Introduction to Some Answers
All thinking persons ask similar basic questions about themselves: who they are, where they came from, why they are here, why they have difficulties and problems, and where they are going ? Whatever answers they receive reflect the religion and cosmology of the day, and raise new questions about who or what is God, how they relate to God, and how they relate to the universe. The most-asked questions fall into three major clusters.
The first cluster contains questions having to do with Deity and the cosmos. They seek to know of first causes, divine purposes, and ultimate destinies. They inquire as to the reality of Deity, the nature of God, the purpose of creation, and the role and function of mankind in the universe. They delve into the proper relationships between mankind and God, and mankind and the universe. They explore mankind's future in the cosmos. We may call these "Questions about Deity, Mankind and the Cosmos."
The second cluster has to do with the individual self and relationships with others. Once one grasps the idea of "self" and "other," one becomes self-conscious. This raises many questions about identity: who I am, why I am here, and the purpose of my life. Also about proper relationships with my family, society and Deity. And about the future of one's self and one's family, what happens when I die, etc. We may call these "Questions about Self."
The third cluster has to do with the general human condition, and reflects a desire to know why unpleasant things happen to them and others. These questions probe the source, nature and function of all forms of evil: sin, injury, disease, poverty, injustice, war, death, etc. They seek ways to prevent these things from occurring, to avoid them when they occur, and to remedy (suppress or cure) them after they occur. We may call these "Questions about Evil and its Consequences."
Some questions overlap two or more clusters; however, the best way to consider any specific question is to explore the common threads which hold the cluster together and then add that which is necessary 'co answer the particular question.
Religion, science and philosophy have contributed useful answers to many specific questions over the years; but seldom are they universal or final. As more and more becomes known about the universe, about ourselves, and even about God, these answers change or become less satisfactory.
Whether or not The Urantia Book* is a new and epochal revelation, it certainly provides new and useful paradigms against which philosophers and theologians alike can project new answers to old questions. It adds to the richness of answers provided through the Bible. This paper proposes "answers" to the world's most-asked questions in accordance with the teachings of The Urantia Book and the Bible.
I. CLUSTER ONE: QUESTIONS ABOUT DEITY, MANKIND AND THE COSMOS
A. IS THERE SUCH THING AS DEITY? IF SO, WHAT IS IT?
Man has long believed in a power higher than himself. This power is personalized as God. But personalization, itself, is a limitation. It omits the non-personal, pre-personal, sub-personal, super-personal, post-personal, etc. It is useful to find a word more all-inclusive than "God" to call this higher power. Such a word is "Deity." Deity is both all-inclusive and flexible: it contracts or expands to encompass the entire spectrum of quantities, qualities and values which one may ascribe to the "higher powers." People can agree that Deity exists without agreeing as to its characteristics.
Deity is used here in its broadest sense. Deity includes all those characteristics, both personal and impersonal, attributed to a higher power, regardless of name. Further definition is unnecessary.
The cosmos is "the universe considered as a harmonious and orderly system." Divinity is that unifying and co-ordinating quality which is characteristic of Deity which converts the universe into the cosmos. Divinity is seen as perfection, as completeness, as unity and as harmony between the creator and the created. Mankind glimpses divinity as justice, power and sovereignty, as love, mercy and ministry, and as truth, beauty and goodness. That which has the qualities of divinity is said to be divine. Deity is the source of all that is divine.
Deity is not a synonym for God. "God," as used here, focuses upon the Personal aspects of Deity, and upon the ability of mankind to relate to Deity in any fashion. See Part I.B. below.
1. DO SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY CONFLICT WITH RELIGION? SCIENCE AND DEITY
Science is systematized knowledge derived from observation, study and experimentation. It is concerned with facts provable by systematic observation under established principles. By its nature it is limited to the material realm, and has no disciplines for the spiritual or supernatural realms.
Deity can be postulated by science both as an a Priori force and a first cause, but cannot be confirmed by science because the phenomenon cannot be quantified, qualified, reproduced, duplicated, measured or otherwise proved by scientific methodology. Deity is not a mathematical equation, a chemical formula or a physical law. Science is concerned only with matter, energy and life, and is limited by time and space. Science may trace the universe back to the "big bang" (the beginning of time), but it has no method of determining its cause, where the "banged" matter came from, how the laws governing the behavior of matter in time and space were devised, or why the whole thing happened in the first place. Even scientists recognize that there are realities beyond the province of science. For example, science understands much about the brain, an electro-chemical organism, but it cannot explain mind. It understands paint and color, but not art.
Many scientists accept a theory that Deity exists as a master planner, a first cause, and an over controller;; but they cannot prove it. It remains for philosophy and religion to prove the actuality of any truth or reality beyond the physical universe as revealed, or to be revealed, by the observations and laws of science; to confirm or deny the existence of Deity.
2. PHILOSOPHY AND DEITY
Philosophy is the love of wisdom: it seeks knowledge about all things from all sources. Unlike science it includes disciplines for theology, metaphysics, etc. It can reach conclusions sustained by logic without formal scientific proof.
The philosopher looks to both reason and information to support his conclusions. Many philosophers postulate, out of pure reason, that there must have been a reality before the beginning of time and space; that there must have been a first cause of everything material; and that nothing could exist--even time and space themselves--without some primal act of mindful creating. This produces a concept of Deity.
When the philosopher ponders the sheer orderliness and harmony of the universe as revealed by science, he reasons that superlative qualities of mind and vast quantities of power were necessary to create such a harmonious entity, and he attributes these to Deity. The unique characteristics and circumstances of the cosmos lead many philosophers to conclude that the material universe, with mankind in it, must have been mindfully created for a specific cosmic purpose. Logic, alone, does not reveal the function and objectives of creation; but mankind is seen as a significant clue to the puzzle, and Deity as its source.
Philosophy recognizes realities outside the province of science. The fact that science has not confirmed a proposition does not deter philosophy from recognizing its accuracy. Philosophers consider input from religion, and find some proposals of religionists as to the function and objectives of creation to be supported by logic. Even without the testimony of religionists, it is highly probable that most philosophers would conclude that there must be some form of Deity.
3. RELIGION AND DEITY -- WHAT IS RELIGION?
"Religion is the revelation to man of his divine and eternal destiny...a purely personal and spiritual experience..." (2075:333/4), "the relation of man to God." (1421:6-7) As used here, religion means the general subject of man's relationship to God. A religion is a social organization of people holding similar ideas about their relationship with God. (See Part I.E) A religionist is one who believes that there is a God and that he or she enjoys a personal relationship with God.
The religionist looks to his own personal experiences to verify the existence of Deity: personal contacts with the supernatural which are as real to him as experiences with the natural. He has "felt" a reality that defies all scientific explanation. He knows of realities which science cannot confirm, quantify or qualify; for example: love, beauty, mercy, justice. His experiences are therefore seen as revelations of something greater than his material environment. Millions of religionists, over many centuries, claim to have come into intimate, intelligent, loving and meaningful contact with a power higher than self, and to have experienced modes, forms and degrees of revelation which they attribute to a source and power other than natural: to Deity. Unless they all are mistaken or lying, there is a reality we may call Deity. See also Part I.B,, below.
On the other side of the ledger, the content often differs from one revelation to another. Recorded traditions of each religion reflect truths revealed to its leaders, yet each record contains some things which differ in content from all others. Assuming that Deity must be consistent and revelation perfect, these apparent conflicts are cited as reasons to discount the existence of Deity. This makes about as much sense as saying that because one day is revealed as being sunny in California and as being rainy in Chicago, the day did not exist.
This argument that revelation must be consistent overlooks the limitations on revelation. Excessive revelation would destroy free will. Most religious experiences are a one-on-one confirmation only that the individual has come into personal contact with Deity. There are more ways than one to contact Deity. It is a mistake to assume that, because a person has found Deity under one set of circumstances, one has found the exclusive path. Revelation is always incomplete and partial, as God seldom reveals more than is needed or more than the human mind can absorb. Instead of magnifying the differences let us focus on the commonalties: in every instance, these countless personal experiences can be seen as successful efforts of Deity to confirm to mankind its existence.
At times, revelation is intended for many. These, too, suffer from human misunderstanding and misapplication. For example, the revelation of God to man by Jesus Christ was so advanced and extensive that it may be called "epochal." The full import of that revelation has not yet been fully understood or absorbed. All of these revelations point the religionist to the conclusion that some sort of Deity exists.
It is sometimes proposed that science and religion conflict with each other, but this is not really possible. Both disciplines were made by the same Creator as part of the same cosmos, therefore they must harmonize together. At times some science appears to conflict with some theology to some people. When a scientific fact is supported by ample evidence, it is the differing theological belief which is suspect. Science offers no evidence that Deity does NOT exist.
What is Deity like? Both logic and revelation provide a long list of characteristics of a superlative nature attributable to Deity. They are classic. You are welcome to provide a list of your own.
B: WHO, OR WHAT, IS GOD? DOES GOD REALLY EXIST?
It is assumed that everyone knows who, or what, is God. God is GOD and, like the President of the United States, needs no further introduction. This assumption is incorrect, and leads to much confusion. "God" is a characteristic, a description, a title, and not a common name. There is only one commonly-accepted President at a time; but there is no common acceptance of who, or what, God "is."
Relatively few people have the same mental image of God. They see different names for God, different characteristics of God, and different "do's" and "don'ts" of what God desires of them. For example, note the differences in the identity of God. Some say there is one God and his name is Allah; others say there is one God and His name is E1, or Father; others say there is one God of three persons, or a sevenfold God; some see Jesus as God, or as the Son of God, or a great prophet; etc. Every different religion and sect sees God in a separate light.
In order to avoid seeing God as a theological prescription written by one religion or sect, let us look at God as a generic term. In this manner we can get the full benefit from discussing God without concern about names, doctrine, etc. There is a simple, generic definition of God with which everyone agrees: "God" is Deity personified.
As used here, "God" is a person, and means "that part of Deity with which one may have a personal relationship." "God" does not refer to any particular manifestation of Deity, such as Yahweh, Allah, Krishna, Jesus, Father, etc. You may feel free to substitute any name of God as you see fit. It is only by freeing ourselves from any hassle over the correct name or attributes of God that we can proceed with an unemotional treatment of many meaningful issues.
Now, viewing God as a personification of Deity, does God really exist? This is another way of saying: is there really a component of Deity with which men and women can have a personal relationship?
Since we have defined God as a component (all or part) of Deity, if there is no Deity, there is no God. In Part I.A, above, we said that there is, in truth and reality, such a thing as Deity. Those who disagree and hold that there is no Deity are called "atheists." If the atheists are correct, there is no Deity, therefore nothing with which to have a personal relationship; and, ipso facto, no God.
Logically, it is possible for there to be Deity, yet Deity could either (1) have no personal component with which to relate, or (2) have a personal component so remote and aloof that mortal man cannot have a "personal relationship" with it. Those taking either of these views are called "agnostics." Agnostics concede that Deity may exist, but hold that mankind can never have a personal relationship with it. If they are correct, there may be Deity, but no God.
It is the testimony of religionists which provides the most persuasive (and only unequivocal) evidence that there exists a personal component of Deity to which mankind can, and does, relate: a God. They claim to have actually experienced a personal relationship with God. This cannot be true unless Deity (1) contains a personal component, and (2) mankind is able to have a personal-relationship with it. Revelation comes from no other source than personal contact with Deity. See Part I.A.3, above. Unless all who testify to a personal experience with God are either mistaken or lying, there IS a God.
Yes, God exists, for Deity exists, and men and women can have a personal relationship with at least a part of Deity. But why take someone else's word for it. If you have had a personal relationship with God, then you already know that God exists. And if you have not, why not now? Every person can enjoy the comfort and joy of experiencing this warm personal relationship if they only try.
C. WHY DID GOD CREATE THE UNIVERSE AS IT IS?
This same question has haunted mankind as far back as records go. It began as "why did God create me?" As horizons expanded, it continued as "why did God create the world?" And with growing cosmic consciousness, it becomes "why did God create the universe?" Is the universe a cosmic firecracker? Is man a pathetic cosmic doodle?
Without pretending to know the mind of God, it is inconceivable that the material universe was created without purpose, that the earth supports life by sheer accident, or that mankind is the acme of material creation by mere chance. Unless we postulate a rather bungling Deity, we must reason that it was intended to create a massive universe, it was planned to place in this small segment thereof a life-bearing planet (earth), and it was designed that the development of life forms thereon terminate in the highest-known order of physical existence: homo sapiens. It may very well be that the entire universe was crested to produce and sustain such creatures. (See Part II B, below.) But why? To what end? Few sensible answers have been proposed.
Only during this 20th century has mankind developed a cosmology and a vocabulary sufficient to fashion acceptable answers to many "whys" about creation. Prior to this, the most sensible answer was in the Catechism: "Q: Why was I made?"--"A: To worship God."
In the 1930s, the Urantia Papers revealed a reason for the existence of creation which makes great sense: that through the medium of a material time-space universe, Deity is doing things of eternal spiritual value to itself. Although these achievements are stated in anthropomorphic terms so men can understand them, the ideas are profound, exciting and revealing. They give new meaning to life, and go far to explain teachings of Jesus Christ preserved fragmentarily in the Bible.
1. The Grand Objectives of Creation.
Deity pre-dates time and space; it was neither created nor developed, it was "eventuated," it always was: perfect, complete and replete. Before time and space there were certain anthropomorphic qualities of which Deity was deprived. Among these were: (1) voluntary obedience and esteem (there was no free will below Deity level), (2) creature experience, particularly in overcoming evil (all creatures were eventuated in perfection), and (3) growth (Deity was complete and replete). Yet in a broader sense, attributes of Deity must allow for the possibility of obtaining these qualities, or else Deity would be subject to limitations. This appears paradoxical, yet really is not.
All beings living in such an environment, having been eventuated in perfection, lacked certain qualities obtainable only through the experience of undergoing a perfecting process. If Deity desired to add to this perfect environment beings having such qualities, it certainly had the potential to do so. It could originate beings somewhere else in imperfection and devise a strenuous perfecting process by which they could become perfected and then approach Deity.
It is proposed that Deity "desired" to obtain each of the three qualities mentioned above, and to populate its dwelling place with perfected beings. Consequently it conceived and designed a plan to achieve these ends. To implement this plan, Deity created time and space, the universe, and you and me.
a. To Obtain Voluntary Obedience and Esteem.
In a perfect environment, all creatures respond perfectly to the will of Deity; every element acts and reacts exactly as pre-ordained. If God desires to be sought, esteemed, obeyed, loved and worshiped, he can create beings who do these things perfectly, with no say or choice in the matter. In such a case, God is, in effect, loving and worshiping himself by surrogates of his own creation. He is not experiencing obedience and esteem generated voluntarily, that is, by creatures exercising their own free will who seek, obey, and esteem Him solely as a result of their own desire and initiative, born of a recognition of God's intrinsic goodness, loveliness and holiness.
If God desires to be sought, obeyed, and esteemed, by subordinate creatures voluntarily, on their own initiative, solely in response to observed attractive values rather than from automatic response, such creatures must have absolute freedom to respond to God as they will. They must have the option and power to ignore, disobey and hate Him, and must operate in an environment in which all options can be freely exercised without any coercion. This situation cannot exist in a perfect environment, one without the possibility of evil.
For God to receive voluntary obedience and esteem, He must provide a potentially imperfect environment in which both disobedience to the will of God (evil) and obedience to the will of God (good) are equally possible, and populate it with potentially imperfect beings who can exercise their "free will" to choose and do either good or evil.
Deity has created such an environment and such beings. You and I live in an imperfect environment in which choices between good and evil are constantly before us; and we are imperfect beings with the free will to do either. We have the ability to recognize or ignore the qualities and values of Deity (truth, love, justice, beauty, mercy, power, goodness, service, sovereignty, etc.) and the power to respond to them as we will: to pursue them, and seek to love and worship their source; or to ignore or reject both the values and their source. We are not coerced in our choice. See also discussion of this point in Part II.B.1, below.
The fact that our imperfect universe contains free-will creatures such as mankind gives strong logical support to the revelation that Deity does, in fact, desire voluntary obedience and esteem.
b. To Obtain Creature Experience.
Beings which are wholly eventuated have no creature experience because they are not creatures (they were not created) and,-existing in a perfect environment, they are greatly limited in experiences. They cannot experience, therefore Deity cannot experience through them, the exhilaration of victory in the mighty struggle between good and evil, for there is no evil. Nor the altruistic satisfaction of subjugating self-interests to the interests of others, for there is no temptation to favor self, and no free will. If Deity desires creature experience it must come from creatures who undergo experiences which Deity may share. The broadest range of experiences would come from creatures possessing absolute free will to choose between good and evil, between self interest and any greater interests of others, living in an environment in which evil and selfishness tempt them.
The Urantia Book develops the fascinating truth that the Father desires to gain such creature experience. Paper 108 on Thought Adjusters says that God, prior to the adventure of time and space, was wholly existential and "infinitely inclusive of all things except evil and creature experience." (1185:16) In order for the Father to gain creature experience, His spirit (revealed to us as the Thought Adjuster) comes down to participate with us in "every bona fide experience of the ascending career.." (1185:20) By this process--by sharing our life's experiences--the potential of the infinite and existential God to obtain finite experience becomes an actuality.
The fact that the Father desires creature experience is further supported by a discussion of the Father's Eternal Perfection in Paper 2 on The Nature of God. Here it is pointed out that, although perfect, the Universal Father "actually participates in the experience with immaturity and imperfection in the evolving career of every mortal being of the entire universe." (36:30-32) Although potential evil is not a part of the divine nature, "mortal experience with evil and all man's relations thereto are most certainly a part of God's ever-expanding self-realization in the children of time..." (36:34-35)
The fact that you and I now live in an environment in which we face tremendous temptation to do evil and strong urges to accommodate self at the expense of others, is consistent with the revelation that Deity desires to gain creature experience through imperfect human beings.
The "desire" for creature experience is further developed in Parts II.B.2 and III.A.1.a, below.
c. To Obtain Spirit Growth.
Insofar as we know, an "eventuated" Deity, with no subsequent addition or development, does not grow. Growth requires addition or development. If Deity could not grow, this would be a limitation on Deity. Since Deity is not limited, it must have the power to grow. We usually see such growth as involving creative fiat or creative development and evolution.
It is a major theme of The Urantia Book-that Deity is growing. Papers 115 through 118 discuss this growth. God is spirit (John 4:24; 139:26) and, for Deity to grow, there must be true increase in spirit. Spirit growth entails creating or enlarging that which is spirit by some means other than processing preexistent spirit material. The Biblical injunction to "be ye perfect" takes on a new meaning when considered in the light of spirit growth.
We suppose that God can create spirit either by fiat or by other procedures. Deity does not obtain growth by fiat, alone. One possible alternate procedure is to develop a creature who, in liaison with God, can co-create an embryonic spirit unit, and nurture and develop it into full spirithood. This would require making a being with power to co-operate with God in the original production of something of spirit value, and the will to co-ordinate with God in the process of perfecting it.
It appears that Deity has prepared such creatures, including you and me. The divine plan (discussed below) includes many things designed to achieve spirit growth through human co-operation and co-creation with Deity. The growth portion of the divine plan works this way. While in the flesh, mankind can contribute to spirit growth only by living faith. (1097:27-28) Mankind, has been given the power to work in liaison with God to give birth to his own soul, an embryonic spirit unit. Revelation confirms that the evolving soul, co-created by man, is of spirit potential and value. But it is by faith, alone, that we accept and act upon the word that our mind, soul and identity, in coordination with God, have the potential to become pure and perfect spirit, thereby adding to the totality and reality of Deity. As we, through faith, convert this potentiality into actuality, we actually become a living soul of spiritual value. This soul lives on for further development into pure spirit; ! thus the spirit component of Deity becomes larger as we grow spiritually. (1279:11-29)
Spirit growth is discussed in Part II.B.3, below. It is further addressed in Part III.A.1.b., below, in terms of developing perfected (as distinguished from perfect) beings to populate the cosmos. As such, we expect to be given tasks of great importance in the further expansion of the Kingdom of God. (See 131:28-32; 263:10-11)
d. To Evolve Perfected Beings.
Revelation indicates that that Deity desires to populate eternity with two types of beings: (1) perfect beings, and (2) perfected beings, created less-than-perfect but becoming perfect by some process. Perfect beings are either eventuated or created by fiat: spiritual, immortal, and completely responsive to the will of God. By contrast, perfected beings originate as physical (not spiritual), mortal (not eternal), free-willed (not God-directed) creatures, and must initiate and sustain their own "evolutionary" progression by virtue of their own wills rather than by fiat of God. Otherwise, the procedure is nothing more than an alternate method of creating perfect beings by fiat.
If we heed such revelation, the fact that you and I are physical, mortal and free-willed makes us candidates for the perfecting process. This is covered in more detail in Part III.A.1.b, below.
2. The Divine Plan for Creating.
Let us turn our mind's eye back to before the beginning of time and visualize the momentous decision to create free-will creatures in an imperfect environment. Let us postulate that Deity desired to attain the four grand objectives mentioned in Part I.C.1, above, and more. To do so, Deity devised an absolutely brilliant plan, sufficiently comprehensive to accomplish every end and purpose it desired. We can call this the Divine Plan for Creating. We are not privy to this plan, but from time to time we glimpse parts of it by observing what is going on and by revelation. What we learn is very stimulating.
Views of modern philosophy and theology concerning the method of creating are generally developed against a paradigm in which preexistent Deity created, by fiat, time, space and everything in them, and left them to run on or run down. This approach is terribly wrong. It visualizes a static or decaying universe, not a growing and dynamic one. And by focusing on the earth, it sees things as being out of Divine control.
It is more productive to use revelation, tradition and logic in an effort to reconstruct some of the controlling elements of the Divine Plan for Creating. I propose that it was founded upon, among other things, the following elements.
a. The Principle of Delegation.
Although Deity is omnipotent, it is not omnificent; therefore the plan entrusts most of the work to subordinate creatures, both celestial and human. In practice, Deity creates, develops and evolves as much as possible through subordinate creatures specially developed for the tasks they are to perform. Subordinate creatures are used not only as artists and artisans, but also as co-creators.
The practice of creating, developing and evolving things by means of subordinate creatures has one intended side effect of giving some creatures experience capable of being shared and absorbed by Deity. In a proper environment, it provides experience in dealing with evil. At least one class of creatures can be given free will to choose between good and evil, with the resultant opportunity to obey and esteem God voluntarily, solely because of the attractiveness of God and the values they see in doing so; not from robotic control or innate coercion to do so. And insofar as the process results in new spirit values, it results in the growth of Deity.
b. Balance between Fiat Creation and Evolution.
The plan employs both creation and evolution; with creation used only when necessary, and evolution used as much as possible.
Creation by Fiat: to truly create is to make something out of nothing. Fiat creating is done only as a last resort, when there exists no other way to achieve the objective. Fiat creating is reserved for Deity.
Creation by Developing and Evolving: to develop something out of something else, to evolve something desirable out of something undesirable, to work out something better from something good, and, ultimately, to achieve perfection in everything. Deity seems to accomplish as many things as possible by developing and evolving them. This technique is followed by subordinate creatures, including mankind.
In the beginning, Deity created time, space and basic matter, insofar as we know, by fiat. But since then, that which has occurred in time and space has been accomplished, largely, by and through countless subordinate beings exercising delegated authority, who control, process and develop basic matter until it "evolves" into the universe, as we know it, and all that dwells therein. The process is dynamic: continuing and growing.
c. Achieving Potentials.
The plan incorporates, as a fundamental technique, the converting of potentialities into actualities. (1261:15-16; 1263:18-19) As applied to us, Deity brings into existence our potentialities, and each of us is to convert his or her potentialities into actualities.
This technique both limits and challenges. Each creature is limited to his potentialities, and is challenged to attain them. But once one's potential is reached, new potentials are often provided for further growth and service. To obey and esteem God is a human potential offering ever-expanding plateaus as we advance toward Paradise. To experience victory over evil opens greater potentials for good. Insofar as we successfully actualize our spiritual potentialities, we become cocreators with God of something of spirit value, (1279:11-15) And as a result, Deity grows through us. (1265:28-31)
d. Reciprocal Reward.
Every time we humans contribute anything to Deity, Deity contributes something of greater value to us. The more we obey and esteem God, the more He rewards and loves us. For every experience of victory over evil which we provide to God, we receive high recompense in the growth of our soul. And as we add spirit values to Deity, we actually become the very spirit we co-create with Deity.
* * * * * * * *
Let us examine the cosmos (as we see it) to determine how well the divine plan for creating (as we understand it) provides a vehicle through which mankind can satisfy the above noted desires of Deity, the purpose of creation. Visualize the universe as being circular, with Deity in Heaven at the center, and men and women on earth on the outermost periphery. Deity is perfect. We believe that nothing imperfect can exist in its presence, and the farther from Deity, the greater the possibility for imperfection. If so, the place in the universe where the most imperfect conditions could exist is on its outer periphery, where earth is located. Yet even that is not necessarily so bad. Deity does not cause evil; it only provides an environment in which evil is possible. No place in which evil is possible is perfect. A universe with the above characteristics provides the ideal location in which to implement the plan.
Earth is located in an environment in which imperfection, evil, is possible. It is populated with human beings who have absolute free will to do good or evil. They have a mind to discern between the two. They are material, mortal and finite. This provides the ideal creature to execute the "creature" portion of the plan.
This situation provides the ideal circumstances described in Part I.C, above, under which each of the proposed desires of Deity could be best satisfied. This did not occur by accident.
D. ARE THERE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL BEINGS? IF SO, WHAT ARE THEY?
In order implement the Divine Plan for Creating, Deity created time, space, and the material universes. And, over the millennia since then, Deity has populated the universes with countless billions of beings of all sorts. The earth contains only a very small fraction of a percent of all such beings.
The vast majority of these are spirit and semi-spirit beings, wholly invisible to us. The universe is literally teeming with angels, of which earth has its fair share. In addition there are other orders of spirit beings other than angels in large numbers on this planet. Lucifer, Satan, Melchizedek, Adam and Eve, and Jesus are all extra-terrestrial beings who have visited earth.
We are told that, within the local planetary "system" there are over 600 planets which hold material beings comparable to mankind in the sense that they are material, upright-walking bipeds, sexually reproductive and have free will. The physical characteristics of these beings, together with the vast distances involved, make it highly improbable that any such beings ever visited this planet.
There is nothing in The Urantia Book which tends to explain the phenomenon of UFOs (Unidentified Flying Objects) reported in various parts of the world. They do not resemble Transport Seraphim.
E. WHAT IS THE PROPER ROLE OF ORGANIZED RELIGION?
Jesus came to earth to save people from bad religious organizations, not bad political organizations. He died in the attempt.
Organized religions result from socialization of persons with common religious experiences. They hold no ecclesiastical authority; yet God supports collective action in His behalf. (Matthew 18:20) They represent collective religious action.
Organized religions have been mixed blessings. They have preserved certain coals of spiritual truth which flame up from time to time, and even now may be rekindled; they have collected and saved writings, music and art reflecting the highest thoughts of mankind; they have maintained a popular awareness that there is a God to be reckoned with; and they have sheltered many saints who otherwise may have been destroyed. Yet, on the other hand, they have been fraught with hypocrisy and corruption; claimed status and authority which they did not possess, and used it to enslave millions; they have prostituted the banner of God before political and business causes; they have engaged in internecine warfare over minutiae of doctrine; they have repeatedly persecuted the saints; and--most important--they have stood in the way of individual spiritual progress by millions of truth-seekers.
There is no practical way by which the true worship of God can be expanded without some social organization behind it. Man is a social animal, and needs the company of others on all of life's journeys. Groups can always accomplish things which individuals cannot: maintain places and opportunities for group worship, provide literature and training; provide ministries and missions, etc. And, most important, they can create and support communities and environments in which the worship of God is encouraged.
It is great error for organized religion to become involved in politics. This is the evil which led to downfall of the Jewish kingdom and later, to the dark ages. God is a God of persons, not of causes. God loves each person on both sides of every controversy with equal fervor. For organized religion to become involved on either side is an unholy alliance. It stifles new-born faith and persecutes true believers.
To prepare for its proper role, organized religion should unburden itself of all ancient armor and armaments, all excess baggage, and come forth with the true soul-saving gospel of Jesus: that God is our Father, and we are his children; and that all men and women must learn to live as one spiritual family. In seeking Him to esteem Him, people also find themselves and feel good about it. And they become concerned about their neighbors.
Religion can, and should, create social communities of those with common religious experiences; to confirm the reality of their experiences, to reinforce their feelings of value, to encourage their continued efforts, to minister to the needs of the community, and to avoid feelings of isolation. Even religionists need social approval. And weaker and more timid souls need the shelter of some institution for early development.
Instead of destroying present religious organizations and forming new ones, we should focus upon the highest truths in each, thereby transforming them. We should build upon the foundations already laid. Existing religions have some good practices, talents and assets in place. All they need is proper direction. Religionists are better advised to work within responsive religious organizations to make them more fruitful rather than to abandon them and work alone.
II. CLUSTER TWO: QUESTIONS ABOUT SELF
A. WHO AM I?
Who am I? Conventional answers focus upon characteristics of a physical and social nature. Most people know their name, race, creed, ethnic group, nationality, occupation, family role, personality traits, social status, etc. They ARE all of these. Yet, knowing this, they continue to ask "Who am I?" There is something beyond their vital statistics and social data which people desire to know. It is as if they sense that they are part of something greater than their niche in the physical environment, and long to find out what it is.
There is not a biography in "Who's Who in America" which has a soul satisfying answer to this haunting question. All leave unanswered the identity of the biographer from a theological point of view, and leave unsatisfied the craving to know who we are in the universe or cosmos.
To discover who we are from a theological, universal or cosmic view, we must begin by exploring our characteristics which have theological, universal or cosmic significance. These should point toward who we really are.
As members of the human race, the highest order of animal life on earth, we share those characteristics held in common by human beings. If humans have any common characteristics of theological, universal or cosmic significance, then they also apply to you and me.
1. A Personality.
All who read this have one thing in common: each is a person. Persons have characteristics not shared by non-persons. These characteristics give us significant clues as to who we are.
Self-consciousness. Only persons can know that they exist as separate and distinct entities; can conceive of "I." This characteristic makes persons self-conscious: I am "I," every other person is "you," and every non-person is "it." Self-consciousness is absolutely essential to moral choosing.
Uniqueness, Individuality. No two persons are alike; each occupies a separate body and has different experiences. Each reacts differently to similar stimuli. "I" am unlike, to some extent, every other creature in the universe; and this makes "me" an individual: truly unique. (1225:37-1226:3) An understanding of this characteristic is essential to an assessment of human value. No one else can substitute for, or replace, a truly unique person.
Interpersonal Relations. Only persons have interpersonal relations. Relationships between persons and non-persons are not interpersonal. Animals and inanimate objects, not being persons, cannot interrelate "personally" with us. God is a "person," and this characteristic allows persons to have a personal relationship with God.
Wisdom. Of all material beings, only persons are endowed with minds capable of distinguishing between good and evil. Not all persons have this capability at all times; however no physical creature other than a person has wisdom. This characteristic is essential to the ability to make a free-will choice between good and evil.
Worship. Persons are the only material creatures who have a tendency to (a "spirit of") worship. Only persons can perceive that there is reality beyond the material, sense that it is "personal" in nature, sincerely esteem it for its values, and crave to develop a closer personal relationship with it. This characteristic is essential to our love and worship of God.
The above characteristics form the basis of personality. Each creature endowed with these characteristics has a separate and distinct personality, and is a personality. Personality is the key to individuality. No two personalities are the same.
Science cannot explain where personality comes from. There is nothing in the laws of genetics or the theories of evolution to indicate that personality has a scientific basis. The Urantia Book says personality is a gift of the Father (79:9-11 1225:18-19 1226:14-15); that it is personality which gives mankind the prerogatives of self-determination, self-evolution, and self-identification with Deity. (1301:12-14) Why do we have this gift? We have explored this in Part I.C, above.
I am the totality of that unique personality who conceives of itself as "I"; there is no other such creature in the universe. I will always be that personality. The personality who I know as "I" is constant and changeless. I am self-conscious: I know the difference between good and evil, and can choose to do either; I can foresee the social consequences of my acts. The cosmic status of my personality is affected by these choices.
2. Man. the Highest Animal. Material man is seen as the highest order of animal life, the acme of creation. He has been given dominion over all the earth. (Genesis 1:26-28) Where did man come from? What does this power signify?
Logically, man could have arrived on earth by one or more of four means: (1) evolved here by natural processes as a result of a colossal series of incidents, accidents, and coincidences; (2) created here as man by fiat of God; (3) created here by mindful use of principles of evolution and mutation; or (4) transported here from another place.
Pure science has no better answer than that man sprang from method (1), a colossal series of incidents, accidents and coincidences. The odds favoring production of mankind in such a manner are so infinitesimally small that most sensible people reject it as a viable theory. It is said that, under the laws of probability, if enough apes were set before enough word processors and given enough time, one of them would produce a photo-ready copy of The Encyclopedia Britannica. It is one thing to speculate, statistically, that the entire work can be reproduced in that manner, and quite another to propose that it was actually written in that manner. Those believing that the universe, with mankind in it, was actually produced by mindless, directionless phenomena of chance accept something far more implausible than that The Encyclopedia Britannica was accidentally written by an ape.
Fundamentalist Christian theology holds that man came to earth by way number (2), fiat creation by God. Whether or not this is a fact, it contains the essential truth that man appeared on earth as a creative act of Deity, which is theologically significant.
The Urantia Book teaches that the basic human stock was placed on this planet by way number (3): creation by mindful use of evolution and mutation. (667:33-39) It was planned to up step the human race by interbreeding with material stock brought to earth by way number (4): transportation from another place (Adam & Eve, 583:8-10),however, relatively little benefit accrued from this effort because of the Adamic default. (736:30-35)
For all practical purposes, it is immaterial whether mankind arrived on earth as a result of way (2), (3) or (4), or by any combination thereof; the point is that man appeared--not by accident--but as a result of creation by Deity. Why would Deity create (by any means) "man in His own image" and give him "dominion over" all other physical creation? This is a significant question. Its answers give further clues as to who we are.
Let us postulate that the physical universe of galaxies, suns, planets, moons, etc., was created (by whatever means) to provide a physical environment within which to bring into existence various forms of life designed to support, and to culminate in, "beings" with the qualities of mankind. If so, the development of life forms not only would advance toward the desired end of producing mankind, but also would support him when he came into being. This is exactly what happened on earth; we can only speculate whether it happened elsewhere. If no higher form of physical creature appears, we can reason that the creative process was designed to culminate in, and support, mankind.
I am the capstone of physical creation. I, and those like me, have dominion over all the earth. But why? How does this help Deity? This is explored in Part I.C, above.
3. Free Will and Mandatory Choices.
Man is said to exercise free will; and so he does. But only to the extent that he can perceive options and understand their consequences. Wisdom is essential to free will. Civilized society does not hold its members criminally accountable for their misdeeds unless the culprit knew, or should have known, that the act was wrong. This is the basis for excusing the insane from criminal responsibility. Deity has at least as high a standard.
Out of all material creation, only man is aware of the qualities of his relationship with others, has the ability to foresee the consequences of his conduct in terms of impact on others. Only man is able to know the difference between good and evil. See definition of Evil in Part III.A, below. Therefore, only man has the ability to do evil.
There is another reason why man is the only material creature able to do evil: man, alone is able to overcome his animal nature. Animal behavior is governed by genetics and environment only; but man is able to overcome these by another behavior-regulating force: wisdom, and the free will to use it.
Lower animals always respond to a situation in accordance with their nature and training. A hungry tiger finding a lost child in the jungle acts in accordance with its nature, with no thought of any consequences. A starving man finding the child is instantly aware that a moral choice, if not a spiritual one, is involved. The tiger is absolved of moral blame if it eats the child; the man is not. Why this difference? The two reasons are: (1) because only the man could know it was wrong, if not evil, and (2) only the man had control over his own conduct: free will. These differences are of major theological significance.
The fact that man recognizes the difference between good and evil in any situation places upon him the inescapable burden to choose between the two. The more sensitive he becomes, the more differences he observes, and the more choices he must make. Most people constantly face such choices.
