"Who Created God?" Group Overview
- Each week is a different “question of faith.” Groups will typically involve an extended introduction / presentation of the topic for that week, discussing arguments made by philosophers, theologians, and thinkers in the past and providing the necessary context to fully appreciate and jump into the discussion.
- This explanation will usually be broken up into several segments that are spread out across the meeting, with periods of guided and/or open-ended discussion in-between.
- We will regularly break out into smaller groups to get ideas flowing and then reconvene with the larger group to get a picture of where everyone is at.
- The topics themselves start out in the broad realm of philosophy and apologetics (discussions about the nature of God and the ramifications of his existence or nonexistence), move inward towards theology surrounding the human condition and the meaning and specifics of salvation, and end (next semester) on questions and issues that are famous for dividing the church.
What is Apologetics?
Skepticism is Healthy
Rules of Group Time
- Comes from the Greek word “apologia,” which means “a defense of one’s opinion.” It is famously used in 1 peter 3:15 - “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect...”
- Christians are encouraged not simply to live in a lofty and ill-defined world of spirituality. They are called to understand why they believe what they believe, and be able to explain that to others. Having a group like this, which discusses these deeper questions, allows us to addresses things that are usually left out of your typical Sunday morning sermon.
- Though, personally, I don’t consider most of these things “deep” questions. I consider them foundational questions. If you’re coming into this group thinking that some of these questions are irrelevant or “not that important,” then I’m sorry... I’m about to ruin your semester.
- This group’s is designed to serve two purposes:
- For those who are still skeptical I hope it is a place where you can find answers and a community of people passionate about finding truth.
- For those who already consider themselves pretty “strong Christians” (whatever that means), this group should be a place where you can grow in confidence and learn new ways that you can discuss these kinds of questions with friends and family.
- By "grow in confidence" I don't mean "gain intellectual certainty." My ultimate goal is to instill in people the understanding that it's okay to not know everything for sure. To grow, one must be willing to embrace their own limitations and be comfortable not knowing everything for sure.
- Apologetics IS:
- A search for God
- Giving a reason for the joy that we hold
- Wisdom asked for to God (we never come by it on our own power)
- Humility in acknowledging what we don’t know (and may be unable to know)
- A way of living our faith in the world
- A way of taking our faith into our own hands
- An invitation to think for one’s self (and not just defer to your pastor)
- Apologetics IS NOT:
- A knock down scientific proof
- Simply pointing toward a blind faith
- Putting our wisdom above God’s
- Dismissing the world’s arguments
- Putting our interpretation on a pedestal
- Important things to remember when engaging in apologetics
- Ask questions! Always always ask questions!
- Respect different opinions no matter how OFF you think they are
- Offer up possibilities, not answers
- Encourage people to question you
- Encourage people to question themselves
- Don’t blindly assume scripture is on your side
- Establish a foundation (what do we agree upon?) and work from there
- Try to create a covenant of consistency, encourage one another to stay logically consistent
- Expresses differences in interpretation and not in scripture itself
- Allow everyone to acknowledge that they could be mistaken (include yourself in that acknowledgement)
- Key: Make yourself a source of correct INFORMATION, not correct INTERPRETATIONS.
Skepticism is Healthy
- The idea of “doubt” is almost taboo in some christian cultures and communities. I think this is tremendously unfortunate, because doubt and confusion is one of the most powerful motivators of intellectual growth.
- Never be ashamed of your questions or doubts. Don’t think that you’re somehow “less of a christian” for not quite understanding or not quite comprehending a certain thing. It’s so easy sometimes to look out and see a bunch of “good Christians” who “have it all together” but I’m telling you right now: such a person does not exist. Nobody has everything figured out.
- Please, if you have a question don’t just bottle it up inside. Ask it! Talk to people about it. And if you don’t get an answer, research it. Literally just google it. But don’t just stop at one article. Find dissenting opinions. Find the controversy. Whenever someone says “the bible clearly says” stop reading immediately, find the bible verse, and ask yourself if it really does “clearly say” that. Dig for yourself and don't stop till you are comfortable with your conclusion and feel like you could explain it to someone else.
- I have had tremendous doubts in the past, and I still have unanswered questions now. Back in high school I thought I had it all together. I thought I’d come up with arguments that no one had heard before. As time went on, I learned that so many of my thoughts have been stated already - and in nearly every case much better than me. And my questions were so much bigger and so much more daunting... but also so much more awe inspiring. I would hate to still be where I was in high school. Skepticism is the most powerful tool in your journey towards truth.
- Here’s the bombshell: I have no problem getting Christians to question everything that they believe, because I believe that Christianity IS the Truth. I mean, if it is true, then what do we have to fear from asking questions? Doesn’t refusing to be skeptical almost imply that in the back of our minds we're are scared that we might be wrong? Is God really that small?
- Question everything and never stop! Truth will always be true no matter what you do or how many questions you ask. And regardless of what the Truth is, even if its not something we're comfortable with, shouldn't we want to know it?
- Some people will ask: Well.. what if you’re wrong? What if you are totally convinced of Christianity for your whole life but you were just mistaken about something? Well, then I’m wrong. I messed up. But I did the best I could. I persued Truth earnestly and I found that which best explained my world. What else could I have possibly done?
- But I want to make the other side of the coin just as abundantly clear: Due to the nature of our human limitations (something we will explore in great depth in a couple weeks), you will NEVER find complete confidence in ANY particular worldview. There will ALWAYS be questions. Do not let the mere presence of uncertainty be the reason you give up a certain belief, because you could use uncertainty to give up belief in literally anything. Fight for the best eplanation, not the perfect explanation.
- And because of our human limitations you will, at the end of the day, need to have faith. And this is the component of christianity that apologetics will never “explain away.” But we’ll have plenty of time this semester to dive into what this means.
Rules of Group Time
- We are not trying to ‘prove’ Christianity. We fully recognize there is an element of faith involved in everyone's personal convictions. No one has ever been logically convinced of any faith through argument alone. Our goal here is to demonstrate the many ways that you can approach these issues, and how what might seem like a ‘blind leap of faith’ is far more like a ‘rational step of faith.’ ( That being said, we can’t promise that we won’t get really excited about a specific topic and start speaking in absolutes. Just know that is not our intention. )
- In discussion, we invite you to bring to the table any issues you might have with the topic at hand. Don’t feel shy if you completely disagree with a point that we make. We are not absolute authority, we are only trying to broaden your understanding and get you to think deeper.
- You are also invited to disagree with a point made by anyone else in the room, we only ask that when doing so you refrain from attacking the individual themself. We invite back-and-forth discussion, but not violent accusation.
- We will try not to force discussion down any particular road, but recognize that we only have a set amount of time together, and we want to respect your time. If it’s the case that only a small number of people are greatly invested in a particular issue, and everyone else’s eyes are glazing over, we will move the discussion forward and hopefully arrange a time to talk about the issue with those people at a later time - if it’s still something they’re interested in.
- At any point if something that anyone else said is confusing or strange to you, and the discussion is moving on, please feel free to speak up and express your confusion. Some of these topics are very dense, and we don’t want people to feel like they’re being ignored.
- We will have a definitive end time at 9:00, but we will likely be sticking around for however long we need to if people still want to talk.