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Living The Questions


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Has anyone else out there completed the new progressive Christian discussion series Living the Questions?

 

http://www.livingthequestions.com

 

It is a really innovative 12 session series that includes interviews with progressive theologians such as: Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Nancy Ammerman, John Cobb, jr., John Shelby Spong; and even a few theological moderates like Tex Sample and Stanley Hauerwas, and others. The series is written and compiled by two progressive Methodist pastors- David Felten, and Jeff Procter-Murphy. It is also highly praised and endorsed by TCPC founder Jim Adams.

 

Here is a listing of the themes of the 12-13 weekly sessions:

THEMES

1.  An Invitation to Journey

2.  Thinking Theologically

3.  Creativity and Stories of Creation

4.  Restoring Relationships

5.  Evil and a God of Love: The Place of Suffering

6.  Intimacy with God

7.  Social Justice and The Prophets

8.  A Kingdom Without Walls: Ruth & Jonah

9.  Lives of Jesus

10. Compassion: the Heart of Jesus' Ministry

11. A Passion for Christ: Paul the Apostle

12. Out into the World: Challenges Facing Progressive Christianity

13. The Contribution of Wesleyan Theology (Bonus Session for United Methodists)

The sessions that I got the most out of personally were the ones on "social justice," "A Kingdom Without Walls," and "Compassion."

 

Personally, sessions 2-5 were sort of frustrating for me because they really seem to have a very intentional agenda of "deconstructing" much of traditional Christianity without simultaneously lifting up this "newer vision" or "emerging paradigm" that Borg trefers to so much but seldom elaborates on.

 

This newer progressive vision is laid out and expanded upon pretty convincingly in sessions 6-10 if you can make it through the first five sessions allowing yourself to be unsettled (it seems to me to be a deliberate effort on the part of the authors of the series- to make the participants unsettled and theologically disoriented so they can then infuse their agenda without the participants having as much resistance to it- just my impression).

 

Session 11 is an interesting portrait of Paul- largely drawing on Crossan's scholarship on Paul and his impact on the development of Christianity, as well as his interpretations and misinterpretations of scripture and "The Jesus program" as Crossan is fond of referring to early Christianity. Crossan also wrote a book about Paul that I am looking forward to reading...

 

Session 12 was interesting, but really should have been divided into two separate sessions in my opinion. The session begins with highlighting some of the distinctive traits of progressive Christianity (such as social justice, peace, inclusivity, acceptance of diversity, movement away from biblical literalism, etc). That was more than enough for one session, but then at the end, they throw in this big long treatise on "process theology" a la John Cobb. Way too much material for one session, and also could be confusing and frustrating for people who either do not have theological training and/or have not read much theology.

 

Session 13 is an interesting look at Methodism, and its development from the roots of its founder, John Wesley, to the present.

 

I would highly recommend the series, but be forewarned, the first 4-5 sessions are a little rough if you are accustomed to a more traditional, evangelical approach to Christianity.

 

Also, as I mentioned on another thread the authors bill LTQ as "an unapologetically liberal alternative to the alpha course." I have completed both courses and there is no comparison- they are completely different in their goals and scope.

 

The LTQ people, in my opinion need to be more original and stop trying to cash in on people who weren't satisfied with ALPHA and/or benefit from the popularity of ALPHA.

 

This seems to be typical, unfortunately of many "progressives"- that is the impression of coming across as being more reactively "anti-conservative" than proactively liberal or progressive.

 

What did others who have completed it think about LTQ?

 

How about people who are thinking about it? What are your thoughts?

 

 

Peace,

 

John

Edited by peacemover
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I hadn't ever heard of the series until about a month ago when someone over at beliefnet (perhaps it was you?) mentioned in a thread that they were just finishing up the course.

 

At this point I don't think I'd be interested in taking the course. I've had enough deconstruction in my spiritual life. ;) Time for some reconstruction. :)

 

I'd love to hear a bit more about your experiences and insights though.

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What you said Altheia, and what I get the impression you agree with, Cynthia, about having had enough "deconstruction" already is something that resonates well with me also.

 

The first few weeks of LTQ (www.livingthequestions.com) were a little rough for my wife and me, as far as trying to discern what this "new vision" is all about, while only seeming to hear about what the answers WERE NOT.

 

As I said, though, looking back later once we completed the course, I can see why they structured the course the way they did.

 

Also, my impression is only my impression. I am sure there are plenty of other people who would not feel the same way about the sense of "deconstruction" of traditional beliefs.

 

I would still strongly encourage you to seek out an LTQ group and give it a try.

 

I also found it interesting to be able to compare and contrast LTQ with ALPHA- having completed both courses.

 

I get the sense from reading the pejorative comments about ALPHA on the LTQ website that the authors and contributors had not completed ALPHA or even reviewed the materials all that thoroughly. Because, while ALPHA is biblically based (huge gasp), it does not push a literalist interpretation of scripture, or even the need to accept certain theological beliefs.

 

ALPHA is designed to be a 10 week discussion group on various topics regarding the person of Jesus Christ, with a weekend or 1-day retreat in the middle of the course on the Holy Spirit (which I found to be both refreshing and spiritually enriching).

 

My main critique of ALPHA is that they do assert some fairly traditional/conservative views on issues of sexuality- such as marriage, and homosexuality. These topics do not emerge as much in the sessions as they do in some of the supplementary materials.

 

ALPHA also presents a more traditional, Anselmian view of atonement. This traditional orthodox view of the person of Jesus Christ obviously makes many progressive scholars squeamish. It causes LTQ's progressive scholars to rant about the "domination system," regarding Jesus' crucifixion, and downplaying it having any salvific significance within itself.

 

If presented properly, though, ALPHA is not about giving easy answers or the "false certitude" that Borg and others rail against in LTQ. ALPHA is intended to be about cultivating an accepting, inclusive atmosphere in the group where any question can be asked, and wrestled with, without giving pat easy answers, but rather cultivating meaningful dialogue.

 

Also there seemed to be a bit of hypocrisy in the LTQ when the spoke against "proof-texting," then at the end of the session they give scripture citations "for your reference."

 

Both programs are worth completing, and both have their strengths and weaknesses, in my opinion.

 

Neither are objective or without their own agendas.

 

In the end the Christian spiritual journey should be about continuing on the path of spiritual growth.

 

The more resources, groups, books and dialogues we can utilize to help us to do that, the better.

 

Peace,

 

John

Edited by peacemover
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"In the end the Christian spiritual journey should be about continuing on the path of spiritual growth.

 

The more resources, groups, books and dialogues we can utilize to help us to do that, the better."

 

Very true John! Thanks for the information about LTQ and ALPHA. I'll keep them in mind for the next round of theological information craving!!! :) (honestly, I'm hoping it'll be a while - somewhat exhausting! :D )

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As much as I don't think I'd necessarily seek one out for my own direct enrichment (I've turned all this stuff over in my own little world enough to last me 5 lifetimes I think), I would definitely consider doing it with a group of interested fellow churchgoers, and helping to catalyze some good discussion about it. I think it's probably time for me to start "giving back." :)

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