Our Christian readers may find this article an interesting read: Christian, What Do You Believe? Probably a Heresy About Jesus, Says Survey by Jeremy Weber. I hope not too many are intimidated by the word "heresy." To me - a devoted Urantia Book reader/student - these survey results indicate a healthy amount of skepticism about traditional views of Jesus and of the church that bears his name. While I agree that the world desperately needs "the light of the gospel," it is the substance of the gospel taught by the Christian church that may be a factor in driving more and more people to question its real truth content. This is one subject that I will blog further below, using Urantia Book teachings. In the meantime, the survey contained in this article may be of great interest to many. Here are some snips:
"American evangelicals are "deeply confused" about some core doctrines of the Christian faith—and the fourth-century heretic Arius would be pleased, according to a new survey.
"Evangelicals were defined as people who strongly agreed with the following four statements:
"The Bible is the highest authority for what I believe.
"It is very important for me personally to encourage non-Christians to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior.
"Jesus Christ's death on the cross is the only sacrifice that could remove the penalty of my sin.
"Only those who trust in Jesus Christ alone as their Savior receive God's free gift of eternal salvation."
"The State of Theology survey highlights the urgent need for courageous ministry that faithfully teaches the historic Christian faith," stated Chris Larson, president and CEO of Ligonier Ministries. "It's never been popular to talk about mankind's sinfulness or the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. But at a time when a darkened world needs the light of the gospel, it's disheartening to see many within the evangelical church confused about what the Bible teaches."
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Let's talk about the gospel
The Christian gospel as it stands today exhorts the seeker to believe three main tenets:
that s/he is born in sin;
that the only way to escape God's wrath and punishment for that inborn sin is for an innocent sacrifice - Jesus - to be offered up to an angry God as an appeasement;
and that belief in Jesus is the only road to salvation.
Each one of these elements contains something that may be becoming increasingly difficult to take for the average truthseeker, in my view. There is a good reason these tenets are not popular! Who wants to believe that they are a born sinner, innately flawed? Who wants to love an angry or vengeful God who finds justice in killing an innocent child for the sin of another? And why doesn't God honor everyone's desire for salvation - not just those who know Jesus? Even in Jesus' life, he never pointed to himself as the means for salvation - only to God the Father. And this last tenet begs the question: what has become of all those souls who were born and who have died before Jesus came to our world? Or who have died without knowing Jesus? Out of luck?
In the life and teachings of Jesus (Part IV of The Urantia Book), we find a far different - and far simpler - gospel; the gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus preached and taught and lived. That simple and all-inclusive gospel asks the seeker to believe that:
God is our Father;
we are all his children and members of the same family;
and faith alone is our passport to salvation.
Put simply, the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Simple faith in, and acceptance of, one's sonship with God opens wide the doors to the Kingdom to any willing to enter.
The survey cited in the article above is fixated on doctrine - on tradition - on Biblical interpretations - going so far as to accuse even practicing Christians that they are heretics because their spiritual beliefs may have evolved in a different direction than that which is currently "acceptable" according to those doctrines, traditions, and the iron-clad inerrancy of Scripture.
The Urantia Book teaches us that evolution encompasses far more than just physical reality; evolution is also an important factor in the growth of religion, too. As time goes on; as mankind begins to see the world and its circumstances change; as each individual begins to seek their own connections with God; it is inevitable that the crystalized doctrines of traditional religion may not work for him/her. Just as in Jesus' day, the rules of the chruch can be an actual hindrance to one's spiritual progress; it was for this that he came, to deliver his children from stultifying tradition.
This adherence to doctrinal belief and the expectation that God's children will always need to follow it blindly and to the letter is another reason that I suspect people are moving away from traditional Christianity. In the person of Jesus - even in the Christian churches - people see a God/man of love, of tolerance, of forgiveness, of inclusiveness. Nevertheless, these attitudes do not always carry over into church practices.
See Urantia Book teachings on Tradition
Jesus lived the truth of God
In both the Bible and in The Urantia Book Jesus said: "He who has seen me has seen the Father." And I think we can take that statement literally. Jesus did not equivocate.
In The Urantia Book, readers know that in the person of Jesus and his incarnation on our world we see the revelation of the heavenly Father himself, which then makes all of these lovable traits of the Master all the more understandable, especially when we know the book's startling and monumental revelation of God in Part I. We never see Jesus being mean, seeking revenge, being unkind or threatening to those who follow and love him. We breathe a sigh of relief at his comforting message that mankind is not "inherently sinful."
In Jesus we see a Son of God who forgives even those who bring about his death. He does not condemn - a real change from the wrathful God who demands sacrifice. Jesus never did that. And if Jesus never did that, we can believe and rejoice that God would not do that, either. Remember: "He who has seen me has seen the Father."
In Part I of The Urantia Book, we discover God the Father as a person; a person who knows and who can be known by his children - a Father whose nature is only love - a Father whose desire is that none should perish. We discover God's power, his infinity, his primacy - but we also find his very comprehensible traits of mercy, goodness, and beauty. We learn of his desire to fellowship each one of his children through his indwelling the minds of all, living and creating along with them throughout life. How different from the wrathful God of the Bible, demanding sacrifice of an innocent! Jesus portrayed a very different Deity from that one!
And speaking of the Bible...
