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GCSE RE Quiz

Christianity - Religious Disciplines

This GCSE RE Christianity quiz focuses on religious disciplines. The serious personal practice of any religion usually includes a private regimen of 'spiritual hygiene' ~ regular, ideally daily, study of its scriptures, and prayer and meditation, and maybe other specific behaviours. These constitute ‘religious disciplines’ as largely distinct from ritual, though there are, of course, elements and occasions where concepts and practice overlap.

Many religions entail a subsuming of the self into a higher cause: a willing preparedness to improve oneself generally, for the good of others as much as oneself. St Paul, surely almost a key co-founder of mainstream Christianity as traditionally understood, wrote about how the ‘flesh’ (our human body and its instincts) and the ‘spirit’ were at odds, and how only through faith in Christ could the latter prevail (see Galatians 5:17) … but even with victory assured, it could sometimes be a struggle for an individual believer, in tough times and perhaps in the face of particular temptations.

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He also wrote that ‘Not by works [= good deeds] but by grace, through faith, are we saved’: i.e., our efforts to be good Christians were not wrong nor even futile ~ but without faith in ‘God dwelling within us’ they cannot, of themselves, earn us assurance of eternal life.

Religious disciplines are therefore a vital support in one’s living-out of a personal faith, but however diligently we try to observe them, we may fail occasionally. Even if (or indeed, when) we sincerely do fall short, however, we already stand forgiven through the very thing we most deeply believe in. Jesus Himself, meanwhile, was critical of some Jewish religious leaders in His own earthly days, who obsessed over ritual details while ironically missing their spiritual point; He claimed to have come to reopen a way of direct contact between God and the individual believer, without any need for a tier of (fallible, human) priests that might cloud the issue in such ways.

Let's now investigate some of the practical routines that Christians may use to keep their faith strong and fresh...

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  1. Which ONE (only) of the following is generally and Biblically true, with regard to the prayer-life of Christians?
    While there is certainly a place for (relatively) 'routine' and corporate worship, Christians believe that ~ through Jesus ~ they can approach God at any time with any need ... or indeed with thanks or praise. It is not a matter of having to know the right formula, nor waiting until a specified moment.
  2. Which is fairly clearly the WEAKEST of these approaches to individual Bible-study?
    There are various well-established organisations such as Scripture Union and the Bible Reading Fellowship.
  3. There have, down the years, probably been countless illustrations of how a person's Christian faith ought to characterise their behaviour ~ in other words, how they should 'witness'.

    One widely valued example (by the late Revd. John Eddison) starts from the seemingly unlikely premise in the Psalms, where the Psalmist ~ clearly at a low point in life, such as most of us have at least once in a while ~ comes before God and says, 'I am a worm, and no man'. Yet Eddison pointed out that the humble worm can still be extremely useful. Thinking about it a bit, which of these types of worm would NOT belong in a 'typical three-point sermon' on the topic of wholesome Christian witness?
    You might have thought the slow-worm was a good 'model' ~ for suggesting, perhaps, that Christians should be cautious and respectable, etc. ~ but actually this was the one that Eddison didn't use, maybe because there may well be occasions when a Christian needs to leap into action (to stand up for what's right, defuse potential conflict, offer timely charitable help or suchlike).

    In his rather splendid taxonomy, the earthworm (answer 1) is humble and does necessary good works in secret; the glow-worm (answer 2) brings light to their own life and the lives of others, e.g. offering sympathy, companionship, clarification or guidance to a friend in perplexity; while a bookworm (answer 3) will be a regular 'feeder' on the Bible.
  4. 'For people whose faith is supposed to be about 'good news', a lot of Christians seem to be so miserable! They take the woes of the world so seriously, and they seem to spend half their time giving things up and disapproving of other harmless, enjoyable things.'

    While there may well be certain Christians who on principle avoid some behaviours, which ONE of the following should most mainstream Christians be certain to avoid?
    'Adultery' (i.e. 'the furthest one can go' ~ like 'ultimate' ~ in breaking down trust between human beings) is expressly forbidden in the Ten Commandments, which Christianity more or less imports wholesale from the Old Testament / Jewish tradition. Since the readier availability of contraception in the 20th century, sex has been seen (and done, dare we say) by many people in an atmosphere of recreation rather than responsibility; many mainstream Christians might well feel that individual disobedience on this score has contributed less actual happiness, but, rather, more pain and relationship breakup to the sum of human experience. So yes, as though you weren't sure: however powerful the temptation, from a Christian standpoint, sex anywhere outside of marriage is simply wrong.

    Many Christians avoid alcohol (answer 1) because they recognise that (slightly as with sex, perhaps) it may appear to promise temporary happiness but it leaves one feeling out of control, like handing the strings of one's own puppet to somebody else. Alcohol blurs one's awarenesses, including of the conscience, and can lead to people doing things they normally wouldn't ... and which may have awkward, painful, even potentially fatal consequences (think drink-driving; but not for long!).

    There is nothing the matter with films, online activity or sport as such. If the films are of an aggressive nature (lots of killing, carrying an assumption of a 'cheapness' of human life; or with a plot whose conflict involves 'wrong choices' &/or intrusively lingering 'bedroom scenes'), they may not be a wholesome influence ~ though the Bible itself does not shy from such issues. Obviously we should steer clear of the cheapening and addictive nature of onscreen pornography and perhaps, also, overly-absorbing fantasy games ('get a life').

    Competitive sport in good spirit is fine, again provided it is engaged-in in overall proportion: there is nothing the matter with training one's body and technique to their possible best, and bringing the pleasure of competitive endeavour to others, provided (as with any hobby or lifestyle choice) it does not become an 'idol' ~ i.e. more important than the Creator God who first gave the talents and opportunities. The tricky matter of whether one should attend sports gatherings that are scheduled across Sundays (i.e. in apparent conflict with traditional routine church attendance) may be a matter for careful discussion in certain households, but mainstream Christianity has come some distance since the 'sabbath' issue at the crux of the historically-based film 'Chariots of Fire'.
  5. Is it true that most Christians 'give up something for Lent'?
    Giving up chocolate, say (the classic example, at the cold and dingy time of year when Lent usually falls in the northern hemisphere), is all very well; following in Jesus' metaphorical footsteps during His 40 days and nights alone in the wilderness, we train our mind to overrule the urges and cravings of our body. But rather than just making ourselves feel 'virtuously miserable', it is a stronger witness if we then (quietly) donate what we would have spent on chocolate ~ or whatever ~ to a good cause. Time that we free up from a bad habit can be put into more disciplined prayer &/or reading and research on Christian topics, or even practical Christian or charitable action (e.g. visiting / supporting the lonely and vulnerable).
  6. For a Christian seeking to consolidate and advance in their personal faith, which of the following would you reckon to be the LEAST important or helpful habit during their daily Time of Quiet?
    Provided one is not actually uncomfortable to the point of distraction, these details are really not important. A sense of purpose and progression in one's devotions is more likely to come from the other three suggestions.
  7. Perhaps it is no surprise that in Christian witness and pilgrimage, there are occasional 'outstanding performers': one such might be St Simeon Stylites (active around 400 AD): the more he craved solitude for his prayers, the holier he was held to be, and the more people flocked to meet and consult (and interrupt) him. So the story goes, where did he therefore spend the last 37 years of his life?
    Apparently there was in fact a series of pillars, each taller than the last. We are not seriously suggesting that even our most devout quizzer should 'try this at home' ~ nor indeed anywhere else!
  8. However, in 'closed houses' (monasteries and the like), those who have individually devoted themselves to God will meet collectively for worship several times per day (and indeed, during the night) as a key part of their shared spiritual life.

    A monk within the Order of St Benedict ~ probably the most famous and widely-established Order ~ would meet for worship and collective contemplation ... how often?
    The rationale for this can be seen at St Benedict
  9. Historically, at least in much of Britain, everyone was 'tithed', i.e. they were obliged to pay a proportion of their income to the church (some of which went, in the direct form of produce, into 'tithe barns'). Many Christians try to maintain this principle by setting aside a portion of what life brings them ~ their pay, and anything else ~ and contributing it to specifically Christian, or at least generally charitable causes.

    What is the generally reckoned proportion at which a serious believer should aim, as a minimum?
    This is usually reckoned from taxed income, though of course, with Gift Aid, it is possible to reclaim the tax (so a nett donation of £x will have any paid tax added back onto that, usually about a quarter more for basic-rate taxpayers). That way, the cause benefits that bit more without any further financial pain to the donor.

    In recent times, the rise of food banks has been a definite if baleful socio-economic phenomenon; but at the 'mechanical' level, it is at least simple enough for those that can afford to spare it, to put (say) 3 items into a food-bank hopper at the supermarket or at church for every 30 they have bought for their own use.
  10. Some way into the 21st century, it may well seem old-fashioned and reactionary (not to mention 'cultural imperialism') for enthusiastic Christians to be sending 'missionaries' anywhere ~ overseas, or indeed into places within their own country where they believe God is calling them to support compassionate work in tough circumstances (e.g. with high unemployment, crime, homelessness etc.).

    At time of writing, each of the following quite long-established missionary organisations is still going strong and doing good useful work, with the exception of ONE (well-intentioned!) fake: which is the odd one out?
    Answer 1 was the fake in this case, though it carries echoes of real organisations. All the others are still active: the BMS (answer 3) is among the oldest, SPCK (answer 2) has an impressive publishing history, and the MtS (answer 4) does valuable service with staff in over 250 ports, ministering to the needs of men and women who face long periods of isolation and disorientation in their travels. (Interestingly, your author's webtrawl for an equivalent organisation for people in the newer air travel industry appears to have discovered no such body.)

Author: Ian Miles

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