Over the next several weeks, we want to offer conversations around key questions people have about Christian faith and teaching. Informed by Brian McLaren’s book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith, this adult learning class and sermon series focuses upon many of these questions.  In 2005, Time magazine listed Brian McLaren as one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in the US, calling him a “paradigm shifter” because of his new approach to church and his “kinder” version of theology. McLaren writes: “It is a time for a new quest, launched by new questions across denominations around the world, a quest for new ways to believe and new ways to live and serve faithfully in the way of Jesus, a quest for a new kind of Christian faith.”

The class is led by our pastor John Hilley and involves other voices in the presentation, including Keith Davis.  John also plans to invite into the conversation knowledgeable local scholars.   Questions addressed during the class and during John’s sermon series include questions: on the Bible and the Gospel (How do we understand it?); on God (“Does God choose some and reject others?); Sex (“Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?”);  on the church (“What do we do about the church?”); on the future (“Can we find a better way of viewing the future?”); on pluralism (“How should followers of Jesus relate to other religions?”).  

Upcoming classes:

Our question for Sunday, March 8th:  We revisit "The Jesus Question”

Background Reading:  Chapter 13:  Jesus Outside the Lines (pp.127-136)

Background Scripture Reading:  The Gospel of John (chapters 1 and 2)

Background video (YouTube 5:43 minutes):  Brian McClaren on  The Jesus Question (click here for video)

Questions for our discussion:

1.    The author suggests in Chapter 12 that there are many versions of Jesus in play in today’s world and church. Describe the versions of Jesus that you have been exposed to in your experience.

2.    In Chapter 12, the author explores how John’s Gospel presents Jesus in terms of the Genesis, Exodus, and Isaiah narratives. How did these portrayals inform or enrich your understanding of and appreciation for Jesus?

3.    Last week as we looked at the image of Jesus as “Teacher” our guest preacher had this to say:

“Jesus called the people around him to live their lives in a way that pushed hard against the trends and strong currents of the world.  Jesus simply started with a call to walk with him, and then the action began. . . This was not a normal Rabbi in a Temple or a synagogue.  This was someone on the way, on the road, living life . . . learning about a life that was abundant.  ‘What then shall I compare the Kingdom of Heaven to?’ he asked.  This is for you to do, with Jesus’ teachings as a guide.  To what shall I compare the Reign of God?  This is our work – in our context.  Walk with him, and see the world of God.”

In seeking to walk with Jesus, to what would you compare the Kingdom of Heaven to today as you look around and “see the world of God”?

Our question for Sunday, March 15th:  The What Do We Do Now Question (part 1):  “How Can We Translate Our Quest into Actions?”

Background Reading:  McLaren, Chapter 20

 Our question for Sunday, March 22nd :  The What Do We Do Now Question (part 2):  “Living the Questions in Community”

Background Reading:  McLaren, Chapter 21

 Our question for Sunday, March 29th  :  The What Do We Do Now Question: A New Kind of Christianity - our final class

Background Reading:  McLaren, Chapter 22

Previous classes:

Our Question for Sunday’s Adult L.E.A.R.N, February 15th  and February 22nd; 9:00 a.m.

The Marriage and Sexuality Questions:

·         “How are we to understand marriage?”

·         “Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?”

Over the next two weeks our Adult L.E.A.R.N class will examine the changing nature of marriage society.  On February 15th, we will look at the changing nature of how marriage is viewed in our society.  On February 22nd, we will examine the “sex question”, particularly the issue of sexual orientation, asking the question of how we can move beyond paralyzing polarization to constructive dialogue.

