I. The Necessity of Religious Institutions
II. Urantia Brotherhood and the Potentials for Religious Institutions of the Future
III. The Urantia Book in the Existing Christian Church
I. The Necessity of Religious Institutions
- A. Religion is fundamentally an individual experience of values. In its highest form, it is the experience of supreme value - Ultimate Relality - God. Inevitably, individual religious experience results in social expressions of religion.
- B. All social expressions of religion evolve cults. A religion cannot survive without cult symbolism and activities.
- 1. Even families develop a cult of some sort (965). They establish practices, usages, and traditions designed to enhance cherished values.
- 2. Cults are more creative and unifying when they are orgnanized around goals and purposes rather than theological dogmas and authoritarian creeds. Cults provide an appealing symbolism for preserving values ghrough fostering and gratifying emotion. (965). The power of any idea lies in the vividnes of its human appeal. (1005)
- 3. Religious organizations are best kept separate from other social groups and secular activities. They should strive to deal exclusively with religious-spiritual functions, and allow other social agencies to serve the nonreligious and humanitarian needs of society. (1091)
- C. To survive, a religion not only must develop a cult symbolism but also must become an institution of society and culture. (1076, 1083)
- 1. Paradoxically, while institutionalism is necessary for a religion to survive, it is also the greatest obstacle to its spiritual growth. (965)
- 2. The weaknesses of institutional religion include the accumulation of vested interests, the fixation and standardization of beliefs, the growth of ecclesiastical authority and legalistic procedures, the development of elitist, chosen-people attitudes, and the assumption that devotion to the institution is the same as dedication to God. (1092)
- 3. The strengths of institutional religion lie in its ability to enhance the attractiveness of truth, beauty, and goodness, to facilitate fellowship and service, to promote religious education and offer spiritual guidance, to maginify the ideals of family life, and stimulate the desire for prayer and worship. (1092)
II. Urantia Brotherhood and the Potential for Religious Institutions of the Future
- A. Christianity is the dominant religion of Western Civilization. It embraces many cult forms and practices.
- 1. Early Christianity was the most effective, appealing, and enduring cult ever devised in the history of man. (965) The enthusiasm engendered by the resurrection, however, inadvertently led the early church into a new gospel about Jesus in place of the original gospel message of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. (2059)
- 2. Christianity was largely founded on the religious experience of Paul. It is only meagerly Jesusonian. (2091) The institutionalized church became a virtual substitute for Jesus' concept of the kingdom. (1864) The simple spiritual appeal which Jesus made to the souls of mankind was extrapolated by Christianity into a new order of human society. Too much social transformation was attempted too soon. (2069) Today Christianity is threatened by formalism, overorganization, intellectualism, and other nonspiritual preoccupations. (2083)
- 3. The church has often presumed to lay claim to those mysterious powers and privileges which can be exercised and experienced only between Jesus and his spiritual believers. The church is not synonymous with the kingdom of heaven; the one is largely a human social organization, the other is a spiritual relationship. (1866)
- 4. The Christian Churches of today, unconsciously and unintentionally, stand as great obstacles to spiritual growth and the centrality of the teachings of Jesus. (2085)
- B. Every new revelation has produced a new cult and the recipients of the fifth epochal revelation must develop a new and appropriate symbolism. (966)
- 1. The ideal characteristics of the new cult are listed by the authors of The Urantia Book. This cult must:
- a. Be predicated on the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. It must be rooted in the religion of Jesus.
- b. Actualize applied love in human experience.
- c. Satisfy emotion and promote loyalty.
- d. Augment moral values, social development, and spiritual growth.
- e. Enhance cosmic meanings and provide supreme ideals and goals for living.
- f. Be based on the biologic, sociologic, and religious significance of the family.
- g. Bring unity amidst diversity and provide permanence in a world of constant change.
- h. Embody some masterful mystery and lure man toward the great unattainables of destiny.
- i. Be meaningful and servicable for both individual and group religious experience.
- j. Provide the naturalness, simplicity, and beauty of spiritual symbolism and avoid complexities of rituals, rules and ideals.
- k. Promote religious education, wise spiritual counsel, and encourage worship.
- l. Dramatize and magnify the lures of truth, beauty, and goodness and foster spiritual progress. (966, 1092)
- 2. A religoius cult cannot be manufactured. It must grow out of the inspiring religoius experience of individuals and the creative interaction of group deliberations and worship. (965)
- C. Followers of the fifth epochal revelation have two basic options in this cult evolving process:
- 1. We can create something new. The history of religion demonstrates that man periodically does initiate new cults and new religious institutions. It is highly probable that individuals and groups will take this path in the future as the result of inspiration received from reading The Urantia Book.
- 2. We can reform or revise existing religious institutions. Most of the religionists of the world, after reading and recognizing the superior teachings of The Urantia Book, are likely to take this path, at least initially.
- Where possible, it is usually best to build on historic foundations and traditions. The authors of The Urantia Book seem to imply that the best approach to evolving a relevant religion on our planet harmonious with the fifth epochal revelation is to work toward a revision of Christianity.
