Contemporary Issues in Religion - with scriptural grounding
Current issues of importance, e.g. reproductive technology, abortion, self-image, mental health and emotional wellbeing, sexuality/same sex marriage/homosexuality, evolution/science and religion, Islam/terrorism/religion/violence, religion in society, Israel & the Middle East, Christian schools/independent schools **Poverty is covered elsewhere but is not inappropriate here. Neither are issues like slavery, the refugee crisis or modern day sex trafficking. They are, however, more social justice issues.
All of the most important decisions in life are ultimately value decisions. We must choose between competing options, but how we weigh them comes from our view of ultimate reality. If God truly exists and is our creator, whom we were created to be like and who has sent his Son to redeem us, then his plan for us, his Will, his very nature are the key issues which give us direction when we are confronted by the many ethical and related questions with which we must deal. God’s plan, his Will, his nature are revealed to us in the Bible and pre-eminently in Jesus, who is the Word of God come to show us the Father (John 1:1-18). In seeking answers from the Bible though, we must not fall into the error of simply selecting a few key verses to answer our questions. We must also look at the Bible as whole, to see the whole story, which provides the essential context needed to understand any given part of the Bible and hence to truly see how God would have us to work through these ethical and related questions.
In the eyes of the wider community, and for our students, the test of any given faith is how does it relate to the major issues of our age. There are of course issues which are ageless, but it is the more immediate and local issues which draw people’s attention and often color their thinking. In this case the question is, how does the Gospel relate to the great challenges of our age? Is Christianity out of date and hence irrelevant, unable to cope with a world which is changing so rapidly due to technology and other social forces? If so, then its demise must surely be certain! Or, is it in fact eternal in nature because it comes from the eternal Creator of all things? These current issues in many ways are a great opportunity for the Gospel to shine, to show the way forward. They are also a challenge to see if it is wanting. For our students this where the rubber meets the road. This makes this unit one of the most important units they will do.
There are very large range of issues. It will probably only be possible to tackle a couple. The method of dealing with them, coupled with pointers to further resources is critical.
Jesus is Lord of all creation, meaning all of life. There is no sacred/secular division
God's Law, his Will are simply expressions of God's own nature
We were created to be like him, and now created again in Christ to be like him
To know God we look at Jesus, who is God come to with us
The Bible as a whole is a revelation of God's nature and hence his Will
To understand any one part we have to always set that part in the context of the whole story
Ethics/Morality are about the application of God's Will to every aspect of life
The Biblical worldview has out workings in every area of life - Religion, Politics, Ethics, Law, Economics, The Arts and so on
The Scripture references needed will depend on the topic chosen. The following are more general references which lay a foundation for any discussion
John 1:1-18 - Jesus is God come to be with us and so in him we see God
2 Timothy 3:16-18 - Inspiration and use of scripture
Matthew 4:1-11 - the attitude of Jesus towards the Bible
Exodus 20:1-17 - the 10 Commandments as a summary of God's Will and nature
Matthew 22:34-40 and Galatians 5:5-6 - Love to God and our neighbour as summaries of God's love
Romans 1:16-32 - rejection of God as creator at the heart of all sin; worship of the creation in the well spring from which all false world views spring. In a sense, there are only two basic religious/philosophical positions. One is Monism, which means that there is only one reality, the Creation if you like, and that all answers and hence all worship is found here. So, the Hindu might believe everyone and everything is God, while the Materialist might believe that only the physical reality is real, yet for both they focus on this creation and seek to know and understand it by the same means, that is we explore and understand it. The other is Dualism, which posits a Creation and a Creator, where all the answers and worship lie outside the creation and hence outside ourselves. Only Christianity is truly dualistic because only Christianity put its faith solely in the the God who came into the world in the person of Jesus to save us. In all other religions we essentially save ourselves, even if they do acknowledge a Creator.
Genesis 1:26-28 - created in God's image
1 Peter 1:13-17 - created to be like God
2 Peter 1:3-4 - we participate in the divine nature (See also Romans 8:1-17, by the Spirit we are able to obey God)
Colossians 1:15-20 - the universe was created by him, through him and for him, speaking about Jesus
Colossians 2:6-15 - Christianity starts and is founded on Christ and works outward from there. The world begins elsewhere, hence the positions they reach can be completely different. The key is the starting position.
**Teachers should look at the units on Ethics, Values and Morality, Lifestyle Choices, and Relationships as well as this unit for resources and teaching ideas, and collaborate with each other so that these units work in together. There is a good deal of overlap between the units, so cooperation between teachers is required.
***See Digital TooKit for resources, especially in the Apologetics section. The resources needed depend on the area to covered as it will not be possible to cover all areas.
Suggested Book for unit: Issues Facing Christians by John Stott - Covers the many issues of today, and supplemented by other resources, will give a solid foundation. This link is to the Kindle edition.
Wingclips - short clips from movies, Searchable by theme or scripture
YouTube - huge resource. Once a topic is chosen then usually a relevant and often not very long video can be found. For example:
- Is abortion moral? Step by step approach to assessing the question
Ideas/Strategies for Teaching
Students brainstorm which are the big ethical/intellectual issues of today, and get to choose which they wish to focus on for the term
Use articles/videos from the media on any issue of importance and use as s springboard for discussion
Use any relevant short video from YouTube/Wingclips, on either side of a debate, to serve as a discussion starter
Open up the idea of Worldview by using basic questions like Who am I? Why am I here? What is wrong with the world? What is the answer? Extend this to how these basic assumptions lead to certain ethical positions
Students can debate an issue
Debates can be set up across schools
Visiting speakers can be invited in on various issues