Sunday, November 25, 2007

Biblical Unitarian-Universalism:

One reason why Dr. Gregg Frazer suggests "theistic rationalism" instead of "Unitarianism" in labeling the beliefs of America's Key Founders is not only can such term be confused with the Unitarian Congregational Church (of which only John Adams and his son were members), even worse it can be confused with today's Unitarian-Universalist Church which significantly differs from the the Unitarianism of America's Founding in a number of meaningful ways. For one, today's Unitarian-Universalists aren't very "biblical" and there was a strain of Founding era Unitarianism that was. Men like Joseph Story, John Marshall, Jared Sparks, and William Ellering Channing believed the Bible infallible and argued unitarian doctrines from Scripture alone.

Today such groups as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Roy Masters' sect follow a sort of Biblical Arianism, named after Arius who first argued Jesus was a divine but created and subordinate being, but whose views lost out in the Council of Nicea. This website also argues for Biblical Unitarian-Universalism -- the notion that Jesus is not God and that salvation is universal -- from Scripture alone. John Milton and Isaac Newton certainly were biblical Arians. Locke was a unitarian most likely of the Arian variety, though some scholars argue he was Socinian, believing Jesus just a man and not any kind of divine being. And scholars also dispute how "biblical" Locke's beliefs were as well.

However, America's key Founders -- Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Madison, Washington and others -- since they believed God primary revealed Himself through nature and secondarily inspired the Bible had no problem editing from the Bible that which they believed inconsistent with "reason." Just how biblical their unitarianism was likewise is a matter of debate. Today's Unitarian-Universalist Church is more of the tradition of these key Founders than it is of the Biblical Unitarianism of Story, Marshall et al. However, given that today's Unitarians are squarely on the Left's side in culture war issues that were not at all issues during America's Founding, it might not be fair to label the Founders "Unitarian" and suggest some kind of connection between the two. And it's certainly not right to label the Founders "Christian" in a way that would suggest a connection with today's Christian right.

Is the "theistic rationalist" label (given that it uses not Christian, Deist, or Unitarian) the fairest label of the bunch?

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