’s great.

Pierce
That’s wonderful. Te-Li, let’s shift a little bit and talk about your most recent book, which is Defending Shame. It is, I mean, just out—I mean, is it this week with Baker Academic?

Lau
Yeah, it came out on April 21, I think.

Pierce
Okay. So, yesterday from when we’re recording this.

Lau
Right.

Pierce
Could you tell us a little bit about the project?

Lau
It’s a project that is…that I try to take a look in terms of—because I noticed that Paul sometimes occasionally shames people—

Arcadi
Yeah.

Lau
—and I’m just wondering, “Why is he doing that, and how does that fit into our culture?” You know, that, especially a culture that is so averse to shame. I think that we live in a world—in a culture—that has a really fractured understanding of shame. On one segment, we have people that are very averse to shame in any form, but then on the other extreme, we see people who like to use shame, especially in terms of doxing, in terms of online shaming, or in terms of body shaming, or even in terms of honor-killing in other parts of the world. So, trying to find out—what does Scripture have to say about all of this?

Pierce
Yeah.

Arcadi
So, was it… you mentioned there—just noticing it in Paul—so was it seeing this theme in Paul that just led the curiosity, or was it seeing, kind of identifying the cultural trends, or was it a little bit of both that kind of led you to this study?

Lau
I think I was kind of both.

Arcadi
Yeah.

Lau
You know, the interest—actually, the genesis for the book actually came because I had to teach a class in the global theology class in the North Chicago Theological Institute. And it was a class that was ultimately trying to look at shame—rather, to look at shame in cultural contexts itself. How then, those kinds of cultural contexts, especially in the Eastern Asian world—in the Eastern Asian world itself—how did they understand shame and how then did they understand Soteriology? So that kind of informed the genesis for this entire book project, and it just kind of spiraled on from there.

Arcadi
Mmhmm.

Pierce
I think we will come back around to some of the ways that your research intersects with some of those contemporary understandings of shame, but to get us kind of started, a lot has been written on “honor-shame.”

Lau
That’s right!

Pierce
I’m sure that more will be written, and those are very good projects, but your book is a little bit different. You’re trying to break that mold a little bit and kind of challenge that binary and—

Lau
Right.

Pierce
—defend shame. So, why are you defending shame, Te-Li?

Lau
I think that shame—it’s a necessary element—and the reason why it’s a necessary element is that, when shame is properly understood, it’s able to help us in our moral formation. Now, one of those…the ways that they have done the “honor-shame” models themselves is primarily understanding it in terms of shame as a value…as a value. My approach basically takes a look at shame as a moral emotion. So I address the aspect of shame as a value system, but I go a step a little bit further in understanding shame as a moral emotion. And if shame is a moral emotion, then in what way can it help us, ultimately, to be a better person? So, the book is a little bit different from those “honor-shame” studies in that it also deals with moral psychology, basically, not in terms of, “How do we become a better person?” What is the intersection of psychology and morality, because if shame is an emotion itself, then ultimately how do emotions play a role in moral formation?

Arcadi
That’s great. And I…one thing I appreciated about the book—as a systematician, as someone not just in the Biblical Studies guild—was the way that you drew from a diversity of sources, not just doing, you know, conceptual background in Greco-Roman and Jewish backgrounds, but also in your dipping into philosophy and contemporary psychology. Why was that important just in framing the book? Why was it important for you to bring those pieces into what could be taken as just a more narrowly-focused Biblical Studies piece?

Lau
I think it’s part of my own approach. And so…I’m kind of an eclectic person, eclectic thinker, so that ultimately the approach I took was very interdisciplinary. It was very interdisciplinary, so ultimately, I paid attention to the usual Greco-Roman, Jewish backgrounds. But then, I also wanted to take a look at psychology, too, because if it deals with emotions, I need to take a look at, in terms of, “How do psychologists understand it?” But one of the things, you know, to take note of, is that when moral formation is talked about—and people like Aristotle—it is fundamentally moral formation and moral psychology, too. So, Aristotle has written a lot on moral psychology. Socrates has written—not Socrates himself, but Plato, you know, writing about Socrates—has written a lot about, in terms of moral psychology. So, I wanted to take a look at that. And another interest of mine is in terms of Confucian thought—

Arcadi
Yeah.

