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Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Can a fundamentalist be a unitarian?

I had never come across a Unitarian ad on Google until this afternoon. But now that I've scouted out the Biblical Unitarian Web site (apparently launched earlier this week) and its parent, Christian Educational Services, I am here to tell you that you can be a unitarian and a fundamentalist at the same time! (But you'll have to believe these doctrines.)

(They're not the first, however. The Jehovah's Witnesses have already managed the trick — as I realized from reading a copy of the Watchtower a year or two ago that featured Francis David and the court of King John Sigismund in Transylvania. Talk about two groups you never quite expected to claim shared roots . . .)

Which leads us to ask what distinguished Unitarian Christianity circa 1819 (the historic Unitarian tradition) from the biblical unitarianism of our fundamentalist friends. I find a theme or pattern in much early American Unitarian writing that one can call "liberal" or "modernist" or some other term that locates a significant degree of revelation in the contemporary world and in the exercise of human thought. That notion appears to be missing from "biblical unitarianism," but it has been cultivated (and occasionally perverted) into the defining feature of Unitarian Universalism.

The Biblical Unitarians are not a variety of "classical Unitarianism." Their perspective is a variety of bibliolatry. But do check it out.

Update 8.14.03. Wait, you say, wasn't William Ellery Channing a biblical inerrantist? And how did nineteenth-century Unitarians interpret the Bible, anyway? Some selections from the Philocrites archives . . .

Copyright © 2003 by Philocrites | Posted 13 August 2003 at 5:41 PM

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4 comments:

Philip Voerding:

October 15, 2003 02:10 AM | Permalink for this comment

Besides the Christian Educational Services, there are other groups that exist today, some of them dating back a few centuries.

Although there probably haven't been any actual Socinian "Polish Brethren" around for a few centuries, there are still those who use the Racovian Catechism, which describes the Bible as inerrant. Although I believe the Seventh Day Baptists are Trinitarian these days, in the 18th century, they were Unitarian. However, the Unitarian Seventh Day Baptists did have an influence on the Adventist movement in the early to mid 1880's, and their influence still continues.

Out of the Adventist movement came several different groups. There were Unitarians among the early Seventh Day Adventists. The Church of God 7th Day separated early on from the Seventh Day Adventists because the COG7D did not accept Ellen White as a prophetess, and has always remained a very small denomination. Out of this same stream came the Christadelphians (Brethren in Christ), a nearly identical group called the Church of God Abrahamic Faith (COGAF), and the Church of God General Conference (Faith of Abraham)(COGGC). These groups are Unitarian, and believe the Jews would return as a nation to the Holy Land. The only major difference I can see between the COGGC and the other two groups is that the COGGC believes in a personal Satan, whereas the other two do not.

Another leader to emerge somewhat later out of the Adventist movement was Charles Taize Russell.
He founded the Watchtower Magazine, and his books were used by independant local groups called Bible Students. It is not fully accurate to say that Russell was the founder of the Jehovah's Witness. After Russell passed away, Judge Rutherford took over the Watchower Society. He later renamed the group the Jehovah's Witnesses, and gave the group its authoritarian Church Government. During the time of Rutherford, several local groups of Bible Students, perhaps as high as three-fourths of the total number (according to the Bible Students) broke away from the Watchtower. However, although most of these groups still exist today and still use the writings of Russell, they were never able to grow in the same way because the Bible Students were not as centrally organized as the Watchtower/ Jehovah's Witnesses. I know of the Associated Bible Students, the Free Bible Student, and I believe the Dawn Bible Students are a separate entity also. Russell believed that people who did not understand the Gospel would have a chance to understand in the Millenium, and that most would be saved in the end. This teaching I believe has been discarded by the Watchtower, and other teachings have been introduced since the time of Russell and even Rutherford. Both the Bible Students and the Jehovah's Witnesses are Unitarian Subordinationists (a form of Arianism) in that they believe the Father is the Eternal God, and that Jesus Christ is the human incarnation of the Archangel Michael. Only the Father is worshipped.

Herbert W. Armstrong who founded the Radio Church of God in the early 1930's (which later became the Worldwide Church of God) originally started as a Church of God 7th Day ordained minister, but soon was on his own. Armstrong, however, came to teach the Binitarian view, that the Godhead is made up of two eternal Divine Persons, the Father and the Son. Some of the Church of God 7th Day came to believe this view of the Godhead in the 1990's. At the same time, the Worldwide Church of God became Trinitarian, which caused the formation of a myriad of splinter groups. Some of the smaller groups adopted Unitarian Subordinationist and even traditional Unitarian
views.

One group that had its beginning in the early 1990's is the Christian Churches of God (CCG). Although the group is not very large, its main scholar, Wade Cox, has influenced some of the smaller WCG spinoffs. I don't believe Wade Cox was ever a member of the WCG, but the CCG shares similar view points - 7th Day Sabbath and Annual Feast Days, a benign form of Anglo-Israelism, etc.
They differ in other ways, such as the calendar, and the Godhead. The CCG is Unitarian Subordinationist but believes the Angel of YHWH, not the Archangel Michael, became incarnate as Jesus Christ. I may be mistaken, but I believe Wade Cox is a Universalist, although one does not have to be a Universalist to be a member of the CCG. Some of the most popular study papers at the CCG website are The Elect as Elohim, The God We Worship, and The Angel of YHWH. Angels are Elohim, that is, created sons of God who operate by the authority of YHWH, the eternal God. The Elect are the 144,000 who will be leaders in the millenium and beyond, and who will teach the non-elect the true Gospel so that they may be saved. Also, Wade Cox seems to believe that the Quran and very early Islam is compatible with the Bible if the Bible is used to interpret the Quran.

Christian Educational Services (CES), by the way, is an splinter group from The Way Ministries, which I believe has a different name these days, and which is Unitarian. I have come across other small groups (some that are just a bible study which meets in homes) who have also broken off The Way Ministries and are also Unitarian. CES sells many good books on Unitarianism, both classic works such as the Racovian Catechism, and their own publications such as One GOD, One Lord.
Selling books is just one portion of their ministry.

Someone who is a Unitarian, and an ex-Christadelphian, has a website that includes a copy of John Biddle's Catechism (contemporary with the Racovian Catechism, but used by Unitarians in England). I don't have the website URL with me, but the site can be found using a search engine, doing a search on John Biddle's Catechism.

Lastly, I wish to say that my studies in Comparative Religion have led me away somewhat from New Testament Christianity, but I still have a Unitarian view of God and so I can appreciate all the biblical Unitarian groups I mentioned above.

gigi:

December 3, 2005 08:30 PM | Permalink for this comment

To Phillip:
I'm currently interested in the Unitarians from their traditional (biblical) roots. You mentioned above, "Someone who is a Unitarian, and an ex-Christadelphian" with a website. Would you be referring to either of the following and if not, could you allow more information, as the Biddle google didn't reveal anything I could see was referencing what you refer to.

Juan Baxieras at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Olympus/5257/apatrist1.htm

or

David Heintzman at http://www.harvestherald.com

Thanks.
GiGi

jason:

January 13, 2006 08:07 PM | Permalink for this comment

gigi, i believe the site you are trying to find is...

ALLON MAXWELL'S HOME PAGE

http://home.pacific.net.au/~amaxwell/

its an exellent site and Mr. Maxwell is well learned in his field of religion.

sincerely,
jason

fausto:

May 20, 2006 08:32 AM | Permalink for this comment

Those Biblical Unitarian ads have been popping up on B'net for a couple of years. They also sell their books on eBay.



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