Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #50
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We’re considering today the final of our trilogy, The Gospel Truth. We’ve been taking a long hard look at Jesus and the church that has sprung up in his name. It is hoped that we’ve touched upon some questions that you’ve always had, but were afraid to ask.
If you’re filling out an information form of some kind, and it asks you, what is your religion, what do you answer? You would put down Catholic, or Protestant, or Jew, or you may be more specific, and you may say Methodist, Baptist, Luthern, Episcopalian, even Unity, but what does this mean? Can you define your religion? Could you tell the difference between your church, and the one across the street? It is doubtful if many persons could except that perhaps you believe in baptism by dunking, and they believe it by sprinkling.
For many persons, religion is inherited by family tradition. I was a Methodist born, and a Methodist bred, and when I die I’ll be a Methodist dead. Often when we hear the expression, “I’ve gotten religion.” What is meant by that? Does it mean that the person has developed a new feeling toward life, or as is more likely that he subscribed to a particular collection of church dogma?
In my college days, I was doing some work in college that had a seminary for Protestant denomination. We had a chapel service every morning, and all the students were required to attend. I heard some wild sermons, I can tell you. The seminary students did the preaching. They seemed to vie with one another in giving the most dogmatic of sermons. They sounded for all the world as if they were in full debate with seminarians from another seminary of a different denomination. They made it very clear that the only way to heaven is salvation was by accepting their own brand that I call custom made convictions.
It was obvious that the dogma of this particular denomination, and I’m sure it’s the same with most other denominations, was so clearly defined so well worked out there was little left for the congregant, but to accept on confession of faith, or what the little boy once called, confusion of faith. This reminds me of Emerson’s classic thought, “A sect, or a party is an elegant incognito devised to save one from the vexation of thinking.”
Dogmatism is the teaching of creeds is infallibly true. It sets forth the terms of a past age as the final terms for all ages and all thought. Christian dogmatism has evolved into the religion about Jesus, which is the essential teaching of what I call "churchianity". As we pointed out last week, this is a far cry from the religion of Jesus.
Jesus clearly placed emphasis on thinking, and speaking, and doing, not just on professing. He upgraded the Ten Commandments, and all the old law by putting it in terms of constructive thought and consciousness. The church that has sprung up in Jesus’ name is often too church centered, too Jesus centered, too dogma centered. But, Jesus stressed a spiritual philosophy that is clearly you centered. You do not accomplish Jesus’ idea of believing many things about Him. You must come to believe about yourself what Jesus believed about Himself.
Church dogma is often too parochial, too narrow, too ridged. It is often divisive and contentious. In competing in the world for souls to save it is often "dog eat dog", or as we whimsically put it in our title, Dogma eat Dogma. Someone told me that they saw this catchy phrase in a church bulletin board, “Love me, Love my dogma.” I thought that was kinda cute.
As we pointed out last week, the religion about Jesus was essentially hammered out in a series of councils instituted by the Roman Church. The church of the established and emperor Constantine decided to accept Christianity as a political tool making it the imperial church of Rome, making the emperor the Pope, and establishing the Christians in the Pagan temples of Rome.
In order to raise Jesus to a lofty plateau where He would unquestionably be worshiped as a God, it was necessary to establish the divinity of Jesus, and the total depravity of man. The new dogma clearly established Jesus as very God. God who would come down from out there, and then put on the clothes of the man to walk among men. It was in no way human.
Many sincere Christians speak proudly of the great historic creeds. The cumulative dogma established in the councils following the annexation of the church by Rome in 324 AD. But it is important to note, emphasize, important to note that few of these fundamentals can be found in the teachings of Jesus, or were held in any way essential to His personal religion.
Now, the first great fundamental of Protestantism is the infallibility of The Bible. This dogma was established during the Reformation when Martin Luther broke with the Roman church over the issue of an infallible Pope, which he renounced. But Protestantism soon became just as rigid in the dogma of the infallibility of The Bible. This became a serious block in the quest for truth for in Bible study.
It’s important to know, and startling to some to hear, that a thing is not true because it is in The Bible. It is in The Bible because at some time by human judgment it was considered to be supportive of truth. The Bible isn’t presented as a book about God written by God Himself. Unfortunately, because of its incredibilities, and impossibilities, yes even obscenities, the spiritual mature person has been totally irrelevant for life, suitable only to be used in services of worship and on holy days.
When we consider it from a metaphysical, or personally symbolic perspective, The Bible is undoubtedly the finest mirror of life by which we can get the most revealing insights into ourselves. But, there’s no mirror effect if we read The Bible as a historically true literal document. Actually there is little to be gained by reading The Bible as a book. Anyone who has ever set out to read The Bible from cover to cover has eventually given up in despair. Total confusion as to its message bogged down amid the begats, and the begets, and the thees and the thous.
Bible study has been hampered by the problems of translation. For instance, in John 5:39 in the King James Version you read, “Search the scripture for in them ye have eternal life.” (John 5:39)That seems clear enough. Eternal life is gained from reading the scriptures, right? Wrong. Modern translators have released that this was a gross error. It has had an extremely limiting influence in the Christian Movement. What happened?
A now obscure translator took it upon himself to omit one word. He wasn’t being devious. He probably was quite sincere. He just didn’t think the word belonged there. That word was ye. Now, in the modern versions of The Bible this passage reads, “Ye search the scriptures for in them me think ye have eternal life and these are they, which bear witness of me. And ye will come to Me that you may have life.” Now, before it had been a command to read The Bible, now Jesus is actually criticizing people for too much Bible reading. He’s saying, you won’t find it in The Bible. Truth is within yourself, and use it, The Bible, as a supplement to your spiritual quest, and metaphysically read between the line. It can become a mirror to help you understand yourself lest you release the truth. Angelus Silesius, born Johann Sheffler, says, “Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born, if He’s not born of thee. Thy soul is all forlorn.”
Another fundamental of the religion about Jesus is the dogma of the virgin birth. Of course, it was necessary to make this claim to prove that Jesus was in no way like one of us. It’s a strange legend with little to support it in the gospels. If there had been a miracle, or even anything unusual associated with Jesus’ birth, it was one of the most closely guarded secrets of the ages because neighbors certainly have a way of getting to know and gossiping about such things.
It is clearly recorded that when Jesus returned home to Nazareth the townspeople seemed singularly unimpressed. In Mark 6:3 they say, “Is not this the carpenter’s son of Mary, brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and of Simon, and not His sisters here with us?” In other words they were saying, what’s so special about Jesus? He’s just one of the boys who grew up in our town. Incidentally, another question that quite often is asked, did Jesus have brothers and sisters? It clearly says that he had four brothers and at least two sisters.
But this paradox, despite the virgin birth is tradition. The gospel is clearly outline a genealogy tracing Jesus’ ancestors through Joseph. It’s not that the virgin birth is impossible, so a long debate about it is irrelevant. It is simply misleading to teach that Jesus started in a way different from you and me, but He claimed no such difference. He was different in His level of consciousness, in His goals, in His commitment, not by the manner of his birth.
Then we make the distinction between Jesus and other people then are mistakable. The doctrine was formulated that the degradation of man, the original sin by which man would be forever cursed by the stigma of humanity, elevated to a central position was a statement of Psalm 51, which reads, “I was shapened in inequity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” How these words have been labored from Christian pulpits, “shapened in inequity and in sin conceived.” But you see, this was taken out of the context of the inspiration nature of the psalms. Without a doubt some of the psalms reach high watermarks in man’s eternal song on the soul, but a few of the psalms are psalms of pain and despair such as in the nature of Psalm 51.
You see, Nathan the prophet had just reprimanded David for his dastardly act of sending the husband of Bathsheba to his death in battle, so he could have her for his own. And David is remorseful. In Psalm 51 he is soliloquizing over his sins. Now ask yourself, in your lowest moments, have you ever said oh, I wish I were dead? I wish I had never be born? You don’t really mean this, but it’s a moment of despair. David is imagining that he certainly must have been conceived and born in sin, or else how could he have done such a foul deed?
But, here is one of the many paradoxes in the theological application of The Bible. We certainly would not hold up David’s act of stealing another man’s wife as though for all men for all time. Yet, we take his emotionally prompted words of remorse and give them a central place in our theology. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s exactly what has happened.
It makes even less sense when we remember another soliloquy of David’s expressed at a time when he was in a high state of consciousness. This is Psalm 8, one of the beautiful psalms. A complete contradiction of Psalm 51, and a wonderful tribute to the divinity of man. It reads, “When I consider thy heavens the work of thy fingers, the moon and stars which Thy has ordained. What is man? And are it mindful of Him and the son of man that thou visits him. For thou has made Him, but little lower than God in promising with glory and honor. I make of him to have dominion over the works of thy hands, and thy has put all things under His feet.”
