The Rev. Raymond Davis Jr., Greater Corinthian Church of Christ Non-Denominational, Kansas City, Mo.: In the gospels (Matthew 19:16-25), Jesus encounters a man inquiring about eternal life. He wanted to know what good thing he could do to have eternal life.
The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, Ebenezer AME Church, Kansas City, Mo.: African Methodists respond “No.” We say “No” because these books that are referred to in the historical writings do not keep us from the reaching the ultimate purpose of the Holy Scriptures.
Duke Tufty, Unity Temple on the Plaza, Kansas City, Mo.: If you can’t forgive someone who has hurt you deeply, then you can’t forgive them.
Syed E. Hasan, Ph.D., Midland Islamic Council: In most religions, worship and prayers comprise two sets of rituals: those performed individually, and the ones offered collectively.
Pastor Emeritus Raymond Davis Jr., Greater Corinthian Church of the Christ, Kansas City, Mo.: Martyrs of the faith are known to have near-death experiences. But the kind where the person sees a “light” while in the midst of dying is not treated in Scripture. That’s not to say that such an experience has never been experienced. Having never been in such a situation, I don’t reject such a claim; neither do I endorse it. It’s a gray area for me.
The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, pastor of the Ebenezer AME Church, Kansas City, Mo.: A definition of grace is “an undeserved favor or gift; the undeserved forgiveness, kindness and mercy that God gives us.” African Methodists turn to Romans 3:23-24 to understand the free gift of salvation as grace, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
The Rev. Pat Rush, Visitation Church of Kansas City, Mo.: Because there is so much about Jesus’ personal life that is untold by the gospels, we refer to this as his “hidden life.” Since the earliest times, people have tried to imagine details about that period. Early examples are found in the apocryphal gospels, works that did not make it into the Christian New Testament canon.
Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park, Kan.: The Bible demonstrates how God’s greater purposes are achieved through the events of history. For instance, Joseph’s descent into Egypt with the entire Hebrew people achieved the slavery predicted in Genesis 15, but the same results might have occurred with a different series of events. Otherwise, Joseph’s brothers would not have been culpable for their deeds. As Joseph says at the end of Genesis, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
The Rev. R. L. Baynham, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, Kansas City, Mo.: According to the “Wordbook” dictionary, depression is “a mental state characterized by a pessimistic sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity.” Everyone in this world has at one time or another experienced this human feeling. Some are temporary and some are long-lasting.
The Rev. Holly McKissick, pastor, Peace Christian Church, Kansas City and Overland Park, Kan.: No hats at the dinner table; call if you’re going to be late. Just as households have rules, so do cultures. Sometimes they are merely practical: Take off your shoes when you come in. Sometimes, though, they reflect power imbalances: Women do not speak until spoken to; slaves eat in the back room.
Rabbi Avi Weinstein, head of Jewish studies, Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy: It is not wrong to believe that anyone who has striven to lead a life of equanimity, integrity and grace should be granted eternal life. The gatekeeper should pay more attention to what one has done, as opposed to how one has organized his belief system.