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.

Search This Blog

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Comparative Religion

Comparative Religion Essay
Rev. Sandra P. Malloy

Comparative Religion Reflection Essay

When I am free to see comparisons in religions over historic time, without regard to the hows and whys, I experience a deep appreciation for my own belief system.  Someone asked me, “Doesn’t seeing these parallels make you think that this (what we believe) is all just a of version of some superstition people made up a long time ago to explain what science couldn’t?”  Surprisingly, instead of doubt I feel stronger in my faith, more deeply connected to humanity, and grounded in my concept of spiritual oneness.  I have a greater appreciation for the diversity that cultural and historic influence have had on our attempts, as a human race, to communicate with and understand the nature of the Divine and as a result, to communicate with one another and understand ourselves.  

I feel especially grounded, as a Christian, when I contemplate the number of religions prior and parallel to Christianity that revere Christ-like figures.  The stories of Osiris, Dionysus, Mithras and others show how many different cultures have grown in their spiritual development through the same archetype.  This leads me to feel a greater underlying truth in the symbolism than I ever could see while studying in isolation.  It breaks down time and geographical boundaries and makes me feel more apart of the global, timeless, beingness.  Seeing other similarities, such as how in every religion we tend to celebrate cycles, important events in our histories, great leaders and teachers, how we communicate with the Divine through prayer, and pass on ideas through sacred texts and symbols also leads me to a deeper appreciation.  At the same time it inspires gratitude for how our differences allow all of us to participate and meet the Divine right where we are.  

I really appreciate the way this course was designed to compare religions in topic format.  Viewing the similarities and differences of how the angel concept manifests and how leadership is named and decided helped me see things in a new way.  I never realized how pervasive angels are throughout world belief systems.  I also never thought about Jewish religious titles and the idea that a Jewish community does not necessarily need a rabbi to lead it.  Instead, any member of the community educated to perform leadership tasks can do so.  I also saw the rabbi as both teacher and “priest.”  I did not connect that the title priest is held for those ordained to do ceremonies in the temple.  This stood out to me, because the entire topic of religious titles are given in one lesson.  This format also helps me remember more of the extensive information presented.  I also like the many resources sited for further reading.  Although it would be impossible for this course to be an exhaustive study of comparative religion, I feel I have plenty of resources to learn more about every topic presented.

One thing I would really like is a second part to the course that puts me into the lives of those practicing these religions today.  Now that I have the appreciation for the background and some fundamental concepts of each, I would like a more focused view of what it is like to live the life of a someone who practices Shintoism or Islam.  I am hoping that other courses offered by the ULC Seminary, such as Master of Buddhism, Shamanism and others will offer this kind of information.  I love the way Reverend Kythera Ann introduces the course and includes a section on the development of interfaith studies.  In the spirit of this message of creating appreciation and understanding among faiths, it seems that a second layer of deeper comparison should be completed by those of us in the Seminary.  This way, when we go into the individual courses, such as Master of Wiccan Studies or Paganism, we have a stronger foundational scaffolding in which to attach new information.  I cannot site anything specifically about this course that I disliked or should be changed.  

I would definitely be interested in taking other classes through Reverend Kythera Ann.  Overall, I am impressed with not only the amount of interesting information and examples from scripture, architecture, and symbolism that are given, but also the ease with which I could read, understand, and assimilate it.  This is just the beginning of my studies of world religions and I am grateful that I am heading into the rest of my journey with the appreciation of the unity we share across the world through our religious diversity.  

Many people get ordained through the ULC as a means to become wedding officiants, but also to study through our online seminary. If you need minister supplies or online ceremonies, we have a wide selection to choose from, as well as a place for spiritual articles and spiritual bookmarks. Visit our FB Page at ULC Seminary.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Spiritual Awakening

