Summary: Teach people to think by contrasting two or more sides of a theological argument.

Lesson Goal

Preach a sermon that contrasts different sides.

Lesson Intro

When we spoke of a false dichotomy, we realized that some stories have more than two sides. However, some stories have only two options, or sides and that is not a false dichotomy, but a genuine one. Let's contrast two or more different texts of scripture or concepts can be a rather interesting sermon.

Lesson Plan

This lesson teaches techniques for taking contrasting biblical points or verses in two or more different contexts and how to rightly understand the contrasting principles. We will look at issues when there are either several sides to the story, or where it is logical to give only two sides and how to present them as a sermon of contrast.

Lesson Body

Multi-Sided Contrasts

Be careful of the false dichotomy. For example, in Genesis 1 when preachers give sermons contrasting evolution with creation, I'm suspicious of bad logic, and I am equally suspicious of glib so-called scientific dogmatism. It is a false dichotomy to present only two sides such as evolution OR the literal 6 day option, especially because among creationists there are many different sides. Some creation theories even acknowledge a contribution to our existence from a modified definition of the word evolution. I don't pretend to know the answers to that topic, but I know plenty of people with no scientific or theological credential who will tell you dogmatically that they have the right answer because they subscribe to a one-sided "creation" magazine or they have a science degree but no theology degree. Such oversimplification by Christians who are neither qualified in biology nor theology comes across as ignorance and presumptuous arrogance.

When discussing creation, I recommend contrasting several different views. For example, you could contrast the several literal 6 day theories, the several day-age theories, the gap theories, the several theistic evolution theories, the majestic prose (semi-poetry) theory, the polemic theory, the mythos (stylized teaching) theory, and so on. Please, openly admit your limited abilities in Hebrew and science. I will usually say that I have only known one individual on the planet who was both a biologist and a theologian, and that his theory was different again. Then I will point out the important lesson from Genesis 1, that God created everything, everything in the entire universe that I believe that he is all powerful and could have created it all in any way he wanted to. How he did create everything specifically, scientifically, I cannot conclude with certainty because God has not revealed that to me, nor do I believe that the Bible was intended to be a science text book.

The following list is by no means expert. It merely gives my amateur example of contrasting creation theories. Feel free to improve upon it.

Literal 6 Day Theories: Strengths: On the surface, seem to be a natural reading of Genesis 1. Weaknesses: Many scientific questions unanswered, textual contradictions unanswered.

Gap Theories: Strengths: Seem to answer apparent age of the earth. Weaknesses: Badly translates the Hebrew in Genesis 1:2.

Day-Age Theories: Strengths: Seem to answer apparent age of the earth. Weaknesses: Not clearly substantiated in the fossil record.

Theistic Evolution Theories: Strengths: May answer some scientific questions. Weaknesses: Seem to contradict a simple reading of Genesis 1.

Majestic Prose Theories: Strengths: Semi-poetic majestic prose seems to answer apparent contradictions in Genesis 1. Weaknesses: Is not conclusively proven.

Polemic Theories: Strengths: Seems to counter ancient pagan gods. Weaknesses: Is not conclusively proven.

Mythos Theories: Strengths: Stylized teaching seems to answer apparent contradictions in Genesis 1. Weaknesses: The word myth is misunderstood in modern English.

It's a similar story with denominationalism. I grieve deeply when I hear a pastor or priest claim that his church has the fullness of God's truth, or the fullness of God's Spirit, or the only correct doctrine on such and such, or the only correct practice of so and so, and that other churches are second class or worse. There certainly are bad churches, but even among the good ones, no church has it all and Jesus can offer the free gift of salvation among whichever churches he likes. He doesn't need our approval.

I personally don't like the designations of liberal and conservative, because I believe that Jesus was both. So, a comparative religion chart might be dangerous to suggest. If I touch a sensitive point in the following perceptions, please forgive me, as I attempt to openly and honestly assess and contrast the various branches of Christianity. Remember this is not a thoroughly researched comparison, merely one man's fallible opinion.

I could describe the Catholic version of the gospel as an authoritarian gospel, or an authority gospel. I could describe the Orthodox version of the gospel as a tradition gospel. I could describe the liberal Protestant version of the gospel as a humanist, social gospel. I could describe the conservative Protestant gospel as a legalistic gospel. Finally, I could describe the Pentecostal version of the gospel as a health-wealth, miracle gospel. The true gospel of Jesus and his kingdom is found among all of these groups, but so often it is masked by an over concentration on other distractions. Is the extent, to which a local church focuses on pet doctrines and fads versus the gospel of Jesus, one measure of its spiritual health? I certainly believe that it is.

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