Saturday, February 17, 2007

What do you say to a Unitarian?

I've posted the audio for last week's midweek study at JPBC on Unitarians in our evangelism and apologetics series. Below is the outline for the study:

What do you say to a Unitarian?
JPBC February 14, 2007
Jeff Riddle

I. Definitions: What is Unitarianism?

II. Historical Backgrounds:
  • Monarchianism.
  • Arianism.
  • Michael Servetus (1511-53).
  • Faustus Socinus (1539-1604).
  • John Biddle (1615-62).
  • American Unitarian Association formed in 1825.
  • In 1961 they merged with the Universalist Association of America to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association.

III. Beliefs:

1. Reason and conscience as authority, vis-à-vis the Bible.
2. Complete religious toleration.
3. The innate goodness of man.
4. Universal salvation.
5. Liberal social agenda. Examples: Pro homosexual behavior/marriage; anti-war, etc.

IV. What do you say to a Unitarian?

1. What does the Bible teach about God?

The Bible teaches the Trinity.

Examples: (1) Baptism of Jesus in Matthew 3; (2) Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20; (3) Acts 2:32-33; (4) Romans 1:2-3; (4) 2 Corinthians 13:14.

Does the Unitarian view do justice to Jesus’ own self-understanding?

Compare the claims Jesus made for himself. See:
John 10:30: "I and My Father are one."
John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life."
Luke 5:17-26: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (v. 21).

Does the Unitarian view do justice to the early Christian view of Jesus?
See "Jesus is Lord" (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3).

See the warning against those who do not preach Jesus properly: 1 John 4:1-3; 5:1, 9-13.

2. Does it make sense to say that all religions deserve equal toleration and consideration?

3. If men are innately good, then why is there so much human evil in the world?

4. If all men meet the same eternal destiny what does this say about the justice of God?

5. Can we ever hope to solve all the world’s problems apart from God’s complete and final intervention?


Larry Rouse said...

This is a good summary of Unitarianism and their beliefs. It would be unusual, however, if you could get a Bible open with a Unitarian. Even if you were able to do that, I doubt they would regard it as having any authority.

The best approach may be to present the historical Jesus as you would to an athiest. Here a good examination of the resurrection of Jesus and the evidences for His Sonship (Rom1:2-34)might be the way to go.

Do you have a website with your material posted on it?

Tree hugging said...

I think you've rather blatantly misinterpreted Unitarian Universalist beliefs (note, I didn't say "Unitarian"). First of all, you assume that religiously liberal necessarily means politically liberal. That's not always true, even if it is often the case. For example, one of my close friends at the church is openly Pro Life.

There are Seven principles that better represent what UU's collectively believe, even though we are not a creedal religion. It is also important to note that UU's as individuals are far more diverse than their collective beliefs. For example, TJMC includes Christians, Hindus, Budhists, Pagans and Atheists. While the church itself doesn't have a creed that if forces members to follow, that doesn't mean that individuals lack personal creeds.

Lastly, as I said before concerning Pagans, many UUs came from other more conservative churches because those churches weren't meeting their needs spiritually. You presume that the problem is with the believer, not that their original church made them feel unwelcome. If you wish to "convert" UUs then I can only suggest that you "heal thyself" first. I left a Baptist Church specifically because of its ethnocentric attitudes and its lack of an environmental ethic. When I see more evangelical and Baptist Churches truly embracing cultural diversity and addressing local environmental justice issues then I'll be willing to reconsider returning. If all it would take to convert UUs were biblical arguments or apologism, then folks like myself would have never left. Besides, I could be a trinitarian evangelical Christian and STILL be welcome in the UU Church (and I know some). Why would I leave a place that's always made me welcome, regardless of where my spiritual path leads me? Would your church execpt me "as I am" as a liberal, environmentalist and Democrat? I sincerely doubt it.

UUFreespirit said...

I think it's a mistake to judge modern-day Unitarian Universalism by orthodox standards, language or protocols. UU is not a shared theology, but a "attitude toward" matters of religion, a process of discernment of truth, meaning, goodness, and ultimate priorities that depends heavily upon inductive reason--scientific, open, inclusive, testing and even reverently doubting. It is so "stubbornly protestant" that it absolutely refuses to accept the languages of unquestionable orthodoxy and to be limited by the barriers of any one religious tradition. It is also so "thoroughly catholic" that it sets no arbitrary conditions or limits to the love, goodwill and acceptance of its faith. The words of (late in life Unitarian) Thomas Jefferson to nephew Peter Carr---to "question with boldness even the existence of a God, because if there be one he must more approve of the homage of reason than of blindfolded fear"---speaks volumes much about this particular "free but disciplined" boldly questioning process, or attitude toward religion, that is Unitarian Universalism. As a former Southern Baptist who feels that my move to Unitarian Universalism was actually a maturing or evolving of my faith, I agree wholeheartedly with Lonnie that, for whatever reason, you've done a disservice to my fellow kindred spirits of Unitarian Universalist faith, and I would invite anyone who wants to learn more about what we're "really all about" to to join me at the "Larger Faith" Yahoo group (, or "Faith of the Free" Yahoo group ( or message board (