Spiritual Awakening
I have been thinking about what it means to be spiritually awake and have not yet figured out what that means.  I have been going from one Internet site after another looking for information that will explain exactly what spiritual awakening is all about.
The closest I came to finding an answer talked about being a Christian and all that has to it.  But, being a Christian is only a very small part of what it means to be spiritually awake.  One site talked about the attributes of a spiritually awake person in a paper titled “The Purpose of Life is Spiritual Growth”.  I can agree with this statement but still it is only a title to a paper.  Within the paper it gives a statement about the fact that there are two types of people in this world.  One is the materialist minded person and the other is the spiritually-minded person.  The paper says that a person with a “materialistic mind is greedy, selfish, competitive, cold-hearted, deceitful, unintelligent, close-minded, ill mannered, unfriendly, easily addicted, overly emotional, easily angered, revengeful, vicious, barbaric, inhumane and war like.  They are destructive through their thoughts, words and actions”.  The paper goes on to describe the “spiritually minded person as being generous, kind, helpful, cooperative, loving, forgiving, caring, considerate, compassionate, patient, calm, honest, intelligent, logical, open-minded, friendly and peaceful.  They are constructive through their thoughts, words and actions”.
How many of you would describe your self as being a materialistic person with all the characteristic of that kind of a person?  Very few of you I’m sure, but do you not display those kinds of attributes from time to time?  You could say, “I’m only normal” and you are.  We all present to the world both kinds of mannerisms and we are both materialistic and spiritual people.  Some of us believe that we are more spiritual than the other, and that’s OK.
Now, what can we do to become totally spiritually awake?  Well, I think that the description above of the spiritual minded person tells all.  We can be that kind, generous and loving person we claim to be 24/7.  It only takes a little mindfulness to make it so.  Keeping in mind those attribute that make us a spiritual person.
Ok, you are a spiritual person, so what do you do to prove it?  Do you work with the sick and dying?  Do you go to church and pray for all the non-Christians in this world?  Maybe there are other things you do that you believe proves that you are a spiritually awakened person.  Or, maybe you just think about all that without doing anything… Maybe…
I want to be a totally awaken spiritual person and I want you to awaken also.  We can change this world from being totally materialistic to be spiritually oriented world in 2012.  2012 will be a year of change, a transitional world into the higher aspects of the spiritual life.  You and I can be apart of that.  We only have to make up our minds to be so by promoting to the world that we are indeed a spiritually awaken person.

Many people get ordained through the ULC as a means to become wedding officiants, but also to study through our online seminary. If you need minister supplies or online ceremonies, we have a wide selection to choose from, as well as a place for spiritual articles and spiritual bookmarks. Visit our FB Page at ULC Seminary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chaplaincy Studies

Rev G Douglas Goodson
Essay: Master of Chaplaincy

    I enrolled in the Chaplaincy program offered by ULC because I felt called to serve the spiritual needs of more folks. I have enjoyed facilitating weddings and other rites of passage as an ordained minister for some time now.

I have come to view all positive faiths as beautiful, however my experiences in facilitating religious services have been centered on my own spiritual path. In speaking with people of other faiths I have found that my personal beliefs, in all the significant aspects, mirror theirs. Folks always assume that I am of their faith. It has become apparent to me that I am being called to be of more use to my community. The most common service that is requested is counseling in some form, even if it’s just to lend a sympathetic ear.

I would like to work in hospitals, nursing homes and perhaps a prison ministry, as well as sharpen the skills needed to assist those already coming to me for guidance. I felt that enrolling in this course would further my development as a spiritual leader and after taking the Master of Chaplaincy module I feel I made the right decision.

Through this course I had the opportunity to give some thought as to what someone who has received a spiritual calling looks like. I am fortunate in that I am literally surrounded by ULC ministers. I see the calling in each of them. They all have a sincere desire to serve the needs of others, a kindness of spirit, a calmness that is reassuring, and an aura about them that attracts others seeking their message. The most flattering comment my wife and I have ever received was “You guys are so much more than ministers you’re more like Buddha or Gandhi”. The reference wasn’t in regards to our spiritual path or how we dress, it was in relation to our attitude toward life, our acceptance and love of others, and a welcoming feeling that a wide variety of folks were attracted to spiritually. It was a reference to our ability to find the common ground among all spiritual paths.

    Though this course does not qualify anyone to offer pastoral counseling, it does at least make you aware that those skills will be needed to be an effective chaplain and gives you an understanding of the ethical concerns in regard to offering spiritual guidance to others. Some things are just common sense. For instance not putting yourself in a position that could get you in trouble or discredit your ministry, such as avoiding personal relationships with those you are guiding. What was nice to see in the course were the sections on other pitfalls to avoid such as unhealthy relationships and transference. The advice in avoiding those problems was spot on. There are many counselors of different modalities that use similar methods, such as limiting the number sessions up front.

    The sections concerning the multitude of opportunities for chaplains to serve, was very thorough and laid out not only what types of work you might expect but also the type of educational background and other requirements that each type of opportunity would expect you to have to qualify for the job. Depending on the type of facility or company you plan on serving you will probably need to have ministerial accreditation, possibly a certificate stating you have passed a state certification to counsel and a back ground check among other qualifications.

    Some of the places that use chaplains are Nursing Homes, Hospitals, Prisons, Corporations, aboard ships, Military, Fire Departments and Police Departments. I grew up in area where the most famous chaplain was the Fire Chaplain. We have a bridge that was fairly popular as a spot to commit suicide. This was no low bridge, it was quite high. The chaplain was constantly in the paper because he would climb up to the jumpers and he had a pretty good record talking them down.

I grew up in a home that was Navy friendly. I met many chaplains when they would join our family for the holidays. Most times these chaplains were the only folks available to serve the needs of many service men of different religious backgrounds. I believe exposure to military chaplains sparked an interest early in my life and led me to be very open minded and accepting of people of different faiths.

