One of the most pervasive and inhibiting initial reactions to The Urantia Book, aside from it's seemingly gnostic elements, comes from our assumptions about revelation itself, namely that a truly contemporary revelation to our world is neither expected nor needed. With the formation of a canon of authoritative writings taking shape, Tertullian remarked that "the Holy Spirit has been chased into a book," implying that revelation would be considered a thing of the past, and the Spirit would, by our reckoning, be limited to working through these records of God's past actions in human history.
Whatever the wisdom of the early church in fixing the canon of scriptures, that implication has indeed been carried and strengthened over the past two millennia, until in minds of even the most devout Christians today, both scholarly and lay, no more revelation is expected--at least until the second coming. Even that has been largely abandoned to the more conservative of the faith, being considered too embarrassing for most mainline Christians to take literally and therefore relegated to a mythical and never quite achievable eschatalogical hope.
That one should be cautious and even downright skeptical of revelatory claims seems healthy enough. Every age has provided evidence that religious fanaticism needs little outward encouragement; it needs only the inner medium of its own fervent hope and spiritual longing in which to grow. But I suspect our skepticism about even the possibility of revelation is grounded in more than historical perspective. It comes from a priori assumptions we carry, assumptions not necessarily in harmony with our conscious beliefs.
Why would we assume that further revelation is neither possible nor necessary? First of all, there is the finality, the once-and-for-allness, of the incarnation itself. One does not add to the perfection of such divine revelation. Secondly, we have the scriptures, with all things necessary for our salvation contained therein. What more could there be? The answer I believe is understanding: a fuller, richer understanding of Jesus' life on earth, without the inevitable distortions of human memory and perception, and a larger universal framework in which to understand the incarnation itself.
Whether the scriptures, or even the church for that matter, were intended by Jesus, they appear to us today to be the inevitable by-products of his teaching and revelation. But our knowledge is shadowy, imperfect and contentious, notwithstanding the power of the image of Christ to shine through those imperfections.
Scholars continue an on-again, off-again quest for the historical Jesus, and poll themselves on which sayings of Jesus in the New Testament, if any, can be regarded as authentic. The results are meager.
Is a new revelation really necessary? If one means is our salvation at stake--no. But if one assumes that God IS the God of the living, whose desire is always to reveal as much as each individual and each age is ready and able to receive, then why, given the poverty of our understanding, would we no longer expect it, hope for it, even long for it?
If God so fully disclosed himself in the Incarnation that anyone who has seen the Son has seen the Father, would he not desire for us all a clearer, fuller understanding of the same?
God is not arbitrarily hidden-- he is intentionally revealed. If we have finally achieved a point in the history of the world that represents a readiness for an up-stepping of our understanding of the eternal plan for all of us, who would wish to say, "No thanks, we have enough."
A Service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship