Christians of conservative or fundamentalistic background have read sections
of The Urantia Book and recognized the superb quality of its spiritual
insights but have been troubled by the revelatory claim of the book or
positions taken which differ from some of the literalistic doctrines of
fundamentalism. These people over the years have written to ask questions,
express perplexity, seek help, or challenge statements.
This paper seeks to speak with constructive understanding to these questions
and spiritual anxieties. In many ways it has been the Christian
fundamentalists who have maintained the vibrant spiritual emphasis of
religion in America. Our intent is not to contend with fundamentalistic
beliefs but, rather, to set these spiritual truths in a larger frame of
reference which, hopefully, will enable those who hold to a conservative
theology to more adequately understand that we subscribe to the same
spiritual realities and are brothers in Christ.
Most people who accept the Bible as revelation do not do so because some one
demanded obedience to this belief. They accept the Bible as the word of God
because they recognize its spiritual truths. Your approach to The Urantia
Book should be made the same way. Before you read The Urantia Book you
should not regard it as revelation. Only after you have read it are you in a
position to begin to consider whether or not it may have been inspired by
God. Faith and conviction must come from honest and sincere inner leading
and not from external authoritarian claim or demand.
How We Got Our Bible
In thinking about the entire question of revelation it may be helpful to
know how we got our Bible. Theological schools devote entire courses to this
question and dozens of books are available on the subject. But you can get a
short; synoptic knowledge of the Bible's origin by going to the Public
Library reference shelf and getting a copy of Hastings' Dictionary of the
Bible. Look up the term "canon," which means "officially accepted standards
or books" and read about how we got our Bible.
You will find the Old Testament evolved in three main stages over thousands
of years of history. It was edited periodically by many scholars. The entire
canon of the Old Testament was not decided until around 90 A.D. at the
famous Council of Jamnia where Hebrew scholars finally determined which
books should be included in the "official" scriptures of Judaism. The
process and the conclusions are much more complex and extensive than this
brief description might lead you to believe.
The New Testament began in the early Christian Church as a series of papers
and letters written by numerous people. These papers were circulated among
believers, edited, combined, and added to by many early scholars and church
leaders. The names of apostles were often attached to the better papers so
that they would have more authority for church members. From around 144 A.D.
to 367 A.D. various scholars and bishops drew up their own lists of books
which they thought should be canonical or officially recognized books.
Finally, Athanasius, bishop of Alexandria, wrote an Easter letter to the
churches of his diocese in the year 367 in which he discusses the books
which he considered canonical. This is the first list which includes all of
the twenty-seven books of the New Testament as we now have it. His list,
however, was in a different sequence than our current New Testament. At
various church councils in the years that followed, Athanasius' list was
widely adopted and in this way we got our New Testament.
In Athanasius' pastoral letter he wrote with all of the authority of a
bishop, "let no one add to them (his list) or take away aught of them." Such
authoritarian exhortations were considered necessary to protect the purity
of revelatory teachings; and statements like the admonition in Rev. 22:18-19
"I warn every one who hears the words of the prophecy of this book..." were
common. In the same way the revelatory commission of The Urantia Book
requested that the book be published under international copyright
protection so that the purity of these teachings could be safeguarded. These
precautions are not meant to imply that God ceases to enlarge the revelation
of himself and spiritual truth to succeeding generations. The history of the
Bible shows that God does progressively reveal larger truths to a developing
world. Early religious leaders used authoritarian warnings and admonitions
frequently to protect the latest prophetic messages.
Once you understand how the content of the Bible was accumulated, edited,
adopted, and officially approved, you realize that revelation is validated
by centuries of experience. Many people recognize revelation immediately
because the indwelling spirit of Got confirms what they hear or read but it
takes many people over a long period of time to establish a social tradition
of revelation such as the Bible. This tradition along with the authority and
prestige of the institutional church results in a cultural conditioning
which largely determines how the average person thinks and acts.
Recognizing New Revelation
The Urantia Book being very new must be evaluated by the indwelling spirit
of God working in the mind and heart-of each individual. You should accept
nothing in The Urantia Book or any other book unless it passes this inner
test of truth. I am confident that a thousand years hence, we will have a
solid social tradition witnessing to the revelatory quality of The Urantia
Revelation is always the product of the action of God in the life of man.
God has an infinite number of ways to do this. In Jesus of Nazareth he used
both genetic-physical and spiritual means to bring revelation to us in the
form of a person. In the writings of Paul he used spiritual inspiration in
the mind of Paul to bring us revelation in the form of brief letters to
churches. In John's book of Revelation he used a vision to the mind of John
to bring us revelation. In The Urantia Book he used high spirit
personalities to bring revelation in the form of a book. God could use an
infinite number of channels and manifestations to bring revelation to his
mortal children. It is God's wisdom which determines the time, place,
method, and form of revelation. We might speculate on why God uses certain
channels and forms but this would only be an educated guess.
The spirit of God is always active in the world and in this sense revelation
is continuous - usually through inner guidance to individuals who share
these prophetic insights with their society. Periodically epochal
revelations occur - such as the coming of Jesus. Epochal revelations
naturally have a much greater effect on our world than the continuous forms
of evolutionary revelation. A study of these epochal revelations show that
each succeeding one enlarges and enhances the earlier spiritual
Revelation must always be given in the language, forms of knowledge, and
philosophical concepts which are meaningful to the people given this
revelation at the time in which it is given. As human knowledge expands
revelation uses these more advanced concepts to convey its spiritual
message. This is a never ending process.
The New Fulfills and Enhances the Old
Just as the New Testament fulfills and upsteps the Old Testament, The
Urantia Book confirms and enlarges the truths of the Bible. Most people have
a much greater appreciation of the Bible after reading The Urantia Book. The
Bible and The Urantia Book are companion volumes. Not to recognize this
close supportive relationship is to repeat an ancient error. Early in the
Christian Church a wealthy ship-owner by the name of Marcion headed a
movement to eliminate the Old Testament from Christian literature. The
church wisely rejected his views. Any reader of The Urantia Book who took
this same attitude toward the Bible, in my judgment, would be making this
same mistake. There are many people, in fact, who have not been interested
in the Bible until after they have read The Urantia Book.
Because of the natural suspicion conservative religionists have toward any
claim of new revelation, a rather common reaction which well meaning
fundamentalists have toward The Urantia Book is that it could be a work of
Satan. This is an understandable attitude of people who do not have a
scholarly background in religion and who have been taught to zealously
defend the Bible. It is also interesting to recall that this was the same
possibility raised in connection with the message of Jesus. Jesus' response
to this accusation, I think, is as good as can be made. He said he should be
judged by the fruits of his life - "How can Satan cast out Satan?" The
Urantia Book should be judged in the same way. You will find it supports the
mission and message of Jesus and refutes the intentions and message of
Satan. Epochal revelation will probably always meet the same reception given
the message of Jesus. The leaders of traditional religious institutions are
likely to oppose it; but, in time, the common people will receive it gladly.
The Human and the Divine
A careful study of the life and teachings of Jesus reveals there is no
contradiction between the spiritual teachings regarding Jesus found in The
Urantia Book and the Bible. Certain physical and cosmological facts or
assumptions are corrected and Jesus' entire life and teachings are enlarged
by The Urantia Book; but the essential spiritual truths do not change.
For instance Christian theologians generally affirm that Jesus was both a
human and a divine personality but the majority of scholars in mainline
churches have long recognized that the story of the immaculate conception
and virgin birth were added by the early church to make his divine nature
more believable for the church members of those times. An interesting
observation is that today, except for the most unlettered people, this story
is generally a stumbling block to belief in the authenticity of the Biblical
record of the divinity of Jesus. If the virgin birth is a historical fact,
the reverse argument is a much sounder philosophical position. That is,
since God could have used any method he desired to incarnate his son, the
fact of the divinity of Jesus makes the virgin birth a possible option of
the divine plan.
