I offer the following options for adult study groups at McKinney First United Methodist. Studies usually run three to six-weeks. However, I also entertain requests to do something different.
The classes fall into four categories:
- Bible study mechanics
- Bible studies on specific books
- Church history
However, the church history and theological studies emphasize how Christians relied on scripture to inform what they thought and did. In other words, all the classes stay close to scripture.
Contact me directly to schedule a class. I will make every effort to accommodate your class’s current meeting time, and I am available evenings and weekends. Sunday mornings will be the most congested and are the most important to schedule well in advance.
These classes are intended to be brief surveys. I assume a class will not be able to do any reading in advance. However, advance reading can certainly be arranged for those classes interested in it.
Bible Study Mechanics
The Bible: How It Happened. Have you ever wondered how we got the text that makes up the Bible? Why these books? Why not others? This class covers topics such as the original source of the texts, the “canonization” process where the church decided which books are included in scripture, how the text was preserved across the centuries, and how it is interpreted. Four or five weeks.
Exegesis and Conversation. Everyone can prepare and lead a Bible study. This course teaches you how and gives leaders in your class an opportunity to try it with direction from an outside observer. The first session in this six-week study introduces a specific way to study scripture (exegesis) and the mechanics of leading a discussion. The next four weeks are 15 min. studies led by different members of the class followed by 15 min. of discussion about the discussion followed by short preparation for the following week. The sixth concludes the study with a component that specifically addresses, “Where do we go from here?” Unlike any of the other studies, this is not a class where I teach. Rather we try to equip your class to prepare and lead its own Bible studies.
Gospel of John. John is unique among the gospels, unique in theological perspective, unique in the way he tells the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. John also lays the foundation for how Christians understand who God is and who Jesus is. This course concentrates on the text of John, but also deals with a few of the historical questions about the text as well as subsequent Christian interpretation. The course requires a full six weeks.
Synoptic Gospels. Matthew, Mark and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection in a very similar way. In fact, they share so much similar text, scholars are convinced two of the authors were actually consulting the third when they wrote their gospels. This study looks briefly at some of the historical questions surrounding the gospels, but most of the time will be spent evaluating the distinctive theological emphasis of each author.
The Letter of I Corinthians. The letter to the Romans may be Paul’s theological masterpiece, but the letter to the Corinthians is chock full of practical issues that confronted the church of the time. Some sound familiar, others seem very strange to us. This study examines the letter, the practical ramifications of Paul’s arguments, and the theological issues he raised that still perplex the church today.
The Letter to the Philippians. From the astounding hymn of chapter 2 with Christ as the center to “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” Philippians is an excellent short introduction to the letters of Paul.
The Letter of I John. The first letter of John is short and deceptively simple. The letter is best known for quotable snippets such as, “God is love,” and “Perfect love casts out fear,” but there is a dark side to the letter as well. Some have claimed to represent the church, but their message is so different the church can no longer acknowledge them as their own. Discover the letter that can at once captivate and frustrate today’s church.
The Church and Political Power. From the time of the New Testament, Christians struggled with their relationship to political power. This course examines New Testament attitudes to political authority, early persecutions, the first systematic, empire-wide persecutions of the third century, the “Great Persecution” of the fourth century, the Constantine establishment and subsequent shifts in Christian attitudes, including the famous confrontation between Ambrose and Theodosius.
The Trinitarian Debate. Did Christians simply wake up one day and decide that Jesus was God? Or was there already an earlier tradition of understanding Jesus’ life as that of God who became a human being? This course reviews briefly the discussions of the third and fourth century that culminated in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, with a sympathetic reading of the Nicene position. The emphasis is on how Christians read scripture and how they treated their own traditions during these debates.
The Christological Disputes. Less known than the Trinitarian debates, once Christians agreed that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, they would still continue to debate for centuries just how he was human. It has been suggested that Christians’ failure to agree on Christological doctrine contributed significantly to the success of the Muslim conquests of the Middle East and North Africa. Find out about this messy period in the history of the church when Christians were so perplexed by the seemingly arcane question of the exact nature of Jesus’ humanity. Discover how this resulted in some of the most compelling interpretations of incidents in the passion narrative such as the Garden of Gethsemane.
Grace and Free Will. In the middle of a ferocious argument with a man named Pelagius, the bishop Augustine found himself drawn more and more to the conclusion that if salvation is only the work of God, then God must choose who is saved. Augustine was struggling with enigmatic texts by the apostle Paul and the conclusions they seemed to compel. The church has continued to struggle with this, and a fundamental component of the Wesleyan position rejects the most extreme positions Augustine took. This course looks briefly at the scriptural basis for the debate, the various positions Christians have taken, and concludes with the specifically Wesleyan understanding of grace.
Making Sense of Nonsense — The Problem of Evil. We believe God made all things seen and unseen. How can God be that powerful but not stop the tragedy we see happening all around us? Why can two people pray for healing from devastating sickness and one receives it while the other does not? This class examines these questions both as a simple challenge for believers as well as a philosophical problem that raises fundamental questions about God.
Faith and Reason. Christians have reasons for what they believe. In the current toxic atmosphere between some Christians and some intellectuals, there are dangerous pressures to relegate faith to the realm of the irrational and inexplicable. This is a brief introduction to what theologians call prolegomena, a crucial foundation for subsequent responsible reflection about one’s faith.
Short Introduction to Theology. How can Christians best express a rational, coherent understanding of who God is and how everything else is related to God? This course explores that over the course of nine weeks, one week on each of nine categories in a classic understanding of theology:
- Prolegomena, Introduction
- Doctrine of God
- Christology, Doctrine of Jesus Christ
- Pneumatology, Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
- Creation and Providence
- Theological Anthropology, Doctrine of Human Beings
- Ecclesiology, Doctrine of the Church
- Soteriology, Doctrine of Salvation
- Eschatology, Doctrine of our End or Purpose
Because of its length, this course has special scheduling requirements. It may need to be done as two 4-5 week segments.
Resurrection. Early Hebrew scripture shows little interest in the question of what happens after we die. It is ambiguous enough that even at the time of Jesus there were vigorous debates about whether there was any hope for resurrection. However, Jesus himself immediately and unequivocally took sides in this debate. Resurrection has been something Christians say they hope for ever since. We examine how this idea developed and why Christians insisted on it so fervently. 4-5 weeks.