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A Theological Overview of The Urantia Book

Part 5: The Church and the Kingdom of Heaven

Contents

  • A. Distinctions between the Church and Jesus' Concept of
    the Kingdom of Heaven
    The church is largely a social institution; the Kingdom of heaven is a spiritual relationship.
    • 1. The Christian Church.
      • a. Christianity often promotes a religion about Jesus; the kingdom of heaven is the religion of Jesus.
        • "Jesus founded the religion of personal experience in doing the will of God and serving the human brotherhood; Paul founded a religion in which the glorified Jesus became the object of worship and the brotherhood consisted of fellow believers in the divine Christ." [196:2.6]
      • b. The church has become the socialized and humanized shadow of the spiritual brotherhood and has often taken the place of Jesus' concept of the kingdom of Heaven. [170:5:12]
        • "The church, as a social outgrowth of the kingdom, would have been wholly natural and even desirable.  The evil of the church was not its existence, but rather that it almost completely supplanted the Jesus concept of the kingdom."  [170:5.5] 
        • "And so, for centuries, the Christian church has labored under great embarrassment because it dared to lay claim to those mysterious powers and privileges of the kingdom, powers and privileges which can be exercised and experienced only between Jesus and his spiritual believer brothers."  [170:5.18]
      • c. In order to control the dynamic religion of Jesus the church has thoroughly traditionalized, dogmatized, and institutionalized it -- thus unwittingly becoming an obstacle to the growth of the real teachings of Jesus and the fellowship of believers. [99:2.6], [195:10.8] 
      • d. Secularism broke the bonds of church authoritarianism but now threatens to establish a godless society. Many Christians are unwittingly secularists. [195:8.3]
    • 2. The Kingdom of Heaven.
      • a. The kingdom of heaven is an inner spiritual relationship centered in the truth of the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It is the rule of God in the hearts of men.
        • "Concerning the kingdom, (Jesus') last word was, 'The kingdom is within you.'"  [170:1.9], Luke 17:21  
        • "To Jesus the kingdom was the sum of those individuals who had confessed their faith in the fatherhood of God, thereby declaring their wholehearted dedication to doing the will of God, thus becoming members of the spiritual brotherhood of man." [170:5.11] 
      • b. The essentials of entering the kingdom are faith, sincerity, and the hunger for truth, beauty, and goodness. [170:2.18]
      • c. The cardinal features of the kingdom are:
        • l). The Pre-eminence of the individual.
        • 2). The will as the determining factor in human experience.
        • 3). Spiritual fellowship with God the Father.
        • 4). The supreme satisfaction of the loving service of man.
        • 5). The transcendency of the spiritual over the material in human personality. [170:4.1]
  • B. The Social Dynamics of Religious Institutions
    • 1. The dangers of religious Institutionalism.
      • "But as religion becomes institutionalized, its power for good is curtailed, while the possibilities for evil are greatly multiplied. The dangers of formalized religion are: fixation of beliefs and crystallization of sentiments; accumulation of vested interests with increase of secularization; tendency to standardize and fossilize truth; diversion of religion from the service of God to the service of the church; inclination of leaders to become administrators instead of ministers; tendency to form sects and competitive divisions; establishment of oppressive ecclesiastical authority; creation of the aristocratic "chosen-people" attitude; fostering of false and exaggerated ideas of sacredness; the routinizing of religion and the petrification of worship; tendency to venerate the past while ignoring present demands; failure to make up-to-date interpretations of religion; entanglement with functions of secular institutions; it creates the evil discrimination of religious castes; it becomes an intolerant judge of orthodoxy; it fails to hold the interest of adventurous youth and gradually loses the saving message of the gospel of eternal salvation." [99:6.3]
    • 2. The need and purpose of religious institutions:
      • "There is a real purpose in the socialization of religion.  It is the purpose of group religious activities to dramatize the loyalties of religion; to magnify the lures of truth, beauty and goodness; to foster the attractions of supreme values; to enhance the service of unselfish fellowship; to glorify the potentials of family life; to promote religious education; to provide wise counsel and spiritual guidance; and to encourage group worship.  And all live religions encourage human friendship, conserve morality, promote neighborhood welfare, and facilitate the spread of the essential gospel of their respective messages of eternal salvation." [99:6.2]  
