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The Meredith J. Sprunger Archive

The Challenge of the Twenty-first Century

Enculturating the world with the inspiring and ennobling teachings of the Fifth Epochal Revelation is the challenge of the twenty-first century!

We are living in one of the major turning points of history. Our times have been labeled variously as the post-industrial, post-modern, and post-Christian era. The traditional paradigms of cosmology, value, and reality have lost their unquestioned relevance and authority among contemporary people. The social institutions which were structured by these traditional concepts and values are deteriorating in vitality and influence. The economic and political infrastructures of society are breaking down and losing their credibility and effectiveness. The mores that have been the foundation of human behavior and ethical standards in society are crumbling and immorality, crime, and violence are endemic. Religious institutions that were once the central pillars of society are now relegated to a peripheral position.

As we face the twenty-first century there are numerous scientific-technical innovations which will revolutionize the way we live. Computers and computer technology is changing the way we handle information and communication. Microbiology is opening a vast potential for altering living organisms. Recombinant DNA technology makes it possible to restructure both plants and animals and produce a variety of drugs, industrial lubricants, and enzymes. Human applications will range from predicting inherited genetic diseases to applying gene therapy for correcting genetic disorders. The new physics is radically changing our conception of the nature of material reality. We are, literally, being ushered into a new world of potential development.

Among the many problems that we face the material-environmental, economic, and political difficulties are much easier to cope with than the personal-spiritual and social-cultural problems. Our industrial-technological civilization has broken up the small communities which were indigenous to the agricultural society and isolated the individual in specialization and urbanization. The advent of the computer has accelerated this separation and seclusion. The sense of community and the extended family are greatly diminished. Even the segregated industrial-business groups and the nuclear family exist in relative cultural isolation. This detachment and isolation contributes to the deterioration of family and community influence. The inherent human hunger for community and belonging causes young people to join gangs with territorial-defensive agendas and motivates adults to affiliate with ideological and religious groups with exclusive-restrictive boundaries.

At the root of the breakdown of individual behavior, the deterioration and malaise of our social institutions, and the failure of our religious institutions to satisfy our spiritual hunger and inspire our creativity is that our civilization is trying to draw resources and energy from a horse and buggy paradigm of reality which has lost its relevance and serviceability. There are diverse and confused views of reality in today's world. Many scientifically oriented people have a materialistic-positivistic understanding of life. Most religionists have a simplistic view of spiritual cosmology that does not harmonize with our astronomical view of the cosmos. And a great portion of society are confused about what to believe. The basic dilemma of our times is that we have no unifying conception of reality.

The singular ingredient which will bring meaning and unity into planetary existence is an inspiring paradigm of reality which will harmonize science, philosophy, and religion and inspire humankind to strive for common goals and objectives. Only a new and enlarged revelatory vision of reality has the potential of doing this. Hopefully, the searchers of our world will discover the Fifth Epochal Revelation in the twenty-first century. The Urantia Book is the only source of reality that is large enough and spiritually empowering enough to unify and energize the entire planet. Enculturating the world with the inspiring and ennobling teachings of the Fifth Epochal Revelation is the challenge of the twenty-first century!

The Heart of the Problem

Where does one start in healing our ailing society? At the heart of the many problems of contemporary society is the failure of the individual to experience a meaningful relationship with spiritual reality that initiates and sustains a dedication to truth, beauty, and goodness. The individual fails to experience this relationship because the source of our introduction to spiritual reality in contemporary culture lacks credibility. It is not an integral part of our educational exposure to the complex modern world in which we live.

Two basic changes need to occur in the twenty-first century to overcome this educational deficiency. First, our culture needs to discover the Fifth Epochal Revelation which will give us the expanded picture of spiritual reality that harmonizes with our scientific-technological society and unifies science, philosophy, and religion. Secondly, our entire educational system needs to be redesigned. Philosophy and spiritual values need to be integrated into the humanities educational curriculum and taught from kindergarten through college. Of almost equal importance, the educational curriculum must be restructured to involve pupils in "real life." Just as education in the agriculture society required working in farming activities, so must we involve pupils in the real world very early in their educational experience. Education should not be a preliminary exercise to real life, but a continuing activity throughout life.

