Underwear is the foundation of our clothing. It is usually unseen, intimate, different preferences on different people and keeps the rest of our ensemble together. Our theological doctrines do the same thing. They hold us together and serve as the foundation of the ways that we speak of God. They are usually unseen, intimate and more assumed than taught. Now and then a disciple needs to get down to the basics. This week our group will put our core teachings right out in the open and studied them together. In our United Methodist context, these are found in the General Rules and the Articles of Religion. The goal is two-fold: first to understand more of our BASIC Methodist beliefs, and second, how to better express our beliefs to others
You can read the one-page General Rules with us by clicking here.
You can read the 2- pages of the Articles of Religion with us by clicking here.
Our small group meets for 90 minutes each Monday at 6:00 we began by discussing how we “do” theology. Methodists teach that there is a process to growing into our theological understanding. we start with Scripture, use our God given brains to reason, reflect that with our Christian tradition and then translate into our living experience.
We discussed at length the three General Rules to Do no harm, do good and attend to the spiritual practices that lead us to God. Many stories of how God had gotten our attention were shared from our diverse group. We discovered that while these rules are Methodist and Wesleyan they are basic to any Christian of any background because they come directly from the Gospel . Everything starts with grace.
I shared two things that boil my blood when people feel obligated to tell me what a Methodist is. The first is when they tell me that we don’t believe in the Bible and don’t actually have any doctrine. Second that we are about salvation by good works. Teaching, learning and witnessing to our theological heritage is the antidote to this whenever, “Two or more are gathered.”
The question was asked if these two statements were meant to replace Bible study. A great question but our answer was a definite NO! The doctrinal statements flow from scripture but cannot replace scriptures role in the life of piety. Searching the Scripture is central to the method of Methodism. We are seeking God’s perspective. One of our number shared that it was through prayer and Bible study that they were able to give a difficult thing up to God. This led to the discover that “God, turns out, could do much better with things than I could anyway.”
We read through the first 5 of the Articles and will probably finish next week. They are precisely written and intentionally placed in an order of importance. Everything flows from God, trinitarian in our understanding, but ONE GOD. Before we could subdivide the doctrines we must be in complete agreement of one God who is the source of forgiveness and gives us the living resurrection in Jesus Christ. We also discussed the sufficiency of Scripture and what that means to our salvation. While scripture does not directly speak to every single thing, it contains our sufficient road map to being and living as saved Christian disciples.
Wonderful things happen when we study our own doctrine and discover a solid place to find ourselves in Christ. Our discussion was definitely Weslayan and United Methodist in scope, however, these things are so basic and scripturally driven that they can be applied to most any thoughtful Christian.
Next week we continue with the articles of religion. You are welcome to join in or read along from where you are. We will read them one at a time and find the thread of Jesus’ grace and the Holy Spirit that ties them all together. All are welcome to join in the study at any time on Mondays at 6:00. Everyone is welcome to add with a comment on the doctrinal statements below.
Thank you Captain Underpants for adding a little humor to a serious subject.