For approximately 2,000 years, the Bible has had an incredible hold on Western civilization, and has clearly dominated all other forms of religious thought. Moreover, it has exerted the most powerful influence over the course of Western political, economic, social, moral, and artistic history. The reason for such a hold, when one examines the Bible from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, is the clear expression its theology gives to the ego thought system, justifying for its believers their own needs to be special. (By the same token, biblical believers would draw similar conclusions about the Course's current popularity.) Incidentally, for the purposes of this dialogue, the focus was more on the New Testament, although as the discussion will show, the Old and New Testaments together reflect a common theological orientation.
Many students of A Course in Miracles have been tempted to call the Course the "Third Testament," expressing their belief that it represents the same basic theology of the Bible, although in a more "purified" (i.e., less ego-dominated) or more spiritually evolved form. As will be clear from the dialogue between Fr. Clarke and me, this grossly distorts what A Course in Miracles teaches, and is a real disservice to both the Course and the Bible. In fact, the Course and the Bible reflect entirely different and mutually exclusive theologies that can never be integrated into one coherent spirituality.
This crucial difference can be summarized in the statement that for Christians the Bible is the Word of God (Christians differing only to the degree of literalness the various Churches ascribe to it), while from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, the Bible would be seen as just one among many religious documents that reflect the consciousness of the time and culture in which they were written. Based upon the important distinction the Course draws between form and content, the Bible would be understood as merely the form in which a people expressed its view of the world and of God, no different therefore from the works of the great Western poets such as Homer, the Greek tragedians, Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe, among countless other poets and artists.
The shared content of all inspired works is the desire to express what is true for their authors, regardless of the form of artistic expression in which it comes. Understood from this point of view, Christianity's mistake has been to elevate the Bible's historical and theological statements into absolute truths, no different from a lover of Shakespeare asserting that his great history plays render an accurate account of English history.
Therefore, to attempt such a reconciliation between these two spiritual paths -- A Course in Miracles and traditional Christianity -- must inevitably lead to frustration at best, and severe distortion at worst. Indeed, Fr. Clarke has commented, as I mention at the end of the dialogue, that to speak of the Course as a "correction" for Christianity (as I myself had occasionally spoken of it in the past) is misleading. To correct something implies that you are still retaining the basic frame-work of what you are correcting. A Course in Miracles, on the other hand, directly refutes the very basis of the Christian faith, leaving nothing on which Christians can base their beliefs. Succinctly stated, here are some of the major differences between the two:
1) A Course in Miracles teaches that God did not create the physical universe, which includes all matter, form, and the body; the Bible states that He did.
2) The God of A Course in Miracles does not even know about the sin of separation (since to know about it would make it real), let alone react to it; the God of the Bible perceives sin directly, as is portrayed in the Garden of Eden story discussed later in the dialogue, and His responses to it are vigorous, dramatic, and at times punitive, to say the very least.
3) A Course in Miracles' Jesus is equal to everyone else, a part of God's one Son or Christ; the Bible's Jesus is seen as special, apart, and therefore ontologically different from everyone else, being God's only begotten Son, the second person of the Trinity.
4) The Jesus of A Course in Miracles is not sent by God to suffer and die on the cross in a sacrificial act of atonement for sin, but rather teaches that there is no sin by demonstrating that nothing happened to him in reality, for sin has no effect on the Love of God; the Jesus of the Bible agonizes, suffers, and dies for the sins of the world in an act that brings vicarious salvation to humanity, thereby establishing sin and death as real, and moreover clearly reflecting that God has been affected by Adam's sin and must respond to its actual presence in the world by sacrificing His beloved Son.
Thus, from the perspective of A Course in Miracles, the God of the Bible, Creator of the world and author of the atonement plan of suffering, sacrifice, and death, is an ego God. He is one Who clearly represents the thought system of the ego's specialness that the Course sets forth. Jesus himself makes these parallels in the text, as seen in the opening sections in Chapters 3 and 6, the Introduction to Chapter 13, the important section in Chapter 23, "The Laws of Chaos," as well as in many, many other places in the Course.
In summary, therefore, we can conclude that there is no way one can reconcile the God or theology of the Bible with the theology found in A Course in Miracles. Moreover, the figure of Jesus in the Bible is totally incompatible with the Jesus who authored A Course in Miracles. In fact, Jesus himself states in the Course, in obvious reference to the historical images that were drawn from the biblical ones, that bitter idols were made of him "who would be only brother to the world" (manual, p. 86; C-5.5:7). It is a continual source of amazement -- given the clear distinctions between the biblical and Course figures -- for one to observe how frequently this reconciliation is attempted. In fact, Fr. Clarke makes this observation in the course of the dialogue.
I have frequently made the public comment that one of the most important lessons a student of A Course in Miracles can learn is how to disagree with someone (whether that person be on another spiritual path, or a student of the Course) without it being an attack. In our world of multiplicity, where personal projections and perceptions rule, it is almost impossible for people to agree when it comes to systems of thought, or on almost anything else for that matter. My father in fact used to say about people holding differences of opinion: "That's what makes horse races." It is also what makes the ego's universe, reflecting the original ego thought that the Son is separate and different in kind from his Creator. Jesus himself comments in A Course in Miracles, as I quote below in the dialogue: "A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary" (manual, p. 73; C-in.2:5). The universal experience is love, and the dialogue with Fr. Clarke was held in the loving spirit of respecting differences, agreeing to disagree as it were, thus offering an example of differing without judgment or attack.
Therefore, it is our hope that this book will contribute to a better understanding of the thought systems of A Course in Miracles and biblical Christianity. It was neither Fr. Clarke's nor my purpose to debate the clear differences which I identified briefly above, and will be discussed more fully in the dialogue. Rather, our purpose was to state them simply, defining the differences (and similarities where they occur) as clearly as possible.
A Course in Miracles, in fact, itself teaches through the use of contrasts, as it frequently states (e.g., text, pp. 249, 252; T-13.XI.6:1-3; T-14.11.1:2-3), even though such differences are absent in Heaven, the state of perfect oneness and undifferentiated unity. At our level of learning, however, where we believe we exist within the ego thought system of time and space, of separation and specialness, we are still in need of contrast to learn the Holy Spirit's lessons of forgiveness instead of the ego's lessons of attack. Indeed, one of the principal contrasts Jesus uses in the Course to present his thought system is with traditional Christianity, with an occasional specific reference to Roman Catholicism. Thus in A Course in Miracles' presentation itself, Jesus shows us that differences can be acknowledged in a loving way, in a spirit of non-opposition and without confrontation, and lovingly serving a pedagogical purpose.
Therefore, the spirit in which this dialogue has been entered is also meant to reflect the Course's view of itself: that it is only one among many thousands of spiritual paths (manual, p. 3; M-1.4:1-2). For in the end, it is the non-judgmental experience of our oneness with God and His creation, rather than the mere acceptance of A Course in Miracles' theology as opposed to that of another spiritual system, that constitutes the aim of the Course's curriculum.
The dialogue has been divided into an Introduction, and five chapters: The origin of the World, Jesus, The Eucharist, Living in the World, and Summary and Conclusions.
One final point: A Course in Miracles
has its own rules of
which have been followed in my part of the dialogue -- e.g., all nouns
and pronouns related to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are capitalized;
the "Son of God," a term which includes all children of God, is also capitalized.
Fr. Clarke's preferred system of capitalization has been followed in his.
PART 3, SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS =>
<=PART 1, PREFACE TO THE DIALOGUE
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