On Sunday I finished my sermon series called Roots: Understanding Your Spiritual Heritage. Because I only tech about 1/4 of the time at Believers Fellowship, it took me over a year to finish the 9 part series. (I also taught some other things during the year.) Saying good-bye to Roots is kind of like saying good-bye to an old friend. It seems like I have been studying Colossians forever.
The Roots series actually started for me in Dallas. The Honeymooners teaching team was actually going through Colossians when I left, and some of the last lessons I did there were on that book. When I got to Believers Fellowship, I was in a men's group that was reading Velvet Elvis. A number of the guys in the group were a bit troubled by some of the ideas on the book and were frustrated that the church wasn't taking a stance for or against it. I think 1 or 2 people actually left the church because of Velvet Elvis (kind of silly in my opinion, but people do strange things).
At the same time that I was reading Velvet Elvis, I was also reading New Testament Theology: Communion and Community by Philip Esler. Esler put into words a lot of the thoughts that I had about "doing theology" from the New Testament, and my theological method is now modeled largely after him. I was struck particularly by the difference between Esler's communion illustration and Rob Bell's trampouline illustration.
To Bell, "doing theology" is like jumping on a trampouline, and doctrines are like the springs. The implication is that the more flexibility you have in your beliefs, the more spiritual you are.
To Esler, Christianity is a community faith. This community includes community with those who have gone before. The New Testament is communication from "our fathers in the faith" and we owe it to them to honor authorial intent when we interpret a given passage. (Esler is writing partly in response to the postmodern hermeneutic which claims that because the author is dead, the reader's personal subjective interpretation of the text is all that matters.) I liked the idea that when we read the Scriptures, we are communing with those who have gone before us in the faith.
One of the reasons I taught the Roots series was to respond to the trampouline illustration in Velvet Elvis. I don't think it is more spiritual to allow one's theology to develop over time. My approach to theology is more like Esler's--we search the Scriptures to find the ideas that we have inherited from our fathers in the faith. Thus the Roots series was born--Understanding Your Spiritual Heritage. (Apparently, I wasn't the only one bothered by the trampouline illustration. I wrote a review of Velvet Elvis on my now defunct AwaitingRedemption.com site. Before I shut the site down, the number 1 referring search query to it was "Rob Bell trampouline.")
The reason I used the picture at the top of this post was because it is my roots--four generations of Edwards. I am the little guy in the picture. The idea was, "Just as studying my roots helps me understand myself better, studying the roots of my faith (in Colossians) helps me understand my spiritual journey better." For the last lesson, I used this picture, with an update to the Edwards lineage:
The best part of this picture is the crude photoshop work. It is so cheesy that it makes the picture hilarious.
If you would like to hear the last (and probably best) lesson in the Roots series, you can download it here.
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