Monday 22 May 2017

a) READ ME FIRST

The page numbers given on this blog are for the Revised edition of the book.


To return to website (copy and paste):  https://www.lifesultimatequestions.com/

a) This blog has divided the themes of the book into 10 lessons.   The book, I believe, is best processed in group discussions.  Suggested conversation starters are listed for each lesson.  Small groups of truth seekers, church sponsored home study groups, would benefit from such discussions.   The book, and this blog, could also be a curriculum resource for Christian school’s Bible perspective classes.  

b) The book has consciously / deliberately made room for God to work.  Argument, logic will never move anyone closer to the heart change that is needed for a renewal of relationship with God.  Our group discussions should make room for God to work; a prayer, a heart turning to deity as best we know how, is recommended for each study.  Each study should end with a scripture reading: the foundational assumption being that God has revealed truth / himself in the Bible. (see session 1 for more on this)

c) The purpose of this blog is to help develop the conversation among small groups of truth seekers.. The blog is meant to be a help for discussion group leaders.   A church that is losing such a large percentage of its youth / members needs to take a hard look at itself and its agenda.  What is needed to bring rootedness to believers, sufficient to withstand the onslaughts of an overwhelmingly atheistic culture?

d) Blog entries may not be monitored.  Personal letters to the author should be made to my dedicated email address jakewienspg@gmail.com

e) Befriending the book’s facebook page / post would be appreciated.  Nothing travels faster than “word of mouth”. 

f) Single copies available from the author for 25.00 (if shipping is needed $22.50 plus shipping).  Requests for multiple copies of the book (study groups / class sets) are available from the author at a reduced rate ($20.00) plus shipping.   Send your request via the dedicated email address above.  Payment options (etransfer) will be sent upon ordering.   

Sunday 21 May 2017

b) BLOG SUMMARY OF THEMES

Blog Summary of Themes

Session 1 – Read to page 36.
SPIRITUALITY – Life is about More than What We See

Session 2 – Read to page 37 - 51.     page 157 - 163
RELIGION PROVIDES THE AGENDA FOR ALL CULTURE-SHAPING

Session 3 – Read to page 52 - 83.
ATHEISM IS A RELIGION

Session 4 – Read to page 86 - 108.
EASTERN RELIGIONS AND CHRISTIANITY

Session 5 – Read to page 109 - 129.
ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY

Session 6 – Read to page 130 - 156.    
HUMANISM’S METASTORY – The Story that is Shaping Western Cultures

Session 7 – Read to page 166 - 195.
WHAT IS TRUTH – The Need to make Faith Assumptions

Session 8 – Read to page 198 - 224.
THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN METASTORY – The Story with an Origin in Heaven itself.

Session 9 – Read to page 225 -  254.
APOLOGETCS - The Evidences that Strengthen Christianity’s Circular Reasoning

Session 10 – Read to page 255- 277   review pages 23 - 36
AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY – More than a Tradition, More than Simple Mental Assent




Friday 19 May 2017

d) Session 1 SPIRITUALITY – LIFE IS ABOUT MORE THAN WHAT WE SEE


Read to page 36
               
Some have commented that this first section seems out of place.  This section focuses on spirituality.  The rest of the book focuses on religion.  

This first section is an  INTRODUCTION to the JOURNEY that we all must take in our search for answers.  If yours is more an academic interest, ie. how has the author developed his ideas then possibly you need to begin at Part 2.

Considering the Forward  page xv  to xviii
At this point, ie the first of our 10 week sessions, do you agree with the author, "Has the term religion and the concepts associated with religion been lost to our culture?  How did this happen and how do we recover the awareness of religion for today?  How important is this struggle to regain a cultural understanding of religion?  (Just a brief discussion - this is the main focus of the book, should become clear as we move along.)

