Thursday, August 26, 2010

Geography of God, Ch. 7

Must “spirituality" be "serious"? Surely it’s possible to be very serious about non-spiritual and even heretical topics, and surely it’s also possible to be joyfully or even playfully spiritual. Yet these words are often linked. Why?

Aldous Huxley is an interesting choice of sources to quote in a book about the geography of God, but he paints a vivid picture. Can you see God in Miss Thriplow’s imagined landscape? When you try to empty your mind of everything but God, what do you see?

What do you consider to be the differences between religion and spirituality?

Let’s talk about “Sheilaism.” Christians are often criticized for picking and choosing among the tenets of their faith, but is avoiding that even possible? Or do we all construct our religions out of what we can believe, especially given the truth that we are incapable of comprehending God.

The Reformed faith — generally speaking, the churches that had their beginnings in the Protestant Reformation, although “Reformed” technically reflects a subset of that — have a set of “essential tenets.” We’ve talked before about profession of faith being the only real “qualification” for being considered a Christian, but what must Christians profess their faith in? For example, what if someone believes that Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of mankind but can’t believe literally in the virgin birth or the resurrection of the body?

What does it reconciliation between God and humankind mean to you?

Lindvall writes, “Jesus is not so much the founder of Christianity as he is its living, breathing life.” Is it possible to be a Christian if one thinks of Jesus as a teacher but not as God? If so, is Jesus the “Way” to something, and what?

Friday, August 20, 2010

A Geography of God, Ch. 6

Lindvall writes, “In a moral universe of self-orientation, everything — even faith — can become self-serving.” Most of us consciously try not to be that self-centered, but in a world in which we have to compete for all that we have, it’s not easy. What are some of the ways we can combat that tendency?

The Judeo-Christian focus strongly emphasizes community over the individual. One reason is that community helps us meet our needs while focusing beyond ourselves: When the community does well, so do we. Another is that we see God in others. How do we keep our “communities” (family, job, congregation, etc.) from reinforcing our focus on our own needs rather than on God?

Do you believe that the universe, or your life, is less “tidy” when God is involved?

Do you believe that we can keep God out, or is the difference more a matter of recognizing God’s involvement?

Being dead to self and sin and alive to God is a fundamental reorientation of the way we view our lives. It is, in fact, an ordination, a reordering from our priorities to God’s priorities. But, if we aren’t at the center of our own lives, where are we?

Do you think life is easier when we’re in charge, or when we admit God is? Giving up control is difficult; trusting God (or any external force) is even more difficult. How can we incorporate trust and faith into our world view?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Chapter 5, continued

Because so many of our regulars could not attend last week's book study, and because this chapter is such a substantial one, Barb and I postponed the discussion until Sunday, Aug. 15. If you can't attend and wish to comment, answer questions, raise questions, etc., please reply to this blog post.

See you Sunday, and don't forget to practice for the talent show! More details to come.

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Geography of God, Ch. 5

These are sample questions for Chapter 5, which we will discuss on Aug. 8. I know several members of the group will be out of town, so this discussion may continue on Aug. 15. I apologize for the delay in posting these questions. Marc's surgery went well and he anticipates being able to attend worship on Sunday. Thank you for your prayers!

Chapter 5:

Lindvall writes about the balance between head and heart. “If your faith is in your head only, it will eventually ossify into an arid and lifeless religiosity. If your faith is in your heart only, it will eventually devolve into some amorphous and emotive spirituality.” That is far different from the image that most non-Christians have of people of faith. Why do you think society does not see us clearly?

What happens in your life when the balance tilts too far in either direction?

If we cannot understand everything about faith or God, is there value in understanding as much as we can?

Lindvall also talks about a cart-and-horse phenomenon: The only way to know God is to follow him. But, in order to follow, you have to believe that God is worth following. This seems like a paradox, but it also pulls people deeper into faith as they enter deeper into participation. What does that mean for the Rico congregation?

What is the difference between believing as an individual (i.e., believing that an idea is true for you) and believing as a community (i.e. believing that an idea is universally true). Do you believe that non-Christians are wrong about God?

In matters of faith, does it make sense to try, intellectually, to balance risk and reward?