Theological Engagement

'This is a great series, giving people who like to think and investigate theology the chance of a platform in a safe space and good company.  Those I have met in Breakout Rooms always seem happy to explore and ask even more questions.  You are doing a great job and enriching people’s lives.  Keep on keeping on!' - Marilyn

Explorations in Faith and Theology

Description

Designed for those who want to engage in a journey of discovery and delve deeply into a variety of theological topics that rarely see the light of day.  The course covers topics such as: Creation, Trinity, Heaven and Life after Death, Being Human, Resurrection, Kingdom and the Future… but explores these topics in new ways, discussing different perspectives, and engaging in thoughtful discussion.

If you’ve ever wondered about questions like these, then this is the course for you:

  • What does it mean to be human, yet ‘in God’s image’?
  • How does going to heaven fits with resurrection on earth?
  • Why is the Christian God a Trinity?
  • Why are there are so many translations of the Bible?
  • Was the cross truly necessary in light of forgiveness?
  • How does prayer work if God already knows the future?
  • Do angels really exist, was the Garden of Eden real…?

What do these have in common?  They’re all difficult, challenging issues in our faith and theology.  They don’t all have answers, but we explore them together.

Format On-site; Online (zoom)

Facilitator Dr Daniel Button

Overview

This course is not progressive but explorative.  It covers a wide variety of topics in a series of stand-alone session.  Best for participants who are confident in their faith and open to questioning.  The number of sessions is determined by the participating group.  A sample of topics may include:

Session 1 – Theology & the ‘Big Picture’ of Christian Faith
Session 2 – Exploring Creation in Ancient Near-East Perspective
Session 3 – Heaven, angels and spiritual beings
Session 4 – Questions of life after death
Session 5 – The Person of Jesus & the Trinitarian God
Session 6 – Biblical translations – why and how?
Session 7 – Eschatology: the end in light of the beginning
Session 8 – The Cross and the Kingdom
Session 9 – The Human Predicament – what does it mean to be human?
Session 10 – Living the Christian Life in Contemporary Context

'I feel my faith is evolving! The creation story is so much more complex than I was ever taught, and has given me a greater sense of awe at God’s plan.' - Rachel G

'I most enjoyed the way the course moved almost seamlessly between Genesis 1, ancient cultures, modern science, evolution, the milky way and the universe to develop a fascinating and convincing explanation of Creation.  The course started to make sense of Genesis 1 and the place of God at the centre of all creation and the subject of man’s scientific curiosity.' - Chris P

Format On Site or Gateway online (live)

Facilitator Rev Dr Daniel Button

God & Creation

Description

‘God & Creation’ is a golden opportunity to ask questions, discuss and reflect on the nature of creation, and God’s creative activity in the world: 

This course challenges our preconceptions of creation.  Was creation a past event, or an ongoing process?  Is the biblical story describing a material creation, or functional and relational one?  What were the original Hebrew recipients meant to understand from the creation narratives in comparison to the surrounding Ancient Near-Eastern cultures – and why do their views differ so radically from how we read them today? 

Is it possible to relate the biblical creation accounts to a modern scientific understanding of the universe? And most importantly, if God created this world with a purpose, how do we as human beings fit into it?  This course explores all these questions and suggests that we have a significant role to play in God’s ongoing purpose for creation.

Overview

The course begins by challenging participants to rethink the meaning of creation, reading the creation narratives through ancient eyes. We explore biblical and ANE texts, discuss various concepts of ‘cosmic temple’ and ‘cosmic geography’, and relate all this to our modern scientific accounts, opening up surprising new pathways for dialogue.  The course can be expanded to include more detailed study of the biblical texts, and works well as a precursor to Creation to New Creation.

  • Exploring the nature & meaning of ‘creation’
  • Ancient near-east & biblical creation texts
  • Creation through a modern scientific lens
  • The ‘Cosmic Temple’ motif in the ancient world
  • Creation issues in church & society

Facilitator
Dan is a passionate teacher with an interdenominational background and teaching experience in 5 countries. He believes that every Christian is a theologian at heart, just needing the opportunity to explore God’s word and God’s world more deeply.  

