MJS Archive Contents
The Meredith J. Sprunger Archive
The Urantia Book and Christian Fundamentalism
Many devout Christians of conservative or fundamentalistic background have
read sections of The Urantia Book and recognized the superb quality
of its spiritual insights, but they have been troubled by the revelatory claim
of the book or positions taken which differ from some of the 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 recognize that we
subscribe to the same spiritual realities and are brothers/sisters 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 some 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 summary of the Bible's origin by going to the Public Library
reference shelf and consulting 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 decisions agreed upon were 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 Urantia Foundation published The Urantia Book under international copyright protection so that the purity of these
teachings can 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 God 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
Revelation is always the product of the action of God in the life of humanity.
God has an infinite number of ways to do this. In Jesus of Nazareth he used
both 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 that 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 such as the coming of Jesus occur.
These epochal revelations naturally have a much greater effect on our world
than the continuous forms of evolutionary revelation. A study of epochal revelations
shows that each succeeding one enlarges and enhances the earlier spiritual
Revelation must always be given in the language, the forms of knowledge, and
the philosophical concepts that are meaningful to the people who are 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 a similar
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 that some fundamentalists
have toward The Urantia Book is that it could be a work of Satan. 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 are unchanged.
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 the 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 this story is frequently 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 to. The earliest gospel, Mark, and the latest
gospel, John, do not mention it. One would expect all of the gospel writers
to highlight such an important event. 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 world.
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
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 view of the universe 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 pre-bestowal 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 pre-incarnate 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 preexistent Christ is literally true. He
is both the creator and savior 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 incarnation 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.
Savior of Humankind
All Christians look to Jesus as the mediator between human beings and God
and regard him as the savior of humankind. 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 the full acceptance of them as his mortal sons and daughters.
The theologians of Christian fundamentalism regard salvation as a gift of
God through faith in Jesus because he gave himself as a blood sacrifice demanded
by God the Father as the price for forgiving the sins of humankind. 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 the great love which the Universal Father has for his mortal sons
and daughters. It is 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 savior of humankind but not a redeemer or ransomer.
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 that 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 reconciled."
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 human beings until his innocent son is brutally executed is
a cruel distortion of the loving nature of the Heavenly Father Jesus revealed
to this world. But The Urantia Book does affirm the positive spiritual
values associated with the crucifixion and our salvation which are important
to fundamentalists as well as to 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 human beings. Jesus' death on the cross demonstrates the
profound love he and the Father have for humankind even when they were torturing
and executing him. He refused 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 men in this situation to
eventually deliver them from their ignorance, evil, and sin and cause humankind
to recognize God's transcendent love. Salvation is something that God
in Christ makes possible for every human being. Finite mortals cannot save
themselves, but through faith they 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. These historic
truths, however, are periodically upstepped by revelation in the form of prophetic
vision. Such growth is usually a traumatic experience for individuals, the
church, and society.
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 and daughters of another century build monuments to honor
the prophets persecuted by their forefathers. It is good to be cautious and
critical; it is helpful to doubt and carefully evaluate that which is new.
We need, however, 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.
The Urantia Book is such a new appearance of truth. You will find that
The Urantia Book will stand the test of critical examination. It is
rooted solidly in the traditional spiritual truths of the Christian faith
that 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.