Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Friday, January 27, 2006

Master of Religion

Master of Religion - Christian Studies through the Universal Life Church. Universal Life Church When one takes the time to hear statistics concerning the Bible, the full impact of its influence on the human race begins to be revealed. A single book comprised of sixty-six individual books, written on three continents, in three different languages by more than 40 authors from all walks of life, the Bible is one unified book from start to finish. The part that stopped me in my tracks was the statement of the author of this course, Dr. Herbert L. Fuchs that ‘the Bible remains one unified book from start to finish without contradiction’.

A statement made by Dr. Fuchs is one I’ve believed in since I started down this ordered path GOD has set me on. “It’s not necessary to demonstrate to the rest of the world how experienced we are by throwing around masses of Bible quotations. The proper approach is not only to be humble about our acquired knowledge, but also to find our basic belief in a way similar to an effective Bible Study.”

I also add my own observation in which I’ve seen ministers whipping out credential after credential at gatherings in an attempt to set themselves above everyone else. The attention that is gained by the minister can backfire as he/she rattles off verse after verse from memory acquired in sessions devoted in memorizing the Scriptures and paying the least attention to their meanings, just to get that paper to show off.

To me, that would put you on dangerous grounds, leaving yourself open to attacks and ridicule of your character by those who are legitimate in the acquisition of their knowledge. It’s the old case of; ’Keep you mouth shut (and credentials in your pocket) and let people wonder about your ignorance, or open your mouth and remove all doubt.” The study of GOD’s word should not be taken lightly or used as a show piece.

What I found to be the most captivating topic of this course was the comparison of the texts containing the Ten Commandments and the differences between translations and how they’re arrival was orchestrated. This was a comparison between the Protestant Bible, the Catholic Bible and the Apocrypha and the Hebrew. To me, the revelation of the variances of the Ten Commandments in the same Bible, between the Books of Genesis and Deuteronomy in every day language, ‘blew me away”! I had to keep my belief system I’ve developed in the forefront of my thought processing, in which I profess a belief of all translations are of GOD-inspired words that are different for a reason.

Possibly to give us a sort of parable to study several Bibles to “average out” or “sift” through to acquire a parcel of GOD’s panoramic view of the history of man. Man possesses a finite brain that resembles a sponge. If you poor enough into it, some will be absorbed and retained. We are forced by “GOD’s plan?” to come to some acceptance and announcement of a belief system to adhere to, from all the thousands of texts that are known.

It was stated that “No book of ancient times has come down to us exactly as it left the hands of the author. All have been in some way altered………before the invention of the printing press (1440),…….the little care of copyists and translators…………….for the text, was so different from the desired accuracy of today.” . So I ask myself and GOD in prayer why HE would allow this to happen. My answer presented to me was that HE didn’t just ALLOW this to happen.

By allowing several different sets of texts, without having lost any of the Words inherent meanings could only be accomplished with an intervention by GOD. If GOD didn’t control the development of all the different variations to force us to dig deeper and in doing so, find the more esoteric messages, who else then? Satan? I don’t believe my GOD would allow a violation of HIS Words without intervention. The course text claims that to the mix were added exegetical difficulties and dogmatically controversies. “To exempt the sacred writings from ordinary conditions, a very special providence would have been necessary, and it has not been the will of GOD to exercise this providence.”

I ask from which text it is taken that GOD doesn’t exercise HIS rights as a Divine Creator to exercise HIS divine (special) providence. We must remember it is HIS book! And HE doesn’t do things (to our limited ability to understand) for any reason. In addition we need to study the ‘lost’ books of the Bible as well as those purposely removed for as little as a political ploy, and make our own statement of belief from those as well. In doing this we must remember, and I reiterate, the main point of Bible Study is not the acquisition of knowledge, but to get to know GOD personally. “Praying and turning things over in your mind are complementary activities.”

We then enter into a four chapter discourse of the New and Old Testaments (very informative), with the intent of instructing us on the history of Christianity, highlighted by the story of the Apostle Paul’s career as THE foremost champion of GOD’s word, following him throughout his journeys. We are then introduced to the various religious titles, women as priests, followed by a discussion of the sacraments and the variance of what is considered to be a sacrament in each of the different religious denominations, we are told to go to church regularly and freely without spousal influence, take part in the sacraments and to “Enjoy the gift of Jesus.” What follows then are several chapters devoted to marriage and its success and failures.

