Methods and Aims

23And there is this difference between the matter of aims and the matter of methods…”- Gk Chesterton, Heretics

I recall a childhood story about a girl from India. She was arranged to marry someone from birth. The girl grew up and fell in love with another man and when the time came for her to marry she told her family no. “But this is how it has always been. You marry the man that has been decided.” But the girl, now woman said “But why does it have to be how it has always been? I will still marry.” This is very much the story of a person trying to change the methods while preserving the ideal. In one sense our task as Christians in judging the aims and means is very easy. For most of us the aim is quite easy to judge. A confusion of methodologies and ideologies is a constant source of problem across many different disciplines and institutions. It is very much the story of a person attempting to break tradition.

To start there is wisdom in tradition. Tradition has been tried, and it has worked for a long time. I have heard it described that tradition is giving votes to our ancestors. When going against tradition one must be very careful. There are often times unknown dangers that come with the territory. I like to think of the practice of cohabitation that developed in the midcentury. Prior to this the method of courtship never contained living together prior to marriage. Then my parent’s generation questioned this norm and now most contemporary courtship contains cohabitation. Sadly this method has been tried and found wanting. Couples who live together prior to marriage tend to have less successful marriages.

Sometimes though the methodology is tried and is found to be better. The norm used to be that women could not hold jobs outside of strictly “matronly” activities like being a man’s assistant or housing a large number of kids for 8 hours a day. With women entering the work force the size and scope of the American economy has grown. This was greatly resisted. Gk Chesterton, the man I quoted up above, went so far as to say that women were selling themselves into the slavery of their employers.

The problem with evaluating Christian tradition is that is quickly becomes bogged down in ideology. They are often times confused. This happens outside of Christianity when people equate science, a methodology, to atheism, an ideology. Historically they have been viewed as the same, because the methodology comes by authority, which is given by scripture which is the basis of the ideology. I am a firm believer in being orthodox in our beliefs. To be relativistic is to be intellectually weak. On the other hand our methodology has to be relativistic. There is scriptural basis for this. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” (1 Cor 12:4-6) “But test them all; hold on to what is good” A methodology is pretty easy to test. If the methodology goes against natural law then it has no basis in scripture. By natural law I mean anything that contributes to the family life. If a Christian methodology overwhelmingly leads to anything that abuses or harms a family or person, this methodology should be discarded. There is nothing else to say. The methodology should also make the person into the ideal. Does your Christian methodology produce people like Christ? If the answer is no then it should be discarded. These are the criterion for our methods. Note that this criterion is a product of the ideal, Christ and his love for us as creations of God the Father. If you have a verse that disagrees with the criterion then criterion is not wrong your interpretation is, because Christ and his love are beyond question for the Christian.

One common response is not that the method does not work, just that the person is not taking to the method perfectly. Indeed nobody can follow Christ perfectly but we are to try anyways. I have heard it said “He is rejecting the call of discipleship.” The tacit implication is that the person is wrong and the method is not. This argument seems to carry weight, but we can easily compare the magnitude of the result of the methodology when it is hypothetically being rejected to the norm. When we find terrible, terrible stories of suicide, divorces, and the like- all in the name of becoming like Jesus the evidence seems to indicate that the method is in the wrong. Not the person.

In summary, we cannot escape methodology as teachers and leaders of the church. But we ought to test everything. We should be orthodox in our aims, but relative in our methods.


  1. “A methodology is pretty easy to test. If the methodology goes against natural law then it has no basis in scripture.”

    Thanks for this article. It clears up a lot. I feel as though in our affirmative postmodern culture everything goes. People say, “All truth is relative; there are no absolutes,” but that is an absolute right there. Or, “All religions are correct,” even when certain religions are outright contradictory in their teachings. It is a law of logic that “a” cannot be “b” at the same time. Methodologies and ideologies are different things. There are negotiable and non-negotiable.

    Also it is important to stress that “if the methodology goes against natural law it has no basis in scripture.” Faith and reason work together; they are not enemies. This is why I love C.S. Lewis he brings them together very cohesively. I feel as though sometimes Christians don’t think their methodologies through. Like if businesses were run the way churches are run, no one would be making money. We value making money, but not investing in the church and community. There also is a hostility towards Christians as if “Christians don’t think.” Sometimes people are shocked that a Christian could produce sound thoughts because the general consensus is that faith is divorced form reason, even among Christians but it is not.

