Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Emerging Christian Way

Chapter 1 - An Emerging Christian Way

1.  Marcus Borg is no stranger to our Panera group.  His book, The Heart of Christianity, is the source of today’s reading.  Drawing distinctions between the two major expressions of contemporary Christianity, he reframes them as the “Belief-Centered Paradigm” (BCP) and the “Transformation-Centered Paradigm” (TCP).  Which of these did you grow up with?  How was this overview of the faith expressed in your family, church, and community?

2.  Borg briefly highlights the core values of each paradigm.  Within the BCP, take a brief minute to discuss how each of these were understood in your particular context:

  • The uniqueness of Christianity
  • Salvation as afterlife
  • Requirements and rewards
  • Sin, guilt, and forgiveness
  • The Bible
  • Faith as believing

3.  Borg does not view this paradigm favorably.  He writes on page 17 that it “has become an intellectual and moral stumbling block for millions of people in our time, inside the church and outside of it.”  And, “Indeed, the belief-centered paradigm is the single biggest reason for the decline of mainline denominations over the past 40 years.”  Where do you see evidence of these conclusions today?  What damage do they continue to inflict upon the church?

4.  On page 18, Borg notes that “instead of rejecting modern knowledge when it conflicts with the Bible, it (the TCP) involves an appreciative and discerning integration of what we have learned in the last several centuries about nature, history, culture, religions, and ourselves.”  Where have we been stretched in these particular areas of our faith of late?  If applicable, what has your process of re-thinking or re-framing these issues been like?

5.  I appreciated Borg’s description of the Bible within the TCP, including the Bible’s authority & interpretation, historical interpretation, and metaphorical interpretation.  I’m especially fond of his statement on page 23, “These stories, to echo Thomas Mann, are about the way things never were but always are.”  What does that perspective mean in terms of Scripture’s usefulness to us?

6.  Borg concludes his essay by emphasizing “transformation as the central dynamic of the Christian life…of the self and of the world.”  Again, take a brief minute to review how each of the following lead to transformation within the TCP:

  • Salvation
  • Faith
  • Adult theological re-education
  • Christian practices
  • Compassion and a passion for justice
  • Political consciousness
  • Living deeply into the Bible/Christian tradition
  • Commitment and intentionality

7.  Finally, Borg writes on page 32:  “It is trust and loyalty that transform us.  Beliefs may precede them or follow them or remain quite unconnected to them.  But beliefs do not save us, do not transform us.  Trust and loyalty do.  This centering is the purpose of the Christian life.”  How does this reality both free us and equip us for discipleship to Jesus and service to the world?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Making Sense of the Christian Faith

Discussion Questions - Session 8

1.  What makes you most anxious about the future?  What does the Biblical story offer by way of comfort?  How can the Christian community help us face our anxieties about the future?
2.  Some Christians believe that the end of the world is coming soon and focus much on their attention on figuring out when.  What the advantages and disadvantages of reading the Bible in this way?
3.  How does confidence about the future create freedom in the present?  What are some of the things that Christians might devote their time to if they believe that God has promised to secure for all of us a good end?

Read Revelation 21:1-8

4.  How do you hear the promises God makes in this chapter about a new heaven and a new earth?
5.  How do you think the original Christians receiving this letter heard them?
6.  How can this text encourage us in our lives of faith and service today?

Read 1 Corinthians 13

7.  How does Paul's discussion of what we can and cannot know, et in the context of his discussion of love, help us think about the future and our life of faith?
8.  How does Paul suggest we balance our perhaps understandable desire to know the future and out present need to care for our neighbors all around us?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Making Sense of the Christian Faith

Session 7 Discussion - The Body of Christ

1.  Why do you go to church?  From a sense of duty, obligation, need or something else?

2.  What would happen if your pastor told you not to come to church because you feel like you ought to, but to come only if you want to, only if you need to hear the gospel again?

3. Give examples of opportunities to do God's will and be God's people in the world.  What is challenging and/or fulfilling about seeing and responding to these opportunities?  How could your congregation better support and equip you to respond?

Read 1 Corinthians 12

4.  Why do you think Paul chooses the body as a metaphor for the community of Christ?  What are the advantages of this metaphor, particularly with a congregation that is experiencing division and discord?

5.  How can we encourage each other to take pride in the gifts we have and the roles we play?

6.  How can we actively value each other - particularly those who have different gifts or hold different opinions from our own - and in this way grow more fully into being the body of Christ?