Newsletter - Chips Off The Rock

After a relatively mild early start to winter, these past few weeks have made up for lost time. As January ends and we move into February, let’s hope the weather improves! I am tired of battling the elements each time I go outside; I am sure others are too, especially those who have school and work schedules that have been impacted by the delays and closures the weather has caused. 

As we end our January worship services and move into February, I am planning to start a series of sermons based on W. Paul Jones’ book “Theological Worlds: Understanding the Alternative Rhythms of Christian Belief.” This book was published in 1989, so it has been around for quite a while. I was introduced to it by Ken Miller Rieman, pastor of Prince of Peace Church of the Brethren in South Bend, at the Pastor’s Sabbath that was held at Camp Mack last October. 

W. Paul Jones was a pastor in the Methodist Church for many years, as well as being a seminary professor and writer. He saw different approaches to Christian faith in the congregations he served and came up with what he saw as being five different “theological worlds” being expressed in these different approaches to faith.  

As a hospice chaplain, I see these different expressions of faith being lived out in various ways. I also hear these different expressions of faith reflected in denominational and district gatherings. I even hear them being expressed in different ways as we talk about faith at Rock Run Church of the Brethren. 

It is common, I think, to think about faith as being true or not true and to believe that there is “one right way” to live out our faith. W. Paul Jones’ different theological worlds helps me to understand, and be appreciative of, different approaches to faith – and that all the approaches may have some different insights into faith to offer us as we seek to be a church community together in these divisive times. 

In my sermons in the coming weeks, I will be seeking to explain the theological worlds and the different approaches each one takes to faith. Jones does not give a title to each of the five theological worlds but here is how I have come to describe them: World 1 – “Longing for Homecoming”; World 2 – “Wrestling with God”; World 3 – “Looking for Love”; World 4 – “Searching for Grace”; and World 5 – “Seeking God’s Presence”.  

There is a survey that W. Paul Jones has developed for people to take to see which theological world they tend to inhabit. In the coming weeks, I will be making that survey available for people to take in order to see where they come out in terms of which theological world best describes their faith.  

Hopefully by learning about the different theological worlds that Jones identifies, we will grow in understanding of our own approach to faith and also learn to be more accepting of those who approach their faith from a different perspective. In 1989, Jones wrote “The church of the future must be committed to a pluralism of alternatives, sufficiently viable to touch creatively the individual and social diversity operative in modern life. Yet these must be developed and offered not in an ethos of theological indifference, but as a call to profound commitment, leading to lively choice between alternative faith-styles.” In 2024, may our faith be strengthened as we learn about the different approaches to faith that Jones describes and as we recommit ourselves to living faithful Christian lives, regardless of which theological world informs our lives of faith. 

Pastor John

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