A Joint And Informed Look On Faith: Studying Matthew 18, 19, and 20

Huge thanks to everyone in the family group. ❤️ We tackled the lesson over hot soup, salad, bread, sweet desserts, strong coffee, and chilled wines.

In our discussion on October 11, we thematically linked the study of the three chapters of Matthew (18, 19, 20) to the topic of faith. Our opening activity was a quiz on Hans Rosling’s Factfulness. The reality is, we view our faith, form biases, and decide how we shall relate to each other and to others on the basis of the information we have or not have of the world. The activity was meant to check where we are on global awareness. Do you want to check if you have an accurate view of the world? Here’s the link to the quiz, https://factfulnessquiz.com/

Is the world better today than it was during the old times? Are we healthier today compared to our ancestors? How is subscribing to facts or accuracy on how you view the world connected to tonight’s lesson? Our awareness condition on what’s truly happening in the world affects our compassion IQ and how we view other people’s humanity. It influences the position we take on various social, political, medical, and economic issues. Our awareness condition is tied to the faith we practice and vice verse. Being that faith is a reasoned response to God’s revelation and not a blind leap into the abyss, going after the facts and continually learning helps us confront our biases and consequently strengthen and promote a Gospel-based faith. After looking into the 17 chapters of Matthew, to include cross-referential studies of the Old Testament and other books in the New Testament, we now get the following comprehensive view of faith.

Faith is a reasoned response to God’s call. It is based on knowledge and insight (of who and what God is), belief (in his being), and trust and confidence (safety under his care). Faith doesn’t stop with a confession or declaration just like what Peter demonstrated in Matthew 16. From the confession of faith, we move into the expression of faith and then to the interconnected communal and intra-personal growing of it.

Faith in accordance with the Gospel as we learned from the Ministry of Christ was the backdrop by which we looked at the stories and parables written in chapters 18 to 20. In the discussion, we reaffirmed the foundational basis of reading the Bible as a unified literary work and studying it in it’s final and finished form while at the same time bearing in mind the following imperatives:

1. The thrust to bring together what’s been pulled apart. (In reference to the Bible’s continuing theme)

2. Left to their own accord, human beings are incapable of overcoming sins. (The consistent conflict is seen in the Bible’s narratives)

3. God’s Plan of Salvation —The premise that Salvation is solely by God’s Transformative Grace received through faith alone. The Gospel is consistently shown in the Bible’s storytelling. (The reflected conflict resolution from Genesis to Revelation)

4. The Foundational Interactive Direction (FID) of the conversation is that the GOSPEL is the heart and the very point of every discussion. The Gospel, literally translated as Good News, is defined in the Bible as the person and the works of Christ. The person of Christ is about his life, death, and resurrection. The works of Christ pertains to his Ministry which revolves around three things: TEACHING, PREACHING, and HEALING. In short, this is about us coming together as a unified unit, bringing the promise of God’s Kingdom available to all herein and now.

Here’s the Study Guide to Matthew 18, 19, 20 discussion, https://1drv.ms/w/s!AoY5dWd1NI-dulbUnaIMbWxm7X7N

Here’s the powerpoint presentation we used to moderate the lesson’s Socratic-style study, https://1drv.ms/p/s!AoY5dWd1NI-dumGF9XdKzZ1IJ0P-

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

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TOWARDS A JOINT AND UNIFIED OBJECTIVE-LEARNING ENVIRONMENT

In Bible studies and casual conversations, we have people asking how to better understand the Bible without falling into the trap of a tribally dogmatic and deeply religious mindset. How do we avoid romanticizing or mysticizing and over-spiritualizing the passages? The answer to this is in the form of another question. Is the way we are learning or being exposed to the Bible encourage openness, investigation of literary strategies, critical-mindedness, and cross-referential and evidence-based reading?

These questions are real questions and curiosity that connect to achieving real unity. Connect— in the deepest sense of belongingness. The questions require a multilayer and also specific approaches. So allow me to tackle this by offering practical and direct suggestions.

First, look at your book and material library. Honestly, calculate if you have a well-balanced catalog of diverse books. If you aren’t into reading, check your media (TV viewing and online visits). If 50% or more of your reading list is comprised of faith-based authorship, chances are you are already indoctrinated. And indoctrination is not education. Education encourages critical thinking whereas indoctrination closes the mind.

People who are indoctrinated are also highly predisposed to a tribal mindset whether these individual admits it or not. In matters of highly-charged topics, they are unlikely to be open to a position they don’t follow even when an argument is strong and objective. They can argue this, but the truth is, there’s no arguing with biases or unbending hardlines.

On the same token, you may argue from a moral standpoint and say that at least what you are reading is faith-based or that you are generally a good person compared to those who overtly offend others. But how is this mindset working out in today’s environment? Most conversations we have, even polite ones are marred with biases, both implicit and explicit.

Next, see the company we choose to hang with. Aren’t most of our chosen groups and associations look or sound just like us? Do we eat the same type of cuisines every time and are reluctant to venture outside comfort zones? The thing is, a great number of us devour the same informational materials and stay within comfortable familiar zones even though we subscribe to a variety of platforms. The diversity talk is just that —talk. And then we wonder why we are so disintegrated, tribal. By tribal (and tribalism), I refer to an extreme sense of loyalty to one’s own group and belief system to the exclusion of everyone and everything else. Anything outside the person’s tribe is perceived as a potential threat or enemy.