    More recently, my wife and I volunteered some of our time to cleaning a local church. We were there once a week for about 5 years. It was an Episcopal church. Down the street about two blocks is a Congregational church. The ministers would cover for each other when needed. In our area many hospitals have Priests, Rabbis and Ministers that would alternate acting as chaplain in much the same way. The hospital doesn’t need a full time chaplain because everyone dedicates a little time to see that the spiritual needs of the patients are met. I am a member of an organization that has a good percentage of members that are elderly and of different religious back grounds. There are many in nursing homes. Because they are aging they also spend a bit more time in the hospital for one reason or another. I plan on serving the needs of those folks at a minimum. My hope is to cultivate relationships with the staff and management of those facilities over time as well. Maybe I can get a per deim volunteer position.

    There is a lot of information in this course but I will try to keep this essay within the parameters of 1000 to 1500 words. That said, I will discuss the tools I plan to use.

    The most important tools are education, understanding, the ability to listen and empathize, and the ability to understand and execute the rites of different religions should you be the only one available and it being proper to do so. The second would be a working relationship with, and directory of, other religious leaders of different backgrounds and mental health professionals to refer folks to.

    As for material tools, the most efficient and necessary is my smart phone. Not only does it store my documents and contacts phone numbers it also stores a searchable copy of the Torah, Koran and the King James version of the Bible. The searchable editions are free apps that I downloaded. I also keep briefcase at the ready. It keeps all the things I might need in one place. I have soft cover editions of the same books of holy writ that are on my phone, a pad, pens, Holy water and consecrated oil, stick incense and other assorted interfaith items. Being that most religious observance can be conducted without the aid of props, most things in the brief case are for convenience and comfort.

    I work six days a week at two jobs and facilitate around 30 observances in the course of the year. This course was convenient for me take because it was accessible from my phone. I enjoyed it and believe has laid a solid foundation upon which to build as I complete other courses needed to complete the chaplaincy program.

Many people get ordained through the ULC as a means to become wedding officiants, but also to study through our online seminary. If you need minister supplies or online ceremonies, we have a wide selection to choose from, as well as a place for spiritual articles and spiritual bookmarks. Visit our FB Page at ULC Seminary.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Spirit Quest

                                                         Final  Essay
     Thank you, Rev. Long, for this extensive discourse on finding and following my own quest for spirituality.  Throughout the last thirty weeks I have learned and used many new tools and reinforced tools I have used in the past.  Some I have forgotten and you brought them to the surface again.  My senses and awareness have opened up.  I see my surroundings differently, more vividly.  My choices have been refocused to include myself not just what can be done for others.  Taking care of the home spirituality first makes it easier to serve others.  So creating a life that I am comfortable with and willing to share others seeking their own paths.
     Meditation is a practice I have had for years.  Through these lessons, my technique has improved.  I can feel myself opening up to the greater possibilities of communication with the higher self.  I receive better answers, that are clearer.  The guidance is gentle yet obvious.  During the day , there is an openness of awareness to nature and the sense of being one with all.  This is very calming.  I have always been sensitivity to the moon cycles, now I feel this connection with greater conviction and a knowing of how I fit into the universe.
     I must say that the rose technique was not my favorite model.  During the course I modified these practices, which I changed to using different colored balloons.  Using Balloons to fill up with the negative thoughts or hurts and sending them into the sky to float out over the ocean and disintegrate.  The same in verse of the universe sending a colorful bouquet of balloons to me with a power of positive acts of loving, caring or whatever I need for that day or week.  The word 'destroy' has a strong inner reaction for me and maybe the idea of destroying a rose was not the feeling I need to invoke.  Also, since pink roses were my mom's favorite flower, I can enhance them, just not destroy.  The concept of the practice was great, so I felt that a slight change in visualization was still appropriate and it worked for me!
     Thank you once again, Rev. Long, this was an informative and enlightening discourse.  
Highly recommended!
Rev. Constance
Many people get ordained through the ULC as a means to become wedding officiants, but also to study through our online seminary. If you need minister supplies or online ceremonies, we have a wide selection to choose from, as well as a place for spiritual articles and spiritual bookmarks. Visit our FB Page at ULC Seminary.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Spiritual Leadership

Leadership in Christian terms.
Colin Burgess.

Not having any real experience in leadership as an elder, or organizer within a church I am writing this essay from the outside looking in. A lot of people could write on this topic objectively , but I must write on it subjectively using a book by John Macarthur “CALLED TO LEAD, [26] Leadership lessons from the life of the Apostle Paul.” 

