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Theology Crawl: “Biblical” Origins

Theology Crawl: “Biblical” Origins

Welcome to the Crawl

Before you start, make sure someone gives The Spiel to your group.  Also, remember these conversation tips: 1) Be polite, and don’t take offense, 2) Say something if you don’t understand, 3) Ask “why” and speak up if you disagree (It’s not rude, it’s just a good conversation). Now, order a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: WHERE DOES THE BIBLE COME FROM AND DOES IT MATTER?

The Main Questions

  • Discuss as a group how the Bible came into existence. Try to answer the following questions: How/when was it written down? Who wrote it down? Was it edited? Refer to the first bullet point in “Ideas and Definitions” as an aid.
  • Read the definition of the “Historical-Critical Method.” What do you think of this method for approaching the Biblical text? What are its advantages? What are its disadvantages? What theological problems could it cause?
  • Is the “original meaning” of the text actually important for doing Christian theology? If yes, what counts as the original text of the Bible when much of what we have is an edited version of earlier texts? If no, on what basis are you doing Christian theology?”
  • Read the four source hypothesis bullet point in the “Ideas and Definitions” section. Does it bother you that the historical records of Jesus are compiled from different sources and sometimes disagree? If yes, what is particularly troubling to you? If no, how do you deal with theological ideas which depend on their being historical realities (e.g. the resurrection)? 
  • While the Bible is often a valuable historical tool, there are many instances where the archaeological record does not match the Biblical narrative (e.g. the conquest of Israel as described in Joshua is not identifiable in any Israeli dig sites). How would you deal with situations like this on a theological level? Does the historical-critical method help or hinder in dealing with situations like this?
  • The Bible is also a “living document” within the life of the Church. It was first compiled by the early Church and has been continually read and interpreted as a source for communal life. Can/should the Bible’s ecclesial origins be separated from its historical origins?

Key Definitions

  • The Bible is ..
    • Made up of 66 separate books
    • Written by at least 40 separate authors
    • Written over the course of 1,600 years
    • Written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek
  • Historical-critical Method // The primary goal of historical criticism is to discover the text’s primitive or original meaning in its original historical context and its literal sense or sensus literalis historicus. The secondary goal seeks to establish a reconstruction of the historical situation of the author and recipients of the text. // Good ol’ Wikipedia
  • Form criticism // Form criticism breaks the Bible down into sections (pericopes, stories), which are analyzed and categorized by genres (prose or verse, letters, laws, court archives, war hymns, poems of lament etc.). The form critic then theorizes on the pericope’s Sitz im Leben (“setting in life”), the setting in which it was composed and, especially, used. // Good ol’ Wikipedia
  • Source criticism // Source criticism is the search for the original sources which lie behind a given biblical text. // Good ol’ Wikipedia
  • Redaction Criticism // Redaction criticism studies “the collection, arrangement, editing and modification of sources” and is frequently used to reconstruct the community and purposes of the authors of the text. // Good ol’ Wikipedia
  • Four Source Hypothesis // The three synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) are unique in what they share and how they differ. Some passages appear in all three, some two, and some are unique to each Gospel. The four source hypothesis argues Mark was written first and that Matthew and Luke were written using the following sources: Mark, their own unique materials (L & M), and an undiscovered compilation of the sayings of Jesus (Q).

Important Scripture

  • For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. // Matthew 5:18
  • God said to Moses: “Now write down these words, for by these words I’ve made a covenant with you and Israel.” // Exodus 34:27
  • Then the LORD replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. // Habakkuk 2:2
  • You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. // Isaiah 43:10
  • As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. // Isaiah 55:10-11

Thoughts from Others

  • The church has traditionally not located the site of inspiration to be in the mind of the human author but in the text of Scripture itself. The shift to concentrating on the intentions of the human author is something that only happened in the modern era, with the rise of historical criticism. // Dale B. Martin, Sex and the Single Savior
  • The application of the historical method to the Bible as a historical text was a path that had to be taken. If we believe that Christ is real history, and not myth, then the testimony concerning him has to be historically accessible as well. In this sense, the historical method has also given us many gifts. It has brought us back closer to the text and its originality, it has shown us more precisely how it grew, and much more besides. The historical-critical method will always remain one dimension of interpretation. // Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI)
  • The historical-critical method is “a truly dictatorial regime in theology.” It is “an uncritical and unjustified denigration of the Biblical text” and a “godless technique that eroded the Word of God itself.” // G. Maier
  • We really just want to make two basic points:
    • We want to show that not all historical-critical view-points lead to heresy (there is no satanic druid cabal slaughtering goats behind closed doors at the Society of Biblical Literature meetings!); you can be orthodox and a historical critic.
    • Since some historical critical perspectives do damage the way Christians historically have understood their faith, evangelicals should be at the forefront of the discussion, helping shape good critical scholarship rather than ceding the field to people who don’t have the same theological concerns. // Christopher M. Hays

Resources

 

Discussion Guide: Oriented Toward the Margins

Discussion Guide: Oriented Toward the Margins

For six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we are talking about the posture of being oriented towards the margins.

