WEEK 1a: “Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?”
I arrived at church early and was warmly welcomed by a fresh-faced gentleman sporting a beaming smile who introduced himself as the pastor of the church. After shaking my hand he led me into the room where the course would be held. In the room were three men and three women. The three women were all members of the church, and had been for some time. Two of the men were also members of the church, one a long-standing member and the other a relatively recent addition to the flock. The remaining gentleman was a neighbour of the long-standing male member but he was not a Christian. So of the bunch we were the only two non-believers in attendance, which, I must admit, came as somewhat of a surprise.
As we all exchanged pleasantries the three ladies served drinks and handed round slices of cheesecake and bowls of fruit salad. It was a very warm and pleasant atmosphere.
After we had eaten, the pastor asked us all to introduce ourselves in turn. After that he switched on the DVD player and inserted the first disc of the program, which would last approximately twenty minutes. As the introductory credits rolled, the pastor quickly assured us that any questions would be allowed. Each one of us would be free to air our views and he would do his best to assist. He then handed out a manual that accompanied the complete set of DVD’s that we were to be watching throughout the course, which gave us a rough outline of each weekly session, and in which we could make notes.
Lights were dimmed and the course began…
On the DVD an amiable chap called Nicky Gumbel would present the weekly programmes, and he began by trying to get us to imagine the big questions in life. We should ask ourselves, “What are we doing on earth? Where did we come from? Where are we heading? Who are we? Does our life have any ultimate purpose and meaning? What happens when we die?”
He then goes onto explain that there’s more to life than material possessions. He tells us a story of the legendary lead singer of the rock band Queen, Freddie Mercury, who had all the material goods he could wish for, yet, as Gumbel tells us, Mercury was lacking the one thing he really wanted in life: a loving relationship. Gumbel doesn’t waste time moving into God territory, and claims, “Ultimately there is only ONE relationship that is completely loving and totally ongoing, and that is a relationship with God.” And that such a relationship brings “reality to a confused world”.
More of the same followed, including a brief allusion to, of all things, Pascal’s Wager. He then assures us that, “Jesus came to set us free” and that “the Christian message is good news… and the good news is this – God loves you. And he loves you and me so much that he came in the person of his son, Jesus Christ, to live and to die for us”.
A little later he ends the sermon by stating that Christianity wasn’t boring and that “it’s not untrue. It’s not irrelevant to our lives. It’s exciting. It’s true”
The program ends, the DVD is ejected, and we begin to discuss what we had just watched.
“Can anyone relate to any of the points raised in the programme?” asks the pastor. One of the ladies says that she had asked herself those ‘big questions’ in her childhood. She begins, “As a child I asked myself, “Do I love my mum and dad as much as I do and its all going to dust at the end of the day? All this love that I’ve given out, and all the love they have given me, is it not going to be anything at the end of it all?” I was thinking these kinds of things when I was really small and it used to make me really sad. I used to think that if the story [Christianity] was not true then what a waste all of this [the universe, life and everything] would be.”
I suggested to her that the things that we humans consider to be valuable in life are often the things that are rare and temporary. Diamonds and other precious jewels, for example, are considered valuable not because they are common, but because they are rare. A collector would not spend £5million on a blade of grass from a neighbouring field, or on a grain of sand from the Sahara Desert, but he may spend that much on an original Ming Vase or an original painting by Van Gogh. An evening at the theatre does not lack meaning because the performance is only two hours in length. Does the show/movie/ballet have to go on forever in order for it to be fulfilling and meaningful? Of course not. Similarly the temporariness of life does not preclude meaning and purpose. Our lives are full of meaning, despite being finite. I then suggest to her that if indeed there is no God and no eternal paradise, and that this life is the only life we’re ever going to get – then it becomes all the more valuable because of it.
The group then takes it in turn to offer insights into why it is that we do or do not believe in God, and we discuss these reasons briefly.
We’re now one hour into the course, and it is at this point that the pastor turns on the DVD player again, for we are about to watch the first proper session on the DVD, entitled, “Who Is Jesus?”….
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- WEEK 11: “How Can I Make The Most Of The Rest Of My Life?”
- WEEK 10: “What About The Church?”
- WEEK 9: “Does God Heal Today?”
- WEEK 8: “How Can I Resist Evil?”
- WEEK 7: Weekend Talks 1 & 2
- WEEK 6: “How Does God Guide Us?”
- WEEK 5: “Why And How Should I Read The Bible?”
- WEEK 4: “Why And How Do I pray?”
- WEEK 3: “How Can I Be Sure Of My Faith?”
- WEEK 2: “Why Did Jesus Die?”
- WEEK 1b: “Who Is Jesus?”
- WEEK 1a: “Christianity: Boring, Untrue and Irrelevant?”
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