The highest state of human achievement is characterized by a unity of common ideals such as physical security, intellectual growth, social progress, and spiritual expression. These ideals thrive with the advancement of shared values and the mastery of ethics – characterized by:
1. Consistency among our moral standards and in how we apply these standards on a daily basis.
2. Consistency between our ethical standards and our actions, as well as among our inner desires.
3. Consistency between how we treat ourselves and how we treat others.
Ethical responsibilities are innate, divine, and universal. It is no surprise that ethical codes are traditionally closely tied to religion. How then is religion often perceived as a dis-unified, fragmented and sectarian force, producing the chaotic cacophony that has created more conflict than peace, more disunity than harmony throughout history?
Essentially, religion is the personal and evolving experience of God-consciousness which begins with the first hint of faith and thrives through growth of spiritual values, progress in meanings, and the realization of their cosmic inter-relatedness. Growth in God-consciousness provides intellectual constancy and philosophic security; it stabilizes and enriches human living by blending the mortal with the divine, the partial with the perfect, humanity and God. Growth in God-consciousness influences the expression of ethics by lacing thoughts and actions with spiritual reverence and familial love that transforms civilizations.
The religious experience exists above and beyond any and all human controversy and intellectual logic. Being essentially spiritual, however, it can never be fully understood by the human mind. Enter the function of theology. Theology deals with the intellectual content of religion and aims to answer age-old questions such as Who am I? Where do I fit in the universe? What is my purpose in life? How can I survive physical death?
When the study and examination of self and the universe is approached from the outside - from the perspective of finite physical origins and evolution – the numerous physical sciences emerge. Conversely, when research is approached from the inside - from the perspective of divine origins and destinies - theology arises. Both approaches when combined, elevate knowledge and understanding of physical and spiritual Reality. The subsequent art of philosophy attempts to harmonize the many discrepancies which first appear when merging the findings of science and theology.
The ultimate measure of any theology rests in its ability to transform character so that individuals may lead progressively ethical lives that are laced with love, objectiveness, inclusiveness and selfless reasoning. The achievement of this high standard is dependent not in the discovery of new facts, the rehashing of existing theologies, or in the finding of a unique experience, but rather in the discovery of new and spiritual meanings in the theological worldviews that we now hold. When theology rigidly resists change or revision, it loses its flexibility to discover new and higher spiritual meanings to the detriment of elevating perspective. Consequently, as its concepts of Reality stagnate, theology becomes a doctrine instead of a life. As rigid creeds become a boundary line of self-righteous exclusiveness, they lose the creative and life-giving power to improve character and become a source of growth and discernment.
It is not the purpose of true religion merely to bring peace but rather to insure peace in the process of progress. And there can be no peace in the heart or progress in the mind unless the religious faithful become enveloped in truth and seek to advance it. Truth - the ideals of eternal realities - is always a revelation. Revelation, specifically epochal revelation is the premier resource that can assist humanity in the embodiment of enlarged spiritual concepts and advanced truth from which we can garner new and higher spiritual meanings. It is these truths contained in epochal revelation that have the potential to enhance the ever-progressing reality of God-consciousness. Using epochal revelation provides resolve for the incompatibilities in theological/philosophical worldviews to help the evolving mind arrive at a consistent and logical universe philosophy that can be shared. Such unity of thought is vital to the establishment of peace and social progress in the world.
This book proposes that the epochal revelation found in The Urantia Book elevates existing theologies by freeing and expanding the truths in crystallized dogmas, thereby elevating the understanding of God and how God works in the universes of time and space. This endeavor is not without its challenges. Willingness to expand our knowledge and thoughts about God is vital. We will need to readjust our thinking just as many religious faithful and theologians in the past did after Copernicus’ demonstration of a Sun-centered Solar System and after Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Challenges to our comprehension of God are essential to expand and keep faith and theology alive and healthy. Indeed, new meanings only emerge amid conflict and conflict persists only in the face of refusal to espouse the higher values implied in superior meanings. Bold new thoughts about God have never endangered the idea of God over the course of time. It is the goal of this book to help readers appreciate the urgency and value of the challenge presented and to assist in the further assimilation of perplexing but vital concepts that would otherwise be rejected.
The Abrahamic Religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, are addressed in this book for various reasons:
1. The Hebrew religion encompasses the philosophic and evolutionary transition from polytheism to monotheism. A succession of faithful teachers, from Moses to John the Baptist, carried the monotheistic torch of light from one generation to another.
2. The doctrines of the Abrahamic Religions are founded on the narratives of revelation. Theology, which is the province of faith and the technique of revelation, has the power to uniquely forge an intelligent account of the nature and content of religious experience.
3. The scope of influence of all three of the Abrahamic religions extend to more than half of the world population. If the Abrahamic Religions can confront their conflicting perspectives and conduct an objective, yet cautious self-examination of their foundational tenets utilizing the insights in The Urantia Book, the march towards harmony among religions becomes inevitable.
The Abrahamic faithful have the power to facilitate the greatest and relatively quickest transformation in our world today. Their leaders have the moral responsibility and the timely opportunity to consider that revealed truth did not end with the narratives in their sacred books; it is a progressive gift to an evolving humanity which is meant to eliminate errors in theological doctrines and foster unity in the understanding of God and the universe.
In this journey, the Urantia Bookis an essential resource. In the process of discovery, the Abrahamic Religions will garner insights that will uplift their gospels. By identifying errors, restoring important bits of lost knowledge and filling in vital gaps, the Abrahamic religions will retrieve humanity’s common spiritual history siphoned from crystallized doctrines. Many of the greatest mysteries of human existence will be resolved in the process, such as the mechanics of survival and the paradox of God’s transcendence and immanence.
In this vital process of investigation, the Abrahamic religions will be empowered to build a shared universe philosophy that inspires; a philosophy that will awaken the collective spirit of reflective investigation, and advance the spiritual transformation of present-day humanity. Religion will indeed regain its old power when it faces change in the same spirit as does science; recognizing its principles as eternal, but with the realization that the understanding and expression of those principles requires continual development.
Consistency and Ethics; Markkula Center for Applied Ethics; January 1, 1988