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Faith Under Fire 4 A New Kind of Faith Participant's Guide
By Lee Strobel Garry Poole
ZondervanCopyright © 2006 Lee Strobel and Rocket Pictures
All right reserved.
Chapter OneSESSION 1
Must Christianity Change or Die?
Galileo Galilei held to some radical ideas that ran contrary to church doctrine in the 1600s. Get this: This guy actually claimed that the Sun, not the Earth, was at the center of the solar system. Can you believe that? Of course you can! By now that's scientifically proven and astronomically accurate. That fact is so obvious that it seems ludicrous the church would have ever had a problem with it.
But it did.
Galileo was taken to trial by the church authorities for these "outlandish" beliefs. Theology of that time hinged on the assumed reality that the Earth was the center of the universe. As far as the church was concerned, Galileo's claim messed up its entire belief system.
The first time he was brought to trial, he was found innocent and warned not to teach the Copernican, Sun-centered system ever again. Later, with permission from the church under the leadership of a new pope, Galileo published a book presenting a creative dialogue between friends - the most brilliant friend took the Sun-centered point of view, while the simpleminded character represented the Earth-centered view. It was supposed to present these ideas as theory, but the book made it obvious who was right and who was the idiot.
The church didn't like this book. The pope, suspecting he was a model for the simpleminded character, halted the book's printing and put Galileo, then sixty-eight, on trial for teaching the Copernican theory after being ordered not to.
When threatened with torture, Galileo publicly confessed that he had been wrong to have said that the Earth moved around the Sun. He was found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Because of his age and fame, they adapted the imprisonment to house arrest, where Galileo Galilei lived out the final years of his life.
Oh, but the church came around. In 1992 Pope John Paul II publicly endorsed a papal commission's finding that the church had made a mistake in condemning Galileo.
Wait - did you catch the year? - 1992! It only took the church 350 years to admit the truth and face reality. That's a snail's pace approach to change, wouldn't you say? Shouldn't Christianity evolve more efficiently than that?
If you're not careful, you'd think God invaded the earth through the miracle of the virgin birth and then escaped the earth through the miracle of the cosmic ascension. Or would you? Aren't those just weak, first-century attempts to try to make sense out of a few unusual events?
The church claims it's reality, but is it really reality?
The idea that somehow the blood of Jesus is necessary to cleanse people from their sins draws on concepts that are just plain unbelievable. That God would work out salvation by killing his own Son appears to be some kind of an act of divine child abuse.
The church maintains the Bible is the inerrant word of God, yet it seems to pick and choose which commands to follow and which to ignore. For example, many churches teach from the Old Testament that Christians should tithe, yet no one is following the Old Testament commandment to stone sons for disobeying their parents.
The church seems stuck on claims made in the first century or even before. Isn't it time for the church to fully embrace a new day and age? We need a bold, life-changing faith that can take us confidently into the future.
Can Christianity do that? Can it get a makeover? Now's as good a time as any.
Use the following space to take notes as you view the video in which Lee Strobel interviews retired Episcopal bishop John Shelby Spong, the controversial author of Christianity Must Change or Die, and Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and according to Time.com, the reigning intellectual of the evangelical movement in the United States.
1 To what extent is Christianity outdated? Under what circumstances could a 2,000-year-old religion still be relevant?
2 Bishop Spong believes that Christianity needs to be updated because we live on the other side of Galileo, Darwin, and Einstein. Do you agree that the historical records of Jesus' miracles, teachings, and resurrection should be discarded in favor of a religion devoid of the traditional teachings of the church? Why or why not?
3 Spong does not believe that "God decided to invade the earth through the miracle of the virgin birth and then escape the earth through the miracle of the cosmic ascension." Do you agree or disagree with Spong? Explain.
Excerpted from Faith Under Fire 4 A New Kind of Faith Participant's Guide by Lee Strobel Garry Poole Copyright © 2006 by Lee Strobel and Rocket Pictures. Excerpted by permission.
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