The reason most mainline church theologians do not accept the virgin birth
story is that only two of the four gospels record it and no where else in
the New Testament is it referred tot The earliest gospel, Mark, and the
latest gospel, John, do not mention it. Such an important event one would
expect all of the gospel writers to highlight. Secondly, there are many
instances of supernatural conception and virgin birth recorded in the annals
of religious history. It was the characteristic method by which ancient
peoples designated the divine origin of their prophets and leaders.
Paradoxically, the Biblical account traces the lineage of Jesus back to
David through the ancestry of Joseph, not Mary. Finally, modern Christian
scholars reject the virgin birth story because it is observed that God
usually uses the natural laws of his creation to work his purposes in the
The spiritual truth regarding the nature of Jesus is that he was both human
and divine. This The Urantia Book strongly affirms. The book does not even
mention the immaculate conception and virgin birth doctrines. It is assumed
that the Father could incarnate his son as a mortal on our world through the
natural process of conception and birth. The ancient legend is quietly
ignored while the spiritual truths regarding the nature of Jesus are
substantiated and enhanced.
An Enlarged Spiritual Universe
The writers of the various books of the Bible had a comparatively simplistic
universe cosmology. They visualized a flat earth in the center of creation
encompassed by the vault or "firmament" of heaven. This limited astronomical
knowledge naturally conditioned their interpretation of spiritual realities
and personalities. Basic spiritual truth, therefore, had to be revealed to
the Biblical authors in prescientific frames of reference.
The revelators of The Urantia Book present a cosmology which, while in
essential agreement with our present astronomical knowledge, goes far beyond
our contemporary science. They also clarify our knowledge of the Paradise
Trinity, the prebestowal personality and universe status of Jesus, and the
functional relationships of spiritual beings in general. Although the Bible
does not speak of the Trinity per se, Christian thinkers have developed the
doctrine of the Trinity and naturally assumed, without specific Biblical
confirmation, that the preincarnate Christ was the second person of the
Trinity. The fact that the prologue of John speaks of him as the actual
creator of our universe was more or less regarded as a poetic "Logos"
doctrine since theologians regarded God the Father as the creator. The
authors of The Urantia Book, however, tell us this Biblical description
(also stated in Col. 1:16 and Heb. 1:2) of the pre-existent Christ is
literally true. He is both the creator and saviour of our universe.
Each Creator Son of a local universe is a unique creation of the Universal
Father and the Eternal Son and is known as "the only begotten son" in his
universe and all who go to the Father in this universe go through the
ministry and means established by this Creator-Savior Son. Even though Jesus
is not the second person of the Paradise Trinity, his presence and power are
exactly the same as that of the Eternal Son, the second person of the
Trinity, if he were acting in the place of Christ in our universe. After
Jesus' bestowal on our confused planet, the Father, as recorded in Matthew,
placed "all authority in heaven and earth" in his hands; and he has promised
one day to return to this world of his crucifixion experience. Here, again,
we see The Urantia Book, while correcting assumptions made due to our very
limited universe knowledge, confirms and reinforces the basic spiritual
truths of the Bible.
Saviour of Mankind
All Christians look to Jesus as the mediator between man and God and regard
him as the saviour of mankind. It is in the explanation of this salvation
that they differ. Theologians of mainline Christian churches see salvation
as the gift of God through faith in Jesus emphasizing God's love for
humanity and full acceptance of them as his mortal sons and daughters. The
theologians of Christian fundamentalism regard salvation as the gift of God
through faith in Jesus because he offered himself as a blood sacrifice
demanded by God the Father as the price for forgiving the sins of mankind.
This is known as the blood atonement doctrine in which Jesus is seen as the
redeemer of humanity from the condemnation of a just and holy God.
The only Christian belief which the authors of The Urantia Book vigorously
criticize is the blood atonement theory. They do so because this doctrine
distorts and slanders the great love which the Universal Father has for his
mortal sons and daughters. It is completely incompatible with Jesus'
teachings about the nature of God the Father. God's love is not subordinate
to his righteousness or holiness. Love is the Universal Father's primary
attitude toward all persons. Jesus is, indeed, the saviour of mankind but
not a redeemer.
The blood atonement theory has its origin in the conceptual language of
Paul. Coming out of the Jewish tradition and writing with Jewish people in
mind, Paul used the symbolic idea of Jesus as the "final sacrifice" in their
sacrificial system as a missionary approach which made sense to those with a
Jewish background. New Testament scholars today recognize that Paul did not
hold a God concept which would be compatible with a literal blood atonement
doctrine. He used this sacrificial language because it was the only frame of
reference which would be acceptable to the Jews of his day. It was a
missionary attempt to relate to the thought patterns of the Jews.
Most ministers in mainline Christian churches have long since abandoned this
retributive concept of God. The Bible commentary most widely used in America
today is The Interpreter's Bible published by Abingdon Press. In volume
VIII, p. 510-11, the writer in commenting on John 3:16 says, "Some of the
past explanations of the gospel are not overhelpful to us now. Most of us
are not at home in the Jewish sacrificial system; and metaphors drawn from
it can be confusing rather than illuminating. And some of the
interpretations, popular in the Middle Ages, are to us incredible, and even
monstrous. So do many, with the Gospels in their hands, appear to see in
them a lesser God giving himself to save us from the implacable fury and
resentment of the great God, slow and hard to be appeased, and demanding his
pound of flesh from someone. That is hideous heresy; and the blasphemy of
blasphemies. It was in the eternal plan of God the Father that Jesus Christ
lived out in fact: 'God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself'
(II Cor. 5:19), not standing sullenly aside, and needing himself to be
We should recognize that most of those who still accept a literal blood
atonement theory in our day probably do so out of misunderstanding and with
no intent to deny the loving nature of God. To believe that God the Father
cannot or will not love man until his innocent son is brutally executed is a
cruel distortion of the loving nature of the Heavenly Father Jesus revealed
to man. But The Urantia Book does affirm the positive spiritual values
associated with the crucifixion and man's salvation which are important to
fundamentalists as well as other Christians.
It was the Father's will that Jesus allow the Jewish leaders to dispose of
him as they desired. God does not arbitrarily interfere with the
premeditated intentions of man. Jesus' death on the cross demonstrates the
profound love he and the Father have for man even when they were torturing
ant executing him. He refuses to use divine power to save himself or punish
these misguided evil doers. This great love is the most powerful saving act
the Father and the Son could bestow on self-willed man in this situation to
eventually deliver him from his ignorance, evil, and sin and cause man to
recognize God's transcendent love and accept sonship. Salvation is something
which God in Christ makes possible for man. Finite man cannot save himself
but through faith he may accept this gift of eternal life. Christ is the way
by which all mortals in our universe go to the Father.
On Approaching New Truth
New truth is always challenging and often threatening to traditionalists.
This is both natural and good. The tried and true values of historical
experience cannot and should not be easily replaced by the new and untested.
But these historic truths are periodically upstepped by prophetic vision.
Such growth is usually a traumatic experience for individuals, the church,
Every prophet in the history of the Old and New Testaments has met with
unbelief and opposition. The priests of society have regularly stoned its
prophets. Then their sons of another century build monuments to honor the
prophets persecuted by their fathers. It: is good to be cautious and
critical; it is helpful to doubt and carefully evaluate. But we need to be
open and objective enough to allow the spirit to lead us to larger truth.
Jesus told his apostles that he would send the Spirit of Truth through which
he would lead them to greater truths in the future. We must be sensitive to
this Spirit of Truth. We need to learn to recognize truth in its many forms
and varying appearances.
You will find that The Urantia Book will stand the test of critical
examination. It is rooted solidly in the traditional spiritual verities of
the Christian faith which have endured for centuries. Reading and studying
The Urantia Book will give you a deeper and larger vision of this saving
faith and help you become a part of a spiritual renaissance which is dawning
on our world.