Galatians Set Me Free From Legalism – Part 2

g2

As a follow up to an article I didn’t write I think it only apt to say that Galatians Set Me Free From Legalism was the best article I never wrote. That aside, I brought this up with my friend Steven, a seminary graduate. We had a long conversation about my time in UBF and I discussed how I believed that my chapter supported a legalism that was not in line with Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I did not expect him to disagree with me.

The primary message of the gospel

Steven first mentioned that since the 1960s American evangelicalism has phrased the primary message of the gospel as “Jesus saves you from legalism.” He said it’s a major topic and on a whole different page from Paul’s intended meaning in Galatians, but he said there is a very real question we have to ask as a missionary “What do we first communicate to new believers?” He said in China saying “Jesus saves you from legalism” does not really mean anything, and so organizations like Cru have struggled. He said the message of gospel is phrased as “Jesus saves you from sin and death.” He goes onto say that this is usually how the message of Galatians is given. This sounded very familiar. In fact I can quote:

“I read Galatians dozens of times since 1980. I knew it was about freedom. I assumed it proclaimed freedom from sin.”

This is primarily the eastern approach to the gospel. I am not qualified to say which one is “right”, or even if one is “right” and one is “wrong”. But what I will say is that this explains to me immediately why UBF is mostly unsuccessful. They are preaching a gospel message that to anyone who has grown up in an evangelical church (such as me) appears contradictory at best and heretical at worst. I am not sure how exactly to solve this problem, I think writing articles for fine websites such as this one is a start.

The new perspective on Paul

Steven said that there was a current movement called “The new perspective on Paul” and it challenges the modern evangelical view, and beyond that Protestantism itself. The old perspective, as a more wizened man than I said:

“The freedom Paul spoke of was freedom from legalism–the idea that you must add or do something else in addition to believing in Jesus in order to be saved and to be regarded and welcomed as a complete Christian of good standing in the church.”

This view traces back to Martin Luther, who looked at the Catholic Church in the 15th century and saw a list of indulgences and said that this was clearly legalism. But the New Perspective asked an interesting question “Is what Martin Luther saw in the 15th century as legalism the same as what a 1st century Paul saw in the Judaizers? What was the problem with the Judaizers?” The thesis was that the problem with Judaizers was not that works justified them, but that works made them Jewish, and being Jewish justified them. Paul saw the law as a badge of the covenant. Luther understood Galatians 3:24 to illustrate the second use of the law. The new perspective says Paul envisioned the law as a custodian for the Jews until the birth of Christ but Luther reversed the argument to assert that the law is a disciplinarian for everyone.

Luther holds, as most Protestants do, that the law crushes our self righteousness and leads to Christ. Therefore, the law becomes God’s moral imperative having been written on our hearts. Stendhal, the author of the new perspective, accuses western thought of adding a level of introspection and self guilt onto Paul’s message. It seems that this introspection is largely a byproduct of St. Augustine’s Platonic roots. We might go so far to accuse western Christianity to be “Platonic Christianity”. Protestant reformers read Paul’s statements about faith and works, law and gospel, Jews and Gentiles “in the framework of late medieval piety” and the law became associated with legalism. “Where Paul was concerned about the possibility for Gentiles to be included in the messianic community, his statements are now read as answers to the quest for assurance about man’s salvation out of a common human predicament”.

What about UBF?

So does UBF (or at least its leadership) stand condemned under Galatians? Would Paul have opposed top UBF leaders to their face? Under the traditional perspective of Paul it seems as though it certainly does. Ubf may not actually believe they are being justified by their works, but they are communicating it their actions by defining spiritual growth as the list of things Ben Toh presented.

The question that follows is this- Does UBF stand condemned under the message of Galatians under the New Perspective? This idea that being Jewish saves you and the idea that you need to be Korean, or at least Koreanized, came to mind. Does UBF inadvertently teach in its actions that you need to be like a Korean to be saved? Certainly.

Native people are encouraged to marry by faith native Koreans. Second generation Koreans are encouraged to marry by faith other second generation Koreans. This would not be evidence to my claim if marriage wasn’t orchestrated and facilitated by UBF. When someone is married by faith the church teaches that the person introduced is “godly” so by always introducing someone to a Korean they are implying that Koreans are “godly”. Other examples I can cite include Korean chapters being unwilling to work with the native ministry and a high level of unwillingness to allow native leaders to lead. There is also explicitly taught ideas such as American Christians are “lukewarm” and “Sunday only”, Americans being “selfish”, and that America needs to become a “Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation” despite the fact that there are more Christians in America than Koreans in the world.

I doubt that anything related to either perspective of Paul will be discussed at the staff conference on Galatians. It is most likely that I am just not trained enough to see their wisdom. Whatever the case I hope that UBF can learn to present the message of the gospel in such a way that it does not clash with American evangelicalism. My time in UBF recently can be summarized as such:

“When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”

32 comments

  1. Forests,

    Thank you again for continuing to add value to our discussions here. The “way forward” certainly must include “talking it out” or “blogging it out”.

