A Layperson’s Theological Perspective
What is the ultimate question?
Let me first start off by saying that, unless the person asking the question has read any of Douglas Adams work, the answer is not “42”!
And one must be under the age of five to ask the ultimate philosophical question, “Why?” Of course, those who have raised children know that the answer to this important question of life and the universe is “Because!”
More importantly, what if you do not know what the question that will determine your next step professionally or personally will be? How do you prepare for that question or series of questions?
First, it has been almost fifty years since I completed my own confirmation class. And while I am confident that I came out of that class with a better understanding of who I am what I know about the church and theology today is far more than I knew then. But what I know I know from experience and my own thought and not through an organized study of faith, theology, and Methodism.
And I wonder how many others today understand those same areas. How many times has a pastor focused on those topics for an extended period of time and in such a way that people come away with clearer understanding?
I know that when I write a message to be presented on a Sunday morning, I have focused on the lectionary readings and have tried to place them in the context of what is happening today. On some occasions, I am pretty sure that what I said has challenged one of the listeners to seek further information but that is speculation on my part. I am sure that everyone who has, either as a lay servant/speaker or pastor, hoped that what they said on a particular Sunday changed the life of someone who heard or read the words given that day. But, until the Day of Judgement does come, we have no way of knowing if that happened.
So the question/thought arises, how do we who have been charged with preparing the minds of individuals to open the hearts and souls of those same individuals do just that, prepare them for the ultimate question, the one which we do not know?
And that leads to the second thought, what might be the ultimate question or what questions should we be able to answer so that we can answer the question we do not know, especially from a layperson theological perspective?
Is it perhaps, “Are you saved?”
Or is it one of Wesley’s historical questions –
- Do you know God as a pardoning God? Do you have the love of God abiding in them? Do you desire nothing but God? Are you holy in all manner of conversation?
- Do you have gifts, as well as the evidence of God’s grace3, for the work to which you have been called? Do you have a clear, sound understanding and a right judgement of things of God; a just conception of salvation by faith? Do you speak justly, readily, and clearly?
- Do you have the fruit? Have you been truly convinced of sin and converted to God and a believer as edified by your service?
Things for me suggest that I spend some time working on the Wesley questions, if for no other reason than to clarify some things in my own mind. There is no doubt in my own mind that I can answer those questions in the affirmative, though the language that I might respond in may not be the accepted form.
Over the next few weeks I am going to look at the questions John Wesley posed. I invite your thoughts and comments about those questions or questions you feel that the laity and especially the laity who have been called to serve should be able to answer.