    • 3. Religion, religious institutions or religious groups should not become organically involved in secular work, social reconstruction, or economic reorganization, but as civilization advances they should constantly update their religious position by making vigorous restatements of their moral mandates and spiritual principles. [99:1.6] 
      • a. It is wise for religious groups to confine their activities to religious causes. [99:2.3], [195:10.13], [195:10.20,21]
      • b. Religionists should function in society, in industry, and in politics as individuals, not as religious groups. [99:3.9]
  • C. Jesus' Concept of the Kingdom Will Prevail
    • 1. In spite of its limitations, Christianity is the best religion of the twentieth century. It is one of the greatest powers for good on earth. [195:10.9] 
    • 2. The church is the larval stage of the thwarted spiritual kingdom. The kingdom inaugurated by Jesus is still alive and will emerge as the dominant spiritual force on our planet. [170:5.21] 
    • 3. We are living in one of the pivotal periods of history.  
      • "The hour is striking for a rediscovery of the true and original foundations of present-day distorted and compromised Christianity -- the real life and teachings of Jesus." [195:9.5] 
      • "The time is ripe to witness the figurative resurrection of the human Jesus from his burial tomb amidst the theological traditions and religious dogmas of nineteen centuries." [196:1.2] 
      • "But paganized and socialized Christianity stands in need of new contact with the uncompromised teachings of Jesus; it languishes for lack of a new vision of the Master's life on earth.  A new and fuller revelation of the religion of Jesus is destined to conquer an empire of materialistic secularism and to overthrow a world sway of mechanistic naturalism.  Urantia is now quivering on the very brink of one of its most amazing and enthralling epochs of social readjustment, moral quickening, and spiritual enlightenment." [195:9.2] 
      • "Religion does need new leaders, spiritual men and women who will dare to depend solely on Jesus and his incomparable teachings...who will be exclusively devoted to the spiritual regeneration of men.  And then will these spirit-born souls quickly supply the leadership and inspiration requisite for the social, economic, and political reorganization of the world." [195:9.4] 
      • "The call of the adventure of building a new and transformed human society by means of the spiritual rebirth of Jesus' brotherhood of the kingdom should thrill all who believe in him as man has not been stirred since the days when they walked about on earth as his companions in the flesh." [195:10.6]
  • D. The Kingdom of God is an invisible and Spiritual Brotherhood which is Destined to become a Living Organism Transcending Social Institutions.
  • Religionists are challenged to find spiritual unity, not intellectual uniformity.
    • 1. Spiritual unity is based on common ideals, purposes, and goals, not on the same theological beliefs and creeds.
      • "There is great hope for any church that worships the living God, validates the brotherhood of man, and dares to remove all creedal pressure from its members." [103:5.12] 
      • "This pitiful subdivision of Christian believers results from failure to discern in the Master's manifold teachings the divine oneness of his matchless life.  But someday the true believers in Jesus will not be thus spiritually divided. ..Always we may have diversity of intellectual comprehension and interpretation, even varying degrees of socialization, but lack of spiritual brotherhood is both inexcusable and reprehensible." [170:5.20] 
      • "But in this brotherhood of Jesus there is no place for sectarian rivalry, group bitterness, nor assertions of moral superiority or spiritual infallibility." [195:10.14]
    • 2. The great hope for our world is that this expanded revelation of truth will unite the churches and religions of our planet in common and fraternal purposes and ideals.
      • "The great hope of Urantia lies in the possibility of a new revelation of Jesus with a new and enlarged presentation of his saving message which would spiritually unite in loving service the numerous families of his present-day professed followers." [195:10.16]
  • E. Summary
    • 1.The Urantia Book presents an ecumenical approach to religion. It emphasizes that you may belong to any religious group or to no religious group and still be in the kingdom of God.
    • 2. Its evolutionary, universe oriented frames of reference free us from the compulsive desire to "save" people by urging them to adopt our religious or philosophic views. It helps us to be patient, understanding, and loving with the immature, the fearful, the angry, and the egocentric people of the world. The Urantia Book helps us, as humankind has seldom been helped, to identify with the world-wide family of God.

Next: Prayer and Worship