    You raise several good points, but one that stands out to me is that you touch on the East vs West mentality and the corresponding views of the gospel. I would urge us to expand this beyond just Eastern (honor/glory) and Western (legal/freedom).

    The gospel (message) Jesus preached is rooted in the voices of the Prophets and expounded upon by Paul and others. This gives us a rich thought fabric to ponder. From what I’ve learned about this magnificent message that Christ embodied, there are five main themes, not merely two. Expanding out thinking from 2 to 5 (there are more?) will help us from being trapped in a dichotomy and then caught in the infamous extremism pendulum.

    So I’ve learned a vastly more healthy gospel lately, namely:

    1) We are set free from authority because we are under the authority of Jesus our Lord in His Kingdom. This does not mean we are free to live as anarchists, but it does mean Jesus is our ultimate authority.

    2) We are set free from restlessness because we have access to the well of peace.

    3) We are set free from “incurvatus in se” because we can begin to see the glory of God displayed in the beautiful Triune God.

    4) We are set free from death because Jesus lives. This is our ultimate salvation– to pass through death and to live again. But this salvation is for today, for now. We can be set free from the fear of many things, most of which are rooted in fear of dying.

    5) We are set free from shame and guilt because the grace of God is unconditional. Grace, like love, has no conditions and no requirements. If there were conditions on grace, grace would no longer be grace (as Paul himself argued brilliantly).

    The Christian life then as I see it, must go beyond “an epic fight against sin” and mature into “an epic surrender to grace” and then to “an epic movement for reconciliation”.

    • So I really long to break free from binary/dichotomy thinking… we need to move beyond east/west, black/white, male/female, straight/gay, slave/free, Jew/Gentile, Korean/American, ubf/exubf…

      Such dichotomies are not meant to be part of the kingdom Jesus envisioned. And so Galatians 3:1-29 is quite relevant. Dichotomy is a common thought type of people held in custody under the law, who are locked up in the law and who engage in the “epic fight against sin” mentality and who have not yet moved on to the “epic surrender to grace”.

      Is this not what the Holy Scriptures are saying in essence?

      “23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

      26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:23-29 NIV

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      So what you are saying is we should reject binary thinking and accept non binary thinking?

    • Good question forests.

      No I’m not rejecting binary thinking outright. There is a time and place for all kinds of thinking, I think, and as Ben points out quite well in his recent comment here :)

      My direction for myself is to move beyond dichotomies and the break free from such entrapments. I seek to move on to a more mature type of thinking that may include a dichotomy (there are some valid dichotomies) but is not limited by such a thing.

      What I DO reject is using binary thinking as our litmus test for Christianity. We must simply leave such litmus tests out of the kingdom Jesus envisioned for us.

  2. Thanks Forests for sharing your story and your journey.

    For obvious reasons this is my favorite phrase: “I think writing articles for fine websites such as this one is a start” (in addition to quoting me, of course!).

  3. BK, I’m generally opposed to dichotomous, exclusivistic, elitist, racist, nationalistic, imperialistic, sectarian, tribal, self-righteous language, perhaps as communicated by this question: “Are you in or are you out?” This might be among the most divisive question ever.

    Yet Scripture, especially the wisdom literature, does speak of the righteous and the wicked. Jesus contrasts those who build their house on the rock vs. the sand, good tree/fruit vs. bad tree/fruit, broad road vs. narrow road, those who pray to show off publicly vs. those who pray secretly, etc.

    I understand that we Christians twist Scripture usually by putting ourselves, our tribe, our sect, our doctrine, our tradition, our practices as being on the “good side,” with other Christian expressions being on the “bad side.”

    What is perhaps troubling is when UBFers are incensed at anyone who critiques UBF (especially on UBFriends!), while exUBFers are incensed that UBFers are continuing on their merry way by remaining silent and ignoring critiques and a call for accountability.

    When anyone does this, whether UBF or exUBF I believe we fall on the “bad side.”

    The problem, I don’t think, is primarily our dichotomous way of thinking and communicating, but our spiritual blindness in seeing very clearly the speck of sawdust in our brother’s eye, while failing to see the blatant obvious plank that is in our own eye, obvious to everyone else except ourselves. That’s why we always need others who are not like us to call us to account (Mt 7:3-4; Lk 6:41-42). Of course, then both sides think or credit themselves that they have already taken the plank out of their own eye, so that they are now fully justified to now pick at others’ faults and sins (Mt 7:5; Lk 6:42b)!

    Jesus did say that anyone who claims to see is blind, while everyone who acknowledges they are blind sees (Jn 9:39-41).

    So BK I do love your emphasis that we need to move toward grace and reconciliation.

    • Yes indeed, Ben and well-said…

      “When anyone does this, whether UBF or exUBF I believe we fall on the “bad side.”

      This is one dichotomy I want to break free from. All of us need to face the facts of the reality we begin to realize as we get input from multiple perspectives.

