sometimes dialogue generates discussion. this seems to be the case at the crux, our gathering of college aged adults at richwoods. over the last semester, we’ve been engaging in conversational questions in our RoadMaps discussion series, largely based on brian mclaren’s thought provoking book, a new kind of christianity.
here’s a brief summary ::
road maps are important. if you don’t know the landscape, it’s hard to know where to go, and how to get there. tonight we’ll introduce our new series, in conjunction with our IDENTITY and INTERACTION focus – RoadMaps.
limited roadmaps = limited navigation. if we don’t know much about God, we’re limited in our ability to understand him, and therefore ourselves. we know the ‘main roads.’
we want to know more.
we want to expand your theological roadmap. join us.
RoadMaps :: OFF LIMITS. Q1 || the narrative question
you don’t want to miss this one. we’re going to do a little off-roading on our theological RoadMaps during this series, and we’re starting off accordingly…
by the narrative question, we mean this ::
• what is the overarching story line of the bible?
• is there a plotline of the biblical library, and if so, what is it?
• what’s the big picture?
• where did we come from, where are we going, and where are we headed, according to the bible and its stories and its story?
HINT :: the answer to these questions is NOT Heaven and Hell
RoadMaps :: OFF LIMITS. Q2 || the authority question
we continue to expand our theological RoadMaps with THIS TABOO question || the authority question :: how should the bible be understood?
in a time when religious extremists constantly use their sacred texts to justify violence, many feel a MORAL OBLIGATION to question the ways the bible has been used in the past to defend the indefensible and promote the unacceptable beyond just ‘it’s what I BELIEVE.’
if we continue to use the bible as we have in the past, we render ourselves likely to repeat past atrocities (the crusades, genocide, slavery, et cetera). so we ask ::
what is the bible? and what is it for? if the bible is God’s revelation, why can’t christians finally agree on what it says? why does it seem to be in conflict with science so often?
nearly all religions–and certainly all monotheistic religions–seem at times hell-bent on inspiring people to kill each other, making atheism sometimes seem a more ethical alternative to conventional violence-prone belief.
so we ask ::
why does God seem so violent and genocidal in many bible passages?
does God play favorites?
is God determined to punish and torture (even a portion of) what he has created? what are the implications of this about his character?
does God sanction elitism, prejudice, violence, or even genocide?
what are the implications of our understanding of this question? how does it shape how we see ourselves and interact with others?
RoadMaps :: OFF LIMITS. Q4|| the jesus question
who is jesus and why is he important?
jesus appears to be a victim of identity theft. the versions of jesus presented by contemporary christian institutions could hardly be more different from one another — from the flannel graph jesus to the one on the crucifix — each of us have different understandings of who he was and is, why he came, and why that matters.
so we ask: what accounts for the differences in understandings of jesus? which versions of jesus are more trustworthy than others? how can we tell?
why does it matter?
RoadMaps :: OFF LIMITS. Q5 || the gospel question
what is the gospel? some people see the gospel as information on how individuals can avoid hell and go to heaven after death.
some see it as a message of liberation and transformation for select individuals in this life. some see it as a message of liberation for all people and all creation.
so we ask: who’s right, and why is there such a divergance of opinion on such an essential matter?
RoadMaps :: OFF LIMITS. Q6 || the sex question
the issue of homosexuality preoccupies, divides and obsesses many churches and denominations like no other issue. not only do people disagree on the issue, but they are unwilling to tolerate disagreement among their fellow christians — in spite of the fact that they tolerate diversity of opinion on many other issues…important issues like pacifism, nuclear war, genocide, environmental destruction, wealth and poverty, torture and the like.
so we ask :: why is this issue so hot right now? how do the previous questions we’ve asked opened up new ways to think about homosexuality, gender identity and sexuality in general?
can we move beyond the paralyzing polarization into constructive dialogue about the whole range of challenges we face regarding human sexuality?
we continue our journey through theological side streets as we ask, ‘how should followers of jesus relate to people of other religions?’we wake up each day in a world whose very future is threatened by interreligious fear, hatred and violence. many of us wonder if there is a way to have both a deep identity in christ and an irenic, charitable, neighborly attitude toward people of other faiths.so we ask: is jesus the only way? the only way to what? how can a belief in the uniqueness and universality of christ be held without implying the religious supremacy and exclusivity of the christian religion?
RoadMaps :: OFF LIMITS. Q8 || the what-do-we-do-now question
as we seek the courage to differ, we also ask for the grace to differ graciously.
it’s one thing to consider these questions in the private forum of one’s mind, but when we begin engaging others in conversation about these questions, there can be many unintended negative consequences – including division, disruption and distraction in our congregations, denominations, families and circles of friends.
so we ask :: what happens next? how can we on this quest pursue truth and hope in a loving spirit when our quest is opposed or ignored by many of our fellow christians?
how can we learn from history to introduce needed new ideas without also introducing needless division?
what new questions open up for us once we begin grappling with these?
perhaps most importantly…how can the kind of reflection we have engaged in be translated into reflective practice and action?