Archive for December 4, 2011
Cults in Culture: Unitarian Universalist – A Multiple Choice Religion (Part 6) By Gabrielle DevenishPosted: December 4, 2011 in The Christian Post
A multipart series on religious groups commonly associated with Christianity
Which road leads to God?
For the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the answer is any, all or none of the above, theologians assert.
According to John Ankerberg, president and founder of The Ankerberg Theological Research Institute, UU followers have varying ideas about God. They “believe anything or nothing: one is free to be atheist, pantheist, polytheist, agnostic, deist, theist or even Satanist,” Ankerberg writes in his website post on UU theology at www.johnankerberg.org.
“God is usually defined as a more eastern mystical entity – an ultimate spiritual consciousness. It is difficult to nail down a specific nature of concept of God in UUA [teaching],” Branch said.
“They can believe in any gods, as long as they’re not supernatural,” agreed Fred Miller of True Light Educational Ministry in Shirley, N.Y.
Therefore, UUs deny Christianity by default, at least in the orthodox understanding, Miller told CP.
“They are anti-Christian. Everything we believe in, they don’t,” he stated.
Branch agreed. “Any religion like orthodox Christianity that says there is one is essentially false [to a UU believer],” he said.
Unitarian Universalism actually has its roots in Unitarianism – denial of the Trinity – “principally in relation to negating the deity of Christ,” Jim Beverley, professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale University, told the CP.
In the 1500s, theologians Michael Servetus and Faustus Socinius merged Unitarian beliefs with universalism, belief that all faiths can lead to salvation, he explained. The religion came to the United States around the 18th century, with notable UU leaders including John Murray and Joseph Priestley, and quickly rose in popularity, attracting people such as Susan B. Anthony and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The noncommittal beliefs of the UU religion seem to attract social and scholarly figures, Miller agreed. Presidents John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Howard Taft ascribed to a UU faith. Paul Newman, Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles Darwin were all UU followers, and recently, according to Wikipedia, notable UUs include Christopher Reeve, Kurt Vonnegut and Pete Seeger.
Unitarian Universalists claim to be compatible with Christianity, but they deny the basic tenets of Christian, pointed out Kurt Goedelman, founder of Personal Freedom Outreach, in an email to The Christian Post.
Unitarian Universalists “deny the Trinity, deny Jesus is the incarnation of God and deny there is any eternal punishment,” agreed Paul de Vries, president of New York Divinity School, in an email to the CP.
Branch’s apologetics website also notes that UU followers hold a works-based view of salvation.
Miller said that UU followers believe that the Bible, as a whole, is not true.
However, de Vries said “many of their concepts come from the Bible – but they pick and choose what they like.”
“They claim the Gospel writers were not honest because they were trying to make Jesus God and therefore, were untrustworthy,” agreed Miller.
And Ankerberg pointed out, “The UU view of the Bible is that it is an entirely human product, a result of the thinking of fallible and sometimes ignorant men.”
“They do not believe in any spiritualism or any deity or the hereafter,” said Miller. “They don’t believe in any supernatural,” and “They believe that there is no sin – man is naturally good but if you want to be better, you have to do it yourself,” he said.
While the UUA maintains a low profile – “they don’t go door-to-door,” Miller noted – it is attractive to many.
“It is an easy belief, with no commitment and no serious theology, and a Santa Claus god,” said de Vries, “… everyone goes to heaven anyway.”
A fitting religion for today’s culture.
As R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote in his essay on hell for the 2004 compilation book Hell Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment, “For millions of persons in the postmodern age, truth is a matter of personal choice – not divine revelation.”
“A secular worldview that denies supernatural revelation must reject Christianity as a system and truth-claim,” wrote Mohler, who posted part of his essay “Doing Away With Hell – Part One” on his March 8 blog post.
“At the same time, it seeks to transform all religious truth-claims into matters of personal choice and opinion. Christianity, stripped of its offensive theology, is reduced to one ‘spirituality’ among others,” he highlighted.
Other UU beliefs pose dangers as well. “It denies the sinfulness of man and his need for a Savior, thereby denying the Word of God,” said Goedelman.
De Vries said, “If everyone goes to heaven anyway, regardless of how bad they are, then Jesus’ death on the cross for us is totally meaningless.”
“If you don’t believe in the hereafter, where are you gonna go?” noted Miller.
But the biggest danger from the UU movement, Beverley said, is “the tragic denial of the deity and centrality of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.”
“This danger is compounded by the slow erosion of emphasis on God and increased adoption of many paths to God,” he added.
Miller noted that UU followers “are very difficult to witness to because you don’t know where each individual is coming from – there are so many differences.” But Christians can still approach them with the Gospel. He said people tend to leave the church because “there’s a lot of confusion and lack of spirituality.
Beverley said this is an open door to reaching UUs.
“The UUA is a relaxed, gentle religion so evangelical Christians should match UUA members in love and gentleness. We can encourage UUA members to rediscover the historic Christ of the New Testament. The earliest Christians were overwhelmed by his claims and miracles which pointed to his divinity,” Beverley said.
“On the subject of hell, the most important notion to express is the value of the truth that God will one day deal with evil and wickedness. At the same time, we should watch our penchant for making judgments about who does and does not go to hell. That is one of the major weaknesses in conservative Christianity. While Rob Bell goes too far the other way, a warning still stands from Jesus: ‘Judge not that ye be not judged,’” he said.
Editors’ note: This is the sixth story in a multi-part series examining cults, Christianity and belief systems that claim to be Christianity. The Christian Post will be looking at several belief systems that are commonly associated with Christianity and providing expert opinions and research on those belief systems. While the CP recognizes the issue of semantics when using the words “cult,” and “Christianity,” for our purposes, we are defining those belief systems outside of Christianity whose proponents claim to be Christian to be “cults.”