  4. I’m inclined to agree with Brian and Ben. However, I appreciate this sequel contributed by forests…

    I will focus on only one point regarding the trouble with focusing on only the East vs. West dilemma. (Others can comment on other aspects.) The trouble with focusing on this apparant and obvious difference and dichotomy between Koreans and foreigners can be found in that even young and new missionaries have differences in application, ritual etc…

    The so-called hardline loyalists are the grey hair and pace makers of the ministry who frankly cannot relate to young students anyways. They developed during the early formation of UBF and planted the foundation in many countries found today. They carry with them a conservatism of Korea’s past. They can neither relate to foreigners nor young Koreans (missionaries). Young Korean missionaries are not always bound by the same conservatism and mores. Conflict can be found amongst Koreans all the time in UBF because of the same legalisms of conservative applications. My wife for example was criticized almost everyday because of her clothing – and she did in fact dress conservative. However, she also had an independent sense of fashion and was conscious not to alienate students of today’s generation.

    We need to correctly define the parameters of legalisms and conservatism in our theology. There is a huge emphasis on preference and less emphasis on such ethnocentrism as has been suggested. So, if the basic tenants of UBF can be found in the heritage and so on it becomes the benchmark for legalism. If a Korean wants rice and Kimchi after Sunday worship during lunch it is everyone else’s choice to eat or not to eat. Likewise in marriage, you have a choice. I would put less emphasis on forcing marriages between Korean and non-Korean. At least in recent times I see that trend very simply that there are not enough “mature” native leaders who can be married by faith so you establish connections between a young missionary and a native leader. But that explanation is also too simplistic.

    Since I had been a loose cannon my wife was certainly supposed to subdue me, but after time passed I don’t quite think the hidden agenda politics have worked on this example of marriage by faith. More fool me if I am wrong. :)

    Anyhow, it is important to consider that sometimes it is just stubborn preference that presents itself and almost seems just as important as the legalisms that define our bondage to Christ. Always be aware that no matter how ‘Koreanized’ a person may become in UBF that never ‘makes’ them Korean. There will always be so many things that you don’t know about Korea. Don’t ever misunderstand the pop’n majority for complete assimilation – it can rather be segregation at best.

    • I also want to remind you that the obvious discrepancies between East/West and young/old are shrouding much deeper issues. The three reform movements of 1976, 1984 and 2000 were driven by Koreans, and amazingly these were not even the junior members but the senior members. The reason is that the senior members knew UBF leadership and ideology much better and were able to recognize the problems. Even though they were rooted in Confucianism and of the older generation, these things bothered them so much that they spoke up until they were expelled. This shows that UBF has underlying problems that are much deeper than the differences between age and culture. So while I appretiate that these differences are discussed, as they are real issue, let’s not forget that they are only the outer shell of problems, and we must pierce into the inner core problem.

  5. Chris stop trolling me and attempting to educate me again and again on your crusades. I have been surrounded by Koreans on many intimate levels way beyond UBF for more than a decade. I married a Korean and I am living in Korea. I live a life in Korean society etc…so, your endless reminders about reform in UBF is getting quite monotonous for me. Don’t bother a rebuttal because I have ceased to respect the fact that you refuse to acknowlege the experience and perspectives of others who have been trying to respect you.

    • gc, you should acknowledge the fact that when I write on ubfriends, I’m not speaking to you and trying to educate you (since I don’t even know you), but I’m speaking to the general audience. This is a website of UBF, and the theme of this thread is Galatians and whether it is opposed to UBF teachings and practices. I was talking in this context.

      You are free to talk in this context about a generational conflict. But I should also be free to point out my opinion that the core problems of UBF are not caused by differences in age and culture, and point to the existence of the reform movements in the past as evidence for my claim.

      I’m not sure whether you want to dispute the truth of my opinion, in which case I’willing to defend it yet another time, or if you just want to point out that I’m repeating that argument too often.

      If the latter is the case, then there is a simple solution: Just ignore my comment if you already believe to know what I write. It’s really that simple in the Internet. This is not UBF. Nobody forces you to sit on a chair and read my repeated explanations if you find them boring. There is also another solution: Tell me in a friendly way that my repetitions are annoying. Calling me a troll and telling me you don’t respect me just because I keep repeating certain important points is inappropriate and highly offensive. As I said, I don’t know you, and I never thought or said anything bad about you. So this was pretty bewildering for me.

      I didn’t even oppose anything you claimed about Korean culture and generational differences. I am sure all of this is true, and all of this is an issue to you and maybe other current UBF members. I just wanted to put everything back into the original context of this thread which was legalism and whether it was an issue in UBF.

    • Chris, it is true, however the closing of the article itself is weak and that was where I chimed in. In terms of highly offensive comments I lose respect because look at how you framed your comments to me. First of all, you made it a direct reply to my comment – making it somewhat personal (even on the internet). Second, you do keep repeating the same tired stuff (and previously I supported the idea because of new readers). However, I get irritated when you seem to be so blind to other perspectives that others may have which do not necessarily complement your own.

      I am no fan of UBF – that is for sure. I have had a lot to say in the past online, but I am also tired of repeating the same old stuff myself. I read forests article and appreciate it to a point – as I told him directly. Where I have a problem is the off course closing which attempts to play the East vs. West nonsense.

