Study Guide for the book: Saving Jesus From the Church

The Thursday Night
Group is beginning a study of Robin Meyers’ new book entitled:  Saving Jesus from the Church.  The Study Guide below was sent to us by the
author himself.  We begin our discussion
on Thursday evening November 3rd beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Saving
Jesus from the Church

Reading – Discussion Questions

 

Prologue: A
Preacher’s Nightmare:  Am I a Christian

 

1. Is Meyers’ description of a preacher’s Sunday something that you have ever given much thought about?

2. In what ways doyou identify with Meyers’ stereotype of TV evangelists?

3. Have you ever asked the question: If this is Christianity and these are Christians, I must not be one?

4. What are your thoughts/feelings about clergy celebrities who parade their wealth in public?

5. What questions about right belief (creedal faith) have plagued you during your lifetime?

6. Do you agree thatorganized (mainline) religion is dysfunctional?

7. What are your thoughts on the idea that the church has gotten it all wrong by focusing on right belief and right worship rather than service?

 

Chapter One: Jesus the Teacher, Not the Savior

1. Do you agree, or not, with Meyers that many folk have left the church because it lacks intellectual and historical honesty?

2. Do you agree, or not, that Christianity is not about what we believe but what we do?

3. Do you consider Biblical illiteracy to be a problem in the church?  In society?

4. Do you feel “faith has become essentially an individual transaction, and the image of God is that of a personal trainer?”

5. Were you aware that scholars have found and identified twenty Gospels?

6. Is the history of Constantine’s mixing of Christ Worshipers with Sun Worshipers and how it changed Christianity new to you?

7. What are your thoughts on Crossan’s remarks about Celsus, and about Celsus’ remarks? (p. 32)

8. How would you answer Meyers’ query: What shall we offer to those who are not believers and yet wish to be followers?

 

Chapter Two: Faith is Being, Not Belief

 

1. What are your thoughts on the statement: Jesus of Nazareth was not the first Christian, for did he come bearing a list of theological propositions?

2. Do you agree or disagree that faithfulness is based on belief?

3. What are your
views of faith as Correct Worship and Right Belief?

4. Have you ever considered the other meanings of the word faith? (2nd par.-
page 37)

5. Do you think of Jesus as a Jewish Carpenter or a Christian King?

6. Do you think of Jesus as a disciple of John the Baptist, and that John’s imprisonment and execution radicalized Jesus?

7. What is your understanding of the concept of the Incarnation?

8. Do your agree that we are in a time of growing biblical ignorance among many professing Christians?

9. Do you consider Jesus’ wisdom to be counter to many commonly held religious ideas.

10. Is the idea that there is no final judgment and that morality isn’t tied to rewards and punishment troublesome to you?

 

Chapter Three: The Cross as Futility, Not Forgiveness

1. How has your understanding of the crucifixion changed over the years?

2. Do you think Jesus’ actions during the last week of his life were political protest or theological prophecy fulfilled?

3. Do you view Mark’s gospel as history remembered or prophecy historicized?

4. How does the comment: There are now more known differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament; impact your thinking?

5. Does the idea of Mark’s gospel as liturgy or divine drama rather than history challenge your theology?

6. What is your interpretation of: A more modern approach is to see the cross as the death of an old way of being in the world, so that we can be raised to a new way of being?

7. Do you believe in the doctrines of The Fall, Original Sin, Blood Atonement?

8. Do you view Jesus as a subversive protesting injustice or as a sacrifice for our personal salvation?

9. Are you a humanist or a Docetist in your understanding of Jesus?

 

Chapter Four: Easter as Presence, Not Proof

 

1.  At what point did you cease to be an “airport” Christian, focused only on Jesus Birth and Resurrection?

2. Were you surprised to learn that resurrection was considered a common occurrence in the ancient world but only something that happened to royalty?

3.  Does the concept of the bodily resurrection being a later theological development in the early church surprise you?

4.  How have you reconciled the contradictions in the Easter story between Matthew, Luke and John?

5.  How have your thoughts on the Doubting Thomas story changed over the years?

6. Is the idea of the post-resurrection appearances as political instead of
historical, both in terms of Rome and power struggles among the early church leaders, new and surprising to you?

7.  Your thoughts on Meyers’: But if the New Testament can be seen for what it is— the unfolding, metaphorical witness of a community unalterably changed by the life, death, and abiding presence of Jesus, then it all represents an act of supreme devotion.

8.  Is the idea that the doctrine of bodily resurrection (enforced by Tertullian) as a method of establishing orthodoxy and eliminating other ideas one you had conidered before?

9. Your thoughts on the concept that the Resurrection story of the early church was a political rallying cry to continue the revolt started by Jesus against Rome.

10. Do you agree with Meyers that the word Christian has become synonymous with hypocrisy, mean-spiritedness, and conspicuous consumption?

 

Chapter 5: Original Blessing, not Original Sin

1.  Do you accept the mythology of Original Sin (why/why not)?

2.  What impact did Augustine and the Manicheans have on Christian Theology?

3.  What are your thoughts on the three options discussed in the last paragraph on page 100?

4.  Do you agree that the clergy have failed the laity in teaching about the Bible?

5.  What meaning do you take from the Genesis stories?

6.  Are simplistic literalism and dualism a necessary evil of
maintaining a civil society?

7.  What are the dangers of terminal false dichotomies or its opposite
radical relativism
for our world? (Is life a battle to win or lose or a
journey toward wisdom?)

8.  Do you agree that most Christians see faith as believing stuff in order toget stuff?

9.  Your thoughts on Salvation is about transformation in this life, not a
change of destination in the next
and original sin is a theology of entrapment, not liberation?