Background reading and video for the next two weeks:

·         Brian McLaren video on the Sex Question (2/15):  (4 minutes)

·         http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/today/0115-marriage/ - insightful article from Presbyterians Today on the changes underway in how we understand marriage (for February 15th)

·         YouTube Video on Fred and Lorraine (9 mins, 24 secs) – a real feel good story about fondness and admiration in a marriage (for February 15th)

·         McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, Part VII, pp. 173-190 (2/15 and 2/22)

·         Scripture Passage:  Acts 8

From Presbyterian Today’s article on marriage:

·         “Along with the rising age at first marriage, Pew reports that growing numbers of couples are forgoing marriage altogether or are living together before they marry. A 2010 Pew survey found that 44 percent of all adults (and more than half of those ages 30 to 49) say they have cohabited at some point. Among those, about two-thirds say they thought of that living arrangement as a step toward marriage. A number of Presbyterian clergy report anecdotally that in the past 10 years most of the couples they married were living together before the wedding. Yet about a third of the population (31 percent) believes that sex between an unmarried man and unmarried woman is morally wrong, according to a May 2014 Gallup poll.

From McLaren’s Book:

·         “But now, as we move outside the Greco-Roman worldview, we are able to ask the same kind of uncomfortable questions about absolutist Platonic dualism that Jesus raised regarding the Jewish Law.  Just as he asked, ‘Was the Sabbath made for humankind, or humankind for the Sabbath?”’ we can ask whether humans were made to fit into the absolute unchanging institution called marriage, or whether marriage was created to help humans – perhaps including gay humans? – live wisely and well into the world.” (p. 176)

Our Question for Sunday’s Adult L.E.A.R.N, February 8th; 9:00 a.m.

 “Can we find a better way of viewing the future?”

 Click here to view the video (5:29) on the future question

 Scripture background:  The Jonah Story

Background reading:  Part VIII, beginning with page 191 in McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity

Can we find a better way of viewing the future? Well, you might ask, a better way as compared to what? A good question, that. It may be question you have as well as you began to read through the chapter on “the future question” in Brian McLaren’s book, A New Kind of Christianity. What do you think about eschatology and the future? I don’t know.  As Tom Long once said that when we get into the eschatological and apocalyptic territories of the Bible and theology, we suddenly become “like disorientated tourists who don’t know the language, who stumble over customs, who are made queasy by the diet, and who can’t find our way back to the hotel.”

For better or worse, eschatology (the theological discipline that things about the future and what lies behind this life) sells millions of books, raises millions of dollars. McLaren suggests that the Christian understanding of eschatology is self-fulfilling prophecy.  It has been overly influenced perhaps by a theory of eschatology that began in the late 19th century called dispensationalism – which divides history into seven dispensations or ages in which God deals with humanity differently in each age. It’s a perspective that has a very fixed and determined view of the future. McLaren uses the analogy of a musical composition in which every note has been written and accounted for; all that is left is for the music to be played out. And when you combine this fixed determination about the future with speculation about the identity of the Anti-Christ, stories about a nightmare apocalypse, the rapture, and the coming of the end of the world.  During our Adult L.E.A.R.N. session we will look at what may contribute to a more just and joyful future.

Our Question for Sunday’s Adult L.E.A.R.N, February 1st 9:00 a.m.

The Pluralism Question: How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions? Is Jesus the only way - and the only way to what? Can we have both a strong sense of Christian identity - and a strong sense of hospitality and love toward people of other faiths?

Scripture Passage:  John 14

Background video (YouTube 4:20 minutes):  Brian McClaren on The Pluralism Question (click here for video)

Brian McLaren begins this chapter with these sobering words:

“I’m not sure which of the ten questions in our quest is most important. I suppose it depends on our criteria for importance. But if our list of criteria includes saving lives from war, genocide, and terrorism, this question may draw the others together in a way that puts it at the top of the list. We all woke up again today in a world where Christians, Muslims, an Jews (along with adherents of many other religions) are either killing one another or planning new ways to kill one another, and many believe that in doing so they are obeying and even pleasing and honoring God. Each group point at one of the others as the prime offender, and the pointed-at group tends to point back. But whoever the biggest offender may be, all of us share in the danger and opportunities of this moment – and in the responsibility to turn it toward a better future.”  (A New Kind of Christianity, p. 207)

Questions:

1.    How can we help our communities claim strong Christian identity without being hostile towards other identities — be they cultural, sexual, religious, or political — developing an “us-ness” that welcomes “other-ness” into “one-anotherness”?

