Monday, 22 May 2017

a) READ ME FIRST

Read Me First

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.   (The group leader needs to select the topics for discussion -  probably too much material for an evening here.)

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.  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) Your contribution to this conversation, this blog is appreciated.   All constructive comment as well as wholesome critique will be placed on the blog.  (This blog will be moderated.)   All comments should have your name, location, and date attached.

e) Comments that are more general in nature, i.e. not with a focus on the specific session topic, should be placed on the Testimonial and General Comment blog page.

f) Personal letters to the author should be made to my dedicated email address jakewienspg@gmail.com

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

h) Single copies available from the author $22.50 plus shipping.  Requests for multiple copies of the book (study groups / class sets) are available from the author at a reduced rate ($17.50) plus shipping.   Send your request via the dedicated email address above.  Payment options will be sent upon ordering.   (if ordering online then single copies, ebooks are cheapest when ordering through FriesenPress Online Bookstore.)

Sunday, 21 May 2017

b) BLOG SUMMARY OF THEMES

Blog Summary of Themes

Session 1 – Read to page 32.
SPIRITUALITY – Life is about More than What We See

Session 2 – Read to page 33 - 54.      pages 262 - 266
RELIGION PROVIDES THE AGENDA FOR ALL CULTURE-SHAPING

Session 3 – Read to page 55 - 86.
ATHEISM IS A RELIGION

Session 4 – Read to page 87 - 110.
EASTERN RELIGIONS AND CHRISTIANITY

Session 5 – Read to page 111 - 131.
ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY

Session 6 – Read to page 132 - 158.    pages 267 - 274
HUMANISM’S METASTORY – The Story that is Shaping Western Cultures

Session 7 – Read to page 159 - 188.
WHAT IS TRUTH – The Need to make Faith Assumptions

Session 8 – Read to page 188 - 216.
THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN METASTORY – The Story with an Origin in Heaven itself.

Session 9 – Read to page 217 -  245.
APOLOGETCS - The Evidences that Strengthen Christianity’s Circular Reasoning

Session 10 – Read to page 246 - 260  pages 275 - 283  review pages 19 - 32
AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY – More than a Tradition, More than Simple Mental Assent




Saturday, 20 May 2017

c) TESTIMONIAL AND GENERAL COMMENT PAGE

Testimonial and General Comment

Comments that do not have the specific focus of any of the session topics should be placed here.  

Personal messages to the author should be placed on the author’s email address - jakewienspg@gmail.com



Friday, 19 May 2017

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


SPIRITUALITY – Life is about More than What We See – Read to page 32
               
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.  It is not so much an introduction to the book.  If yours is more an academic interest, ie how has the author developed his ideas then possibly you need to begin at chapter 2.

Considering page xv:  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?  
** 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 4 - 11: 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 7-10 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?

4) Psychology and Psychiatry study many of these characteristics.  The lack of these characteristics in individuals have become syndromes and have received labels.  Medicine and therapy seek to medicate and moderate these deficits.  

* How does this secular effort to understand and help impact our understanding of these characteristics in terms of them being spiritual characteristics at root?   
** If these syndromes do have a spiritual dimension, then what more is needed to bring long term healing at a deeper level?

Considering pages 12 – 18:  The Dilemma inherent in a Spiritual Quest & Wrapping our Mind around the Concept of God

5) 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 is rooted in wrong images of God?
Isaiah 57:15,  John 14:23
** 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).

Considering Pages 19-32 Twelve Steps: The Parameters for a Spiritual Quest
6) You may be looking for more than just interesting things to talk about, you may be looking for foundational answers to build your life on. How could these 12 disciplines become stepping stones towards renewal in your life?   What insights do we need so that these disciplines do not become rules, a list of do's and don'ts, a means of garnering favour with God (earning our way to heaven)?  

Bringing closure
7) 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.  
** 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?

Extras - if needed


8) Many non-religious people seem to have many of these wholesome spiritual characteristics.  Many Christian people lack these characteristics.  How do we process this from a Biblical perspective?

Beginning thoughts:
a) All blessings are from God, whether recognized or not. 

b) We need to compare ourselves not with others but with our own previous selves.  Are we personally becoming healthier spiritually?  The standard for true spirituality is ultimately Jesus. 

c) When life is easy, we all seem well, when stresses come that is when the cracks appear.  A lot of these weaknesses can be muffled with a good public facade, a mask if you will.  Becoming personally honest with one's self is necessary for growth / healing in these areas. 

d) A lot of westernized Christianity is anemic, as a result, provides little healing in these areas. There is nothing more dangerous than religion / spirituality gone bad, nothing more wholesome than religion / spirituality that is true.

e) Jesus addresses this issue in Luke 5:31-32   The church often seems to be filled with broken people simply because it is they who recognize their need for a redeemer.  