Lau
—Chinese Confucian thought, and a lot—Mencius and Confucius had also written a lot on moral psychology. So I wanted to bring all of that into play, into conversation, and to ask different questions. You know, by putting it in juxtaposition with one another, can we learn something about it and can we ask the right questions? It’s an approach that maybe Jonathan Z. Smith kind of uses, you know, that trying to look for similarities and differences, and differences and similarities, so that when you have two portraits that are similar but yet different, by putting them together, maybe they might refract something that we have never seen before.

Pierce
That’s excellent.

Arcadi
Yeah that’s great, thanks.

Pierce
That brings us back to…that your discussion of Eastern thought and… I know in your first book, in Politics of Peace, that’s in conversation with Confucianism, and then that’s obviously something that you’re bringing out here. Could you say a little bit more about why you felt that that’s a fruitful comparison? Why is that a recurring theme in your work?

Lau
Uh..well, I guess I’m writing as an Asian—[LAUGHS]—and I’m writing as a Chinese scholar. And, I don’t think that kind of work has really been done well and has really been done fruitfully, and I know that Yeo—K. K. Yeo—has done some of that work, and I saw…I wanted to build on that, in terms of it, in terms of, “How can we come up with new ways to ask questions?” Now, obviously, when I’m comparing that Paul—or Scripture—with Confucian thought, I’m not talking about genealogy at all. What I’m kind of doing, just kind of a cross-cultural comparison and basically asking, “How can the similarities and differences ask different questions of the text itself so that we might maybe look at it with a fresh lens and with fresh eyes?” So that’s the kind of approach that I have…I thought that might be fruitful and might be interesting to pursue.

Arcadi
I found it fruit—

Pierce
Could you maybe give us—

Arcadi
—Oh, sorry, go ahead!—

Pierce
—Oh, sorry, James!—

Arcadi
—No, please, go ahead!

Pierce
—[LAUGHS] Would you mind giving us kind of the…the major similarity and then maybe a major difference, if it’s possible to boil that down, you know, what…what have you found to be most interesting in that?

Lau
I think that in…for Confucius, you know, there is this emphasis in terms of, developing a sense of shame. And for Confucius himself, he would say that, “This sense of shame—it’s a much more important virtue than even the virtue of filial piety, which we know is so important in Chinese—our culture. And so, for Confucius himself, the sense of shame, it’s so fundamentally important. And I think that that’s also similar to…in terms of Paul. This sense of shame is important in that we do not do anything that would bring this owner to others, so issues like in terms of Philippians 2, where we are to consider others better than ourselves, you know that…it has that thought. But, so, that’s a similarity between Confucius and Paul, but there is a difference in that, in Chinese thought, it’s a little bit reticent—hesitant—about shaming others. It doesn’t speak a lot about this. It doesn’t address a lot about shaming others, you know that. But for Paul, he’s a little more forceful in that, and I think that sometimes certain Confucian scholars will talk about the necessity to reprimand others, but it is usually always in the background of it. It’s never brought to the fore, not so much as what we see in Paul. So that would be a difference there.

Pierce
Thank you, Te-Li. That’s great.

Arcadi
If I could follow up kind of on that point, I had another framing question, but just thinking about this line of the comparison with Confucian thought, which I thought was a really interesting section—I don’t know much about that area, that realm of study, so it was fascinating—but I think one thing you were highlighting in that section of the book was that the kind of “Confucian system” of utilizing shame for moral formation works better in a more kind of community focused, less individualistic sort of culture, and perhaps there are some dovetails with the cultures in which Paul was writing as well. But, for the 21st century North American, or 21st century Westerner, we’re very much not in that kind of a communitarian, interdependent kind of society. So, how might you see ways of applying some of these Pauline themes that may fit better in a communitarian environment—in a less…a more individualistic community, a more individualistic environment like our own 21st century Western environment—like my own Western 21st century environment?