    • forestsfailyou

      Yes. I think it is a large failing of the church. Atheism illogically says that its ideology and its proposed methodology (science) are the same. They have a very strong case because nobody wants to be stupid. When faced with hard questions the church often says “Don’t be a doubting Thomas.” Or worse, they make up something false to save face. I recently read a book called Escape from Reason. He gave me a new perspective. Kirkagaard and Pascal typically think that faith and reason don’t work together. So you have to make this leap, over the line of despair. He says recently evangelicals have been saying that a personal relationship with Jesus is what is important and showing and demonstrating the propositional truth of Christianity has not. But what I like about what he says, is that it is better to show that Christianity uniquely answers all the major life questions that we have. When I look back I realize that this was Chesterton’s aim in Orthodoxy as well, I just could not see it. He says that when we find a key that opens a lock, we know the key was made for the lock. It is foolish to think otherwise.

  2. This is a great article, forests, and one of your best in my opinion.

    “When we find terrible, terrible stories of suicide, divorces, and the like- all in the name of becoming like Jesus the evidence seems to indicate that the method is in the wrong. Not the person.”

    That, in a nutshell, is my entire argument, and the argument of almost every ex-ubf person. We readily acknowledge that there are good and bad people, regardless of the methodologies employed. What we have been pointing out is that some (if not all :) of the ubf methods need revamped.

    So yes, an Ethics committee is needed. That is a good aim–to act ethically and hold people accountable. But if the ubf methodologies don’t change, the environment for abuse will continue to foster.

    I’m curious, forests, about how you would classify the ubf heritage slogans? Are they ideologies? Methodologies?

    • In my opinion, they are methodologies (called “core values”) that have sadly and practically become non-negotiable ideologies, as communicated by some leaders.

    • forestsfailyou

      What are the UBF slogans? I probably know them, but not by that name.

    • Go back to the Bible. One to one Bible study. Testimony writing. Manger ministry. Early morning daily bread. World campus mission. Lay missionary movement.

      I’m missing a few. I’ve seen 8-12 of this so-called “core values” in various ubf chapters.

  3. forestsfailyou

    All methods. They are all with the aim of making people like Christ, which is the ideology. Some of these are more justified than others of course. Going back to the bible is the strongest one. But it is probably better phrased “Go to the bible”, since as it stands it has some negative and wrong implications and connotations.

  4. “In my opinion, they are methodologies (called “core values”) that have sadly and practically become non-negotiable ideologies, as communicated by some leaders.”

    Yes, I second that motion, Dr. Ben. These core values: one-to-ones, daily bread, conferences with recorded registration numbers are all good things but they have become non-negotiables. Case in point, is that many people think that West Loop is not a “UBF” chapter because we, at West Loop, don’t do testimonies or one-to-one Bible Study. We don’t even really do conferences. We do a lot of things differently. Our speakers don’t read off a paper, we don’t have a presider. But does that mean we are of a less level of Christian? Are we not worthy to hang out with other UBFer’s? Is UBF adding something to be a follower of Christ? Are followers of Christ all supposed to look a certain way? Why are those core values imposed? Will we not all spend eternity together in heaven?

  5. Forests, you can find the slogans on ubf’s own “spiritual legacy” website, which they state is intended to “guard the heritage”. I just call them slogans.

    On that ubf website, the slogans are listed slightly differently than what we were taught. Some chapters consolidate this into 8 points, others into 9 points. This one is 12 points:

    Back to the Bible
    Campus Evangelism
    Daily Bread
    Giving Spirit
    House church
    Kingdom of Priests and Holy Nation
    Lay Mission
    Manger Ministry
    One-on-one Bible study

    A while back I divided these into 7 ideologies and 5 methodologies. But yes I can see that all 12 contain methodologies. It is your behavior that ubf wants to control. Thus you have the false freedom to “believe whatever you want”.

    BrianK review of the ubf spiritual legacy slogans

    In my second book, Goodness Found: The Butterfly Narratives, I share a glossary of ubf terms and explore these 12 spiritual legacy slogans in a bit more detail.

    • I just noticed this today after making this comment.

      Compare the two lists of slogans (mine and the heritage website).

      Note how “Spiritual Order” now has become “Partnership”.

      Note how “World Mission” now has become “KOPAHN”.

  6. All methods. They are all with the aim of making people like Christ, which is the ideology. Some of these are more justified than others of course. – See more at:

    I think that it’s a bit misleading to say that the goal of the core values is to make people like Christ. These values are an explicit representation of what the founder perceived to be an accurate depiction of a disciple of Christ. In other words, his methodology was birthed from his ideology.

    One way that UBF can move forward in a healthy manner is to examine the founder’s ideal against other views throughout history to see where it is either true or left wanting. If UBF keeps these core values, then they are essentially saying that this is what a Christian disciple should look like.

    • Agreed. You might have intended for a different link, since the link is linked back to this comment.

    • forestsfailyou

      I’m not sure I quite understand what you mean, but I will go over them individually.

      Back to the Bible- In an aim to make one like Christ, he needs to be revealed. Chambers says the bible reveals Christ.
      Campus Evangelism- In an aim to be like Jesus in so far as he preached, campus evangelism is a straight forward application. People cannot become like Christ unless someone tells them about Christ (so goes the reasoning), so campus evangelism seeks to make people like Christ while being like Christ himself who ministered to the Jews.
      Daily Bread- “Give us this day our daily bread” Christian tradition has thought that this passage means daily prayer. A sacrificial spirit of time with the idea of denial of one’s self is considered Christlike (I don’t buy that God wants me not to sleep, since that is a form of torture).
      Discipleship- A Christian is a disciple and a disciple is a Christian. I have heard from other campus groups (Cru, Chi Alpha) that a person investment in the spiritual well being of another is helpful for urging on others to aspire to Christ. It is also the model of Paul and Timothy.
      Giving Spirit- Christ gave every thing, even his own life. He tells us to give to the poor. The bible says “Religion God our father accepts is this to care for orphans and widows…”
      House church- This is an early model of Percila and Aquila. It is thought that house church form the back bone of the kingdom of God which is all about saving souls. Saved souls become like Christ though the renewal and washing of the Holy Spirit.
      Lay Mission- Not sure I can justify this one, again an early model. But I believe outdated. The goal is the same but the method imo seems lacking.
      Manger Ministry- I don’t know what this means. (maybe I was hasty in my response)
      One-on-one Bible study- See back to bible
      Partnership- The collaboration of the body of Christ facilitates the creation and maintenance of all the above activities.
      Testimony- This means witness. By witnessing about God’s work you proclaim his death until his resurrection. By doing so become like Christ while at the same time showing others the power and work of God in your life.
      Kingdom of Priests and Holy Nation- This one in retrospect is an ideal. It is as Augustine says “The City of God”. The kingdom of heaven extending to all nations and all corners. But in order for this to happen the city of God would need to be the world. This occurs in Revelations chapter 21.

    • Thanks for this analysis, forests. What you’ve attempted to do here is interpret what you perceive to be the origin of the core values and what they are trying to communicate. This interpretation comes from your particular worldview as informed by different sources, which include the Bible. This is essentially how the founder of UBF came up with the core values; they are a combination of his worldview and outside sources which he also viewed through his unique worldview lenses.

      What I’m trying to say is that we’d be remiss to state that the goal of the core values is to simply help one to become like Christ; it assumes too much and is unrealistic because there are myriad views of Christ throughout history. As sincere as the founder was in crafting these statements, in order to actually understand why he said these things and wanted to pass them down to others, we have to examine what he read, wrote and lived, especially in terms of his interactions with others. I’m not saying that he didn’t want to help people become like Christ, I’m only asking questions about what view of Christ he espoused. To me, this makes all the difference.

    • > his methodology was birthed from his ideology

      I don’t think the founder hat a big picture with his ideology in mind when UBF starte. I rather believe methodology and ideology developed in lock-step, while UBF’s founder tried various ideas and methods and looked which worked best in his view – where to me it’s obvious that his definition of “best” also included factors like what brought him more members, more control over these members, more money, more admiration and authority. In the end, he created a self-replicating hierarchical system that glorified itself and himself at the founder at the top of the pyramid, guaranteed him glory, power and abundant income. This system worked of course, by exploiting the workforce of the ordinary members at the bottom of the pyramid. It did not create a healthy and honest community that glorifies God. In such a community the leaders would be fully accountable the members, and serve them, not the other way around.

      Concerning doctrine, an old Korean UBF member told me that in the beginnings, UBF’s Bible teaching was only about Genesis. It did not start with the teachings of Jesus, and these were never in the center of the UBF ideology. Only later they were incorporated into the ideology. But in the center of UBF ideology were only dogmas and methods that helped to replicate the UBF system. Note that replicating UBF is not the same as spreading the gospel.

    • forestsfailyou

      You are correct, as always my thoughts are what I perceive, if they weren’t they would not be my thoughts. But Chris’ explanation seems much better than mine at any rate.

  7. Forests, the problem with the slogans is that they can mean whatever anyone wants them to mean. In my second book, Goodness Found, I expressed the meaning of the slogans as they were taught in my area of ubf.

    David is right, these are ideas, with mostly a good intention. But you could do all those things and completely miss the love Jesus came to share. You could be a great slogan-keeper and yet not even love your spouse or children.

    So the 12 point heritage is an ideology from which any kind of methodology could be developed. This is how ubf “changes” without changing anything. They adjust the methods during each reform/crisis but keep the ideology.

    The 12 point heritage/legacy is not something to be guarded but something that is long overdue for massive public scrutiny, examination and critique.

  8. Mark Mederich

    burl ives: “silver and gold, silver and gold..”