Meet Our Graduates: Ryan Nelson

Ryan Nelson
Craig Streetman
King University
Meet Our Graduates
Ryan Nelson
“Philosophy major Ryan Nelson (Class of 2019) applies his dual degree in philosophy and psychology in his work as a Registered Behavior Technician in Kingsport. He works with children, primarily with autism, to provide the support and tools they need to live a gainful and happy life. He notes that his degrees have proved helpful “in learning the terminology” and providing a “solid theoretical foundation” that facilitated his mastery of the theories that he applies in his work with clients. He also notes that his background in philosophy has proven particularly helpful in his work with older clients, who are naturally curious and both stimulated and calmed by philosophical conversation. Ryan has the mind of scholar and the heart of a servant. We are proud of the good work that he does for his community.”
From Dr. Craig Streetman

Meet Our Graduates: King University Bible and Religion: Trevor Wentt

Meet Our Graduates: Trevor Wentt
Trevor Wentt, King University
“I came to King on a wrestling scholarship and stayed because of my professors. I actually tried to transfer out of King–twice. The major I thought I wanted wasn’t there, yet God had different plans for me. While there, I found photography, had my worldview constantly expanded by my classes and through the friendships and mentorships that developed with many professors. Yet, in some ways, my experience differed from most. As a young black man, I was growing into consciousness concerning what it means to be black in this country at that time. I was supported by many professors and encouraged to continue growing. I was even gifted Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man for my birthday one year by Dr. Don Hudson, which has been a formative text for me. Although, inevitably, I experienced pushback and racism from some students in this time of growth, I was supported by others, both professors and students alike. At King, I was challenged to think, question, and help people see the world and God in a more expansive way. From fitness to where I went to graduate school, King helped shape me. Although I have slightly more debt than I’d like, King gave me incomparable freedom and flexibility to become. Since then, I’m currently pursuing making art to challenge perspectives and give hope to marginalized and oppressed peoples full-time, after working in churches and finishing up my MACM from Emmanuel Christian Seminary. King was nothing short of formative, and I am grateful.”
We were fortunate to have Trevor come study with us. He’s one of those students who taught me to question my own thinking and step out of my comfort zone. He is a beautiful man who creates beautiful works. And he continues to teach me. Next semester I will be offering a class at King: “When the Coat of Many Colors Runs Blood Red: Race and Christianity in America,” and Trevor has agreed to advise us and participate in this class. Keep an eye on him–he will do good and great things as he already does. Thank you, Trevor, for trusting us with your undergrad education. You left King a better place than when you began.

Modern American Christianity written by Nicole Clark, King University

Written by Nicole Clark, King University, Religions of the World

Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

Nicole Clark is an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Religious Studies at King University. Her greatest hope is to glorify the Lord with her life and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).

Modern American Christianity

Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

Almost 1,700 years after the Council at Nicaea affirmed one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity about Jesus’s deity and humanness, I sometimes wonder if the modern American Christian message looks anything like that of the early Christian church. I see a few noticeable differences today that might shock the early church leaders. The boldest of which is the step away from the most basic premise of Christianity, that there is just one God. There has also been a shift in the attitude towards wealth and the hope of what heaven will be.

  1. Monotheism is a little blurry.
Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

The most fundamental belief in Christianity is the belief that there is just one God who created and continues to maintain all things. Kenneth Copeland and the Word of Life movement have blurred the lines of what monotheism means today in order to give people the power to speak change into their own lives. Men like Copeland, Benny Hinn, and Creflo Dollar point to Psalm 86:2, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you” as proof that believers are God and can act in the power of God as well. Verses such as Jer. 10:6, “there is none like You, O Lord” and 1 Sam. 2:2, “there is no one holy like the Lord, indeed, there is no one besides You” contradict the claim that man can be anything like God.

To claim oneself as Holy or having the power to speak something into existence goes against the basic premise of Christianity. Colossians 1:16 states, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” There is but one God, and the Bible affirms that He alone created everything. In Isaiah 64:8, God’s people are described as “the clay” and He as “the potter.” The created thing cannot be equal in power to the creator and to suggest otherwise changes the God of the Bible into a mere idol of man’s own desires.                                                                                                                                 

  1. The pursuit of wealth is now a core message.
Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

In the quest to have eternal life, a rich young man came to Jesus and asked him what he must do. In Matthew 19:16-22, Jesus told the man, “sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus’s message of self-sacrifice was too much for the young man, and sadly, he walked away without the assurance of true faith. Jesus’s message of sacrifice and devotion to God has drastically changed over time.

The largest and most popular churches in the U.S. now preach that “it’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty” and not live in debt (Joel Osteen). God indeed desires for his people to prosper, but not in temporal and earthly ways. Jesus told his followers not to focus on earthly treasures, but instead focus on heavenly and eternal rewards (Matt. 6:19-21). Even more condemning of worldly riches, Jesus warned that a person “cannot serve God and money” (Matt 6:24). There can be only one master of the heart.

 

  1. Heaven is the new vacation hotspot.
Modern American Christianity, Nicole Clark

Another aspect of Christianity that has changed is this newly revised vision of what Heaven is going to be like for individuals. The Bible says, in heaven, there will be no more sin and believers will be in the presence of God (Rev. 21:4-8). However, the modern American version of heaven has little to do with finally being free of sin and worshipping God and more to do with living in luxury. It’s not much of a surprise that America’s third-richest pastor, Benny Hinn, paints a picture of heaven as an extravagant city surrounded with jewels and gold with little mention of heaven’s true purpose. Jesus promises eternal life in heaven for believers who confess that Christ is the Son of God who was the propitiation for the sins of his people. Heaven, however, is not a shiny bejeweled vacation spot where people can indulge themselves in their greatest desires. Heaven is the dwelling place of a Holy God. Fellowship and worship of God in heaven should be the heart’s desire of every Christian.

Humankind seems destined to twist the Holy Scriptures to fit their own ideas and desires. When I look at Christianity today, I wonder how the most fundamental beliefs got manipulated and lost. If Christianity is to be based on the monotheistic principle that there truly is only one God, then there must be reverence for that and man must stop trying to make himself into his own idol. In the quest for a perfect and prosperity filled life, Jesus warns that there is room for just one master in a person’s life. We should never lose site of the call to repentance and faithful obedience to the one true God, the God of the Bible. Only then will we have a right view of wealth and ultimately, heaven.

For a more detailed review of what the modern American Christian message looks like today, I highly recommend the 2018 documentary,  American Gospel: Christ Alone (a condensed version is available on YouTube).

Works Cited

American Gospel: Christ Alone. Directed by Brandon Kimber, Transition Studios, 2018.

Bennet, Karen. “The Shocking Net Worth of These 10 Richest Pastors Will Blow Your Mind.” Cheat Sheet. 31 Jan. 2019  https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/net-worth-richest-pastors-will-blow-your-mind.html/

“Heaven.” Find Shepard, 5 Aug. 2019, https://www.findshepherd.com/bible-verses-about-entering-the-kingdom-of-heaven.html.

Hinn, Benny. “A Most Beautiful Teaching on Heaven. You’re Going to Love it!” YouTube,  uploaded by Benny Hinn Ministries, 11 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a3nJHy7fOjw.

Hudson, Don Michael. Foundations of Christian Thought and Practice: Selected Readings and Workbook. E-book, Pulp Press, 2013.

“Promised Land.” My Olive Tree, 2020, https://www.myolivetree.com/prophetic-reasons-to-plant/,

Kenneth Copeland Ministries. 2020. https://www.kcm.org.

Money.” The Order of Preachers, 11 Oct. 2015, https://orderofpreachersindependent.org/2015/10/11/riches-the-rev-deacon-scott-brown-opi/.

“One God.” Bible Timeline, 2020, https://bibletimeline.org.uk/additional-reading/an-age-of-pluralism.