Lau
Well, that’s an excellent question, James, is in terms of, “How can we take some of these ideas, you know, that we have seen in other societies, and bring it into the American context? But, I think that in the American context here, even though we are generally considered to be individualistic—but yet I think of that as a certain detriment. There is a certain detriment, and also within the church, too, is that the church tends to be very fragmented, and maybe one of the ways that we can bring it is not to just bring in this concept of shame itself directly, without also paying attention to the communal aspect or the communitarian aspect. And, that maybe we need to develop this sense of community first, the sense of belonging first, the sense of accountability to one another. And, if we have this sense of accountability to one another, then it gives us the right. It gives us the right to speak into another person’s life. And so, it brings to mind again that if we try to shame others without this sense of “communal belonging,” then ultimately, people will construe that, “What are you? Who are you? You don’t even know me! How can you speak into my life?” You know that? And so, they would construe any kind of rebuke as humiliation, that, “You are trying to humiliate me. You don’t know who I am, so you have no right to speak to me.” So, I think that one of the things we need to develop is a sense of community, that sense of belonging to one another. And, maybe breaking up the church needs to form small groups that are accountability groups with one another, so that ultimately, groups of 10, groups of 15, groups of 20…and, they are ultimately to—that if we develop this bond itself, alright, then I think that we would learn the right—have the right—to speak into each other’s life. And then, any criticism would then be taken a little bit much more better than if it was offered by some anonymous person. So I think it is a critique. It’s a critique of the American church in terms of how it’s done, and that everybody is just living separate lives.

Arcadi
That seems great because that also provides a healthy corrective to the kinds of shaming that is present in the culture that you pointed to—whether it’s you know, online shaming or what have you. It’s a very anonymous, non-relational use of shame, but what you’re talking about is a much more relational, even a loving kind of utilization of this tool of moral formation.

Lau
Yeah, that’s absolutely—and I think that at least one of things that I hope that out of…that would come out of this book, you know, is to realize that we as a body, we are part of the body of Christ, but we are a body within the church, too. And, if you’re a body of the church—if one part is hurting, if one part is diseased, the whole body suffers. And so, we have a responsibility to one another—a responsibility to love, but sometimes a responsibility to say hard things to one another. And that, I think, is something that I wish the church would be able to recover.

Pierce
Absolutely. James, did you have another question that you wanted to throw in?

Arcadi
Uh, a little more on a “framing” question, but if you wanted to think more about this particular theme, that’s fine with me.

Pierce
No, go ahead. I mean, we’ll shift into a conversation about ministry shortly, so if there’s anything else about Te-Li’s research—

Arcadi
Yeah that’s great. I guess I was just kind of—yeah, no, sorry, thanks for that. Maybe more on the framing and kind of back to the eclectic nature that you see yourself as operating within—and maybe you’re…maybe the answer to this question is just simply, “You don’t want to draw these hard and fast lines.” I was kind of curious on the relationship between Biblical Studies and Systematic Theology, and whether you saw—I mean, this book from what I saw is categorized in the New Testament section of Baker—but, and yet, it seems to be very theological as well. So, do you see that demarcation as helpful, or do you see this book as just blurring those lines between New Testament and ST, let’s say?

Lau
I think, you know, it’s helpful to kind of merge the two together. And, I think that once we got on the whole idea in terms of Paul, how can we construct a certain theology of shame from Paul himself? And I think that that construct—that constructal aspect—I think it’s helpful because it helps to pull all of the data together and try to synthesize it. Now, when you synthesize something, possibly, you could be a little bit reductionistic, alright? But, I think that sometimes it’s helpful to try to create a synthetical, even…even from the disparate data. And I think that that tries to force us to understand the data as much as possible. So, I prefer to work as a—not really as a systematic theologian like you, but in terms of, basically, “How would Paul as a theologian himself—as a moral philosopher—how would he think about it?”

Arcadi
Yeah that’s great. That sounds…that sounds really attractive to me.

