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Unitarian Overview

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Green Gaia

Veteran Member
Historic Unitarianism believed in the oneness of God as opposed to traditional Christian belief in the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Historic Unitarians believed in the moral authority, but not the deity, of Jesus. Unitarians are often identified through the ages as free thinkers and dissenters, evolving their beliefs in the direction of freedom, tolerance, rationalism, and humanism.

Throughout the world, many Unitarian congregations and associations belong to the International Council of Unitarians and Universalists. In the United States many Unitarians are Unitarian Universalist or UU, reflecting an institutional consolidation between Unitarianism and Universalism. Today, most Unitarian Universalists do not consider themselves Christians, even if they have beliefs quite similar to those of mainstream Christians.

Early origins

Unitarianism as a system of Christian thought and religious observance has its basis, as opposed to that of orthodox Trinitarianism, in the unipersonality of the Christian Godhead, i.e. in the idea that the Godhead exists in the person of the Father alone. Unitarians trace their history back to the Apostolic age, claim for their doctrine a prevalence during the ante-Nicene period, and by help of Arian communities and individual thinkers trace a continuity of their views to the present time. Whatever the accuracy of this lineage, the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century saw in many European countries an outbreak, more or less serious, of anti-Trinitarian opinion.

Suppressed as a rule in individual cases, this type of doctrine ultimately became the badge of separate religious communities, in Poland (extinct), Hungary and, at a much later date, in England. Compare to Sabellianism.

Along with the fundamental doctrine, certain characteristics have always marked those who profess unitarianism: a large degree of tolerance, a minimizing of essentials, a repugnance to formulated creed and an historical study of scripture.

Martin Cellarius (1499-1564), a friend of Luther, usually appears as the first literary pioneer (1527) of the movement; the anti-Trinitarian position of Ludwig Haetzer did not become public until after his execution (1529) for anabaptism. Both by his writings (from 1531) and by his fate (1533) Servetus stimulated thought in this direction.

The Dialogues (1563) of Bernardino Ochino, while defending the Trinity, stated objections and difficulties with a force which captivated many. In his 27th Dialogue Ochino points to Hungary as a possible home of religious liberty. And in Poland and Hungary definitely anti-Trinitarian religious communities first formed and were tolerated.

mpact and opposition

The adoption of unitarian belief almost always entails severance of identification with Christianity as it is understood by the Nicene-Chalcedonian churches (Orthodox, Catholic, and most Protestants). Unitarianism is outside of the fellowship of these traditions, subscribing to a very different idea of what Christianity really is. It has a tradition of its own, parallel to trinitarianism. In recent times, conservative Protestants of various stripes insist on trinitarian belief as an essential of Christianity, and basic to a group's continuity of identity with the historical Christian faith.

At many times, especially in Protestant history, traditionally trinitarian groups occasionally grow friendly to or incorporate unitarianism. Friendliness toward unitarianism has sometimes gone hand-in-hand with anti-Catholicism. In some cases non-trinitarian or unitarian belief has been adopted by some, and tolerated in Christian churches as a "non-essential". This was the case in the English Presbyterian Church, and in the Congregational Church in New England late in the 18th century. The Restoration Movement also attempted to forge a compatible relation between trinitarians and unitarians, as did the Seventh Day Baptists and various Adventists. The unitarian tendency in these last-mentioned groups is probably due to the in-built skepticism about Catholic history as a reliable guide to the Christian tradition of interpretation.

In other cases, this openness to unitarianism within traditionally trinitarian churches has been inspired by a very broad ecumenical motive. Modern liberal Protestant denominations are often accused by trinitarians within their ranks, and critics outside, of being indifferent to the doctrine, and therefore self-isolated from their respective trinitarian pasts and heritage. In some cases, it is charged that these trinitarian denominations are no longer Christian, because of their toleration of unitarian belief among their teachers, and in their seminaries.

From Wikipedia
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