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Religious Philosophy

Why ask “Why?”
Because we need to know.
God created man so that man could create God. Or is it the other way round?
Religion is defined as the expression of man’s belief in and reverence for a higher power, whatever form that may take. Philosophy is the inquiry into the nature of things. Religious philosophy is therefore the inquiry into the nature of man’s belief in and reverence for a higher power. Again, in whatever form that may take. It is therefore appropriate that we ask the question here of why do we need to know the answer to the age-old question, why are we here, how did we get here and what is our purpose?
If Ludwig Feuerbach is right and man did create God in his own image, then why? What purpose does that serve?
I have always believed that we as human beings have the capacity for reason and therefore must ask the question “Why?” Pigs don’t ask why they like to role in mud. They know it helps their physical bodies work better. That is an answer of course. But to a question not asked by the pig, but by us, man. The horse does not ask, “Why does my tail swat at flies?” The horse just knows it does and it feels good. We however as human being are always asking “Why?”
As such, we are a needy species. We spend billions of dollars trying to discover if there ever was or if there still exists life on Mars. Who cares? Well, we do. This is our nature. Now the question here is why do we believe in God, or Gods, or more generically a Higher Power. Is this really the question? Or is the question really what purpose belief or non-belief serves in the human condition?
We have learned in this Religious Philosophy course over a 24-week period that religion takes many forms and serves many different purposes to the different people of our global community. The Western religions of one God and the multiple Gods and the personal enlightenment religions of the East and South exist side by side on this planet. Each answering questions of how we handle the great problems of social interaction, internal self-awareness and our battles to dominate or co-habitate, with our planet and the political boundaries, however arbitrarily drawn. We have all attempted to ask not does God exist but how does the existence or non-existence of God benefit us in our lives on this planet?
We turn to our personal belief systems to seek the answers to all the questions that our minds must ask.  For me personally this begs the question raised in lesson number four, The Savage Philosopher. Are we  just the result of centuries of common acceptance of believable answers? Faith requires no proof. Belief in God works, therefore God exists to answer the questions of our times. Each society shapes those answers as best they can and religion, a reverence for a higher power, acts as an opiate as Dr. Karl Marx suggested.
We spend billions of dollars each year as a species on scientific research to prove either the reality of God’s work or the success of nature with or without God. Regardless of the aspect of who is right and who is wrong as to the existence of God, or one or more Gods or not necessarily knowing the answers, but looking to oneself for enlightenment and therefore spiritual success. The fact of the matter is, and will continue to be that we as human beings have a need to ask questions, a need to debate the answers and ultimately a need to decide which answers best fit our own needs. Whoever we are on this planet.
The answer to our question of why we need to know is that it is our nature, God-given or not. We ask why and we expect an answer. Religion offers answers, and for the vast majority of us those answers are acceptable. Three hundred thousand Atheists are not wrong. They just accept a different answer to the same questions.
Rev. Kirk Haas
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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.
As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.
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Comparative Religion

Gaining a Global Perspective
Final Essay for the Master of Comparative Religion Course
By Rev. Daniel L. Moore
            The world is changing.  The United States is becoming less and less a “Christian” nation.  Neighborhoods that used to be predominantly Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish are now receiving those who are Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu.  Further, there has been an increase in interest in older religions such as Wiccan and various types of paganism.
            As a minister, I believe we must be able to work with those of other faiths.  We can easily go into our own religious or denomination corner with the idea of separation for “purity” sake or we can actively engage all we come into contact with.  Religions that emphasize conversion require its followers to “go into the world and make disciples of all nations.”  But to do so does require some knowledge of the other religions. 
This course is an absolute necessity for any minister of any faith.  As the communities and work places become more mixed, we need to be aware of the differences and similarities between the various religions.  Further, as a part-time Protestant chaplain I encounter people seeking guidance who are not Christian.  So this course comes to me as a welcome addition to my education.
            One of the strengths of this course was the wealth of resources I was directed to.  I was able to find many of the various sacred texts needed to study.  I have been studying these other texts in between lessons to help me gain a broader understanding of the world’s religions.
            This course was very in-depth in content.  I realize that this was a very challenging task for the course developer to take on.  The material and the scope of this subject are such that it is possible to make two courses to cover a total of 40 weeks between the two.  I must congratulate Rev. Kythera Ann for her ability to put together such comprehensive course and avoid the temptation of just skimming a topic here and there.
            The illustrations given in each lesson were very helpful.  They added “flavor” to the lessons.  Along with the illustrations were the many scholarly quotes and footnotes that I found useful as well.  The charts were all helpful.  For me, I like to see things as part of my learning style.  Having a chart gives me something to evaluation in a simple, direct fashion.  The chart in lesson 20 was real illuminating to me.
            One criticism I have of this course is the occasional website links provided were broken.  This is not the fault of the course developer.  The Internet is dynamic place with new sights being posted, old ones being updated, and some being deleted.  The one recommendation I would have is that this course’s links be reviewed quarterly.  Also, I would recommend the first lesson include some administrative instructions about notifying ULC about links that are broken or no longer active.  This is the only criticism I have.
            I highly recommend this course to any minister of any religion.  I would also encourage Rev. Kythera Ann to develop other courses and would be happy to study the material.  Blessings to all who take this course.
           
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Spirit Quest Course

Hi Amy,
Working towards my Masters in Metaphysics has been a very rewarding journey. I have learned how something as simple as grounding can pull you through just about anything.
I lost my daughter to unexpected death a few months ago.  It has really been difficult to deal with many aspects of my life.  However this course has helped me be able to move through many of the pitfalls that come with grief and what if’s, fairly well.
Prior to this I was in a particularly stressful job, which did not bring out the best in me.  This course taught me how to ground myself, and use the roses to protect myself from and get rid of all the negative energy that was coming to me.  To let all the bad run right out of me.  It was amazing how it would instantly ease my burden and give me a new perspective.  This course also taught me how to create my own reality.  To forgive, and move on, to not let bad energy stay in my space.  
Even now, if a bad situation arises,  I catch myself coming out of my protection mode as I call it.  Others have noticed it too. And I am not angry.  I am better equipped to handle my life and all the aspects of it.  Now that I have grown spiritually, I realize that other people’s problems are not mine. Not saying that I don’t help others. I am huge in community service.  I am saying that their problems are not my cross to bear.  I cannot fix them. I am responsible for me.  If we each take care of ourselves, I feel that we will be better grounded to mother earth and able to help out in situations where people may really need a hand, ear or shoulder. 
Terrie Hawkins

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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church  minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning, I’ve watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.
Try our new free toolbar at: ULC Toolbar
As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.
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Christian Religion

Wow, this course really challenged me. I am not a Christian and there were many times throughout this course where I threw down my printouts in disgust over the ludicrous things that were being presented to me “holy.” Having said that, I learned a great deal about Christianity, both as it is practiced, and the sometimes convoluted path that it follows to connect its tenets to that practice. I can also say that I have a much greater understanding of the Christian Bible and found much within it to make it a ‘good book.’

Although I doubt whether I will ever agree with many of the beliefs that Christianity holds, the fundamental principles of fellowship, charity and community are very positive. To be provided the opportunity observe the early roots of the Christian religion and its formative text was an enlightening experience. I discovered that, like any religion, there are great moments and terrible moments and it is the combination of these that has allowed Christianity to become the largest religion currently in existence.

I must say that I was quite disappointed with the manner in which this course was presented. The instructor is obviously a strong proponent for Christianity and peppers all of their discussions with arguments for the conversion to the Christian faith. In an academic environment, this is abhorrent to me. I feel that this course should be considered for revision, I feel that this course comes dangerously close to being propaganda for a religion. Although I have not taken any courses specific to other religions, I would hope that I either 1. do not find the same bias there or 2. find the exact same bias universally presented. Anything less than one of these items would be to allow one religion to seek supremacy over another.

Be very careful if you take this course, it might change your mind.
Rev. Douglas Grant

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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.
As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.

Master of Religion

Master of Religion Lesson 16: History of Church II

  This lesson on the History of Christianity, The beginning of time tells us how searches the heavens within ourselves for answers to that which surrounds us, as mankind living.  This great gift from God comes from the inner knowledge of people who we know as Priest, Ministers, Shamans,and Holy Man and Holy Woman who have been instrumental in adding us in finding our way as we journey on our path of trying to understand this thing we call faith. In the beginning Saul name in the KJV so to become Paul, in the History of Church II, that most likely Saul was his Jewish name, and Paul was the name if his Roman Citizenship. The History of the Church is important that you can’t some it up just in one lesson. Knowledge is power from God and how you use it to bless his people. Amen
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Ordination with the Universal Life Church, is free,  and lasts for life, so use the Free Online Ordination, button. 
The  ULC, run by Rev. Long, has created a chaplaincy program to help train our ministers and lots of free online sermons for your use. We also have a huge catalog of Universal Life Church materials.  I’ve been ordained with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning and have loved watching the continual growth of the seminary.
 
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Christian History

 ULC Seminary: Master of Christian History Paper
                        Lesson 13
1.    What set the post-Nicene fathers apart from the ante-Nicene fathers?

Answer:
The “Ante-Nicene fathers”, are the Church Fathers who worked before the Council of Nicaea regardless of whether they were apostolic fathers, apologists, or polemicists. They studied the Scriptures in a more or less scientific way to gain theological meaning.
While the Post-Nicene Fathers which include the Eastern Post-Nicene Fathers and Western Post-Nicene Fathers are the Fathers of the church who were part of the schools of Biblical interpretation.

2.    Why is Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History so important to us today?

Answer:
Eusebius of Caesarea (c. A.D. 260-340): an Eastern Post-Nicene Fathers wrote a historical work known as ‘the Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History work’, which is a survey of church history from apostolic times until A.D. 324, is important because it offer a record of past trials of the church at the end of its long period of struggle and the beginning of its era of prosperity. Also the work is still very valuable today because of his access to the library at Caesarea and the imperial archives. Eusebius made a tremendous effort to be honest and objective in his use of the best and most reliable primary sources available to him. The work foreshadowed how the present-day historian goes about evaluating his sources of knowledge. His work is the best source of knowledge we have about the history of the ancient church in the first three centuries of existence, but scholars do wish that he had left some kind of notations pointing to where he got his knowledge from like the present-day historian does. His work also has at times a monotonous recitation of facts and extracts with no orderly view of cause and effect. Regardless, this work is very valuable to the church throughout the ages.

3.     In what way was Augustine the greatest of the Church Fathers and how did his work influence later Roman Catholicism and Protestantism?

Answer:
Based upon the great weight of Augustine’s work and influence on the church of his time, he arguably was the greatest of the Church fathers (he left behind over 100 books, 500 sermons, and 200 letters) who can be called “post-Nicene fathers”. He was an able polemicist, a good preacher, a fine episcopal overseer, a great theologian, and the creator of a Christian historiography that is still valid in its fundamentals. Living in a time when the old classical civilization was on its way to doom at the hands of the barbarians, Augustine stood between two worlds, the classical and the new medieval. Both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism give honor to his contribution to the cause of Christianity.
The influences are also from his contributions like; his most widely known work which was his Confessions, one of the great autobiographies of all time. It was finished by A.D. 401. Like all of his main works, it came out of trials he or the church faced. In it he laid bare his soul for all to behold.
Augustine’s intellectual biography was a work he wrote just before his death entitled Retractationes or Revisions. In it he chronologically documented how his thinking had changed over time. He regretted being earlier associated with pagan philosophy because it would never bring humanity to the truth as it is in Christianity.
He also wrote philosophical dialogues, the most interesting being Contra Academicos. In it he showed that humanity could probably achieve truth through philosophy, but certainty can only be found in Biblical revelation.
His greatest exegetical work was De Doctrina Christiana, a small manual outlining his views on interpretation. It is there that he developed the concept of the analogy of faith. No teaching on particular passages should be developed unless it conformed to the general tenor of the Scriptures. Failure to recognize this leads into heresy.
Augustine’s greatest theological work was on the Trinity, De Trinitate. His Enchiridian ad Laurentium is a small manual of his theological views. He also wrote many polemical works condemning the false teachings of the Manicheans, the Donatists, and especially the Pelagians. His De Haeresibus is a history of heresies.
His greatest apologetical work, and to most the greatest work of all, was his treatise De Civitate Dei, The City of God (A.D. 413-426). Astounded by the sacking of Rome by Alaric in A.D. 410, the Romans assumed that this disaster occurred because they had forsaken their pagan gods and goddesses in favor of Christianity. Augustine answered this charge at the request of his friend Marcellinus. He showed that Rome had suffered tragedy long before Christianity came. Worshiping the Roman deities was not needed for eternal blessing. Christianity was the only thing that could give blessings.
It was also in The City of God that Augustine revealed his historiography, the first real historiography to be developed. This is significant for Christian historiography. Neither the Greek nor Roman historians had been able to gain any universal grasp of humanity’s history. Augustine elevated the spiritual over the temporal in maintaining God’s sovereignty. God created history in time. God is Lord over history and is not bound up in history as the philosopher Hegel later taught. History is linear, not cyclical. All that comes about is a result of His will and action. Even before creation, God had a plan for creation. This plan will be partly realized in time in the struggle between the two cities on earth and finally realized beyond history by the supernatural power of God. Augustine saw history as universal and unitary in that all people were included in it. Herodotus, writing of the Persian War, limited his work to the conflict between the Greeks and the Persians. Augustine championed the solidarity of the human race. Progress was moral and spiritual resulting from the fight with evil. The consummation would be in the final victory of the City of God. In this Augustine avoided the later error of Marx and others who try to make a relative temporal scene of history absolute and eternal by finding solutions to humanity’s problems in temporal history. Augustine taught that the goal of history is beyond history in the hands of an eternal God. This historiography sustained the church through the dark half-millennium before A.D. 1000.
Augustine is viewed by Protestants as one who had proto-Reformation ideas by saying that humanity is saved from original and actual sin only by the grace of a sovereign God who irresistibly saves those whom He has elected. But in this he so emphasized the church as a visible institution with the true creed, sacraments, and ministry that the Roman church considers him the father of Roman ecclesiasticism though he did so to refute the Pelagians and the Donatists at the same time. His analogy of faith in interpreting Scripture is of lasting value in the church.

Regardless of these abiding values, Augustine introduced some errors into the stream of Christian thought. He participated in the development of the doctrine of purgatory with all its associated evils. He so emphasized the value of baptism and Eucharist that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration and sacramental grace were the logical results of his views. His views of the Millennium as the era between the Incarnation and Christ’s Second Advent in which the church would conquer the world led to the Roman emphasis on the Church of Rome as the universal church destined to bring all within its fold and to the idea of post-millennialism. The Protestant Reformers found Augustine to be a great ally in their belief that humanity bound by sin needs salvation by God’s grace through faith alone. Between the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther the church had no one of greater moral and spiritual stature than Augustine.

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As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.

Spirit-Quest

I must say that when I began this course, I could have never dreamed what I would learn. I could not have imagined how many facets there are to finding peace, tranquility and answers, all at the same time.
I have learned to ground myself as well as not care what others may think of me as long as I, myself, know I am okay and I feel good about it. As long as I, myself, am doing what is right and good to the best of my ability. But I must say over this past year, as I was studying this course, the lesson on pain is the one I read over and over again more so than the rest. And – each and every time it held a different meaning. Had I not taken this course, I may have missed the lesson.
In December of 2004 – one year ago this last December, I received a call from my Aunt in Ohio who was very concerned about my mother who lived in the same town as myself. She said she had spoken to her on the phone and that she was incoherent and could not carry on a conversation. I come from a family of 6 girls, I am second to the oldest and I seemed to have taken on the role of being the responsible one a long time ago. Therefore, on that evening in December, I promised my Aunt that I would go over to my mother’s home the very next morning and check on her. In the meantime, I called my mom and she was in fact incoherent. I asked to speak with the sister whom she was living with and she too was in a drug induced incoherency of her own.
Two weeks before this I had learned that my mom had broken a vertebrae in her back, a very painful situation for a 79 year old woman to have to recover from. She had just been sent home from the hospital that week and my younger sisters, who are all in their 30’s were supposedly taking care of her. This was my mother’s choice.
So, the very next morning, I drove over to my mother’s modest little mobile home and I did in deed find her very doped up and in considerable pain. The girls could not possibly even get her to the bathroom as the trailer was much too small and my mom couldn’t walk. None of them really knew how much morphine my mom was getting and they had no clue when her last dose was. This was clearly the blind leading the blind. My mom had always enabled the girls and she had always taken care of them. Again – her choice.
I sat down next to my mom and asked if I could call an ambulance to have her taken to a rehabilitation facility where she could recover from this and get the proper care she needed. She hesitantly agreed.
When the ambulance arrived, two gals came in and assessed my mom and decided that it was in her best interest to go to the hospital. I’m sure they could see the situation at hand as well. My mom needed proper care. One of the paramedics asked me to back my truck up which was parked right outside the front steps so they could get the ambulance closer to the front door so they could transport my mom.
I went out to move my truck and simply backed it up a couple of feet. I do remember backing over the speed bump however it had no significance at the time. I opened my truck door and as I was stepping out of the truck I was also at the same time, asking the paramedic if I had given her enough room and the next thing I remember, I heard a crack and I hit the ground like a ton of bricks. The pain was unbearable. I figured I had broken my leg because I heard it crack. However, I was going into shock and when I sat up and looked down at my leg, my foot was turned completely around facing the opposite way. The pain was so intense, I passed out. They called another unit to come and get me.
Without going into a whole lot of detail, it turned out that I had broken my leg as well as shattered my ankle socket completely. Without surgery, I would never walk on it again. It was a six month recovery. I would not be able to place any weight on my leg for six months.
I have never experienced pain like that in my entire life. They had to rebuild my ankle. Two steal plates and seventeen screws now replaced what used to be my ankle. The x-ray tech said he hadn’t seen snow boarding accidents that were this bad. All I did was step out of my truck.
In the meantime my mom didn’t get better – she became worse. She would call me from the hospital and tell me she wanted to die. She refused all treatment and her doctor was furious as he felt that she could fully recover from this injury. My mom continued to refuse treatment and when I felt there was nothing else left to do; I called Hospice and asked them to assess my mom. They did – and they accepted her as a patient. My mom was ready to go. Her Choice again.
They moved her home and I had my oldest son drive me over there day after day as I sat by her bedside. She was now refusing to take her heart medication as well. It was now – just a waiting game.
One afternoon, as I was sitting there with my leg up and simply listening to my mom’s short shallow breathing as she slept, she woke up out of a sound sleep and asked me if I knew why I broke my ankle so badly?
I told her that I had thought about it quite a bit and I guess The Lord needed to sit me down for a long period of time. She smiled and said, “Oh yes.” And then she went on to explain that had I not been hurt that day, I would have been to the hospital daily and I would have forced her to get well. And that just wasn’t in the plan. This was the way she was meant to leave this world and I was right, The Lord had to get me out of the way for a long time and keep me out of the way.
She then went on to tell me that as active as I am, (I have several horses that I ride and drive), why would I simply step out of my truck and destroy my leg? I was baffled. And then she asked me what speed bumps are for? I told her to slow you down. And she simply smiled and nodded. Two days later my mom passed away. I had just ordered this course.
As I began this course, I couldn’t believe the messages I received. From the grounding cords all the way to the last lesson. I have read and re-read most of my lessons more than three times. Each and every time I retain something new. I do so hope it is this way for everyone.
I am completely healed now and am riding and driving my horses again. I have created a big sun bubble around my truck. I have also created a different sort of cord. One for safety each and every time I step out of my truck.
A freak accident is what the doctors called it. I myself, now see it as a necessity as well as a blessing. My mom was right. I would have asked of her something she would have been reluctant to give. She was tired and she was ready to leave this place.
I now know that I can create my own perception of all things. This course has empowered me to create and ask for things instead of simply waiting for them to come to me. It has also taught me patience and to accept the things I truly have no control over. I used to always be on the go, non stop, always in a hurry to get to the next chore of my day. That speed bump as well as this course taught me to slow down. That the world won’t come to a screeching halt if something doesn’t get done. My chores sure didn’t get done that day in December.
I have decided that it is okay to put off till tomorrow what I don’t get done today. I have learned to take the time to be with me – each and every day. Just ten minutes is very relaxing.
I am a perfect being. God Loves Me. I was created in perfection,
By perfection, for perfection. My success is guaranteed.
Rev. Martha J. Tote
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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.


As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church  minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it’s Seminary since the beginning, I’ve watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.



Try our new free toolbar at: ULC Toolbar
As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.

Mystical Christianity

Lesson 9;
 
Questions for the Heart and Mind;
 
  1. Given what we know of the historical Mary Magdalene, what role do you think she played in the ministry of Jesus?
I think Mary played an important supportive role in the ministry of Jesus, emotionally, financially and in service. Mary was chosen by Jesus to be the first bearer of the Good News of His Resurrection. This was no mistake – Jesus chose the one He deemed reliable and faithful to carry out this important task.
 
It is possible that Mary came from Magdala, a center of commercial fishing on the Sea of Galilee. Mary left her home to follow Jesus, and fossibly financially supported Jesus’ ministry.
 
Mary led the other women together with Jesus’ mother at the crucifixion. She strengthened their resolve with her love and fearless loyalty as Jesus was executed.
 
Mary was a faithful and loving follower of Jesus Christ, remaining loyal and at His side until His ascension. 
 
  1. What validity do you give historical material that is based on oral and/or cultural tradition?
It certainly has its place. Many cultures have handed down stories from century to century, faithfully passing them on from storyteller to storyteller. 
 
  1. Do you believe in continuing revelation, and if you do, what standards do you use for discerning what is true?
Yes, I believe in continuing revelation. God through Jesus Christ continues to take an active role in the fortunes of the world and its people. This necessitates ongoing revelation of God through Jesus Christ to us. The standard I use for discerning what is true, is the test of time and test of God. The test of time is to wait; the truth always comes out with time. Also, if a revelation is of God, time and God will show if the revelation is indeed from Him or a clever lie.
 
  1. What is your opinion regarding the conflation controversy? Do you believe that Mary of Bethany and Mary Magdalene are the same woman?
My personal opinion is that historical evidence should be taken into consideration when preaching. Gregory assumed that Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala were the same person without having any historical evidence for the same. Mary of Bethany was from Bethany in Judea, within walking distance of Jerusalem. Mary of Magdale was from Magdala, three miles north of Tiberius in Galilee. Two women with the same name from opposite ends of Israel benefited from the charismatic presence of Jesus Christ. I believe that Mary of Bethany and Mary of Magdala were two different people entirely.

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The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have various classes in Christianity, one on Wicca, along with several Pagan courses, more than a few courses about Metaphysics with more being added regularly.

The Four Gospels

First of all I would like to say that this course was very interesting and thought provoking. To be able to choose just one specific area is going to be difficult but I would like to talk about the book of Mathew.

It’s interesting to first note that the gospels are not placed in order in the bible, but rather in the order of what makes sense. I was looking at the estimated dates of when the gospels were written and discovered that the gospel of Mark was actually written first, followed by Luke, then Mathew and finally John.

However, having said this, I find Luke to be the least in depth of all the gospels and Mathew to be the most detailed. I seemed to be constantly drawn toward the book of Mathew for the main reason that it’s the first book in the New Testament and has often been unofficially declared the “New Genesis”, meaning that it is the book that sets the foundation for the New Covenant.

Upon reading the book of Mathew we see that it starts with the outline of Jesus’ lineage demonstrating that His return was indeed foretold from the very beginning, in fact it was talked about in the book of Genesis. In fact it is quickly understood that Jesus is God incarnate and that He is coming to live as man so that He can fulfill the promises for the new kingdom, Jesus has to become a human and live among men not as a rich man but as a man of humility, He is born of a virgin whose husband is a carpenter. This picture of humility is illustrated many times throughout the bible as it is the spirit that is more important, the body is just a temporary shell and as we know, God does many great works through those who are looked down upon by the world. Jesus was no different, He was disrespected by many in His time but He demonstrated great faith and continued to share His teachings to all who would listen. Despite what people thought and said, Jesus was to become the new Adam except this time to live a life that was sinless, in a sense, cleaning up Adam’s mess!

The first part of Mathew talks about the birth of Christ and the visitation of the 3 Magi or Priests. We see right from the get go that Jesus was threatened with death by Herod so He had to be taken to Egypt until it was safe to return to Nazareth.

John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin paves the way for Jesus saying to the people that the Messiah is coming and when He does come, Jesus is baptized by John. We see that in order for the new covenant to succeed, Jesus has to experience all that man has had to experience, including being tempted for 40 days and nights by the devil. What this demonstrates is that Jesus not only became human but it shows that with the faith that Jesus had in His father, man can overcome anything, this is important because in order for Jesus to truly understand what man is, He has to become what man is, including the experiences of man.

After Jesus calls His first disciples, he travels throughout the land performing miracles, which included healing the sick and raising the dead. This is also the time when Jesus lays down the law, so to speak, starting with the beatitudes and reaffirming that the law will indeed be upheld until the end of time and if any of the laws or commandments are broken, they will be called least in the kingdom, but for those who practice and teach the laws, will be great.

Jesus, for those who may have had a memory lapse, provided some refresher courses around the commandments so that all knew what had to be done. Jesus also taught about other things that must happen, from practicing humility, feeding the hungry, loving your enemies, fasting and prayer, just to name a few.

The book of Mathew is a book of great wisdom and is an instruction manual for eternal life and riches. Jesus had never ending wisdom and that wisdom He taught through parables, in fact the book of Mathew is the first we see of the parables and we see 14 of them, the other gospels talk about the parables but in less detail. The idea behind the parables is that if you have the “eyes and ears” needed, meaning the true faith of God, you will understand Jesus’ parables. I have found this in my personal life as I have grown in my faith. When I first started out reading the New Testament, I didn’t really understand, I saw Jesus’ parables as really confusing stories, but now, I have re read them and they make a lot of sense, the depth of such wisdom in them is unparalleled anywhere else, in fact many times in Mathew we see the disciples asking Jesus what He meant by His many stories. This has always been a surprise to me, even after they saw Jesus perform such wondrous miracles, they still questioned their faith and they still questioned Him, can you imagine!

As part of Jesus’ ministry, we see Him cast out demons and thus we have the first exorcisms recorded, and with His great teachings, the disciples learned to do the same thing. This demonstrates and foreshadows on a smaller scale, the predicted defeat of Satan, the defeat that will signal the beginning of the new kingdom.

Mathew is also the book where we see the great sermon on the mount, when Jesus knows that His end is near and He has gathered all in the land to pass on the things that must be done in order for the new kingdom to be successful. The sermon on the mount is what Christians should be abiding by today…He basically has said that we are the body of Christ and that it is important for us to go forth as the arms of Christ and reach out to all that need to be saved, helped and healed. This sermon is probably one of the most important ones in the entire bible and I would say that this is the “backbone” of Christianity.

Jesus demonstrates a couple of times in this book, the awesome power of faith and prayer, specifically demonstrated with Him feeding the five thousand and the four thousand; during these times, Jesus goes off on His own and prays to God demonstrating to the people that God is indeed their provider, as a result all of the people were fed with food left over.

As we approach the end of Mathew, Jesus predicts His death, a death that has to happen in order to fulfill the new covenant. He gives 3 of His disciples a “sneak preview” of what is to come at the resurrection, but He is sure to tell them not to say anything until He has risen. Jesus foretells who is going to betray Him and later as we see, is subsequently arrested, all for things He didn’t do. When looking at this, Jesus is also teaching that just by being a Christian, we will be unjustly persecuted as He was but if you have faith and do not deny Christ, you will enjoy glorification in Christ’s name and have eternal life.

In the final chapters of Mathew we see the fruition of Jesus’ prediction and He is put to death on the cross and 3 days later He rose from the dead in His entire splendor, fulfilling the predictions from Christ Himself.

The book of Mathew is a fantastic book, a book filled with such great wisdom that despite the number of times you read it, there are many treasures to be unearthed. It is a book of hope, of awe, of wonder and excitement, it is a book of things to come, and it is “the new beginning”.

Rev. Jason Carey

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The Universal Life Church Seminary is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, and Paganism.  We have two courses in Metaphysics, as well as courses in Mystical Christianity, Buddhism and Comparative Religion. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.
As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.

Comparative Religion

COMPARATIVE RELIGION
The Comparative Religion Course gave me a better understanding of the various religions and beliefs practiced by many of diverse cultures in the world and now being practiced here at home In the United States.  Coming myself from a family of mixed religious backgrounds, beliefs and traditions; we lived in a kind of harmony because we each held in our hearts that there is a common thread that binds us as human beings and not just family. We respected each other’s beliefs and faith never puffing one belief over the other. This course explained the commonalty that all religions and beliefs have in worship, prayer, how they view life and that all men are spiritual from ancient times to present. In addition, this course has shown that all religions of today have a common source that you will find when one looks far enough. And that each religion has borrowed from the other. I remember talking to my late cousin who was a practicing and ordained follower of Krishna. I remember saying to him “that there are many paths and each in the end leads to what all humans seek that is a union with God “he said “so true.” This course confirms this believe which I have held for long time. Now I feel that I have a working  knowledge base and the confidence that will enable me minister to those who are not of my faith when approached by them for help and through this knowledge base there will be no misunderstanding but understanding between us.
I liked the way the course was setup. Many years ago I took a course similar to this. But it was not the same. I was given a few books to read and told to write a paper and that was that. Here the instructor takes the student from what is known and then brings the student to what was not known. I liked how Rev. Kythera Ann explains the vocabulary that is part of the study of religion. The examples that she used in the discourses such as the flood showed a common thread among the religions used in one example names may have been different but the story was the same, and even the photographs and pictures helped enforce the topic at hand. I liked how each discourse built upon the other keeping with what I said before known to unknown.  The internet activities were great reinforcements to the end of each of the discourses.
There wasn’t anything about the course that I disliked except for the last discourse and then only one section of it. When it came to cults a lot of time was spent on the Baha’i Faith how Islam views it as cult and how Iran is persecuting it followers today. Then it goes to Mormonism with a small paragraph and one small sentence taken from Wikipedia about them, calling Mormonism a cult. The Mormons too were persecuted by main stream Christianity in its beginnings with their leader Joseph Smith being killed with many other of his followers. I am aware that she also said that it was a new religion but using Mormonism as a cult example did not follow the final statement that when the leader dies so does the cult which never happened to both the Baha’I and Mormon religion. However, I was expecting to see The Reunification Church a.k.a MOONIES, Scientology, Christian Science, and The Jehovah Witness mentioned as cults these too being out of the mainstream of recognized religion with Scientology being a newer religion of modern times. Instead The Branch Dravidians, Heaven’s Gate and Aum Shinri-kyo  were mentioned at the beginning  of section as new age cults that had made the news.
I think these discourses could be improved by using the PDF format. This may cut down on how many times a discourse been resent because of being received incomplete.  Also, it would allow for better printing of the discourses. I had one discourse which needed to be reformatted before reprinting because there were no margins in the discourse. 

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TheUniversal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

As an ordained minister with the Universal Life Church for many years and it’s Seminary since its inception, I’ve had the privilege of watching the Seminary grow.