The Urantia Book reveals, in detail, the loving Heavenly Father to us mortals; and the revelation of The Life and Teachings of Jesus, with the Master's emphasis on that loving character of the Father, further reinforces that concept for us. In our traditional and evolutionary religious theology, we oftentimes are led to believe that our Spirit Father requires some sort of sacrifice of us in order to earn his love and acceptance - that we mortals are just too inherently sinful to deserve this Divine love without a sacrifice being made to make up for our unworthiness. The most glaring example of this idea of sacrifice is that of the Atonement Doctrine, in which God demanded the death of his Son, in order to ransom man from his sinful nature. But The Urantia Book helps us to see that sacrifice, although a necessary rung on the evolutionary ladder, is a concept that is not a necessary part of the human's relationship with our Father, just as the sacrifice of one child for the sin of another would not be required in order to gain the love of a human father. We would consider it unthinkable - even criminal.
While the quotes below cover some of the ideas of this concept of sacrifice, including what Jesus taught about it, and the significance of his death in relation to sacrifice, the following section - Sin, Sacrifice and Atonement - is a must-read for anyone who wishes to know more about the origins and evolution of this important idea of sacrifice.
Sacrifice and God
It is wrong to think of God as being coaxed into loving his children because of the sacrifices of his Sons or the intercession of his subordinate creatures, "for the Father himself loves you." It is in response to this paternal affection that God sends the marvelous Adjusters to indwell the minds of men. God's love is universal; "whosoever will may come." He would "have all men be saved by coming into the knowledge of the truth." He is "not willing that any should perish." ~ The Urantia Book, (2:5.2)
The barbarous idea of appeasing an angry God, of propitiating an offended Lord, of winning the favor of Deity through sacrifices and penance and even by the shedding of blood, represents a religion wholly puerile and primitive, a philosophy unworthy of an enlightened age of science and truth. Such beliefs are utterly repulsive to the celestial beings and the divine rulers who serve and reign in the universes. It is an affront to God to believe, hold, or teach that innocent blood must be shed in order to win his favor or to divert the fictitious divine wrath. ~ The Urantia Book, (4:5.4)
The bestowal of a Paradise Son on your world was inherent in the situation of closing a planetary age; it was inescapable, and it was not made necessary for the purpose of winning the favor of God. This bestowal also happened to be the final personal act of a Creator Son in the long adventure of earning the experiential sovereignty of his universe. What a travesty upon the infinite character of God! this teaching that his fatherly heart in all its austere coldness and hardness was so untouched by the misfortunes and sorrows of his creatures that his tender mercies were not forthcoming until he saw his blameless Son bleeding and dying upon the cross of Calvary!
But the inhabitants of Urantia are to find deliverance from these ancient errors and pagan superstitions respecting the nature of the Universal Father. The revelation of the truth about God is appearing, and the human race is destined to know the Universal Father in all that beauty of character and loveliness of attributes so magnificently portrayed by the Creator Son who sojourned on Urantia as the Son of Man and the Son of God. ~ The Urantia Book, (4:5.6)
Religion and Sacrifice
The appearance of the sacrifice idea in any religion unfailingly detracts from the higher efficacy of true prayer in that men seek to substitute the offerings of material possessions for the offering of their own consecrated wills to the doing of the will of God. ~ The Urantia Book, (91:2.4)
Later religion is foreshadowed in the primitive belief in natural wonders and mysteries, the impersonal mana. But sooner or later the evolving religion requires that the individual should make some personal sacrifice for the good of his social group, should do something to make other people happier and better. Ultimately, religion is destined to become the service of God and of man. ~ The Urantia Book, (103:3.2)
Sacrifice and Moses
The Hebrews believed that "without the shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin." They had not found deliverance from the old and pagan idea that the Gods could not be appeased except by the sight of blood, though Moses did make a distinct advance when he forbade human sacrifices and substituted therefor, in the primitive minds of his childlike Bedouin followers, the ceremonial sacrifice of animals. ~ The Urantia Book, (4:5.5)
Very early the Andonic peoples formed the habit of refraining from eating the flesh of the animal of tribal veneration. Presently, in order more suitably to impress the minds of their youths, they evolved a ceremony of reverence which was carried out about the body of one of these venerated animals; and still later on, this primitive performance developed into the more elaborate sacrificial ceremonies of their descendants. And this is the origin of sacrifices as a part of worship. This idea was elaborated by Moses in the Hebrew ritual and was preserved, in principle, by the Apostle Paul as the doctrine of atonement for sin by "the shedding of blood." ~ The Urantia Book, (63:6.4)
During these spiritually dark ages the culture of superstitious mankind reached its lowest levels. The Neanderthalers really had no religion beyond a shameful superstition. They were deathly afraid of clouds, more especially of mists and fogs. A primitive religion of the fear of natural forces gradually developed, while animal worship declined as improvement in tools, with abundance of game, enabled these people to live with lessened anxiety about food; the sex rewards of the chase tended greatly to improve hunting skill. This new religion of fear led to attempts to placate the invisible forces behind these natural elements and culminated, later on, in the sacrificing of humans to appease these invisible and unknown physical forces. And this terrible practice of human sacrifice has been perpetuated by the more backward peoples of Urantia right on down to the twentieth century.
