Global Gospel

An Introduction to Christianity on Five Continents

Materials available for professors by request only


7. North America

Discussion Questions

  1. Many North Americans believe religion that is not freely chosen is not authentic faith at all. Do you agree? Does freedom of religion apply only to political freedom, or does it also apply to family traditions, social norms, and intellectual pursuits? How much freedom of choice do people really exercise in matters of faith? How much of faith is simply inherited or assumed? Does genuine freedom of religion require self-conscious reflection on one’s own religious faith and practice?

  2. North American Christians invented the idea of denominations: semi-competing, semi-cooperative churches that see each other as mistaken on certain points of doctrine or practice but as genuinely Christian (not heretical) at the same time. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this model of church life compared to the state-church model that prevails in Europe?

  3. The North American denominational system has produced the phenomenon of church shopping—visiting various congregations until finding one that fits. Is church shopping a good thing? Should church be a place where one feels comfortable?

  4. Many North American Christians now describe themselves as non-denominational, saying they are “just Christians” and not Baptists or Presbyterians or Methodists or any other particular kind of Christian. Is it possible to be a Christian in this general sort of way? Are nondenominational Christians really “just Christians” or do they affirm certain beliefs and practices that distinguish them from other Christians (including other kinds of Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Pentecostals)?

  5. The abolitionist movement required Christians to read the Bible in a new way that ignored some scriptural passages that seemed to allow or even condone slavery. Given your current way of reading the Bible, do you think you might have become an abolitionist in the mid-1800s?

  6. A significant percentage of the North American population now considers itself nonreligious, and many individuals describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” Would you describe yourself as a religious person? As a spiritual person? What do these terms (spiritual and religious) mean for you?