Considering page 4 - 7:  Life’s Ultimate Questions, the Why of this Book
1) Does everyone have a set of Ultimate Life Questions and Answers?  
* When do we have to wrestle with them?  Have you ever personally wrestled with them?  What triggered this searching?
** Does such a set of questions and answers point to the reality of a deeper spiritual dimension?  Or as some would say; the presence of such questions is simply the result of religious conditioning.  Discuss.

Considering pages 8 - 15: The Promise of a Spiritual Quest
2) Discuss the list of spiritual characteristics provided (pg. 7-10).  Agree / disagree / additions / deletions.  
* With which one(s) can you personally relate?  
** Share your personal story with respect to that spiritual wrestling / awakening.  (Possibly it would be appropriate to pray for each other.)

3) Compare a person who is healthy physically but is suffering spiritually (lack in Page 11 - 15 list).   Compare that person with someone who has brokenness in the body but has a healthy spirituality.  

* Which dimension of our being is foundational, more important?  
** How should this realization reorient our lives?

Considering pages 16 – 22:  The Dilemma inherent in a Spiritual Quest & Wrapping our Mind around the Concept of God

4) How do we envision God?   Does our concept of God impact how we process our relationship with God?   Many of us may have collected a fair bit of baggage in our relationship with God.  
* How much of this emotional baggage has triggered wrong images of God, as a result wrong responses to God?

** Why does God insist on no images or statutes depicting God?   (2nd of the 10 commandments, Exodus 20:4)   How does an image or mental image limit or twist our understanding of an invisible, unfathomable God?   Given the third commandment (Exodus 20:5) possibly God would have us think of Him primarily in terms of a Name – and He has given us many variations of His name (all the I AM’s).  

*** Ultimately God has revealed himself in the coming of Jesus Christ, in having lived among us, as one of us.  How have we as NT Christians gained from this self- revelation?   

Considering Pages 23 - 36 Twelve Steps: The Parameters for a Spiritual Quest
This section will be included in lesson 10 - Authentic Christianity

Bringing closure
5) Luke 15 :11 ff   Restoring the relationship with the Father was the key to the son’s well being on so many different levels.  
* Discuss the process the younger son went through to restoration of relationship.  How does this mirror a person's conversion, ie becoming a Christian?
** Take a closer look at the older brother as well.  Consider the relationship issues he has with the Father.  What is missing in his life?  What needs to happen if he is to come in?   
*** Who am I most like – the younger or the older son?





Thursday 18 May 2017

e) Session 2 RELIGION PROVIDES THE AGENDA FOR ALL CULTURE-SHAPING


Read pages 37 - 51. 157 - 163
           

Considering pages 39 – 42   Confronting a Cultural Taboo – “Religion”

1) Analyze our culture’s understandings and attitudes towards the term "religion".

* To what degree have Christians bought into this same negative mind and heart-set?   
** What may have caused this negative attitude towards religion?   

Read Romans 12:1-2:  Not being conformed to culture around

Considering pages 43 – 51 Religion is best understood as a Cosmic Story

2)  What is religion (see list on page 43)?  
*  What is spirituality? How are they related?  For a simple definition see page 2 again.  
** The author defines religion as the cosmic story that we have sub-consciously bought into.  Do you agree / disagree?

3)  Is every person religious at the core?  Does every person have a religion, a cosmic story? 
*   How did we develop our personal cosmic story, the story that shapes our understanding of the world, of self and life?  What has shaped your heart’s Cosmic Story?

4) Wrapping up: Proverbs 4:23   Guarding our hearts
The Story that I have embraced resides in my heart subconsciously.  Out of it flow all my dreams, passions, values, my attitudes, my choices, my responses to life’s ups and downs, my emotional compass, etc.  ie. the answers to the questions on page 48..

Exploring the Story that is rooted in your heart.
  1. Given your responses to the challenges of life – how relevant / big / close is the God of your Heart – Story?  
  2. Given your behavioural / attitudinal responses to the problems that you are facing – how loving / faithful / good is the God of your Heart Story?  Reflect on Ephesians 3:14-19
  3. Given the dreams that you are pursuing for your life – how relevant is the God of your Heart – Story?   Are you the hero of your story or is God? Reflect on Colossians 3:1-4
  4. Given how you feel about yourself and your life - what does it mean to be a human being in your Heart - Story?  
  5. Can you create more questions like this that probe the inner dynamics of your Heart - Story?

What are the heart - truths that make me tick? What are the contours of my religion?  How Biblical is it really?

5) The Plato, Moses, Aristotle centerfold Page 157 - 163 focuses primarily on the setting of the cosmic story. What is our world really like? Is it primarily spiritual as eastern religions would have us believe or is it primarily physical as materialistic atheism would have us believe? Or is it multidimensional as Moses, the Bible would have us believe? Which of these perspectives has shaped our hearts the most? Does our heart need a radical reshaping, and how is this accomplished?

Wednesday 17 May 2017

f) Lesson 3 ATHEISM IS A RELIGION

Read pages 52 - 83.

Theme:  Atheism has all the characteristics that describe all religions
Considering Pages 52 - 83 Atheism is a Religion: Humans are religious by nature

1) Read and elaborate on the two goals of this important section.

2) Go through each of the characteristics. review / illustrate / elaborate
          for atheism and Christianity

     a) Cosmic story: Review the two cosmic stories?

     b) “God” Evolution - the power that shapes the story. Is this a fair comparison?
         Give examples where the words evolve, evolution, progress have become part of our
         vocabulary, our psyche as a culture.  

     c) Assumptions: list the assumptions that atheism makes. 
             (Give each participant one section to review,)
            
     d) Assumptions become foundational facts: “Hold on to them religiously.”
         Discuss this phenomenon, willing to die / willing to kill for them.
         Where do we see this behaviour in Christians, in Atheists?

     e) Attitudes towards outsiders:
         Discuss the terms inclusive and normative for both worldviews / religions
                            Atheism and Christianity      (page 59)
         Give examples of discrimination against those who disagree with Atheism.
         Give examples where discrimination happens in Christian circles as well.
       
     f) Culture becomes Propaganda Machine:
         Give examples where atheism is educating / re-educating all the people
         Do you experience these influences?    How can you / do you resist them?
 
     g) Faith shaping rituals: The mall, the Stadium, the Celebrity Circuit
         Is this a fair comparison?
         How can we limit these influences in our lives and families?

3) Christians have been deeply shaped by these cultural rituals as well. 
        Can we trust the contours of our own culturally shaped psyche? 
        If not, what can we trust?

Considering 71 - 72 Mental Climate - Protecting Culture’s Meta-story

4) Where do you see Atheism’s mental climate at work in our culture?
        How has atheism gotten such a free ride in our culture?
        Why has it been considered neutral in the struggle to understand religion? 
              
Understanding Fundamentalism  pages73 - 77
 5) How does a firm belief in essentials (fundamentals - every religion has them) 
      become fundamentalism?

6) How can a person be a firm believer in one set of foundational truths
       and yet still come across as a tolerant person?

7) Can the terms fundamentalism and intolerance also apply to atheists?
      How does culture define intolerance - a belief system or how we treat others?
      How should we respond to such character traits in others?
      How can we personally avoid such character traits in our own lives?

Considering pages 78 - 83 The Problem of Language

8) We live in a global community. What knowledge basics, attitudes, skills will
       help us become better listeners and following that, better communicators 
       of the Biblical message?

Wrap Up

Read the following passages. Reflect on the interface between believers and non believers.

