Lenten Study

 Learning Opportunities in Lent

Dr. Gram has selected a wide variety of learning options during this holy period in order to appeal to those outside our church who may have particular interest in one or more of the subjects. Attend them all or one or two and invite your non-church going friends. The topics are atheist or agnostic friendly. Courses are Tuesday evening, 7-8:30pm, and repeated on Wednesday morning, 7:30 – 8:45am.


March 4 & 5: "General Jesus:  What Ministers Preached During the Civil War"  The class will focus on two sermons by eminent pastors --one from the South, and one from the North-- to show how their divergent understanding of slavery, State's Rights,  the pull of conscience, and “Just War Theory” shaped the course of our country's deadliest conflict.


March 11 & 12: "Competitors of Early Christianity”  In the early Christian era, religions like Mithras, The Great Mother, and Dionysius, among many others, competed for the hearts and minds of spiritual seekers in the Mediterranean world.  Philosophy, too,  had  religious and theological components and made devotional inroads, particularly among the wealthy, and literate.  The class will explore the theologies of  other religions in order to understand why Christianity outlived its rivals.  What were the particular social and cultural currents which made faith in Jesus of Nazareth particularly appealing?


March 18 & 19:  "How the New Testament Became the New Testament"   The class will explore how the early church picked and chose the books of the Christian canon.  What were the first books of Scripture to be accepted?  What were  the initial criteria?  What New Testament writings almost failed to "make the cut?".  Why were certain gospels, apocalyptic writings, and  personal letters rejected by the early church?  The class will also focus on feminist theologians, in particular,  who advocate expanding the canon to accommodate the wide-ranging diversity of Christian thought excluded by the New Testament.


March 25 & 26:   “Is Heaven Necessary? Perspectives on Suffering and Hope in Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism.”


April 8 & 9:  “The Gospel of Matthew's Understanding of the Passion and Death of Jesus of Nazareth--From Palm Sunday to Jesus' Arrest”


April 15 & 16: “The Gospel of Matthew's Understanding of the Passion and Death of Jesus of Nazareth--From Jesus' Trial to His Burial".   All four Evangelists write about the events leading  up to Christ's execution. Each Evangelist emphasizes different aspects reflecting their unique theological take on the purpose and meaning of Jesus' final days in Jerusalem.  Matthew's theology of the cross will be compared to the other gospels to highlight his unique contribution to the earliest passion literature.