Dr. Meredith J. Sprunger
- Deity and Reality
- Spiritual Cosmology and Universe Order
- Adam and Eve
The great majority of the teachings of The Urantia Book reinforce and enhance the insights and truths of traditional Christian theology; however, it is sometimes good to point out the most controversial aspects of a new paradigm to sharpen its distinction from a traditional paradigm and thereby stimulate critical thinking.
The Urantia Book presents a rich source of religious information and insight. In its more than 2000 pages it covers a wide spectrum of topics. But even more challenging, it projects a new vision of the cosmos. Just as Jesus brought a new paradigm to the religion of his day, while at the same time reinforcing the best spiritual insights of the Old Testament, The Urantia Book brings a new paradigm to the religion of our day, while simultaneously enhancing the basic spiritual concepts of contemporary Christianity and other world religions. Epochal revelation always upsteps the best teachings of evolutionary religious development. Even though it enhances the old spiritual verities, considerable time is required for religious institutions and culture to critically examine and adjust to a new spiritual cosmology.
It may be possible to expedite this process by examining some of the major deviations of the new paradigm from the old frames of reference. Following the historic normal curve of change, some of us feel more comfortable with the traditional theological forms, while others are energized and inspired by the new vision of reality. The challenge of creatively evaluating enlarged spiritual concepts and values requires courage, balance, and open-mindedness.
In the Christian faith, we believe that God inspired certain individuals with spiritual truth. These inspired prophets shared this message with their fellows. Over the years these teachings were edited numerous times and eventually were evaluated by church councils and made a part of the scriptural canon. The Urantia Book speaks of two basic types of revelation: (1) epochal revelation which is periodic, successive, and evolutionary; and (2) continuous revelation insofar as the indwelling Spirit of God reveals truth to individuals.
The authors of The Urantia Book acknowledge difficulty in translating spiritual realities into human concepts and language. They say that thousands of human concepts and statements have been used to facilitate comprehension and communication. The authors also tell us they are rigorously restricted, and are not allowed to anticipate developments in the future. The science and cosmology of the book, we are told, are not revelatory, and will soon be in need of revision.
Knowledge must be achieved by evolutionary discovery, but it is integrated and given spiritual value orientation by revelation. This saves much time in eliminating the errors and distortions of evolution. Revelation is never too far removed from the thought process of the age in which it is given. It is rooted solidly in evolutionary foundations. It can only be validated by experience, and is never complete until we meet the Universal Father on Paradise.
Deity and Reality
The Christian conception of Deity is centered in the doctrine of the Trinity. We have had problems understanding how three persons can exist and function as a monotheistic entity. The Urantia Book clarifies the concept by describing the unique functions of each person of the Trinity as well as affirming their absolute unity. This concept is further enhanced by pointing out that there is a nonpersonal Trinity reality which has universe functions.
The Urantia Book picture of Deity and Reality is a much more complex reality structure than the Christian concept of Deity. In addition to the Trinity, The Urantia Book describes Absolutes of potentiality and an evolutionary aspect of Deity, called God the Supreme. The Supreme grows as the personalities in the evolving universes attain Godlikeness. This evolving Deity Reality is very close to contemporary concepts in the writings of Jung, Tillich, Tellhard de Chardin, and Whitehead. Process Theology speaks of "the consequent nature of God" which is similar to the image of the Supreme in The Urantia Book and essentially the same as the immanence concept of God in traditional theology. There are other aspects of Deity and Reality in The Urantia Book which further augment the complexity of the God-concept in the universe of universes. As humanity is beginning to learn more of the immense diversity of the microcosmos and the macrocosmos, it should not surprise us that a more mature concept of God will also reveal an expanded complexity of Reality.
Spiritual Cosmology and Universe Order
The Christian faith has lived with a rather simplistic spiritual cosmology. Heaven, supposedly, was a place of perfection with "pearly gates" and "golden streets," populated by angels and other spiritual beings. Mainline theologians have grown increasingly skeptical about angels, and have had very little to say about eschatology. In the meantime, knowledge of our material astronomical cosmology has exploded by light-years, picturing an almost unlimited cosmos. Some of us have been acutely aware of the inadequacy of our Christian spiritual cosmology. The Urantia Book presents an enlarged view of spiritual cosmology which is commensurate with our gigantic material creation. Along with it is given an overview of a vast array of spiritual personalities that function in a hierarchical system of ability and power. Such a universe of super-mortal personalities must exist if we are to make any sense of the spiritual cosmos.
In the center of all things is the Isle of Paradise, the residence of the Paradise Trinity. Surrounding this enormous Isle are concentric levels of astronomical creations. The first of these universe levels is composed of the perfect pattern worlds of the Central Universe, Havona. This universe of perfection is in many ways similar to Plato's vision of the "perfect pattern" of Ultimate Reality and the conception of heaven in traditional Christianity.
Paradise and the Central Universe are encompassed by seven evolutionary universes with their countless astronomic galaxies and teeming inhabited planets. Each superuniverse is composed of local universes, and the local universes are made up of constellations, systems, and inhabited planets. The basic administrative unit of the seven superuniverses is the local universe. Our planet, Urantia, resides in a local universe whose Sovereign is Christ Michael.
Adam and Eve
The traditional Christian view of Adam and Eve as the first human beings on earth has been relegated by Biblical scholarship to the realm of folklore. Theologians now refer to the creation story as a religious myth-a narrative conveying important spiritual truth, but not actual history. The Biblical record itself reveals that a civilization existed before the advent of Adam and Eve. The Urantia Book presents a fascinating, story of the origin of the human race and the development of civilization which is broadly harmonious with current scientific views.
The authors describe the dynamics of evolution as a process that eventually exhausts its inherent natural potentials. At this juncture in human evolution on inhabited planets, a higher order.of material son and daughter, an Adam and Eve, is sent from the local universe system to upstep the human race. They are required to establish a large population of their progeny, the violet race, before any mixing with the native peoples is allowed. Because of the isolation of our planet, due to the Lucifer rebellion in our system in which our Planetary Prince participated, the tasks of Adam and Eve on our world was particularly difficult. The so called "fall" of Adam and Eve was the result of their well intentioned decision, secretly promoted. by our rebellious Planetary Prince, to start this genetic mixing prematurely.
While the expanded spiritual cosmology of The Urantia Book is breathtaking, its Christology is the most radical deviation from Christian theology. From a planetary point of view, the life and teachings of Jesus harmonize with and enhance traditional orthodox theology: Jesus was truly human and truly divine, and the mediator between God and humankind. But from a universe frame of reference, the view is quite different. The authors of The Urantia Book tell us that because of our limited view of universe cosmology, we have assumed that Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. This, they assure us, is an understandable misconception. The authentic historical picture, we are informed, is much more complex.
After the Trinity brought the Isle of Paradise and the Central Universe into being at, the dawn of eternity, they instituted a delegated creation plan for the finite, evolutionary creation centering in local universes. The Universal Father and the Eternal Son gave origin to Paradise Creator Sons of the order of Michael who are empowered and ordained as creators of the local universes and their worlds of time and space. Our Creator Son is known as Christ Michael and is both the creator and savior of all in our universe. (The prologue of John, Paul in Col. 1: 15-16, and the writer of Hebrews 1:2 speak of Christ as creator, which has always puzzled Christian theologians.) Each Creator Son is accompanied by a daughter of the Infinite Spirit, designated the Universe Mother Spirit whose spiritual presence is known as the Holy Spirit.
Each Creator Son is unique in nature and personality; each is the "only begotten Son" of their universe. A Michael Son is the local universe personification of the Universal Father and the Eternal Son in his universe. All who go to the Father in his universe proceed through his benevolent ministry. Each Creator Son must earn his sovereignty by incamating in the likeness of the various orders of created beings in his universe. Jesus of Nazareth was Christ Michael's seventh and final bestowal in which he achieved sovereignty in his universe and, in principle, terminated the Lucifer rebellion. ("I, when I'am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself," (John 12:32) and "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me," (Matt. 28:18) are gospel passages 'suggesting this sovereignty.) Following Christ's ascension his Spirit of Truth was bestowed on our planet.
