What are the similarities and differences between the Course and traditional Christianity?

There are both similarities and differences between the two paths. The following lists are not exhaustive, but include some of the more significant examples of each category. (Note: We are certainly aware of the great diversity within the Christian tradition; when we speak of "traditional Christianity," we are speaking of beliefs that have been widely held by Christians throughout history, even if not held by everyone):

Similarities

  • Both teach that God is love.
  • Both see God as a Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Both are historical, in the sense that they see time having a definite beginning and end, rather than being a repeating cycle.
  • Both teach that some sort of "fall" or separation from God happened, a "fall" which brought about the current condition of our world.
  • Both depict God as a loving father eagerly waiting for his prodigal son to return home.
  • Both see forgiveness as crucial to salvation.
  • Both see Jesus as a central figure.
  • Both see the guidance of the Holy Spirit as important.
  • Both see the ultimate goal as reunion with God.

Differences

  • Traditional Christianity says that God created the world. The Course says that the world is a product of the ego, an illusory consequence of the illusory "fall" from awareness of God.
  • Traditional Christianity sees Jesus as the unique, "only begotten" Son of God, and the rest of us as, at best, adopted sons. It sees Jesus as a deity to be worshipped. The Course uses the term "Son of God" to refer to all created beings. Jesus is not a deity to be worshipped, but an elder brother, differing from the rest of us only in time, in that he was the first to remember his true Identity as the Christ, an Identity shared by us all.
  • Traditional Christianity depicts two powers at war with one another: good and evil, God and the devil. The Course depicts only one power, God, unopposed by any real evil force. The only opposition to God in the Course is the ego, which is an illusion with no real power.
  • Traditional Christianity has usually seen hell as a real abode where unbelievers will suffer eternal damnation. The Course sees "hell" as a current state of mind that is caused by our thoughts of self-punishment. The Course teaches that no one is damned; everyone will eventually remember God and return to Him, because in fact no one has ever left Him except in his or her own imagination.
  • Traditional Christianity teaches the idea of substitutionary atonement or "vicarious salvation"; that is, the concept that when Jesus died upon the cross, God was punishing him for the sins of all mankind, so that he suffered death in our place in order for us to receive life. The Course directly refutes this idea. It sees sin as unreal, a mistake to be corrected rather than punished, and asserts that salvation has no cost. Atonement is not the price paid for sin, but simply the correction of our error in believing separation from God to be real.
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