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Theology Crawl: Experience & Theology

Theology Crawl: Experience & Theology

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, grab a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

The Big Question: What role does human experience have in our theology?

The Main Questions

  • What do you mean when you say, “human experience?”
  • What is the difference between subjective experience and objective reality? Is it possible to tell the difference?
  • Is experience a reliable source of truth? Why or why not?
  • Taking turns as a group, read through the section below called “Thoughts from Others.” What quote do you most agree/disagree with? Why?

  • How have your experiences shaped what you believe about God? How do you evaluate these experiences as viable sources of knowledge about God?
  • What is the benefit of recognizing the role of experience in theology? What are the dangers?
  • Is it possible to know God without the prism of our experience? If yes, how so? If not, is theology merely a reflection of human experience?
  • We’ve discussed four “sources” of theology this summer (Scripture, Reason, Tradition, Experience). How should the “source” of experience interact with the other “sources”?

    Important Scripture

    • I have been young and now I am old, / Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken / Or his descendants begging bread. // Psalm 37:25
    • When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labor that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it. // Ecclesiastes 8:16-17
    • Wisdom is with aged men, / With long life is understanding. // Job 12:12
    • I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; / But now my eye sees You; // Job 42:5
    • So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved.” // Genesis 32:30
    • If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him. // John 14:7

    Thoughts from Others

    • I don’t claim to be knowledgeable about theology. Most of my knowledge comes out of my experience and the lessons in the Bible. // President Jimmy Carter
    • Theological conclusions are not just deductions from authoritative statements, but are worked out by worshippers responsibly engaged with God, each other, Scripture, the surrounding culture, everyday life, and all the complexities, ups and downs of history. // David F. Ford
    • Question. 1. What is the chief end of humanity?
      Answer 1. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. // The Westminster Shorter Catechism
    • There can be no black theology which does not take the black experience as a source for its starting point” // James Cone
    • God does not become an ideal, so that man achieves community with him through constant striving. He humbles himself and takes upon himself the eternal death of the godless and the godforsaken, so that all the godless and the godforsaken can experience communion with him. // Jürgen Moltmann
    • The essence of religion consists in the feeling of an absolute dependence. // Friedrich Schleiermacher
    • I now understand that I would never have been able to become a plausible critic of the absurdities of modern consciousness until I myself had experienced them. I did not become an orthodox believer or theologian until after I tried out most of the errors long rejected by Christianity. // Thomas Oden
    • If a man once looked at the Atlantic from the beach, and then goes and looks at a map of the Atlantic, he also will be turning from something real to something less real… The map is admittedly only colored paper, but there are two things you have to remember about it. In the first place, it is based upon what hundreds and thousands of people have found out by sailing the real Atlantic. In that way it has behind it masses of experience just as real as the one you could have from the beach; only, while yours would be a single glimpse, the map fits all those different experiences together. In the second place, if you want to go anywhere, the map is absolutely necessary. // C.S. Lewis

    Resources

    Theology Crawl: Experience & Theology

    Theology Crawl: Reason, Tradition & Theology

    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, grab a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

    The Big Question: What role do tradition and reason have in our theologies?

    The Main Questions

    TRADITION

    • How would you define “tradition” in the context of theology and Christianity? What is it and what is it for?
    • Can tradition be a source of knowledge about God? If yes, how so? If not, why not?
    • Name a traditional thought/idea/practice of Christianity and answer the following questions:
      • Do I appreciate this tradition? Why/why not?
      • Do I dislike this tradition? Why/why not?
      • Is Christian theology impossible without this tradition? Why/why not?
    • What are the limits of tradition for informing how we do theology?

    REASON

    • What does it mean for something to be “rational” or “reasonable”?
    • Can reason be a source of knowledge about God? If yes, how so? If not, why not?
    • Can theology be reasonable? If not, why can’t it be so? If yes, should it be so?
    • What are the limits of reason for informing how we do theology?
    • Are tradition and reason antithetical sources of authority in theology? Why or why not? 

    Important Scripture

    • Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you // 1 Corinthians 11:2
    • The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. // 2 Timothy 2:2
    • These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. // Deuteronomy 6:6-7
    • For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, / And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? // 1 Corinthians 1:18-20
    • “Come now, and let us reason together,” / Says the Lord, / “Though your sins are as scarlet, / They will be as white as snow; / Though they are red like crimson, / They will be like wool. // Isaiah 1:18
    • because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. // Romans 1:19-20

    Thoughts from Others

    • Faith is believing what you know ain’t so. // Mark Twain
    • Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth. // Pope John Paul II
    • Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things. // Martin Luther
    • The true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries nor innovators, but men of tradition.” // Pope St. Pius X
    • To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without faith, no explanation is possible. // Thomas Aquinas
    • Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. // G.K. Chesterton
    • Faith consists in believing when it is beyond the power of reason to believe. // Voltaire
    • Life is a battle between faith and reason in which each feeds upon the other, drawing sustenance from it and destroying it. // Reinhold Niebuhr
    • The way to see by Faith is to shut the Eye of Reason. // Benjamin Franklin
    • No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. // T.S. Eliot

    Resources

    Theology Crawl: Experience & Theology

    Theology Crawl: The Bible and Theology

    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, grab a drink and start unpacking the deep mysteries of the universe!

    The Big Question: What is the relationship between theology and the Bible?

    The Main Questions

    • How would you define “theology”? What is it? Who does it? Why does it matter?
    • Look at the section below titled “Sources of Theology.” Are any of these sources surprising/troubling to you? If so, why? If not, why is this so
    • How would you define “divine revelation”? How does divine revelation relate to the Bible?
    • Are there other sources of divine revelation? If so, what are they?
    • Should the Bible be thought of as a “source” of theology or the “measuring rod” for theology? In other words, does the Bible have a unique relationship to Christian theology compared to other sources of theology? Why or why not?
    • Can a theological idea be “biblical” and not be found in the Bible? For example, the Trinity is a longstanding Christian doctrine, but the idea and concept is not found directly in the text.
    • Look back at the section below titled “Sources of Theology”. How would you relate the Bible to the other aspects of the quadrilateral?

    Sources oF THEOLOGY

    First described by Albert Outler, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral is a shorthand way of talking about the sources of theology. Outler argued that John Wesley’s theology was formed through a dialogue of Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason. Each of these facets, however, had their own level of importance and role in the formation of theology.

    Today, the quadrilateral is generally used as a way to describe the source of any theology. Though everyone makes use of these aspects differently, every Christian theology is sourced by Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason.

    Important Scripture

    • I will study your commandments and reflect on your ways. I will delight in your decrees and not forget your word.// Psalm 119:15-16
    • This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. // Joshua 1:8
    • Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts. // Jeremiah 15:16
      Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. // Acts 17:11
      Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. // 1 John 4:1
      but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; // 1 Peter 3:15

    Thoughts from Others

    • What has Jerusalem to do with Athens, the Church with the Academy, the Christian with the heretic?… After Jesus we have no need of speculation, after the Gospel no need of research. // Tertullian
    • The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. // Søren Kierkegaard
    • To preach the Bible as ‘the handbook for life,’ or as the answer to every question, rather than as the revelation of Christ, is to turn the Bible into an entirely different book. This is how the Pharisees approached Scripture, as we can see clearly from the questions they asked Jesus. For the Pharisees, the Scriptures were a source of trivia for life’s dilemmas. // Michael Horton
    • I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this Book that you can by reason and the balance by faith, and you will live and die a better man. It is the best Book which God has given to man. // Abraham Lincoln
    • Theological formation is the gradual and often painful discovery of God’s incomprehensibility. You can be competent in many things, but you cannot be competent in God. // Henri Nouwen
    • One can be a brilliant theologian without being spiritual, and one can be spiritual without being much of a theologian // Don Stewart
    • We can no more abandon theology than we can abandon God, since theology is involved in some fashion whenever we think or speak about God. Consequently, every person is a theologian. The only question is whether we will be thoughtful, responsible theologians or irresponsible ones. // David W. Congdon and W. Travis McMaken
    • Theology is the grammar of the Christian faith. // Brandon D. Smith
    • The foibles, inconsistencies and humanness (of the Bible) all the more show us that the letter of the Scripture is not to be enthroned as an idol to be worshipped of itself. The letter will always kill. It is the spirit which God has breathed into his holy instrument, the spirit of his high Logos, this Word, that transmits its life to all those who obey it. // Michael Phillips
    • Were we allowed to read the Bible as we do all other books, we would admire its beauties, treasure its worthy thoughts, and account for all its absurd, grotesque and cruel things, by saying that its authors lived in rude, barbaric times. But we are told that it was written by inspired men; that it contains the will of God; that it is perfect, pure, and true in all its parts; the source and standard of all moral and religious truth; that it is the star and anchor of all human hope; the only guide for man, the only torch in Nature’s night. These claims are so at variance with every known recorded fact, so palpably absurd, that every free, unbiased soul is forced to raise the standard of revolt. // Robert Ingersoll

    Resources

     

    5th Sunday Serve – Food Insecurity

    5th Sunday Serve – Food Insecurity

     

    1.6 million people in the Commonwealth report they are struggling to get enough to eat during the pandemic, according to a new survey by the Greater Boston Food Bank. That’s an increase of 55% from 2019 to 2020, with people of color and families with children are being disproportionately impacted.

    1.6 million people in our state are struggling with food insecurity each day! We want to do something about that.

    At REUNION, on the 5th Sunday of the month, instead of our usual gathering, we spend that morning serving with our local partners, and this month, here is how we are going to help address this problem:

    We are inviting you to join us in supporting two of our partners — Pine Street Inn and Daniel’s TableThese two organizations are addressing the issue of food insecurity in Boston and Framingham by preparing and serving nearly 25,000 meals each and every week! They need us to restock their pantries in order to continue meeting this urgent need in our community.

    We are asking you to donate: 

    • Healthy snacks –  granola bars, nuts, & healthy cereal
    • Hot drinks – hot chocolate, tea, & coffee
    • Non-perishable items – brown rice, whole wheat spaghetti, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, salad dressing

    You can ship your donations to:
    Reunion Christian Church
    22 Narragansett Road
    Quincy, MA 02169

    Please have items shipped by May 30th!

    Or you can drop off your donations at two locations on Sunday, the 30th, between 10 am and 1 pm. There will be a pastor at each location to receive your donation and to say hi!

    Drop off locations: 
    31 Willis Ave, Medford 
    OR
    22 Narragansett Rd, 
    Quincy

    The Reunion Team

    Lent at Reunion: A Guided Fast

    Lent at Reunion: A Guided Fast

    Lent is a season of preparation.  It’s a season where we give up good things so we can focus on better things.  Each week, we want to invite you to fast from a different habit or thing we rely on regularly.  Every weekend, we will break our fast to rest and celebrate the goodness of God in this season.  THIS IS NOT A PROGRESSIVE FAST.  We will only fast from one thing each week.  The next week, we will move on and fast from a new thing.  

    This is also an experiential fast.  When we fast, we don’t simply abstain from certain things and try to suffer through it, but we set our attention and give our time to other things, better things.  As we fast together as a community, we want to be intentional with our time and attention.  

    We have created this GUIDE to help us accomplish this!  In this journal, you’ll find suggested actions you can take, everyday, to help us draw closer to God, to learn more about ourselves, and to love our neighbors.  There are also reflection questions to journal through after each day.  So download the guide, grab a notebook, and journal through your experience!

    Before we begin our fast, there are a few things to keep in mind during the season of Lent:

    Fasting is a shift in focus. Lent is not about suffering aimlessly. As you put down things, make sure to pick up habits that deepen your faith like prayer, bible study, and reflection.

    Be Smart. Some fast items can be difficult/dangerous for small children, the elderly, or pregnant and nursing mothers. Make sure to fast in a way that preserves your health.

    Follow Your Conscience. Some things we have chosen to give up as a community might not feel like much of a sacrifice or may be too burdensome for some reason. It is okay to add or take away as your conscience leads.

    Nathan Caddell
    Somerville Location Pastor

    Prayer Basics: How to Pray With Someone

    Prayer Basics: How to Pray With Someone

    My dad was a minister, so growing up I experienced a behind the scenes look at almost every aspect of what it meant to pastor a church- except for praying with someone personally. It’s not as though my dad wasn’t praying with people. He certainly was. It’s just that I rarely saw my dad in those moments. They were, understandably, private in nature, so I didn’t have the same amount of exposure to those interactions. Consequently, when I went into ministry myself, I felt uncharacteristically out of my element when it came to praying with someone personally. Every other facet of doing ministry seemed like second nature to me. It was all very familiar. But not praying with someone. Those were uncharted waters. And that made me very uncomfortable. I felt unsure about what to say or how much to say and in truth I think I avoided those opportunities for quite some time. It’s not that people didn’t ask me to pray for them. They did. I simply said that I would be sure to do so and then moved the conversation along.  


    Can you relate? Have you ever found yourself in conversation with someone who clearly needed prayer, only to let the moment pass instead of taking advantage of the opportunity? It’s so much easier to offer our ‘thoughts and prayers’ rather than taking that uncomfortable step of asking, ‘Would it be alright for me to pray with you right now?’
    “What if they say, ‘Yes!’? What then?” These are the worries that flood our minds in those moments. We fear we’ll look foolish, or that we’ll say something wrong. 


    Fortunately, there are no rules about how we are to go about praying for someone. The key is to remember that God is the one who brings about any change in a person’s life, not us, and He has assured us that His Spirit is at work in our hearts, even to the point of speaking words when our own fail us. There’s something significant that happens when we take hold of the moment and pray with someone- the grace of God has an open invitation to begin working in that person’s life and in ours as well. 


    If you want to take advantage of opportunities to pray with someone, here are a few pointers that have been of help to me.


    First- When you find yourself in conversation with someone who needs prayer, simply ask: Would it be alright for me to pray with you right now?  Once you’ve asked, listen for their reply. Sometimes a person might feel uncomfortable with you praying for them in that moment. If they say ‘no’ simply reply, ‘Ok. Well, please know I will be praying for you later.’ Then by all means remember to do so. 

    Second- If they agree to let you pray for them don’t panic. This is a beautiful chance for God to work His grace through you and into this person’s life. If you are afraid, simply ask God silently for courage. 

    Third- If this conversation is happening online or on the phone there’s no need to worry about what do with your hands or how close you should be as you pray. But if you are in person, it would be good to ask, “Can I put my hand on your shoulder?” And then comply as they wish.

    Fourth- Begin to pray. If you lack words, try to remember this simple acrostic:P. R. A. Y.
    P- Praise God(“Thank you God that You love us and hear our prayers. We praise you in all circumstances.”)
    R- Remember the Need(“We pray for ______ and their broken foot.”)
    A- Ask God to Intercede(“Lord help it heal quickly, help them as they manage their crutches and provide for their needs.”)
    Y- Yield to His Way(“In all things, God, You are in control. We thank You for Your hand on this issue.”)
    If we struggle for words in our prayer, just remember to P.R.A.Y.

    Finally, it’s good to remember this is not our time to shine in trying to come up with eloquent prayers that shift attention back onto us instead of God. Ultimately He is the source of strength and healing. Let Him be God and just be yourself. I’m always amazed at the words I’m prompted to speak when guided by the Spirit of God, even if my prayer is only a few words long. In any case, it’s hard to go wrong when we keep our words short and simple.
    I hope that these suggestions will be of help to you when the opportunity arises for you to pray with someone. It’s important to maintain a regular prayer life if we want to develop this skill. The more we pray, the more our confidence and competence grows. This also helps align our hearts with God so we are in tune with Him as we pray for someone.

    Jeff Oaks 

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