One of the great eighteenth to nineteenth-century thinkers, Pierre Laplace,
wrote a book about the motion of the planets. He called it Celestial
Mechanics, and he presented a copy of the book, in person, to Emperor
Napoleon. Someone had told Napoleon beforehand that the book never mentioned
God. The emperor took the book and said, "M. Laplace, they tell me you have
written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even
mentioned its Creator." Laplace, unflinchingly, responded, "I have no need
of that hypothesis."
This story is a metaphor for what's been known as "the modern era," an era
in which logic, reason, and science have formed the foundation of all truth.
According to this view, all reality can be reduced to formulas, to laws,
and to scientific predictions. If it can't be explained through logic, reason,
and science, then it isn't real.
In recent years there's been a backlash against this thinking. People don't
believe, and rightly so, that all reality can be explained in cold rationality
alone. There's something about us that no formula, no test tube, no scientific
law, ever could capture.
This backlash has spilled over into all realms of life, including religion;
however, as with most reactions, it has in some cases gone too far, even
to the point of pushing aside or ignoring the concept of doctrinal truth.
What's important, we're told, isn't teachings or doctrine but experience.
What does your faith do for you now--that's what matters. Instead of saying,
"Here are compelling reasons to believe in Jesus Christ and His promise of
salvation," the trend (again, a backlash) is to say "Our community of faith
invites you to join us in our venture of trust and commitment."
Now, this doesn't have to be all bad. Did not Jesus say that His truth would
have concrete and practical results in our lives
8:32)? Of course. Truth is not just knowledge of doctrines and texts,
but something that influences the believer on a personal level. Truth affects
the spiritual life and impacts how a person will relate to the challenges
of daily living. There is a practical, life-changing aspect of our religion
that never should be denied or denigrated. At the same time, the role of
experience never should take away from the importance of correct biblical
This quarter we want to look at both aspects of our faith: doctrine and
experience. In our study during this quarter we will focus on 13 essential
themes of the Christian faith, 13 essential teachings. Each week's lesson
will attempt to maintain a careful balance between a correct biblical
understanding of these various elements of our faith and how they impact
on our daily experience. It's our hope that at the end of the quarter you
not only will understand these themes better but also have been enriched
as far as your Christian experience is concerned. Each lesson is not just
about truth but about "the truth as it is in Jesus."
After all, He is the One who is the Alpha and Omega of our faith. There may
be 13 different themes, but they will have one focus: the One in whom "we
live, and move, and have our being"
Reinder Bruinsma, born in the Netherlands, has served in various offices
in his long career in the church. Bruinsma is the author of almost twenty
books, some of which have been translated into a number of languages, and
was president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Netherlands when
he wrote this Bible study guide.
(all lessons may
School Study Helps
Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl,
prepares a series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes
all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New
King James Version" of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission.
The study helps are provided in three wordprocessing
RTF for our MAC friends (this is now a
zip file); and HTML (Web Pages).
Last updated on January 14, 2009
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