10.  Your thoughts on the ideas expressed on page 115 of: the language of war in the language of salvation; ours is a theology of entitlement; and culture of irresponsibility; etc?

11.  What are the implications of a new reformation grounded in a doctrine of faith as praxis (following Jesus not worshiping Christ)?

 

Chapter 6: Christianity as Compassion, Not Condemnation

1. In what ways do you see worship as performance and a substitute for action?

2.  What are your thoughts on there being no theology in Jesus’ instructions to his
followers?

3.  Do you agree that the church has converted the subversive wisdom of Jesus into
the neutral energy of Christ, just blessing what we do?

4.  Your thoughts on: The peddling of fear in any form as incentive to faith remains the most egregious sin that can be committed in the name of Jesus.

5.  Your thoughts on: Worshiping Christ keeps us locked into theological battles over who is right and who is wrong.

6.  Your thoughts on faith as compassion rather than perfection or mercy? (P. 126)

7.  Do you agree/disagree that the criteria for judgment is ethical rather than theological?  Or that judgment really isn’t involved in our faith at all?

8.  Your thoughts on being born again meaning to escape the prison of theself rather than getting into heaven.

9.  What are your thoughts/feelings about the value and purpose of communion considering it was a full meal in its original form?

10.  What are your positive and negative perspectives on mixing religion and politics?  With speaking truth to power?

 

Chapter  7: Discipleship as Obedience, not Observance

1.  In what ways has our congregation succumbed to marketing a popular faith to serve the customer instead of challenging people to serve God?

2.  In your experience do most folk experience Jesus as a radically disturbing presence or a cosmic comforter?

3.  What are you willing to give up to follow Jesus?

4.  How do we raise up the idea of obeying God and break down the desire to require  belief or to enshrine Jesus?

5.  What are your thoughts on: the gospel is a stunningly political document  buried under centuries of sentimental interpretations?

6.  What is your answer to the question: How, then, are we to be followers of  Jesus today, when Christ is reclining at the banquet of the Pax Americana?

7.  Your thoughts on: Today, the church itself is occupied by the gospel of the  marketplace, and sacred space is increasingly indistinguishable from secular space.

8.  Do you agree that the church is plagued with a virulent strain of
anti-intellectualism
?

9.  Have you ever considered the Lord’s Prayer as being about politics, imperial power and communal economics rather than theology, heaven and individual salvation?

10.  Do you agree that to be a follower of Jesus means to be aliens in a foreign land; a community that should not feel at home in the world

 

Chapter  8: Justice as Covenant, Not Control

 

1.  In your life’s experience how has religion changed from being generally a cohesive to a divisive social force?

2.  Do you consider radical politics, social & technological change or outdated theology to be the major cause of declining church membership?

3.  Do your consider wisdom theology or salvation theology to be more
important; more marketable; more a reflection of Jesus ministry?

4. Does our society currently have a unifying vision or are we beginning to atrophy in a self-absorbed soup of gamesmanship and greed?

5.  Is the idea of a general social covenant possible in our modern diverse culture?

6. Do you ever give thought to the Lord’s Prayer as a political and economic statement rather than a theological one?

7.  Do you agree that our theology of salvation caters to the individual at the expense of community?

8.  Has America lost sight of the concept of the common good?

9.  What are your thoughts on the idea that the religious right wishes to establish a theocracy?

10.  Do you agree that a great deal of religious doctrine is born of a desire to control those around us?

11.  What are the complications of teaching faith as a belief system characterized by certainty?

12.  Do you agree that there can be no peace as long as there are Fundamentalisms?

 

Chapter  9: Prosperity as Dangerous, Not Divine

1.  What are your thoughts on the Gospel of Greed preached in many churches and on TV?

2.  How do we (as a church) deal with the idea that abundant life is the
same as material wealth?

3.  What are the complications of following the early church’s model of sharing everything for Christians in our modern society?

4.  In what ways can the church model an alternative to the accumulation of wealth and stuff?

5. What are your thoughts on the idea that God will reward your giving to the church with greater personal wealth?

6. Is our modern capitalist economy by its very nature anti-Christian?

7.  In what ways should the church be challenging our energy intensive lifestyles?

8.  Should we be moving toward Bonhoffer’s religionless Christianity?

9.  What are the church’s roles and options dealing with poverty and hunger?

10.  What kinds of political action/advocacy should the church be involved in  dealing with the ethical issues of our day?

11.  What are our options if we chose to be a sustainable congregation?

 

Chapter  10: Religion as Relationship, Not Righteousness

1.  If the church is as it relates, where do our relationships break down in our Congregation?

2.  What is your reaction to the Bible was not written for you or me?

3.  Do you view Jesus/Christ as totally human, half human-half divine, or totally divine?

4.  From your perspective do most Christians encounter God as I-Thou or as I-It?

5.  Considering Buber’s Hebrew-Humanism do you think we should promote a  Christian-Humanism?

6.  In what ways has our society/culture turned God into a tribal Deity?  The bible into a Deity?

7.  Have the moderate/mainline congregations lost their prophetic voice?

8.  Do you agree/disagree that we must move beyond the Bible?  Beyond historic theologies?

9.  What are your reflections on: The old way of being Christian in the world cannot stand; and a new way cannot be avoided if the faith is to endure and the human race to survive.

 

Epilogue:  A Preachers Dream: Faith is Following Jesus

1.  What books and/or authors influenced your early faith journey?

2.  What are some of the legacies of following Jesus in our congregation?

3.  Are we a congregation more focused on worshiping Christ or following Jesus?

4.  What do you think the church should look like? Be about? How do we make it  happen?

 

 

 

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