Bear with me, a little. You can unfollow me later if that’s how you feel, but in the meantime, give the following the benefit of the doubt.

In this digital age of information, my advice: 1. Consume less. 2. Acquire new learning skills and tools that work. 3. Contribute to the promotion of a joint journey of learning together.

By the above I say, strategically limit your subscription of podcasts, Scriptural commentaries, sermons, and books. Consuming more and more opinions and interpretive information is just counterintuitive. You don’t have to devour every bible-inspired material in the market to understand the Bible and to get closer to God. Because really, when you read the Bible side by side with countless commentaries, analyses, and multiple sermons, what you’re basically doing is endorsing a highly subjective process of elimination. The criterion used here is always based on what resonates more to you, what preaching-style or prose you liked the best.

In order to break tribalism, we have to get rid of our own deeply ingrained biases and confront our tribal thoughts and ways. Then and only then are we able to commit to a joint journey of learning —learning together as a joint community that is committed to the truth even when that means finding out your long-held belief is wrong.

And so what I am strongly proposing is for us to get back to the basics of reading comprehension and learning together. Focus instead on reading and learning about literary techniques, acquiring reading comprehension skills, checking out historical and ethnographic data for adjunct learning. And READ. Really, read and learn together the Bible’s text sans bias-magnet commentaries. This may not outright solve the problem of tribalism, but it’s a foundational start to a long-term and sustainable goal of loving everyone everywhere. ❤️

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

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We’re Christians. How did we learn our way to a tribal mindset?

The discussion below is only a 5.8-minute read for the average readers (130 words per minute). In today’s start of the week, I am posting a 761-word exposition on how most Bible-based way of learning primed readers into a tribal way of thinking. 🤓 I will posit, that in order to break Scriptural tribalism, we have to go back to the basic of reading comprehension, acquire critical thinking skills, and commit to a joint journey of learning.

Supposedly, Bible-based communities of varying denominations refer to the same Bible regardless of translations. But, the interpretations couldn’t be so different when it comes to a variety of specific issues. Here are a few examples of questions that could quickly become polarized issues among Christian communities. What does loving everyone everywhere mean? Who is our neighbor? Can women serve as spiritual leaders of men? What does the Bible say about gender roles? How do we reconcile our civic duties with the core message of the Bible? Is politics really bad? What about having Biblical conversations on LGBTQ and gun-related issues? How are we to handle and reconcile our local citizenship to that of being citizens of the world and the Kingdom of Heaven?

Frankly, I find uncorrupted Bible reading easy for our young learners and skeptics if they’re allowed the full range to really read the Bible as a literary book that it is. Most problems I see in the handling of Bible studies is that it has become a persuasion-centric discussion rather than an unbiased look of the text. There’s no room for respectful cynicism, agnostic criticism, and scholarly discussions.

Much of the circulated materials that the Bible-Based teachers and preachers choose to use in their teaching and preaching underscore the incontestable detail that even when it’s assumed that all of the Scriptures are God-breathed in the basic sense that its stories were inspired by devotional divinity, it’s beyond a reasonable doubt that its authorship is definitely human. The conveyed lessons often nullify extrinsic historical and ethnographic realities. Either intentional or otherwise, the audience is primed to see the Bible as de facto God.

The thing is, the Bible had been redacted and translated many times over. Corresponding to being a conquered and exiled nation, the ancients, in order to preserve their history, based the redactions in the Old Testament on what was thought as important materials to pass down to the next generation. The New Testament redactions were a result of intentional selection by criteria of which stories were to be considered to complete the Messianic narrative of redemption. Let this sink in for a moment.

Unfortunately, most tend to follow passage readings as an isolated or stand-alone ideology rather than a unified literary reading of a book studied in it’s final and finished form. The ensuing effect is personalized glossing if not a display of convoluted tribal dispositions. The mode of learning is unwittingly enabled to bring you to the book but never the book to you. And however clever you deny it, the fact remains that although you may have flipped to every page, you never really got to the whole book in its final and finished form.

It’s like forever being put on a task by a high school literary teacher to take notations of a highly popular and supposedly life-changing novel. It’s an endless annotation of details and subjective perception of a page. You see shadows and allusions to the heart of the entire story, but you never got to the point where you actually read and learned the whole book.

To truly engage the text of the Bible and to veer away from the trappings of doctrinal, religious and tribal disputes, I posit that Bible-related and Bible-based discussions and studies across the board should follow a joint pedagogical journey of learning. Truth be known, we can’t get to the applied practice if we can’t adapt to the commonsense part of learning the basics. In discussing potentially polarizing topics, it’s not possible to engage in an impassioned exchange of opposing viewpoints and then expect objective and logical conversation when the parties aren’t committed to abiding by basic learning common grounds. It’s only by a genuine joint journey of learning that we can break tribal predispositions and infighting and then connect our gifts of individual differences.

Here’s a clearcut short version of the central message of the Bible. The Gospel is always offensive to those with religious and tribal mindsets. And always, the text tells you what it means. You only hear it if you involve in your individual and collective journey the process of acquiring and applying essential skills to reading and learning.

And believe me, the process of getting to a joint pedagogical journey of learning with others requires a paradigm shift. The process may take some getting used to and sometimes it can get messy since everyone wants what they want when and how they want it. It’ll take a while, but with diligent follow-through and patient practice, it can be done.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/us/ or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.

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