The concept of social justice has become a major theme in contemporary society. People are more sensitive to the different levels of marginalization, injustice, and stigmatization that affect our societies. Yet, how we address and fix these issues is not something we often agree on. Even more, we are often at a loss to understand how our faith is a unique tool for addressing injustice. What would a Christ-like response to the injustices of our world look like?

 

Icebreaker

If you had one superpower, what would it be? Why that one?

 

Scripture Reading

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3;  Amos 5:1-17; Luke 4:14-21

 

Discussion Questions

Read Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

  1. Ecclesiastes is full of observations about life. Do you find this observation accurate? Why/why not?
  2. This observation is part of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Why is it important that this sort observation is included in our Scriptures?
  3. Have you ever had an experience where you felt like the author of this passage? What made you feel that way?
  4. Why is it important to take time to lament over the plight of others?

Read Amos 5:1-17

  1. How is God’s relationship to the poor depicted in this passage? How does that relate to the observation of the author in Ecclesiastes?
  2. How do seeking the Lord and seeking justice relate in this passage?
  3. Amos is directing this message to the people of Israel. What is he calling them to do?
  4. How might the call of Amos be translated to our own times? What is this calling the Church to do?

Read Luke 4:14-21

  1. This moment is Jesus’ first public address in the book of Luke. How does this passage portray Jesus?
  2. What connections do you see between the themes of this passage and the other passages we just read?
  3. In this passage, Jesus reads from Isaiah 61. Considering what you know about Jesus’ life and ministry, how do you see him as a fulfillment of this passage?
  4. Is Jesus’ “good news” and “freedom” just a spiritual message? Why/why not?
  5. What are some concrete issues in your surrounding community where “good news” and “freedom” need to be proclaimed? What would that mean? What would that look like?

 

Diving Deeper: The Discomfort of Justice

While “social justice” is a popular idea, the practice of social justice can be quite uncomfortable, calling us into experiences and relationships that are uncomfortable. This section spends some time discussing this idea.

  1. Read the following passage from The Next Evangelicalism by Soong-Chan Rah: “The presence of poor bodies is a threat to the status quo and to our communal comfort. The presence of poor bodies reminds us of our own vulnerabilities and insecurities and that all is not well–that there are deep, gaping wounds in our society…but often instead of working to heal those wounds, we quickly cover them up so the disease is out of sight, out of mind.”
  2. Most people say they desire diverse communities. Yet, most people often tend to avoid them, too. Why is there a disconnect between the language of just and reconciled communities and the practice of these communities?
  3. Does a struggle for justice and an orientation towards the margins of society always result in uncomfortable situations? Why/why not?
  4. How is Jesus a guide in leading us into the practice of justice in our interpersonal relationships?
  5. How has your desire for justice led you into uncomfortable situations?

 

Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Rooted in the Neighborhood

Discussion Guide: Rooted in the Neighborhood

For six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we are talking about the posture of being rooted in our neighborhoods.  

In today’s globalized world, we can sometimes feel as close to Beijing as we do to Boston. We have the ability to chat with friends who are thousands of miles away and we can check the weather in Antarctica. That’s amazing, but sometimes it can mean we live our lives as if the spaces we physically inhabit don’t matter all that much. In a world of digital connection and shrinking sense of place, does caring about those around us even matter? What does it mean to be rooted to your surroundings today? What might it look like to not view your neighborhood as just a place you ended up, but as the place God has called you? 

 

Icebreaker

What kind of neighborhood did you grow up in as a kid? How do you think that shaped you?

 

Scripture Reading

Jeremiah 29:1-14; John 1:1-14

 

Discussion Questions

  1. How long have you lived in this area? What brought you here? Why are you still here?

Read JEREMIAH 29:1-14.

  1. The message this week talked about the exile in Babylon, what do you remember about the historical context of this passage and the people of Israel? What is happening to them? Conversation Helper: It may help to go back a chapter and read Jeremiah 28.
  2. How are the people of Israel responding to their displacement? What was their relationship with Babylon like?
  3. In your own words, what is God, through Jeremiah, telling Israel to do in this passage? Do you think this was an easy or hard thing to hear?
  4. Why is God calling them to be rooted in their city? Conversation Helper: It may help to keep reading up to Jeremiah 19:23. Why isn’t it time for Israel to move on? Why does God want them to pray for the prosperity of a city which exiled them?
  5. We live in an age where people move much more frequently. While they aren’t carried away in exile, many people have a tendency to live their lives focusing on the temporariness of a given stage and planning for the future. Why is this? Is this good or bad?
  6. How do you interact with your city? Do you feel like you are rooted in it? Why/why not?
  7. What might God be saying to you about rooting yourself in this city? What would it look like to respond to God’s word to Jeremiah in your life?

Diving Deeper: The INCARNATION

Read JOHN 1:1-14 in the message translation.

  1. This passage of Scripture is famous and you’ve probably encountered it in various translations. It is notoriously hard to translate, so translators have to be creative to express what the text is getting at. What do you like about the way the message translated this passage?
  2. Why does the incarnation of Christ into a single human person in a single human community matter? What does that mean for the relationship of God to physical and relational space?
  3. How does the Church relate to Christ’s incarnation? What does it mean/look like to be a incarnated community?
  4. Think about your community. What would it look like to personally live a life inspired by the incarnation of Christ? How would you embody Christ’s presence? 
  5. Jesus was personally known in his neighborhood (e.g. Matthew 13:54-58), are you known in yours? If you feel like you are, share with the group the story of how this came to be? If you feel like you aren’t, why is that?

 

Helpful Resources

The Reunion Team

Discussion Guide: Transforming Community

Discussion Guide: Transforming Community

For six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we are talking about the posture of being transformed through community. 

The Gospel of Jesus is a message of reconciliation, a message about bringing together the broken human family. The gospel means we belong to one race, the human-beloved-by-God race. Yet, reconciliation does not mean washing away our different histories, perspectives, and experiences. What does it mean to be part of a diverse gospel community? How do we deal with our differences, and how do we broach difficult subjects? Most importantly, how do we allow our differences to be part of God’s transformation of our lives?

Icebreaker

What is the one topic that you hate hearing people argue about? Why do you hate that topic in particular?

 

Scripture Reading

Galatians 2:11-21

 

Discussion Questions

  1. In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), Sarah Steward Holland and Beth Silvers explain, “Somewhere along the way….we decided that [conflict] is impolite at best and dangerous at worst. Unfortunately our attempts to avoid these uncomfortable moments have backfired. In our efforts to protect relationships from tension, we have instead escalated that tension…we changed “you shouldn’t talk about politics” to “you should talk only to people who reinforce your worldview’.” Is conflict always a bad thing? What would characterize good/healthy conflict?

Read GALATIANS 2:11-19

  1. Can someone who listened to the sermon provide some background to this passage? What ethnic/racial tensions are at play?
  2. What is theologically at stake in the passage? Why does Paul feel it is necessary to confront Cephas (Peter)?
  3. How would you describe Paul’s confrontation with Peter? Was it loving, overly harsh, something else?
  4. How did Paul utilize the Gospel in his confrontation?
  5. What do you think the immediate effects of this confrontation were? What were the long-term effects?
  6. Have you ever had someone confront you in a way similar to how Paul confronted Peter? Have you ever confronted someone/ What was the experience like? What did you learn?
  7.  In The Different Drum, M. Scott Peck talks about the stages of  group development. He explains that all groups go through four stages: Pseudo-Community > Chaos > Emptiness > Real Community.  The transition from Chaos to Emptiness is one of the most challenging stages. He says, “In order to transcend the stage of “Chaos”, members are forced to shed that which prevents real communication. Biases and prejudice, need for power and control, self-superiority, and other similar motives which are only mechanisms of self-validation and/or ego-protection, must yield to empathy, openness to vulnerability, attention, and trust. Hence this stage does not mean people should be “empty” of thoughts, desires, ideas or opinions. Rather, it refers to emptiness of all mental and emotional distortions which reduce one’s ability to really share, listen to, and build on those thoughts, ideas, etc.” How do you see this dynamic at work in the passage today?
  8. Have you ever been part of a group that had to go through the transition from chaos to emptiness? What was it like? What did you learn?
  9.  What are some areas that you feel Christian communities are afraid to talk about? What gets in the way of them having productive conflicts? 
  10. How might the Spirit be leading you to lovingly engage areas that are contentious? How might you need to empty yourself?