Thursday, 18 May 2017

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


Session 2
RELIGION PROVIDES THE AGENDA FOR ALL CULTURE-SHAPING – Read pages 33 - 54.
            Read pages 262 – 266        Interpretation of History

Any comments / discussion with respect to the video talk.


Considering pages 34 – 38   Confronting a Cultural Taboo – “Religion”

1) Analyse our culture’s understandings and attitudes towards religion.

* To what degree have Christians bought into this same negative mind and heart-set?   
** What may have caused this negative attitude towards religion?   
*** How do you personally feel about the topic religion?

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

2) The video talk provided a new spectrum of religions, a spectrum with no bias towards atheism. The academic elite of the Enlightenment era (150 years ago) also developed a new perspective of history. This new perspective placed the church and the Bible in the waste bin of history. Review this perspective which you find in the appendix (pages 262 - 266). Clearly identify the bias in favour of atheism.

3) Reread the last paragraph of this section (page 38, The ultimate challenge we all face…)
Our collective human history is best described as a life-long struggle for meaning and then with 100% certainty, defeat, ie. death.    In one sense so much promise, in another such a tragedy.
* Talk about the mystery of life.   What might that refer to?
**  Why do we keep pushing the reality of “mystery” to the background all the time, content with living the mundane?

Considering pages 39 – 54 Religion is best understood as a Cosmic Story

4)  What is religion (see list on page 39)?  
*  What is spirituality? How are they related?  For a simple definition see page 2-3 again.  
**  What is all included for a complete understanding of a religion? Begin with the three items from the talk. - God / What is - Slice of Ultimate reality / Cosmic Story

5)  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?

6) 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 44.

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 in your Heart – Story?  
  2. Given your behavioural / attitudinal responses to the problems that you are facing – how loving / faithful / good is the God in 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?

7) How do we correct the untruths that our embedded in our hearts?

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

f) Lesson 3 ATHEISM IS A RELIGION

Read pages 55 - 86.

Theme:  Atheism has all the characteristics that describe all religions
Considering Pages 55 - 73 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 have become part of our
         vocabulary our psyche as a culture.

     c) Assumptions: list the assumptions that atheism makes. 
             (Give each participant one paragraph to review,)
           What are the two foundational assumptions  
             "In the last analysis everything begins with…" 
              and "What is truth?"

     d) Assumptions become foundational facts: “Holding to them religiously.”
         Discuss this phenomenon, willing to die / willing to kill for them.
         Where do we see this behaviour in Christians?

     e) Attitudes towards outsiders:
         Discuss the terms inclusive and normative for both worldviews / religions
                            Atheism and Christianity      (page 62)
         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 74 - 75 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? 
             (A preliminary discussion, more when we focus on the appendices.)

Considering 76 - 80  Understanding Fundamentalism

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 universal 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 labels in our own lives?

Considering pages 81 - 86 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 87 - 110
Any comments from the reading.
Any comments from the talk.
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.
Why?
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?
Do we have the tendency to think that the Evil One inspires all non-Christian
religious searching?  (The Evil One can use this aspect of our humanity, just
as he uses scripture to mislead.)  Is it correct and 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 93 -95). 
Is there any wisdom here to help us understand spirituality from a Christian
perspective? 
4) What truths has the East discovered?  
Review the various views for God on page 81.  Can you agree with this obser-
vation that the trinitarian understanding of God is present in this collective
understanding?
Early Christianity veered towards Platonism.  What is there in these religions
that harmonizes with Christianity, at least to a degree?    Read the similarities
on page 95 - 96.
5)  Review the key differences on page 97 - 98.  
How should we as Christians respond when these differences create tension
within relationships?
6)  Read the observation on page 103.
List some of the idols in our churches, in our culture, in our own lives.
7)  Read the observations on page 110.  Can we learn something from the eastern
emphasis on silence, meditation as a quieting of the mind?
How do we in the West strive for deeper spirituality?    
Should Christians do Yoga?
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?
Bible passage to consider Romans 2:12 – 16.  Is God’s moral law imprinted on the
human heart?  Is this visible in the truths that other religions have discovered?