Be careful how you interpret the world. It is like that.
(Erich Heller, quoted in Life Abundant p. 39, 67)
CONNECT: How do you feel?
1. Can you think of a revelatory experience in your own life, an event or insight that changed the way you think and act? Share your experience with someone else, or write it down in a comment.
2. McFague describes a revelation as an illuminating, transforming, and expansive event or insight. (p. 56) Have your own revelatory experience(s) given direction to your theology?
3. McFague describes the stereotypical American as a consumer who is very different from most of the world’s people. (p. 47) Do you agree?
4. Do you have a “wild space” (things about you that don’t fit the dominant type)?
CONTENT: What do you think?
1. Criteria: McFague suggests three criteria or basic guidelines for constructing a functional theology – Scripture, Tradition, and contemporary resources. She adds:
Fundamentalism – there is only one interpretation – is not an option, because all theology is contextual and metaphorical.
Radical relativism – anything goes – is not an option either, because Christians are guided by basic understandings from Scripture and the tradition.
New knowledge – from the sciences, etc. – must be added to the insights we have received from the past.
2. Relativism and faith: McFague argues that all Christian theologies – from the beliefs of early Christians to the beliefs of contemporary theologians – are constructed within the worldviews of particular times and places. This is not ‘radical relativism’ but it is relativism. Can you accept that your theology is influenced by the world you live in, but still hold strong faith convictions?
3. The Bible: McFague says the Bible “is not primarily a book of true statements about either God or the world. Rather, it is a collection of reflections on experiences of salvation, of God’s liberating love, that change people’s lives.” (p. 60) What do you think of the Bible?
4. History: McFague says every Christian is called to bring “the perspective of Christian faith to the pressing issues of our day.” (p. 39) When you look back in American history, can you find times when someone’s faith perspective played a role in changing society?
5. Salvation: McFague says “the goal of our theology is not refinements on the doctrines of God or Christology. The goal is the well-being of the planet and justice to its people, especially the oppressed. The goal is understanding what salvation – the liberation of the oppressed – means in our time, and, as disciples, following in that way.” (p. 66). Is this a new definition of salvation for you?
COMMITMENT: What can you do?
1. Look at your context: How have your own “context-lenses” – your class, race, gender, sexual orientation, education, regional/cultural experience – shaped the way you see God and the world around you? What part of your “context lenses” have you inherited? What part has been acquired? Can your lenses be changed?
2. Think before you act (do your theology before acting): While you and I may be reading this book to find practical ways to help our planet and its oppressed peoples, McFague begins with theological reflection. She asks us to discern our own worldviews – and then consider the theologies based on those worldviews – before we decide on appropriate actions. What do you think of this progression?
3. Work for change: Reflect on what salvation has always meant to you, and then think of ways salvation (as defined by McFague) might come to those who suffer in current local, national, and global crises. What can you do to bring salvation to your local community? to the nation? to the world?
These questions have been adapted from
The Alternative Good Life: A Study Guide to Life Abundant,
by David C. Teel. Published by Fortress Press.