An Emerging Christianity Conversation in DC Message Board › Final Addition of the Questions and Quotes for tonight
I’m looking forward to a continuation of our New Kind of Christianity conversation, dinner, and singing tomorrow at 7PM. If you have the time, read McLaren’s first chapters on the "what is the plot line of the biblical story." We will look at McLaren’s ideas found in the mini-chapters #4, #5, and #6.
As I explain on the meetup description, this book by McLaren helps us think holistically about faith because he gives us 10 questions we should address about the future of faith, but we can add other questions too. In other words, it’s about the best launching pad I can think of for one individually and all of us collectively to think our way forward to this elusive “new kind of Christianity” we are all talking about and struggling toward.
McLaren starts his book by arguing that Christians have to separate our faith in Christ with a confidence that we are right in all our theological opinions. You have to understand his background on this one, he comes from a fundamentalist childhood where having the right “philosophical system of belief” was very important. It guaranteed you a spot in heaven.
Let’s talk about that issue of how we define the "story" or "plot line" of the Bible in what constitutes Christian faith. That’s his main concern in the opening pages of the book. People have to give up that sense that they “know God 100%” and that “knowing” a system of belief is what constitutes someone’s faith.
Question # 1: How did you understand the Power/Nature/Attractiveness of the Bible growing up or when you first started investigating Jesus:
What was your starting point (if any!) in defining the Bible as "Scripture" growing up compared to today? We are all going to have different answers to that question, but it’s good to think about what kinds of early assumptions we might have had: a) Some people think of the Bible as a holy book that provides advice, quotes, and commandments for every situation; b) Others see the Bible as a book of God’s covenants with his people (first with Adam, then with Abraham, then with Israelites, and then with the church) where there are blessings and curses for obeying/breaking the covenant; c) Still others see the Bible as a collection of doctrines one must believe and ethics that one must practice to go to heaven after one dies; d) Yet more see a book of important fables and stories that they are not sure what to make of, but they like the life and words of Jesus; e) some are disturbed by some of key battles in the Bible (like the invasion of Canaan by Israel); f) Some of us go back and forth between these and other options! What were the positives and negatives of these early assumptions you had?
Question #2: How would you summarize the “basic plot” of the Bible right now? What have been your previous thoughts on the “plot line” of the Bible? Do you think of the Bible as Brian McLaren argues most of us see it on page p.34 (what he calls the six-line narrative)?
He argues on p. 34 that most of us assume that the most important 4 points of the Bible (the ones you really need to know!) are the Garden of Eden (creation), The Fall (Adam and Eve disobey God so get kicked out of the Perfect Garden), Jesus saves us from our sins on the Cross (enabling us to go to heaven), and fiery lakes of fire in Revelation. This overview of the Bible really emphasizes that Christianity is really about finding salvation in this life and experiencing paradise in the next life (and escaping hell). Faith becomes something you do once.
Question #3: What do you think of Brian’s theory that our view of this 4-point summary of the Bible comes from Greco-Roman thinking after the time of Jesus (he calls is the six-line narrative)? What is Brian arguing here.
Where some Christians went wrong in interpreting the Bible (Part I): The Role of Greek (static) Perfection vs. Jewish (ever-changing) goodness in Christian Interpretation of Scripture: Brian makes the argument that the understanding/interpretation of the Bible was hijacked around 300 or 400 AD as the church moved from being a Jewish religion to a Greco-Roman religion. The way of life of Jesus one was supposed to embrace to truly serve God and neighbor and live out became a set of doctrines one must passively accept as “truth” to be saved. The Garden of Eden now assumes a huge place in Christian theology/philosophy.
Here’s why: “The Greco-Roman mind transforms the Garden of Eden from its original earthy stuff into a transcendent Platonic ideal. It is no longer a good Jewish garden; it is a perfect Platonic, Greco-Roman garden. In this perfect Platonic garden, nothing ever changes, because in perfection can only be for the worse. This changelessness means that the Platonic Eden is a state, not a story—a state of perfect innocence. Framed this way, the Fall into sin, it turns out, isn’t simply a move from innocence to experience or even obedience to disobedience [but something much worse].” (41).
Question #4: What do you think of his proposal that we interpret the message and ministry of Jesus more from the context of the Hebrew Prophets rather than famous Christian theologians from 300 to 2000AD?
Question #5: What do you think of Brian’s argument that there’s not a one-time “Fall” from perfection, but at least 6 mini-falls and each time God steps in and tries to save the human race? If that’s a true interpretation, how does that change how we see God’s movement in the world and his love for us? What do you think Brian is getting at here?
Check out pp. 49 to 53.
Question #6: What do you think of Brian’s proposal that we substitute the “Greco-Roman 6 Line-Narrative” with the “Three Dimensional lens” to understand the message of the Bible? How would that change the way you understood the message of the Bible?
Here’s his argument for the three recurring themes in the Bible: 1). Genesis/Creation: God’s loving creation of us and the cosmos and his repeated attempts to be reconciled with us; 2). Exodus: God’s making a way for us to experience internal and external liberation from all the sources of oppression in our lives, and 3). Isaiah’s Peaceable Kingdom: God’s vision of hope, vision of love for completely renovating our world into a place of peace, justice, and love (p. 63-65).
He concludes about the god of the six-line narrative and the God of the 3-Dimensional Bible: “the wild, passionate, creative, liberating, hope-inspiring God whose image emerges in these three sacred narratives is not the dread cosmic dictator of the six-line Greco-Roman framework…In the end you cannot serve two masters, Theos and Elohim, the god of the Greco-Roman philosophers and Caesars and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the violent god of profit proclaimed by the empire and the compassionate God of justice proclaimed by the prophets (p. 65).”
Question #7: What’s the biggest take-away about the Bible did you learn from these thoughts from Brian? What will change your life?
Ok, see you tonight!