- a. Christianity is the best of the religions of the twentieth century. (2083) Jesus fostered the church as the best exponent of his lifework on earth. (2085)
- b. The Christian Church is the larval stage of the spiritual kingdom, the cocoon in which Jesus' concept of the kingdom of heaven now slumbers. (1866)
- c. "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." (1083)
- d. The kingdom of heaven which Jesus taught will someday be proclaimed to the Christian Church -- and all other religions. (1864)
- e. In the paper on "The Faith of Jesus" the authors express the hope that someday a reformation of the Christian Church will bring it back to the unadulterated teachings of Jesus. (2091)
- f. We are called to build a new and transformed human society by means of the spiritual rebirth of Jesus' brotherhood of the kingdom. (2084)
- g. The Urantia Book spends more time commenting on Christianity and making suggestions for its improvement than on any other religion. It is one of the greatest powers for good on earth and we should take it seriously. (2085)
- h. There is great hope for the church which worships the living God and dares to remove all creedal conformity from its members. (1135)
- i. The greatest hope of our world lies in the possibility of a new revelation of Jesus to unite in loving service the numerous families of his present day professed followers. (2086)
- The spiritual brotherhood of the kingdom of God is destined to become a living organism. In this kingdom there is unity but not uniformity. This spiritual brotherhood may be well served by institutional religions and other social organizations; but the spiritual kingdom is primary and all social organizations and religious institutions are secondary. (2085)
- D. What is the place and function of Urantia Brotherhood in this sociological-religious-institutional process?
- 1. Urantia Brotherhood has chosen to limit its institutional-religious functions primarily to organizational and educational activities. It does not aspire to become a church, to train or ordain ministers, or to promote typical religious services in which regular public worship and rituals are designed to minister to all phases of human life.
- 2. This means that students of The Urantia Book who desire religious services and spiritual ministrations for themselves and their families must find them in traditional religious institutions or some new form of religious organization.
- 3. Following Urantia Brotherood's policy not to become a church or other typical religious institution, it does not engage in tradional forms of missionary activity or evangelistic endeavors.
- a. The brotherhood has chosen to limit outreach activities to serving as the distributor of The Urantia Book, placing books in libraries, responding to inquiries about the book, and striving to furnish help to people and groups who ask for guidance, materials, or leadership.
- b. When people show an interest in the teachings of The Urantia Book, the brotherhoood encourages the formation of study groups and, in time, Societies.
- 4. This means that traditional forms of organizational outreach programs or evangelistic activities must be carried out by individuals or associated organizations.
- 5. Urantia Brotherhood's decision not to become a church or other typical religious institution appears to be far-sighted and wise.
- a. The brotherhood can, thereby, largely avoid the narrow identifications, mistakes, and excesses of characteristic religious activities in confronting and responding to the existential realities and pressures of contemporary society. In this way the brotherhood can, hopefully, escape most of the sectarian and instituitonal evils which tend to befall religouis organizations.
- b. The brotherhood can relate positively with all of the religions of the world and thus act as a leaven to stimulate spiritual growth among all religious groups.
- c. The brotherhood can serve as an ecumenical agency to encourage and facilitate harmony, good will, co-operation, and unity among all the religions of the world.
III. The Urantia Book in the Existing Christian Church
- A. There will be a differential of reactions to the fifth epochal revelation within the Christian Church.
- 1. Fundamentalist and evangelical churches exhibit spiritual dedication and fervor but tend to lack philosophical-intellectual scholarship and scientific appreciation. Like the Pharisees' evaluation of Jesus, they will regard The Urantia Book as the work of the devil.
- 2. Conservatives and liturgical churches give stability, security, and symbolic aesthetic satisfaction to their members. Their authoritarian and traditional orientation make it almost impossible for them to perceive that anything of epochal spiritual significance could come outside of the traditional channels of the church. Like the sadducees' attitude toward Jesus, they will largely ignore The Urantia Book as irrelevant until it begins to threaten their power structure or influence. Their theologians will view the book in the tradition of the Gnostic heresy. (A mysticism of salvation by esoteric knowledge.)
- 3. Progressive and liberal churches have an open fellowship with excellent philosophical-intellectual qualities and high standards of social service. They support individual freedom and mature spiritual decision-making. This group is probably best suited to appreciate The Urantia Book but they are limited by the shallowness of intellectualism, humanism, and pride. Like the Roman's view of the Christian sect, they will be inclinced to regard The Urantia Book as dealing with esoteric obscurities unrelated to the issues of the real world.
- B. It may take the better part of a hundred years for the various facets of the Christian Church to react in a definitive manner to the teachings of The Urantia Book.
- 1. The extreme fundmentalists, conservatives, and liberals will no doubt reject it. These groups will probably progressively lose their leadership in society as did the synagogue earlier in Western Civilization.
- 2. I believe the moderates will gradually recognize the high quality of The Urantia Book and progressively incorporate its teachings along with traditional scripture. While the early church was largely composed of slaves and the lower classes, the vangard of the contemporary spiritual renaissance will be made up of the educated, intellectually perceptive, and socially progressive people of our day. Outreach ministry should be directed toward these groups. We should not expect immediate results. It may take decades before much progress is experienced; but it is important that we begin this outreach now and that this ministry be loving, wise, well planned, and continuous.
- 3. The more individualistic and revolutionary types will tend to reject traditional religious institutional ties and theological-scriptural orientations and form independent or new religious institutions.
- C. Suggestions for students of The Urantia Book who are members of the Christian Church.
- 1. Strive to keep these interpersonal relationships warm and loving. Understand and accept fellow church members form their frames of reference. Serve the church as loyally and creatively as you can.
- 2. Share your spiritual insights with your fellow members at their level of spiritual-uintellectual readiness and in ways which will be beneficial to the church. Try to avoid overteaching.
- 3. When and where appropriate in your judgment, share knowledge of The Urantia Book with fellow members. Be open and honest but do not attempt to coerce people to read the book or argue about it. Allow people to accept or reject the various teachings of the book according to their own intellectual-spiritual guidance.
- 4. When appropriate, invite church leaders to critically examine The Urantia Book.
- 5. Along with your own creative sharing, allow time, the working of the spirit, and the evolutionary process to shape the ministry of the fifth epochal revelation to the church.
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship