Theodore Parker Web Site

I discovered Theodore Parker via the book The American Transendetalists: Their Prose and Poetry (a paperback from 1957 that I found in a used bookstore). The book had his sermon The Transient and Permanent in Christianity (one heck of a sermon that got him ostracized by the Unitarians of his day for its “unorthodox” ideas)

There’s so much in this sermon that I find moving (mostly on the subject of the fallibility yet worth of scripture), but I’ll just quote this paragraph…(emphasis added is my own)

These doctrines respecting the scriptures have often changed, and are but fleeting. Yet men lay much stress on them. Some cling to these notions as if they were Christianity itself. It is about these and similar points that theological battles are fought from age to age. Men sometimes use worst the choicest treasure God bestows. This is especially true of the use men make of the Bible. Some men have regarded it as the heathen their idol, or the savage his fetish. They have subordinated Reason, Conscience, and Religion to this. Thus have they lost half the treasure it bears in its boom. No doubt the time will come when its true character shall be felt. Then it will be seen, that, amid all the contradictions of the Old Testament; its legends so beautiful as fictions, so appalling as facts; amid its predictions that have never been fulfilled; amid the puerile conceptions of God, which sometimes occur, and the cruel denunciations that disfigure both Psalm and Prophecy, there is a reverence for man’s nature, a sublime trust in God, and a depth of piety rarely felt in these cold northern hearts of ours. Then the devotion of is authors, the loftiness of their aim, and the majesty of their life, will appear doubly fair, and Prophet and Psalmist will warm our hearts as never before. Their voice will cheer the young and sanctify the gray-headed; will charm us in the toil of life, and sweeten the cup Death gives us, when he comes to shake off this mantle of flesh. Then will it be seen, that the words of Jesus are music of heaven, sung in an earthy voice, and the echo of these words in John and Paul owe their efficacy to their truth and their depth, and to no accidental matter connected therewith. Then can the Word, — which was in the beginning and now is, — find access to the innermost heart of man, and speak these as now it seldom speaks. Then shall the Bible, — which is a whole library of the deepest and most earnest thoughts and feelings an piety and love, ever recorded in human speech, — be read oftener than ever before, not with Superstition, but with Reason, Conscience, and Faith fully active. Then shall it sustain men bowed down with many sorrows; rebuke sin; encourage virtue; sow the world broad-cast and quick with the seed of love, that man may reap a harvest for life everlasting.

I agree wholeheartedly with Parker in what he has said. A non-literal reading of scripture actually causes one to gain much more from scripture than a purely literal reading can bring.