Choices between good and evil usually take the form of choices between self interests and (1) societal interests or (2) spiritual interests. Societal interests involve "right vs. wrong," sociological terms pertaining to morality. Spiritual interests involve "good vs. evil," theological terms pertaining to spirituality. This is an important difference. That which seems right may be evil. (Proverbs 14:12) Knowledge of good and evil is not the same as knowledge of right and wrong.
It is said that God provides no rewards or punishments; only consequences. God provides "consequences" only for free-will choices. He judges by the "heart:" the intent to do that known to be either good or evil. Good done accidentally or under duress has no spiritual value to the do-gooder. Evil done through ignorance or accident has no spiritual consequences upon the evildoer; but the choice of evil over good is sin, and the wages of sin is spiritual death.
Why did Deity enable mankind to ignore its animal nature? This quality of free will is given to man in order that he may perform important service to Deity, service which would be impossible without it. In Part I.C, above, four "desires" of Deity are proposed which are attainable through creatures with (1) the ability to ascertain the will of God and (2) the absolute power to obey or disobey it as they choose.
I AM an animal liberated from my animal nature and given both the wisdom to recognize the nature and con sequences of my acts and the free will to act as I choose. I therefore face constant choices of both a moral and spiritual nature. I have the power to ascertain the will of God if I seek to do so. I can increasingly gain knowledge of good and evil. (Compare Genesis 2:9,17; 825:39-40) Most knowledge comes from the Indwelling Spirit within me. (1457:40-43) Much comes from revelation, and some is portrayed in holy books. These provide the knowledge which makes me accountable for my subsequent acts.
The three human characteristics mentioned above do much to reveal who we are from a theological and cosmic point of view.
* * * * * * * *
Who am I? I AM a unique personality (by gift of God) having the ability to discern between good and evil, and the power to choose between the two. I AM a super-animal, in charge of a portion of God's material manifestation of Himself as physical creation. I AM a source of voluntary love and worship of God through faith. I AM a source of experience for Deity, itself. I AM a source of spirit growth of Deity. I AM potentially a Perfected being in the presence of the Father. And much, much more. I accomplish these functions by faithfully living out the physical "me" described in the first paragraph of Part II.A, above, and by faithfully developing my spiritual potential.
B. WHY AM I HERE?
Unless creation was mindless and frivolous, it must have something to do with implementing a grand design, a divine plan--to accomplish something which God either needs to have or desires to bring about. If so, then "I," as the acme of physical creation, must have a significant role in an important plan of God! This is a thrilling concept.
Mankind is the keystone figure in the Divine Plan for Creating. See Part I.C.2, above. He has a far greater role in cosmic development than is generally known.
Prevailing Western theology sees mankind as having been created by fiat in perfection, and as "falling" from that lofty status. The goal of most religions is a salvage operation, to keep people spiritually alive until they physically die, in the hope that God will mercifully restore them to their original status of perfection instead of justly punishing them for their sins. God is variously pictured as being angry with, and regretful over man; and as devising emergency plans to effect a cosmic rescue of his wayward children. The word "salvation" is not without significance. This traditional paradigm has prevailed in spite of numerous lofty, even brilliant, truths contained in most holy books. And it completely overlooks the reasons why man exists.
Man exists as a key element in a Divine Plan of Deity. His role and function are to assist Deity in satisfying several "desires" indicated above in Part I.C. These desires are for voluntary obedience and esteem, for creature experience, for true growth, and to evolve perfected beings. We human beings are deliberately designed and carefully tailored to fulfill each of these desires. And we are doing so.
1. To Provide Voluntary Obedience and Esteem.
Deity's "desire" for voluntary obedience and esteem is addressed in Part I.C.1.a, above.
Every normal human being exercises a free will to respond to Deity in any manner he chooses. There is no spiritual coercion. One can seek or avoid, obey or disobey, attend or ignore, hold in awe or contempt, love or hate, etc.: whatever attitude one holds toward God is one's personal choice. Whenever God is sought, esteemed, obeyed, loved or worshipped by a human, the act is voluntary. It results from the creature's seeing intrinsic values in Deity and desiring to identify with them. This constitutes the voluntary love and esteem otherwise not available to God.
Both logic and revelation indicate that you and I are here to provide important service to, and for, God by voluntarily seeking, finding, obeying, loving and worshipping him. In this endeavor, each of us is of equal value to God, and receives equal treatment from God.
2. To Provide Creature Experience with Evil.
Deity's "Desire" for creature experience is developed in Parts I.C.1.b, above, and III.A.1.a, below.
There is absolutely no doubt that humans undergo experiences with evil, some quite traumatic. Both the Old Testament and Jesus taught that God is with us throughout all of these trials, but the true significance of this teaching has only recently been revealed. Through the Indwelling Spirit of the Father, God actually shares our experiences; thereby gaining "creature experience." (29:21-32; 1185:1624) As we triumph over evil, God actually experiences the overcoming of evil through us. When we overcome evil with good, new spiritual values appear, and Deity experiences growth. These spiritual values become our immortal soul, and stay with us as we undergo the perfecting process to become Divine. Even when we fail and do evil, Deity has experiential knowledge of the phenomenon.
"I" am of importance to Deity as a vehicle through which God can (and does) gain experience: creature experience. No one else can provide these exact same experiences; and if I fail, they are lost to God forever.
3. To Provide Growth to Deity.
Deity's "desire" for growth was developed in Part I.C.1.c, above.
It is a mistake to view mankind as being created "a living soul" (Genesis 2:7) rather than as being a co-creator of his own soul. Man once believed that he was created by fiat. (838:30-31) We now learn that he was evolved out of pre-existent mater. (560:17-40) Even life, itself, was "initiated." (667:40-45) Man is made flesh, and given the power to become spirit. (343:3-9) It is in the first step toward becoming spirit that man is "born again," (1130:43-48) and thus actively participates in the creation of his own soul. (1478:24-44) During this spiritualizing process man contributes to totality of reality: to the growth of Deity.
Man has long been seen as a co-creator with God of physical progeny; but the more important creation of his soul--an embryonic spirit--is overlooked. Just as a caterpillar must weave its own cocoon if it aspires to become a butterfly; so must man develop his own soul if he aspires to become a spirit. This is why Jesus said "you must be born again, born of spirit." If man were "created spirit," spirit would already exist, and man could not give it "birth." Jesus made it plain that man was deeply involved in bringing about this "new birth" through the proper exercise of free will. (1602:40-46)
It is the supreme goal of this lifetime to be born of the spirit, to develop the human soul, and to survive as a spirit-potential being. Only the successful progress to other spheres (heaven) to become wholly spirit. Mankind, in the flesh, is but converted preexistent matter, (Genesis 2:7; 3:19) and adds nothing to Deity. Physical life adds nothing to Deity. Upon death, life terminates, and matter returns to older forms. Only that which is spirit is real and eternal. When a person, in conjunction with God, creates anything of spirit value, it adds to the totality of Deity (God the Supreme): it is spirit growth.
If this is correct, "I" am here to provide "spirit growth" to Deity both in the flesh and as I become more spiritual. "I" have the potential to become a perfected spirit-being with a residence on Paradise and an opportunity for important future service to God.
4. To Provide Perfected Beings.
Deity's "desire" to evolve perfected beings was discussed in Parts I.C.1.d, above, and III.A.1.b, below.
Of all the desires of Deity, this one is the most rewarding to us to fulfill. The Divine Plan for Creating contains an element of "reciprocal reward" by which Deity bestows on any faithful creature more than it receives from that creature. (Part I.C.2.d, above.) Reciprocal love from the Father is greater than any obedience and esteem we show Him. The experiences we share with Deity are ours as well as His. The growth we provide to Deity is our own growth. This "desire" is that we complete our growth by becoming perfect and standing in the presence of the Father in Paradise. The very "beings" which Deity desires to "become perfected" are YOU and ME. This is the ultimate consequence of faithful service, the best thing that could happen to us.
God has repeatedly told men and women to become perfect. (Genesis 17:1; Leviticus 19:2; Deuteronomy 18:13; Matthew 5:48; 21:30-31 + 12 other places) This is our goal and our destiny. The entire scheme of ascension to God is a perfecting process.
Only as perfected beings can you and I realize our potential to be full faith-sons and faith-daughters of our Heavenly Father. It is heart-warming to know that God desires us to dwell in His presence, and even become a part of total Deity.
I AM a potential faith-son or faith-daughter of Our Father. I can become a full faith-child by being a faith-fur child.
* * * * * * * *
Why am I here? To be "me," a unique personality. To seek and do the will of God; to grow to love and worship Him. To overcome evil with good. And by so doing, to contribute to the love, experience and growth of God. And ultimately, to stand in the presence of God a perfected being.
Both "I" and my missions are of profound significance and eternal importance. "My" role is to satisfy various desires of Deity. I was made for this Divine purpose. There are momentous consequences from my conduct on earth. No one can succeed but me. And no one else can fail. If I fulfill my purpose I will attain my destiny and inherit eternal life; if not, I will pass away forever.
C. WHAT DOES GOD REQUIRE OF ME? HOW CAN I BE A BETTER PERSON?
Man has not been left uninformed of what God requires of him. To the contrary, all great religions contain truths about God's desires of men. Unfortunately, they also contain much misinformation. Along with its burdensome "laws," the Old testament contains the brilliant rhetorical question of Micah: "what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6:8) We may be more specific in three areas.
1. To seek and find God.
The one basic, and absolutely essential, requirement is to relate personally to God! It is not what one knows, but Who one knows, that "saves" one. Being good for goodness' sake rather than for God's sake achieves none of the objectives of Deity in creating mankind, and has no spiritual value. It elevates self-values over God-values, and constructively ignores God's existence. Spiritually, it results in being good for nothing.
The path to God is not the same for everyone. All do not start in the same place; but the focal point, the end of the journey, is always God. For most, the "way" is a process involving three functions: (1) to seek to know the will of God, (2) to attempt to do the will of God, and (3) to strive for a close personal relationship with God. These are most effective when done with enthusiasm by one who sees the beauty of God and eternal values in serving Him. Salvation depends more upon what one attempts than upon what one achieves. Sincere effort always results in success. We are taught that if we seek, we shall find. The process of God-seeking and God-finding always results, to some degree, in satisfying one or more needs of Deity.
2. To Overcome Evil with Good.
The most effective technique by which to do the will of God was voiced by Paul: "overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21) Jesus both taught and practiced this technique. The "other cheek" and "second mile" instructions are in point. Man cannot create by fiat; and the next two most significant methods of creation are by making something out of something else and by making something desirable out of something undesirable. The overcoming of evil with good does both. Man thus creates something of spiritual value, and becomes a cocreator with God. By faithfully practicing this technique, men and women can fulfill real needs of Deity and thereby live up to the purpose for which they were created.
Few people understand the full significance of the divine process of overcoming evil with good. Let us look at how it works in three different situations.
One's own Actions. When one chooses, and does, good instead of evil, good overcomes evil by preventing or replacing it. When one uses good to correct an evil already done, it may lessen or nullify the effects of the evil on the victim, and it always results in a positive good. In either instance the heart of the evildoer is good, and good has overcome evil.
Evil done to A Third Party by Another. When one does good to the victim of another's evil, it may reduce or eliminate the adverse effects of the evil, and it always produces a positive value for the person doing the good. The evil remains in the heart of the evildoer.
Evil done to you by another. Evil received from another may be overcome in two ways. First, return good for evil to influence the evil one to regret his evil. This was understood by Paul in Romans 12:20 where he wrote of heaping "coals of fire" upon the evildoer's head. Second, return good without regard for its influence upon the evildoer. If you return evil for evil, two evils exist. If you return nothing, there is still one evil. If you return good for evil, there is one good and one evil, and numerically they cancel out. If you return a greater good than the original evil, you have truly "overcome" the original evil, for quantitatively there is more good in the world than evil as a result of the exchange.
Here is a cosmic secret: when good is returned for evil, good always overcomes evil. Evil has no spiritual value; good does. Evil is cosmically unreal, and will cease to exist. Good is eternally real. Every person who returns good for evil has created a reality of spiritual value; it will live on as part of the soul. Even a little good in return for a great evil leaves something of value where nothing existed before. This is one principal process by which one builds his immortal soul.
3. To Love both God and Man -- Will man ever love his fellow man?.
God requires us to love. At the human level, love is the desire to do good for others. One can be niggardly or generous with love of another; can limit love to one or a few, or can lavish it on many. There is no limit to the supply. God has so much of this quality that He is said to be love. God, as a person, can be loved as any other person.
Love does not occur as an applied philosophy nor an act of will. Love occurs from recognition of values, from understanding motives and sentiments. (1098:28-29) To truly love someone, whether God or man, you must really know them. The Divine injunction to love is equally a command to know and understand. Man will never love his fellow man unless and until he knows him better. This will take centuries.
Jesus said the two great commandments are both to love: love God, and love your fellow man; and that on these hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40) One who truly loves God will seek, obey and esteem Him. One who truly loves his fellow man will attempt to overcome all forms of evil with good. It is easier to love one's fellow man when one sees (and loves) God as his/her Father and views all neighbors as children of God. All men and women then become one's spiritual brothers and sisters in the family of God.
4. Other Requirements.
God has already come to you. He now desires that you come to Him. The path to God is an ages-long journey. One does not "arrive" in this lifetime; earthly victory is only a beginning. Progress evolutionary rather than instantaneous: take one step at a time. The adventure begins with a sincere decision to seek and find God. This is made upon faith, and nurtured by growing faith as we continue God-ward. Once begun, the journey requires fidelity and Perseverance. You must not turn back. The password is progress. You will know you are on the right path when there appear spirit fruits upon which to feast.
In this lifetime enjoy the experience of being human. Be the best human you can be. Whatever you undertake, do it well and with good cheer. Live life to the fullest, not as a passive mystic or colorless ascetic, but as an active participant in all life's routine affairs. Fulfill the double-responsibility of duty to God and duty to man at the same time, by the same acts. And be sincere. This produces spirit fruit, and makes you a "better person" in the eyes of both God and man.
D. CAN I COMMUNICATE WITH GOD?
It is inconceivable that Deity would place men and women on earth and leave them with no communications: no way to ascertain good and evil; no way to determine what God desires of them or has in store for them; and no way to express to their Creator the sincere thoughts of their minds, the deep longings of their hearts, or the joy of worship.
Communication is a two-way street; it is both incoming and outgoing. Incoming communications are largely sensed as thoughts or feelings; outgoing, are largely articulated as words, silently or aloud.
God continuously attempts to communicate with every human mind capable of moral choosing. Because of man's free will, He does not speak so strongly as to coerce. Since man must seek God, He does not speak so loudly as to impose. God does not compel anyone to listen. But always, as men and women face choices between good and evil, He displays the values of each alternative. God is not mute. Man's ability to receive communications from God depends more upon man's willingness to listen than upon God's ability to speak.
There seems to exist within the mind of man a fragment of Deity which examines every concept as it arises, and classifies it as true or false, beautiful or ugly, good or evil. There seems to follow a call, a request--not a command, to choose the true over the false, the beautiful over the ugly, and the good over the evil. It is as if a still, small voice whispers into one's spiritual ears the eternal values involved in every moral choice which one must make, and sometimes says "this is the way."
The voice is weak when one appears to benefit more from choosing the false, ugly or evil than by choosing the true, beautiful and good. It fades into oblivion as one repeatedly chooses the false, ugly or evil. But it seems to grow louder and clearer as one responds to it by choosing the true, beautiful and good. Hearing God gets easier as one becomes more spiritual.
This is the principal method by which God communicates to every normal human mind. For most of us, it is enough. Yet, at times, God has communicated more articulately and forcefully. The Bible recounts that, in the days of Abraham, God sent a celestial being (Melchizedek) to communicate with humans, including Abraham. The Bible also tells of angels and prophets as messengers of God, and of communications by vivid dreams. But the supreme method by which God has communicated with man is through Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate, who spoke to mankind face to face. Jesus revealed, for the first time, that men and women can become faith sons and daughters of God.
How does man speak to God? We are taught that God knows our every thought and hears our every prayer. If so, all deliberate thoughts or prayers addressed to Deity are known instantaneously. But by whom? The Bible speaks of at least three "persons" in Deity. Are prayers heard by the correct "person?"
The dissemination of prayers is much like radio broadcasts. Think of prayers as being broadcast on a "prayer circuit" in which each "person" of Deity has a receiving station. Each station receives, records and acts upon only those messages which pertain to its Deity Personality. Thus, a prayer of pure praise goes to God the Father, a petition for intercession on earth goes Jesus as Creator-Son; etc. I doubt if the Deities are misled when a message is misaddressed.
But it is enough to know that God hears, and answers, all sincere prayers prayed in the spirit.
E. HOW SHOULD I RELATE TO MY FAMILY, CLAN, RACE & NATION?
Mankind relates to: (1) God, (2) his environment, and (3) his fellow man. The most important relationship is with God; this overrides all others. This is always a personal relationship, whether or not one realizes it. It is governed by one's attitude and intent toward God.
Paradoxically, our response to God is reflected more by our relationships with our environment and our fellows than by our relationship directly with God. God is spirit, and we are matter. We live in a material world, and whatever we do occurs in a material environment. There are few and limited ways in which material man can demonstrate or express his attitude toward a spiritual God other than through conduct toward his material environment, including--most significantly-his fellow man.
Deity intended it this way. The material universe, with the earth and all it's people, was created by Deity for a reason. God has a special interest in its care and nurture: it is His, and it is good. We are God's surrogate caretakers and our brother's keepers. We are here for that purpose, among others. Therefore, those things which God desires us to do are almost entirely directed toward caring for, and improving, our material environment; most particularly, toward improving our relationship with each other.
It is not by coincidence that the tenets of every great religion contain much about man's relationship to his fellow man. Of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21), four have to do with man's relationship with God and six have to do with man's relationship with man. Of the "two great commandments" in the New Testament (Matthew 23:37-40), one relates to God, and the other to "neighbor." It is therefore fair to say that God desires our love for Him to be demonstrated by our conduct toward our fellows.
Man is a social animal. It is not good for man to be alone. As the human race develops, it faces an ever-enlarging, ever complex, set of social circumstances to which it must adjust. The family, tribe, clan, state, race, nation, multi-national federation and ultimate world government, are but expanding social situations through which men and women are to develop spiritually by a process called "civilization." Civilization reflects the degree of human subjugation of individual self-aggrandizement to higher values found in the needs of society, a development of spiritual dimensions. Secular history is the story of how mankind has met these challenges; it also provides a barometer of spiritual development.
According to the Bible, the very first instruction given to man and woman by God was "be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth.." (Genesis 1:28) The basic values of civilization are developed and nurtured in the family. The blind trust of the child, the loving care of the parents, fraternal and filial love, the fidelity of parents to one another, the mutual support of the extended family, and the unifying influence of the patriarch and matriarch: these virtues form the foundation for all future progress in social development. The rise and fall of civilization has closely followed the rise and fall of the family.
Family virtues have spiritual value. The fifth commandment directs family obedience. When Jesus came to reveal God to man, it was the ideal family that he used to illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven: God is a loving Father, and our greatest contribution to the Father is to bring about the brotherhood of man, the social consolidation of His scattered and diverse material children.
How should I relate to my family? Bring the highest value into the position you occupy. As a child, trust and obey your parents, give and accept love. As a youth, assume your share of the obligations and love your brothers and sisters. As a parent, love, nurture and guide your children, and train them to assume their full role as adults, even if the training should require discipline. When children become of age, parents must let go, trust, and respond to special needs. As a wife or husband, love, be faithful toward, and cooperate with your spouse. And as grandparents (and beyond), hold the extended family together as a larger unit, mutually supportive of all other parts.
2. Clan and Tribe.
Individuals get along easier with people who are "like" them than those who are "unlike" them. Blood ties result in biological and social similarities which facilitate fraternization beyond the immediate family. This led to the development of the clan and tribe. But in modern Western society, the clan and tribe have little significance. Mobility and urbanization have diluted and displaced areas of clan autonomy, and almost eliminated tribal influence and authority.
The clan and tribe represent two stages of social advancement beyond the family. They have been replaced by local culture groups and larger communities of similar interests, or by local neighborhoods and larger city or county units, etc. Gangs, societies, tongs, etc., are social innovations replacing clans in some environments.
The social value of clans and tribes, and of their replacements, is that they influence people to socialize, to get along together, in groups larger than the family. They develop wider interpersonal commitment, broader internal loyalties and stimulate cooperative external competition. They are a necessary stage in social development.
Social dangers of clans and tribes, and of their equivalents, are that clan loyalties may inhibit broader social development, and competition may take destructive paths leading to various forms of mob action and intergroup warfare.
The wise individual uses clans, tribes, societies, teams, gangs, clubs, etc., as a means of developing self-commitment and group loyalties, of getting along with larger numbers of people, and of adjusting self-interests to the needs of wider groups. Yet, one does not stop there. The most practical way to develop an effective social structure beyond the clan and tribe is work through the group to influence it to become an integral part of a larger structure. But if any group refuses to grow into a larger society structure, abandon it and develop new relationships and commitments with the larger group representing the region, state or nation.
Race focuses upon certain common physical characteristics. Although race originated through families, clans and tribes, it is no longer a social organization, as such. Yet race is a strong social force. The common characteristics shared by peoples of any race tend to bring them together. People of other races are seen as being "different," and this tends to set the races apart.
Belonging to any particular race, however, provides no spiritual advantage or disadvantage; all persons are equal in the sight of God. There is no race of "chosen people:" all are called; and those who respond--of all races--are equally "chosen."
Deity developed races in-order to give individuals the valuable experience of learning to socialize with people markedly different from themselves. Successful social integration in the past would have resulted in blended races containing the finer qualities of each strain. However, racial socialization has not developed as planned, and much important work needs to be done in this area.
One's relationship with people of different races should begin by ignoring obvious but irrelevant differences and observing the more significant commonalties. This calls for eliminating all personal racial prejudice and accepting every person upon the basis of his or her true social and moral development. Race should become irrelevant: neither an advantage nor a disadvantage to inter-personal relations.
Due to prejudice and mistrust, socialization among the races is unlikely to progress very far unless and until it is recognized that men and women of all races are equally-loved children of the same Heavenly Father. When the world sees all people as sisters and brothers--and treats each one accordingly--it will have attained one spiritual goal of the Creator in making the different races.
Nationality holds together the largest social organizations of lasting quality now on the face of the earth. Nations are far greater social organizations than families and clans, but still far smaller than the ultimate social achievement: a single world government. Nations come and go, grow and recede. Leagues, federations, and treaty organizations appear and disappear. All of these represent valiant efforts of mankind to get along in ever-enlarging groups until everyone can get along together.
Nationality is a unity based upon common interests within a particular geographical area. Some day man will learn that common interests know no geographic boundaries.
We are taught that nationality is the greatest cause of war; and if wars are to end, all people must yield their sovereignty to a single world government. (1489:24-30) Yet, this development must await its time: until the people of the world are ready for it. (804:40-44) Otherwise, it would actually precipitate war: a revolution.
Nations exercise power in accordance with the morals of those who govern them; both for good and for evil. Some permit their citizens more freedom and opportunity to follow the will of God than do others. Since the plan of salvation, the means by which mankind moves beyond the material toward the spiritual, calls for uncoerced personal choice of good over evil, nations which obstruct and inhibit such choice pose a problem of spiritual dimension. And attempts to extend their hegemony or sovereignty over non-consenting peoples pose further problems.
It is socially suicidal and spiritually debilitating to impose upon any nation a government contrary to the general will of its people. The maintaining of government by force always inhibits the development of social and spiritual values by the people governed. No truly self governing nation should become so divided or so weak as to allow this to happen.
On the other hand, continuously-escalating military forces are not desirable. They create as many tensions as they relieve. They make possible a greater catastrophe than they are designed to prevent. And they suggest that there is a military solution to a problem which is social and spiritual.
All citizens of a truly self-governing nation should support their national government in its effort to govern wisely. When a decision has been made by proper means, it should be accepted.
The nation may represent the best opportunity for individuals to participate in widespread social activities on a cooperative basis in
our day; yet one should not be selfish or exclusive about the matter. Mankind should look for ever-expanding horizons beyond which to expand the circle of truly self-governing peoples until the entire world is under one government, and nations are no more.
F. WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR ME AND MY FAMILY -- WHEN WILL THE WORLD END?
The world is quivering on the brink of a bright new age. The Urantia Book was given in 1929-1935, a hundred years before its time, "to prepare leaders." It takes little math to project that the "time" of the book is the second quadrant of the 21st century. The world is ripe for the visitation of a Magisterial Son (227:18-19) or Trinity Teacher Son (231:34-41), and it may occur at that time. The trial of Lucifer and his arch-rebels is under way. (611:23-25) Upon its completion and execution of judgment we can expect a return of the spiritual circuits and a lifting of the Norlatiadek quarantine. (529:11-15)
After the Lucifer rebellion, the Caligastia betrayal, the Adamic default and the untimely murder of Jesus Christ, it is difficult to see how anything worse could happen to our planet. Yet it is now physically possible for man to completely destroy all human life in a matter of days. I do not believe this will happen. The Most Highs, who rule in the kingdoms of men, have an observer on this planet, a Vorondadek Son, who has the power to seize the planetary government in times of grave planetary crisis (1253:20-45). I have faith in both the wisdom and the strength of our planetary government (augmented), and do not believe we would have been given a book "timed" for after 2025 if there would be no one around to read it at that time.
Barring cataclysmic accident, this planet is destined to be settled in Light and Life, a form of planetary "salvation." As such it would not undergo natural planetary decay. (621:20-23) There is no natural "end of the world" before the end of time. If a physical catastrophe should doom this planet, there is an emergency plan by which the evolving human race can be saved. (582:20-31)
Science is still outstripping religion, and philosophy suffers as a result of it. This situation will continue until the world discovers and follows the soul-saving teachings of Jesus (from The Urantia Book or elsewhere), or receives a celestial visit from a high Son, or the spiritual circuits are reopened, or any combination thereof.
Our families probably will not observe much spiritual progress for the next three or four decades; but the foundation is being laid for the exciting events which will occur thereafter.
G. WHAT HAPPENS TO ME WHEN I DIE? IS THERE LIFE AFTER DEATH? IS THERE A HEAVEN OR HELL?
Death is cessation of life. That which has never lived cannot die. When life ceases in any organism, the physical structure remains to undergo natural decomposition, but the organism--as such--ceases to exist. That which ceases to exist is no more: it will never be again.
Animals and plants are material living organisms. They have once to live and once to die. Their seed may produce new life, but it is a new and different organism. Mankind is an animal, a material living organism. As such, mankind has but one material "life" to live, and that is terminated by death. (Hebrews 9:27)
But mankind is more than an animal. Each person thinks of self as something other than mere animal self, as having qualities and characteristics not shared by any lower animal. Both logic and revelation say that this portends a viability, a form of life, beyond and above the physical. This non-material substance is said to be spiritual in nature and is referred to as the soul. The spiritual soul is seen as a separate entity from the material body, not necessarily terminated by physical death. This view is generally correct.
1. Survival: Eternal Life.
"Eternal life" and "immortality" mean nothing more than "life which will not be terminated by death." That which dies does not enjoy eternal life. Material man is mortal. The word "mortal" means that he dies. The same life cannot be both mortal and eternal. Therefore, the concept of "eternal life" is inappropriate for man's physical body: it can only apply to the life of his developing "soul."
Jesus taught, and demonstrated, that there was some form of life beyond material death, and promised that those who obeyed his Father's commandments would not die, but have eternal life. This is the "life" which began with the "new birth" mentioned by Jesus to Nicodemus, a spiritual form of life. (John 3:1-7)
Our human identity need not die with the flesh; our personality will survive with our spiritual soul IF we cooperate with Deity and bring about this "new birth." The human mind is the womb of the embryonic soul. Following the "new birth", we contain a spark of immortality. The body then becomes the temporary dwelling place of the developing soul. The loss of this temporary abode does not result in death of the soul or the destruction of that which is spirit: when the body dies, they survive. That which is truly spirit is immortal; has eternal life.
Unfortunately, many people live their entire lifetime without the "new birth," without creating a soul or contributing to spirit. In such a case, there is nothing to survive. Confirmation of this circumstance by a "just" God represents the "judgment," after which occurs the equivalent of the second death, identity extinction.
Human beings have two deaths about which to be concerned: (1) physical death, and (2) spiritual death. Physical death terminates material life which began at birth (or earlier), and spiritual death terminates spiritual life which began with the new birth. This "second death" is referred to three times in The Book of Revelation. It has far more significance than physical death.
The second death, like the first, results in cessation of life: in this case, spirit life. Thereafter, since there is no living body and no living spirit, there is no life to contain identity, the deceased person is "as if he had never been." (See 1229:39-1230:5) Even after resurrection a person may choose not to advance, in which case there occurs the second death. (1218:45-1219:3)
For those who believe in reincarnation, I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that there is no such thing; the good news is that there is something better: resurrection. Reincarnation is defined as a return to a material body of flesh. All flesh is mortal. Resurrection, on the other hand means something quite different.
Upon physical death, all surviving non-material elements return to their components, and reside in the hands of faithful, loving celestial caretakers until they are reconstituted as the "personality" of the deceased at a different place in a more appropriate body. (1234:341235:7) Any spiritualized factors of mind, memory and creature personality are held by the Thought Adjuster; the evolving soul, containing creature mind-matrix and potentials of identity, is held by the Guardian Seraphim; there they remain until they are placed in a specially prepared "body" in the resurrection halls of the first Mansion world and re-constituted as the same personality who died on earth. This is the resurrection. (See 533:3-11)
Those who believe in karma, and who are disappointed that there is no reincarnation to experience karma, will be happy to learn that we take up our life upon resurrection about where we left it on death. (532:39-40) There are, however, several differences. We will have a new body. (2029:1317) And purely animalistic and wholly material mental associations will be left behind. (533:5-7) But our personality, and everything worth while in our memory, will be resurrected. (535:6-11) This is also true following numerous "translation sleeps" which occur thereafter. But we always go forward, never backward. In the early stages, failure to progress results in the "second death."
3. WHAT IS HEAVEN LIKE?
Shortly before His death, Jesus said: "In my Father's universe are many dwelling places (mansions),...I go to prepare a place for you...I will... receive you unto myself, that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:23) These "many Mansions" represent the places to which resurrected individuals go. The first of these has been referred to as "heaven," but it is not our ultimate celestial abode. (174:32-34) If we mean by "heaven" a better place to which we go after we die, there are countless of them. "Heaven" probably refers to the central universe of Havona. The ultimate "heaven" is the Isle of Paradise, the dwelling place of God.
The various "heavens" through which we pass on the way to paradise are beautiful, exciting and inspiring. They contain the superlative of art, music, literature, horticulture, and animal life. They are made of materials unknown to us. But in the end, they are all training spheres; for the universe is one vast school.
There is no such place as "hell" as it is popularly depicted: a place of eternal torment. It would take a cruel God to impose such a disproportionate punishment upon creatures who merely exercised their God-given powers. Furthermore, to experience a hell of eternal torment, the evil person being punished would need to exist, to have eternal life. The wages of sin is death, cessation of existence. Evil is a cosmic unreality, and always ceases to exist. It is enough punishment to lose an eternal life of growth and service leading to the Father in Paradise.
After physical death, all resurrected personalities begin a thrilling time-space journey to attain perfection and live as pure spirit with the Father in Paradise. They evolve gradually from the material to the spiritual, from the mortal to the immortal, from the imperfect into the perfect, and from the finite to the infinite. In the process they pass through heaven after heaven, but no hell. This is the destiny for which we were born. It can be yours if you are willing to pay the price of admission: steadfast faith, and good works bearing spirit fruit.
III. EVIL CLUSTER
A. WHY IS THERE EVIL IN THE WORLD?
Gadiah, a young Philistine interpreter, felt that the existence of evil in the world alongside the good was unjust. Gadiah asked Jesus: "How can God, if he is infinitely good, permit us to suffer the sorrows of evil; after all, who creates evil?" (1429:3-5) This question, in one form or another, has been asked by every generation.
Gadiah made the same false assumption commonly held since the dawn of history: that God creates evil. God did not, has not, and does not create evil! God is infinitely good. God is love. God does not, and cannot, "will" that evil befall anyone. Anything which God may "will" is "good" by definition.
Since God did not create evil, what is evil? How did it get here?
Definition of Terms. Before we proceed further, it is important to understand clearly the terms used here. They are defined as used in The Urantia Book, particularly as used by Jesus.
Good: The doing of that which is in accordance with the will of God. Anything which God "wills" is good.
Evil: The doing of that which is NOT in accordance with the will of God. Anything which is NOT in accordance with God's will is evil, including all forms and degrees of evil: error, sin and iniquity.
Mere evil: Inadvertent or unintentional evil, not sin or iniquity. Anything is mere evil if it (1) is not in accordance with the will of God and (2) is done as a result of ignorance, mistake, etc., where God's will is not known and not knowingly transgressed. "Evil," in some contexts means mere evil.
Error: Mere evil which results from error. (See: mere evil)
Sin: The conscious, knowing or deliberate doing of that which is contrary to the will of God, or--upon knowing that the will of God may be involved--acting in complete disregard of any will of the Father in the matter. Anything which is consciously or deliberately done knowing it is, or may be, evil (as defined above) is sin.
Iniquity: The deliberate, continuing, willful, persistent or rebellious doing of that which is contrary to the will of God. Anything done in open, willful, repeated, persistent or rebellious defiance of the will of God is iniquity.
Possibility of Evil: A situation in which an intelligent creature exercising free will has a choice between good and evil: to do either that which is or is not the will of the Father. The possibility of evil, when in accordance with the will of God, is not evil, but good. It has the potential to become evil, but only when an intelligent "will creature" acts to bring it into existence contrary to the will of God.
NOTICE: Although "good," "evil," "error," "sin," and "iniquity" have been defined in terms of doing, the result--that which is done may also be properly called by the same term. For example: if one does evil, that which results is evil.
In Zebedee's garden Thomas asked questions similar to that of Gadiah. Jesus replied that Thomas' misconceptions were born of his misunderstanding of the Father and of his ignorance of the origin, nature and destiny of man. (1660:45-47) This suggests that we may know what is evil and why evil is in the world (1) by gaining better understanding of the Father and (2) by knowing more about the origin, nature and destiny of man.
1. How a Better Understanding of the Father helps us to Understand the Function of Evil.
The Urantia Book supports at least two concepts about the Father which may explain why Deity created a physical universe in which there is the possibility of evil. Please note the significant difference between "creating evil" and "creating the possibility of evil."
a. Creature Experience.
The first concept is that the Father desires evil. to gain creature experience. This is developed in Parts I.C.1.b and II.B.2, above.
If the Father gains experience through his creatures, such gains are greatly limited if all such creatures are perfect and only do that which God programs them to do. He cannot experience voluntary obedience or esteem from such creatures, nor the exhilaration of victory in the mighty struggle between right and wrong. Creature experience, to be replete, must include making free-will choices to seek God or to ignore Him, to do God's will or one's own will: in short, to choose between good and evil. Creatures could exercise no such choice without the possibility of evil in their created environment. Thus, the possibility of evil is essential to the acquisition by the Father of a full spectrum of creature experiences.
b. Perfected Beings.
The second concept is that the Father desires to develop perfected beings, as distinguished from always-perfect beings, to share His dwelling place. This is developed in Parts I.C.1.d and II.B.4, above.
In order for any such perfecting process to be the most effective, it must include, as a very minimum, (1) the creation of less-thanperfect beings: physical, mortal and free willed; (2) the preparation of an environment which is less-than-perfect in which the possibility of evil exists; and (3) the perfection of a plan by which physical beings can become spiritual, mortal beings can become immortal, and free willed beings can become God-willed: put on the mind of God. The success of the entire plan hinges upon the complete freedom of each perfecting being to choose between good and evil, and to act accordingly. In order to act upon choice, one must have a choice. This is why the environment must include the possibility of evil: so evil can be chosen.
If these two concepts are correct, then the possibility of evil is brought into existence by Deity to help satisfy the above-mentioned two "desires" resulting from the very "nature" of the Father.
2. How a Better Understanding of the Origin, Nature and Destiny of Man helps us to Understand the Function of Evil.
Man is a material being of animal origin with the potential to become a spiritual being of Divine destiny. Man is mortal with the opportunity to attain immortality. Man's free will is ego-oriented with the possibility to become God-oriented, even God-like. Without being coerced, man must discover both himself and God, and must choose between the two. By choosing God, imperfect man can become perfect, and stand in the very presence of the Father. Or by choosing self, man can live and die as an animal on the planet of his birth. This choice belongs to every normal-minded individual.
Each person has been created for the very purpose of seeking and finding God, of embarking upon an ages-long journey toward perfection in the presence of God. Only misguided self-love can hinder this destiny. God has devised a plan and laid out a map, but no one is forced to follow it. Mankind has been given the matchless gift of free will: each person can say yes or no to anybody, including God. Man may opt to seek and follow God's plan, or follow a path of his own. Each person's ultimate fate is in his or her own hands. This summarizes man's origin, nature and destiny.
The destiny of man, to become perfected as a result of his own decisions instead of by Deity compulsion, would be unattainable without the possibility of wrong decisions: evil. See Part III.A.1.b, above. To be "perfected," man requires a less-than-perfect beginning: both a native ability to choose and to do that which is imperfect (evil), and an environment in which imperfection (evil) is permitted. Each of these demands the existence of the possibility of evil.
...The only evolutionary world without error (the possibility of unwise judgment) would be a world without free intelligence...evolving man must be fallible if he is to be free. 52:4-7
When man is given the free will to create or destroy, the potential exists for him to destroy. If man chooses destructively, he brings into existence various forms of evil, sin and iniquity. See 220:44-48
Note, only the possibility of evil is necessary to moral choosing, not its actuality. (1458:44-45) Man must be free to choose "evil" as well as "good." God does not will that any creature choose--or do-evil! The plan of perfecting salvation would work perfectly if every choice of every intelligent creature in the universe were for "good."
3. The Actualizing of Evil.
We know now that God does not create evil, but rather only the possibility of evil. Where does evil come from? Who converts the possibility into actuality?
The simple but profound answer is that evil is "really nonexistent until such a time as an intelligent creature wills..(its) existence by mischoosing the way of life." (1429:18-19) Thus, all evil comes from imperfect intelligent creatures who "create" it by acting contrary to the will of God--by making evil their choice. Evil choices are made from ignorance, immaturity, inexperience, mistake (error), unwise judgment and other deviations from perfect obedience to the Father's will. The knowing, deliberate, willful choice of evil is sin. The repeated, prolonged and habitual choice of evil is iniquity.
Only truth exists until an intelligent personality creates untruth, only fact exists until one creates falsehood, only beauty exists until one creates ugliness, only goodness exists until one creates badness, etc. All evil comes into existence through imperfect intelligent personalities; and always comes contrary to the will of God.
4. The Consequences of Evil.
Evil has dual consequences. The personal or internal consequences have to do with the development of the soul, and concern only God and the evil-doer. But the external consequences impinge adversely upon every person within the effective range of the evil.
Sin is never purely local in its effects. The administrative sectors of the universe are organismal; the plight of one personality must to a certain extent be shared by all. 761:911
Evil and sin visit their consequences in material and social realms and may sometimes even retard spiritual progress...Sin enormously retards intellectual development, moral growth, social progress, and mass spiritual attainment... 761:20-28
We live on a planet which has suffered more than its share of evil. Urantia is a decimal (experimental life) planet, and experiments resulted in the inadvertent development of parasitic bacteria which cause many distressful diseases. (736:22-29) This error would have been corrected by the immune systems of races blended with offspring of the Material Son and Daughter, but this was prevented by the Adamic default. (736:29-35) The Caligastia betrayal during the Lucifer rebellion led to the loss of 300,000 years' progress by the Planetary Prince and his staff.(761:4-8) During the last 200,000 years Urantia has been "under the spiritual ban of Norlatiadek" (578:26-28) and most system circuits have been cut off, (755:34-36) greatly hindering spiritual progress.
Because of the relative dearth of spiritual development, the natives of this planet have created more than their share of evil: disharmony, self-gratification, social strife, poverty, famine, pestilence, and war. But not one evil impulse or act was brought about by God.
5. Why does God Allow Evil to Continue?
Granted that God does not "create" evil; He certainly allows it to continue. Why? How does actual evil help to implement a Divine Plan?
a. To Preserve Free Will.
God allows the possibility of evil to continue for the same reason that it was permitted to begin with: it is essential to spiritual development and progress! God cannot prevent the choice (creation) of evil by his creatures without removing their ability to choose evil, without destroying free will. Such action would defeat the principal purpose of time-space creation.
This liberty to choose for oneself is an endowment of the Supreme Rulers, and they will not permit any being or group of beings to deprive a single personality in the whole universe of this divinely bestowed liberty... (615:22-25)
b. To Provide Opportunities for Greater Good.
There is another important reason why God permits evil to run its course: He has devised a plan whereby evil actually works for good in the overall scheme of things. "..(A)ll things (including evil) work together for good to them that love God..." Romans 8:28 (616:38-41) The formula is rather simple: good > evil. Good (that which is in accordance with the will of God) is always a greater power than evil and can overcome evil. The greater the evil, the greater the good which overcomes it. Spiritual victory over large evil has more value than one over small evil. Those who win great victories over evil prepare themselves for higher service than would have been possible otherwise.
Each choice of good over evil prevents the non-chosen evil from existing, and thus "overcomes" evil. But once evil has been chosen and done, it cannot be undone, it can only be overcome. Good does not erase or cancel out evil; rather, it overcomes existing evil in two ways: (1) it limits the ill effects of evil by building a shield or a barrier against it; and (2) it creates positive new values which outweigh the negative values of the evil. The second of these is more important on earth. For example, the terrible toll of evil from the Lucifer Rebellion cannot be recouped, but it can be limited by way (1). And vast amounts of good have flowed from way (2) via those who have overcome its ill effects with good. We are told that the total good which has come from the Lucifer rebellion is far greater than the sum of the evil created by it. (619:34-36)
6. Our Blessings from Evil.
Rather than feeling sorry for ourselves, we should be thankful. Because of our plight, we enjoy the unique blessing of having been visited by a Creator Son on a bestowal mission. We can become Agondonters: evolutionary will creatures who believe without seeing, persevere when isolated, and triumph over insuperable difficulties even when alone. (579:2-4) See John 20:29. This gives us an opportunity for a destiny of higher service than would be possible otherwise. (579:11-14).
Once we have been truly reborn--born of the spirit--we can live our lives in the flesh viewing every evil as an opportunity rather than as a hindrance. Trouble will invigorate us; disappointment will spur us on; difficulties will challenge us; and obstacles will stimulate us. (1438:22-25) See also 291:21-26.
B. WHY IS THERE SUFFERING IN THE WORLD?
Thomas (1605:2-5), Nathaniel (1661:21-24) and John (1662:34-36) each asked Jesus, in effect, why the loving Father permits so many of his apparently innocent children to suffer from so many diseases and other afflictions. The following is essentially the response given by Jesus to these three apostles.
To Thomas, Jesus gave the most significant and profound response. After chiding Thomas for not listening with the "ear of the spirit," He pointed out that God's kingdom is spiritual, and said that he was teaching the apostles as spiritual children about spiritual matters. Their problem was that they took his words too literally, and thus were unable to separate the spiritual realities of the kingdom from literal social problems of the day. He urged them to listen for the spiritual message instead of the literal physical meaning. (1605:6-25) The evil which produces suffering originates in spiritual deficiency, and ultimately dies; the good which overcomes the evil causing suffering originates in spiritual sufficiency, and ultimately lives.
1. What is Suffering?
Suffering is the unpleasant feeling one gets when things go wrong, the personalized repercussion of evil. Suffering is not evil Per se. It is an inevitable physical consequence of evil. It sounds the alarm that evil has occurred. Suffering and evil are not equivalent. Alleviating suffering does not necessarily overcome the evil which caused it, nor does overcoming evil alleviate the suffering it caused. While evil remains in the world, there will be suffering. (See Part III.A)
2. Where Suffering Comes From.
Just as God did not create evil, He did not create suffering. Yet God did create the possibility of evil, which includes the possibility of suffering. Suffering, like evil, always enters the world through the evil, sin and iniquity, of a lower intelligent creature, and never by fiat of God.
Jesus and The Urantia Book teach of four broad sources of suffering.
First, much suffering springs from devastating evil which came into existence through errors and sins of Jesus' own trusted Sons involved in administering the earth. (1632: 2S-27) Unexpected developments in the experiments of Life Carriers resulted in parasitic bacteria injurious to humans (736:25-29); sinful adventures of certain rebellious traitors (Lucifer, etc.) disturbed the natural order of progression on earth (1661:26-27); and the shameful default of Adam and Eve denied to humanity the genetic uplifting so beneficial to physical and spiritual development (851:32-33). These factors impacted adversely upon the conditions of man's temporal existence (1649:39-40) and made disease more prevalent (736: 25-35). It will be many ages before the losses caused by the errors and sins of lower celestial beings are attenuated and the world restored to normalcy. (1661:20-30)
Second, humans suffer from errors of their forebears. (1649: 28) We are reared in an environment greatly modified from its natural state by our ancestors. Some of this is good, some is bad. Modern industry provides many useful products, but also causes pollutants and toxins which impact upon health. Our moral and spiritual environments have been created largely by our forebears and their associates. Many now suffer from moral deficiencies as well as spiritual deficiencies in their environment.
Third, humans suffer from the evil of their contemporaries. Man is created a social animal. Each person is a part of numerous social units. Each individual in each unit enjoys the benefits and suffers the penalties flowing from relationships with others in the unit, and from the unit's relationships with other units. When a star player on a sports team has a bad day, the entire team suffers; when the team has a bad day, the star suffers. The individual and the unit move as a whole: the conduct of one affects all; the conduct of all impacts upon each one. We suffer from the evil of others within our community, church, school, state, etc. (138:41-49)
And Fourth, humans suffer the natural consequences of their own evil. They bring down upon themselves unnecessary afflictions by refusing to follow the divine will (1661:34-35), by wrong living (1649:26-27). Individuals reap what they sow. (Galatians 6:7) They should not blame God for the natural consequences of their own choices, nor complain about experiences which are common to life as it is lived on earth. (1661:42-45)
Whether one suffers from evil which is self-imposed, other-inflicted or environmentally-induced, it must be faced in some manner. It will be shown later that the best way to overcome evil is with good.
3. Where Suffering does NOT Come From.
For all too long men have looked upon God as a source of suffering. "The Father does not purposely afflict his children" (1661:33-34) or use affliction "as an arbitrary punishment for wrongdoing." (1661:40) Although all forms of affliction are potential in the possibility of evil, they become real only as a result of actual evil.
Nor does suffering, temporal adversity or lack of material wealth indicate a lack of divine favor. God is no respecter of persons, he loves the sick and well, the sad and happy, the rich and poor alike. (1662:45-47) These deprivations actually offer greater opportunities for spiritual development.
It is similarly wrong to attribute our afflictions to Satan or "the devil." True, the occasions upon which we suffer have been increased and the degree of suffering has been exacerbated by the Lucifer rebellion and Caligastia betrayal in which Satan took part. This is a general condition shared by the entire human race. These evil ones have no power to inflict individual suffering upon any person. (610:11-32)
Likewise, it is erroneous to attribute the origin of suffering to a "fallen" Adam and Eve. It is true that humanity suffers from loss of the biological and spiritual up stepping that would have occurred had Adam and Eve fulfilled their mission, but it is not true that their "fall" was the origin of evil and suffering in the world. (846:6-10)
4. How Suffering Fits into the Will of God.
Jesus said that John did not understand the "meaning of adversity or the mission of suffering" (1662:38-39) "It is the Father's will that mortal man should work persistently and consistently toward the betterment of his estate on earth." (1661:457-47) Primitive man is motivated to improve his condition only when suffering. In this sense, pain and suffering are essential to initiate mankind's progressive evolution. (951:15-19) On a spiritual level, the story of Job teaches that in great adversity man finds his greatest revelation and comprehension of God. (The Book of Job) (1662:38-1664:35)
Suffering, illness and disease play a significant role in the spiritual development of evolutionary man. In primitive man, the fear of the unknown and the dread of the unseen formed a scaffold of superstition around a void of ignorance on which later concepts of God can be built. As revelation constructs higher understandings of Deity in this void, the scaffolding is no longer needed, and may be removed. Superstition evolves into faith. Ignorance of causes evolves into a recognition of the true Cause.
