Interpreting the Bible Metaphysically
Many Christians now refer to the Bible as "The Word of God", that it is divinely inspired and infallible, and therefore, no one must add or subtract from it. Unity is sometimes looked upon as changing what is in the Bible and therefore changing the teachings of traditional Christianity.
Yet 2000 years ago, Jesus was criticized for changing what the Bible teaches! He was accused of healing on the Sabbath, of not ceremoniously washing his hands, of forgiving a person's sins -- each of which goes against the commandments of Moses in the Old Testament Scriptures. Was Jesus altering the Bible?
Jesus defended his actions in Matthew 5:17 by declaring that he was not changing the Scriptures, but teaching a fuller, richer interpretation of them. But more, he was living his understanding to the fullest, as well. Jesus was going deeper into the Biblical teachings and living from that greater insight. The Pharisaic teachers of his day, on the other hand, were strong on following the "letter of the law", but had a habit of ignoring the "spirit of the law".
So in the remaining verses of the chapter, Jesus clarifies the deeper meaning of Moses' commandments:
* Murder begins with anger, he said -- get control of the anger. * Adultery starts with lust -- get control of your passions. * Rather than taking revenge against an abusive person, become non-resistance toward their actions. * Instead of dishing out hatred toward your enemy, love them.
Whereas the Pharisees focused upon avoiding sinful (or defective) behavior, Jesus focused upon the indwelling consciousness that leads to inappropriate behavior. So when Christians of today are focused upon denying sinful behavior, are they not missing the underlying, unresolved cause that tends to promote that very behavior? Jesus taught us to control behavior by turning our thinking around -- get to the root of the problem.
In Unity, we interpret the Bible metaphysically; that is, we seek the underlying or spiritual meaning of the passage or story. This leads to a greater understanding of the nature of God, of what Jesus was really about, of what it means to be human, and of the deeper purpose that life holds for each of us. It means becoming more aware of the internal activity of thought, beliefs, feelings, and attitudes.
Biblical stories can often convey these psychological processes in a form that speaks to the soul. The story of Jesus calming the stormy winds while at sea reminds us -- when our emotions are raging out of control -- to awaken the Christ Spirit within and speak calming words of peace from that Spirit.
To a non-metaphysical person, Unity appears to be changing the words of the Bible, and therefore, weakening or changing the traditional Christian world-view. Hopefully, there is enough room in the boat for differing approaches in the never-ending search for Truth.
Authored by Reverend Virgil Brewer at Unity Chapel
September 1, 2008