Acts 4:6-12        2 Corinthians 5:20 - 6:2         1 Peter 3:15-17

Tuesday 16 May 2017

g) Lesson 4 EASTERN RELIGIONS AND CHRISTIANITY

Read pages 86 - 108
1) Discuss the cultural myth that all religions are really climbing up the same mountain,
just from opposite sides.
Increasingly more and more people inside the church are buying into this myth as well.
Why is that shift happening?
2) The strategy:  First of all develop the similarities, build bridges,  between Christianity
and other religions, then move towards the differences.
How do you feel about such a strategy?  
How do we as a church typically engage other denominations, other religions?
    focus on our what divides us rather than on that which we have on common?
Do we have the tendency to think that the Evil One totally inspires all non-Christian
religious searching?  (The Evil One can use this aspect of our humanity, just
as he uses scripture to mislead.)  May it also be helpful to view this universal
religious searching as simply humans struggling to find truth?  What difference
would such a more neutral stance take in our approaches to non – Christians?
3) Discuss the seven characteristics of eastern religions (Page 91 -96). 
Is there any wisdom here to help us understand spirituality from a Christian
perspective? 
    
4) What Biblical truths has the East discovered?  
Review the various views for God on page 78.  Can you agree with this obser-
vation that the trinitarian understanding of God is present in this collective
understanding?

5)  Review the key differences on page 95 - 96.  
How should we as Christians respond when these differences create tension
within relationships?

The idea of Karma is built on the assumption of a just world. Every evil will be
punished. Justice must be done. Does this agree with Christianity? How does
Christianity solve the problem of "karma" for sinners?
6)  Read the observation on page 101.
List some of the idols in our churches, in our culture, in our own lives.
7)  Read the observations on page 108.  Can we learn something from the eastern
emphasis on silence, meditation as a quieting of the mind?
Should Christians do Yoga? Yoga in Eastern Religions is the pathway to releasing
inner spiritual energy.
How do we in the West strive for deeper spirituality, more spiritual energy?    
Is suffering necessary to help us discover the deeper truths of life?
Wrapping up
Read Acts 17:22-31  How did Paul try to build bridges to these idolatrous cultures?

Monday 15 May 2017

h) Lesson 5 ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY

Read Pages 109 - 129

1) How are Christianity, Judaism and Islam related ?
Prophetically - Deut. 18:15  Claimed by both Jesus and Muhammad followers
Spiritually - see page 128 section C
Historically - Muhammad  570 - 632 CE Medina and Mecca’s cultural context
see page 114 The Religious Roots of Islam

2) What assumptions does Islam make?  What is needed for Muslims to critique their own
assumptions? see page 127 section B

3) How has Islam changed the Jesus story, the Biblical meta-story?  They support their
position by stating that all of these previous revelations (OT / NT) have become too
corrupted to be reliable?  How do we respond?
see page 112 Islam's story line, also pg 117 "Truths corrected and Sealed"

4) Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi.  He was raised a devout Muslim
and he converted to being a follower of Jesus.  He makes the claim that much of Islam
is an oral tradition.  The scholars and leaders control the story, the agenda.  Believers
are taught to trust these elders absolutely, uncritically.  The key to effective evangelism,
Nabeel claims, is to get Muslims to really critically read their holy books in their own language
for themselves.

5) Process the observations and questions on Page 125 - 126  #1 - #5.

6) When looking at Islamic culture one readily can see how this culture shapes the hearts
of its adherents.
          Has Western Christianity developed a culture that shapes its adherents?
          Is the gospel something just to believe or is it something to live as well?  
          What would a 24/7 gospel culture look like?  Some historical attempts -
                monasticism, Amish, Hutterities, Early Methodism, Count Zinzendorf
                and his Christian villages.
see page 126 A

7) How do we keep the Christian faith, its traditions and its rituals spiritually alive,
        not just going through the motions?

8) Jews, Christians, and Muslims are people of the book.
What ought this to mean on a daily basis?
Would observers describe you as a person of the book?


Wrapping up
1 Timothy 3:16   Stop and reflect on this watershed happening in our human story.  
Consider what might have been if He had not come, if you had not been given
the faith to believe.
Take some time to confess the sin of allowing this Jesus-Story to become boring.
2 Timothy 3:16  Stop to reflect on the momentous truth of Biblical Revelation
The Scriptures - God has revealed to us what our human story is all about.  
Instead of endless groping in the dark (all the other religions) \we have been given light!
Take some time to confess the sin of allowing the Bible to be marginalized in your life.