      This is not UBF – sure enough it isn’t. However, with all the cliques and backslapping that goes on in here it sure feels similar to UBF sometimes. I for one could care less for it. Oh, and thank you silent readers for disliking my post.

      As for your knowledge and campaign to reform UBF I get it. I read it a long time ago. I read it now. I have my own personal experiences over many years that can confirm certain aspects of what you always bring to the table. I am now in Korea where I can observe things from this vantage point. But, let me be clear. I was not, nor am I now interested in ‘being somebody’ in UBF. If I am asked this or that….whatever….I play a more important role bridging the gap in my own community of heritage and the controversies there. Anyway, I won’t respect you at all if you continue to carry out the same personality I have seen online from the beginning. You claim to be speaking to the general audience, but your online voice is further from that truth than anything else. You do troll people in the guise of trying to call them out on stuff, but actually your presentation is often highly offensive and very hostile.

      No, we don’t know each other. This is what makes misunderstandings more difficult to manage. But, realize that just because I do not see an issue from the same point of view as you that it does not mean I am overlooking the past etc….I am simply seeing a different perspective. I have invested much time and my life into the UBF machine. I can respect it if someone speaks of issues and I am often a whistle blower myself. But, in the same breath I have to deal with other religious identity issues which are of much greater importance than the blip in history of UBF. You want me to speak clearly about that – it won’t happen here. I am not tying such things to UBF and my name. It will have to be a personal correspondance.

    • “First of all, you made it a direct reply to my comment – making it somewhat personal (even on the internet).”

      I simply commented one statement in your comment, so the obvious place for this was to post it in a reply. That still was not meant as anything personally directed towards you, or even as an attack of your views, but only as a supplement to something you wrote in your comment. Basically, you said “I believe there is not a cultural, but a generational conflict in UBF” to what I replied, “I agree this is an issue, but I think the root of the problems of UBF is something deeper,” mentioning the reform movements as historical evidence, in order to substantiate my claim, not to push reform or anything. This was the point where you replied “Stop trolling me” for reasons totally incomprehensible to me.

      “Second, you do keep repeating the same tired stuff (and previously I supported the idea because of new readers). However, I get irritated when you seem to be so blind to other perspectives that others may have which do not necessarily complement your own.”

      You keep calling the fact that UBF has problems that go beyond cultural or generational issues an “idea” or a “perspective”. It is not and “idea”, it is a fact. The spiritual abuse in UBF happened because UBF followed the shepherding/discipling doctrines and practices and used mind control methods, as evidenced in the many testimonies of reformers and dropouts in the 70s, 80s and 90s. This is not just my “perspective”, but something evident if you look into these matters, read these testimonies and compare with reports from other groups similar to UBF. I’m still not sure whether you want to dispute and deny this as a fact, or whether you’re simply tired of hearing it (please clarify this point). In any case, it stays a fact that will not change, no matter how often I will repeat it and how boring it will get. In this 2010 decade, UBFers are certainly facing new and different and maybe currently more relevant issues, which I do not deny, belittle, or fail to recognize. However, this is not a “new perspective” that somehow invalidates or contradicts the old one, but just a new episode in history, which continues and builds on the past. You cannot look at UBF now and understand what the deep issues with UBF theology are without looking into the UBF history, and I believe you agree with me on that.

      “Where I have a problem is the off course closing which attempts to play the East vs. West nonsense.”

      You should not use the word “nonsense” here, because telling someone he is writing “nonsense” is an unnecessary personal offense. The idea of “keeping face” at all cost in the old generation of UBF Koreans is a big problem and a specific issue of UBF and talking about this is not “nonsense.” However, there are caveats. The one caveat I am repeating is that the focus on cultural issues and Confucianism is a red herring that obscures the view for the deeper issue of spiritual abuse that is an inevitable consequence of shepherding/discipling groups, no matter in which cultural context they operate. The other caveat that you are now pointing out is that it is not even valid any more since the new generation of Koreans is different, and since “UBF Koreans” are different from “average Koreans” anyway, if I understand you correctly (if I misunderstand you, please elaborate). What I fail to see is how what I say contradicts to what you are saying. Quite to the contrary, we seem to totally agree in our view that “East vs. West” is not at the core of the matter.

      “However, with all the cliques and backslapping that goes on in here it sure feels similar to UBF sometimes. I for one could care less for it. Oh, and thank you silent readers for disliking my post.”

      So you think we should occasionally contradict each other and offend each other randomly just to liven the place up? Don’t be amazed that people dislike this idea. Besides that, I see a lot of discussion back and forth going on, not only backslapping. I don’t feel that the discussions on this website are in any way similar to UBF sogam sharing.

      “As for your knowledge and campaign to reform UBF I get it. I read it a long time ago. I read it now.”

      Obviously you don’t really get it, since I’m not campaigning to reform UBF at all. I have given up reforming UBF, and now I only try to share my experience with UBF and my knowledge about UBF issues gained through many talks with UBF dropouts, so that others can build their own educated opinion. Whether this will lead to a reform of UBF is up to the UBF members. My main concern is that newcomers to UBF are able to see the full picture, not only what UBF is telling them, before they are going to waste many years in this organization, as we two have done, or even end up with a broken family like big bear and his wife. So, again for you to understand: I am not campaigning to reform UBF. As explained above, I only mentioned reform in order to make evident that UBF problems are not caused by differences between East vs. West or Young vs. Old, but that they are inherent in the UBF set of spoken and unspoken doctrines and practices.

      “Anyway, I won’t respect you at all if you continue to carry out the same personality I have seen online from the beginning.”

      So you want me to change my personality? The last one who tried to do this was UBF. No, I won’t change my personality, and nor will I change my views randomly just because my old views are getting boring. You will only be able to change my views when you can show me how my old views are wrong.

      If you want to criticize my tone and the way how I express myself, this is a completely different issue. Though I still don’t get where I was hitting a wrong note in the recent discussion, I readily admit that I have many deficits in this area. I’m not a good speaker, and not a good conversationalist. I’m sometimes annoying and boring because I am too rational, mathematical-logical and predictable. I’m often too direct, undiplomatic, and insensitive to feelings. You can criticize that and give me tips to improve. But please separate criticizing the tone and manner of my arguments from the content of my arguments, and please criticize me immediately naming concrete issue (like I was pointing out your use of the word “nonsense” above).

      “but your online voice is further from that truth than anything else”

      What do mean with “that truth” and “anything else”? Sometimes you are very hard to understand. In which way am I away from “that truth”? Do you accuse me of saying untruthful things? Please elaborate and give concrete examples where I am away from “that truth”.

      “You do troll people in the guise of trying to call them out on stuff, but actually your presentation is often highly offensive and very hostile.”

      It’s hard to follow you when you keep changing your accusations. First you accused me of trolling you in this discussion, and when I tried to understand how so, you are now expanding your accusation of trolling people in general, and being highly offensive and very hostile. Can you please give some concrete evidence and example where and when that happened so that I can understand what you are even talking about? Also, I already told you that personally I am offended by being called a troll. I believe you understand that being called a troll is offensive. I am a human being, not a troll. I have probably spend as much time in UBF as you did. You chose to offend me a second time, but I still try to answer as calmly and factually as I can.

      “But, in the same breath I have to deal with other religious identity issues which are of much greater importance than the blip in history of UBF.”

      Again, it’s really hard for me to follow you. Is this still part of your explanation of why you believe I am trolling you?

      Sorry for the long reply, I’m being extensive to avoid any further misunderstandings and misinterpretation.

  6. “Conflict can be found amongst Koreans all the time in UBF because of the same legalisms of conservative applications.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/30/galatians-set-me-free-from-legalism-part-2/#comment-14074

    Thanks, gc, for your helpful comment, especially with regards to your wife’s manner of dress, which older Korean women apparently want to critique, criticize, correct, even condemn.

    Do correct me if you think I’m wrong, but I think that the problem is a little deeper than just conservatism and legalism vs. say liberalism, or than just older Korean’s conservatism vs. younger Korean’s liberalism.

    For instance, my wife is quite conservative, while I am quite liberal in virtually all aspects of our marriage. Sometimes, we surely do conflict. But for the most part, we respect each other’s differences. She gives me more freedom than she would like, and I allow her her conservative comfort zone, even if it is something I totally disagree with.

    Thus, in UBF, the problem I see is not so much the dichotomy between the conservative/liberal or older/younger, but the very painful and sad fact that some of the conservative/older/usually “senior leaders” regard it as their God-given right to resolutely impose themselves (their ubf wish dream) on anyone in UBF who disagrees with them. This only creates a “pseudo-community”: http://westloop-church.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-pseudo-community-avoids-messes.html

    For instance, this website critiques such so-called “senior conservative ‘imposing’ leaders” and asks for dialogue and reconciliation. But what some of them want is to shut down this website (which they can’t do). So they regard this website as anathema and rebellious, and worse yet, some have said that this website is satanic and of the devil. This has caused some people to fear reading ubfriends, believing that if they read it they will catch something bad.

    My proposal and solution is quite simple: those conservative older leaders who firmly believe in their “core values” should not impose their wish dream on others, but should respect those ubfers who disagree with them and respectfully give them space to find and discover Jesus by the work of the Holy Spirit.

    In brief, those older leaders who think they are the vanguard of UBF should just chill.

    • Ben, I appreciate your comments. No, I would agree with you completely. I was summarizing and only using a couple of examples since I did not have a long time to sit and write.

      What angers me most the longer I live in Korea is quite simple. People keep wanting to use the cultural issues as a reason to define issues in UBF. I would have to agree in part, however, it has since lost its meaning when even young Koreans have an issue with older ones. I want to clarify that my comment about age has zero to do with Confucius – so – anyone who wants to play armchair scholar can stop right there!! My comments about age have to do with social cultural change of behaviour over decades. The older Koreans in other countries left Korea a long time ago. Young(er) Koreans have conflicts with them not because of Confucianism, but rather because they come from a different time and place of Korea’s changing and developing society. I am so tired of people thinking that a fleeting experience in UBF makes them an authority on all things Korean – it is simply a joke and wasting of my time to dignify it.

      I have all kinds of experiences with Koreans and quite frankly UBF Koreans are among the kindest you will meet. That being said, you have to be prepared for the social expectations placed upon you once you enter UBF. I will never dismiss any situation in UBF.

      I will say one more thing also. UBF is for me the least of my worries or concerns on matters of religious conflicts. UBF is a very tiny speck in the history of attempted Christian movements. I take a greater issue with my heritage and ties with my cousins. I would like to state further, but because of the internet I really do not wish to heap on top of controversies for my family name the additional burden of UBF. So, I cannot clearly say anything, except for the fact that UBF matters are frankly no matters at all to me when I live my life more closely to that of my heritage and faith and no longer UBFs.

  7. gc, I agree with you here: “I have all kinds of experiences with Koreans and quite frankly UBF Koreans are among the kindest you will meet.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/30/galatians-set-me-free-from-legalism-part-2/#comment-14078

    Though some may disagree, I believe that on most occasions their niceness is genuine and that they are godly God-fearing Christians, and that their niceness is not entirely and purely to manipulate or love bomb you to becoming a UBF member.

  8. Chris, you are like a dog with a bone. Don’t go away mad, just go away. I get the impression that you have spent more time “in” UBF than in UBF. After almost 15+ years move on and grow up. I cannot take you at all seriously and no, I will never respect a word that spews from your lips. You don’t respect anyone so why should anyone respect you. Besides this, you just don’t let go – and when I saw the length to which you just wrote I didn’t even bother to read it. I saw your name, once again calling me out and did not read – just replying now. Hopefully the venom will not create some terminal illness for you.

    • gc, we have only removed 1 or 2 comments here out of over 14,000. And we allow all kinds of messy conversations. But as an admin here, your last round of comments is particularly concerning and demeaning. Chris is at least attempting to dialogue.

      Many of us have shared harsh comments here, but we have not called each other names as you just did. If you need to vent, I’m easily contacted via email or Facebook.

    • gc, the tone and terminology used in your reply brings back sweet memories from the golden UBF times when Samuel Lee used to call the reformers “crazy dogs” and threaten people in Sunday sermons that if they do not obey him they would die of a terminal illness.

      After the discussions with UBF apologists on the old RSQUBF forum years ago I had already forgotten that it is possible to talk in such ways because the tone on UBFriends used to be much better and I never hear people around me talk like that in my everyday life after UBF, they all speak friendly and nicely and rationally to me even though none of them was trained to be gentle with years of sogam sharing and Bible study.

      But when I read your response on my phone in the bus on the way to work today, I felt like getting a flashback from the past. It is not really uplifting and heart-warming when you have to read such things early in the morning.

      Unfortunately, I still don’t understand what this is all about, but obviously it makes no sense to further ask or explain if you are unwilling to answer normally and even read my explanations. Most of all, reading such things in the morning is not good for my blood pressure, so I put you, gc, on my personal ignore list for good, so that I may be able to live a few years longer without heart attack and continue to mention the history of UBF. I suggest that you, gc, do the same with me if I am bothering you so much, because one thing is sure, I will not “go away” and “move on,” but will continue mentioning the history and inconvenient truth until UBF has officially admitted and dealt with its past history of abuse. Only then this issue is solved and it is time to move on.

  9. Charles Wilson
    Charles Wilson

    forests, you mention quite a few conflicts here. In response to your article, I’m not sure if it is a matter of being Jewish or Korean, but there is a problem in having a single reference point by which to judge what defines the people who belong to God (and so, what their works should be).

    As for the Jews, as Paul mentions, they were already Jewish. They kept the law because they were Jewish, and so thought that being a covenant people involves works according to the law. The works are not what make you a covenant people, but they are what covenant people do.

    God made this covenant with only one nation, so there was only one reference point. In the Old Testament foreigners could enter the community and even be considered as “native Israelites” (Leviticus 19:34, Ezekiel 47:22). Yet, how strange and disorienting might it have been for Jews to see Gentile people being considered as God’s people but not doing the things God’s people ought to do. It’s not that foreigners have to become Jews, but they should act like a people who belong to God, and that has always been in the context of his covenant with the Jews. Suddenly, should Jews have to change and foreigners did not have to become like them?

    I think we can see a similar kind of a single reference point on what it means to be a a member of a believing community in ministries, such as UBF. So, I’m not sure that it’s to make people Korean, but that they experienced the gospel in their time and Korean context. For example, I was once rebuked for occasionally treating bible students to lunch because they would not be free from a beggar’s mentality. I had heard the phrase “beggar’s mentality” referenced to Korean UBF students in those early days of UBF. But this senior member couldn’t understand that not all students in every country suffer from a beggar’s mentality like what he saw in Korea. Our minds can be narrowed without us being aware of it. I have visited Korea multiple times, for UBF and for my work. One interesting thing (that became rather annoying quick) was Korean people being surprised that I could use chopsticks, ate rice, and knew what kimchi was. They all asked if I had some Korean blood in me. It was their only way to understand my actions. They also couldn’t believe that there is good Korean or asian food in LA. :/

    For this reason, I think it is good for those in UBF to start learning from other ministries more and more, rather than (prematurely, in my opinion) define its heritage and core values and impose them on current and incoming members. That first generation experienced God’s work in a particular context that became a single reference point for what works this community should do as a people of God. But imposing this image of what UBF people should be has had negative and binding effects that come off as a kind of legalism. Of course, there are those that take pride and joy in it and find it all good. They want to make sure UBF keeps its current image. But others have been left feeling alienated, burdened, burned out, and so on. Thankfully, we are not limited to a single reference point and can broad our perspectives on learning of who God is and about his people in Jesus Christ. God has been working throughout history in many ways and in many ministries. We would be greatly benefited if we would learn from it.

    • Joe Schafer

      Great comment. I wholeheartedly agree.

  10. Charles, in your own words you have articulated my mantra over the past decade: “For this reason, I think it is good for those in UBF to start learning from other ministries more and more, rather than (prematurely, in my opinion) define its heritage and core values and impose them on current and incoming members. God has been working throughout history in many ways and in many ministries. We would be greatly benefited if we would learn from it.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/30/galatians-set-me-free-from-legalism-part-2/#sthash.LYM28dgl.dpuf

  11. “For this reason, I think it is good for those in UBF to start learning from other ministries more and more, rather than (prematurely, in my opinion) define its heritage and core values and impose them on current and incoming members…” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/30/galatians-set-me-free-from-legalism-part-2/#comment-14095

    LOL. Based on what is coming to ubf the next 6 months or so, what you say Charles is highly unlikely, and in fact improbable to happen. All I can say publicly is that anyone who attends the next NA staff meeting had better skip some Galatians studies and ask some big time questions about those chapter guidelines. ubf will become more hardened, not less.

  12. gc,

    I feel compelled to expound on one statement you mention above. Perhaps this will help all of us to see another perspective.

    You wrote: “I will say one more thing also. UBF is for me the least of my worries or concerns on matters of religious conflicts. UBF is a very tiny speck in the history of attempted Christian movements.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2014/05/30/galatians-set-me-free-from-legalism-part-2/#comment-14095

    Some might be surprised at what I’m about to say: I disagree strongly with your statement.

    I’m not saying ubf is some world-changing ministry. But what was ubf to us? ubf was everything. When you keep saying “ubf is nothing” that stings badly to a former member. When ubfers keep insisting that “ubf is nothing” how does that make an exubfer feel? We feel less than nothing.

    I remember saying the same things while at ubf… “ubf is nothing”, that was my mantra. But the reality is that ubf became my vision, my life and my DNA. ubf is something, something very big in each of our lives, no matter how small the movement is historically. That big reality is what I want ubf people to acknowledge.

    What former members want is not for members to dismiss or belittle ubf, but to face the facts and acknowledge reality. And what many of us would appreciate is for ubf to make a decision and clearly document your teachings, which is in fact what has been going on recently.

  13. I happen to read this quote: “All the hopes and plans of others have again and again shipwrecked on your character just as your hopes and plans have shipwrecked on theirs…It is important to realize that there is some really fatal flaw in you: something which gives others the same feeling of despair which their flaws give you.” C.S. Lewis, The Trouble with X.

    I know that some people really bother me (but no one really on UBFriends!). Lewis wants to remind me that I also bother those people who bother me just as much, if not more, than they bother me.

  14. Hey everyone, speaking of the upcoming NA staff conference, you can now login to all the secure pages on the new ubfnorthamerica.org website.

    Don’t hold your breath though… there’s nothing under the Chapter Guidelines or the other areas except for one piano piece and several “study” materials under the Bible study link. Nothing about Marriage, nothing about guidelines or children’s ministry yet.

    This is to be expected. A “mature” community at ubf is merely sticking your nose deeper into the bible while ignoring the reality of people around you including your own family…

    Here is a quote from the document “why” they are studying Galatians:

    “In a ministry focused on raising disciples of Jesus, we try to make some rules and regulations that promote a gospel lifestyle. These are very helpful as long as the spirit of the gospel is alive in our hearts. But when we begin to practice these rules without the spirit of the gospel they become legalistic elements which enslave us and prohibit spiritual growth. More seriously, they alienate us from Christ. These kinds of legalistic elements are exposed in the course of raising our children or disciples. A teenage boy asked his missionary father, “How many sheep do I need to feed in order to go to heaven?” His father was shocked, thinking “Is that what you have learned by watching my life?” He realized that although he believed the gospel, he had created an atmosphere of legalism in his home and ministry. This is one example. There are many who confuse legalism with the gospel. Whether we realize it or not, there are legalistic elements in our community life. This is one of the reasons we are exhausted and fail to raise disciples of Jesus, especially among college students. We need to create a spiritual atmosphere of joy, love, trust, understanding, acceptance, and grace. This is possible when we come back to the gospel.”

