Comment: Unitarian Christianity

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Unitarian Christianity

It's a dead faith that has been trying to resurrect itself in recent times.

I would myself like to find like-minded souls to form a voluntary congregation (Denver area people?) of free-thinking, liberty-oriented, traditional values, rationally oriented, but can't-quite-let-go-of-God because His love has been felt types. We could discuss almost in the Quaker fashion. Sing hymns. There would be wide latitude for differences, but a common commitment to the basic premise of faith and the Christian message in the Bible, and a deep one at that.

Most of the Unitarian remnant today are rather indoctrinated progressive liberal types who I think actually cannot see other intellectual points of view despite their desire for latitude and tolerance. Either way, one need not congregate with those of different perspective to nevertheless hold them in fellowship.

So, I want a libertarian Unitarian revival. I can dream.

Anyway, here's a sampling of what old-timey Unitarians believed more or less (before Kant ruined them):

"Say what we may, God has given us a rational nature, and will call us to account for it. We may let it sleep, but we do so at our peril. Revelation is addressed to us as rational beings. We may wish, in our sloth, that God had given us a system, demand of comparing, limiting, and inferring. But such a system would be at variance with the whole character of our present existence; and it is the part of wisdom to take revelation as it is given to us, and to interpret it by the help of the faculties, which it everywhere supposes, and on which founded."

"We are told, that God being infinitely wiser than men, his discoveries will surpass human reason... to this objection, we have two short answers. We say, first, that it is impossible that a teacher of infinite wisdom should expose those, whom he woud teach, to infinite error. But if once we admit, that propositions, which in their literal sense appear plainly repugnant to one another, or to any known truth, are still to be literally understood and received, what possible limit can we set to the belief of contradictions? What shelter have we from the wildest fanaticism, which can always quote passages, that, in their literal and obvious sense, give support to its extravagances? ... We answer again, that, if God be infinitely wise, he cannot sport with the understandings of his creatures. A wise teacher discovers his wisdom in adapting himself to the capacities of his pupils, not in perplexing them with what is unintelligible, not in distressing them with apparent contradictions, not in filling them with a skeptical distrust of their own powers. An infinitely wise teacher who knows the precise extent of our minds, and the best method of enlightening them, will surpass all other instructors in bringing down truth to our apprehension, and in showing its loveliness and harmony. We ought, indeed, to expect occasional obscurity in such a book as the Bible, which was written for past and future ages, as well as for the present. But God's wisdom is a pledge, that whatever is necessary for US, and necessary for salvation, is revealed too plainly to be mistaken, and too consistently to be questioned, by a sound and upright mind. It is not the mark of wisdom, to use an unintelligible phraseology, to communicate what is above our capacities, to confuse and unsettle the intellect by appearances of contradiction. We honor our Heavenly Teacher too much to ascribe to him such a revelation. A revelation is a gift of light. It cannot thicken our darkness, and multiply our perplexities."

"[Our piety exists]... not because he is our creator merely, but because he created us for good and holy purposes; it is not because his will is irresistible, but because his will is the perfection of virtue, that we pay him allegiance. We cannot bow before a being, however great and powerful, who governs tyrannically. We respect nothing but excellence, whether on earth or in heaven. We venerate not the loftiness of God's throne, but the equity and goodness in which it is established."

"We earnestly maintain, that Jesus, instead of calling forth, in any way or degree, the mercy of the Father, was sent by that mercy, to be our Saviour;"

"Whilst we gratefully acknowledge, that he came to rescue us from punishment, we believe, that he was sent on a still nobler errand, namely, to deliver us from sin itself, and to form us to a sublime and heavenly virtue. We regard him as a Saviour, chiefly as he is the light, physician, and guide of the dark, diseased, and wandering mind. No influence in the universe seems to us so glorious, as that over the character; and no redemption so worthy of thankfulness as the restoration of the soul to purity. Without this, pardon, were it possible, would be of little value. Why pluck the sinner from hell, if a hell be left o burn in his own breast? Why raise him to heaven, if he remain a stranger to its sanctity and love?"

Quoted from Unitarian Christianity by William Ellery Channing (1819, Baltimore)

Yes, Unitarianism rejects both the trinity and the divine nature of Christ. No, Unitarianism does not reject the virgin birth or the miraculous nature of Christ's character (necessarily). Unitarianism holds that God is real enough that piety towards Him is meant to have a place in this real world. And that in addition to the gift of reason, there is the revelation of Christ (and prophets) contained in the Bible. Revelation adds, enlightens, the gifts we already possess. Its precepts are meant to be simple and clear so that any person could understand and benefit from them. Anything more is either 1) a matter of individual perogative in the pursuit of truth or 2) an imposition by the authority of men upon other men acting incorrectly in the name of God.

Christians hold that Trinitarianism IS what the apostles taught, obviously, because they believe in Trinitarianism. To reject trinitarianism is seen as a rejection of credible Christian faith. But, in reality, this is just the opinion of writers, speculators, philosophers, theologians, and church fathers long after the time of the apostles. It may be the correct interpretation of God's nature, but it isn't necessarily so when one considers the actual biblical source.

Unitarianism rejects trinitarianism, I think, for two main reasons: 1) trinitarianism is irrelevant to worship. Omnipotent God Is, regardless if we personally possess some philosophical perspective on His precise manifestation in the temporal universe. In other words, God's love isn't felt in threes, devotion to God and righteousness isn't trifurcated, passion for Christ's sacrifice only requires a understanding of Christ's devotion to the one Father. It does not seem that God would care whether we understand His precise dimensional characteristic.
2) Unitarianism rejects the idea that revelation would somehow transcend human understanding. Jesus' relationship to the Father is plain in the Bible. It's just a simpler understanding free of the baggage of theological authority.

On the other hand, Unitarianism has been completely overtaking by transcendentalism, secularism, progressivism, agnosticism, etc. Perhaps it could have used more theology?

I don't know. Reading Ayn Rand, I suspect the failures weren't those of faith, but of reason. Kant, later idealists, and so forth, destroyed rational philosophy quite thoroughly. Of course a religion that exalts reason would suffer. Which goes to show, that God maybe does require a steadfast commitment to faith and reason. Just like righteous living requires a steadfast commitment to prayer and effort. In other words, strong faith cannot save bad reason. Man is born into the world first, then born again spiritually. Reason alone will not save, but faith cannot replace the reason and its role in life on earth.

Anyway, you, Mr. OP, asked, and I have answered.