2.    Why do you feel the question of religious pluralism is so important, and how do you rank the dangers of the two common responses (“It’s either us or them” and “Whatever you believe is fine”) described by the author?

3.    What is the meaning of John 14:6 according to the author, and how relevant is it to the issue of religious pluralism?

Our question for Sunday, January  25th:  “The God Question:  Is God violent and does God choose some and reject others?”

Class Notes for Sunday, January 25th:

·         We have a couple of books still available for purchase. Cost: $10.00

·         Sunday’s 9 am class meets in the conference room across from the church office.

Background Scripture:  Colossians 1:15-20

Background video (YouTube 5:40 minutes):  Brian McClaren on The Jesus Question (click here for video)

In our sermon and learning series, we have been mining Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith, conversing with him and with you all about these important topics that have too often been uncritically processed in the engine of Christian churches from generation to generation, picking up all sorts of baggage along the way.  Our focus is not to point out all that is bad and wrong with Christianity but to see what is good and relevant and brings an aliveness to our life and faith.

Today’s question, “Is God violent?” is one of those core questions.  Some of you may have risked asking such a question:  “How could a loving God let such and such happen?” whether you were referring to the story of Old Testament plagues or Jesus or in light of personal loss or the historical markers of violence and genocide to any number of national and ethnic groups over the centuries.  Maybe this isn’t your question, or maybe you’ve found an answer that satisfies already in your studies, or maybe you have avoided those types of thoughts in general because other things consume your energies, like work or running car pool. But, with the rise of recent violent acts by extreme Islamic fundamentalists in the news, the question of a “violent God” is relevant.  We have to acknowledge that our own Christian heritage is not without blemish.  This week we are going to go there to the wilderness of God. To dare, like Moses did, to gaze upon God’s face, with a new lens, and to let our hearts and lives by changed by what we see.  There is good news, especially when we focus on the person of Jesus.

 McLaren quotes from Part III:

·         “In some passages, the living God seems very tribal: God favors “us,” but disfavors everyone else.  But as time goes on, it becomes unquestionably clear that God created all people and loves all people. Chosenness, we realize, does not give one people privileges over others as God’s favorites, but rather responsibilities on behalf of others as God’s servants and as channels of blessing. As we’ve seen, one group is chosen not to the exclusion of all others, who God disfavors, but for the benefit of all others, whom God loves.”  (pp. 100-101)

·         “People who are often part of what is often called fundamentalism today, whether Christians, Muslims, or Jews, often find it difficult to acknowledge this kind of progression in [human] understanding across the centuries.  If anything, they feel obliged to defend and give priority to the early, raw, more primal, less-tested and –developed views of God, minimizing or marginalizing what I am calling the more mature and nuanced understandings.  So the God of the fundamentalists is superficially exacting – demanding technical perfection in regard to ceremonial and legal matters while minimizing deeper concerns about social justice – especially where outsiders and outcasts are concerned.” (p. 102) [ See Tom Friedman’s article in the January 21, 2015 New York Times, “Say It Like It Is”]

Questions for the class:

1.       The author proposes that the Bible presents a trajectory of growth and maturity in human understanding of God in relation to God’s uniqueness, God’s ethics, God’s universality, God’s agency, and God’s character. Do you agree with this proposal, and why?  

2.       McLaren is drawn to Quaker Scholar, Elton Trueblood. He wrote, “The historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God. It is far more radical than that. It means that God is like Jesus.” Drawing upon this quote from Trueblood, McLaren wants to guard against fishing out of Scripture rigid images of a set-in-stone God and then place them upon Jesus. A robust view of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, invites us to see that God moves, loves, heals, prays, is strong and weak, and is not afraid of any cultural powers – whether it be the Roman or religious elite or conceptual idols of our day.  What do you think of this emphasis upon “God is like Jesus”?

Our question for Sunday, January 18th:  How Should the Bible Be Understood?”

The Bible is the church’s book. It is a collection of testimonies to truth that has been passed from generation to generation. It is also a book written a long time ago in other cultures and other languages. And it has been the experience through the ages that the Bible has been used to defend societal practices such as slavery.  The truth is: the Bible is easy to misunderstand. Perhaps you have experienced that yourself; I have. This Sunday, we look at how should the Bible be understood.

Class Notes for Sunday, January 18th:

  • Books have been ordered and should be on hand for distribution this Sunday. Cost: $10.00
  • Sunday’s 9 am class meets in the conference room across from the church office.

Background Scripture:  The Book of Job (especially the later chapters)

Background video (YouTube 4 minutes):  Brian McClaren on The Authority Question

Author Brian McLaren in his book, A New Kind of Christianity, takes the second of ten questions: How should the Bible be understood? McLaren believes that Christians, conservative and progressive, evangelical and mainline, Orthodox and Catholic, read and use the Bible as a legal constitution. He says that we all tend to read the Bible in a constitutional way. Lawyers in the courtroom quote articles, sections, paragraphs, and subparagraphs to win their case, and we do the same with testaments, books, chapters and verses.  Over against the use of the Bible as a constitution, McLaren advocates that we should instead understand the Bible as a “community library,” a library of the community of faith. He then goes on to suggest listening to the conversation among individuals and God in the Scriptures themselves and that through that prayerful listening we might experience “revelation through conversation.” He passionately argues that the Reformation claim “sola scriptura” – Scripture alone is enough! – should not mean that the Bible alone, without reflection and conversation, provides all the answers to our questions. McLaren wants us to come to scripture not by ourselves, but with and in the power of the Spirit.

For our conversation:

1.    What has been your experience with the Bible?  How were you taught to read the Bible?

2.    Respond to the way the Bible was used by the pro-slavery forces in American history. How do you see the Bible being used in the same (or different) ways today?

3.    McLaren suggests we typically read the Bible as a constitution, and recommends we rediscover the Bible as a portable library. Contrast what expectations we bring to a constitution and a library, and how you respond to the author’s proposal.

Upcoming Calendar

January 11th: LEARN time (9:00 am) and sermon (10:00 am): 

·         “What is the overarching story line of the Bible and the Gospel?”

January 18th: LEARN time (9:00 am) and sermon (10:00 am): 

·         The Bible Question:  “How should the Bible be understood?”

January 25th: LEARN time (9:00 am) and sermon (10:00 am): 

·         The God Question:  “Does God choose some and reject others?”

February 1st:

·         LEARN time (9:00 am):  The Plurality Question:  “How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?

·         Sermon (10:00 am):  The Church Question: “What do we do about the church?”

February 8th:  LEARN time (9:00 am) and sermon (10:00 am):  -- to be determined (John gone)

February 15th:

·         LEARN time (9:00 am):  The Sex Question and Marriage Matters

·         Sermon (10:00 am):  The Plurality Question:  “How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?

February 22nd: 1st Sunday in Lent  “In the Way of Jesus” Series

·         LEARN time (9:00 am):  The Future Question: “Can we find a better way of viewing the future?”

·         Sermon (10:00 am):  The Jesus Question:  “Who is Jesus and why is he important?”

(For this and the next four Sundays we work through a Lenten series:  “In the Way of Jesus”) 

Previous classes:

Our Question for Sunday’s Adult L.E.A.R.N, February 15th  and February 22nd; 9:00 a.m.

The Marriage and Sexuality Questions:

·         “How are we to understand marriage?”

·         “Can we find a way to address human sexuality without fighting about it?”

Over the next two weeks our Adult L.E.A.R.N class will examine the changing nature of marriage society.  On February 15th, we will look at the changing nature of how marriage is viewed in our society.  On February 22nd, we will examine the “sex question”, particularly the issue of sexual orientation, asking the question of how we can move beyond paralyzing polarization to constructive dialogue.

