The term ‘apocalypse’ makes me think of Tony Jones. Well, that’s because at last year’s Christianity 21 in Denver, Tony Jones inspired me with his talk about apocalypse. He dismissed the prevalent definition of “catastrophic destruction” for the original meaning – to “uncover, disclose, reveal”. Tony described the book of revelation as “a fulcrum or pivot-point between a past-and-known orientation and some mysterious unknown future.”
Tony’s theme is a springboard for my piece. I’ll touch on apocalypse as revelation — both personal and epochal revelation; how epochal revelation led me to you, the Emergent family, and revelation’s call to Christianity. Point blank, my life has been blessed and transformed by epochal revelation. An ‘unknown future’ was disclosed for me upon discovering The Urantia Book: 5th Epochal Revelation to Urantia, planet Earth.
The Urantia Papers tell us that epochal revelation is a technique of the Creator whereby ages of time are saved in the necessary work of sifting error from truths acquired through evolution. We experience personal revelation within–through the Father, and Jesus’ Spirit of Truth; epochal revelations, such as The Urantia Book, are periodic and come through a celestial group or personality.
Some personal background: I’ve always been a seeker, chasing Socrates and religious studies through college and be- yond, questioning and searching much like my Emergent friends. Amazingly, first glance at The Urantia Book’s table of contents and Oh My God! — Universal Father? Eternal Son? Infinite Spirit? Paradise Trinity? Adam and Eve?! This philosophy major was born again. Oh, yes. The next Sunday found me in a Pentecostal church experiencing a living loving God – Bible in one hand, Urantia Book concealed in the other. This epochal view with its eloquence, authority, and wisdom brought the Bible to life, uncovering missing historical details. The Bible made sense! Yet church influence arrested my enthusiasm with fear and doubt. Had I been ensnared by the evil Saaaytan?!
A two-year faith struggle finally resolved upon seeing this quote from the book: “True religion is yielding intellectual authority to one’s highest interpretation of life’s greatest values.”
From that point I began to trust my own inner guidance, devoting many hours studying the edifying concepts from the Urantia Book, huddling with other readers and attending gatherings.
Flash forward 2009. “The Emerging Church”?! What is THAT?! I was blindsided by an ad in Sojourner’s Magazine that catapulted me to Father Richard Rohr’s conference in Albuquerque where I was thunderstruck — by Christianity! By Rohr, McLaren, Tickle, Claiborne, Torres-Fleming – oh my. Who are these engaging audacious Christians challenging authority and scripture? This fish was hooked – by visionary theology, activism, and agonizing struggles. I saw this ‘living organism’ of motleys, pastors, priests, and nones overturning tables of a religion about Jesus into the religion of Jesus – and through personal revelation alone! Whoa… Urantia Book quotes flooded my mind:
“Someday a reformation in the Christian church may strike deep enough to get back to the unadulterated religious teachings of Jesus.”
“Religion needs new leaders, spiritual men and women who will dare to depend solely on Jesus and his incomparable teachings.”
‘New leaders’, indeed! Courageous, determined, and unruffled by hostile detractors. Maybe this ‘new wine’ anticipated your arrival… Here I’ll add that despite any creedal or theological differences between our communities, we share unity of purpose, an abiding love for Jesus, as well as meaningful ideals and goals necessary for addressing colossal planetary challenges.
At this point I’d like to share some treasured nuggets about The Urantia Book. The gift of Epochal revelation presents an overarching master narrative. The Creator’s divine blueprint for humanity’s eternal destiny is entwined with my personal walk with God into truth, beauty and goodness. I’m edified by these eternal patterns, by the harmonizing of science, philosophy and religion, and by social and spiritual guidelines for structuring civilization. I learned that the war in heaven played out right here on Earth, visiting disorder and mayhem, leading to the tragic default of Adam and Eve. Yet we have been graced by the resplendent life of our beloved Savior, drawn to the darkness of a suffering humanity.
“History is broken,” declared the late theologian Wolfhart Pannenberg (nod to Homebrew’s Tripp Fuller!), who said we must look at God within the larger picture moving through history, that “without a metanarrative, understanding the details will always be deficient and will take the arrival of God to set things right.” Some call this arrival “rupture.” Jesus was “rupture.” Jesus was epochal revelation.
I see the Urantia Papers as today’s ‘apocalyptic pivot-point,’ and course-correcting metanarrative directing evolution forward. Some 900 pages are devoted to the Life and Teachings of Jesus. We are admonished, “Of all human knowledge, that which is of greatest value is to know the religious life of Jesus and how he lived it.”
Jesus’ ‘good news’ is simply that God is a loving and merciful parent, that God loves each of us unconditionally, and wholehearted faith is the only key needed to enter. BaddaBing. This relationship, this love-saturated friendship with God, radiates a ‘benign virus of love’ in service to our brothers and sisters. And the force is strong with you Emergents! I was drawn in by your loving inclusion, service, and ardent advocacy. For years I’d been learning about our awesome God; you have inspired me to more deeply experience God.
Like Jesus, you are challenging outworn belief systems. These quotes bear witness: “You have come out from among those of your fellows who crave security and prefer conformity.” “The true church—the Jesus brotherhood—is destined to become a living organism.” “There is great hope for any church that worships the living God, validates the human brotherhood, and dares to remove all creedal pressure from its members.” The continuing challenge: “If the Christian church would only dare to espouse the Mas- ter’s program, thousands of apparently indifferent youths would rush forward to enlist.”
Beloved scholar Phyllis Tickle describes the unveiling of an “Age of the Spirit.” She calls it a “new evolutionary Spirit- uality of Astonishment,” saying, “I lift up my eyes unto the Hubble, and Oh…My…God…”
What is being revealed? The recent Christianity 21 conference in Phoenix has posited, “What needs to rise out of the church?” May I offer this: Jesus is rising out of Christianity. You Emergents are rising out of Christianity! As both Jesus and Pete Rollins would say: “BE the resurrection”. Apparently you are…
I humbly invite you to affirm your faith-struggle. “Taste and see” how engaging a ‘far-flung cosmic perspective’ might elevate your insights and quicken your service for the Master with unfolding spiritual potency.
“Come and see!”
“For the creation awaits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons and daughters of God.”