Sunday, October 2, 2011

More From Throckmorton on Barton & Unitarianism

Here are two great posts (note I'm cited in both) from Warren Throckmorton on David Barton's claim that the unitarians of the Founding era were "evangelicals."

There is a lot of great primary source material cited. Unitarians of that era believed in something that evangelicals of today could only regard as a cult like heresy. But they were far more biblical and theistic than the UUs of today.

From Jared Sparks' Unitarian miscellany and Christian monitor, circa 1821:

Unitarians believe, that Jesus Christ was a messenger commissioned from heaven to make a revelation, and communicate the will of God to men. They all agree, that he was not God; that he was a distinct being from the Father, and subordinate to him; and that he received from the Father all his power, wisdom, and knowledge. (p. 13)

Although unitarians do not believe Christ to be God, because they think such a doctrine at variance with reason and scripture, yet they believe him to have been authorized and empowered to make a divine revelation to the world. We believe in the divinity of his mission, but not of his person. We consider all he has taught as coming from God; we receive his commands, and rely on his promises, as the commands and promises of God. In his miracles we see the power of God; in his doctrines and precepts we behold the wisdom of God; and in his life and character we see a bright display of every divine virtue. ...


Angie Van De Merwe said...

What is your purpose in sharing this information, besides to clarify and rectify the mis-guided teaching of evangelicals? And what of the UUs, are they not guided by humanitarian concern? Why would you seem to dismiss them, as irrelavant today? or was your intent to make the distinction between yesterday's Unitarian and today's Unitarian Universalist?

Are you suggesting that UU's have gone too far in dismissing a particular "God" image? it that the point, i.e. the Jesus ministry? And this is a way to get evangelicals to buy into a "social gospel", and correcting ignorance at the same time?

Jonathan Rowe said...


One purpose is because Jefferson, J. Adams, and Franklin were self conscious "unitarians". I think Washington and Madison were as well (but admittedly, the evidence is less clear). And lots of other important but lesser well known Founders or influential related figures (from Mayhew, to Priestly to Story to Marshall) were unitarians.

So I want to clarify what it was they believed.

One thing I've noticed is when I inform folks of the unitarian dynamic who aren't well studied in the literature, they automatically associate that term with today's UUs.

I think both Barton and Throckmorton, in their own ways are trying to clarify the Truth there. Throckmorton gets it more than Barton.

Jonathan Rowe said...

Angie: Also I'm not trying to dismiss UUs of today as irrelevant. I think they do a lot of good work. And I'm open to their claim to the mantle of Founding era unitarianism. I just see them as less necessarily "theistic" than the unitarians and universalists (and uus) of the Founding era were. Charles Chauncy or John Adams were Christian-unitarian-universalists. Are today's UU's "Christian" in a way that Chauncy and Adams were? It's an interesting question to which I don't have the answer. They are arguably less "Christian".

Tom Van Dyke said...

And I'm open to their claim to the mantle of Founding era unitarianism.

Some modern UUs make that claim, but mostly they have legal possession of their churches after a schism in the 1800s. The joke in New England is that the Congregationalists kept the faith, the Unitarians got the furniture.

From the official UU site:
Atheists are people who do not believe in a god, while Agnostics are people who think that we cannot know whether a god exists. Both groups are welcome in Unitarian Universalism.

Today, a significant proportion of Unitarian Universalists do not believe in any type of god.