45th Annual Spring Lecture SeriesTwice yearly, Green Lake Church broadens its outlook by inviting guest speakers on topics of current interest. Each series comprises four sessions, a vegetarian potluck lunch, and a reception following the last meeting. Our own senior pastor, John McLarty, will present this year’s Spring Lecture Series.
Spring 2013 Lecture Series
Four Adventist Treasures: One Habit and Three Ideas for the Third Millennium
In the April Lecture Series, I will explore four Adventist treasures, four distinctively Adventist resources for spiritual life at the beginning of the Third Millennium. Here is a brief outline of the weekend’s presentations:
Friday night, April 5: Sabbath, a Park in Time
The most valuable, irreplaceable treasure of contemporary urban life is open space. If you live on a farm or in a rural area, you may take for granted the sense of spaciousness, room to see and breathe. But in the city, parks are one of the most important measures of quality of life. Part of what makes a city work is crowding. When thousands and millions of people are squeezed together in close proximity, all sorts of creative and economic potentials are created. Crowding, efficiency of use, is part of the magic of the city. Parks are the breathing spaces in that congestion. They are the deliberate limits on “economic efficiency” as the supreme value for land use. Parks make cities more humane.
Sabbath is a park in time, a deliberate open space in the crowded efficiency of our lives. The “weekend,” a universally prized feature of our society, is built on the notion of Sabbath. And as Sabbath (Sunday) as a significant commitment has disappeared from most of the Christian Church, the open space of the weekend is increasingly squeezed. The demands for productivity threaten to obliterate the park in time. Adventist Sabbath practice can serve not only our own needs but the larger society as well.
Sabbath School, April 6: God Is Love
All Christians agree with this, of course. Adventists are the only denomination that has formally elevated this assertion to level of a hermeutical principle (that is, a rule for interpreting the Bible). The Bible’s testimony regarding eternal torment is ambiguous. Adventists come down emphatically against eternal torment because a God who loves could not also torment. Given the dominance of the “God as Father” metaphor across the Bible and the picture of God the Father given by Jesus, especially in Matthew 6, I argue we need to push the “God is love” principle much further than we have done publicly in the past. We need to ask the kinds of questions Rob Bell asks in Love Wins.
Sermon, April 6: Behavior Matters
“What must I do to be saved?” This is the foundational question for classic evangelical Christianity. It was certainly a terrifying and central question in medieval Christianity. A couple of answers are common: Behavior is utterly irrelevant; what matters is faith. Or, behavior is utterly decisive; perfection is the standard (minimum acceptable level of performance). Both of these responses assume the most important question in life is: “How do I avoid damnation?” Life here and now matters only in its function as the entrance exam for heaven. I dissent from this view.
“How shall we live” is a much better question. One of the central functions of good religion is to provide social support for the behaviors that enhance life. Relationships—marriage, child/parent, friends, neighbors—depend on habitual, wise behavior. Health—physical, mental, spiritual—is largely influenced by our behavior patterns. If religion is going to participate in our response to the question, “How shall we live,” it must address behavior. Salvation is better thought of as human well-being than as the alternative to damnation.
Adventism historically linked a high concern for behavior with an obsession with avoiding damnation. It was a miserable combination. Mature Adventism should retain a profound appreciation for the impact of behavior on our quality of life and the power of church to influence behavior. On the other hand, we should reject out of hand both perfectionism as a standard or the notion that God is a difficult-to-please judge.
Sabbath Afternoon, April 6: Law
Some people have an instinctive, deep confidence in God. “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.” Their faith is simple and untroubled. But for many, the question, Can God be trusted, is intensely problematic. Is God good? Is God fair? One of the major projects of Adventist theology has been to address this question.
Adventists believe that law in its most fundamental form is not an arbitrary imposition of rules by God upon humans; rather, law is a description of the habits of God, or in the language of Ellen White, “law is a transcript of the character of God.”
God is not right merely because he says so. God is right because there is an absolute congruence between what he requires and what he is/does. Our inescapable human sense of right and wrong is a reflection of God. God must do right. Not simply in the sense that if God does it, it is right, but in the sense that God is held to the norms expressed in creation and in our best thoughts and sensibilities.
One stream of Christian theology argues that human questions about divine justice are simply irrelevant. If God calls something right, it is right just because God said so. God is the legal authority. There is no higher law. There are no criteria by which the Creator can be evaluated. Adventists, on the other hand, believe that human questions matter. Law may be a divine creation, but, having created it, God himself is defined in part by law and will not violate it.
Friday, April 5, 2013
6:30p Soup Supper
7:30p “Sabbath, a Park in Time”
Sabbath, April 6, 2013
9:30a “God Is Love”
11:00a “The Sweetness of Doing Right”
12:30p Potluck Lunch