On Monday night, I headed up to Mooresville, NC (just north of Charlotte) to take part in a LifeGroup meeting connected to West United Methodist Church.
Why would I drive an hour to sit in on a bible study associated with another church?
Because the group’s curriculum was The Shadow Of A Doubt.
So working with the pastoral team at West, we thought it might be both fun and helpful if I could take part in a session in which that book was the subject. What could be a better learning experience than taking your questions and insights directly to the author?
It turns out that The Shadow Of A Doubt — which, blessedly, they found to be both logically clear and personally accessible — was but a launching pad to discuss much of what is at the heart of the Christian faith. The conversation gave me an opportunity to share some insights that those of us at Good Shepherd have heard so much we take for granted, but that for this particular audience provided new ways of processing an old story.
What did we talk about?
- Christology — in particular the “Mt. Rushmore” of Scripture passages that speak of a cosmic Christ who is both the agent and sustainer of creation: Colossians 1:15-20, John 1:1-4, Hebrews 1:1-4, and Philippians 2:5-11. No “great man Jesus” in that theology.
- Library — oh, they loved this. If you’re at Good Shepherd, you’ve heard it a thousand times: the bible is not a book, it’s a library.
- Hermeneutics (though, of course, we didn’t use that word) — essentially, how do you interpret the bible? And, because the bible is a library, you don’t interpret it literally. You don’t interpret it symbolically. You interpret it literarily — meaning, different interpretive methods for the different styles of writing in Scripture.
- Genesis 1 — Using the “library, literary” approach, it becomes clear that Genesis 1 is a hymn with verses and choruses AND that the hymn is designed to show how God is serenely and supremely in control of his creation, in marked contrast to the creation stories of Israel’s neighbors.
- What Matters — In bible study, what ultimately counts is not “what does it mean to you?’ but “what did it mean to them (the first readers and hearers) and how does that connect to life today?
All in all, it was a lively and energizing conversation.