‘Just to say the session last night was amazing. Thank you so much for putting this on. What I learnt last night has blown my mind! Can’t wait for next week.’ - Richard

‘You’ve left us all in a significantly different place in our thinking than before we came. Our grey cells are wondering what hit them!’ - Helen

Format On-site; Online (zoom)

Facilitator Daniel Button

Creation to New Creation

Description

We live in God’s creation, but biblically that’s not so much a place as an unfolding story.  The Bible tells us we’re heading toward a new creation – a new heaven and new earth.  But if human history is moving toward a climax, what will happen to this world we live in?  What’s new about a new creation?  And how do we get from here to there?

This course explores the idea of creation as an ongoing process, designed by God with purpose, potential, direction, and a future – from creation to new creation.  

We tackle questions like: How might this new creation come about?  Do we have a part to play?  What would a world without sin, evil or suffering even look like? Where do death, heaven, and resurrection fit in?  Is there hope for this beautiful earth in all its diversity, or is it all coming to an end?  

Overview

This 6-8 session course explores the tension between continuity and discontinuity from present creation to new creation.  It can stand alone, or act as an excellent follow-on from God and Creation

Depending on length, topics may include:

    • God’s Unfolding Story – the Meaning of Creation
    • A Relational Creation – Heaven, Earth and Humanity’s Role
    • Temple Theology and the Mission of God
    • The Bookends of Genesis & Revelation
    • A Gospel of Hope for a Creation in Crisis
    • The Kingdom and the Future – how do we get there?
    • Death and Resurrection: Life ‘in the Age to Come’
    • New Jerusalem and the Goal of Creation

'My understanding of the biblical view of the kingdom has grown immeasurably, and I think is helping in the development of my faith. Fitting some of the OT prophecy into ‘real’ history was very illuminating.' - Steve R

The Kingdom and the Future

Description

The ‘Kingdom of God’ is generally regarded as Jesus’ central message and the key theme in all his teaching.  It has had a massive (sometimes disastrous) impact on Christian belief and practice through the centuries.  Yet the concept of the KoG is difficult to grasp – and deeply controversial.  Is the Kingdom a spiritual ideal, or will Jesus come again to establish a real, physical Kingdom on earth and rule over the nations?  Is it an ethical way of living in right relationships now, or a future expectation?  

This course explores questions and misconceptions: what do we mean when we pray, ‘your kingdom come’?  Why all the controversy about a ‘millennial kingdom’?  Does Israel fit into the picture – and how do all these concepts fit together?  Most importantly, how is the KoG really relevant for our lives today?

Format On Site only

Facilitator Dr Daniel Button

Overview

This course explores the concept of ‘kingdom’ as it developed from the OT to the NT, looking at Daniel, the prophets, Jesus’ teachings, and Revelation.  Participants engage together in learning and exploration, questions and discussion – gaining a ‘kingdom theology’, past, present and future.  Length is variable, but 8-10 sessions is recommended.  Topics include:

  • The Paradox of the Kingdom
  • Kingdom of God in OT, NT
  • History & Theology of the KoG
  • Interpretations of the KoG
  • Exploring Jesus’ Teaching & Parables
  • Continuous Kingdom – past, present, future
  • Issues around a Millennial Kingdom
  • Revelation and the Coming Kingdom

Format On site or Online

Facilitator Rev DrDaniel Button

Understanding and Doing Theology

Description

This is a course for anyone eager to understand theology as a discipline – how it’s been done in the past, and what it means to ‘do theology’ today.  We survey the spectrum from philosophical to folk theology, academic to contextual.  We join together in the process of learning to think theologically, from understanding the nature of the task, to historical reflection on issues of the past, to personal engagement with contemporary challenges and trends.  Our emphasis is on personal, practical interaction: from knowing to doing.  We begin to recognise theology as a continuously developing discipline, both transforming and transformative – yet always rooted in the living and unchanging word of God.

Overview

The course can vary in length (6-10 sessions) and is divided into 3 components.

  • Understanding the nature and task of theology
  • Reflecting on theological developments of history
    • Patristic, Medieval, Reformation, Modern
    • Key topics that arose in each period
  • Engaging with contemporary issues in the world today

Facilitator
Dan is a passionate teacher with an interdenominational background and teaching experience in 5 countries. He believes that every Christian is a theologian at heart, just needing the opportunity to explore God’s word and God’s world more deeply.  

