Why am I a Unitarian?

The Unitarian: A Monthly Magazine of Liberal Christianity, Volumes 5-6
Oct 1890


Because I could not, honestly, be anything else.

The creeds or formulated doctrines of other Christian sects contain articles or passages which I do not believe.

“Do you, then, believe all the doctrines commonly taught by Unitarian teachers?” I may be asked.

Perhaps not, but there is this difference between the Unitarian and other Christian churches: the other churches make belief in their opinions a condition of membership; the Unitarian church does not; at least, the Unitarian church is much more hospitable to freedom of thought and much more tolerant of the differences it engenders than other churches are or can be.

Not that Unitarians are indifferent to the beliefs and practices of their brethren in the church. They are not. If such matters were of no consequence to them, all the positive value of their existence as a distinct body would be gone. But they are more patient with honest difference from their standard opinions than other sects are.

Such differences of opinion unless issuing in overt acts which destroy the very purposes for which all true religions exist, i. e., Worship and Virtue, are not made a reason for the denial of church fellowship among Unitarians.

Unitarians emphasize personal character. They are tolerant of differences in belief; but they insist on upright character and righteous living. This, with the divine blessings that attend it, constitutes the only salvation or safety of man, here, or hereafter.

Unitarians use the Bible without abusing it. They accept its testimony about itself; and, as it nowhere claims to be verbally inspired, they see no reason to believe that it is.

“Every Scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for discipline which is in righteousness.”

This is the statement of the revised version of the second letter to Timothy, and this is a good statement of the Unitarian view of inspired writings, wherever they may be found. Thus, Unitarians are able to read the various books of the Bible with discrimination, and, so used, they find much of it profitable in the way just described.

Unitarians believe in the undivided Unity of God and not in any Trinity in the Godhead. They believe in Jesus as the Christ or anointed one, i. e., the divinely chosen revealer of spiritual realities. The Holy Spirit, as Unitarians believe and teach, is God’s Spirit in its moral and spiritual influence upon men’s souls—not a third person in a divine Triad.

The Unitarian view of retribution or recompense is best expressed in the language of Paul in his letter to the Galatians. “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap. He that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth unto the spirit, shall of the spirit reap eternal life.”

Death on the one hand, Eternal Life on the other; but not Eternal Punishment in the sense of never-ending suffering.

No authority could make such a doctrine as that credible to Unitarian believers. It contradicts the Fatherhood of God, and is therefore inconsistent with the fundamental faith of Unitarian Christianity.

Unitarians believe in the divine capacity of human nature: that the human is only perfected in its oneness with the Divine.

They look upon themselves and the present race of mankind as the latest result of a long process of upward tending life on this earth, and they believe that the process will go on and lead men to higher reaches of character and influence.

As to church organization, Unitarians believe in a church where all are brethren and where all are equal in dignity and in their rights in the church. They accept Jesus’ law that there should be no lordship among Christians, but that service or ministry should be the way of true greatness among Christian disciples. The unit of the Unitarian church is the individual, not any society, conference, presbytery, or parish. All such associations, wherever formed, may be “helpers of our joy,” but must not have “dominion over our faith.”

It is because I approve of these principles and enjoy the freedom and comfort they give, that I am a Unitarian. I would that all other men who are ready to profit by these views and practices and are almost persuaded to be Christians after this pattern, were not almost but altogether such as I am; excepting the bonds of individual weakness and shortcoming, for which Unitarianism is in no way responsible, and of which its noble faith and humane energy are doing their best to relieve me.

George L. Chaney.
Atlanta, Ga.

Source:  The Unitarian found in Google Books October 1890, Volumes 5-6, Page 476 – 77

Posted in Chaney, Ministers, The Unitarian

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