The tradional Christian view of life after death has been simplistic, and in the view of many, naive-we go to heaven and are received by Jesus and made perfect. Here problems and suffering are nonexistent. This instant perfection does not make sense to many thinking people and Christian theologians have had very little to say about life after death
"The Urantia Book describes an eminently reasonable picture of life after death. Our spiritual growth continues just where we left off in our mortal existence. We are resurrected on the "mansion worlds" of our local system with a "morontia" body, which is part material and part spiritual, and gradually acquire a more spiritual existence. The entire spiritual universe is a great educational university of learning and achievement where we are prepared for future service. On our ascending journey, even as on Urantia, we meet with many trials and frustrations. But long before reaching Havona, these ascendant children of time have learned to feast upon uncertainty, to fatten upon disappointment, to enthuse over apparent defeat, to invigorate in the presence of difficulties, to exhibit indomitable courage in the face of immensity, and to exercise unconquerable faith when confronted with the challenge of the inexplicable. Long since, the battle cry of these pilgrims became: 'In liaison with God, nothing — absolutely nothing — is impossible'." (U. B. p. 291)
We proceed through the local universe, the superuniverse, the central universe, and graduate to the Isle of Paradise where we meet the Universal Father, and are conducted into the Corps of Finality in preparation for greater service in eternity. You humans have begun an endless unfolding of an almost infinite panorama, a limitless expanding of never-ending, ever-widening spheres of opportunity for exhilarating service, matchless adventure, sublime uncertainty, and boundless attainment. (U. B. p. 1194)
This greatly simplified presentation of the major Urantia Book deviations from traditional Christian theology is neither adequate nor convincing of its quality; but it may help those unfamiliar with the book to focus their reading and thinking on areas most critical to the adoption of a new paradigm of spiritual reality.
Since The Urantia Book purports to be the Fifth Epochal Revelation authored by supermortal personalities, it is important to have a clear understanding of the philosophic criteria of truth necessary in evaluating such a claim. First of all, claim of authority is not a valid philosophical criterion of truth. Secondly, knowing the origin and/or authorship of the book may give some helpful insights, but is also not a reliable philosophical criterion. Whether supermortals or human beings wrote the book, it must be evaluated by its content, not by who may have written it.
The central objective in evaluating The Urantia Book is to assess the quality of its spiritual insight. This must be done by individuals using all their resources for evaluation developed and tested through experience. Is the spiritual quality and insights of the book inferior to, equal with, or superior to our traditional sources of spiritual truth? During this period of testing, a consensus will gradually evolve regarding its quality. If that opinion is negative, the book will fade into obscurity. If the consensus is positive, continued evaluation will eventually determine the level of its spiritual value. Is it just another useful resource, or does it have the quality of genuine revelation? My hypothesis is that if it has the spiritual quality of revelation, its influence will continue to grow.
My personal view, after thirty-five years of study and evaluation, is that the book is of superior quality in at least four categories:
- Its comprehensive view of Deity and Reality, including the Paradise Trinity.
- Its presentation of an enlarged spiritual cosmology which is commensurate with our gigantic material astronomical cosmology.
- Its overview of a vast array of spiritual personalities that function in a hierarchical system of ability and power, which must exist if we are to make any sense of the spiritual cosmos.
- And finally, its greatly expanded presentation of the life and teachings of Jesus, which is solidly rooted in the New Testament realities. Even if one does not think the expanded spiritual cosmology of The Urantia Book is reasonable, you will find the 700 page section on the Life and Teachings of Jesus, if only read as a historical novel, to be the most inspiring and spiritually uplifting account of Jesus' life and teachings in print.