The general idea is to investigate what insights we might gain about God and Christianity if we were to start our investigation with the Creation.
This going to be really, really unusual, because we’ll be delving into some approaches to Scripture that are unfamiliar although, I’m confident, very sound and true to God’s word.
We’ll borrow a bit from the Eastern Orthodox — who did not partake of many of the errors of Catholicism, which were borrowed by most Protestants. They see things differently than we do. They aren’t always right, of course, but a fresh perspective can open up all sorts of insights you never would have attained from within a Western worldview.
We’ll also borrow from Michael J. Gorman, N. T. Wright, John Walton, and other contemporary Christian writers, who bring their own fresh insights to Bible study. I’ll admit to several other influences, including Ray Vander Laan, John Mark Hicks, and Scot McKnight.
Moreover, this series will draw together strands from earlier lesson series we’ve taught at church — from the quarters on the life of Abraham, the life of David, the Vander Laan series on the Exodus, some ideas mentioned in the Galatians series, and the Blue Parakeet series on how to read the Bible as a whole, in light of the over-arching narrative. The teacher should refer back to those lessons as we bump into them a second time.
The reason the class should already be familiar with David’s life in the wilderness is that we covered it in detail. These notes won’t repeat that material. Rather, we covered that material so we can now go much deeper into what it all means.
But mainly, I just want to understand what the Spirit has inspired for us to study and to be formed by. The role of Scripture is not to create fascinating puzzles for theologians but to reshape and re-image the readers. We are to come away from our studies changed. Therefore, if you read for affirmation and approval, well, better to visit the self-help section at Barnes and Noble. The Bible will affirm you — but will also insist that you undergo a radical transformation — one that never, ever ends.
If you watched the Matrix, you’ll recall that the hero was offered a red pill and blue pill. Here’s the scene –
The Creation, properly understood, is the red pill. If you get it, you can see more clearly for what it really is. You can attain an inkling of how the world looks in God’s eyes. Indeed, you can come far closer to knowing God if you understand what he’s made and why.
But just as in the Matrix, you’ll be forced to leave behind some precious preconceptions — preconceptions that define our identity and our relationship with God. You see, everything changes when we get the creation.
Now, this quarter will be similar to the summer quarter. We’ll have questions and passages to read each week, but the passages won’t be all in the same book of the Bible. Some weeks, there won’t be many questions at all, and so we won’t try to provide a separate set of questions each day.
But still, it’ll be questions and passages, leading up to a Sunday class, a discussion class, followed by extensive notes on the passages that you’d been studying.
For those who can’t bear to wait for Monday to get the notes, the materials are all posted at /creation-2-0/.
Teachers especially would do well to go to the blog postings and review the comments as well as my posts. The readers are asking some thoughtful questions, and I’ve tried my best to answer. Teachers are welcome to participate in the discussion.
The class may read ahead as much as they want — but only if they promise not to use the privilege of previewing the materials as an excuse to miss class! There’s nothing like a class discussion to help cement the lessons. And that’s their best chance to ask questions and even challenge the lessons. Personally, as one of the teachers, I’d far rather have the hard questions in class than in the hallway. That way, the other students who might have had the same hard questions can benefit from the interchange.
Teachers don’t have to strictly follow the Q&A format. After all, the students will get the answers on Monday (Sunday at 12 noon is how it normally works out, actually). You do need to teach from the material, stay on the subject, and keep up with the pace of the lessons. Some of coolest stuff is near the end (I’m hoping. I’ve not written the end yet.)
You are welcome to disagree with me. After all, I’ll get the last word on Monday (or Sunday). But if you have serious reservations about the materials, we need to talk and sort through them. I may well need to fix the lessons where I’ve erred, and I’ll need to know my mistakes in advance of class to do that.
Books to read (not required, but really good reading):
Michael J. Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology. Extraordinary book. Scholarly but not hard to read, even if you don’t know Greek etc.
N. T. Wright, Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense. Very readable, excellent book.
N. T. Wright, Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters. Also very readable but astonishingly deep.
These three books will take your breath away as you begin to better see the majesty of God and his salvation.
Walton’s book introduces the notion that the Creation is God’s temple, and that’s an astonishingly big deal when you really think about it.
This series will not address the age-of-the-earth question, as that’s only a 150-year old issue, and I’m far more interested in what God, through Moses, was saying to Israel than how old the planet is, myself. That’s not to disrespect the question of how to reconcile science and the Bible. I’ve actually studied that question at great length and, I believe, to great profit. But it’s not this quarter’s question.