The teachings of The Urantia Book are tailor-made for the problems of the twenty-first century. Not only does it present a paradigm of reality that unifies science, philosophy, and religion but it emphasizes the importance of family and community life. Its picture of planetary life as the foundation of an ongoing career of personality and spiritual growth provides strong motivation for contemporary growth and achievement and an inspiring vision of the endless adventure of eternity. Young people are challenged to actualize their potentialities and those who are disillusioned in middle-age are assured that personality and spiritual development is more important than worldly success. The elderly are encouraged to continue growing and given a vision of the potentials of a renewed body and an improved mind at the next level of existence. Those who find themselves isolated and lonely learn that they are never alone. The indwelling presence of their Thought Adjuster and guardian angels provides a sense of community. The extensive wisdom shared concerning economic, political, and religious institutions will serve as an antidote for the ills of our troubled society. Finally, the life and teachings of Jesus will inspire all people to seek fulfillment in the religion of Jesus: the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man.

The Ascendancy of the Fifth Epochal Revelation

During the first sixty years of its history the Urantia movement has evolved from a handful of readers in Chicago to hundreds of study groups and tens of thousands of readers throughout the world. Without mass publicity or promotion over 250,000 (400,000 - 1999) copies of The Urantia Book have been sold and translations are available in French, Spanish, Russian, and many other languages. Audio and computer versions of the book are available and numerous study aids have been published. Regional and International Conferences are being held and secondary works are proliferating.

All this is impressive but of much greater importance is the tempering and structuring of the Urantia movement in preparation for its world-wide mission. The rugged struggle of these early years has established solid foundations for carrying a new paradigm of spiritual reality to humankind. The Urantia movement very early in its history has encountered most of the challenges that have threatened religious transitions down through history. We have received an experiential vaccination against these viruses which have threatened creative spiritual growth in the past. The Fifth Epochal Revelation has demonstrated its dynamic and power in steering the movement repeatedly through critical periods and controversial encounters in our journey.

The Urantia movement has been confronted by centralized organizational control and we have witnessed the power of individual initiative and creative diversity to establish a pluralistic foundation for outreach ministry. We have escaped oligarchical-authoritarian direction in the triumph of participatory democracy and openness. We weathered the threat of legalistic-power strategies through the dominance of cooperative team work.

Soon after regional and national conferences were held, students of The Urantia Book were captivated and challenged by the intrigues of charismatic control of the Urantia movement. With the passing of time, we recognized the danger of charismatic influence and witnessed the emergence of evolutionary-rational decision-making. On the heels of this tempering experience, we were confronted by a more subtle form of charismatic influence in the captivating channeling movement among readers of The Urantia Book. Following the example of the Christian church in dealing with similar movements in its history, we have achieved the spiritual maturity to allow individual freedom to evaluate the authenticity of spiritual experience.

We are now entering the intellectual-spiritual struggle which took mainline Christianity centuries to largely resolve: distinguishing between the contemporary, fallible human carrier concepts used in revelation from its eternal spiritual truths. Martin Gardner's book, Urantia: The Great Cult Mystery, may help to shorten this period in the Urantia movement. It may also help to guard against cult attitudes among those who have living faith in the enlarged spiritual truths of the Fifth Epochal Revelation.

The solid core of the Urantia movement has come through these tribulations with renewed dedication and balance. We have come of age. Spiritual freedom and participatory democracy have taught us that there can be unity of purpose in the midst of intellectual and political diversity. The Fifth Epochal revelation will make its way and overcome any barriers placed in its way. We are standing at the threshold of "one of the most amazing and enthralling epochs of social readjustment, moral quickening, and spiritual enlightenment" on our planet. The preliminary, orienting growth developments of the Urantia movement are largely behind us. The potential of an exciting outreach mission of the Fifth Epochal Revelation is awaiting us. The Most Highs have prepared us and our planet for the most thrilling vision of spiritual reality since Jesus of Nazareth walked on our world. This outreach mission will be many-faceted, pluralistic, and victorious!