Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Biblical Unitarians

Have you heard about these biblical Unitarians? Like me, you may have seen their adverts on Amazon and if you google searched for something Unitarian. Which in itself, suggests there's some money behind this.

I sometimes call myself an evangelical Unitarian, but it's a very different kind of evangelical Unitarianism than these folks. I watched this video (all two hours of it) yesterday with half an eye while I was constructing a sofa bed.

Video

Now, there's much I can agree with about what these folks are saying. I am still basically a Unitarian Christian, I might even call myself a biblical Unitarian. I certainly preach from the Christian scriptures or Hebrew Bible 80% of the time. Yet I certainly don't believe that the Bible is the Word of God in any literal or authorative sense. However good the menu is, it ain't got nothing on the meal.

The style of this video is certainly American Evangelical. And the techniques of apologetics used are pretty poor. For example, why do you interview scholars to represent you own opinion and interview people in the street to represent your opponents' opinion? It's pretty easy to outwit a random person in the street, and it's a technique that loads of Evangelicals use in similar videos to this (come to think of it Muslims too). It's also a technique I've seen Richard Dawkins use, talking to school children and the worst kinds of fundamentalists to represent "religion." This is called a straw man. These folks should have had the decency to have this debate with articulate scholarly Trinitarians.

But this all brings up a number of questions for me. How big a movement is this? Is it significant? It's very difficult to tell when a small movement can make such a big noise on the internet. If it is, or becomes, a big movement then what does this mean for Unitarianism? Could the Unitarian situation in America become like the Quaker one, with Evangelical Unitarians and liberal (UUA) Unitarians?

Maybe this is only a small, insignificant group. But consider this: perhaps most global Unitarian growth in the future will come from Africa and Latin America. It seems to me wherever there is Christianity, this is eventually Unitarianism. So what if an emerging group of Unitarians in some African nation begins to search on the internet for others who believe what they do (this type of thing happens all the time) but instead of finding the UUA or the ICUU they find these folks and build up international friendships with these people. It seems in those circumstances biblically conservative Unitarianism might become a significant force in the world, with Christian groups prefering to work with these people than with the liberal UUA-types who do not speak the Christian language.

Part of my instinct is to be in ecumenical friendship with these people. That friendship would be deeply challenging, but perhaps enriching.

I don't know, but the possibilities are intriguing. What do you think?

12 Comments:

Blogger Unitalian said...

I haven't seen the video, but suspect we would only have ourselves to blame if it did: we should be "getting out there" ourselves much more, as I mentioned in a link to your post on my blog.

11:29 am  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

"Maybe this is only a small, insignificant group."

Couldn't exactly the same statement be said about U*Uism in the UK and even America Stephen? How many U*Us are there in Great Britain? In terms of official UUA statistics there are fewer than 200,000 adult U*Us in continental North America. That is definitely a small, even *tiny*, group in light of the overall population of over 300 million people. Biblical Unitarians may currently be a smaller group than Unitarian*Universalists in America, or even the UK, but your rather prophetic post here makes some very valid points. Given the right circumstances, Biblical Unitarians could potentially quite rapidly outgrow the UUA. . . Such circumstances may well be ripe in Africa and Latin America where more conservative religion seems to be de rigueur these days.

Are you aware that candidate for President of the UUA Rev. Peter Morales described U*Uism as a "tiny, declining, fringe religion" in, of all things. . . his "stump speech" announcing his candidacy for UUA President? Currently Unitarian*Universalism is a very small group no matter how you look at it and, in many ways, U*Uism is an sadly insignificant group as well.

12:32 pm  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Come to think of it Stephen, Jehovah's Witnesses could be very appropriately described as being "Biblical Unitrians". I wonder what the chances are that Biblical Unitarians are a break away group from the Jehovah's Witnesses rather than a completely new "start-up"? Perhaps I shouldn't have brought up Jehovah's Witnesses in light of the fact that Unitarian*Universalists are a "small, insignificant group" even in comparison with this rather small religious group. . .

1:26 pm  
Blogger Robin Edgar said...

Oh and they Jehovah's Witnesses do a pretty good job of "getting out there" don't they? Unlike most Unitarians who wouldn't be caught dead "getting out there" in a manner similar to Jehovah's Witnessses. . . Still, I was, and still am, a big fan of your "Church of the Lager Fellowship" Stephen. I may even join you for a pint or two the next time I am in the UK if you are open to some ecumenical friendship with me. ;-)

1:31 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

UUs like their straw man though don't they?

After all, they've been using Christianity as a straw man for decades now.

6:09 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biblical Unitarian is a very large group. We simply believe that Jesus is the Son of God, a man, the second Adam who redeemed us.
We do not believe in the mystery of the "trinity" because, in reality, the bible does not teach it and one but bend the bibles scriptures to try to make Jesus "God the Son". Most of us understand and live daily with the 9 operations of the Holy Spirit Gift. We are strong Christians.

9:29 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Robin Edgar

The JW group was founded in the 1870s and Biblical Unitarians have been around much longer, so in my opinion, you are wrong to say that "Biblical Unitarians are a break away group from the Jehovah's Witnesses". Also, if you really understood who Biblical Unitarians and JW are then you wouldn't say that JW "could be very appropriately described as being Biblical Unitatians". Just because JW and Biblical Unitarians are non-trinatarian in their beliefs it doesn't make them identical.

3:50 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Robin Edgar

The JW group was founded in the 1870s and Biblical Unitarians have been around much longer, so in my opinion, you are wrong to say that "Biblical Unitarians are a break away group from the Jehovah's Witnesses". Also, if you really understood who Biblical Unitarians and JW are then you wouldn't say that JW "could be very appropriately described as being Biblical Unitatians". Just because JW and Biblical Unitarians are non-trinatarian in their beliefs it doesn't make them identical.

3:50 am  
Blogger truitt said...

John Adams was a biblical unitarian. It was common in colonial america. Mr. Adams was a fan of a unitarian minister by the name of jonathan mayhew, and wrote about attending his sermons in his journal, which has been published. I checked it out of the library. He mentions the ideas of the trinity doctrine as being contradictory absurdities and describes debating this with trinitarians. His was wife and son John also held the same views which can be proven by things recorded in their letters. Biblical unitarian beliefs have existed since before the 1st century. What the Jews believed was and is unitarian. The first century christians and early church fathers believed that jesus was the son of god, sacfrifice and savior of mankind, and made lord and head of the church, but that he is lesser than the father who is God, and would step down and be subject to God in the future as stated in 1 Corinthians 15 states. The trinity doctrine was the invention of the catholic church by individuals who were more interested in power and the vehicle that the christian religion was to unify and control empires. They mingled pagan doctrines and concepts with christianity in order to appease the pagans they sought to convert for political expediency. An excellent book to read about the history of the development of trinitarianism is When Jesus Became God. Sorry, I dont remember the authors name, but u should have no problem finding it by the title.

4:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the spirit of God is pouring out truth in these days and people of all religions and faith practices are beginning to see that we all have a piece of truth and at the same time we all have some doctrines we need to let go of. I have been an evangelical christian most of my life and after beginning to see many things I have believed are not what the Bible really teaches, I was eventually led to see the truth of who Jesus really is. It has been a HUGE struggle to let go of that deception, but the more I read my Bible the more I see it EVERYWHERE.
It is time for us to let go of our titles and religious affiliations and unite together as God's children to bring His love to a very broken world. I would like to suggest that the Bible really is our Creator's instruction book. We just need to seek understanding from the Hebrew perspective from which it was written. Now that I have shed my narrow-mindedness I have come to see that there are many valuable teachings in other faith practices (yours included I'm sure) that are taught in the Bible - often stated differently, but still the same. God chose a covenant people to demonstrate His love to all mankind. To be the light to show that His instructions are descriptive of how this life works, and if we follow them our lives will be incredibly blessed - and who doesn't want that! The problem is that nobody has gotten it all figured out enough to see that both the front of the Book and the back of the Book are all relevant to us today. Let's let go of religion and embrace our amazing Creator and each other. Let's stop worrying about the dwindling numbers of our denominations and find our common ground. Thank God that Jesus is coming to teach all us knuckleheads what the real program is! Blessings to you all.

3:19 pm  
Blogger Jeannie Lacy said...

God is at work! I haven't been active in a consistantly attended a church, since I was 13. I sure do Love to read my Bible, though. I have come to believe similarly to the Biblical Unitarians. Yet, what is happening in me and many others, doesn't involve a predisposition to any particular belief. I believe any one could understand, the Biblical Unitarians point of view. As long as the person is reading a decently translated bible, has half a mind, that is free of previous oppressions, such as Parents, Pastors, Media. I came to my beliefs through Prayer and reading a lot.I do not believe Jesus is God, because Jesus has made that very clear in scripture. I am not excluded from being a Christian, for following him, believing what he said, and observing him and all things, biblical. God Forbid, one is a Christian, for ignoring what Jesus said and thus, coming to take Jesus as God, contrary to the Bible.

6:25 am  
Blogger Cat Navarro said...

I agree, love our neighbors and love God with all our hearts, do are best to surch the scriptures and find out what pleases him. One day God and Jesus will tell us what is true and then everything will make sense.

4:39 pm  

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