Background reading and video for the next two weeks:

·         Brian McLaren video on the Sex Question (2/15):  (4 minutes)

·         http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/today/0115-marriage/ - insightful article from Presbyterians Today on the changes underway in how we understand marriage (for February 15th)

·         YouTube Video on Fred and Lorraine (9 mins, 24 secs) – a real feel good story about fondness and admiration in a marriage (for February 15th)

·         McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity, Part VII, pp. 173-190 (2/15 and 2/22)

·         Scripture Passage:  Acts 8

From Presbyterian Today’s article on marriage:

·         “Along with the rising age at first marriage, Pew reports that growing numbers of couples are forgoing marriage altogether or are living together before they marry. A 2010 Pew survey found that 44 percent of all adults (and more than half of those ages 30 to 49) say they have cohabited at some point. Among those, about two-thirds say they thought of that living arrangement as a step toward marriage. A number of Presbyterian clergy report anecdotally that in the past 10 years most of the couples they married were living together before the wedding. Yet about a third of the population (31 percent) believes that sex between an unmarried man and unmarried woman is morally wrong, according to a May 2014 Gallup poll.

From McLaren’s Book:

·         “But now, as we move outside the Greco-Roman worldview, we are able to ask the same kind of uncomfortable questions about absolutist Platonic dualism that Jesus raised regarding the Jewish Law.  Just as he asked, ‘Was the Sabbath made for humankind, or humankind for the Sabbath?”’ we can ask whether humans were made to fit into the absolute unchanging institution called marriage, or whether marriage was created to help humans – perhaps including gay humans? – live wisely and well into the world.” (p. 176)

Our Question for Sunday’s Adult L.E.A.R.N, February 8th; 9:00 a.m.

 “Can we find a better way of viewing the future?”

 Click here to view the video (5:29) on the future question

 Scripture background:  The Jonah Story

Background reading:  Part VIII, beginning with page 191 in McLaren’s A New Kind of Christianity

Can we find a better way of viewing the future? Well, you might ask, a better way as compared to what? A good question, that. It may be question you have as well as you began to read through the chapter on “the future question” in Brian McLaren’s book, A New Kind of Christianity. What do you think about eschatology and the future? I don’t know.  As Tom Long once said that when we get into the eschatological and apocalyptic territories of the Bible and theology, we suddenly become “like disorientated tourists who don’t know the language, who stumble over customs, who are made queasy by the diet, and who can’t find our way back to the hotel.”

For better or worse, eschatology (the theological discipline that things about the future and what lies behind this life) sells millions of books, raises millions of dollars. McLaren suggests that the Christian understanding of eschatology is self-fulfilling prophecy.  It has been overly influenced perhaps by a theory of eschatology that began in the late 19th century called dispensationalism – which divides history into seven dispensations or ages in which God deals with humanity differently in each age. It’s a perspective that has a very fixed and determined view of the future. McLaren uses the analogy of a musical composition in which every note has been written and accounted for; all that is left is for the music to be played out. And when you combine this fixed determination about the future with speculation about the identity of the Anti-Christ, stories about a nightmare apocalypse, the rapture, and the coming of the end of the world.  During our Adult L.E.A.R.N. session we will look at what may contribute to a more just and joyful future.

Our Question for Sunday’s Adult L.E.A.R.N, February 1st 9:00 a.m.

The Pluralism Question: How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions? Is Jesus the only way - and the only way to what? Can we have both a strong sense of Christian identity - and a strong sense of hospitality and love toward people of other faiths?

