Emmaus Saturday Morning Men’s Bible Study - Knowing God Ý
Copyright 2004 by William Meisheid

Chapter 1: Theology and the Study of God (audio 3.5 meg)

Today’s theme:  Knowing about God and Knowing God

Scriptural background: Psalm 119:105 "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

Quote for the week

"To know God better is only to realize how impossible it is that we should ever know him at all. I know not which is more childish—to deny him, or define him.” Samuel Butler (1835–1902), British author. First published in 1912. Samuel Butler’s Notebooks, p. 194, E.P. Dutton & Company (1951).

"I know things. For instance, there are 108 beads in a Catholic rosary and there are 108 stitches in a baseball. When I heard that, I gave Jesus a chance. But it just didn't work out between us. The Lord laid too much guilt on me. I prefer metaphysics to theology."  Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, 1988

"Theology, not morality, is the first business on the church's agenda of reform, and the church, not society, is the first target of divine criticism."  Michael Horton, Reformed theologian and culture critic

Concern: The effects of existentialism

Existentialism pervades our postmodern world and seeps into our thinking through media, music, friends, news, and our general life experience.

Existentialism: n. Philosophy. A philosophy that emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one's acts. Its adherents often deny anything spiritual as unknowable and irrelevant to life.

1   How would existentialism influencing our thinking be a problem in the study of God?




Interacting with the text

Goal: To understand why it is necessary to study God (theology), not just what God asks us to do (biblical ethics - what Christians refer to as holiness or righteousness and is worked out in discipleship).

1.   We all want to better understand ourselves, to know why we do what we do; so then, why is it necessary to study God to understand ourselves?




2.   What does theology mean to you? With that in mind, how does “theology” relate to studying God?




3.   Have you ever thought that God is hard or impossible to know? What is Packer’s solution to this problem? What is necessary for you to take his advice?




4.   Packer claims that Christians know five basic things (foundational truths) about God and he says that these should guide our study. Are any of these beginning assumptions a problem or difficult for you or do you lack a basic understand of any of them? Which ones and why?





5.   For Packer, the study of God requires the study of what source materials? Do you think these source materials are adequate? What others would you add, if any?






6.   While studying God, Packer will use three basic themes to approach God. As we begin this study, express these three themes in your own words and explain what they mean to you?





7.   Why are our motives for pursuing this study important? What , according to Packer, should be our motives and our goal? What are some of the dangers we face?





8.   Psalm 119 has some important wisdom to help us understand about our pursuit of the knowledge of God. What is that wisdom? 




9.   How does Packer’s definition of meditation differ from other forms, such as that practiced in Eastern religions? Can you think of any synonyms that might apply to your “meditating on the truth”? Which synonym works best for you and why?





10.  After studying this chapter, how do you think knowing God is going to be different from knowing about God? Can you do this on your own? Why or why not?




What To Do Next

Continue Section One by reading Chapter Two: The People Who Know Their God. Think about how existentialism or self-satisfaction might be affecting your efforts. Begin this week to practice meditating on the truth you have learned in Chapter One.

Goal: Meditation as a habit

Remember, for something to become a habit you have to do it every day for twenty-one days. One of our primary goals in this study is for proper Christian meditation to become a habit, to become an integral part of our discipleship.