There is no spiritual value in suppressing or relieving one's own suffering by physical means, alone. But to overcome the effects of suffering by creating a greater spiritual good is soul-building. This is the true office of suffering. See Part II.C.2, above. "When the suffering servant obtains a vision of God, there follows a soul peace which passes all understanding." (1663:13-14) See Philippians 4:7.
Physical man is created at the very bottom of the evolutionary ladder of will creatures. Both physically and spiritually, he must climb rung by rung, through an evolutionary process, to the very top of the ladder. Each individual has the opportunity to make this journey personally: through this life, through the mansion worlds, and beyond. But as the human race, the journey is made through evolution and revelation toward planetary settlement in relative perfection (Light and Life). Man's physical experiences are only the backdrop of the stage upon which spiritual decisions are made, both individually and collectively. Individual decisions lead to perfection in Paradise; collective decisions lead the planet both physically and spiritually to Light and Life. Suffering, including illness, facilitates growth: in the individual, toward perfection; and in the planet, toward light and life.
In spite of the truth that God never deliberately inflicts pain or suffering upon his children, in fact Deity did create an environment in which His children may suffer. Suffering is an essential element in the plan to bring about good from evil after it exists. Under such circumstances it is not inaccurate to think of God as being somehow responsible for suffering. Jesus did not discourage this view. He quoted the following scriptures: "My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction, for whom the Lord loves he corrects, even as the father corrects the son in whom he takes delight." (Pv 3:11-12) "There is correction in suffering." (Jb 5:17-18) "Affliction does not spring forth from the dust." (Jb 5:6) "The Lord does not afflict willingly." (Lam 3:33) "Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now do I keep the law." (Ps 119:67) "Affliction was good for me that I might thereby learn the divine statutes." (Ps 119:71)
The Father uses suffering caused by others to demonstrate His deep concern for men and women. He comforts them. Jesus cited scriptures to demonstrate this point. "I know your sorrows." (Ex 3:27) "The eternal God is your refuge, while underneath are the everlasting arms." (De 33:27) "The Lord is also a refuge for the oppressed, a haven of rest in times of trouble." (Ps 9:9) "The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of affliction; the Lord will not forget the sick." (Ps 41:3) "As a father shows compassion for his children, so is the Lord compassionate to those who fear him. He knows your body; he remembers that you are dust." (Ps 103:13-14) "He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." (Ps 147:3) "He is the hope of the poor, the strength of the needy in distress, a refuge from the storm, and a shadow from the devastating heat." (Is 25:4) "He gives power to the faint, and to them who have no might he increases strength." (Is 40: 29) "A bruised reed shall he not break, ! and the smoking flax he will not quench."(Is 42:3) "When you pass through the waters of affliction, I will be with you, and when the rivers of adversity overflow you, I will not forsake you." (Is 43:2) "He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to comfort all who mourn." (Is 61: 1-2) See 1662:12-31
C. WILL THERE EVER BE A CURE FOR ALL ILLNESS AND DISEASE?
Primitive man considered that healthy life was normal, that all diseases-and death itself--were due to activities of evil spirits. (989: 24-25) In more recent times a belief has prevailed that sickness is a punishment for one's own sins, or for sins of one's ancestors or associates, (990:15-18) and is indicative of divine wrath. (990:22) But as medicine has increasingly uncovered secrets of the cause, treatment, and cure of diseases, the more enlightened view is that all diseases stem from natural causes, having nothing to do with divine disfavor. (990:24-34; 1831:1-3))
We on earth are not alone. Evolutionary mortals on all normal worlds struggle with microscopic foes in their early development. But earth has more disease than is normal for a world inhabited for almost a million years by will-creatures. (564:34-36; 707:42-43) This results from the development of renegade bacteria during experiments of the Life Carriers (732:1-9; 736:25-29) together with a later failure to develop resistance to such bacteria through the biological upstepping of races by the offspring of Adam and Eve. (736:29-35; 851:27-33))
1. Why do Illness and Disease Exist?
Illness and disease result from evil, (see Part III.A, above) and cause suffering. (see Part III.B, above) They exist for the same purpose that evil exists. They cannot be eliminated without first overcoming the evil which is their root cause.
Even in this enlightened day and age, the onset of illness or disease is a major catalyst for individuals to turn to God. Some turn to God for aid and comfort while ill, and some for Divine assistance in overcoming the problem. Others are reminded of the uncertainty and frailty of life, and begin to think of the end. That which threatens to destroy a life may save a soul. This exemplifies how the Divine Plan produces good from evil.
2. When will Illness and Disease Abate or End?
As noted above, illness and disease are unlikely to end so long as evil remains in the world. Modern medicine is heavily oriented toward alleviating the discomfort and effects of illness. Great strides are being made toward extending the life of those who are ill or diseased. It is beginning to make headway toward preventing or curing many dread diseases, and can make even more progress (735:9-24). But it is far from preventing or curing all diseases.
The future portends some progress in retarding or curing many diseases in our lifetime. Some new diseases will appear. And we will certainly learn more about how to live longer with diseases.
D. WILL THERE BE AN END TO INJUSTICE, INJURIES AND WAR?
Like illness and disease (Part III.C.1, above), injustice, injuries and war are results of evil (Part III.A, above). But unlike illness and disease--injustice, injuries and war are mostly man-made.
1. WHAT IS JUSTICE? IS IT ATTAINABLE? JUSTICE AND INJUSTICE
Justice is a man-made concept. It has to do with the appropriateness of the relationship between cause and effect. It is premised upon the belief that all persons are equal, and should be treated equally: no person should receive special favors (rewards), or suffer in any manner (punishments), without appropriate cause. Further, that all rewards and punishments be commensurate with the cause.
It postulates that all human conditions and circumstances are governed by law; that is, by rules stated in terms of "cause" (that which should or should rot be done) and "effect" (appropriate reward or punishment for doing or not doing that which is required). When an effect is inappropriate to antecedent cause because it does not follow the law or is not commensurate with the cause, we say it is "unjust." Thus it is unjust for an innocent person to be punished, for a guilty person to be unpunished, or for a punishment to be inappropriately lenient or severe.
A sense of "justice" is a high and civilizing ideal. (1302:41-46) It is the basis for all civil government (1462:9) Yet, the concept always calls for some sort of judgment, a weighing of cause versus effect, which in turn requires a full knowledge of the cause, a full understanding of the effect, and an impartial evaluation of both.
The spiritual counterpart of justice is righteousness. God's laws of cause and effect are "right." God always acts within his own laws, therefore God is "righteous." (36:39) Those who refer to God's laws by man's standards see them as being "just," and therefore see God as being "just." But by any standard, God cannot be unjust.
Man cannot violate a law of God; he can only demonstrate it. The prescribed effect always follows the cause. With God, there are no rewards nor punishments: there are only consequences.
Some conditions of mankind are of celestial origin in the sense that man has not been placed in a perfect environment. Although this may result in unpleasantness, it is never unjust. In the divine plan of "perfecting" free-will creatures by evolution through matter, time and space, the quality of free will is given at man's beginning. The species is then given artificial stimulation and hedged about with limitations and restraints in order that it may gain experiential wisdom and coordinated growth. (1301:31-1302:28) This is why primitive man suffers discomfort, hunger and fear as motivating factors toward physical and spiritual development. As man evolves, he must develop higher forms of stimulation as he increasingly learns to overcome natural limitations and restraints. At this point societal restraints become necessary to protect him and his fellow man from each other. This is the civilizing process. The highest civilizing tendencies come from concepts of justice and ideal! s of brotherhood. (1302: 40-46)
It is a mistake to equate justice with equality. There is a Divine reason why people are spread over a spectrum of races, economic and social conditions, physical and mental capacities, talents, etc. Mankind has not reached the stage where he can develop without some natural motivations, limitations and restraints. Diverse racial, physical, social, economic, political, and spiritual conditions are essential to man's continued evolutionary progress. All of man's ills cannot be blamed on political misadaptation, social injustice, industrial competition, etc. (956:41-957:5) These are symptoms as well as causes.
God is no respecter of persons (1468:26-34; Acts 10:34; Romans 2: 11); He treats all alike. In God's eyes all individuals are equal, yet in physical form and circumstances no two are alike. No two face the same problems or follow the same spiritual path. There is an important reason why the divine plan calls for such diversity. If God is to gain experience from individual victories, it is much better to experience the overcoming of countless different problems than the overcoming the same problem countless times.
When a caring person looks at a situation in which another has a problem because of geography, race, economics, politics, sex, servitude, mental capacity, etc., without knowing it's antecedent causes, he or she may see it as an injustice when it is really a natural consequence of the orderly outworking of the divine plan. Yet it is precisely because one looks upon the situation as an injustice that one is motivated to do something about it. Such "caring" is of spiritual value: that which is done to improve the situation advances persons toward Paradise and humanity toward Light and Life. (956:41957:15)
Not all which man calls "injustice" stems from natural causes. Much injustice is man-made. God uses man-made injustice to produce high spiritual values in the same manner in which he uses stressful natural conditions: persons and nations grow spiritually by overcoming them.
Man's greatest opportunity for temporal and spiritual progress lies in his enlightened efforts to eliminate injustice. (956:47-957:5) This effort can be mightily assisted by a wider belief in universal brotherhood under the Fatherhood of God.
2. Injuries and Accidents.
Injuries come from two sources: (1) from accidents of time, the natural vicissitudes of normal living (1767:1-3), and (2) from inadvertent or deliberate acts of persons. Accidents and injuries are a result of evil, and never a mark of divine disfavor (1830:17-30), however, some celestial beings have the power to prevent human accidents under certain circumstances. (1361:39-43)
The frequency of accidents of time will slowly subside as mankind creates a safer environment; injuries from willful or negligent acts will recede only as men and women assume the necessary responsibility to prevent them. (957:4-5) Due to an increasing population, expanding industrialization, and greater mechanization of transportation, the outlook is not bright for greatly reducing accidental injuries in the immediate future.
3. War -- Will there ever be lasting peace?
War is a social disease, but natural to evolving man. The animalistic reaction to irritation and misunderstanding is to fight. War is group hostility. (783:19-30) In its early development war represented competition for scarce assets: food, women, slaves and territory. It became an instrument of group self-aggrandizement: for vanity, revenge and even recreation. Many wars were fought over religion. (784:11-31)
In spite of their horror and devastation, early wars had some redeeming evolutionary values. They promoted organization and efficiency by developing social orders requiring discipline, cooperation, and leadership, which ultimately developed into states. They developed personal characteristics such as commitment, fortitude, courage and self-sacrifice. They had a therapeutic effect by purging inferior human strains, thereby assisting in the evolutionary up stepping of the human race. And they promoted travel, cultural intercourse, and racial blending. (785:26786:32)
In modern times, with the development of many large nations armed with more lethal weapons, significant changes have occurred. War has become more a disease of national sovereignty and ideology than an exchange of personal hostilities in petty local contests. War involves greater numbers of humans than ever before. It kills off the fittest as distinguished from the unfit, and thus causes retrogression in the evolutionary process. For the first time in history, nations possess the weaponry to devastate the entire planet many times over and to inflict catastrophic damage to human evolutionary progress. Small wars still occur, but mainly among surrogates of the larger nations which seek to avoid all-out war by this form of localization.
The current threat of nuclear war presents the greatest crisis on this planet since the Lucifer rebellion, and a nuclear holocaust could be even worse than the rebellion in terms of loss of will-creatures originating on Urantia
The only antidote for war is to develop a moral climate that will not permit it to occur. At the practical level mankind must find and employ peaceful substitutes for all those things which war has heretofore provided: dispute resolution, sharing of assets, group cooperation, development of initiative and leadership, and venting of group frustrations. (786:29-49) At a higher level, all peoples of the earth must subjugate their parochial interest in national sovereignty to a higher global interest in all humanity. (1490:19-1491:31) World peace can come only as a result of world law, and world law can come only through world government of a democratic nature reflecting the sovereignty of all mankind. (1491:15-18) This political and social development is not likely to occur unless and until men and women, on a vast scale, recognize all other men and women as their peers. Such recognition can be greatly facilitated by a world religion in which all men and women are seen as brother! s and sisters because they are children of a common Father, even God. (1490:27)
The political sovereignty of representative mankind government will bring lasting-peace on earth, and the spiritual brotherhood of man will forever insure good will among all men. And there is no other way whereby peace on earth and good will among all people may be realized. (1491:32-35)
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