Saturday, November 13, 2010

Geography of God, Ch. 15

Lindvall's story about the upcoming baptism and confirmation of the young soccer player raises several points. The Presbyterian Church considers baptism a sacrament and, as such, a part of worship, not a private ceremony, even though it is a sign and symbol of the covenant between a believer and God.

However, is the purpose of including baptism in worship so that others know one has been baptized? I would say it is also, if not primarily, so that other members of the congregation can remember and reaffirm their own baptismal covenants and vow before God to support the new Christian in his or hers.

Lindvall says that ethical behavior lies at the heart of Christian life. That is true. It is not, however, the root of salvation. How can we help people to understand that Christian behavior is a response to salvation, not an attempt to earn it?

Does thinking of sin as "a simple word that describes the reality that things are not as they ought to be" change the way you think of sin?

Rousseau and other Enlightenment philosophers, Marx and other communist/socialist thinkers, and Freud and other psychoanalysts have differing views of what causes humans to sin. All of them have some legitimacy: Certainly social pressures, the struggle to survive, and the way in which we were taught and nurtured all influence our behavior. However, they can also serve as excuses for sinful behavior by allowing a sinner to claim the inability to control his/her own actions. The Christian alternative is feeling influenced, empowered and freed by God to behave according to God's laws rather than human priorities. Why don't we?

Is an understanding that humans are not essentially good necessary to understanding sin? Are we to understand that God created us flawed or sinful?

If, with God and in Christ, all things are possible, are we to understand that it is *only* with God and in Christ that some things are possible? Do we believe that anyone can change?

If "some assembly required" is an accurate description of faithful Christian life, what is the balance between God's power and our freedom?

Obedience, imitation and inspiration are all helpful guides in living as a Christian. Can we assemble a Christian life out of those pieces alone? How helpful is "What Would Jesus Do?"

Lindvall's discussion of hypocrisy is fascinating. Can you think of other ways of behaving that the secular world might consider hypocritical? Have you heard of the concept of "acting as if"?

Lindvall quotes Krister Stendal about using the word "love" so much that it has lost its power. Is that true? What can we do correct that problem, given that love is the basis of the Gospel?

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