These early Neanderthalers could hardly be called sun worshipers. They rather lived in fear of the dark; they had a mortal dread of nightfall. As long as the moon shone a little, they managed to get along, but in the dark of the moon they grew panicky and began the sacrifice of their best specimens of manhood and womanhood in an effort to induce the moon again to shine. The sun, they early learned, would regularly return, but the moon they conjectured only returned because they sacrificed their fellow tribesmen. As the race advanced, the object and purpose of sacrifice progressively changed, but the offering of human sacrifice as a part of religious ceremonial long persisted. ~ The Urantia Book, (64:4.12)
In the Garden
The public worship hour of Eden was noon; sunset was the hour of family worship. Adam did his best to discourage the use of set prayers, teaching that effective prayer must be wholly individual, that it must be the "desire of the soul" ; but the Edenites continued to use the prayers and forms handed down from the times of Dalamatia. Adam also endeavored to substitute the offerings of the fruit of the land for the blood sacrifices in the religious ceremonies but had made little progress before the disruption of the Garden. ~ The Urantia Book, (74:7.21)
The Great Covenant
This covenant of Melchizedek with Abraham represents the great Urantian agreement between divinity and humanity whereby God agrees to do everything; man only agrees to believe God's promises and follow his instructions. Heretofore it had been believed that salvation could be secured only by works—sacrifices and offerings; now, Melchizedek again brought to Urantia the good news that salvation, favor with God, is to be had by faith. But this gospel of simple faith in God was too advanced; the Semitic tribesmen subsequently preferred to go back to the older sacrifices and atonement for sin by the shedding of blood. ~ The Urantia Book, (93:6.4)
What Jesus Taught
Jesus' originality was unstifled. He was not bound by tradition or handicapped by enslavement to narrow conventionality. He spoke with undoubted confidence and taught with absolute authority. But his superb originality did not cause him to overlook the gems of truth in the teachings of his predecessors and contemporaries. And the most original of his teachings was the emphasis of love and mercy in the place of fear and sacrifice. ~ The Urantia Book, (100:7.5)
Jesus taught [the Apostles] to preach the forgiveness of sin through faith in God without penance or sacrifice, and that the Father in heaven loves all his children with the same eternal love. ~ The Urantia Book, (138:8.2)
Jesus portrayed conquest by sacrifice, the sacrifice of pride and selfishness. By showing mercy, he meant to portray spiritual deliverance from all grudges, grievances, anger, and the lust for selfish power and revenge. And when he said, "Resist not evil," he later explained that he did not mean to condone sin or to counsel fraternity with iniquity. He intended the more to teach forgiveness, to "resist not evil treatment of one's personality, evil injury to one's feelings of personal dignity." ~ The Urantia Book, (141:3.8)
Jesus also sought to free the minds of his apostles from the idea of offering animal sacrifices as a religious duty. But these men, trained in the religion of the daily sacrifice, were slow to comprehend what he meant. Nevertheless, the Master did not grow weary in his teaching. When he failed to reach the minds of all of the apostles by means of one illustration, he would restate his message and employ another type of parable for purposes of illumination. ~ The Urantia Book, (141:4.3)
Jesus warned his followers against thinking that their prayers would be rendered more efficacious by ornate repetitions, eloquent phraseology, fasting, penance, or sacrifices. But he did exhort his believers to employ prayer as a means of leading up through thanksgiving to true worship. Jesus deplored that so little of the spirit of thanksgiving was to be found in the prayers and worship of his followers. He quoted from the Scriptures on this occasion, saying: "It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to the name of the Most High, to acknowledge his loving-kindness every morning and his faithfulness every night, for God has made me glad through his work. In everything I will give thanks according to the will of God." ~ The Urantia Book, (146:2.15)
"You have been taught that divine acceptance comes after your repentance and as a result of all your works of sacrifice and penitence, but I assure you that the Father accepts you even before you have repented and sends the Son and his associates to find you and bring you, with rejoicing, back to the fold, the kingdom of sonship and spiritual progress. You are all like sheep which have gone astray, and I have come to seek and to save those who are lost." ~ The Urantia Book, (169:1.3)
Keep in mind: It is loyalty, not sacrifice, that Jesus demands. The consciousness of sacrifice implies the absence of that wholehearted affection which would have made such a loving service a supreme joy. The idea of duty signifies that you are servant-minded and hence are missing the mighty thrill of doing your service as a friend and for a friend. The impulse of friendship transcends all convictions of duty, and the service of a friend for a friend can never be called a sacrifice. The Master has taught the apostles that they are the sons of God. He has called them brethren, and now, before he leaves, he calls them his friends. ~ The Urantia Book, (180:1.6)
Sacrifice and Jesus' Death
Jesus is not about to die as a sacrifice for sin. He is not going to atone for the inborn moral guilt of the human race. Mankind has no such racial guilt before God. Guilt is purely a matter of personal sin and knowing, deliberate rebellion against the will of the Father and the administration of his Sons. ~ The Urantia Book, (186:5.7)
Although Jesus did not die this death on the cross to atone for the racial guilt of mortal man nor to provide some sort of effective approach to an otherwise offended and unforgiving God; even though the Son of Man did not offer himself as a sacrifice to appease the wrath of God and to open the way for sinful man to obtain salvation; notwithstanding that these ideas of atonement and propitiation are erroneous, nonetheless, there are significances attached to this death of Jesus on the cross which should not be overlooked. It is a fact that Urantia has become known among other neighboring inhabited planets as the "World of the Cross." ~ The Urantia Book, (188:4.1)
Mortal man was never the property of the archdeceivers. Jesus did not die to ransom man from the clutch of the apostate rulers and fallen princes of the spheres. The Father in heaven never conceived of such crass injustice as damning a mortal soul because of the evil-doing of his ancestors. Neither was the Master's death on the cross a sacrifice which consisted in an effort to pay God a debt which the race of mankind had come to owe him. ~ The Urantia Book, (188:4.3)
The cross is that high symbol of sacred service, the devotion of one's life to the welfare and salvation of one's fellows. The cross is not the symbol of the sacrifice of the innocent Son of God in the place of guilty sinners and in order to appease the wrath of an offended God, but it does stand forever, on earth and throughout a vast universe, as a sacred symbol of the good bestowing themselves upon the evil and thereby saving them by this very devotion of love. The cross does stand as the token of the highest form of unselfish service, the supreme devotion of the full bestowal of a righteous life in the service of wholehearted ministry, even in death, the death of the cross. And the very sight of this great symbol of the bestowal life of Jesus truly inspires all of us to want to go and do likewise. ~ The Urantia Book, (188:5.9)
The Pauline Error
The effort to connect the gospel teaching directly onto the Jewish theology, as illustrated by the Christian doctrines of the atonement—the teaching that Jesus was the sacrificed Son who would satisfy the Father's stern justice and appease the divine wrath. These teachings originated in a praiseworthy effort to make the gospel of the kingdom more acceptable to disbelieving Jews. Though these efforts failed as far as winning the Jews was concerned, they did not fail to confuse and alienate many honest souls in all subsequent generations. ~ The Urantia Book, (149:2.3)
The characteristic difference between a social occasion and a religious gathering is that in contrast with the secular the religious is pervaded by the atmosphere of communion. In this way human association generates a feeling of fellowship with the divine, and this is the beginning of group worship. Partaking of a common meal was the earliest type of social communion, and so did early religions provide that some portion of the ceremonial sacrifice should be eaten by the worshipers. Even in Christianity the Lord's Supper retains this mode of communion. The atmosphere of the communion provides a refreshing and comforting period of truce in the conflict of the self-seeking ego with the altruistic urge of the indwelling spirit Monitor. And this is the prelude to true worship—the practice of the presence of God which eventuates in the emergence of the brotherhood of man.
When primitive man felt that his communion with God had been interrupted, he resorted to sacrifice of some kind in an effort to make atonement, to restore friendly relationship. The hunger and thirst for righteousness leads to the discovery of truth, and truth augments ideals, and this creates new problems for the individual religionists, for our ideals tend to grow by geometrical progression, while our ability to live up to them is enhanced only by arithmetical progression.
The sense of guilt (not the consciousness of sin) comes either from interrupted spiritual communion or from the lowering of one's moral ideals. Deliverance from such a predicament can only come through the realization that one's highest moral ideals are not necessarily synonymous with the will of God. Man cannot hope to live up to his highest ideals, but he can be true to his purpose of finding God and becoming more and more like him.
Jesus swept away all of the ceremonials of sacrifice and atonement. He destroyed the basis of all this fictitious guilt and sense of isolation in the universe by declaring that man is a child of God; the creature-Creator relationship was placed on a child-parent basis. God becomes a loving Father to his mortal sons and daughters. All ceremonials not a legitimate part of such an intimate family relationship are forever abrogated.
God the Father deals with man his child on the basis, not of actual virtue or worthiness, but in recognition of the child's motivation—the creature purpose and intent. The relationship is one of parent-child association and is actuated by divine love. ~ The Urantia Book, (103:4.1)