To many Christians, Bible inerrancy is a given. Again, this opens the door to confusion for the sincere truthseeker. In one part of the Bible, we see an angry God smiting whole races of people for various infractions of the rules while in another part, we see a much kinder God in the beauty of the Psalms or in the wisdom of the Proverbs - and in the Gospels of Jesus.
And aside from those confusing issues, we see a story of Creation that is so simplistic in its elements - and so out of touch with the facts of science - that it can't reasonably be seen as anything more than a fable. And embedded in this simplistic fable are the seeds of "original sin" that have condemned mankind for far too long.
How can one reasonably believe things that go against reason - or adhere to a supposedly inerrant document that contains such significant inconsistencies? When we know better, we do better. Science is not our enemy, but our ally in sifting fable from truth. The revelations of The Urantia Book inform our understanding of God's creation while corroborating and validating scientific discovery.
While liberally citing the best and highest teachings of the Bible, The Urantia Book also provides information ABOUT the Bible. Its teachings give us a reasonable context with which to evaluate the Scriptures, and help believers to form opinions based on that information. The Urantia Book does what Jesus did: in his incarnation, he too, used the cream of Scripture, but he also informed us about the truth of Scripture, as in this "Talk with Nathaniel." It shocked Nathaniel; maybe it will shock you, too; nevertheless, it has the unmistakable ring of truth that can be fully appreciated even today in our 21st century world.
The Urantia Book - and the teachings of Jesus - offer the believer a new and sure path to follow when seeking the true source of "authority" for one's life. And that authority is the above-mention spirit of God that indwells each person; that "still, small voice" that informs the believer's spiritual life. No more are we in need of ancient, sacred texts, priests, or other intermediaries to stand between us and God. This is what Jesus meant by "spiritual liberty!"
The Spirit of Truth
But that's not all. We mortals have been gifted with Jesus' Spirit of Truth - the "Comforter" that he left with us when he ascended to the Father at Pentecost. In my view, it may be the presence of that Good Spirit that - with every generation - informs and directs the spiritual steps of the seeker and allows each seeker to discover the truth and its progressive nature. In the section called "The Significance of Pentecost," we read about this Spirit; The Urantia Book teaches:
194:2.1 Jesus lived on earth and taught a gospel which redeemed man from the superstition that he was a child of the devil and elevated him to the dignity of a faith son of God. Jesus' message, as he preached it and lived it in his day, was an effective solvent for man's spiritual difficulties in that day of its statement. And now that he has personally left the world, he sends in his place his Spirit of Truth, who is designed to live in man and, for each new generation, to restate the Jesus message so that every new group of mortals to appear upon the face of the earth shall have a new and up-to-date version of the gospel, just such personal enlightenment and group guidance as will prove to be an effective solvent for man's ever-new and varied spiritual difficulties.
194:2.2 The first mission of this spirit is, of course, to foster and personalize truth, for it is the comprehension of truth that constitutes the highest form of human liberty. Next, it is the purpose of this spirit to destroy the believer's feeling of orphanhood. Jesus having been among men, all believers would experience a sense of loneliness had not the Spirit of Truth come to dwell in men's hearts.
194:2.5 The spirit also came to help men recall and understand the words of the Master as well as to illuminate and reinterpret his life on earth.
194:2.6 Next, the Spirit of Truth came to help the believer to witness to the realities of Jesus' teachings and his life as he lived it in the flesh, and as he now again lives it anew and afresh in the individual believer of each passing generation of the spirit-filled sons of God.
194:2.7 Thus it appears that the Spirit of Truth comes really to lead all believers into all truth, into the expanding knowledge of the experience of the living and growing spiritual consciousness of the reality of eternal and ascending sonship with God.
The revelation of The Urantia Book is a valuable resource for any seeker who believes that God still speaks to his children and reveals himself to them; a valuable resource to re-discover the life and teachings of Jesus; a valuable resource to discover the nature of true religion and the reality of endless life.
Finding God through experience
And so, to see a survey that witnesses to the evolution and expansion of religious thought - even among evangelicals - is not all that alarming to me. In fact, it seems a hopeful sign. But then, I have been a student of The Urantia Book for a long time - I have experienced many of its truths first-hand - I have come to know God as never before; I have come to that knowledge of God through the teachings of the book regarding the reality and authority of personal spiritual experience, and the revelation of Jesus' life and teachings in Part IV that demonstrate how Jesus lived just such a God-directed, God-conscious life.
I am fully confident that God continues to speak in his own way to ALL of his children who seek him and who seek the truth. And he does this through his indwelling Spirit, through Jesus' Spirit of Truth, and through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, too. These three beneficent spiritual forces work together in the experience of God's children of any era, and it is inevitable that along the way, we shed our outworn ideas and our unprogressive attachment to crystallized doctrines because as we learn more about God we become more comfortable with him. We go always forward, discovering the will of God and living the truths of the gospel of the Kingdom - making the truth living and dynamic.
We learn that it is okay to live lives of originality and freedom before God as we learn to love - not fear - him..
Living truth is always preferable to static or stagnant truth. While the Bible and its teachings comprise part of the "river of knowledge" that we are called to respect and learn from, the time is upon us when we must feel free to discover truths outside of that august document; to step out in faith and find God as a personal experience. God has never stopped speaking to his children; I find it encouraging that more and more are beginning to listen and to hear.