Do you have questions on matters of biblical faith? “Off the Record with Ross” may be exactly what you are looking for? Many religious institutions shy away from religious questions. Not so at United Israel. I believe that most people have legitimate questions as well as an earnest desire to find real answers. I also believe that collectively we can learn if we enter into respectful dialogue with others.
Dialogue is something that took place in the formative years of Christianity in the synagogue every Sabbath, but rarely takes place within the walls of religious institutions today. See how it is used in the following passages for example. (Acts 17:2, 17; 18:4, 19; 19:8, 9; 20:7, 9; 24:5). In each of these passages we have forms of the Greek word dialogomai. The word is defined as:
- of a reasoned discussion – discuss, discourse with, conduct a discussion, 2. of disputation – contend, argue, dispute , 3. of speaking with someone in order to convince, address, speak, reason with.
I want people to carefully and respectfully consider the biblical ideas and views of others. Trying to understand where a person is coming from without being judgmental is very hard for most of us. Often we attempt to force ideas, coerce and persuade others rather than provide an open forum to express differing views and to allow the expression of differing views in order to gain mutual learning by effective communications.
I see this as one of the main advantages of this new study. The primary purpose is to create a safe place for people to study and learn original biblical truth without fear of ridicule, pressure, or condemnation. If you are one that believes that you have all the answers, or if you have an agenda to convert everyone to your particular point of view, or if you are seeking to condemn, or otherwise ridicule others for not defining things according to your predetermined view(s), then “Off the Record with Ross” is probably not for you.
I recognize through personal experience that it is very difficult to have civil conversations about differing Biblical beliefs. The scars of ghostly inquisitions from the past, as well as the present fear of being labeled a heretic often drive people to search for truth in solitude.
I personally believe that the faith of many has been stunted by not providing people with a forum to ask questions. Great spiritual enlightenment is always birthed by an irresistible desire to search for truth at all costs. Many have lost family and friends – and in some cases their life as a result of seeking after truth and discovering that they have been lied to. The prophet Jeremiah speaks about a time when people will go unto God from the ends of earth, lamenting that their fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit (Jeremiah 16:19).
May we all be like those Bereans of old, declared to be more noble than the Thessalonians because they did two things: (1) received the word with all readiness of mind and (2) they searched the Scriptures daily to see if those things were true (Acts 17:11).
I am reminded of a wonderful saying found in the Ethics of the Fathers (Mishna Avoth 2:6) that says,
“The timid student does not learn and the stern teacher does not educate.”
I believe this to be true. I, like all of you, have some firmly held convictions. Many of us have MANY such convictions. I for one have often learned from those who have differing opinions. Some of the most valuable learning for me has been gained from actively listening to a view with which I had not been familiar, but that was presented with evidence and tact.
So if you have honest questions about faith related issues and are open to consider the views of others, to constructively and respectfully challenge long established doctrines and dogmas, all the while allowing yourself to be vulnerable and teachable then this new study is probably for you. I have to believe that most people try to act with integrity based upon what they see and know at any given time.
I encourage open advocacy and authentic inquiry. Open advocacy can be defined as “stating a position that permits others to state a different position.”
Examples of using open advocacy include prefacing a statement in one of the following ways:
- This is the way I see it…
- This is what I think (or believe) and why…
- I suggest…
- Let’s try….
- Have you considered this in your current understanding?
- I have always understood that to mean this…..
- From what I have studied, this was understood in this way by the ancients….
Examples of what open advocacy is NOT are as follows:
- This is how it is……
- You have to believe this……
- It’s obvious…..
- There’s no way…..
Open advocacy must be balanced by authentic inquiry. This can be defined as “asking questions to gain a better understanding or to deepen understanding.” Examples include language such as:
- What do you see?
- Why do we believe this?
- What is the basis for this doctrine?
- How do you understand this passage?
- Help me understand why you believe that…
- What leads you to that conclusion?
- Could you give me an example or perhaps say more?
- What do you mean when you say…….?
- What might we be missing when we look at things in this way?
So you see, this method of dialogue could be very instructive. I am of the opinion that we must look to the book to find the answers to our questions. The Second Temple period gave us a rich body of learning that includes;
- The Hebrew Bible – the Bible that Jesus and his earliest followers used (now called the Old Testament),
- The New Testament or Christian Scriptures, which tell us much about the way that various people and groups interpreted their Bible (the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament)
- Other Ancient religious texts (Gnostic gospels, Apocrypha, etc)
- We also have some incredible learning in Jewish literature (Talmud, etc),
- Not to mention the corpus of texts known to the modern world as the Dead Sea Scrolls.
There is much to be gleaned from a fresh analysis of our questions from any and all of these sources.
So, in closing I would encourage you to consider joining our studies. Each of us has a valuable contribution to our collective understanding if we can present, and be allowed to present these views in accordance with what I have outlined above.
Our modern way of thinking has conditioned us to think that learning is only gained through answers to our questions. The ancient rabbis, and this includes Jesus, often taught people through asking more questions when faced with a question. Quite often this form of teaching leads the student to “answers” on their own that they would not have considered if a formulated “answer” had been given.
Here is how to connect with this unique study. Just show up. No need to sign up. No need to let others know. Every Wednesday evening at 6:00 PM, Ross will open the United Israel Center South for any who wish to join. It’s clearly not what everyone is looking for, but if you’re interested in having an open dialogue oriented towards understanding things from the Hebraic perspective, then this just may be what you’ve been wanting / needing. Since some have expressed concern over getting into such things in the public eye, there will be no cameras, no recording devices, and no judgment. Bring a Bible, a pen or pencil, and something to write on. I will supply the coffee and an environment of mutual respect.
The United Israel Center is located at:
5925 North Commerce Street, Suite A
Saint Francisville, LA, 70775