As we close in on Elder Training at Austin City Life, we are spending the summer doing contextual theology. Every other week our elders-in-training get together to cover theological issues that are relevant to our progressive context.
Hope in a Brave New World
Any Christian must be able to give an answer for the hope they lies within them (1 Pet 3:15). This task is increasingly difficult in our time, particularly because what lies without is rapidly changing. America has moved away from traditional values into a “brave new world” of technological innovation, globalizing homogeneity, ethnic diversity, and moral change.
This “cultural change” has resulted in a shift away from traditional values, ethics, and viewpoints. Some of these shifts are long overdue (hypermasculinity, politicized faith, etc.), while others are regrettable. We are living, raising families, and making disciples in a city that is leading the way in many of these changes. How can we respond to changing context with grace and truth? As elders, it is not only our responsibility to have an answer for our hope but to lead others in discovering answers for their hope. In the words of Peter, we are to “shepherd the flock of God with oversight” (1 Pet 5:2-3). Grace and truth. Not either/or. Our changing cultural context calls greater insight if we are to shepherd God’s people well.
Approach to Study
To that end, we will cover 7 Priority Topics that reflect controversy or challenge in leading the church in Austin, Texas. Prepare at least a one page summary of your findings, writing out your answers to three areas for each topic:
- Biblical Teaching – Read and study the assigned texts. Establish the biblical meaning of the text and support your view.
- Cultural Positions – Be prepared to argue and state the cultural counterpoints, using contemporary material, i.e. a conversation with a co-worker, an article in The Chronicle, an interview on a talk show.
- Theological-Pastoral Response – How does the biblical material address the cultural position? Reject, Redeem, Rejoice? If unclear, what theological principles should be applied to gain wisdom with the cultural issue? How would you counsel someone in your City Group on this topic?
Seven Priority Topics
#1 Gender Identity – what does it mean to be male and female? Are these artificial cultural distinctions or does gender run deeper than sexual preference? What does it mean to be essentially male and female? How should this affect church and marriage?
#2 Homosexuality & Trans-sexuality – Is sexuality a choice or a biological fact? Is homosexuality sinful? How should the church respond to same-sex relationships or people who change sex?
#3 Freedom & Authority – What does it mean to be “free”? How do cultural views of freedom compare to biblical views of election? How does our view of freedom affect the way we treat the church and authority?
#4 Abortion & Culture of Life – Abortion has been a hot political issue for decades. Is this a conservative issue or a biblical issue? What stance should the church take? Does abortion carry equal or greater weight than other culture of life issues like poverty?
#5 Creation & Evolution – Is evolution compatible with a biblical view of creation? What is at stake in this debate? What stance should the church take, if any?
#6 The Problem of Evil & Suffering – Does God cause evil? If not, why doesn’t he stop it? What is the purpose of suffering and evil and how can it exist when God is good? How do we lead our church through these questions?
# 7 Pluralism & Christian Faith – Are there many ways to God? If not, what about those who haven’t heard the gospel? How is it just for God to send people to hell who haven’t heard the gospel?
If you are still reading this post, would you pause and pray for our elders and church to gain wisdom, conviction, and skill in these areas?