92:5.16 The future of Urantia will doubtless be characterized by the appearance of teachers of religious truth — the Fatherhood of God and the fraternity of all creatures. But it is to be hoped that the ardent and sincere efforts of these future prophets will be directed less toward the strengthening of interreligious barriers and more toward the augmentation of the religious brotherhood of spiritual worship among the many followers of the differing intellectual theologies which so characterize Urantia of Satania.
This past weekend I road tripped to visit a good friend by the name of Tim, who I had only seen briefly in the past few years. We spent our time walking about the town, cooking delicious meals, praying together, and we also attended the Sunday service with the small and inspiring fellowship that he and his wife had since become a part of. It was a beautiful, memorable weekend.
Tim is a very devout young Christian, and when we were getting to know each other through high school, even working in construction together for the couple following summers, we used to have many conversations about God and Jesus and specifically the doctrine of the Blood Atonement. Even before the Urantia Book came into my life I had spent a lot of time thinking about the concept and could never reconcile it with God as I understood Him to be, but Tim had grown up with it and in his mind it was entirely reasonable – Jesus’ death on the cross was the balancing act of cosmic justice and, along with a wholehearted belief in the efficacy of such a sacrifice, it is the gate to salvation.
At one point we had a few minutes alone together and he said, “So, Darren. Where are you at with the Bible these days? Or I guess I always liked to grill you about this, but what about the Blood Atonement?”
I surprised myself a little when I started my response with telling him how much less enamoured I’ve become with theological debate. I’m exhausted, really. The experience of getting to know God has become so personal and so much more spiritual to me that, as worthwhile as theologizing might be, it didn’t draw me in the way it used to. Studying the Urantia Book (which I decided not to bring up with Tim) has revealed to me so very much of the facts, relationships and values alive and stirring within the Master universe, and, like a lot of Urantia Book students, I have been humbled by the picture it paints. The Urantia Book says: “The contemplation of the immature and inactive human intellect should lead only to reactions of humility.” (9:5.7) And in regard to so many things in life that is a totally accurate statement. A deepened appreciation of just how complex the universe must be, how manifold and diverse the beings at work could very well be, has all rendered me quite speechless and pleasantly, sympathetically dispositioned toward the theological arguments that used to rile me up – even the overall attempt to tire oneself philosophizing about our personal religious experiences.
When Tim and I began our discussion in sincerity I felt that the Spirit had really entered the room with us. We were two kindred souls in honest communication. But as the conversation wore on a little I became aware of that slowly creeping temptation to conquer one another in this argument about the nature of divinity. What a seductive challenge to the philosophically minded! I said, “The atonement is really just Paulistic,” and Tim replied, “Well if the words of a prophet like Isaiah, the events of Jesus’ life, and the inspired reflections of Paul all line up, then what do you have to say about that?” And I retorted, “How are Paul’s ideas about the occurrences of history validated just because he interprets past events and former prophets according to ‘his’ gospel? He was, after all, trying to come up with something that was understandable to Gentiles and simultaneously palatable to the Hebrews.” And all the while the Spirit was fleeing the scene. Luckily it was around this time that his wife came home from work and we were saved from our lesser selves by simpler things. The Spirit returned when we took to making dinner, laughing, saying grace and breaking bread together. It was in those moments I remembered something of the gulf between Spirit and Spiritlessness – between intellectual crystallizations and real religion.
It’s so easy to ‘kill’ the Spirit in the desire to please oneself. And it’s so easy to let the deadweight of the letter hold down the spontaneous sincerity and liveliness of Truth. There’s no time to waste. There’s no hope for this world if people are overly invested in winning their arguments. If we can’t be spiritual, sincere, humble, vulnerable, honestly loving, and earnest in the pursuit of these qualities, then the image of God within us is obscured and the potential days of intellectual enlightenment and broad spread revelation will have to wait until later.
The thing that I most wanted to show this friend, who may or may not believe that I am “saved” because of my theological position, is that what either of us believe is irrelevant unless it lures us into lives of righteousness. I told him that if I believed it was necessary for God to have brutally punished his Son in order to reconcile us to Himself then He would of course do it, but I honestly did not understand it to be a divine necessity. Whether I believed the Blood Atonement was necessary or not, both my own experiences and Tim’s concerning the greatness of God’s love can be entirely equal and valid. I wanted to explain that these intellectual beliefs do not matter as far as the Lover of our souls is concerned. But I know that the only way to explain such a truth is to live it. The responsibility is upon me to show just how little the little things matter. We all have to make our ‘universe frames,’ consciously or unconsciously. We have to decide how we’re going to arrange all these facts and truths that come our way. But I think the most important work is prioritizing them, placing them on a scale that helps us to know what is worth living for.
The Urantia Book is immensely intellectual and very (if not exceedingly) theological, but any of the information it contains about atonement, salvation, contact with ghosts and spirits, reincarnation, holy books, or history – they’re all for nothing if we do not put love first. Paul may very well have been wrong about propitiation by human sacrifice, but he was wholly in Truth when he wrote these famous lines:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13)
Live a life that puts love first. Live as the child of God you know you are, and refuse to kill the Spirit for the sake of anything.