Theology Quest and Questions in Tiverton
Christian people in these early days of the 21st century have a long agenda of topics which lie at the heart of their faith but which raise persistent questions. They worship Sunday by Sunday, and they live lives which are often transparently Christian, but under the surface they are often pondering, wondering, looking for a safe place where issues can be tackled a little more than is possible in church services. This is where Theology Quest and Questions in Tiverton is designed to be a real help and stimulus.
The intention of TQQT is therefore in part, to quote a famous phrase, ‘faith seeking understanding’, but space is also given to ‘doubt seeking understanding’. In other words, TQQT recognizes that most thoughtful people find themselves pulled both ways by faith and doubt. The aim of these trios is to open up the quest and engage with some of those questions. What do Christians believe, why do they believe it, and should they keep on believing it?
The series of ‘trios’ ie three consecutive sessions given over to specific ‘big’ topics, are designed to be determinedly relevant to faith in the modern world. Thus, at the time of writing, anti-Semitism is much in the air: well, we had a trio on the question of who was responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, a hot topic which has been grimly present in conversation and conflitct between Christians and Jews for many centuries. Also, at the time of writing, the issue of sexuality continues to vex all the churches, so we devoted a trio to that question in the context of the role of the Bible in Chritian thought – is the Bible the last word, indeed is it or is it not the only word on the subject? To this we are going to return, as will be evident in the summary below of the programme for the year.
Before detailing the programme, we would like to say how welcome members of other churches (or no churches at all) would be welcome at these sessions which are offered by members of St Peter’s and others who are theologically trained to lead them. Do please come: we would be delighted to see you.
We meet in the hall of the Tiverton Baptist Church, by kind permission of the members of that church. Time: Thursdays at 7pm until 9pm. Cost £6 per sessions (or a deal, £15 per trio). That covers refreshments in the interval between the lecture (first part of the evening) and general discussion (second part).
Luke under the microscope
(formerly Professor of Theological Studies, University of Exeter)
Thursdays 14, 21 and 28 February 2019
Many years ago the famous playwright George Bernard Shaw, no enthusiast for the Christian faith, declared ‘It is the Jesus of Luke who has won our hearts.’ During the year that has just begun, those who are enthusiastic about Christian faith will have ample opportunity to check whether they agree.
Beginning with advent, which was a problem for Luke; continuing through Christmas, when his stories capture human imagination more even than Matthew; on through Lent, which may or may not capture the atmospher of his gospel; and Easter, when arguably Luke tries to take two contrasting positions which hardly fit one another logically and which pose for us the question of what we in our time can think about the resurrection… and from there to Pentecost, which certainly excites Luke and doubtless the Christian people for whom he wrote his very distinctive ‘story of Jesus’.
An interspersed in the story of Jesus are the stories of the people – some who met Jesus in this gospel alone – the woman with a past in the sex trade, for example – and some who figures in Luke’s matchless parables. Where would we be without the good Samaritan or the prodigal son, and what can we make of the puzzling ones like the unjust judge, the dishonest manager, the friend at midnight, for whom the saying might easily have been coined: ‘A friend in need is a pest’?
Talking to my son about God
(Anglican priest, theologian and writer;
lecturer at the University of the West of England and in the Diocese of Bath & Wells)
Thursdays 9, 16 and 23 May 2019
How are we to speak of God intelligibly and coherently, in ways that enhance wonder but don’t become fantastical? That was the challenge I confronted while writing my book, Talking to my son about God (forthcoming), in which I imagined a conversation with my son, Monty, drawing on questions he asks me on the way to church on Sunday mornings. These include: ‘Who is God?’, ‘Why did God create the world?’, and ‘Why do bad things happen?’
Finding words to talk about God: the language of theology. This session considers the way language functions in theology, and the words we use to describe God. It explores how the structure of language shapes our perception of God, informing our beliefs about his existence (or non-existence).
Understanding God’s relationship with the world: the praxis of theology. This session examins the sense we seek to make of God’s relationship with the created order, and how that very sense-making shapes our ways of being.
Why go to church? The grammar of liturgy. We end by considering the shape of Christian worship, exploring its capacity to form our dispositions and configure our existence.
David Hamer and David Catchpole
Art work: Sophie Hacker