Onlline Sermons

We have posted a lot of sermons from our Universal Life Church ministers. Some are Christian and some are not. You are welcome to use them or just enjoy them as you like.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Historical Jesus

ULC Seminary
Final Essay for 'Historical Jesus'
Rev. Nicholas Federspiel

What then does Jesus mean to me?
To me he was one of the greatest teacher humanity has ever had. To his believers he was God's only-begotten Son. Could the fact that I do or do not accept this belief make Jesus have any more or less influence in my life? Is all the grandeur of his teaching and of his doctrine to be forbidden to me? I cannot believe so. 
                            Lesson 20:  MOHANDAS K. GANDHI

Well said, and I wish more of today's non Christians would think this way !!!! Vs. having "God" and "Christ," in its Biblical forms and social utility forms REMOVED from daily observation from acknowledgement to community prayer to Christmas marketing, etc. -  removed from the historic court houses, our schools and where ever – removed  because 'they' are "… offended …"  
The author, Dr. Morris, found and forwarded many interesting quotes in presenting his course.  I (we) read of other religions in ULC courses and via other course work, research and self teaching, and most of us in the process do so without becoming close minded, converted, or intolerant – in fact studying 'their (other) religions' is certainly one of the elements embraced within the definition of religious tolerance.  There is a serious lack of tolerance these days.
This course studies JESUS CHRIST pointing out there is scant historical - archeological evidence of the existence of Jesus Christ.  There is considerable corollary evidence of course.  Never the less  "the faithful and committed" number in the billions even though most I suggest comprehend only a fraction of the philosophy  of the Trinity deity of Jesus Christ. That philosophy prevailed against all odds of torturous suppression, survived book burnings in an era predating the printing press, transcended language and cultural barriers, and prevailed over two millennium. Jesus Gospels are in fact by today's book publishing jargon an authorized version biography that has remained a best seller book for over 150 years, and is the foundation reference for the majority of the religious inhabitants of this earth. I call that inspired per 2 Timothy 3:16.
Be it faith, fact, history, lore,  parable or all of the these the fact is the MESSAGE of Jesus is wholesome, righteous by most standards of civilized cultures and societies and more agnostics and atheists would do better to wake up and smell the roses.  From this course:
Most historians agree that in order to reconstruct the life of a person from antiquity, we need a number of sources that date back to that period of time in history. The sources should not contradict each other and should be independent of each other. Historians must look for internal consistency in the sources. This means that the sources are not theologically slanted toward the particular author's viewpoint.
The purpose of this course is to examine how Jesus is perceived by other major religious traditions through specific case studies. Through those studies and the perspective they offer, it should help us look at our own concept of him more closely and learn more about others and what they believe.
I propose (that for the purpose of this course, at least) there is no right or wrong way of perceiving Jesus.

The course indeed does that however; on occasion I think the author crosses the academic review vs. opinion continuum with quotes such as this one:
Sadly, today's mainline Protestant denominations believe in the "rapture." A loony idea that states that Christians must stay ever vigilant because only those believers who have accepted Jesus as the "savior" will be sucked up into the heavens at anytime.  …   …  even the Pentecostals believe this doctrine of the "rapture." Inside the Christian church, just as in the "time" of Jesus there was an "us versus them" mentality. And this is among "believers!" The rest of society is really in deep trouble if they are not Christians. In my personal opinion, this is nothing short of barbaric and ignorant.

Of course Jesus preached against man made laws of the Jews per scripture and upon the instant of his death the "veil was torn".  But there is in my view is no room for comments like the above in professional academic instruction. That having been said, the well read student will find many of the usual references in this course, but the Freshman student will find the content most interesting and rewarding.  Numerous facts and points of view are put forth. I have read, during the process of undertaking this course, three excellent books on Christian Apologetics: 

1.         Evidence Demands a Verdict, Josh McDowell
2.         Christian Apologetics, Norman Geisler
3.         Christian Apologetics, Doug Powell

This course is not represented as a course in apologetics, but it touches all the edges and discuses many of the same issues. This course is an excellent introduction and companion course to apologetic study.  I recommend this course as an excellent complement to the ULC Seminary's Religious Philosophy and Comparative Religion courses – by all means I recommend all three ULC Seminary courses. This course is an easy read and brings forth the major issues.  I do wish it were available in print media or printable .pdf format for easier future referencing – as I suspect many will keep this course material in mind well after completing it.

The course opens with a summary of the apostolic "synoptic" gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke and then the non-synoptic John.  Using the gospels to prove the gospels from a logical point of view I call "circular logic."  Such an exercise "proves" very little. The course meritoriously avoids over dependence on using one verse to prove another.  These gospels are inspired historical records and obviously a biography mostly focused the final few years of teaching and preaching by Jesus Christ.  Libraries of books have been written on what they mean. By example, simply browse through Bibles with integrated "study guides" that frequently have as many words dedicated to explaining the verses in scripture as the verses contain themselves! Everyone has an opinion.
Lesson 5 defines the course:

The purpose of this course is to examine how Jesus is perceived by other major religious traditions through specific case studies. Through those studies and the perspective they offer, it should help us look at our own concept of him more closely and learn more about others and what they believe.
I propose (that for the purpose of this course, at least) there is no right or wrong way of perceiving Jesus.

The course does in fact do just what it says above including many quotes from notable people outlining their view on Jesus Christ.
Lesson 14 has this interesting quote about faith:

You are probably familiar with the saying, "faith without works is dead." In the Christian New Testament the Book of James speaks of this. Theologians down through the centuries have struggled with this concept. Let us examine this saying a bit further.

According to Jesus, faith is an action. Faith is decisive. "Active faith" can manifest drastic and miraculous changes in one's own life. It can even affect changes in society at large. Faith can make a difference and "active faith," according to Jesus; "can move mountains."

Indeed it can!
Lesson 16 and following opens the door to a perplexing question. What does the Kingdom of God mean in scripture – per Jesus?  Many Biblical verses are presented with comment.  The comments are to provide insight into perceived philosophy thus not necessarily presented as proofs.  Does the Kingdom of God (Holy Spirit) enter a true believer (one believing in the TRUTH) on the event of baptism?  My experience is frequently 'yes'.  Is there a second physical or spiritual Kingdom to enter on judgment day? Is a righteous Kingdom a matter of truth and faith or very simply put one of common sense?  Did God create the universe for no purpose what so ever – sort of like Clintons response to indiscretion – "I did it because I could." It seems credible to many that there is a purpose beyond human comprehension?  Then again is purpose of a righteous Kingdom really beyond human comprehension? It could be "KISS." Many verses are selected and discussed.

Take the course because you can. Take all three because they are good for the mind and soul – my opinion.

Rev. Nick Federspiel
ULC Seminary may reprint or publish this essay.


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