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, November 19, 2010

Master of Religion

Final Paper
Rev. Dennis W. Zerull

First of all let me begin by saying that I have enjoyed this course and the previous course I have taken in this Seminary. I am not quite sure if "Master of Religion" truly expresses this course. I feel I have personally only scratched the surface of what Religion truly is and certainly have a better understanding of it but do not claim to be a Master over it. So I am humbled by receiving documentation so stating. This course covers a wide variety of areas and does it well but does not clearly cover the historical aspects of religion or the history of Christianity. To do so would take many more hours of study and courses. So I understand the overview in this course but would like to see an even more in depth look at the historical aspects of Christianity at some future point.

With that said let me being to talk about what this course is: Religion. Religion is relationship of devotion or fear of God or gods. The cognate terms translated "religious" and "religion" (Acts 17:22; 25:19) can indicate positive reverence for the gods or else negative fear of the gods. The pejorative translations "superstitious" and "superstition". is unfortunate. Paul hardly alienated the Athenians at the outset of his speech. He rather pointed out to their outward expressions of piety (Acts 17:22).

The cognate term translated "religion" and "religious" in Acts 26:5 and James 1:26-27 point to the "fear of God" as evidenced in religious conduct, particularly ritual practice. In Acts 25:5 Paul referred to Judaism as "our" way of evidencing reverence for God. According to James 1:26-27, one who thinks himself religiously observant but who cannot control the tongue will find religious observance worthless. James continued that the religious observance of God cares about is not a cultic matter but an ethical matter, care of the helpless of society.

The term in Acts 13:43 is rendered "religious" (KJV), "devout" and "God fearing" (NASB). In 1 Timothy 2:10 "religion" is literally "God-fearing", here in the sense of obedient to God's commands. The meaning of the term in NASB translated as "self-made religion" is uncertain (Col..2-23). The Greek roots suggest freely chosen worship (KJV "will worship"; NIV "self-imposed worship": or the RSV, "promoting rigor or devotion".)

Certainly we as Pastors must understand our audience, the people we interact with and counsel. We have responsibility to have a working knowledge of various denominations and belief systems regardless of that fact if we agree with them or not. I believe in the God of my understanding which is basically monotheistic or a believer in one God. And as a spiritual being I understand the connection between fear and reverence proclaimed in most versions of the Bible yet realize at the same time this means to have a sense of obedience to God's commands and live in fear of Him.

Certain modern day religions preach on the basis of fear in order to make its members accept some enlightenment through suffering which means to be forced into the kingdom of heaven kicking and screaming. Those individuals finally surrender because they cannot stand the pain and guilt anymore. Strictly speaking they did not find God through their suffering, because suffering implies resistance. They found God through surrender, through total acceptance of what is. Surely the Prophets of the bible had to have realized on some level that their pain was self-created. One cannot find God, because how can you find that which was never lost, the very life that you are. God- realization is the most natural thing there is. Spiritual Mentor Ekhart Tolle puts is beautifully. "The amazing incomprehensible fact is not that you can become conscious of God but that you are not conscious of God".

Mastering ones religion simply means that one understands the way God's commands apply to your life. It means that the worst things in life, your cross, turns sometimes into the best thing that ever happened to you, by forcing you into surrender fully living in the present were God exists and forcing you to become as nothing, to become as God- because God, too is no-thing.

This course has opened many doors for me personally and has touched on many aspects of modern day life that we as Pastor's may encounter. Drug and alcohol abuse, spousal situations, teenage problems, political issues. The list goes on. I continue to study and trust God in all matters. I try and live in the present and surrender to the moment when I need to and show compassion and avoid conflict and self created pain by my own mind. when this is done the realm of being in which God exists opens up. Suddenly, a great stillness arises. It is peace and within that peace you will find joy and within that joy you will find love. And at the innermost core, there is the scared, the immeasurable.

May God Bless you all,

Rev. Dennis Zerull


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