PASSAGE: "But he turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men" (Matthew 16:23 RSV).
QUESTION: I know Unity views the devil/Satan metaphysically meaning negative consciousness/doubts/fears. But, I was wondering why Jesus Christ said in such a way as to appear that he was talking to an entity?
Also, why do so many churches still believe the devil is an entity (which seems so silly to me if God is the only power!)?
I was raised a Quaker and never heard any mention of the devil. I have always intuitively felt there was no such entity, except when I had some strange dreams years ago as a college student. I felt an evil presence in the room while awaking from a nap. I thought to myself, "I feel like an evil presence is here, even though I don't believe in the devil."
I want to resolve this devil issue once and for all! Also, I have Charles Fillmore's metaphysical Bible, and I would love tips on how to study the Bible. I do have an Emmett Fox book, and some others, but I still need guidance!
COMMENT: We understand Satan to be, not a power opposite to God, but rather a representation of our own consciousness, in which our clear and total Oneness with the divine is distorted by fears and limitations we've picked up or inherited in the course of our human journey. It is an inevitable aspect of our human experience; in fact, it is an important part of our spiritual journey. Jesus makes this clear, I think, in his experience in the wilderness in Matthew 4. After the three temptations, Jesus' final statement to his demon is 'Get behind me, Satan.' I understand this to mean that the negative energy of that Satan perspective will be with him -- and with us -- as long as we are here in this mortal realm. What's important is not to run from it, but to keep it in perspective -- to keep it behind us, in the back seat, while we drive from our Christ consciousness. So your experience of feeling a negative energy present in your room may certainly be valid; that's when it's important to affirm that the Christ of your being is greater than the shadowy illusion of evil.
I can't speak to why other churches have the beliefs they do. I agree with you that, if we are describing a God of omnipresence and omnipotence, we can't at the same time believe in a power that is not God and a place -- hell -- where God is not.
As to your final question, I think there's a great difference between using the Bible as a spiritual resource and studying the Bible as either a spiritual directive or an historical document. Both are worthwhile and rewarding, but they require different approaches to the text. For studying the Bible, there are many scholars and even more books that can be helpful. I find myself turning most frequently to the works of Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan. For using the Bible, you don't need outside authorities. Open the Bible at random, or use one of the many daily reading structures available on the Web. Take a passage to your heart and ask its meaning for you. Charles Fillmore's Metaphysical Dictionary is a useful resource as you seek to find how the passage expresses in your consciousness, and in your life.