What this book taught me first, and foremost is in order to lead effectively you must first be a good subordinate.
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to become first among you, let him be your slave ---- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” - Matthew 20:25-28
Leadership certainly does not require the despising of oneself, or a false humility, but it does require a proper estimation of oneself in order to know ones strengths, and weaknesses. By knowing our strengths we know what we ourselves can do. By knowing our weaknesses we will know how to delegate tasks.
(Romans 12:3)
As a side note it is important to understand the typological principle of interpreting scripture.
In the book ‘Doctrine’ by Mark Driscoll and Gerry Breshears we see this principle delineated on pg 45.
“Types are Old Testament representative figures, institutions, or events that foreshadow Jesus.”
It then gets into these types, such as Adam, the priesthood, and the judges. Never do we see one person completely taking on all roles, but one person operating in one or two ways, and never perfectly filling the role in which they pre-figure what Christ is the substance of.
In a way the pastors, elders, governments, our bosses, and our parents all imperfectly pre-figure the perfect leadership of Jesus Christ, and I believe Jesus has set up these temporary institutions for us to submit to within the parameters of godliness, and to do otherwise is rebelling against the hand of God.
We as Christians should believe in ‘Sola-scriptura’, rather than ‘Solo-scriptura.’ Which is to say, the Bible is the final court of arbitration, but we have other sources we recognize as authoritative.
By not praying for leaders as subordinates we are part of the problem if they do not live up to our expectations, or perhaps upon closer examination of ourselves our expectations are not godly.
One thing that came up in the FMC course which may be in contrast to the book is, ‘should worldly leadership principles be implemented in church leadership?’
John Macarthur seems to say ‘no’ for a valid reason, and I will quote a passage from the introduction on
pg vii.
‘Again, I think it’s a serious mistake for Christians in leadership to pass over these biblical examples of leadership and turn instead to secular models of leadership in pursuit of style-obsessed formulae they think will make them better leaders with leadership techniques and management styles gleaned from worldly “experts.” I recently read a Christian book that analyzes the entrepreneurial and administrative techniques used at Google, Amazon, Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, Dell Computers, General foods, and several other prestigious secular corporations. The authors of that book occasionally try to insert a biblical proof-text or two to buttress some of the principles they teach, but for the most part, they uncritically accept whatever seems to produce “success” as a good model for church leaders to imitate.’
Then to drive the point home the author goes on to ask on the next page…
‘Can this approach of mimicking whatever is currently fashionable in secular management theory possibly be reconciled with Jesus’ statement that His kingdom operates by a markedly different style of leadership from the “rulers of the Gentiles”?’
I am certain that the FMC course participants would agree once the logic is taken to its full conclusion that ‘you can’t exemplify biblical leadership and follow the trends of Madison Avenue at the same time.’ I do not in anyway want to write criticizing the other students, because in some cases from their vantage point due to individual experience, and education the secular worlds principles do work, and I do not disagree with that.
What must be asked is, ‘which came first? The chicken or the egg?’ I would say it is the world that plagiarised the biblical principles of leadership, but made the motive in implementing them money driven, the standard of success skewed, and no longer Christ as the objective.
It is now the church that must take these teachings back, and not seek CEO’s of the worlds most successful companies for wisdom God has already given to us. We are called to be change agents in the world we live in.
(Romans 12:1-2).
So in a way having well established leadership, and people submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ we are becoming microcosms in the world we live in going back to a theocracy which is emblematic of Jesus being our supreme leader.
Throughout the ministry of the Apostle Paul we see the examples he put forth, and we rightly say these are good examples since he was a Spirit filled leader, and he had an audience of one.
This book covered 26 principles. I am going to pick out 5 as the ones that apply to me as a layperson in the church, and as a Christian in the public eye because no matter what we influence, and lead people.
So in the following when I refer to ‘leader’ I mean any Christian in the world being a reflection of God, and perhaps the essentials of what we must have before considering a further role in leadership.
1. 1. A leader is trustworthy.
It was only because of Paul’s trustworthiness Julius the soldier who Paul was in the custody of gave him so many liberties. The fact Paul was trustworthy is shown in Acts 24:23 when Felix ‘commanded the centurion to keep Paul, and to let him have liberty.
You cannot inspire devotion without being trustworthy. How you spend your free time, how you spend your money demonstrates your trustworthiness in other matters.
2. 3. A leader uses good judgement.
While leaders are never dice rollers, they are people who may have to take a calculated risk. What the calculations are based on for a godly leader would be hopefully time spent in prayer, and reading scripture then further on a pattern of following God.
In Acts 27:10 we see Paul giving his advice “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and
bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.”
Instead of listening to sound advice ‘
the centurion followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.‘
Rejecting Paul’s advice resulted in the crew throwing the ‘cargo’ and ‘tackle overboard, with their own hands.’ (vs. 18-19) The crew, and the helmsman truly had to pay the consequences of rejecting godly wisdom. Paul’s wisdom was far from being arbitrary, but it was rooted in the very source of truth Jesus Christ with whom he had spent much time with prior, and had seen firsthand the results of obedience to God.
3. 5. A leader strengthens others.
After the ship had crashed, and all valuables were lost Paul never took this opportunity to give an ‘I told you so speech.”, but instead said with Gods authority ‘that there would be no loss of life on board’. (vs. 25)
He wasn’t tickling their ears with empty promises of health, wealth, and prosperity, but he gave them hope that things would be better eventually.
4. 7. A leader never compromises the absolutes.
This is about the best advice any young Christian could get. If I were to lead someone to Christ giving them this advice would be comparable to giving a police cadet instructions how to use their issued kit. Going back, yet using the New Testament we can look at Noah. 2 Peter 3:3-7 seems to infer Noah was ridiculed. This did not deter him from his God given objective. Just as it is with us. God has in some cases given us clear, and concise commands, and we are to adhere to them. In some cases the commands of God are not so clear, and obvious. Such as the direction of the church. This takes us back to rules of leadership 1, and 3.

If a leader has not built his reputation as being trustworthy, and discerning then it is wise not to allow this person to lead a church, or direct a goal within a church, such as being in charge of a ministry, or a building project. This I suppose is where the accountability of an elder board, and prayerful watchmen in the church come into play holding their leaders to a certain, and reasonable standard. If a leader has proven to be trustworthy, and discerning they should still not be unquestioned, but a time comes when people need to stop slandering, or questioning their leaders out of whatever motives, and just get the job done. One thing for everyone to remember: Truth is always the same regardless of the size of the latest lobby group, or how loud people are screaming. The support flows from the bottom of the chain up, and the accountability starts at the top all the way down the chain of command.
5. 26 A leader is Christ like.
It is at this point we revert back to the first point as put on page 144 of ‘Called to lead.’
‘Leadership is about character, honour, decency, integrity, faithfulness, holiness, moral purity, and many other qualities.’
If you led a hundred fund raisers for the church, made a million dollars every event, and built 100 orphanages in all the most oppressed countries in the world, yet did it out of impure, or insincere motives you missed the point. Others have definitely benefited from your selfish motives, but if in your heart they were not Christ driven I would say you have received your reward in full here on earth. 

For many people we as Christians are the closest thing to God the world will see this side of heaven, and I am certain they can smell impure motives on our breath, and if our lives do not reflect Jesus all that is seen is a whitewashed tomb. The world loves to remember the scandals of church leaders, and they quickly forget anything good the church has done.
Our example is of course Jesus Christ, and with Paul we ought to say, “Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:16). The answer is “Our sufficiency is from God.” (3:5)
Pondering the Principles
1. We have seen that church leadership is a sacred task that requires the highest level of spiritual credibility and maturity. Sadly, some people pursue church leadership for wrong motives such as money, job security, or prestige. If you are in a position of spiritual leadership, what are your motives? Peter said, "Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock" (1 Pet. 5:2-3, NASB). Guard your motives carefully so that you will receive an "unfading crown of glory" (v. 4) when Jesus returns.

2. Diligent qualified leaders are a precious commodity in any church. Paul said, "Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honour, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching" (1 Tim. 5:17, NASB). Hebrews 13:17 says, "Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you" (NASB). Your leaders have a difficult task for which they are personally accountable to the Lord. Be sure to honour them by supplying their financial needs and add joy to their ministry by submitting to their oversight. Pray for them and encourage them often. Take time to send them a note of encouragement.

3. Hugh Latimer vividly addressed the lack of passion among the ministers of his day (see pp. 11-12), and what he said is just as appropriate today. No matter what area of ministry you serve in, the subtle threat of complacency or compromise is always present. Read 2 Timothy 1:6-14. How did Paul encourage Timothy when Timothy's zeal was apparently waning? How might you encourage others in that situation? If you are lacking passion for your ministry, fervently pray that God will give you a renewed sense of urgency and commitment to His work. Remember, "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Tim. 1:7, NASB).
- John MacArthur
Many people get ordained through the ULC as a means to become wedding officiants, but also to study through our online seminary. If you need minister supplies or online ceremonies, we have a wide selection to choose from, as well as a place for spiritual articles and spiritual bookmarks. Visit our FB Page at ULC Seminary.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Religious Philosophy

Below you will find a copy of "Essay on Religious Philosophy".
Robert Chamberlain evidently devoted considerable time and effort in researching and compiling the piece he titles "Religious Philosophy". The text is articulate and concise. Although there may be a questionable proposition concerning the title. This writer considers, with the sociological data contained within the presentation, that more appropriately the thesis would merit an association with sociology, id EST, "Sociology of Religion" or "Religious Sociology". Chamberlain's title "Religious Philosophy" stands, however. "That be as it may", let us get on with a description of Chamberlain's work.
Wait! Just one more thing. About a month ago I had virtually all of this essay written. Well, six hundred + words were written. Among other things, I had to petition President Long for one lesson which evaporated from the computer. Speaking of evaporation: My wife, at least I attribute the evaporation to her (wink, wink), caused my Incredimail (email program) to stop taking re-installations. Having run out of solutions for recapturing the e-mail program, I did a major system restoration which took at least two days and nights. During this time the computer was not available for anything else. The System Restoration and several additional restoration attempts proved futile. Not good. All my attempts at recovery did not accomplish the goal. I wrote an e-mail to President Amy letting her know of my predicament. I even considered "saying 'phooey and forgetting the whole thing". All things being equal, I "tabled" the situation for several weeks. Now the "essay" is again being written without the careful punctuation and formatting and extending the apologies, perhaps to no avail.
By-the-way, the previous form will not be adhered.
This student liked the way "Religious Philosophy" was researched (speculation), written and presented. There may have been an element or two in the twenty-four lessons that (I opine) were questionable.
Covered were the Western religions such as Jewish, Islamic, Christian, etc. And the Eastern; Buddhism, Jaine, Hindu, Shinto, Sikhs, Taoism, Confucianism, Bushido, Ainu, Ch'ondogyo, Cao Dai, Khmer, etc
Lesson nineteen was full of some very interesting data on smaller more or less "local" religious body's throughout Asia that were found to be very much akin to this student's belief system. I've offered just a few. It is up to the readers of this essay to guess which ones or one to which this writer has an affinity. That may be easier said than done considering that this writer left no description of these aforementioned data.
Within the text there were items that were new to me. During this writers lifetime he has been and maybe still is a self-styled Buddhist. There has been considerable exploration of the "religious domain".
Brother Jack Kerouac and I share this manifestation. 

