Study Guide: Hitting Bottom

Sunday January 29, 2023 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

In this sermon, Greg provides an introduction to a new series on the reason why we believe in and follow Christ. He surveys why this topic is important and some of the various questions that we will explore in the series. Then Greg explains the foundation of his faith that he worked out when he was wresting with questions of belief.

Extended Summary:

We live in crazy times, times when the foundations of meaning are being rattled. Everything looks like it is changing, which means that we are like Pilate, asking “What is truth?” We don’t really know what truth is. Even in the midst of the myriad of questions about what is and is not true, this is a great opportunity for us. The things that are true should stand up to scrutiny. We should never be afraid of being challenged. We need to ask if our beliefs are true. Peter wrote: “Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Unfortunately, for a lot of Christians, their faith isn’t standing up to scrutiny. Many are abandoning the faith all together, and some high-profile believers have done so in a quite public way. Two-thirds of young people raised in church end up leaving church by age 22. Some leave because of bad experiences with church. For some, the strong alignment of evangelicals with right wing politics has been a deal breaker. Other reasons include: the lack of love expressed by the church, the suffering of the world, issues with the Bible, perceived conflicts with science, traditional patriarchal systems and religious violence.

These concerns raise legitimate issues. The speakers in this series will not be bashing those who express their questions and frustrations. We need to take a dialogical approach where we learn to listen to the concerns while also seeing how we can respond to these objections.

We must ask what is it that has allowed us to continue to believe when so many others are not? This often requires a deconstruction and reconstruction of faith. We must be willing to wrestle to the point where we “hit bottom.” Greg shared how he went through this three times in his life. He had to ask, “What do I really believe and why?” On Greg’s journey, he developed four parts of a foundation for why he believes what he believes. He offers this as a way of explaining the hope that lies within him.

The first part of the foundation is love.  Life has a purpose and this purpose is about love. In short, how did an irrational, amoral, meaningless cosmic burp evolve beings who try to make rational sense of things, long for meaning and have moral convictions? We long for love and live for it, even when we don’t have a rationale for why we search for it like we do. There is a point to our existence and the point is about love.

The second layer of this foundation is that the purpose of love has a “purpose-er.” We cannot have love as the point without someone who is the lover. There must be a “God,” ultimate intelligence, behind physical reality, and this ultimate intelligence must be perfectly loving.

The third layer is Jesus. If God is personal and therefore purposeful, and if we are created for the purpose of love, it makes sense to wonder if God has ever communicated with us. It’s significant to note that the Gospel story, if understood correctly, is the greatest love story ever told. God set aside the bliss of heaven, made himself into a fellow human being and then offered up his life on the cross, bearing the sin and curse of his bride. But it’s not just a story; history has shown us that Jesus actually did these things out of love for us.

The fourth layer is Scripture. If we trust that Jesus did what he did, then it is logical to trust in the things that he trusted. And one of the things that Jesus trusted was Scripture. Jesus viewed the entire Old Testament as the word of God. Not only this, but Jesus promised his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come remind them of all Jesus taught, and he promised that the world would come to believe in him through the word of his disciples. This implies that later generations would believe through their written words.

Reflection Questions: