(This is a presentation that was given at the 24-hour Online Urantia Event on 21 March, 2020)
Few persons live up to the faith which they really have. Unreasoned fear is a master intellectual fraud practiced upon the evolving mortal soul. [Paper 48:7.4, page 556.4]
The world is in the grip of fear! People are afraid. What are they afraid of? As a clinical psychologist I’m aware that my clients present with so many things that make them fearful! It seems that there is a lot to be afraid of.
Fear is so human. We all experience fear, some a lot more than others. Is all fear dysfunctional, to be avoided? And what was Jesus referring to when he exhorted his disciples to “fear not”?
Firstly, let’s take a look at some of the most common sources of fear. The following list is just a sample; I’m aware that many more could be added.
- Pain – physical and emotional
- Sickness – physical and psychological
- Natural disasters: earthquakes, volcanoes, cyclones, floods, drought, famine, plagues
- Painful memories
- Losing loved ones in death
- Being a failure
- Growing old
- Being socially rejected – being ostracised
- Losing control
- Looking foolish
- Losing your job
- Financial hardship
- Prejudice and discrimination
- End of the world scenarios
At the root of most of our fears, is the fear of death. The Bible says at Hebrews 2:15 that the fear of death can subject us to lifelong slavery!
Globally, we are now challenged by two potentially catastrophic phenomena: climate change and COVID-19. Should we be fearful of these major threats to our collective survival? My answer would be ‘yes’….and ‘no’. I hope that the rest of my article will clarify this somewhat ambiguous response.
What is “Unreasoned Fear”?
My initial quote from The Urantia Book at the beginning of this article specifically says that “unreasoned fear” is a fraud. Not all fear is unreasoned. Sometimes fear is reasonable and appropriate. For most of us for example, encountering a poisonous snake or spider provokes fear. We may fear contracting the coronavirus so we implement sensible health measures. This is useful because it leads us to act in a way that keeps us alive. So what is this unreasoned fear all about?
“Fear is man’s chief enslaver and pride his great weakness; will you betray yourself into bondage to both of these destroyers of joy and liberty?” [Paper 142:0.2, page 1596.2] emphasis added
It is our bondage to fear that enslaves us. When fear captures our hearts and minds, it robs us of joy and liberty. For example, people with agoraphobia have a terrible fear of public places. They are terrified that they will have a panic attack, that they will become a public spectacle, and they won’t be able to escape from the situation. Their solution is to avoid public spaces, which usually means staying home. Their fears are real but are usually not based on solid evidence or rational thought processes. Succumbing to agoraphobia is truly to be in bondage; these unfortunate people are truly robbed of joy and liberty.
All physical poisons greatly retard the efforts of the Adjuster to exalt the material mind, while the mental poisons of fear, anger, envy, jealousy, suspicion, and intolerance likewise tremendously interfere with the spiritual progress of the evolving soul. [Paper 110:1.5, page 1204.3] emphasis added
Fear is a mental poison that tremendously interferes with our spiritual progress. Unbridled or unreasoned fear can cause us to behave in ways that are contrary to God’s will for us. This greatly retards the efforts of our Adjusters.
And yet, fear has been responsible for our survival, even our civilization!
Fear as a Unifier and Civilizer
Urantia civilization was literally forged out between the anvil of necessity and the hammers of fear. [Paper 66:5.13, page 747.3]
Primitive society was thus founded on the reciprocity of necessity and on the enhanced safety of association. And human society has evolved in agelong cycles as a result of this isolation fear and by means of reluctant
co-operation. [Paper 68:1.3, page 763.6] emphasis added
We are gregarious by nature…we need one another!…loneliness is something that people fear….being isolated threatens our survival….it is detrimental to our physical, psychological and emotional well-being.
And so society was born, not of mere association of numbers, but rather as a result of the organization of intelligent co-operators. But co-operation is not a natural trait of man; he learns to co-operate first through fear and then later because he discovers it is most beneficial in meeting the difficulties of time and guarding against the supposed perils of eternity. [Paper 68:1.4, page 763.7] emphasis added
Fear and dread of isolation has forced us to co-operate with one another…reluctantly! Usually this happens as a result of the emergence of a common enemy or problem. It took two world wars to bring about the formation of international bodies like the League of Nations and the United Nations. Fear of mutual annihilation or destruction was the driving force behind these historical initiatives. In a similar way, the nations of the world have mounted a united response to the coronavirus, principally through organisations like the World Health Organisation (WHO). Of course, this is not just fear-driven; it makes scientific sense for nations to cooperate in dealing with a pandemic.
Fear-based Religion Versus Love-based Religion
Fear was also the prime progenitor of evolutionary religion. It was fear that originally inspired humans to develop a system of beliefs that explained or made sense of the forces of nature and the random events that seemed to befall their lives.
Evolutionary religion is born of a simple and all-powerful fear, the fear which surges through the human mind when confronted with the unknown, the inexplicable, and the incomprehensible.
This is human nature! We fear what we don’t know…what we perceive as different. It is this fear of what is perceived as alien that fuels tribalism, racism and prejudice.
However, there is an effective antidote to that surging fear!
Religion eventually achieves the profoundly simple realization of an all-powerful love, the love which sweeps irresistibly through the human soul when awakened to the conception of the limitless affection of the Universal Father for the sons of the universe. [Paper 90:0.3, page 986.3] emphasis added
Our fear is replaced with love when we realize that the Universal Father loves us as his sons and daughters!
RELIGION, as a human experience, ranges from the primitive fear slavery of the evolving savage up to the sublime and magnificent faith liberty of those civilized mortals who are superbly conscious of sonship with the eternal God. [Paper 101:0.1, page 1104.1] emphasis added
Religion in it’s primitive form is based on fear! Fear has been the driving force in the evolution of religion; fear of the unknown, fear of natural forces, and ghost fear. Through the periodic influence of revelation, religion ultimately evolves to sublime and magnificent faith liberty based on love and sonship with God.
Evolutionary religion is sentimental, not logical. It is man’s reaction to belief in a hypothetical ghost-spirit world — the human belief-reflex, excited by the realization and fear of the unknown. Revelatory religion is propounded by the real spiritual world; it is the response of the superintellectual cosmos to the mortal hunger to believe in, and depend upon, the universal Deities. Evolutionary religion pictures the circuitous gropings of humanity in quest of truth; revelatory religion is that very truth. [Paper 92:4.3, page 1007.3] emphasis added
The Thought Adjusters would like to change your feelings of fear to convictions of love and confidence; but they cannot mechanically and arbitrarily do such things; that is your task. In executing those decisions which deliver you from the fetters of fear, you literally supply the psychic fulcrum on which the Adjuster may subsequently apply a spiritual lever of uplifting and advancing illumination. [Paper 108:5.8, page 1192.3] emphasis added
When we swap fear for love through our conscious decision-making and the positive choices we make, our Thought Adjusters are enabled to spiritually uplift and illuminate us.
He (Jesus) placed great value upon sincerity–a pure heart. Fidelity was a cardinal virtue in his estimate of character, while courage was the very heart of his teachings. “Fear not” was his watchword, and patient endurance his ideal of strength of character. [Paper 140:8.20, page 1582.1] emphasis added
Jesus came to liberate us from fear: “Fear not!” he said. He realized that fear was a real problem for us mortals. Because he shared our nature, he knew that humans were naturally prone to be fearful. Fear has been useful in our evolution but now it needs to be replaced with a higher motivation.
“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And yet, when these birds flit about in quest of their sustenance, not one of them exists without the knowledge of the Father, the source of all life. To the seraphic guardians the very hairs of your head are numbered. And if all of this is true, why should you live in fear of the many trifles which come up in your daily lives? I say to you: Fear not; you are of much more value than many sparrows. [Paper 165:3.4, page 1820.3] emphasis added
Do we grasp the simplicity and profundity of this lesson from nature? How often are our fears the result of making a mountain out of a molehill! But what about major global catastrophes like COVID-19? Aren’t we justified in fearing the dire consequences of such epic calamities? Surely global economic collapse, the potential loss of loved ones, and the possibility of our own sickness and death….surely these are circumstances that we are entitled to be fearful of!
Jesus portrayed the profound surety of the God-knowing mortal when he said: “To a God-knowing kingdom believer, what does it matter if all things earthly crash?” Temporal securities are vulnerable, but spiritual sureties are impregnable. When the flood tides of human adversity, selfishness, cruelty, hate, malice, and jealousy beat about the mortal soul, you may rest in the assurance that there is one inner bastion, the citadel of the spirit, which is absolutely unassailable; at least this is true of every human being who has dedicated the keeping of his soul to the indwelling spirit of the eternal God. [Paper 100:2.7, page 1096.4] emphasis added
Doesn’t it appear right now that “all things earthly” are crashing? And yet Jesus challenges us with the question: So what does that matter to you, who claim to be God-knowing kingdom believers? Where does our security lie? In the temporal institutions of this material world…or in the profound and sure promises of the God who dwells within us? Are we not safe-guarded by the unassailable citadel of the spirit!!
After such spiritual attainment, whether secured by gradual growth or specific crisis, there occurs a new orientation of personality as well as the development of a new standard of values. Such spirit-born individuals are so remotivated in life that they can calmly stand by while their fondest ambitions perish and their keenest hopes crash; they positively know that such catastrophes are but the redirecting cataclysms which wreck one’s temporal creations preliminary to the rearing of the more noble and enduring realities of a new and more sublime level of universe attainment. [Paper 100:2.8, page 1096.5] emphasis added
Have we developed this new standard of values? How would we feel if our fondest ambitions perished and our keenest hopes crashed? Would we recognise and discern the silver lining? Remember…
“the apparent cruelty of a perverse fate that heaps tribulation upon some suffering mortal may in reality be the tempering fire that is transmuting the soft iron of immature personality into the tempered steel of real character.” [Paper 118:10.9, page 1305.4]
Like the apostles, we need to be reminded that we are children of God. Isn’t this the good news that the world needs?
“And even you, Thomas, fail to comprehend what I have been saying. Have I not all this time taught you that your connection with the kingdom is spiritual and individual, wholly a matter of personal experience in the spirit by the faith-realization that you are a son of God? What more shall I say? The downfall of nations, the crash of empires, the destruction of the unbelieving Jews, the end of an age, even the end of the world, what have these things to do with one who believes this gospel, and who has hid his life in the surety of the eternal kingdom? You who are God-knowing and gospel-believing have already received the assurances of eternal life. Since your lives have been lived in the spirit and for the Father, nothing can be of serious concern to you. Kingdom builders, the accredited citizens of the heavenly worlds, are not to be disturbed by temporal upheavals or perturbed by terrestrial cataclysms. What does it matter to you who believe this gospel of the kingdom if nations overturn, the age ends, or all things visible crash, since you know that your life is the gift of the Son, and that it is eternally secure in the Father? [Paper 176:3.2, page 1916.2] emphasis added
If we claim to have faith in God’s promises, to be gospel-believing, then nothing of this world can disturb us. Do we understand what it means to believe in this gospel of the kingdom? We have already been given the gift of eternal life, secure in the Father.
Having started out on the way of life everlasting, having accepted the assignment and received your orders to advance, do not fear the dangers of human forgetfulness and mortal inconstancy, do not be troubled with doubts of failure or by perplexing confusion, do not falter and question your status and standing, for in every dark hour, at every crossroad in the forward struggle, the Spirit of Truth will always speak, saying, “This is the way.”
[Paper 34:7.8, page 383.2] emphasis added
Even in the midst of worldwide panic and confusion, Jesus, the Spirit of Truth, will always show us the way forward.
Faith Versus Fear
It is a solemn and supernal fact that such lowly and material creatures as Urantia human beings are the sons of God, faith children of the Highest. “Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.” “As many as received him, to them gave he the power to recognize that they are the sons of God.” While “it does not yet appear what you shall be,” even now “you are the faith sons of God”; “for you have not received the
spirit of bondage again to fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship, whereby you cry, ‘our Father.’” [Paper 40:6.2, page 448.1] emphasis added
Our Father has given us the power to recognize our sonship with him. This is our faith! It is our faith that will prevent us from succumbing to the bondage of fear.
And throughout every trial and in the presence of every hardship, spirit-born souls are sustained by that hope which transcends all fear because the love of God is shed abroad in all hearts by the presence of the divine Spirit.
[Paper 34:6.13, page 381.7] emphasis added
“Your sonship is grounded in faith, and you are to remain unmoved by fear. Your joy is born of trust in the divine word, and you shall not therefore be led to doubt the reality of the Father’s love and mercy. And if you are the children of this living faith, you are no longer the bondslaves of self but rather the triumphant masters of yourselves, the liberated sons of God.” [Paper 143:2.7, page 1610.2] emphasis added
Here we have the cause and the effect: sonship grounded in faith enables us to remain unmoved by fear.
“The issues of life and death are being set before you — the sinful pleasures of time against the righteous realities of eternity. Even now you should begin to find deliverance from the bondage of fear and doubt as you enter upon the living of the new life of faith and hope. And when the feelings of service for your fellow men arise within your soul, do not stifle them; when the emotions of love for your neighbor well up within your heart, give expression to such urges of affection in intelligent ministry to the real needs of your fellows.” [Paper 157:2.2, page 1745.1] emphasis added
This is the practice of the religion of Jesus! This is the ministry of the gospel of Jesus! And it is this ministry that will ultimately bring true unity to the nations of the world.
Perhaps our faith is not strong enough to deliver us from the doubts and bondage that arise from fear. Then we can follow the example of the father who implored Jesus to heal his son but realized that he lacked faith. We can pray for more faith:
And then James of Safed spoke those long-to-be-remembered words of commingled faith and doubt, “Lord, I believe. I pray you help my unbelief.” [Paper 158:5.2, page 1757.2]
Jesus is ever willing to meet us at our point of need. A notable example of this is when he encountered the young man who was fearful and depressed. As you read these words of the Master, imagine that he is directing them to you!
“My friend, arise! Stand up like a man! You may be surrounded with small enemies and be retarded by many obstacles, but the big things and the real things of this world and the universe are on your side. The sun rises every morning to salute you just as it does the most powerful and prosperous man on earth. Look — you have a strong body and powerful muscles — your physical equipment is better than the average. Of course, it is just about useless while you sit out here on the mountainside and grieve over your misfortunes, real and fancied. But you could do great things with your body if you would hasten off to where great things are waiting to be done. You are trying to run away from your unhappy self, but it cannot be done. You and your problems of living are real; you cannot escape them as long as you live. But look again, your mind is clear and capable. Your strong body has an intelligent mind to direct it. Set your mind at work to solve its problems; teach your intellect to work for you; refuse longer to be dominated by fear like an unthinking animal. Your mind should be your courageous ally in the solution of your life problems rather than your being, as you have been, its abject fear-slave and the bond servant of depression and defeat. But most valuable of all, your potential of real achievement is the spirit which lives within you, and which will stimulate and inspire your mind to control itself and activate the body if you will release it from the fetters of fear and thus enable your spiritual nature to begin your deliverance from the evils of inaction by the power-presence of living faith. And then, forthwith, will this faith vanquish fear of men by the compelling presence of that new and all-dominating love of your fellows which will so soon fill your soul to overflowing because of the consciousness which has been born in your heart that you are a child of God. [Paper 130:6.3, page 1437.3] emphasis added
“This day, my son, you are to be reborn, re-established as a man of faith, courage, and devoted service to man, for God’s sake. And when you become so readjusted to life within yourself, you become likewise readjusted to the universe; you have been born again — born of the spirit — and henceforth will your whole life become one of victorious accomplishment. Trouble will invigorate you; disappointment will spur you on; difficulties will challenge you; and obstacles will stimulate you. Arise, young man! Say farewell to the life of cringing fear and fleeing cowardice. Hasten back to duty and live your life in the flesh as a son of God, a mortal dedicated to the ennobling service of man on earth and destined to the superb and eternal service of God in eternity.” [Paper 130:6.4, page 1438.1] emphasis added
Faith is the antidote to fear! However, in a materialistic, secular world, faith is indeed a very precious possession. Hence we need to safeguard our faith and not take it for granted. How can we be the light of the world if we have lost our faith?
Faith is to religion what sails are to a ship; it is an addition of power, not an added burden of life. There is but one struggle for those who enter the kingdom, and that is to fight the good fight of faith. The believer has only one battle, and that is against doubt — unbelief. [Paper 159:3.8, page 1766.4]
The consciousness of a victorious human life on earth is born of that creature faith which dares to challenge each recurring episode of existence when confronted with the awful spectacle of human limitations, by the unfailing declaration: Even if I cannot do this, there lives in me one who can and will do it, a part of the Father-Absolute of the universe of universes. And that is “the victory which overcomes the world, even your faith.” [Paper 4:4.9, page 59.5] emphasis added
To my beloved brothers and sisters: Fear not! Have faith!