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The Birth of Jesus, Part VII. The Role of Ruth: The Seductress

10 January 2013: 1 Comment »

The third woman mentioned in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus is also unique in a number of ways. Her name is Ruth and she, like Rahab, is a foreigner. Rahab was a Canaanite citizen of Jericho. Ruth was a Moabite, and the widow of a Jewish man named Mahlon. Her story is found in the tiny …

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Question & Answer

Jan Weston from Morrow, Ohio, writes:

Question:

I know that you are invited to Unity Village, Lee's Summit, Missouri, on occasions. I think I have read a comment from you saying that Unity was a positive resource for the future understanding of faith. My wife and I have regularly attended a Unity congregation until recently. I had searched to see if you had written anything in regards to interpreting scripture metaphysically and could not find any articles. I would like to know in more detail your feelings of the strengths and weaknesses as you see it in Unity thought. Also, any suggestions for a resource other than the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary and Charles Fillmore's The Revealing Word: A Dictionary of Metaphysical Terms. I look forward every Thursday to receiving your articles.

Answer:

Dear Jan,

Thank you for your letter. I have had the pleasure of being at Lee’s Summit on several occasions and have spoken in perhaps as many as 200 Unity Churches across the nation. I find the Unity Movement exciting and open. It is not, however, their metaphysical interpretation of the scriptures that impresses me so much as it is their insistence on seeing religion as an asset to wholeness. They simply are not into sin, original or otherwise. The traditional Christian message, which is rooted in the theology of Augustine in the Fourth century and expanded by Anselm in the twelfth century, is based on the assumption that human life began as perfection, only to fall into sin and, therefore, it needed to be rescued, saved or redeemed. So Jesus is presented as savior, redeemer or rescuer. By defining Jesus in this way, we also inevitably define human life as fallen or lost. I think that is an incorrect description of the origins of human life and any theological system based on that primary assumption will inevitably contribute to the destruction not the enhancement of human life. We human beings are not fallen sinners so much as we are creatures evolving toward some future destiny. We have never been perfect, we have never fallen and we do not need to be saved.

When it comes to interpreting the Bible, a metaphysical approach was adopted by the founders of Unity because that gave them a way out of the necessity for reading the Bible literally and at that time very little else was then available to them at that time to accomplish this task. The Bible was never meant to be read literally, but that was nonetheless the pattern that the church applied to the Bible over the centuries. If we shatter the hold literalism has on scripture, we have many options open to us for reading the Bible non-literally. Metaphysically is one of them and that was the method chosen by Unity. I see it as one among many ways to approach the scriptures. My own study, however, has led me to a rather different approach. I seek to go to the origins of the text, examine the historical circumstances, which produced that material in the first place and then try to discover the experiences that lie behind the biblical explanations. It is that experience which makes contact with my human experience today.

For example, all four of the gospels reflect the Jewish-Roman War from 66-73 CE, during which the city of Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE. The gospels all assume this event and their message is even shaped by it, even though they each purport to write about a life that was crucified in 30 CE, two to three generations before Jerusalem’s fall. In a similar way, much of the Old Testament reflects the division of the Hebrew nation into two competitive states, Judah and Israel, which occurred around the year 929 BCE, yet that fact is written into the story of the patriarchs who lived some 700 to 900 years before this split took place. The point of this is to force us to face the fact that what we have called “the word of god” is a quite human book and a very subjective one. That is the kind of wrestling with the text that opens to me the doors through which I feel compelled to walk in the confidence that this approach will yield the meaning I seek.

A metaphysical reading of our sacred texts will also deliver us from literalism, but for me it does not go as deeply as I feel I must go in search of truth.

~John Shelby Spong

 

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