Study Guide: Don’t Be A Butthead

Sunday February 15, 2015 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

We start Mixed Signals with a sermon on how to respond to questions about our faith in the midst of an increasingly pluralistic society. This sermon is focused on the way to respond to these questions as people of God and how to hold on to the most important beliefs with gentleness and respect.

Extended Summary:

This week marks the beginning of a new series titled Mixed Signals. This series explores the questions related to how Christians can hold on to the truth claims of Jesus in the midst of a pluralistic society with thousands of competing truth claims. There can be a temptation to make our voice heard by shouting the loudest or staying quiet and ignoring those who think differently. This series will focus on finding a balance between those competing options and explore ways to convey the beauty of the cross in a manner that is fitting of that beauty.

This first week focuses on the claim of Jesus in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It is important to note the singularity of the claim of Jesus. He claims to be THE way and truth and life. This truth claims rules out the option of relativism for a follower of Jesus. This claim of Jesus did not become as controversial until 100 years ago when the world started getting smaller and it became impossible to avoid competing world views in our society. We are now living in a sea of ambiguity where the questions about our faith will inevitably be brought to our attention. The question is not IF followers of Jesus will be confronted about our faith, but HOW will we respond when those confrontations occur. Historically Christians have not done a good job in these conversations. We are more often viewed as intolerant, hypocritical or just plain buttheads (as the title of the sermon suggests).

Followers of Jesus must learn a better way to respond and much of this change happens in understanding two key concepts surrounding faith: 1) The Nature of Faith and 2) How we hold faith. First, the nature of faith is commonly confused as being necessarily associated with ones certainty in ones beliefs, but this understanding of faith short circuits any chance of having actual communication with someone holding opposing beliefs. When certainty is required then any question is perceived as a threat and this eliminates the possibility of genuine dialogue. In contract, Biblical faith is based on being confident enough in a certain truth claim to make a commitment and to live in covenant relationship. This model of faith gives one freedom to listen, dialogue, validate and actually communicate with someone of a competing truth claim since nothing needs to be defended. In this model of faith ones fullness comes from a relationship with God and NOT the certainty through which one holds their beliefs. Second, we are hold on to our faith and beliefs in a graded way knowing that not all beliefs are created equal. In the midst of thousands of denominations worldwide with varied belief structures for each denomination, we are called to claim with the Apostle Paul, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We learn everything we need to know about God and ourselves by looking to Jesus on the cross. We know through this that we are loved with an everlasting love and this applies to all of humanity.

This understanding of the nature of faith and how to hold that faith frees us up to hold lightly to all other beliefs and engage in true dialogue in a way that promotes gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). This also pinpoints where we should spend our time and energy in study and dialogue. Our job is to have coherent and thoughtful responses to questions about the person of Jesus and to not fear those conversations because when something is true we don’t need to fear.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How do you feel about reading John 14:6 in the midst of a very pluralistic society? Does the statement of Jesus make you anxious or cautious in any way?
  2. What are some of the difficult questions others have asked you about your faith? How do you feel like you responded? Would you respond differently after hearing this message?
  3. This message emphasized the need to respond with gentleness and respect to questions about ones beliefs. What is the most difficult part about responding in this way?
  4. How would you describe your faith? Is it based on a certainty model or a covenant model? How does holding a covenant model of faith free you up to listen more intently?
  5. This message argued that not all beliefs are of equal weight. Do you agree with this statement? What beliefs have you argued for in the past that you might hold more loosely now? Does your worth come from a relationship with Jesus or the rightness of your beliefs?