GOD established marriage very early on in man’s history. The question is raised why satan attacked the weakest link of the family, the woman. If man was the superior of the first family unit, why didn’t he stand up and speak up when satan (as the snake) approached Eve? The topics of the roles of the Father and the Mother, partners of the same sex, prostitution, abortion and divorce are all covered.

The view taken by the author is hard to swallow as truth, with reference to abortion he says about taking an infant's life…. “And GOD surely understands.”…..I say to this WHAT?!?!? Who gives anyone the right to say what GOD says about a topic outside HIS Word, the Bible!!! This topic could cover volumes, but I now am going to present some of the course texts ideas on the family and divorce, a topic that is an arrow in my heart.

It was stated that too many people rush into marriage………underestimating the importance and seriousness of this Holy Sacrament. I know of a young man, who at the age of eighteen, who had received an early honorable discharge from the US Navy, married his high school sweetheart who was also was eighteen.

For the sake of time and space I’ll briefly numerate many of the issues that were present in their relationship and also discussed in this the text. This relationship was based on lust, ownership of another human being, unfaithfulness (cheating), lies, deceit and most importantly lacking GOD or Christ in their lives.

As the text mentions that in the breakup of most marriages lays sin. This couple “hoped” love would germinate, though not voiced, but was apparent in their start of a 37 year relationship. And Dr. Fuchs is right…in the middle, strong as ever…..sin and satan. After tolerating each others transgressions with no knowledge of forgiveness from GOD’s Word. A boiling point was reached one cold fall night. The partner who after 14 suicide attempts was poised to follow through, when the other partner walked in and called the authorities.

The end result was the young man, now elderly received a divorce from a wonderful woman; he was incarcerated for some time and exposed to untold hideous sins. Most importantly, he was forbidden to ever see his son or grandson again. Yes Dr. Fuchs, “Divorce IS terminal”. Do I believe in divorce? No, its ramification or shock waves affect many, many more people than you could imagine. Some say it’s better to love and lost than to have never loved at all. The personal pain of loosing a wonderful wife, an entire family with nothing or No one to turn to…(eventually GOD and Jesus)…………………That pain is indescribable and I’d prefer to bypass it, if it should ever come my way again.

That young man is me, and for the longest time I felt that I was the victim, until GOD spoke to me in prayer and made me aware that I was the victimizer and not the victim. That was when I invited Jesus into my life and I opened the door to my heart and life for Him. GOD, in His infinant wisdom gifted me with many wonderful blessings that included my ‘40 years in the wilderness’ in the form of time isolated as a pre-trial detainee.

In getting to the point you hear GOD’s silent voice, isolation gives you an opportunity to listen to GOD’s Word, or as I saw so many unfortunately do, increase their coalition with satan. Every one wants a Bible while incarcerated. But when they are released, nearly all leave their Bible behind and the lessons they were taught. Jesus filled the whole in my heart that had led me to so many wrong paths in my 37 year relationship with my High School Sweetheart. Testimony? I give it freely to anyone who sincerely asks, how I survived heart surgery with complication after complication, going almost totally blind, receiving two, yes two pacemakers, and still came out of my ‘wilderness’ journey in love with my Lord and King. I must recant that I came out of my wilderness journey.

I’m still there, just in a different location. As a soldier for GOD, I will always be in the wilderness, fighting battles against the evil that held me in its claws for so many years. I am a minister of GOD’s will and the faithful servant to HIS son, Jesus Christ.

In chapter #14 we are warned to not over-step the boundary of basic reason. In other words, don’t tread into territories reserved for professional psychotherapists. If we do work as pastoral counselors, we should at least have a minimal training in psychology with a constant awareness of the legal ramifications of our advice. Be careful.

Due to the degeneration of the environment we live in, for self survival, we tend to keep a horizontal perspective instead of a vertical one towards the heavens. Given enough time, many lives become engulfed in guilt, shame, anger, bitterness and fear; devoid of the ever presence of GOD. Life then becomes an endless search for meaning to fill the void we feel in an existence saturated with evil.

