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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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Gospel of Thomas

Final Essay
Dennis W. Zerull

I must say that I am thrilled that the ULC Seminary has offered courses on Gnosticism and in this specific case the Gospel of Thomas. It is clear the author of this course Rev. Raymond Thompson is well read on the subject of the Gospel of Thomas and wrote this course with a great deal of passion. I greatly enjoyed his insightful humor when dealing with what can be a somewhat dry subject to those who are not as well read on this particular gospel. I very much looked forward to his discourse each week.

This particular work, the Gospel of Thomas, is significant for the study of church history even though these writings are not included in the canon. It gives a sample of the ideas, convictions and serves as a point of comparison with the writings contained in the canon of the New Testament. When we study what some religious scholars call "the Apocrypha" in which the Gospel of Thomas falls under, the term "apokruphos" of course derived from the Greek translation simply means, "hidden things". It is believed that the writers of the apocryphal or Gnostic writings attempted to correct what they viewed as deficiencies in the canonical accounts and to fill the gaps they believed existed.

These Gnostic Gospels were later considered heretical by the "Church", but became acceptable by a widespread and diverse religious movement with the roots of Greek philosophy and folk religion. However one can not ignore that the Gospel of Thomas according to some scholars is countered in advance by the canonical epistle of 1John, which emphasizes the gospel of Jesus Christ as the message of life, available for every person to experience. No doubt that some of the Gnostic writings were believed to be produced in an attempt to gain authority for their own particular views. No one knows for sure however, so I submit it is left up to the individual who studies the gospels to draw their own conclusions. This is best done with an open mind as to avoid egocentric debate.

I do have one comment on this course and it concerns discourse # 16 ; saying # 82. Jesus said, If you are near me you are near fire. If you are far from me you are cut from the kingdom." Rev. Thompson describes the last supper in which John, "the one that Jesus loved is seated on the couch with Jesus with his head resting on Jesus' breast". Rev. Thompson gives his opinion as " do you have to be hit over the head with a club to see these two men were lovers ? That Jesus not only excepted same sex love, but actively participated in it? ". I am assuming by Rev. Thompson's description that his opinion is one in which the men had intimate sexual relations.

 It is my humble opinion this is not only a broad assumption but one that is made without any merit what so ever. My argument is simply this. If Jesus was truly the Son of God and was the divine it would seem completely illogical for him to give himself up to indulgence in sensual pleasure because of his right action and lack of ego. Further more if Jesus was learned and knows the teachings of God, he would understand what is worthy of consideration and what is not worthy. It further would contradict his teaching in the 87 saying " Miserable is the body that depends upon a body". Assuming that Jesus was clearly conscious in his going and coming and clearly conscious of all the physical aspects of his earthly being and clearly conscious that he is divine source between God and mankind, the only conclusion that I can draw through logic and reasoning is that Jesus casted away lust and dwells with a heart free from lust; from lust he cleanses his heart. Therefore His heart becomes free from sensual passion, craving, detachment and eventually extinction. In this state He further is free from the vain thought of man and He reaches cessation of ignorance which is a misunderstanding of reality and achieves highest, holiest wisdom. No more fear and no more desires.

I hope that those who decide to take this course in the future will draw upon their own conclusions and share them with us. And like Jesus who taught openly to everyone, there is a difference in how people respond or understood his teachings. But as a  humble sentient being, I emphasize that everyone is called equally to holiness and can attain it if they wish. In each individuals life there are stages of spiritual evolution starting from the state of an ordinary being and moving toward a full enlightenment, whereas in the case of Jesus, we are referring to someone who is unique, who is the Son of God. So the process of stages does not apply. His consciousness is both beginning less and endless in the terms of its continuity. 

So if we closely examine the teachings of Jesus, it is reasonable to ascertain that everything in the cosmos came from God, is an emanation of God, and will return to God. Perhaps a transformation of matter back into its original source. What or who God is, is something that each of us must determine for ourselves through reason and analysis.

The important point is that in the context of one's own spiritual practice, faith derived from written or spoken form must be grounded in reason and understanding no matter who the author is.


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