Pierce
Yeah, transitioning a little bit into more about how…how you kind of understand this research going forward. I mean, you’ve certainly highlighted some of the ways that this can influence our conception of ecclesiology, for example. I’m also—I’m curious—you know, in your cultural engagement section, two of the places where you talked about shame being really influential, are parenting and rehabilitation for…for—

Lau
Uh huh. Criminals. [LAUGHS]

Pierce
—prisoners. Yeah, and I’m certainly avoiding any jokes about how those two things may or may not be similar [LAUGHS], but there must be a common thread. So why, you know, why are those some of the areas and why are other areas places that our society—or that societies have found a positive place for shame? 

Lau
I think that one of the things, you know, that a lot of what I pulled off is from the work of John Braithewaite, who is one of the premier criminologists in Australia, and he basically is dealing with people who have done something “bad,” and ultimately, how do we, then, correct people who have done something “bad”? And, he is then suggesting a way that, “If you just lock them up, they may have paid the price, but you haven’t really reformed them at all.” So, then, if there’s no acknowledgement of anything that is “wrong,” then ultimately, the “wrong” will still continue to be perpetuated. So, then, he talks about how there’s a necessity for these “delinquents” themselves to acknowledge the wrong that they have done. And through the acknowledgement of the wrong that they have done, how can there be reconciliation between the offender and the offended? So, then, instead of just paying the penalty itself—but there’s an aspect in terms of admitting that we have done wrong and trying to form… reconciliation. It’s part of what is now called, “the restorative justice framework,” which I think is powerful itself. Then ultimately, how can we try to, I think, to recover or to rehabilitate the situation and to create something meaningful or good out of something that is bad? So, I think that that’s part of the parcel of the work in terms of why I’ve drawn upon John Braithewaite in terms of criminologists, because he’s helpful in that he distinguished between two types of shaming, between stigmatizing shame—or destructive shame—and between reintegrative shaming, which is served to try to reintegrate the person back into the community. So, I think that that model, you know, between stigmatizing shame, or disintegrated shame, and reintegrative shaming—that it’s kind of helpful. So that has been good.

Pierce
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that’s one of the conversations that we have. I mean, you draw on this in the book, that the, um… the excommunication—or so-called excommunication—of believers, that there needs to be a restorative function—

Lau
Right.

Pierce
—for those who are being cast out, and that’s pretty clear in the text, you know, that Paul says,  you know, “Hand this person over so that they might be saved.”—

Lau
Uh-huh.

Pierce
—And so I can certainly see where that would be the case, um—

Lau
Even in 2 Corinthians when he says that “the punishment that is done by the majority is sufficient and now you have to welcome him,” ultimately, “You have to welcome him back into the fold.” And that’s modeled, you know, that of giving somebody a time-out, alright? But then, because it’s a time-out, it’s limited and you embrace the person back into the community. This model is actually done in tribal groups in New Zealand. It’s done in tribal groups in Africa. And John Braithwaite actually got this idea, actually, from the tribal groups—the Maori groups—in New Zealand itself. And you see, in the tribal groups, you can’t just lock somebody up forever. They are still part of the community. But, how then do you discipline the person? But then, what do you do with the person? If you kick him out, he can’t survive. There’s nowhere else to go. So then, you give a time-out but then you have steps that will gradually bring the person back together, into the fold, and I think that that is a helpful model.

Pierce
That’s great, Te-Li.

Arcadi
Yeah, that sounds, that sounds really great. Um, in terms of thinking about how this could or will play out in the church—I mean, I know you do a fair amount of ministry and preaching and the like as well—I guess, what’s…what’s your hope for how these kinds of thoughts from Paul might be incorporated into churches in the future?

Lau
I think it would be helpful to incorporate into churches in the future in terms of understanding of what—at least firstly—what are the bases for honor and shame, and that the basis for honor and shame, ultimately, is not determined by society’s values—of what society considers to be honorable and shameful—but ultimately by what God considers to be honorable and shameful. So that’s the first thing. Secondly, the church, then, is supposed to be the earthly analog of the divine court opinion. The church must reflect the values of what is considered honorable and what is considered shameful—that God ultimately deems to be honorable and shameful. So the earth, or rather, the church, is the earthly analog of, in terms of, what the divine court opinion should be. And yet, I think too, I think what’s also helpful for the church is that, in terms of understanding the gospel, in terms of honor and shame categories, rather than in guilt category—categories—itself, and so that would be a helpful way of—In fact, you know, Sam Chan, who studied at Trinity, he wrote a book in terms of how to make the Gospel…unbelieve good news of the Gospel believable. And he said that the Western world is actually much more receptive to understanding sin in shame categories rather than guilt categories, that the Western world today is much more receptive to understanding sin and shame categories rather than guilt categories, because we all feel shame so viscerally. Everybody experiences shame. But if you ask people whether they experience guilt, some people say, “no.” But guilt—but shame is something that is experienced so viscerally and so that becomes kind of an entrée, a phase in which we can then talk of how sin is dishonoring God. And as we dishonor God, we ultimately are dishonor himself—ourselves, yeah.

Arcadi
Could you, just maybe, tease it out a little bit more, like, in terms of, “How do we understand the gospel, um, in that honor-shame category?”

Lau
I think that you see that in Romans, you know, that Romans 1 and 2 itself, in terms of, “What is…what is sin?” Sin is that—not acknowledging God as God and not giving thanks to him. So then, sin ultimately is this sense of dishonoring God and because of the sin we are then shamed accordingly. And, part of righteousness would then be to recover the honor that we were actually created for. God created Adam, all to be image bearers. And through that bearing of the image of God, they had to bear the glory of God in a reflective sense. So, then, righteousness is then seen in how we recover the glory that God had intended for humanity.

[THEME MUSIC BEGINS]

Arcadi
Hm. That’s a lovely, maybe even modification of an Anselmian view, where the Anselmian view of atonement is very much on God’s honor. You’re talking even about human honor as a component of this picture of what the Gospel does in order to restore humanity.

Lau
Right.

Pierce
That’s beautiful, Te-Li. I would really love to continue to hear more. Thankfully, we do have the opportunity to hear more from your book, so thank you so much for joining us today. It’s really been a pleasure. I always enjoy learning more about you, so thank you so much.

Lau
Thank you for the opportunity to talk to you about this topic.

Arcadi
Yeah, thanks very much.

Pierce
But that’s just the foreword. You can learn more about Te-Li’s life and ministry by his faculty page on the TEDS website and by picking up his most recent book, Defending Shame, from the Baker Academic Website. Thank you very much to Dr. Te-Li Lau for being with us today. Thanks to our fabulous producer Curtis Pierce, and our amazing graduate assistant Lauren Januzik. Finally, thanks to all of you for listening along with us. I’m Madison Pierce.

Arcadi
And I’m James Arcadi.

Outro
Foreword is a podcast hosted by faculty at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. You can subscribe to our newest episodes on your preferred podcast app or at forewordpodcast.com. Be sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook @forewordpodcast to get updates and additional links to content. Trinity Evangelical Divinity School is located 25 miles north of Chicago, with extension sites across the country and online. Trinity educates men and women to engage in God’s redemptive work in the world by cultivating academic excellence, Christian faithfulness, and lifelong learning. You can find more information at teds.edu.

[THEME MUSIC ENDS]

Pierce
James, we talked a lot about movies today. So, what is your favorite action movie?

Arcadi
So, I actually have, um, a place in my heart for Braveheart, which is the movie that Te-Li mentioned. Um, so it was…was it ‘98 when he said that it came out?

Pierce
I think so, yeah.

Arcadi
That sounds roughly about right. Yeah, around then, because that was right around when I was in high school and my church, being a Southern California youth group, had an annual movie competition where—now of course, this was the 90’s, like, movies were not…you couldn’t just make a movie by flipping out your iPhone or whatever…you actually had to like, get a camcorder or hold those old school things that we used to have—

Pierce
A camcorder? [LAUGHS]

Arcadi
—Yes, camcorder. That was, I know, Stone Age-style home movies. And so, my friends and I in our youth group did a parody spoof comedy version of Braveheart, complete with kilts. And um…and we actually won—won an award in our youth group for Braveheart. So, Braveheart—very, very close to…very close to my heart. How about yourself?

Pierce
No, that’s fantastic. Um, I won’t reveal my favorite movie right now because I’d love to chat a little bit more about Braveheart—

Arcadi
Yes.

Pierce
—which is certainly up there for me.  But we, uh…one of our favorite places to go is Sterling—

Arcadi
Oh yeah!

Pierce
—and the Wallace Monument to, you know, the actual William Wallace is there. But that’s one of the places that Curtis and I joke that we’re going to retire there someday. We’re going to hole up in this little BnB that we love and just hang out in Sterling. So if you can’t find us someday, we’re probably in Sterling.

Arcadi
I’ve been there! So actually, when I was…when I was in undergrad, I did a study abroad semester in England, but did a weekend trip up to Scotland and did some of the sights. And so, I’ve been to Sterling and climbed up the tower and saw the statue and all that stuff. So that’s…yeah…that’s a cool place—and a good movie. [LAUGHS]

Pierce
That’s fantastic. Oh, yeah—oh, it is. It’s excellent. I, um…I talk about Braveheart whenever I teach on 1 Corinthians because I think that “freedooooom” is, uh, is the aim for most of the Corinthians.

Arcadi
Yeah, that’s good. You do yell that out in a real guttural sound?

Pierce
I do. I also—I threaten the students that I will…I will tell the…or I will say the speech from Braveheart if they don’t behave themselves, so—Which, they immediately start acting out for some reason. I think they want me to make a fool of myself, but… [LAUGHS]

Arcadi
You should brandish a giant sword next time you come to class. Or as I said when we talked with Te-Li there, uh, some blue paint on the face during the class session—I think that would really, you know, get people’s attention.

Pierce
I can’t wait. Well, we have something to look forward to. [LAUGHS]

Arcadi
Uh, I think actually when I was doing that, I remember calling—I think actually I had long hair at the time, so—maybe you don’t know that about me, but in high school, I had, you know, hair down to my shoul—maybe a little bit past my shoulders. So I had, you know, I was kind of getting the full…the full effect there, to match the kilt and the sword and all that stuff. And I don’t know if—see, if this video were made, uh, nowadays it’d be on YouTube somewhere, but it probably just exists on some VHS at one of my buddy—old buddies’ houses somewhere.

Pierce
Aw, man. If only we could see it. We’ve got lots more things to learn about you, James.

Arcadi
[LAUGHS]

Pierce
We also need to at some point talk about your punk rock phase, but we’ll save that for another episode. We’ll tease that for a later date.

Arcadi
Am I…am I that mysterious? I mean… I don’t…

Pierce
You know what, yeah. You’re mysterious, James. You’re a man of mystery. [LAUGHS]

Arcadi
Ooooh. Hmmmm. Wait, so you didn’t say anything about your favorite movie or favorite action movie. Did you want to share that or do you want to keep that a mystery? Maybe you’re being the mysterious one now.

Pierce
I don’t, I really don’t know if I have a favorite action movie. I mean, Die Hard is pretty far up there for me. I mean, we love Die Hard, and we do actually watch it on Christmas Eve. Um—

Arcadi
Classic.

Pierce
—just as a kind of silly thing, because, I mean…for years and years, it was just the two of us—Curtis and I. And, um…and so we were able to have, like, a pretty low-key holiday, and in the midst of, you know, more kind of jovial, like, children’s movies and all of that, sometimes it’s nice to kind of mix in a little bit of Bruce Willis walking on glass and—

Arcadi
A non-jovial, non-children’s movie?

Pierce
—exactly. So, anyways. Thank you all so much for being with us. It’s wonderful to chat. And this is our last…our last interview for the season, James!

Arcadi
Is that right?

Pierce
Yeah! We’ve got a couple—

Arcadi
Time is flying! Do you remember—

Pierce
—A couple more chats together, but…

Arcadi
—Do you remember when we started this? We when we started this and we were like, in the same room together?

Pierce
Things have changed quite a bit. [LAUGHS] We’ll see y’all.

Arcadi
Well, stay tuned for the next season. We’ll see… we’ll see what’s going on in the world then.

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