Curriculum of Understanding

Imagine an acquaintance …

  • who is a non-believer but who is interested in examining your beliefs1
  • but who is only mildly interested and doesn’t want a large commitment
  • they want to understand your faith from your perspective

Consider developing a Short Curriculum for this person that, after completing it, you feel they will have sufficient knowledge to reject, accept or criticize your beliefs in an informed way.  To this end supply:

  1. READINGS:  List 3-4 books or a series of web pages or articles
  2. EXERCISES:  List 2-3 actions that such a person may be willing to try.

It will be fun to see what we all recommend.
1. Beliefs, in this case can be anything from faith, philosophy, religion, etc… It can be those of religious folks, political philosophies, medical philosophies, world views and atheists perspectives.


Filed under Critical Thinking, Philosophy & Religion

14 responses to “Curriculum of Understanding

  1. I’ve issued a Debunking Christianity Challenge, It’s linked in my sidebar. Check it out.

  2. Of the books you recommended, which would you recommend for the Christian who is seriously trying to understand what think? Some of these seem to have the atheist crowd or almost-atheist crowd as the intended audience, don’t you think. Perhaps Bart Ehrman is the best for Christians.

  3. Yes, that is a nice huge list. Not what I asked for, though it is a fantastic annotated collection. Thank you.

  4. Sabio: This is a good exercise. It’s tough to recommend books to help non-believers understand what it is that I believe since actual experience plays such a large role. I don’t know that books alone could do the job. But as a Trinitarian (first) and a Pentecostal (second) I’d recommend the following:

    Early Christian Doctrines — J. N. D. Kelly (Gives a nice overview of the formation of important doctrines in early Christian history.)

    The Tripersonal God: Understanding and Interpreting the Trinity — Gerald O’Collins (Probably the best lay-level introduction to the doctrine of the Trinity I’ve read to date.)

    How on Earth did Jesus Become a God? — Larry Hurtado (This is a more condensed version of his magnum opus Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Both books offer a great historical account for how Jesus came to be regarded as divine and worshipped from the earliest stages of Christianity.)

    The Theological Roots of Pentecostal Theology — Donald Dayton (This is a nice brief overview of Pentecostal theology.)

    In terms of excercises I’d suggest (in no particular order):

    (1) Attend a Bible study.
    (2) Visit a church.
    (3) Sit down and discuss your questions with someone knowledgable about their faith.

  5. Excellent ! Thank you. Assignment well done. I must say, I have never read any of those. I must read them sometime. Have you read any of the Atheist recommendations above by the other readers?

  6. Sabio: I can’t say that I have read any of those books. If Loftus wants to send me a copy of his book though I’d gladly read it.😉 I’ve heard Dawkins speak quite a few times, same with Hitchens, and also Dan Barker. But I don’t know that they’re the best of what Atheism has to offer (in fact I’d be willing to bet that they aren’t). Are there any atheists who you would recommend that I read?

  7. @ Nick
    I would think you’d be excited to read a book from one of your largest adversaries who you have never read ! I am surprised that you asked Mr. Loftus buy it for you. Is it fair for us to request you buy books for us then also? Maybe I misunderstood.

    But before we buy books (and we should buy our own), Let me see what Loftus would recommend for you. Maybe he would choose a special one if he knew your background. With that in mind, look at my bio, and tell me which of your books you think would be good for me. Remember, I am an ex-well-read Christian.

  8. Pingback: Curriculum of Understanding « Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth

  9. Sabio: Which adversary would that be?

    And I think you have misunderstood but that’s only because you don’t know me yet. I am notorious for asking people to buy me books, but I always do so jokingly, although sometimes people find it in their hearts to bless me anyway.

    Concerning Mr. Loftus’ book, I would read it if he’d send a copy, but I expect no such thing (which means I’ll probably not read it). Notice the ‘winking face’ after the statement though (which indicates that I was kidding). I’m not sure from your comment if you’re aware of this, but Mr. Loftus wrote a book about why he became an atheist. I know this because I’ve seen him trying to sell it in many a comment on many a blog. It seems like you thought I was asking for one of the books off of the list he linked to. I wasn’t.

    If you’re an ex-well-read Christian then I suspect you know what I as a Christian believe. You might like to read about some of the distinctives of Pentecostal theolgy, so go with the last book on my list.

  10. Laughing ! Got it, thanks.
    I wager if you wrote a review of Mr. Loftus’ book, he’d send you one free. Wait, I have an idea. Tell him to send you one for free, I will buy one for myself. Under the promise that you & I will do a review of it, and then we can also blog back and forth for a short time on it.

    I just ordered the Pentecostal book. But I was in a Pentacostal movement group back in the 70’s (if you read my bio). Nonetheless, I have never read formally on it.

    BTW, we can get technical about the word “adversary”, but I meant atheists, I thought that was clear, unless you intend to make a theological point. BTW, where do you fall on the Sabio’s-Salvation question? Don’t Mark and Matthew promise that I can now NEVER be forgiven? Darn, maybe I shouldn’t have ordered that book !

  11. Sabio: I didn’t know if you had someone specific in mind when you said “adversary.” Your idea about a back-and-forth review is an interesting one, and something I’ll keep in mind for the future. For right now I’ll have to pass because I have a backlog of about 70 books (!) I need to review (with more on the way!).

    Concerning the Sabio-Salvation question, from reading what you’ve written in that post I’m going to have to say that you’re definitely not saved now although it seems like you once were (I’m an Arminian after all; none of that once saved always saved stuff for me).

    And it all depends on how one understands blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If one understands it to mean a denial of the Spirit after knowing and experiencing his ministry and power then yeah, you’re hell-bound. No question about it.

    If one understands it as attributing the work of Christ to Satan then I’m not sure that you’ve committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. You say that you “disavow the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit” but you don’t mention anything about attributing Christ’s work to Satan. I’d imagine that as an atheist you don’t have much of a belief in Satan (correct me if I’m wrong).

    I’ve tended to interpret it as the former, so I’m sorry to say that it appears you’re out of ‘luck’ so to speak. I hope I’m wrong though. [no smile cuz that would be inappropriate]

  12. Well written Nick. Indeed, by the system you have come to believe, I am hell-bound. Then actually, I can see no benefit you have to engage me in further conversation, and certainly you can not benefit me at all. For you can not improve upon my hell-bound condition. Do you agree?

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