Scripture Passage:  John 14

Background video (YouTube 4:20 minutes):  Brian McClaren on The Pluralism Question (click here for video)

Brian McLaren begins this chapter with these sobering words:

“I’m not sure which of the ten questions in our quest is most important. I suppose it depends on our criteria for importance. But if our list of criteria includes saving lives from war, genocide, and terrorism, this question may draw the others together in a way that puts it at the top of the list. We all woke up again today in a world where Christians, Muslims, an Jews (along with adherents of many other religions) are either killing one another or planning new ways to kill one another, and many believe that in doing so they are obeying and even pleasing and honoring God. Each group point at one of the others as the prime offender, and the pointed-at group tends to point back. But whoever the biggest offender may be, all of us share in the danger and opportunities of this moment – and in the responsibility to turn it toward a better future.”  (A New Kind of Christianity, p. 207)

Questions:

1.    How can we help our communities claim strong Christian identity without being hostile towards other identities — be they cultural, sexual, religious, or political — developing an “us-ness” that welcomes “other-ness” into “one-anotherness”?

2.    Why do you feel the question of religious pluralism is so important, and how do you rank the dangers of the two common responses (“It’s either us or them” and “Whatever you believe is fine”) described by the author?

3.    What is the meaning of John 14:6 according to the author, and how relevant is it to the issue of religious pluralism?

Our question for Sunday, January  25th:  “The God Question:  Is God violent and does God choose some and reject others?”

Class Notes for Sunday, January 25th:

·         We have a couple of books still available for purchase. Cost: $10.00

·         Sunday’s 9 am class meets in the conference room across from the church office.

Background Scripture:  Colossians 1:15-20

Background video (YouTube 5:40 minutes):  Brian McClaren on The Jesus Question (click here for video)

In our sermon and learning series, we have been mining Brian McLaren’s new book, A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions that are Transforming the Faith, conversing with him and with you all about these important topics that have too often been uncritically processed in the engine of Christian churches from generation to generation, picking up all sorts of baggage along the way.  Our focus is not to point out all that is bad and wrong with Christianity but to see what is good and relevant and brings an aliveness to our life and faith.

Today’s question, “Is God violent?” is one of those core questions.  Some of you may have risked asking such a question:  “How could a loving God let such and such happen?” whether you were referring to the story of Old Testament plagues or Jesus or in light of personal loss or the historical markers of violence and genocide to any number of national and ethnic groups over the centuries.  Maybe this isn’t your question, or maybe you’ve found an answer that satisfies already in your studies, or maybe you have avoided those types of thoughts in general because other things consume your energies, like work or running car pool. But, with the rise of recent violent acts by extreme Islamic fundamentalists in the news, the question of a “violent God” is relevant.  We have to acknowledge that our own Christian heritage is not without blemish.  This week we are going to go there to the wilderness of God. To dare, like Moses did, to gaze upon God’s face, with a new lens, and to let our hearts and lives by changed by what we see.  There is good news, especially when we focus on the person of Jesus.

 McLaren quotes from Part III:

·         “In some passages, the living God seems very tribal: God favors “us,” but disfavors everyone else.  But as time goes on, it becomes unquestionably clear that God created all people and loves all people. Chosenness, we realize, does not give one people privileges over others as God’s favorites, but rather responsibilities on behalf of others as God’s servants and as channels of blessing. As we’ve seen, one group is chosen not to the exclusion of all others, who God disfavors, but for the benefit of all others, whom God loves.”  (pp. 100-101)

·         “People who are often part of what is often called fundamentalism today, whether Christians, Muslims, or Jews, often find it difficult to acknowledge this kind of progression in [human] understanding across the centuries.  If anything, they feel obliged to defend and give priority to the early, raw, more primal, less-tested and –developed views of God, minimizing or marginalizing what I am calling the more mature and nuanced understandings.  So the God of the fundamentalists is superficially exacting – demanding technical perfection in regard to ceremonial and legal matters while minimizing deeper concerns about social justice – especially where outsiders and outcasts are concerned.” (p. 102) [ See Tom Friedman’s article in the January 21, 2015 New York Times, “Say It Like It Is”]

Questions for the class:

1.       The author proposes that the Bible presents a trajectory of growth and maturity in human understanding of God in relation to God’s uniqueness, God’s ethics, God’s universality, God’s agency, and God’s character. Do you agree with this proposal, and why?  

2.       McLaren is drawn to Quaker Scholar, Elton Trueblood. He wrote, “The historic Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ does not simply mean that Jesus is like God. It is far more radical than that. It means that God is like Jesus.” Drawing upon this quote from Trueblood, McLaren wants to guard against fishing out of Scripture rigid images of a set-in-stone God and then place them upon Jesus. A robust view of Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, invites us to see that God moves, loves, heals, prays, is strong and weak, and is not afraid of any cultural powers – whether it be the Roman or religious elite or conceptual idols of our day.  What do you think of this emphasis upon “God is like Jesus”?

Our question for Sunday, January 18th:  How Should the Bible Be Understood?”

The Bible is the church’s book. It is a collection of testimonies to truth that has been passed from generation to generation. It is also a book written a long time ago in other cultures and other languages. And it has been the experience through the ages that the Bible has been used to defend societal practices such as slavery.  The truth is: the Bible is easy to misunderstand. Perhaps you have experienced that yourself; I have. This Sunday, we look at how should the Bible be understood.

Class Notes for Sunday, January 18th:

  • Books have been ordered and should be on hand for distribution this Sunday. Cost: $10.00
  • Sunday’s 9 am class meets in the conference room across from the church office.

Background Scripture:  The Book of Job (especially the later chapters)

Background video (YouTube 4 minutes):  Brian McClaren on The Authority Question

Author Brian McLaren in his book, A New Kind of Christianity, takes the second of ten questions: How should the Bible be understood? McLaren believes that Christians, conservative and progressive, evangelical and mainline, Orthodox and Catholic, read and use the Bible as a legal constitution. He says that we all tend to read the Bible in a constitutional way. Lawyers in the courtroom quote articles, sections, paragraphs, and subparagraphs to win their case, and we do the same with testaments, books, chapters and verses.  Over against the use of the Bible as a constitution, McLaren advocates that we should instead understand the Bible as a “community library,” a library of the community of faith. He then goes on to suggest listening to the conversation among individuals and God in the Scriptures themselves and that through that prayerful listening we might experience “revelation through conversation.” He passionately argues that the Reformation claim “sola scriptura” – Scripture alone is enough! – should not mean that the Bible alone, without reflection and conversation, provides all the answers to our questions. McLaren wants us to come to scripture not by ourselves, but with and in the power of the Spirit.

For our conversation:

1.    What has been your experience with the Bible?  How were you taught to read the Bible?

2.    Respond to the way the Bible was used by the pro-slavery forces in American history. How do you see the Bible being used in the same (or different) ways today?

3.    McLaren suggests we typically read the Bible as a constitution, and recommends we rediscover the Bible as a portable library. Contrast what expectations we bring to a constitution and a library, and how you respond to the author’s proposal.

Upcoming Calendar

January 11th: LEARN time (9:00 am) and sermon (10:00 am): 

·         “What is the overarching story line of the Bible and the Gospel?”

January 18th: LEARN time (9:00 am) and sermon (10:00 am): 

·         The Bible Question:  “How should the Bible be understood?”

January 25th: LEARN time (9:00 am) and sermon (10:00 am): 

·         The God Question:  “Does God choose some and reject others?”

February 1st:

·         LEARN time (9:00 am):  The Plurality Question:  “How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?

·         Sermon (10:00 am):  The Church Question: “What do we do about the church?”

February 8th:  LEARN time (9:00 am) and sermon (10:00 am):  -- to be determined (John gone)

February 15th:

·         LEARN time (9:00 am):  The Sex Question and Marriage Matters

·         Sermon (10:00 am):  The Plurality Question:  “How should followers of Jesus relate to people of other religions?

February 22nd: 1st Sunday in Lent  “In the Way of Jesus” Series

·         LEARN time (9:00 am):  The Future Question: “Can we find a better way of viewing the future?”

·         Sermon (10:00 am):  The Jesus Question:  “Who is Jesus and why is he important?”

(For this and the next four Sundays we work through a Lenten series:  “In the Way of Jesus”)