I did the "Gospel" presentation (see Sept 14th) to the Methodist Supernumeraries this week under four headings:
- Pain - This is usually what we feel when something is wrong with us... And at our age, that's pretty common with people here in the Village. "How are you?" is not always just a formal greeting but an opportunity for real sharing about real issues. This can be linked to the feeling that we sometimes have about Creation and what we are doing to the environment. There's an awareness of something not quite right, of failure, of dis-integration.
- Balance - Yet it's a "Gospel" issue that we do not need to be totally dominated by pain. We can get over some of our dis-ease. We do not have to become totally absorbed in it but can experience all aspects of living and dying in a balanced way. The natural environment, too, if left alone, seems to have the capacity to re-create itself.
- Knowing - It's interesting that Jesus didn't gather "members". He gathered "disciples", learners, seekers after truth. Some people around me these days are highly motivated to consider living and dying in the context of truth rather than myth. They seem to experience as "good news" some of my beliefs that are at odds with traditional Christian doctrine. They are more responsive to a belief system which is consistent with what they have learned rather than one which demands that they set aside their beliefs for uncritical "faith".
- Growing - I have drawn to Chris Scott's interpretation of Matthew's Jesus, "Unless you become as little children"(See Sept 14). Scott suggests that the significant quality of children is the capacity to UNlearn - thus all waterbirds are "ducks" until the child UNlearns that certain "ducks" are actually swans. This ability to UNlearn seems to be what hinders people inside and outside the church. For growth toward the ultimate maturity - "self-actualisation", for instance - invites Unlearning. Unchurched people around me sometimes find that it is Good News to be able to discard some things they were once taught were ultimate truth.
Looking at my modest Gospel Quadrilateral" I find some parallels with John Wesley's summary of Methodist theology.
- All people need to be saved - sin
- All people can be saved - salvation
- All people can know that they are saved - Christian assurance
- All people may be saved to the uttermost - Christian perfection
These days I wouldn't attempt to share my convictions around these terms as Wesley used them. But perhaps they have shaped my own theology of the Good News more than I thought! Maybe I still have some unlearning to do!