Identifying Self Deceit (136)

In this episode John and Gregg continue to consider Gregg’s Sunday morning discussion group.

John begins by returning to his uncertainty about Gregg’s contention that the beginning of the “Disciple’s Prayer” in Matthew 6: 9-13 (“Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. . .”) is a clear indication that God’s will is not being done on earth in the same way that it is being done in heaven.

Gregg replies that his view is that, for Christians, if one believes that one sins then this obviously shows that God’s will is not being done all the time… because it is not being done in my own life! So it follows, Gregg reasons, that Matthew 7:9-10 should be taken to mean what it ostensibly indicates, and not the opposite (which one participant adamantly asserted).

Continue reading

Stuck in a Loop of Self Deceit (135)

In this episode, John and Gregg again speak about Gregg’s Sunday morning church discussion group. Gregg explains that the most recent session became rather fiery, particularly concerning the idea that the Holy Spirit does not do the majority the work in helping Christians understand the Bible’s original meaning.

John notes how this belief is often underwritten by the understanding that God is all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing, which seems immediately compelling for Christians until we start to think them through the implications of these beliefs.

Gregg agrees that this view of the Holy Spirit seems misunderstood and overblown. To that end he identifies two versions—a “hard” and a “soft” version—of this viewpoint. Those holding the hard version believe the Holy Spirit communicates the Bible’s meaning to Christians. Those hold the soft version believe that the Holy Spirit does not typically act in this way but could, at God’s sovereign discretion, choose to do so.

Continue reading

The Holy Spirit Reads the Bible for Me (134)

In this episode John and Gregg discuss the morning discussion that Gregg facilitates every Sunday.

John is interested in the newest developments, and Gregg highlights how engaging with a foreign mindset can be continually surprising.

For example, Gregg summarizes the culture in his church as “hyper-trustful” relative to certain ways of reading the Bible. Yet these poor methods of Bible reading are also acting as a roadblock to serious consideration that God’s will is not being done “on earth as it is in heaven” (as expressed in the “Disciple’s prayer,” in Matt 6, and elsewhere).

In an attempt to address this Gregg proposed J. I. Packer’s view: that the Holy Spirit does not “give us” the right understanding of what the Bible meant—this is down to human skill and effort:

“ ‘The first task is always to get into the writer’s mind the grammatico-historical exegesis of the most thorough-going and disciplined kind, using all the tools provided by linguistic, historical, logical, and semantic study for the purpose.’ Yet he differentiates between the approaches needed for the interpreter to discern what the text meant and what it means. The latter requires the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment.”

Donald J Payne, “J. I. Packer’s Theological Method” in J. I. Packer and the Evangelical Future: The Impact of his Life and Thought, ed. Timothy George, 63 (Italics his).

Continue reading

Is God Always in Control? (133)

In this episode John and Gregg discuss a recent session at the Sunday morning group that Gregg facilitates.

Gregg explains how this session was quite different because the adolescents joined the adults for this discussion. The history of his involvement with this group is that Gregg has been trying to engage them in re-considering their perspectives and beliefs relative to other perspectives (such as those of other denominations, atheists, etc.).

Yet Gregg has found that because the culture of this church is so strongly a “culture of trust” relative to such matters that it was very difficult last year for him to bring them to the place of viewing anything related to Christianity or Christian faith from a suspicious perspective. This is quite the opposite in most communities that Gregg is familiar with—call them “cultures of suspicion”—where people are usually all too aware of the failings of Christians and Christianity.

Continue reading

Questioning Beliefs and Trust (132)

In this episode John and Gregg discuss two different cultures, those who find Christianity and Christian beliefs to be suspect and those who are not questioning or believing that anything is wrong with their beliefs. They then focus on how to work with the latter group.

Gregg explains that indeed he is experiencing culture shock now that he is working with a group of people who largely believe that “the church” is okay and that what we are getting from the church is generally reliable. This is in contrast to engaging with the majority of people at L’Abri, where a culture of suspicion, about Christianity and the church, is dominant. In Gregg’s view a culture of suspicion arises out of people experiencing Christianity in a way that does not work and that may be damaging or hurtful.

The question of how to promote a lecture series about Christianity within a culture of trust has arisen between John and Gregg.

John favours emphasizing the benefits to be gained (such as better interactions with the world around us, with God, with oneself and with others) while Gregg favours emphasizing the issues that need to be overcome. Gregg initially thought that his emphasis was due to his past academic training of presenting an issue and offering a solution.

Instead, Gregg notes that based on his observation the reason that there is low turnout to his Sunday morning discussions is that for most of these people who in a culture of trust their lives take place in the realm of “good.” On the one hand, there is very little impetus for people who seem to see their lives at 7/10 to put in time and trust in something unknown in order to move to 8/10.

Continue reading