Urantia Book Fundamentalism
by Dr. Meredith J. Sprunger
Christian fundamentalists believe in the literal inerrancy of the Bible. They are so impressed with the spiritual truths of scripture that they assume the physical science, economics, sociology, and history of the Bible are of equal quality. The scholarship of mainline Christianity has long since delivered the church from such naive illusions. We have come to realize that the purpose of revelation is spiritual enlightenment, not scientific or historical facts. The main body of Christianity has achieved the spiritual maturity to distinguish between spiritual guidance and material facts and conditions.
It is interesting to observe that many students of The Urantia Book with high intelligence, but lacking the experiential background of mainline theological scholarship, are entertaining the same illusions as the Biblical fundamentalists. They assume the science of The Urantia Book is inspired revelation although the authors clearly state: "The laws of revelation hamper us greatly by their proscription of the impartation of unearned or premature knowledge...The cosmology of these revelations is not inspired ...While divine spiritual insight is a gift, human wisdom must evolve." (p. 1109) They recognize that "within a few short years many of our statements regarding the physical sciences will stand in need of revision."
The authors of The Urantia Book used the science of the 1930's and 1940's or facts about to be known for the material setting of the book. In 1957 as an aid to help me evaluate the scientific orientation of The Urantia Book, I asked the head of the Physics Department and a nationally known nuclear physicist at Purdue University to appraise the quality of Papers 41 (Physical Aspects of the Local Universe) and 42 (Energy--Mind and Matter) of the book. Both of them said, in effect,"This is about where the leading thinkers in physics were a few years ago, we think we are a little beyond this now." Further research over the years has revealed that virtually all of the scientific material found in the book was the accepted scientific knowledge of the period in which the book was written, was held by some scientists of that time, or was about to be discovered or recognized.
The validity of revelation is determined by the quality of its spiritual enlightenment, which is tested by experience. The authors of The Urantia Book used the best of contemporary science and human philosophy to show the integration of science, philosophy, and religion under the overcontrol of the First Source and Center of all things and beings. The spiritual insights and truth resonance of the harmonious integration of the entire universe pictured in The Urantia Book is without parallel in world literature; it is a magnificent revelation.
Scholarly evaluation shows that Urantia Book fundamentalism is just as untenable as Biblical fundamentalism. In the same way that higher criticism established sound foundations for Biblical studies, so must critical scholarship prepare the way for creative study of The Urantia Book. Thus freed from any illusions about its literal infallibility, we are delivered from defensive, fundamentalistic attitudes and open to evaluate its spiritual insights, cosmology, theology, and its view of human origins, development, and destiny. In this capacity its potentials are without parallel on the human scene.