Thursday, February 28, 2008

Study Notes for March 3rd Impact University Book Club meeting
Rumors of Another World -- pages 161 -1 206

1. " ..... all religions share a sense of living in a disoriented world ....." (Henry Adams -- p. 163). They also share a common (though it is expressed in many different ways) cure. What? (Do you think this is an adequate definition of what religion is and does)?

2. Yancey asserts that many Swedes have "turned away from church" and yet theirs continues to be "an admirable society." (p. 165) What, according to our author, explains this?

3. What does he see as a difference between Sweden which he admires and Soviet Russia which cannot be admired? (p. 165).

4. Yancey doesn't feel a need for God to supernaturally interrupt our world to prove his existence and that of the invisible world. "..... in part because I find the materialistic explanations of life inadequate to explain reality." (p. 171). What does he mean?

5. What was the "miracle on the River Kwai"?

6. What are "the settlements in advance" mentioned on p. 177? And in advance of what?

7. "Any remedy (to a world of corruption, commercialized sex and deteriorating values) must start with one person taking an immovable stand." (p. 181). What does this imply about the demand of the Gospel?

8. Yancey describes himself as having been "a child of the modern age." As such he had not believed in an invisible world ruled by spirits. This was the result of his "reductionist instincts." Now, however, he has changed and has no problem believing in the spirit world. He believes "much more is happening on this planet than is visible to the human eye." (p. 184). What caused the change? (p. 183).

9. Yancey wonders if we wouldn't realize a startling truth if Jesus stood beside us saying at times "I saw Satan fall." What truth? (See the statement on p. 190 which begins, "The ultimate destiny .......").
10. The story of "The Elephant Man" poses radically different questions to believers and nonbelievers. What questions? (pp. 195 - 197).

11. According to Charles Spurgeon when is the Church glorious? (p. 198).

12. What does the author mean in saying, "The key ..... is to think of myself as an amphibian ....."? (p. 200).

13. John Chrysostom (from the 3rd Century) asked with anguish of the unbelievers of his day, "How then can they believe?" What caused his anguished question?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Notes for February 25 meeting
Pages 127 - 157

1. "For a time I resisted thinking of God as an authority figure ......." (p. 128) We all tend to do the same, cherishing the freedom that enables us to choose to sin (do that of which God disapproves), ..... much as we resist other authority figures. But sometimes we gladly submit to authority. What changes resistance into happy compliance (with authority)? Why do we willingly submit to doctors, computer technicians, etc. (in many cases after stubbornly resisting them previously)?

2. "Taken together, the Ten commandments weave life on this planet into some kind of meaningful whole, the purpose of which is to allow us to live as a peaceful, healthy community under God" (p. 134). What does that say about how to be happy and fulfilled? What does it say about the frenetic, success/pleasure-driven pace at which we live?

3. "In many ways, sin is the punishment for sin" (p. 135). "...... (Jesus) "came not merely to save us from the punishment for sin but to save us from the sin itself" (p. 135). Sin we allow to grow is a form of selfish reductionism. It keeps us from "experiencing shalom" and we "end up with a sick and disconnected self" (p. 139). Do you agree? If so, restate the concept in practical terms.

4. Paraphrase Augustine's statement: "The soul lives by avoiding what it dies by desiring" (p. 139).

5. What do you think Kierkegaard meant by likening the human condition to "a person who has a three-story house and who yet insists on dwelling in the dank cellar." (p. 144)?

6. Yancey in the 2 chapters being considered tonight refers several times to the "shalom" which God desires for us. What is your understanding of the term?

7. There is a "path" (p. 144) which we must travel to get from the frightening/discouraging place where sin places us back to a healthy relationship with God. What are the four necessary experiences along the way?

8. What parallel does Yancey see between physical pain and guilt (p. 145 - 146)?

9. "Cognitive dissonance" is a "sort of euphemism for guilt...." (p. 146). How so? What does the phrase describe?

10. "Guilt deserves my gratitude" (p. 146). Why?

11. In what sense should guilt have "directional movement" (p. 147)?

12. Yancey names two "barriers to repentance" (p. 149). What are they? Why, in relation to them, do "our secrets control us" (p. 149)?

13. " ..... the object of repentance is what we turn toward, not what we turn away from" (p. 156). How does the NT story of the prodigal son illustrate that truth?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Book Club Study Notes for February 18

Rumors of Another World, pages 99 - 125

1. "Why only rumors and not proofs of another world?" (p. 99). How would you answer? Why would God allow the world to exist with such misery, only hinting that something better is possible? What "advantage" (p. 103) do human beings have over the rest of creation which Yancey seems to think may contribute to our understanding of this dilemma?

2. "God wants to set me free; evil attempts to enslave." (p. 106). Is there a sense in which God can't give us the freedom which makes us human beings without also giving us the freedom to submit to being enslaved by evil?

3. "Sinful people create sinful structures, which may then take on a life of their own." (p. 107). What does this say about government, corporations, families? What does it say about the church?

4. If greed is a "deadly sin" (p. 108 -- as it was considered by the ancients), what did it kill (destroy)?

5. What is the "liberal-optimist" view of human nature? What is its opposite?

6. Yancey was given a deep sense of sin in his childhood. He finds it "something strange" that in the modern world "fear of sin ....... has nearly disappeared." (p. 116). Why do you think it's so?

7. "What are we missing if we delete (sin) from our vocabulary?" (p. 117). How would you answer?

8. "Modern society is caught in a dilemma." (p. 117). What is it?

9. We don't like (or often use) the word "sin." In regard to our personal failings we tend to think of ourselves as victims of the actions of others (or circumstances). This is a reductionist approach to explaining our behavior. Explain the following statement from p. 121 -- "Every time addicts repeat the twelve steps, they reject a reductionist view of life." They come helplessly to a "Higher Power" to confess that something is very wrong in their lives and that they alone are responsible? Does it seem to you that organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous may sometimes state the spirit of the Gospel better than the church?

10. What is "healthy-minded faith"? What are "morbid-minded Christians"? Which does Yancey seem to think more accurately assesses uur world and our lives?

11. "Christians have a most realistic view of humanity, believing that human beings have failed, are failing, and will always fail." (p. 124). Do you agree?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Study Notes for February 12th Meeting -- Rumors of Another World -- Pages 59 - 95

1. "Our lives form some sort of pattern whether or not we consciously arrange it." (p. 60). "These life patterns grow out of natural desires and longings." (60). "Everyone has such longings, and how we respond to them depends largely on what we believe about why we're here." (60). Ture or not true? Elaborate.

2. Yancey argues that natural human desires are part of God's creation (which God said was "good") and that they are to be fulfilled according to God's plan. To either gratify them "without inhibition" (p. 62) or to squelch them "altogether" (p. 62) is to create a critical imbalance. (I believe he would have us infer that it is a very common imbalance). He states further that he "came back to Christianity because it made the most sense of the world around (him), in part by achieving the necessary balance. But what Christianity does in striking this balance, the churches he knew showed "no such balance."

What is your experience with the church? Do you agree that we have somehow gained the reputation of "being anti-pleasure"?

3. The abuse of pleasure arises when pleasure is viewed "as an end in itself rather than a pointer to something more" (p. 63) -- i.e., a rumor of another world. Thus the title of this chaptger, "God Loveth Adverbs." What does the phrase mean?

4. How does a "sense of calling" enhance our ability to find success in our pursuit of "fulfillment and meaning"? (p. 64). How does this sense help us to maintain the balance discussed earlier (Question #2)?

5. "Societies that have abandoned the sacred, such as in the secular West, exalt sexuality to a new and lofty status." (p. 74). Wow! Ain't it the truth! But, at the same time, Yancey says he knows of "no greater failure among Christians than in presenting a persuasive (healthy I think he means) view on sexuality." (p. 74). Is he right?

6. Yancey describes our (both the church's and the culture's) view of sex as being "schizophrenic." (p. 76). What does he mean?

7. "Society's schizophrenia develops from an attempt to reduce sex between humans to a purely physical act." (Remember last week's discussion of "reductionism"). A popular song asked, "Why does it have to be right or wrong? Why can't it just be?" How does a "rumor from another world" answer? (P. 77 -- "......the real damage in sexuality occurs ________."

8. Remember C.S. Lewis's description of the things which we elevate to sacred status when we forsake that which is truly sacred (God). He calls them the "sweet poison of the false infinite." Then read the final paragraph on p. 77, bearing in mind the emphasis on unrestrained sexuality in the culture (often includinig within the church). Please comment.

9. In summary, Yancey believes sexuality to be "a powerful rumor of transcendence" which the church has silenced by its prudery. Do you think he's right? Or is it possible that sexuality is overrated both by the culture and by people like Yancey, that it is just one part of the entirety of what it means to be human -- and spoken of too much (as in this chapter)?

10. Respond to the following statement: "A life of resisting temptation and pursuing purity involves a loss, yes, but also a gain, the very gain promised by Jesus in the Beatitudes." What is lost? What is gained?

11. What is the "second love" referenced on p. 94?