Round Table Discussion: The Bible as Literal or as Allegory
By Chuck Robison
The Question about the Bible as being literal is a valid one and deserves the responses at this Round Table discussion. However for me, the issue is not about the Bible as history or story….these questions are a sub-set of a larger discussion dealing with the issue of Authority.
Our history for the past 2000 years reveals the efficacy of the myth of the Phoenix…..a bird who flies about for 500 years and then is consumed in a fire of cinnamon twigs. From the ashes of that fire, a new Phoenix is born and flies off for another 500 years.
Two things happened around 500 hundred years ago that perfectly illustrate the truth of this myth. First, the printing press enabled some in the church to make the Bible available to a larger audience. Prior to that, the teachings of the Bible were on handwritten documents, which were the domain of the Catholic Church. The average Christian got his Bible knowledge from the priest. This resulted in the Church being the culture’s authority on life and how it should be lived.
Second, Luther used this availability of the Bible as a means to undermine the rule of the Catholic Church as the culture’s sole authority. The Reformation was based on the Bible as the ultimate authority. The Protestors deemed the Bible as having the history of the faith and the clear rule for the society; and they attempted to take it literally.
Then in the mid-1800’s Biblical scholars began trying to understand what was literal and what was a story of some kind. This caused a division between those who wanted the Bible to be literally true as a condition of its authority and the allegory side of the division said that the Bible is both literal and allegorical.
So here in the past 160 years we have seen a path leading up to the Return of the Phoenix. Today, the old Phoenix has been consumed in the fire of time and a new Phoenix is with us. Described by Phyllis Tickle and other scholars, this next 500 years will become known as the Great Emergence. This period is already moving past the Bible as the cultural authority and a new authority is coming forward.
Trouble is, we do not know exactly what this new authority will be. This creates doubt, confusion and most importantly, uncertainty for those souls who need absolute certainty in order to live their lives. These Bible literalists are able to gloss over the unworkable rules and conflicts of the Bible, like the Book of Leviticus and all the old Jewish rules that are no longer observed, and believe that their version of the Bible is historically correct……like the earth being created in six 24 hour days. The conflict in the recognition of these contradictions and irreconcilable differences is a sure sign that the Bible is no longer the cultural authority.
Something new this way comes. The Great Emergence is riding on the back of our global electronic experience, just as the Reformation of the Protestors rode the newly available Bible as the authority for the next 500 years. We have entered a period of confusion and conflict in almost every one of our past cultural norms. As the old paradigm leaves time’s stage, our welcoming the New Paradigm, The Great Emergence, is a powerful and difficult experience. But it is happening.
For my part I see The New Authority of the Great Emergence as the common understanding that what we experience as we attempt to live in higher levels of consciousness and new dimensions of reality is becoming the cultural authority. In these higher experiences we understand that all is one, there is only one God with many many names, one eternity and one rule that cancels out the duality of the past and becomes the oneness-glue of all experience.
That rule is love. God is love and he creates us in his image…..we, too, are love.
Now that our global vision is instantly electronic and we see life as it is happening all over the world, our new understanding of our oneness of life makes it possible to accept the authority of love and oneness as the cultural norm.
Funny thing. Even though we are experiencing this massive upheaval in the Great Emergence, one rule seems to follow us wherever the Phoenix flies. And that rule is this: DO UNTO OTHERS AS YOU WOULD HAVE THEM DO UNTO YOU.