Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sermon Discussion- a new wednesday 'regular'

I'm happy to introduce this regular Wednesday addition to the blog: notes that will help you discuss the teaching that's coming up at Bethany. The notes and questioned will be centered on the upcoming sermon, so that you'll be able to prepare if you'd like and discuss prior - or debrief and discuss after.

Enjoy... and if you're just visiting for the first time today... don't miss the entry from earlier in the day about the economic meltdown. It's just below this one.

Study Notes and Questions for 08 – September 21

Title: All for Believing

Text: Hebrews 11:1-2

Over the doorway to our chapel there’s a marvelous wood plaque which reads, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” It’s a wonderful sentiment and has been instrumental in providing the wide tent that is Bethany, for nearly one hundred years. Still, the frequently asked question is: “…but what are the essentials?” Throughout the history of the church, fractures between God’s people have occurred precisely because one group viewed something as essential and another group disagreed.

As people carrying the name of Jesus become increasingly fractured and antagonistic towards one another, the very unity for which Jesus prayed, the unity which he declared would be the validating testimony of His reality, becomes elusive. We who gather within the walls of Bethany don’t gather in name of John Calvin, or Martin Luther, or even in the name of Peter the Apostle, but in the name of Christ. And though the global church has been fractured, and re-fractured down through the ages, we stand in the life giving and healing waters of Christ’s life to the extent that we believe and live our lives on the basis of the most foundational doctrines which have contributed, not to the church’s division, but its unity. It is those beliefs that are found in the Apostles Creed. Dating back to the earliest days of the church, this simple declaration of the faith clearly articulates what the “essentials” are which becomes the basis of our shared fellowship.

  1. What’s your response to the charge that “creeds are divisive”. Do you agree or disagree? Why not, instead, “imagine no religion” as the Beatles did?
  2. In the past, when scientific methods held absolute sway in the Western World, people were less willing to hold any convictions requiring faith. With the unraveling of scientific certainty, there’s now a general sense among all people that faith is required in order to hold any conviction, whether concerning the resurrection or the laws of aerodynamics. What is the relationship of faith and evidence in your convictions regarding Jesus? What kind of evidence do you respond to?
  3. If you buy a certain car, you suddenly see that car everywhere. The Bible seems to teach that the same dynamic comes into play with God. Those who believe God is active in history see God’s activity; others don’t. Is such ‘seeing’ wishful thinking or are the skeptics blind?
  4. The word “belief” must be taken to mean more than mental ascent. Our culture is filled with examples of presuming that intent is adequate. We ‘intend’ to exercise. We ‘intend’ to begin saving. We ‘intend’ to give, serve, reconcile. Yet, it’s often the case that intention never comes to the fruition of real action. Why is this? What can be done to help with intentions?
  5. The last point of the sermon is that the object of our faith is more important than the quantity of faith. Agree or disagree? What are some common false objects of faith in our culture, in the church, in your life?


At 17/9/08 14:37, Blogger UltraNurd said...

Two comments, one a minor nitpick - "Imagine" was part of Lennon's solo work, not from when he was a part of The Beatles.

The second more substantive comment is with regards to scientific certainty, and is liable to get rambly. I would argue that even in times when science was more culturally ascendant, the scientific method (with some recent notable exceptions) has always been grounded in something akin to informed doubt. A scientist is by definition always seeking new data, and one would hope is open to data that conflicts with their previously held convictions. Naturally, flawed humans can't always escape their biases, but generally the scientific community as a whole normalizes for that problem.

A result that is consistently reproducible will eventually be incorporated into a theory, which is as certain of a claim as science can make about the nature of the world. Even the most widely accepted theory is by definition open to new data that could require new theoretical frameworks or even completely upend them... and even when upended, a given theory might still be very applicable in certain contexts. Just because we have general relativity and the Standard Model of particle physics doesn't mean we can't continue to use Newtonian physics for motion and Maxwell's equations for electricity; they may now be known to not apply universally but in most cases they are accurate enough (and have the advantage of being simple enough for a high school student to apply them).

I will agree there is one area of present-day science that relies heavily on faith: theoretical cosmology. Most of the proposals for integrating quantum mechanics and general relativity fail to produce testable hypotheses, so they are by definition mediocre (at best) science... and yet almost every theoretical physicist believes in M-theory, loop quantum gravity, or one of the other possibilities.

My own faith journey has centered largely on finding a balance between my spiritual life, and those areas of my life where I apply primarily scientific reason. That needle has swung back and forth over time, and while at times I feel that revealing more of the nature of the world starts to "wall God in", at the same time perceiving some aspect of the wonder of creation is a pretty awesome (and humbling!) experience.

At 17/9/08 21:40, Anonymous Tyler said...

In a time when trust is viewed as relative and belief is a personal thing I think the creeds have an important place....BUT they must be explained. A 17 year old kid could read the Apostles Creed and have zero idea what it is getting at. Reading the creed while understanding its context could be powerful.

At 17/9/08 23:26, Blogger em said...

so excited and ready to dive into this topic on sunday's-thanks for the notes..really good questions!

At 18/9/08 13:34, Blogger Sherry said...

I would like to recommend

An in depth look at creeds. This is a wonderful interview, most interesting.


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