Our Church at Hosanna in Lakeville, Minnesota is running a new program called 'Skepsis' which I have found to be truly unique and interesting. 'Skepsis' I am told is a Greek word that means looking at a truth statement from all different angles, similar to the way one would look at a diamond's different facets from different angles. From the Greek Skepsis, we get our English word skepticism. There are many things that make Skepsis unique for a Church, but the main one seems to be that it is not trying to convert its attendees to believe like Christians do. Instead, it is designed to make us all be more open minded in our thinking.
]Let me give you an example. Last week we discussed the topic of "Exclusiveness". The main question asked was "how can you can you possibly claim that your religion is the one true religion?" Now understand that we are not opening up the Bible. We are not bringing out Bible verses that show why Christianity makes the claim that it is the exclusive way for people to receive salvation. No, it treats all religions on the same level, and that they all teach that they are the best way to understand the world around us. The authors suggest that there are three responses to religious claims and the bad things that religions are doing in the world today:
- Seek to suppress and even stamp out religion;
- Push to privatize and completely personalize religion – you believe what you want to believe and I will believe what I believe;
- Accept that all truth claims are ultimately exclusive and ask: "which one is best"?
I hope this draws the philosophical nature of the "Skepsis" program. So the initial question is whether ALL truth claims are ultimately exclusive. You may have heard of the story of the blind-folded people touching an elephant, as an analogy of the world's different religions. One blind-folded person touches the side of the elephant and says God is like a big wall. While another grabs a leg and says God is like a tree trunk. Another person touches the tail and says God is like a rope, etc… The point of the Elephant story being God is too big for any one religion to accurately describe. They even showed at Skepsis this hilarious video of a Bayer commercial. But even this viewpoint suffers from a flawed assumption – "how can you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have superior comprehensive knowledge of reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?" (T Keller).
Another thing that makes Skepsis different is that it breaks into small group discussions very frequently. So you get people from very different backgrounds trying to get their minds around some pretty heavy philosophical teachings. But again the objective of Skepsis is not to teach everyone to believe the same thing. Instead its emphasis is to view things differently. To show this, here is one of the discussion questions they asked the Table Leaders to ask the group: "Try to genuinely identify with where someone from the opposite perspective viewpoint is coming from. Why might they have come to this conclusion?" Wow! Most of the attendees would say they are Christians, though many come with varying levels of a skeptical mindset. But to ask them to think and understand what someone else believes who they disagree with is revolutionary for a Church program.
The final topic for last Thursday's topic dealt with the following question: "do you think it is possible for one religion to be "best" or "right"? Why or why not?" This is a fair question. What makes our religion better than any other? Or is everything just a different path up to the top of the mountain? No final answers were given, again showing the open-ended nature of Skepsis.
Hosanna Church in Lakeville is running this interesting and innovative program. It runs every Thursday up until Thanksgiving, from 6 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. Each week a different obstacle to faith is discussed, and next Thursday's topic is suffering. You will be blessed if you come and check it out.