How Christian is The Urantia Book
Dick Bain, USA
Some day when scholars study the religious influences of the twentieth and twenty first centuries, I am sure that The Urantia Book will be one of those influences studied. And inevitably, the theology of the book will be compared to Christian thought and theology. What relationship to Christianity will these future scholars determine from their perspective? Will they feel that the book is just another off-spring of the fringes of Christianity, or will they see it as a genuinely new work? For that matter, when we introduce the book to Christians today, how do they perceive this book?
On first exposure, people have labeled the book as Gnostic, as a work of the devil, as a supplement to the Bible, as the up-wellings of someone's subconscious, and occasionally even as a revelation. As was said of some of the early church leaders, what Peter says about Paul says more about Peter than it does about Paul. Nevertheless, as The Urantia Book says, we need a philosophical framework to comprehend reality, and we invent one if one does not exist. Then we try to force fit everything under creation into this artificial construct. But whatever the limitations of our framework, we need to categorize things for our minds to deal with them. If people's perception is that The Urantia Book is essentially Christian then that is the perception that we have to live with. What features of the book might lead people to believe that it is essentially Christian?
The book and Christian theology have a number of ideas in common:
1. The Trinity: In Christian theology and tradition, the Trinity consists of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The three members are distinct and personal while yet being unified in the Trinity. The Trinity concept does not appear in the Bible. In The Urantia Book, the Trinity also consists of a Father, Son and Spirit, and these three are distinct and personal beings yet fully unified in the Trinity.
2. Nature of Jesus: Both The Urantia Book and Christian theology see Jesus as a dual nature being, as both human and divine.
3. Adam and Eve: Both the Bible and The Urantia Book support the idea of Adam and Eve living in the Garden of Eden, having two sons, one of whom murdered the other, and of having defaulted in some fashion. There are some obvious differences in the stories, but on the surface there are many similarities.
4. War in Heaven: The Book of Revelations in the Bible paints a symbolic picture of a powerful fallen angel leading his hordes of darkness in physical battle against the angelic forces of the Archangel Michael. The Urantia Book paints a battle just as terrible for the souls and spirits of many beings, but fought with words and propaganda. In the Bible, Lucifer is chained in Hell; in The Urantia Book Lucifer is imprisoned on one of the system spheres.
5. The Devil: In the Bible, the Devil, also sometimes known as Satan, is a fallen angel who tempted Christ and who tries to tempt us away from God. In The Urantia Book, the Devil is identified as Caligastia, and he is still able to influence those who invite him into their minds.
6. Evil Spirits: Jesus drives evil spirits out of people in both the Bible and in The Urantia Book, Beelzebub appears in both the Bible and The Urantia Book as a leader of the "unclean spirits." These spirits are identified as rebel midwayers.
7. Life After Death: In both the Bible and The Urantia Book, there is the possibility of life after death. In both books, Jesus tells us that, "In my Father's house are many mansions." According to The Urantia Book, those who do not knowingly. totally, and finally reject the Father's will go on to higher spiritual levels for further progression. In contrast, many Christian theologians depict us as becoming instantly perfected following resurrection and henceforth existing in eternal bliss--if we make it.
8. Angels: Both The Urantia Book and the Bible speak of angels and their ministry in our lives. The Bible even has somewhat of a hierarchy of angels, though not as complex as that of The Urantia Book.
There are undoubtedly many other areas in which Biblical/Christian ideas are similar to those in The Urantia Book but what of the areas that are different? Are they different enough to dispel the claim that The Urantia Book is just a modernized version of the Bible?
The Bible and Christian theology do contain ideas ignored or rejected by The Urantia Book as follows:
1. The Atonement Doctrine: Christian theology, based on Biblical interpretations, considers Jesus' death on the cross a sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God. The authors of The Urantia Book find this a particularly odious concept, calling it a "....barbarous idea...." (60) [To be fair, it must be said that many liberal Christian theologians have rejected the sacrificial interpretation of the cross, and regard the word "Atonement" as indicative of a state of "At-one-ment" with God.]
2. Hell: The Urantia Book has no such place for temporary or eternal punishment. The ultimate consequence of iniquity is non- resurrection.