Many people get ordained through the ULC as a means to become wedding officiants, but also to study through our online seminary. If you need minister supplies or online ceremonies, we have a wide selection to choose from, as well as a place for spiritual articles and spiritual bookmarks. Visit our FB Page at ULC Seminary.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Christian History - ULC

 ULC Seminary Master of Christian History Paper
                            Lesson 9
1.    Who were apologists and polemicists and how did they respectively approach their task of defending the Christian faith through writing? What was the difference in approach between the Eastern and Western apologists?
The apologists were Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-A.D. 165), Aristides of (A.D. 140-A.D. 150), Tatian of (A.D. 110- A.D. 180), Athenagoras of A.D. 177, Theophilus of Antioch (A.D. 180), Tertullian (A.D. 160-A.D. 225), Minucius Felix (A.D. 200), and Cyprian (A.D. 200-c. A.D. 258); While the polemicists were Irenaeus, Pantaenus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen.
    These two groups wrote to and for the leaders of the Roman government or to the internal heretics hoping to bring them back to the truth of Holy Scripture.
    The apologists used the pagan written form of the dialogue and the legal form of the apologia. By so doing, the apologists confronted a hostile Roman government which they tried to win over with their written arguments. They tried to convince the powers that be that Christianity did not deserve persecution. They had a positive and negative side to their writing. The negative part was to condemn the false charges of atheism, cannibalism, incest, and antisocial behavior that were made by their pagan neighbors and writers such as Celsus. The positive part was the elevating of Christianity as superior to Judaism, pagan religion, and state worship.
      These apologies, as these writings were called, made logical appeals to the pagan leaders and in the process made an intelligent understanding of Christianity; and they removed legal shortcomings from it. They showed that the false charges made against Christianity were unwarranted. Christianity had a right to civil tolerance under Roman law.
      The apologists were writing as philosophers, not theologians. They emphasized that Christianity was the oldest religion and philosophy because the Pentateuch dated way before the Trojan Wars, and what truths that were in Greek philosophy were in fact borrowed from Christianity or Judaism. The apologists made much of the pure life, death, and resurrection of Christ, Christ’s miracles, and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ which proved Christianity is the highest philosophy. These writers were already learned in Greek philosophy before accepting Christianity. They used Greek philosophy as a tool to bring people to Christ. They used the New Testament more than the apostolic fathers did.
While the polemicists directed their attentions to the condemnation of internal heresy; Those polemicists of the late 2nd-early 3rd centuries A.D. sought to condemn the false doctrines of heretics. The Eastern and Western Churches had different approaches to confronting heresy and formulating theologically sound Christian truth. The Eastern Church used speculative theology and thought through things metaphysically. The Western Church was concerned with problems in church polity and sound practical solutions to problems in this area.
      Unlike the apologists (as converts from paganism) who addressed the external threats of persecution from the Roman state, the polemicists (as ones with a Christian cultural background) addressed internal heresies that were threatening the internal peace, purity, and unity of the Christian church. Unlike the apologists who heavily emphasized the Old Testament, the polemicists heavily emphasized the New Testament as source for Christian doctrine. The polemicists condemned through argument false doctrines. This was different from the apologists who explained Christianity to pagan culture and rulers.
The difference in approach between the Eastern and Western apologists are evidenced in the thyme of their different writing.
Example, the Eastern apologists like Aristides (A.D. 140-A.D. 150) who offered an apology to Emperor Antoninus Pius. The first fourteen chapters presented Christian worship as superior to Chaldean, Egyptian, Greek, and Jewish worship. The last three chapters offer a clear view of early Christian customs and morals. And Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 100-A.D. 165) the greatest apologist of the 2nd century A.D. who later started a Christian school in Rome. Not long after A.D. 150, he (Justin Martyr) wrote his First Apology to Emperor Antoninus Pius and his adopted sons. He urged the Roman emperors in this writing to look at the charges made against Christians (chapters 1-3) and to free them from punishment if they were innocent. Christians were proved not to be atheists or idolaters (chapters 4-13). The heart of the work (chapters 14-60) involves a discussion of the morals, dogmas, and Foundation of Christianity. Christ’s superior life and morality had been foretold in the Old Testament. Demons were the cause of error and persecution. The last chapters (chapters 61-67) explained Christian worship. Justin Martyr proved that Christians were blameless and should be free of persecution.
Within his Second Apology he (Justin Martyr) cited cruelty and injustice toward Christians; he pointed out while comparing Christ to Socrates that goodness in people was the result of Christ.
Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho attempted to convince Jews of the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. He allegorized Holy Scripture and emphasized prophecy.
Tatian (c. A.D. 110-c. A.D. 180), in his writing, wrote Address to the Greeks after the mid 2nd century A.D. It condemned Greek pretensions to cultural superiority in the form of an apology. This was addressed to a whole people, the Greeks. Christianity was superior to Greek religion and philosophy, and it should be given a fair shake. The second part (chapters 5-30) deals with comparing Christian teaching with Greek mythology and philosophy. In the next part (chapters 31-41) Christianity was shown to be older than Greek thought and religion because Moses predated the Trojan Wars. He also gave a unique explanation of the Greek statuary that he had seen in Rome (chapters 33-34). Tatian also compiled the Diatessaron which was the earliest harmony of the Gospels.
    Athenagoras (Around A.D. 177) in his own writing wrote Supplication for the Christians. The beginning chapters laid out the charges against Christianity. He next condemned the charge of atheism by showing that the pagan deities are just human creations (chapters 4-30). Those pagan deities were guilty of the same immoral acts as their human worshipers (chapters 31-34). Since Christians are not guilty of incest or eating their children in sacrificial feasts (chapters 35-36), the Roman emperor should grant clemency.
      Theophilus of Antioch wrote Apology to Autolycus presented as logical argument.  In his first book, Theophilus considered the nature and superiority of God. In the second book, he compared the weaknesses of pagan religion to Christianity. In the final book, he treated the objections of Autolycus to Christianity. He was the first to use the word trias when writing about the Trinity.
While the Western apologists were concerned more about the distinctions and finality of Christianity than the similarities with pagan religions and philosophies; Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-A.D. 225) has rational Latin mind and he was dedicated to the creation of a sound Western theology and the demise of all false philosophies and paganism that were opposed to Christianity.
      Tertullian’s Apology was directed to the Roman governor of his province. He condemned the old charges against Christians and maintained that they were loyal citizens of the Roman Empire. He wrote that persecution was a failure because the Christian church always grew in spite of the persecution. Evidencing his legal education, he stated that the state was persecuting the Christian church on uncertain legal pretexts because the doctrines and morals of Christians were higher and nobler than their pagan neighbors.
     Around A.D. 200 Minucius Felix wrote a dialogue called Octavius. This was an apology intended to win over his pagan friend Caecilius to Christianity.
2.    Who was the greatest apologist? Who was the greatest polemicist?
Justin Martyr was the greatest of the apologists, and Irenaeus was the greatest of the polemicists.

3.    What were the two polemical schools of Christian thought and what were their respective approaches to formulating Christian theology?
The two polemical schools of Christian thought were the Alexandrian School and the Carthaginian School.
Their respective approaches to formulating Christian theology were as follows:
The Alexandrian School: this was a school founded in Alexandria Around A.D. 185 to teach catechism (the doctrines of Christianity) to new pagan converts.  The leaders of this school wanted to create a systematic Christian theology by using philosophy. These men had been trained in classical literature and philosophy, and they thought that these things could be used to form Christian theology.
Rather than stressing a historical-grammatical Biblical hermeneutic, they came up with an allegorical hermeneutic that has arguably harmed Christianity ever since that time. This hermeneutic is founded on the idea that Scripture has more than one meaning. Using the analogy of a human being’s body, soul, and spirit, they maintained that Scripture had a literal, historical meaning that correlated with the human body; a secret moral meaning that correlated with the soul; and a deeper spiritual meaning that only the more spiritually advanced Christian could grasp. This hermeneutic was used by Philo, the Alexandrian Jew, who attempted to join Judaism with Greek philosophy. Instead of being concerned with the intent of the author and his audience when Scripture was written and its practical application to present situations, this school always sought hidden meanings. This hermeneutic has arguably done much harm to sound Biblical hermeneutics, and it has arguably led to weird and most of the time unscriptural theological notions.
      Clement one of the leader of the school wanted to be a Christian philosopher. His knowledge of Greek philosophy could be used to see that Christianity was the great and final philosophy. He knew well Greek pagan literature, and he quoted around five hundred authors in his writings.
      In his writing called Protrepticus, or Address to the Greeks, that he wrote in about A.D. 190, Clement showed the superiority of Christianity as the true philosophy so that the pagans might choose to accept it. In Paidagogos, or the Tutor, he treated morals for young Christians. Christ is the true teacher who has given rules for the Christian life. In Stromata, or Miscellanies, Clement revealed his knowledge of the pagan literature of his day. Book I reveals Christianity as true knowledge and the Christian as the true Gnostic. He believed that Greek philosophy borrowed the truth it had from the Old Testament, and this was a preparation for the Good News. Book II revealed Christian morality to be superior to pagan morality. Book III dealt with Christian marriage. Books VII and VIII, possibly the most interesting, revealed the development of the Christian’s religious life.
      Clement of Alexandria preferred Greek knowledge, but Scripture came first for him and ideally for every Christian. Yet since all truth comes from God, truth that did exist in Greek knowledge should be used for God’s service.
Clement’s student and successor as leader of this school was Origen (c. A.D. 185-A.D. 254).  Origen was so capable and well educated that in A.D. 202 or A.D. 203, at age eighteen, he was selected as Clement’s successor as leader of this school, a post he held until A.D. 231.
Origen could be likened to Augustine in the scope of his work. The earliest beginnings of textual criticism of the Scriptures could go back to the Hexapla wherein several Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament were arranged in parallel columns. In this writing, Origen wanted to establish a Scripture text that Christians can be confident that it is indeed a correct representation of the original Scripture text. This textual interest led him to do more exegetical writing than any other person before the Reformation. Against Celsus was Origen’s statement and a response to the charges made by the Platonist Celsus against Christians in the latter’s writing True Discourse. Origen responded to Celsus’ accusations concerning the irrationality of Christians and the lack of apparent historical foundations for Christianity by stressing the change in behavior that Christianity fosters as opposed to paganism; the open-minded investigations of truth by Christians; and the purity and influence both of Christ, the leader of the Christians, and Christ’s followers.
      Origen’s greatest writing was De Principiis (A.D. 230. This writing was the first Christian treatise of systematic theology. In the fourth book, Origen refined his allegorical hermeneutics which has arguably done much damage to the hermeneutics of Scripture. Origen viewed Christ as “eternally generated” by the Father. Christ was subordinate to the Father. He also believed in the preexistence of the soul, the final restoration of all spirits, and Christ’s death as a ransom to Satan. Origen rejected a physical resurrection.
The Carthaginian School: The Carthaginian School mentality was more concerned with practical involving church polity and doctrines relating to the church rather than speculative theology. This difference can be seen in contrasting the writings of Origen with the writings of Tertullian and Cyprian of North Africa.

      Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-A.D. 225) wrote well on many subjects though he did do it many times in an intolerant way. He wrote apologies, and he wrote about practicalities. In special pamphlets he stressed simplicity of dress and ornament for women and begged Christians to separate themselves from pagan amusements, immorality, and idolatry. Tertullian’s greatest work was as a theologian. He started Latin theology, and he was the first to state the theology of the Trinity and to make use of that term to describe that doctrine. This was done in Against Praxeas (chapters 2-3) which was written around A.D. 215. He probably stressed a distinction between the persons of the Father and the Son. In De Anima, he considered the soul. He stressed the traducian doctrine of the transmission of the soul from the parents to the child in the reproductive process. In Of Baptism, he greatly stressed the sacramental ordinance of baptism. He felt sins committed after baptism were mortal sins, and he opposed infant baptism.
      Cyprian (c. A.D. 200-c. A.D. 258) received a good education in law and rhetoric. He became a successful teacher of rhetoric, but he was not satisfied in his soul until he became a Christian around A.D. 246. Around A.D. 248 be became bishop of Carthage, the office he held until his martyrdom around A.D. 258. He was good at organization and administration. He rejected the claims of Stephen, bishop of Rome, to supremacy over all bishops.

      Cyprian looked up to Tertullian as his master, but as Jerome tells Cyprian was calm whereas Tertullian was passionate. Cyprian’s greatest writing was De Unitate Catholicae Ecclesiae, (chapter 4), which was addressed to the schismatic followers of Novatian. Cyprian made a clear distinction between bishop and elder and stressed the bishop as the core of unity in the Christian church and the sure insurance against schism. He did not advocate the supremacy of Peter’s episcopal in Rome, but he did advocate the preeminence of honor of Peter in drawing the line of apostolic succession down through the early history of the Christian church. Just like Tertullian did with the doctrine of the Trinity, Cyprian gave the earliest expression of the doctrines of apostolic succession and the primacy of honor of the Roman bishop in the Christian church.

      Cyprian viewed clergy as sacrificing priests in offering up Christ’s body and blood in the sacramental ordinance of the Holy Eucharist.

Yours in Him,
Ikpenwa, Chizoba Gabriel

Many people get ordained through the ULC as a means to become wedding officiants, but also to study through our online seminary. If you need minister supplies or online ceremonies, we have a wide selection to choose from, as well as a place for spiritual articles and spiritual bookmarks. Visit our FB Page at ULC Seminary.