The Urantia Book Fellowship


Spiritual Decadance and Cultural Rebirth
A Commentary by Rev. Meredith Sprunger
From the Fall 1996 Issue of Spiritual Fellowship Journal


During the last half century philosophers of history have been pointing to the decline of Western Civilization. The cultural foundations of the Modern Age are deteriorating. And it appears that our planet is being prepared for a major transition in our understanding of Reality and the nature of the cosmos. Such a basic change would require a new spiritual paradigm.

We are experiencing a decline in the relevancy of traditional religious institutions along with an unprecedented increase in spiritual hunger that parallels the cultural atmosphere of the century before the advent of Jesus of Nazareth. The decline of the tribal and national religions of the Levant and the rise of the mystery religions in the first century B.C. are analogous to the malaise of contemporary religious institutions and the arrival of New Age spiritual movements in our day. Mainline Christian theologians are "seeing the handwriting on the wall." Douglas John Hall in his book, Has the Church a Future?, says that we are rapidly approaching the end of Christendom. Erling O. Duus begins his article, "Pietism and the Dying of Protestantism," in the Spring, 1996 issue of Prism by announcing, "Slowly, the perception grows that historic, mainline Protestantism is dying in America -- a perception within the church itself." (p. 58) Duus concludes his analysis of our historical condition by commenting, "In another century or so, Protestantism as we have known it will no longer exist. What will develop out of its wreckage, nobody knows." (p. 68)

Leander Keck in The Church Confident is a bit more specific in his diagnosis: "Today, theology -- broadly understood -- is like a state fair without a midway: Everything is going on at the same time and there is no main exhibit." (p. 47) I think Keck is correct. The "old Torah" has expended its creativity. Churches locked in Biblical literalism repeat the old cliches, but the souls of present day men and women hunger for something more, something that is relevant to the scientific and cultural world in which they live. There is no generally recognized "main exhibit" that catches the imagination and inspires humankind.

When I was introduced to The Urantia Book forty years ago and began to critically studied it, I came to realize -- in spite of the most rigorous intellectual and spiritual questions with which I could challenge it -- that its claim to be the Fifth Epochal Revelation was authentic. I knew it was destined to bring a new spiritual paradigm to the planet. It is the only vision of Reality on the "midway" of our world that has the potential of becoming "the main exhibit," to use Keck's metaphor.

I spent years trying, in a low key approach, to introduce it to the theologians and leaders of the most progressive constituencies of mainline Christianity. I discovered what Thomas Kuhn found regarding the scientific community: A new paradigm is too challenging and too professionally threatening -- even though it enhanced the old Torah -- to elicit serious examination. Just as it took the message of Jesus (the Fourth Epochal Revelation) several centuries to fashion a new spiritual paradigm and furnish the creative dynamics for the rise of Western Civilization, so it will require time for the Fifth Epochal Revelation to evolve a new spiritual paradigm and provide the creative power for the flowering of a new dispensation of world culture. The message of The Urantia Book is the challenge and opportunity of the 21st century. It will bring our world a fresh and enlarged view of Reality and a new understanding of the cosmos!


A service of
The Urantia Book Fellowship