    Diving Deeper: ChurCH DISCIPLINE

    Read ACTS 5:1-11

      1. What is your immediate reaction to this story?
      2. What did Ananias and Sapphira do that was so wrong that God had to smite them? Is giving money to the Church really that bad?
      3. Why do you think Ananias and Sapphira acted  in the deceptive way that they did?
      4. How might the actions of Ananias and Sapphira undercut the witness of the early Church?
      5. Are there actions people take that should engender a severe disciplinary response from the Church? What are some examples, and why are such responses necessary?
      6. What would a healthy structure of church discipline look like?
      7. How should Christians engage each other today when they disagree about what actions need a disciplinary response or the nature of that response?

    Helpful Resources

    The Reunion Team

    Discussion Guide: Formed by Practice

    Discussion Guide: Formed by Practice

    For six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we are talking about the posture of rest and how that posture can transform us.

    How do we change into who we are meant to be? It’s a question that has plagued people from the dawn of time. We can be so caught up in the habits and rhythms of our daily lives that sometimes it seems impossible to ever change. It always seems like too much work, as if we need superhuman willpower to ever get out of the rut. This week, we encounter Jesus as he calls us to bear fruit, to change to be like him. As it turns out, his path to change often looks a lot different than the ones we create.

     

    Icebreaker

    What is a bad/funny habit that you haven’t been able to kick?

     

    Scripture Reading

    John 15:1-17

     

    Discussion Questions

    Read John 15:1-17

    1. What do you think it means for a person’s life to “bear fruit?” What would that practically look like in today’s world
    2. How do most people go about trying to “bear fruit” in their lives?
    3. The word translated in this passage as “remain” is meno, a Greek verb which can be translated as to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy), to abide, to continue, to dwell, to endure, to be present, to remain, to stand, to tarry. What do you think Jesus means by “remain in me?” What would that practically look like on a day to day basis?
    4. In this passage, Jesus is saying that people cannot bear fruit unless they “remain” in him. How is this different than how we typically go about bearing fruit in our lives?
    5. Jesus ties together the idea of God’s love with this idea of remaining and bearing fruit. What is the connection between these different things?
    6. How/why do you think Jesus’ plan for life transformation might work when where other methods fail?
    7. What would it look for you to “remain in Christ” on a day to day basis? What practices would you embody? What ways of thinking would you live into

     

    Diving Deeper: RULE OF LIFE

    During the message this week, we discussed how remaining in Christ means inhabiting new rhythms and habits that help us learn to keep our minds and intentions on God. We are often so caught up in moving, working, striving, that we don’t always know how to slow down, to let go, and to just be with Christ. One of the tools Christians have long used to train themselves to slow down and to just be is called a “rule of life.” Read the following definition of a rule of life and discuss the following questions.

    “A Rule of Life is an intentional pattern of spiritual disciplines that provides structure and direction for growth in holiness. A Rule establishes a rhythm for life in which is helpful for being formed by the Spirit, a rhythm that reflects a love for God and respect for how he has made us. The disciplines which we build into our rhythm of life help us to shed the “old self” and allow our “new self” in Christ to be formed. Spiritual disciplines are means of grace by which God can nourish us.” – C.S. Lewis Institute

    1. Connect this concept of a rule with the discussion from above. How does a rule of life help you learn to remain in Christ?
    2. How is a Christian a rule different than just pledging to “do more?” Is it different?
    3. Are their habits and/or rhythms in your life that you do not feel are life giving? Why do you think you are still caught in them?
    4. What are some elements that you believe would be life giving to you as you learn to remain in Christ?
    5. What would a rule of life look like for you? What personal/communal dimensions would it have?

     

    HELPFUL RESOURCES

     

     

     

    The Reunion Team

    Discussion Guide: Shaped by God’s Story

    Discussion Guide: Shaped by God’s Story

    For the next six weeks, we’ll be exploring postures of discipleship. Postures arrange our bodies to respond to various circumstances and allow us to engage with purpose. Over time, the practice of a posture reshapes our muscles and even bones such that the posture becomes a natural part of who we are. Today we start with a core posture which relates to our identity: the posture of being shaped by God’s story.

    Who was I? Who am I? Who will I be? Philosophers have pondered the nature of the human person for as long as they’ve been philosophizing. Understanding the enigma that is the self is not an easy undertaking. How do we reconcile our fears and our aspirations, our strengths and our weaknesses? Who are we when our jobs, our families, our stuff is taken away? Today, we’ll dive into Ephesians and 2 Corinthians to explore how we find answers to these questions (and more) through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

     

    Icebreaker

    What was something that you wore/owned as a kid that you thought made you cool? What was cool about it?

    Scripture Reading

    Ephesians 2:1-10; 2 Corinthians 5:13-21

    Discussion Questions

    1. How would you define “identity?” What is it and why is it important?
      CONVERSATION HELPER: Psychology Today says, “Identity is concerned largely with the question: “Who are you?” What does it mean to be who you are? Identity relates to our basic values that dictate the choices we make (e.g., relationships, career). These choices reflect who we are and what we value. For example, we can assume that investment banker values money, while the college professor values education and helping students. However, few people choose their identities. Instead, they simply internalize the values of their parents or the dominant cultures (e.g., pursuit of materialism, power, and appearance). Sadly, these values may not be aligned with one’s authentic self and create unfulfilling life. In contrast, fulfilled people are able to live a life true to their values and pursue meaningful goals. Lack of a coherent sense of identity will lead to uncertainty about what one wants to do in life.”

    Read Ephesians 2:1-10

    1. How might verses 1-3 be translated into the modern day concept of “identity?” What claims is it making about human identity?
    2. What “desires” and “thoughts” do you think shape most people’s identities? What do most people say is important, and do they live up to those ideals?
    3. Verses 4-10 are eloquent and beautiful, but it is more verbose than is typical today. In your own words, what is the author saying in these verses?
    4. How is what God did through Christ relevant for your identity? Can what someone else does be important for your identity? Why?
    5. The NIV uses the word “handiwork” for the Greek word poiēma. This is where we get the modern day word for “poem,” and it tends to convey the idea of artistic creation.  In short, the verse is saying that your identity is  “God’s beautiful masterpiece.” Do you often feel that way? If yes, what reminds you of this truth? If not, what keeps you from living into this identity?

    Read 2 Corinthians 5:13-21

    1. The author is connecting his identity in Christ to his actions in the world. What is the connection between identity and action? Are these two things always related?
    2. There are many descriptors that the author is using throughout this passage to describe what it means to be a “new creation” in Christ. What are they and how do they relate to our identity?
      CONVERSATION HELPER: Here are a few key phrases to think about – ambassadors for God (v20), controlled by Gods love (v14), ministers of reconciliation (v18), reconciled to God (v20), the righteousness of God (v21).
    3. This passage starts with personal identity and moves outward towards how we identify others. What identifiers does this passage suggest that we use towards other people? In other words, who are they?
    4. The “ministry of reconciliation” is an important concept in Scripture and can be applied to many different areas of our lives. How is this passage describing this ministry? How is reconciliation supposed to relate to our identities in Christ?

    Diving Deeper: Identity Formation

    1. Read the following excerpt from Psychology Today. According to Sharahm Heshmat, the process of identity formation has three goals:“The first task is discovering and developing one’s personal potentials. These personal potentials refer to those things that the person can do better than other things. How the person to discover what those best potentials are? The answer is a process of trial-and-error. This requires exposure to a wide array of activities, some of which we become able to do relatively well. This is recognized by the feedback we receive from others and our own positive feelings about those activities. These activities simply “feel right” to us, and these feeling are useful clues. We are intrinsically motivated to do these activities. However, the development of skills and talent requires time, effort, and willingness to tolerate frustration when obstacles to improvement encountered. Second step is choosing one’s purposes in life. It is necessary to choose what we are seeking to accomplish in our lives. To achieve substantial success in fulfilling our purpose, the objectives must be compatible with our talent and skills (our authentic self). To choose a purpose not compatible with our capabilities is a recipe for frustration and failure. Finally, one is required to find opportunities for the implementation of those potentials and purpose. Open societies allow for role mobility and flexibility to implement identity-related choices. However, this is not the case in close and rigid societies. For some, this may lead to emigration.  Identity is never “final” and continues to develop through the lifespan.”
    2. The author outlines three stages to the identity formation process. How would our identity in Christ be a part of these stages?
    3. Though we are all made in God’s image and have a common identity in Christ, we also have distinctive personalities and identities. How do the unique parts of our identity relate to the communal, shared identity in Christ?
    4. How is the diversity of our individual identities also a reflection of God?

    Helpful Resources

    Who Am I? A New Way to Define Identity by Melissa Crutchfield (Cru)
    Identity Theft (Book) by Melissa Kruger, et al.
    The Reunion Team

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