What is the relationship between the Course and the Bible?

Q. How do you see the relationship between the Course and the Bible?

A. This is a huge question, on which there can be a number of responsible and intelligent views. The main views I’m aware of are three:

  1. Total (or near-total) harmony
  2. Total (or near-total) disharmony
  3. The Course as the third testament, the third installment in a progressive revelation

I personally don’t ascribe to any of these three views. The Course is too engaged in correcting some of the fundamental currents in the Bible for the first to be true. The Course expresses too much agreement with and approval of the Bible for the second to be true.

My issue with the third is more complicated, so I’ll say a bit more about it, and in the process lay out my own view. The third centers on a notion of progressive revelation, in which the New Testament revealed more of God’s true Will than the Old Testament, and in which the Course reveals yet more of His Will.

While in some very, very general sense, there may well be truth in this, I just don’t see it as the best way to describe the situation. I do believe that in some way God was revealing Himself in the Old Testament, but I also believe that revelation was not most of what was going on. Rather, that revelation was like water dripping through the roof—the roof being conventional human culture, along with its normal religious tendencies. Most of what was going on, in other words, was the roof.

I believe that Jesus then came along, expressing what was ultimately a very different kind of religious impulse. I believe he took the best of Judaism—which in my view consisted of a loving, caring God who worked through those devoted to Him to make the earth into a reflection of His loving Will (and make no mistake: these themes are powerfully present in the Old Testament)—and radicalized these themes, taking them to their logical extension. In his vision, God is only love—pure, unconditional love. And if we place ourselves under the waterfall of that love, so to speak, we can be immune to the assaults of the world, we can give love even when under attack, we can do miracles in the lives of others, and we can ultimately bring God’s kingdom to earth.

In its extreme nature, I think this vision was such an anomaly that even Jesus’ own followers didn’t grasp it. And so once he left this earth, the roof closed up once again, and his vision became intermingled with more conventional and traditional religious sentiments. This means that the New Testament as written is shot through with themes that really represent distortions of Jesus’ vision, in which that lofty vision becomes pulled back down to earth.

I therefore see many of the same themes that the Course takes issue with running through both Old and New Testaments, with both of them presenting a mixture of a loving God and wrathful God, a mixture of light and darkness, and with Jesus himself standing out like a diamond in the rough.

The Course, then, in my view, carries forward not the mix of dark and light that we find in the Old and New Testaments, but the diamond that was Jesus’ actual life and teachings—before they were set down in the Gospels. The Course takes this shining diamond and expands it into a full-blown spiritual path, which includes an extensive and detailed spiritual teaching, and a specific and multifaceted spiritual practice. This new diamond, in other words, has many, many more facets, even though at its heart it is still the same diamond.

Thus, rather than being the next logical step after the New Testament (which was itself the next logical step after the Old Testament), I see the Course as an expansion of the diamond that stands in the blank space between them, and that stands in serious tension with both of them. I think there is much of God in both the Old and New Testaments. But in Jesus’ actual ministry and in A Course in Miracles, I think there is only God.

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