Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Open Letter To APU: Chapel

To Whom It May Concern,
I hope all is going well, I know that you're getting busy just as we all are! I'm writing to you regarding the morning Chapel speaker for today, Wednesday the 16th. I have several concerns that I felt were worth mentioning to you after talking to other students who share the same opinion.

 I know that one of the main goals that the school has is to expose its students to a variety of speakers with different stances, viewpoints, and backgrounds. The speaker today bordered on being extreme in her message and ideology. She had some good things to say about respecting other people, but the theology she presented was very much skewed in a single direction that I found contradictory to that of the school's, my own, and Scripture. I come from a more conservative, Calvinisitic church background and my own theology is very much along the Reformed line. Despite that I still have a good time interacting with and learning from students here at APU who are from other denominations and backgrounds.
However, whatever our position on eschatology, the sacraments, or anything of non-salvific importance, there are areas that many if not all Christian students would agree upon. That is, namely, that we are saved by God's grace and that it is nothing that we do ourselves. Christ's role is essential and literally crucial. While I would say that it is ultimately God who chooses us and while still others would say that it is we who choose God, there are few who would claim that we merit our salvation. Most Wesleyans would agree that we cannot make the slightest move towards God aside from His grace.  Furthermore, most Christians would agree with Scripture in saying that we are called to be less like ourselves, and more like Christ

Hebrews commands us to fix our eyes on Christ and to consider the examples of those in Scripture Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. ” (Hebrews 12:1–2, ESV). All these passages and more point to the fact that we are not to become more "human"; it is not our end goal and pursuing at such leads to condemnation. Christ is the focus, the goal, the one who brings us to life; her message is that we ought to be more like ourselves and less like God, that we ought to accept and embrace our humanity. 

All that to say is that I have strong disagreements with the theological content of her message. However, these reactions weren't my primary area of concern; I have found that chapels in general have become more of a platform to speak on social justice and less of actual chapel. I understand that the university's goal is to encourage diversity and address each of the "streams of faith" (word-centered, works-centered, etc) that embody the represent the denominational demographics of the school. Regardless, the speakers chosen have had a tendency to preach less from Scripture and focus more on a sociopolitical agenda. 

For instance, the speaker today made explicit reference to past republican presidents. If it's to be called "chapel", then there should be a focus on worship and preaching the Word. Social agendas should be left out. 

I really appreciate the effort that the Chapel programs puts into serving us as a student body and I don't want my concern to misconstrued, but it is with heartbreak that I see a movement away from Gospel-centric preaching and teaching.

In Christ,

Mark Thomas


  1. But what did she even say?

  2. I'm going to put together some of her verbatim quotes once they index and cut together the chapel on our site. Right now all I can do is summarize and say that she argued:
    -Based on Genesis 1-3 and John 1:14 that because of the fall we 'dehumanize' other people frequently; the examples she gave equated dehumanization with disrespect. That is, she said that forms of misplaced priorities like using a phone while someone is talking with you, honking, and other potentially disrespectful actions are actually ways that we "dehumanize" other people. There was a good deal of political commentary mixed in with this and she brought up abortion as an issue, saying that we dehumanize those who are getting abortions by disagreeing with them or protesting outside a clinic.
    -She went on to posit that we need to stop trying to be "divine" and return to the "very good" that God created us into the beginning. She argued that we need to stop dehumanizing others and be "re-humanized" in Christ.

  3. Her position isn't "extreme" for a Christian at all. Have you never stepped outside of your circle or met a moderate Catholic or Protestant? Hint: They make up a majority of the country.

    I see this letter as just another example of students at our school trying to deny reality (social issues in this day and age). APU is trying to inform us of HOW we can use our god given gifts to make the world better. I can't think of a better way to spend chapel. Jesus was a social reformer after all.

    To separate the Word from "social agendas" is separate the gospel quite frankly, from real life.

    Your interpretation of the Gospel is YOURS and your own. The sooner you can see this and admit to this the sooner you can stop being so blind to other views and labeling moderate Christians as "extreme" just because they are extreme compared to your VERY small circle of friends and family. Why you think you are a form of Calvinist? You realize that his understanding does not completely mirror those who wrote the Gospel......... It is impossible to achieve this and thank the Lord! Do you know why? Because if you actually interpreted the Gospel as intended you'd be much more sexist and much more scary. End of story.

    It is simply TOO easy for you to justify your words by saying God is speaking through you. EVERYONE thinks God is speaking through them and EVERYONE is saying something different. It's time for students to realize this and ACTUALLY be humble.

  4. Thanks for your comment Joshua! Just checking before there is a discusssion, are you the same Jim that commented before?

  5. What are you talking about? No Jim commented on this...

  6. Sorry for the confusion, my system displays you as having the same email address as another person who commented on other posts; just trying to ascertain who I'm talking to