Paul H. Jones
“Why didn’t my church tell me that?” If you have every asked that question, then this seminar is for you.
Because there are few places in our society, including the church, where religious issues are discussed seriously, a huge knowledge gap exists between the pulpit and the pew. There is also a strange silence about the church’s ongoing conversation with culture, as well as about the principles and practices of biblical and theological scholarship. Consequently, many Christians cannot reconcile their belief system with modernity. Some dismiss religion as irrelevant, while others erect firewalls to defend the faith. Church members want to know if you can read the Bible and the newspaper with the same eyes, if you can engage the brain after entering sacred space, and if you can trust with your heart what your head rejects. Silence about the vast resources of the tradition has created church secrets that, over time, rob us of our Christian identity from within.
The church’s failure to teach its own intellectual history, whether intentional or not, undermines Christian identity by denying itself the staples of the faith and thereby making it vulnerable to distortions from within and temptations from without. In short, faith formation does not happen by accident. Unless the church deliberately and willfully passes on the tradition, its mission will be gradually compromised and its members will be thoroughly enculturated.
This seminar will examine and expose church secrets in the hope that this process will empower church members to rediscover the church’s meaning and mission, regain the church’s vigor and vitality, and liberate the church from its comfortable complacency and its cultural conformity. A time for questions and discussion will be included in each session.
FRIDAY NIGHT LECTURE
The Genesis of Church Secrets and “There Is No Meaning without Context” (Deadly Secret #1)
The opening session will begin by describing the ways in which the church and the American culture contribute to the strange silence in the church. Then, the session will reveal the first deadly secret by identifying the Western cultural assumptions and intellectual presuppositions—our mental maps of reality—that inform how we think and act in the world. Two foundational questions will be answered: How did the Western worldview of cultural relativity emerge? What are the implications for religious life today?
Friday, 7:30-9 p.m.
The Twin Temptations of the Tradition: “Faith Means Trust, Not Belief” (Deadly Secret #2) and “The Bible Is Not the Word of God; Jesus Is” (Deadly Secret #3)
This session will expose the second deadly secret by arguing that faith, like trust, is a relational category, and that belief is a cognitive category that attempts to make sense of a prior experience of the holy. The role of doubt in the faith journey will then be addressed. After debunking the popular misunderstanding that faith and belief are identical, the session will uncover the most volatile and misunderstood deadly secret: the Bible is not the Word of God. The session will conclude with a theological answer to the question: Is the Bible the Word of God for Christians?
Saturday, 9:00-10:15 a.m.
How to Interpret Scripture: “Read the Bible Critically, Not Literally” (Deadly Secret #4)
This session will directly challenge the pervasive and persistent notion that the Bible should be read literally because God is its author. In sequence, this session will present a critique of literalism, will advance the necessity of a critical reading of the Bible, and will highlight religious implications of a critical reading of scripture.
A Case Study: “Jesus’ Miracles are Prologue, Not Proof” (Deadly Secret #5)
This session will illustrate the difficulty of interpreting an ancient book in the modern world by examining Jesus’ miracles. Since miracles play an indispensable role in the belief system of many Christians, people want to know if they really happened and if they prove that Jesus is divine. By exploring both the past and present interpretive contexts, this session will propose an alternative way to investigate this complicated and controversial topic.
Saturday, 1:30-3 p.m.
Paul H. Jones (Ph.D., Vanderbilt University) is Professor of Religion and Director of the Religion Program at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. He is the author of The Church’s Seven Deadly Secrets: Identity Theft from Within (2013) and Christ’s Eucharistic Presence: A History of the Doctrine (1994), and co-author of 500 Illustrations: Stories from Life for Preaching & Teaching (1998) and The Structure of Religion: Judaism and Christianity (2005).
Brite Divinity School
Texas Christian University
2925 Princeton Street
Fort Worth, TX 76129