Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Truth and Oneness

(I'm writing here just as a notebook basically as my ideas develop, this is not totally thought-through stuff, this is me jotting down some ideas)

I don't agree with the assertion that Unitarianism is primarily characterised by a belief in the authority and autonomy of the individual. I tend to think this is a post-modern perversion of what we're really trying to say about the nature of Truth. It is as mistaken to think "my truth cannot be questioned" as it is to think "the Bible's truth cannot be questioned." The foundation of religious liberalism (James Luther Adams expresses this well) is that NO truth is above scrutiny. All truths can be scrutinised and analysed. The trouble is we apply this idea happily to the Authority of the Church or the Authority of Scripture as ideas we have historically rejected from Catholicism and Protestantism respectively - but we refuse to apply the idea TO OURSELVES. We make ourselves Infallible Popes of our own individual religions, and believe our own particular dogmas can be questioned by no one. True we don't seek to impose our ideas on others, but neither do we exposes ourselves to the fresh air of free inquiry, opening ourselves to the possibility of finding greater Truth. "I believe this" or "I am a [theological position]" are dogmatic statements that be believe cannot and should not be open to scrutiny, questioning, or analysis. And so we  reject the free and responsible search for Truth for a pragmatic individualism that treats truth-claims as a matter of identity politics.

We are not the religion of the dogma of individualism. We are the religion of Oneness and Truth. The Unitarian approach should be that we are open to the fullness of Truth and affirm its importance.

This is different from other religions and their approach to Truth. Many other faiths will hold that Truth has been Revealed. For example: in the person of Jesus Christ the fullness of Truth is revealed to the world. Or, in the Qur'an the fullest revelation of Truth possible has been revealed to humankind. But when a Unitarian seeks after Truth their first conclusion is: - we don't have it yet. When considering the vastness of the universe, and the vastness of human experience our conclusion is "we don't yet have the fullness of Truth." So our approach has to be a "scientific" one to the deepest universal, cosmological, ontological and existential truths. We are not there yet, there is a long way to go.

But this does not mean that there are no truths to find on the way. Jesus Christ and the Qur'an - to continue to use those examples - clearly represent deep sources of truth, that we would be foolish to ignore. But we cannot affirm that these truths represent a full and final Truth. They are building blocks to truths, taking us so far, but not all the way towards Truth.

To affirm both Oneness and Truth means that Truth is universally accessible to all human souls. We are all in relationship with the same Truth and Oneness. But we find that many people express diverse and contradictory truths.

One response to this is to stick to the position "I have the full Truth - you have some perversion or contradiction of the truth." But this is ultimately arbitrary.

Another response is to give up on Truth: "Well we all have our own individual truths and there's no way to compare truths, and anyway truth doesn't matter so let's just not worry about it."

The Unitarian position should be to say, "There seems to be some important part of the Truth here and there. Let's hold on to these things but keep searching because clearly there is some more truth to find before we find the full Truth."

Our Unitarian position should not be "believe whatever you like. It's up to you, mate." Rather all of us are called to pay full attention to the truths humanity has found along the way, even as we know there is a need for us all to keep seeking.

When did we stop talking about Truth? When we realised it was all much more difficult and complex than we originally thought? Well it is. Hugely. But to give up on Truth is a betrayal of the journey we've been on since the beginning.

That's why I'd like us to speak a lot more about the search for Truth as one of our foundational principles.