Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Geography of God, Ch. 3-4

These are sample questions for the chapters we'll be discussing on Sunday, July 25. Please feel free to respond with answers, additional questions or related ideas. See instructions for commenting in the right-hand column of this blog.

Books are still available for anyone who wants to join the class, or who wants to read on his or her own.

Chapter 3:

The basic question of this chapter, “Finding or Found?”, informs a great deal of Reformed theology, which holds that we are saved by grace, through faith, not by any action of our own. Are any of you comfortable sharing how God found you?

What was your response? How has it changed along the way?

Lindvall writes, “This road is not in search of a lost God but of a way into a God who has passionately sought us, somehow found us, and then coaxed us onto the way.” “A way into God” suggests that we seek understanding, which is certainly true. What else do we seek?

Having been sought, found and encouraged, what responsibility do you feel to live out your faith, and to understand what God is calling you to do? How do you discern that call?

Chapter 4:

People often think that life would be easier if God did not allow them choices, and especially if the option to sin were not available. At the same time, one of the strongest political movements in this country right now rails against anything that restricts freedom. How do you feel about free will and the terrible consequences it sometimes causes?

Lindvall gives examples of the free will God has given us. Do you think people appreciate the “system” God has set up, of pursuing us while giving us freedom to choose, or even to flee?

Does anyone remember reading “The Brothers Karamazov?” Is religious intolerance — as expressed most extremely in the Inquisition and the Holocaust — the opposite of our God-given freedom of conscience, or is it the inevitable result?

Chapter XX of the Westminster Confession speaks “Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience.” This chapter is most often remembered by the sentence, “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship.”

What that generally means, in practice, is that even the edicts of the church need not be obeyed when a person, in good conscience, believes that to obey them would be contrary to God’s will. Another implication is that obedience to God trumps obedience to civil authority — but civil disobedience sometimes brings down civil punishments.

We have all experienced times when we felt it wasn’t convenient or desirable to obey God’s law. Have you also experienced times when you felt the laws of God and secular society were in conflict?

Here is the entire chapter:

Chapter XX
Of Christian Liberty, and Liberty of Conscience

I. The liberty which Christ has purchased for believers under the Gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, and condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law;[1] and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin;[2] from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation;[3] as also, in their free access to God,[4] and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind.[5] All which were common also to believers under the law.[6] But, under the New Testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected;[7] and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace,[8] and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.[9]

II. God alone is Lord of the conscience,[10] and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship.[11] So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience:[12] and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.[13]

III. They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.[14]

IV. And because the powers which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God.[15] And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ has established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account,[16] and proceeded against, by the censures of the Church. and by the power of the civil magistrate.[17]

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