We must change that horizontal focus back to the vertical focus many believe we are born with. The evil of the world is the prime mover of this change away from GOD. The horizontal focus that has drifted so far from GOD, so as to require more and more counselors (ministers), who, remaining on the correct path, can overcome this evil that would have a grasp on the world.

The evil that would keep our views on the self and away from our focus on GOD. The underlying motivations of this self-focus reveals creations of GOD that are self-serving rather than serving GOD. Anything done without faith, without reference to GOD’s Word is sin. The course also tells us and I quote, “Our feelings tell us what is happening, but we are not to make decisions or live by these feelings….a Christian doesn’t live by his/her feelings but by his/her will.”

By definition, from Marsha Linehan’s book, The Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorders, our senses tell us what is happening in the environment around us, and the feelings we experience are secondary and derived from that sensory input. All feelings are legitimate and serve a purpose as long as they are expressed correctly. She continues with a concept wherein we should live in the gray area of where two circles overlap each other with one titled “rational mind’” and the other titled “emotional mind, in other words a wise mind with a balance of rational thought and emotional thought, with neither dominating.

Feelings when left unchecked create an unbalance wherein the feelings or emotions feed on them selves. When these emotions are left out of control, we have extreme results such as murder, a predominance of emotions (feelings). Keeping our focus on GOD keeps all of our thoughts, reasoning, feelings (emotions) on what is good and desirable to GOD.

We then enter a chapter which approaches the topic of whose denomination or Church is the true Church, Body of Christ. It lays out a course that Christianity has followed in its development from the ancient Orthodox and Catholic religions, through the major ‘turning of the mind’, the Reformation. This important event gave us the Lutherans, the Reformed, the Anabaptist and the Mennonites. In America we see even more diversity in the form of Disciples and Pentecostals, Bible Churches and the ever present independent Mega Churches that would intimidate us into ‘giving them more money’.

All claiming to be the true Body of Christ. Who is right? Who goes to heaven? Who goes to hell? We now have hundreds of denominations in America, and their numbers are still growing. It really doesn’t matter that much as most of them are built on a common foundation. As long as we strive to avoid shortcuts and ‘detours’ and remember that we are here to serve and glorify HIM and not the other way around… To criticize GOD’s orders as done by the Lutherans is not acceptable. We can’t and must not think for a moment that we can change these orders from GOD, if we decide to just ‘pass’ a Church rule, with no foundation to support these changes in the Bible. GOD will not tolerate that which countermands HIS orders. Patrick Schwab, the author of this discourse, appears to feel that we should distance ourselves from these false doctrines.

He states that, “Nevertheless, a reformed Catholic or Orthodox Church in a basic Lutheran strategy would provide a real Church of the fullest truth if done, based only on the Bible in it’s original version.” There is no contention with that statement if the Bible in its absolute original version, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was available to all. But this is not a fact of the matter. We don’t have an original version, only hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of pieces or ancient texts. GOD has allowed us a literary license throughout our history, which supports my claim I made in the Four Gospels Course, that to be “GOD wise” and “Bible wise” in our capability to absorb knowledge, we have to read and study as many of the ancient texts as we can to gain a panoramic view of GOD’s making, without drawing any prejudices from denominational doctrines into the studies with us. Mr. Schwab then says we should distance ourselves from these doctrines not of GOD therefore incorrect.

I must say that it’s a known fact that Jesus came to heal the sick and not the healthy, so he was always seen with crooked tax collectors, prostitutes, and the worst of the worst. He never distanced Himself from the lost, but chose to be among them in true evangelist’s form. So why should we keep our beliefs from others? Non-believers (future Christians is a better terminology) will see us turning our back on those practicing false doctrines, and most likely interpret that as a sign that we think “we’re better than everyone else” We are all GOD’s creations.

Jesus came to us to provide a means of a blood sacrifice for the redemption of sins of ‘everyone’, not just a few. This we receive by the grace (free gift) of GOD apart from the law of Moses, which Jesus stated that He did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it’s prophesies (as the Messiah). I make no inclination towards calling all the “other denominations” either good or evil, which is not mine to judge. What is my right and duty to GOD, is to familiarize myself with them and not “distance myself from them”, If my belief system is of the Word of GOD and GOD’s alone, there exists not a single worry or belief that will touch me, if it’s truth, it will withstand.

I must and do whole heartedly agree with Mr. Schwab’s last paragraph of lesson 19 in which he states “……..there are many good people out there and they do make a difference. It is just very hard to find them as they are doing their missionary work in the dark and often under financial distress.” They are far removed from the Mega (Give, Give, and Give) Churches.

Please don’t misconstrue my intent to defame the large Evangelical Churches. Any Church that brings the lost into GOD’s house and introduces Jesus to them is absolutely wonderful, and most definitely doing GOD’s work they were led to.

In the final chapter the topic of the government’s view of Religion and how they co-exist together is laid out for us. Using our history books, we’ll see there will probably never be a complete alignment between the two. Our currency reads “IN GOD WE TRUST”; but no one seems to remember that those words are there. The government is supposed to be of and for the people.

A government that legalizes partial birth abortions of infants fully formed, innocent, unable to defend or even speak up for themselves, pure and from GOD, needs to evaluate whether those words “IN GOD WE TRUST” is a good thing! My GOD says thou shalt not kill…..period! No clauses, referendums, no stipulations, no amendments to the Ten Commandments. This is a very hefty topic requiring an essay of its own.

Jesus was a practicing Jew His whole life. He didn’t come to abolish the Law of Moses. The character and nature of GOD is revealed in the Old Testament to the Jews who suffered the wrath of GOD, who knew GOD’s attitude about sin and HIS requirements to remedy the separation that sin imposed between the sinner and GOD. A blood sacrifice was an understood necessity even before the chosen people. Abel’s sacrifice is evident of the early knowledge of that requirement by his offering of the firstling of his flock which met that stipulation.

Early Jews thought if you study the “Old Testament” Scriptures you would possess eternal life. In the New Testament we find over 50 references to ‘Scripture’ meaning the Old Testament. New Testament wording says we can not “please GOD with good deeds”. If that’s what you believe you’re in error. You are saved by grace and not by actions.

To please GOD we must meet several conditions. The first being we must have righteousness about us that GOD sees as righteousness. To be righteous requires faith on our part and acceptance on GOD’s part. We shouldn’t view the way of salvation as two separate and distinct ways.

Jews always looking ‘forward’ to their coming Savior and Christians always look backward with faith in the completed work of their redeemer. GOD accepts both Jew and Gentile on the basis of their faith in the death and resurrection of HIS messiah as a substitutionary sacrifice to completely pay the penalty of our sins.

I found this course to be surprisingly ‘readable’ and not dry reading as I expected… It did fulfill my expectations of the train of thought that permeates all of the courses I have and am studying. That being the need and desire that should be instilled in each of us, no matter which path we follow, to get to know, understand, relate and minister to all peoples of every religion. I would also recommend this course as a primer to new Christian and non-Christian alike as well as advanced students of the Bible.

It provides much of the basic rules of basic Bible Study no matter what your level. It does contain quite a plethora of historical events and characters from the Bible, especially my favorite (Besides Jesus of Nazareth) Saul of Tarsus (The Apostle Paul).

That being said I would highly recommend the Master of Religion Course to Students of all levels as well as well versed life-long Christians. Any one with a question in their minds about the Bible, the Church, their personal spiritual growth, GOD and Jesus Christ (Let us not forget the last but by no means the least of the Holy Trinity, the Breath of GOD) will find a foothold to GOD in a way that is provocative and inspiring to create a desire to dig deeper into a topic that strikes them with the impact of GOD’s Word.

What I liked least about the course was the best sections. To clarify, the most inspiring to me was too short. A lot of mileage was given to a lot of subjects. There are a lot of topics that cry out to be heard in more depth. I would like to see this course the same length (or longer) but in two separate courses, I and II. Would I be interested in taking more courses by Dr. Herbert Fuchs and Patrick Schwab? Yes, most definitely.

Love and Be Well.

Rev. Kipper Rowen


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