Creed or Controversy

Description

Historically, church doctrines were developed as the church and its thinkers responded to the issues of the day in their society. They were matters of discussion, debate – and sometimes dispute – between influential people at the time. And, correspondingly, churches today will most appreciate the Christian doctrines if they understand how these beliefs developed, where the debates lie, and what they mean for being a Christian in today’s society and for the church’s position in society. This course will help church members to make sense of these very human, relational questions, and help us in that same process of responding to the issues we face today.

Overview

This 5-session course highlights several examples of doctrinal development (and disputes) in the early church, exploring how those debates reflected the social context of their time, and how those debates, discussions, and resolutions have influenced the western church up to today.

Topics include: Creation, Sin, Jesus, Atonement, Trinity

Format On Site or Gateway Online (live)

Facilitator
Rev Dr Stephen Goundrey-Smith is an experienced parish priest, a pharmacist, scholar in Christian ethics and Associate Tutor in Christian Ethics at Cuddesdon College – Gloucester & Hereford.

Format On Site or online

Facilitator Dr Daniel Button

Daniel and Revelation

Description

This course is an in-depth theological study of the two most uniquely apocalyptic books in the Bible, Daniel (OT) and Revelation (NT).  Not for the faint of heart!  It involves a comparative analysis of the prophetic assertions and future historical trajectories of both books, alongside an awareness of the cultural context of their writing.  Participants will engage in significant reading and analysis, learning to apply a hermeneutical (interpretative) process to the uniquely difficult genres of apocalyptic and prophetic literature. 

But it’s not just a study!  This course opens the door to a fascinating world of symbolism, visions, cosmic wonders, and bizarre descriptions of beasts, kingdoms, and angelic beings.  We will share perspectives, thoughts, and ideas, looking at how interpretations have varied significantly over the centuries.  Despite their different authorship and timeframe, both books draw on OT prophetic traditions, ideas, and language, in a way that enables them to fit side by side beautifully.  Comparing and interpreting the two together allows new insights to arise and helps to understand each more clearly. This is a challenging course for those who already have a level of theological ability and confidence.

Overview

A 10-12 session course, it requires a committed length of time to cover the content properly.

'Thank you so much for a really engaging and stimulating 6 weeks of exploring Temple Theology. The temple is popping up everywhere I look now!!'  Amanda T

Temple Theology & the New Creation

Description

If you’ve never heard of ‘temple theology’ you’re not alone.  Yet the temple was the single most important focal point in the Old Testament.  Then in the NT Jesus claimed that he was the true temple, while the temple building would be destroyed.  Most Christians fail to grasp the significance of its destruction – and fail to recognise this wasn’t the end of the temple story. 

The temple concept runs through the Bible from Creation to New Creation, and is perhaps the most profound – yet misunderstood – dimensions of who Jesus truly is.  No longer symbolised by a building, but by a person, the temple is the meeting place between God and man, and incorporates us – his people – into its dimensions.  Its true significance is yet to be seen in the New Creation.

Format On Site or Gateway Online (live)

Facilitator Rev Dr Daniel Button

'I have thoroughly enjoyed the course, it’s been an enlightening and uplifting experience for me, l have learnt so much. I am now reading my Bible with a deeper understanding in a new, exciting way.'  Jean H

Overview

This is a more advanced course for those already somewhat confident in their biblical theology.  It constructs a theology around the concept of ‘temple’, tracing this from creation as God’s cosmic temple, through Israel’s temple structures, to the eschatological temple of the New Jerusalem in Revelation.  It opens one’s eyes to an entirely new perspective on our relationship to Christ, as a members of a living temple, and as the fulfilment of God’s initial plan for creation.   Requires 6 sessions, topics include:

  • The Temple Concept
  • Cosmic Temple – Creation & New Creation
  • The Archetypal Temple – Garden of Eden
  • Israel’s Temple Structures
  • Jesus the True Temple & the Body of Christ
  • Eschatological Temple – Ezekiel & New Jerusalem

Facilitator
Dan is a passionate teacher with an interdenominational background and teaching experience in 5 countries. He believes that every Christian is a theologian at heart, just needing the opportunity to explore God’s word and God’s world more deeply.