Lesson 1—What is Unity?
Hi Friends —
Here is another resource that addresses the question, “What is Unity?” It was written by Eric Butterworth in the 1950s and he wrote this piece “to briefly outline the background, the ideals, and the aims of Unity, and to correctly identify it as a non-denominational religious movement.”
The primary claim of this resource is that Jesus did not establish a (physical) church “on Earth” and that Unity is not interested in forming one either. The true church of Jesus is one built in consciousness. That has been established in many Unity texts, particularly in lesson 4 of the correspondence course, “The Body of Christ” and the many references to “Unity Church Universal.”
What’s interesting is how Butterworth frames the universal church built on faith with discipleship on one side and the expression of the body temple on the other side. He does this with his selection of scripture references. The calling of disciples leads to an awareness of the Christ within, revealed not by flesh or blood but rather by the Father within. And that awareness leads to a formation of the temple of God—the spiritual body.
Butterworth’s Unity text reference (Talks on Truth, chapter 9) then ties the formation of the body temple—the spiritual body—to spiritual healing. There, Charles Fillmore writes,
Many have caught sight of the fact that the true church of Christ is a state of consciousness in man, but few have gone so far in the realization as to know that in the very body of each man and woman is a temple in which the Christ holds religious services at all times: “Ye are a temple of God.” The appellation was not symbolical, but a statement of architectural truth. Under the direction of the Christ, a new body is constructed by the thinking faculty in man.
This is a challenging doctrine. It may make sense to a dedicated disciple, but it isn’t attractive to a newcomer. Which leads to another point of interest.
This resource is #1 of 24 lessons in a larger work entitled “Introduction to Unity—A Synoptic Study of the Teachings of Unity in 24 Lessons.” Most Unity churches have an introduction to Unity class for new people. Classes for new people often includes things about discipleship and the church.
But in this resource Eric Butterworth offers some really challenging doctrine. He begins his class by emphasizing to these people who are new to the Unity church that the true church of Christ doesn’t truly exist in physical form and that they are called to express a new body temple.
Why would he do that? It may be because it made sense for Unity School of Christianity, which proclaimed that it provided “practical application” of the teachings of Jesus. Unity was careful to say that its teaching didn’t contradict what people were getting from their church affiliations, it only offered a “practical application” of it.
But it didn’t make sense for ministers who were serving in the field ministries. The field ministers weren’t only trying to get people overcoming and regenerating, they were trying to attract attract people away from their own “church affiliations” into a physical, Earthly body of Christ.
Butterworth wrote this piece in the 1950s when there was only “One Unity”—known as “Unity School of Christianity.” Back then, what we now call Unity Worldwide Ministries was only “the field department” of Unity School. In 1966, Charles R. Fillmore, grandson of the founders and President of Unity School, issued “Directive 4” which severed Unity’s organizational control of the field ministries. He did this because he sincerely believed that the field ministries would be better off forming their own organization and managing their own affairs.
It just may be that Charles R. Fillmore perceived that Unity school’s declaration about the “true church of Christ” being not physical but spiritual was inhibiting the ability of the field ministers to attract people into their physical centers and churches.
If so, then we need to recognize the insight of Charles R. Fillmore. He perceived that the best interest of “One Unity” was multiple, independent organizations—what I call institutional pluralism. And he did not let his ambitions prevent him from doing the right thing for the ministers in the Unity movement.
May 5, 2019
Introduction to Unity
A Synoptic Study of the Teachings of Unity in 24 Lessons
Handout for Class
OBJECTIVE: To briefly outline the background, the ideals, and the aims of Unity, and to correctly identify it as a non-denominational religious movement.
UNITY TEXT SOURCES:
- "TALKS ON TRUTH" (Fillmore) Chapter 9
- "KNOW THYSELF" (Lynch) pp. 151-154
- "UNITY SCHOOL OF CHRISTIANITY" (Free pamphlet)
- "METAPHYSICAL BIBLE DICTIONARY" p. 151 CHURCH
POINTS TO BE CONSIDERED:
- UNITY IS A RETURN TO FIRST-CENTURY CHRISTIANITY. It is not an off-shoot of any organised religion, thus it owes no allegiance to the various forms, ceremonies, and customs of the church. Unity is devoted to demonstrating that the Jesus Christ teaching is a practical, seven-days-a-week way of life.
- UNITY IS NOT PRIMARILY INTERESTED IN BUILDING UP A CHURCH MOVEMENT. It is not trying to convert people from one religion to another or from one church to another; but rather to help people of all faiths to be "transformed by the renewing of their minds."
- JESUS DID NOT ORGANIZE A CHURCH ON EARTH. His "church" was an organization of dynamic ideas for abundant living, which is an "exact science."
- UNITY TEACHES THAT THE TRUE "CHURCH OF CHRIST" IS THE "TEMPLE NOT MADE WITH HANDS," a state of consciousness in which man knows himself to be a "temple of God." Thus it is fundamentally interested in helping all people to find the creative way to "build within a Temple more rare." For this reason Unity is very much interested in the healing of mind, body, and affairs, and in finding and experiencing the "life more abundant."
QUESTIONS FOR WRITTEN WORK:
- What is the true church of Christ?
- What is the rock upon which the church of Jesus Christ is built?
- What should be the real purpose of religion?
- How did Unity come into being?
- In a few words outline what you believe to be the true purpose of the Unity movement.
NEXT WEEK: "FIRST THINGS FIRST" (Toward better understanding of God)
SUGGESTED READING REFERENCES:
- Chapter 2,"JESUS CHRIST HEALS" (Fillmore);
- Chapter 1, "CHRISTIAN HEALING" (Fillmore);
- Chanter 1, "LESSONS IN TRUTH" (Cady);
- Chapter 10, "HOW I USE TRUTH" (Cady);
- Chapter 5, "SELECTED STUDIES" (Shanklin);
- Chapter 2, "GOD A PRESENT HELP" (Cady).