Session 12: Creation, Fall, Salvation

Resources for participants

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

12A

  • Do you think human beings are different from other animals?
  • What is beauty? What are the most beautiful things you have ever seen or heard or experienced?
  • What examples of human goodness can you think of?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

12B

  • Do you think it’s possible to find meaning in suffering?
  • Why do you think people suffer? Is suffering avoidable?
  • Why do you think people sin and sometimes do evil?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

12C

  • Do you think you need a Saviour?
  • Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Saviour? What helps you believe or what holds you back?
  • What would you do in life if you had no fear and knew you could not fail?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

READINGS FROM THE YOUCAT FOR THIS SESSION

If you are using the YouCat with your Sycamore group, please click here for general advice about the YouCat and how to use the readings. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

  • #41 to #70 – creation, human beings, and the tragedy of sin [14 pages]

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the YouCat and not to page numbers. The number in [square brackets] at the end tells you roughly how long this passage is in terms of the pages you need to read (excluding picture pages).

 

LONGER READINGS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

If you have more time, and if you want to go deeper into the topic of this session, you can follow up by exploring the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. See the standard online version here, and a digital “flip-book” edition here. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the Catechism and not to page numbers. Click on the links themselves to read the paragraphs in the online version.

 

WISDOM FROM THE BIBLE

Psalm 139:13-14

“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”

Hebrews 11:3

“By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.”

Genesis 1:27-28, 31

“So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’… God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

Colossians 1:15-16

“Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.”

Romans 3:23-25

“Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.”

1 John 1:8-9

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

John 3:16-17

Jesus says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

Acts 2:38-39

St Peter says to the people of Jerusalem: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him”

 

KEY IDEAS FROM THE FILM

12A – The goodness of creation

The bible says so much about the beauty and goodness of the world. It’s not a scientific textbook, but it helps us understand the meaning of creation and our special place within it as human beings. There is no conflict between good science and a proper Christian understanding of the bible.

The Book of Genesis teaches that creation comes from the hands of a loving God. He gives it order and purpose and sustains it in being. This world is an incredible gift and it points to the goodness of God.

And when God creates Adam and Eve, the first human beings, something radically new comes about. It’s true that we are formed from the dust of the earth, we are part of this material world. This is why Christians can accept many aspects of the theory of evolution.

But the human race only begins when God breathes life into the first human being. We are body and soul. We are not just a chance product of evolution. There was a special moment in creation, when God gave a spiritual soul to the first human beings. He gives this same gift each time someone is conceived in their mother’s womb. No-one’s life is just an accident.

The bible says that we are made “in the image and likeness of God”. We have a special dignity. There is something unique that sets us apart from other animals. It’s the way we think and talk and love. It’s connected with having free will. You see it in the miracle of human creativity, which goes back to the dawn of human history.

12B – Suffering and sin

It’s hard to ignore the reality of human suffering, and no wonder that people often use the word “evil” to describe what they experience. We know this from history. We know this, in smaller ways, from our own experience. When we suffer, and especially when we see the suffering of others, we have a sense that things are not the way they are meant to be. Something has gone wrong.

The bible is so helpful because it speaks about both the goodness of creation, but also about the reality of evil.

Human beings were meant to live in friendship with God and with each other. And in the bible, in the Book of Genesis, the Garden of Eden represents the paradise that existed at the beginning of human history. But our first parents, Adam and Eve, refused to trust God and turned away from him in disobedience. They were deceived by the false promises of the Devil and became trapped in their own selfishness. This tragic moment is known as “the Fall”.

This is the meaning of sin. It’s not just when we make a mistake out of human weakness – that’s natural. It’s when we do something that we know is wrong and deliberately turn away from God. It damages our friendship with God and with each other. It can lead us to eternal separation from him – which is the meaning of hell.

Human beings live under the burden of the Original Sin that took place in the Garden of Eden. We live in the shadow of sin and death. There is so much goodness around, but there is also a moral and spiritual wound within the human race that each one of us shares in.

But even when Adam and Eve lose their place in the Garden of Eden, God does not abandon them or their descendants. He is constantly reaching out to them. He is like a shepherd looking for the lost sheep, calling people to himself. And when his Son Jesus steps into history, the hopes of the whole human race can finally be fulfilled.

12C – The gift of salvation

when Christians speak about salvation they mean all the different ways that God has been reaching out through history to save us from sin and death and from the tragedy of the Fall.

It starts in the Garden of Eden, when God continues to care for Adam and Eve even after they had sinned. He blesses the family of Noah after the Great Flood. He calls Abraham and his descendants and makes them into a great nation, the Jewish People, the People of Israel.

God delivers them from slavery in Egypt through the hands of Moses. He teaches them how to love and worship him. He brings them to a Promised Land. He leads them through persecution and defeat and exile. And he promises to send them a Saviour, a Messiah, who will bring them a final deliverance from sin and suffering, and even from death.

Christians believe that Jesus Christ, who was born of the Virgin Mary two thousand years ago, is the promised Saviour and Messiah.

God’s desire to bring us salvation, which is expressed in so many ways in the Old Testament, is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. His death on the cross brings us forgiveness and healing, because it was the perfect act of love and obedience, of infinite value. His resurrection brings us an extraordinary new life and the hope of heaven. And the gift of his Holy Spirit fills our hearts with the love of God and unites us in the community of the Church.

Jesus can change our lives today, if we believe in him and let him help us. We can be trapped in sin, selfishness and resentment. We can be overcome with fear or failure or regret. But Jesus can give us forgiveness and peace of heart, and a new sense of purpose.

The knowledge that Jesus is my saviour gives me such security. I know that God is faithful. It makes me fearless. And it gives me the hope of eternal salvation, of sharing his life in the happiness of heaven when I die.

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