It is in this insistence in the divinity of Jesus, and the total depravity of man that the Christian church lost its focus. If Jesus entered life perfect, if He was God taking the form of man for a while, then there is little that is pertinent to our unfoldment in His gospel. He becomes a one-way dead end street. We simply believe, and that’s the end of it. But, life is too great in potential to ultimate in a static existence. Life is for living and growing and unfolding.
Didn’t Jesus say, “If you know these things blessed he if you do them?” He’s more involved in accepting a creed on confession of faith. There’s a life to be lived, an attainable goal to be achieved. Jesus said, “Be ye perfect because your Father in heaven is perfect.” Jesus achieved this perfection. In the key of His teaching, the thrust of His whole message was that the same achievement must be the object of your life and mine, be ye perfect. It’s the goal. That’s the thing towards which you must always work.
Then there is the dogma that Jesus in his death on Calgary achieved was is called a substitutionary atonement for the sins of mankind. This tradition holds the incredible idea that God sought to save a sinful society, so He sacrificed His only son on the cross to bring redemption to all who accept Jesus as their personal savior. I call this, the hideous dogma of the vicarious atonement. It is a gross oversimplification of a great spiritual principle.
As you well know, the born again Christian so often proclaims, “I’m saved.” He’ll say this over and over again. He feels very good about it, accepting the once and for all achievement. People often ask me, and they often ask you too, “Are you saved?” I usually say, “From what, or for what?” It might be nice if we could get it all done in one act of confessing Christ, but life is a continuous process of growth. I may be saved for today, but what about tomorrow?
Spiritual fulfillment from it is not achieved through an emotional acceptance of Christ. There is an awful lot of growing to be done. The atonement is really an at-one-ment. Jesus so raised His consciousness to complete oneness with God that He became a light. The light which is the root of all being, but He gave expression to it and fulfilled it. It was not a precedent, but it was a revelation of a principle for He said, “Let your light shine.”
Track buffs may recall when Rodger Banister ran the first mile in under four minutes back in ‘51, or ‘52, I can’t remember which it was, breaking a barrier that was considered impossible. It had been a psychological barrier. That once the breakthrough have been accomplished he was seen as being surpassed by scores of runners. In the same way, Jesus broke the barrier of human imitation proving that it could be broken opening a way in which we can go and grow. It is in this sense that He is the savior. He proved that it could be done, so in a sense the pain and the struggle of making the psychological breakthrough is done for us. This is the susbstitutionary atonement. But the important thing is, we must follow after. We must go and do likewise. There is a lot of work involved, a lot of discipline, a lot of commitment.
Now, consider for instance that most quoted scripture John 3:16. I referred to this often, and you see it often on television where somebody is standing behind a camera with a sign on it that says John 3:16. It’s an important concept to most fundamentalist Christians. It is, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son. That whosoever should believeth on Him shall not die, but shall have ever lasting life.” This is sign of this positive proof of the divinity of Jesus and of special dispensation as the Son of God, and of salvation through believing on Him as our savior.
But note how this takes on entirely new meaning when we see it through the perception of that medieval priest Meister Eckhart, one of the great mystics of the Middle Ages. He says that, “God never begot but one son, but the eternalist forever begetting the only begotten,” so the only begotten is spiritual man, the Christ principle, the principle of the divinity of man. The divine depth of all persons. The only begotten Son is that of you, which is begotten only of God because it is that in all of us that is begotten of sources.
One person may be gotten of an alcoholic father. Thus, may appear to have traits of weakness in his own character. Another may be begotten of ancestors who have a history of certain disease, so as a sense of inheriting disease from his parents, so he accepts his lot in life in fear. Many of us have subliminally begotten of the exploitation by advertising in the media, so that we develop the motivations that business is cultivating for its own profit. But, John 3:16 is saying, “God’s love is so great, His wisdom so infinite that he has given unto us that which is pure and perfect that which is begotten only of Him.”
No matter what a person may experience he is after all a child of God, a spiritual being. He always has within him the infinite potential of the Christ. Whoever believes this about himself really believes that he is the inlet and may become the outlet of all their is in God, but not die, but would have everlasting life. This is not just proof of Jesus’ divinity, it is rather a restatement of the divinity of man, which Jesus proved. He discovered that in Himself, which is begotten only of God. He believes it so completely that even death in the tomb couldn’t hold Him.
One of the emotionally charged themes for preaching is the second coming of the Christ. This dogma grew out of a misunderstanding of the disciples of Jesus because they thought that He was going to be a political ruler of the new world kingdom, so we thought the resurrection and the ascension was a temporary experience. That he would come again bodily to take of the new order.
In theology there is a science called eschatology, a $75 dollar word, eschatology, which is talking about it’s the end of the world and the second coming of Christ. Jesus did say, “I must go that I might come again.” But, referring to the awakening to the Christ in indwelling, Jesus uses the I in a different sense. The I am being the potential within Him, which is the potential within us. When He talks about, “But, I must go away.” He’s talking about the I of the human must go away, and that the Christ may come again. That the divine fulfillment may take place within you.
When you get still and stop trying to working it all out through the intellect, the flow of life will come. But, it is not a once and for all salvation that He is talking about, but the immediacy of the presence, the flow, always available, which knows our need even before we ask. Someone often asks me, perhaps they ask you, “Do you believe in the second coming of Christ?” I do, of course, but not in the way usually supposed.
The first coming of the Christ is the generative experience in which you were born. The indwelling Christ, the other present principle of perfect life, which is within you as a divine potential at all times. But, you grow into physical and mental and in spiritual materially, and the time comes when you come to know what you truly are. In this moment, you’re reborn, awaken to the Christ consciousness. Paul wrote of this. “The first man is of the earth earthy. The second man is of heaven. As you’re born the image of the earthy, you should also bear the image of the heavenly.”
We talk so often about self image. Your self image begins to reflect your divine image. The image which is God as he sees you in spiritual consciousness. When this becomes a part of your self image and human conscious then there is a second coming of the Christ. There is a revealing, or a new worth within you.
One of the fundamental themes of Christian theology has been sin and evil. I recall the time that Calvin Coolidge went to church on Sunday. His wife didn’t go. When he returned from church his wife said, “Well, did you like church today?” He said, “Yeah.” “What did the preacher talk about?” “He talked about sin.” “What’d he say about it?” “He was against it.” There has been a negative hopelessness in the church’s attitude toward the person. In a very real sense we’ve been taught that we are sinners. We sinned yesterday, today, and forever. That all we ever have to look forward to is becoming a good sinner, but we’re sinners forever.
The wilderness of Jesus has been represented as Jesus struggling with the Devil. A very real creatures with horns, red coat, and forked tail. The old dualistic universe with God and the forces of evil locked in death combat. The recent Pope dedicated an entire speech to the subject of the Devil and he said, “Satan truly exists as an active force in the world. He’s a dark and enemy agent, a terrible mysterious and fearsome reality, a live spiritual perverted and perverting being. The hidden enemy who sows errors and misfortune in human history.”
But, this kind of teaching not only lowers God to a second rate power, but elevates evil to the level of transcendence. This is spawned all kind of weird beliefs such as Satanism, and a hodge-podge of oriental and Western superstitions. There is an interesting insight given in the Aquarian Gospel, which is not actually scripture, but which is a very interesting book that came through inspiration through one called Levi. It said and I quote, “The only devil from which man must be redeemed is below ourself. If man would find his devil he must look within. When the demon self has been dethroned the savior love will be exalted to the throne of power. The devil and the burning fires are both the works of man, and none can put the fires out and dissipate the evil one, but the man who made them both.”
People often said, “But, there is so many sinful people around. Man must be terribly evil.” The important thing is not how much evil a person evidences, but how much strength he’s capable of? We need to pay attention to the flowering excellence in the few. In the criminal we do not see a person evidencing an evil nature, but a person revealing his failure to understand and release his divine nature.Quite often truth students in Pollyanna style and say there is no evil. There is no evil. All is good. But, there is a lot of evil in the world. Let’s don’t kid ourselves. There are many sinful people involved in injustices and corruption and of human mistakes. Just read the newspaper to discover how much evil there is.
But, there is no power of evil. This is the difference. Evil is simply a concealment of the good. And what is called sin is the frustration of potentiality. There is no evil force lying in wait for you ever. You are a creature of light, a universe of radiant light. The key is, let your light shine. You may see dark things if you see in the mirror darkly, but there will always be the shadowy forms of the things that are deviling you in your mind. The only things that can occupy your mind are what you permit to be there. You are the master, or you should be, and you can be.
The dogma concerning heaven as a hereafter in place of the skies has dominated Christian belief. The word heaven comes from the Greek word ouranos, which means expanding. There are limitless possibilities within you, but you must reactive the process of growth. “Let the kingdom come. Let the will be done as earth as it is in heaven,” Jesus says in the the Lord's Prayer. Jesus fairly said, “The kingdom of God come with not with observation. He is neither here nor there, but the kingdom of God is within you, and again the kingdom of God is at hand.” The kingdom obviously refers to the divine potential within the person, a tremendous potential that is always present. You need just to let it come into human experience.
One of the things that stands out most clearly in a careful study of the gospels is that few of the essentials of fundamentalist Christianity can be found in the teaching of Jesus, or were held in anyway essential to His personal religion. As we pointed out, they were established in church councils during the period of the Romanization of the church forming what we call the religion about Jesus. But, the simple open sky hillside teachings from Jesus from a religion of the spirit, meeting men and women to express and experience their very own potential in their own lives. This is a very important thing to realize.
James Rhoads, in a touching poem, Oh Soul Of Mine says, the thing that needs to be said to the secret of truth in 17 words. “Know this oh man, so little of sin in thee is not to know thine own divinity.”
We’re gonna close this trilogy, The Gospel Truth, by quoting from the prologue of my book, Discover The Power Within You.
“According to an old Hindu legend there was a time when all men were gods, but they so abused their divinity that Brahma, the chief God, decided to take it away from men and hide it where they would never find it. Where to hide it became the big question. When the lesser gods were called in council to consider this question they said, ”We will bury this man’s divinity deep within in him within the earth.” And Brahma said, “No, that will not do. For man, we’ll dig deep down in the earth and fine it.”
Then they said, “We will sink his divinity in the deepest ocean,” but again Brahma replied, “No not there. A man will learn to dive into the deepest waters, and will search out the ocean bed, and will find it.”And the lesser God said, “We will take it to the top to the highest mountain and in there hide it.” Again, Brahma replied, “No, for man will eventually climb every high mountain on earth. You can be sure somebody to find it and take it up again for himself.”
And the lesser gods gave up and concluded, “We do not know where to hide it for it seems there is no place on earth, or in the sea that man will not eventually reach, and Brahma said, Here’s what we will do with man’s divinity. We’ll hide it deep down in man himself for he will never think to look for it there.” Ever since then, the legend concludes, man has been going up and down the earth climbing, digging, diving, exploring, searching for something that is already in himself.”
2000 years ago, a man named Jesus found it and shared its secret. But, in the movement that sprang up in his name, the divinity in man, has been the best kept secret in the ages. Let’s be still on that note.
For the past few weeks we’ve been considering this basic concept of the divinity of man, the divine level of our experience. Let’s just rejoice and give thanks for an awareness that allows us to see through the glass, see the vistas of truth go but before us, and give thanks for the truth that makes us free.
The great key is found in the teachings of Jesus, not the religion about him, but His religion, His concept, His consciousness. In each one of us contains within himself a level of the divine. This divinity within us lies the potential of greater health, greater affluence, greater creativity to greater love to greater experience of peace on earth good will toward men. We will find the influence of this consciousness, and we turn away from the emphasis on dogma and doctrine as basically a matter of something that we believe and accept and profess.
Turn to what we call first century Christianity, the religion, and the consciousness, and the concepts of Jesus in a very simple and practical form. You will find in this experience something that promises a greater life for all of us. Jesus called it the life more abundant. We will recognize and admit to ourselves life is a continuing process of growth. It’s never over in one moment of salvation when we accept Christ as our personal savior. All that is very good and important, but it is a constant process. Life goes on. Every day we must beget again. We recognize that the ultimate is being perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. You can never sit still. You can never rest on our oars.
We can never feel that we’ve fulfilled life by joining a church, or accepting a doctrine. With open minds, receptive hearts, we make the commitment to know the truth, to live it, to experience it, to demonstrate its fullness in our lives. How good it is to realize this truth contains the in and all of what life is all about. When we know this, we can return to our church, our religious associations, strengthened imbued with a new awareness of a new depth in life, a new depth in truth. We give thanks for the truth, the truth that makes us free. So be it.