Group Study Guide for

Beliefs

[Cover of John D Roth's Beliefs]

Mennonite Faith & Practice

by John D. Roth

Study Guide written by Karl R. Landis, Director of Leadership Development, Lancaster Mennonite Conference

These Study Questions are also available for download as a Word document or in PDF Acrobat format.

See also Beliefs in the MennoMedia online catalog.

Preface, Chapters 1 - 6 Chapters 7 - 13

Preface

  • Why is the postmodern approach to religion described on page 12 unsatisfactory for most Christians? (p. 12)
  • Do you find the postmodern approach or the Christian approach that the author describes more compelling? Why do you find that approach more compelling?
  • How would you answer the author’s question – “What, if anything, about the Christian faith can be communicated authentically to the people we encounter?” (p. 12)
  • The author says, “[Mennonites] seek to live now the kind of redeemed life that Christians anticipate everyone will live in the fullness of time.” Do you agree or disagree that this is possible? What reasons can you give for your position? (p. 14, also see p. 50-51)

Chapter 1: Christian Foundations: What Mennonites Believe

  • Why do you think I Corinthians 3:11 has been a favorite verse of Mennonites ever since the writings of Menno Simons? (p. 23, if you get stuck, also see p. 45).
  • Were you surprised to learn that Mennonites believe all seven of the doctrines listed on p. 21-25? If yes, which ones were you surprised to find on the list?
  • Why were the early Anabaptists not completely satisfied with the Apostles Creed? (p. 25, also see p. 72)

Chapter 2: Christian Foundations: How Mennonites Believe

  • Why are doctrinal statements “a necessary but insufficient way of describing the essence of the Christian faith” for Mennonites? (p. 28-29)
  • Why do Mennonites think it is wrong (or perhaps impossible) to trick or force someone into the Christian faith? (p. 30-33)
  • Name at least one benefit and one problem that have resulted from “the absence of a clear hierarchy of leadership or absolutely fixed statements of doctrine” among Mennonites. (p. 33)

Chapter 3: Interpreting Scripture: Through a Mennonite Lens

  • What did Luther believe about the truth of the Bible during the earliest phase of the Reformation? What problem did he discover as the ideas of the Reformation developed and spread? (p. 40-41)
  • What three characteristics of an earnest seeker would Mennonites look for to be assured that such a person would not return empty-handed from a study of the Scriptures? (p. 43)
  • How would you explain a “Christocentric reading of scripture” in one or two sentences of your own words? (p. 44)
  • What does it mean for the congregation to be attentive to both the external word of Scripture and the inner movement of the Spirit? (p. 47)

Chapter 4: Interpreting Scripture: A Critique...and Ongoing Questions

  • How has Mennonite theology tempted Mennonites toward legalism? (p. 50, also see p. 29-30)
  • Why do some people think the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are essentially different beings? Why do you agree or disagree with them? (p. 52)
  • In what ways does your congregation function as an “interpretive community?” (p. 54, also see p. 43)
  • What problems may emerge if a congregation does not function very well as an interpretive community? (p. 54, also see p. 43)

Chapter 5: Believers Baptism: Choosing Our King

  • What political change in the fifth century prompted the separation of personal repentance and baptism? (p. 64)
  • What theological development shifted most Christians’ focus from the baptism of adults to the baptism of infants? (p. 64)
  • Why did the Anabaptists think Christians should return to the practice of baptizing only adults? (p. 66-67)
  • Why did Anabaptists describe the meaning of baptism as being like a three-stranded cord? What did each “strand” represent? Why do you agree or disagree with this view? (p. 67-69)
  • How might it change our understanding of the atonement if we focus on the resurrection rather than the cross as the central theme of the atonement? (p. 71-72)

Chapter 6: Believers Baptism: A Critique...and Ongoing Questions

  • What would you say to someone raised in the Catholic Church, but now attending your church, who is uneasy about not baptizing her baby? (p. 75, also see p. 64) Are there any scriptures that speak to this question?
  • Why do some Lutherans and Presbyterians see believer baptism as a potential barrier to relying on God’s grace for our salvation? Why do you agree or disagree that this is a problem? (p. 77)
  • From a Mennonite perspective, what are the benefits and problems with baptizing a child who is nine or ten years old? (p. 78-79, also see p. 67-69)
  • What does the author mean when he says, “Baptism, like faith, always has a universal as well as a particular meaning to it”? (p. 81)
  • Why have Mennonites historically expected people baptized as infants to be rebaptized when they join the Mennonite church? (p. 82, also see p. 67-69)
  • Based on the Mennonite understanding of baptism, under what circumstances would you agree with this approach? Under what circumstances would you disagree with it?
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