Thursday, September 1, 2011

Christian Believer: Week One {Believing}

I've mentioned that Peyton is leading a study on Wednesday nights at church.  It's really interesting and pretty deep stuff.  Peyton is always really interested in doctrine and theology and stuff, so it's right up his alley.  He says his job is to "facilitate" not teach, though, and really we spent most of the first class discussing the key concepts of our readings this week. I think I may share a little overview of what I've read and what we discuss each week here on the blog.  These posts may be long and rambley and I know to some, super boring.  So feel free to skip if it's not your cup of tea!

First of all, I have to say I really like this study and the way it's making me dig.  I have read one of those "read the Bible in one year" Bibles over and over for several years now and I really needed something different.  In this study, there is a daily scripture reading and also an additional reading from one or more theologians/early Christian thinkers/Christian philosophers/ect. I like that the readings are relatively short and all fit around a certain theme for the week.  I *know* every verse of the Bible is important, but when I was doing my former Bible study, I would get so bogged down in Jewish purity laws and such and it just became wearisome.  Honestly, I hate that I waited so long to try something else! 

This week's topic was "Believing" (Believing and Understanding was the full title) .  During our meeting we had so much interesting discussion and I wanted to breifly share:

We started out in Genesis and Exodus, talking about the faith of Abraham and Moses and their (eventual in the case of Moses) faith and willingness to follow God.We discussed the creeds we say at church, such as the Apostle's Creed and how they are "built strongly out of Scripture". I mentioned this quote that I happened to run across just today by Spurgeon- "If your creed and Scripture do not agree, cut your creed to pieces, but make it agree with this book". I think that's so important!

Then we came to one of the harder readings- an excerpt written by Thomas Aquanis.  Peyton said he really didn't get much out of it and kind of struggled to understand it.  Strangely, it happened to be my favorite reading!  That's unusual, because typically with theological stuff, Peyton is *way* smarter than me.  Anyway, the article talked about how when we are faced with a contradiction, we respond in different ways. Sometimes, there is a lack of evidence or equal evidence on both sides and in this case we find ourselves in a state of doubt.  Sometimes, we are more inclined to one side, but the evidence is not sufficient enough to make a clear cut proclamation, so in these times, our understanding is a state of opinion.  Other times, we are convinced one view is unequivocally right, because it conforms to "fundamental axioms", and in this case, we call it a state of knowledge.  Now, up until this point I believe this article could be talking about anything.  For me, I thought of it as it applied to the hot button parenting issues I've recently discussed on my blog.  I thought about Peyton and how it might relate to drug trials or something.  But then Aquanis makes it all about faith.  He says "Sometimes the understanding does not incline one way or the other, because neither view is obviously in conformity with fundamental axioms.  But the will chooses to assent to one view, definitively and positively, through some influences which can move the will, but not the intellect.  This influence is such that the will regards it as good and right to assent to one view.  This is the state of belief.  In particular we are moved to believe in certain  sayings when it seems that eternal life depends on belief."  I was just fascinated by this.  For some reason, I just love it when things are logical and this seemed very logical to me.  I really enjoy a three point sermon and I always do better with bullets than with paragraphs when learning.  I guess I'm more "left brain" than I thought I was!

Peyton's favorite reading ended up being one by John Wesley that was more about a subjective, even emotional faith experience.  Wesley contends that a personal faith and a live well lived for Christ are "the strongest evidence of the truth of Christiantity" and ends by saying "Do you suppose time will ever dry up this stream? Oh no! It shall never be cut off!".  Peyton said he really liked that line because, although traditional Armenean thought does not hold to the tenet of "perseverance of the saints" or in layman's terms "once saved, always saved", Wesley seems to make the case that, by in large, once we experience such  fullness of life in Christ, we would never want to turn away.

I thought it was super ironic that this was his favorite, because Peyton is typically the more logical one who has a hard time with emotional spirituality and personal experiences and enjoys the "thinking" part of his faith way more than I do.  I thought he would love the excerpt that I did and I, the more "God gave me this feeling about something"/"maybe this experience is symbolic"/"I love an object lesson more than a lecture" girl would like Wesley's better.  It was interesting to reverse roles a bit!

We also talked about the passage in Acts where Paul is speaking about an idol made to an "unknown god" and tries to explain that the unknown god is the one true God of Christianity.  We discussed talking to people of different faiths and even talked about the idols of our current culture, such as materialism.  We even delved into some parenting discussion on that one!

We hit on a couple of other big issues, including evolution and whether belief in the divinity Christ is a prerequisite for eternal live with Him. There was some discussion in our group, but I stated how important I feel the latter proclamation is- essential even- for one's salvation.  I'm not sure how either of those came up!  I also shared one of my favorite quotes- "In essential, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity".  It comes from St. Augustine, but was much loved by John Wesley.  I love it and it makes so much sense to me.  I think the truly exciting part of this study focusing on orthodox (little o) Christian doctrine is that it helps us understand exactly what the essentials are!

We wrapped it up with personal prayer and we also read a prayer by Augustine of Hippo.  One line stuck out to me particularly- "Do not let my weariness lessen my desire to find you, to see your face".  What a wonderful prayer for a mom of two young kiddos.  I want to write that in bold letters across my bathroom mirror and truly beseech the Lord to not allow my tired state on many days to turn into a cycle of apathy.

I am so thankful for this study and for Peyton's desire to bring it to our church.  I know it's growing me in countless ways.  There are other things working within me, pricking my conscious and convicting me, and together with this series, I can honestly say I haven't been in this good of a place with my faith in a long, long time!  I'm so excited for what is in store for the next twenty nine weeks of this study!


Mallory Pickering said...

Very cool! I wish I were in your Sunday school class!

Minda said...

I started my Christian Beliefs class this week at seminary... sounds like I should have just come to Sunday School with you!