    Oh and the announcements tell you how to login to all the sections:

    news and announcements

    • Let’s examine the gross contradictions in this seemingly innocent paragraph…

      Contradiction #1 – It’s ok to be legalistic as long as you are legalistic with gospel spirit. “…when we begin to practice these rules without the spirit of the gospel they become legalistic…”

      Contradiction #2 – No differentiation between “sheep” and children. ubf teaches shepherds to be the new parents of college students, so when they have their own children, they can’t tell the difference. “These kinds of legalistic elements are exposed in the course of raising our children or disciples.”

      Vagueness #1 – In the example, whose fault is it that legalism existed in the family? We are not clearly told that it is the parents’ fault. It is left open-ended, and in the ubf mind it is the fault of the teenager. It is the “sheep” or child who is confused. “He realized that although he believed the gospel, he had created an atmosphere of legalism in his home and ministry. This is one example. There are many who confuse legalism with the gospel.”

      Vagueness #2 – Yes, legalism is one of the reasons you are exhausted. But is that the only reason? Surely your cultic heritage slogans and han syndrome atmosphere are other reasons? Maybe you are exhausted because you sit on folding chairs all day instead of building real relationships with your family. “This is one of the reasons we are exhausted and fail to raise disciples of Jesus, especially among college students.”

      Masked heritage slogans – Due to our vocal criticism ubf people seem reluctant these days to clearly expressed the slogans. So they’ve been reworded. “We need to create a spiritual atmosphere of joy, love, trust, understanding, acceptance, and grace. This is possible when we come back to the gospel.”

      “spiritual order” has become “spiritual atmosphere”.
      “loyalty” has become “trust”.
      “honor” has become “acceptance”.
      “back to the bible” has become “back to the gospel”.

      This is all very infuriating. Why don’t the staff people wake up and start asking questions about such things? Just because ubf is studying Galatians does not mean anything has changed. It has gotten worse, and far more enslaving.

    • This intro document also warns against licentiousness which the document also labels as antinomianism. The binary, dichotomic thinking is smothering. The document author does not understand what grace is. Just because a person accepts the bible’s teaching that grace is grace and cannot be by works (Romans) does not make one an antinomiam. In the absence of ruling by law, the Holy Spirit rules.

      Therefore we get this classic ubf KOPAHN statement reworded from OT terminology into NT terms:

      “In a ministry focused on raising disciples of Jesus, we try to make some rules and regulations that promote a gospel lifestyle. These are very helpful as long as the spirit of the gospel is alive in our hearts.”

      So making rules promotes a gospel lifestyle? Instilling regulations in your ministry will promote a gospel lifestyle? Rules and regulations, which are things of those ruled by OT law, are “very helpful”? Ah but only if we have “gospel spirit”.

      See the circular logic here? This is highly deceitful.

      First you must have the gospel. Then you can make rules and regulations to promote the gospel.

      Translation:

      “In a ministry focused on recruiting college students, we try to make some rules and regulations that promote a ubf lifestyle. These are very helpful as long as the spirit of the obedience and loyalty is alive in our hearts.”

    • forestsfailyou
      forestsfailyou

      I actually think this is about the language I have heard from other churches in the past. Cs lewis describes it was falling off a horse. If we use our freedom as license we fail and if we make it a condition for God’s love we fail.

      I was reading a facebook post recently were a young woman said that although drinking beer was not a sin given in the bible; it was not glorifying of God and therefore should not be done. Her pastor quickly responded “We should be very careful making laws that are more strict than the bible.” I think this is a good balance. I think that not all rules and regulations constituent legalism, but ones that are more strict than the gospel and are used as a measuring rod for our walk with Christ are to be avoided as they become abusive.

    • Yes forests, this is similar to the famous “two ditches” thinking in some parts of Christianity. While this may be a helpful analogy to analyze communities, I reject it as something for individuals.

      I know that our good friend JA and also John Piper teaches “two ditches” but on this point I disagree with both of them. Is Christian life a journey of walking a fine line between two ditches? Is that not merely a life of fearful tightrope walking?

      Life is not a straight line. There is no “straight and narrow” path. Jesus only mentioned a narrow path (and a broad path). Life following Jesus is not to see how well we stay out of the ditches. Following Jesus is about jumping into the ditches, running through the briars, and slugging through the swamp, whatever it takes to find and help the marginalized, the needy, the weak, the lost.

      To follow Jesus is not to walk in clean robes on a high road between two ditches. Following Jesus is to walk on water and experience the great adventure.

    • Well said, Brian. By the way, did anyone of you read Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”? It had a similar teaching. In addition to not falling into one the ditches, you also had to be careful to not fall asleep. The book was very popular in my part of UBF, because it could be projected so well onto the UBF mindset and could be abused to reinforce that mindset very strongly. Many who wanted to leave UBF could not do so because the mental imagine that they left the narrow path or feel asleep haunted them.

  15. Why not just read Galatians 3:1-6 and be done with it?

    Trust in Christ, Not the Law

    You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it’s obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives. His sacrifice on the cross was certainly set before you clearly enough.

    Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!

    Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don’t these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God.