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Uniterianism

 

What

I understand what the meaning, but I have heard different interpretations of it.

Could someone share there view point and or the common view points?

 

Who

Other than the "American Uniterian Conference," what other denominations believe in Unitarianism?

 

Thank you

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Unitarianism has a great history that I think is relevant to Progressive Christianity. The Unitarians emerged in the 1800’s as the “liberals” of their day. Originally they remained a part of other denominations but were united in their opposition to Calvinism based upon moving away from Biblicism and the divinity of Jesus. The name Unitarian developed in opposition to theologies dependent upon Trinitarian ideas. There were church splits between the liberals and the orthodox involving fights over church properties, etc (anyone see history repeating itself?) and out of this developed a new denomination. Although they had much to agree on the Unitarians (like all liberals?) soon found much to disagree on. A popular movement within Unitarianism was called Transcendentalism closely identified with Ralph Waldo Emerson and Theodore Parker. These folks espoused a religion based upon direct intuition of God and worked against uniformity of beliefs. I personally love reading Theodore Parker who argued that the orthodox beliefs such as the biblical miracles, the inspiration of scriptures, the divinity of Jesus, etc were “transient” rather than permanent or necessary parts of Christianity. Also Parker seemed to fit the modern “liberal” role by becoming very involved in social reform and antislavery movements and was called a “political radical”.

 

The “nontheistic” Unitarians started to embrace the Humanist movement and unfortunately did not listen to my other favorite Unitarian James Luther Adams who was very sure that being human was not equal to being divine. He recognized the tragic as being central to religious experience. He questioned the “atomistic individualism” of religious liberalism (he is talking to us folks).

 

In 1961 the Unitarians merged with the more theologically conservative Universalists who did believe in universal salvation but were more orthodox than the Unitarians. Since then the Unitarian Universalist movement has basically cut itself off from its roots and has become a group without much of a Christian connection. There is a small Christian group within the UU world.

 

Therefore you can learn much more about Unitarianism by its history because there is very little Unitarian “presence” left. But it is a rich history that certainly can be used by the present/future Progressive Christian movement.

 

I suppose anyone that rejects the trinity as a meaningful concept and sees the divine as some form of unity could be called a present day Unitarian but since the UU world sits on the Unitarian name without giving it any meaning I am afraid the term Unitarian may be lost to our generation. So we can take this rich history and call ourselves Progressive Christians.

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In Between Trinitarianism and Bibical Unitarianism: Divinatarianism (homoousios arianism)

 

In the views of Christianities, there is widley popular trinitarianism in which Jesus is viewed as God. Then there is what has come to be termed as Bibical unitarianism in which Jesus is viewed a not God but the highest reflection rather than incarnation of God who become Savior when he rose from the grave and sat at the right hand of God. Bibical unitarianism is vastly different from simply unitarianism, in which most UU Christians embrace the idea that Jesus is not Savior nor God's Son but simply a positive spiritual teacher. But there is yet another view of Christ. I call it divinatarianism, in which like with bibical unitarianism, Jesus is viewed as the highest refelction of God rather than incarnation. Jesus Christ is viewed as savior, but believes that Christ had a pre-life in heaven before being born on earth in human form. They believe Christ was the first being that God created directly, and that through Jesus, God created all other things, and as such Jesus is divine in nature because of this.

 

The History

 

The Arian controversy began in 318 at Alexandria when Arius, a presbyter accused the Alexandrian bishop, Alexander of teaching heresy. The response of Arius was to emphasise the distinct hypostasis of the Father and the Son and that the Son wassubordinate to the Father, and of a different essence and called a god rather than thee God. Because this doctrine gained quick popularity and was causing disunity in the empire, Constantine called the first Church council at Nicea in 325 in an attempt to resolve the issue. It was here that the Deity of the Son was upheld and the formula 'of one substance' (homoousios) with the Father was applied to Christ and accepted by the majority. Arius and those who had followed him were banished to Galatia and Illyricum.

 

Although the council of Nicea appeared to have succeeded in overthrowing Arianism it did by no means bring it to an end but merely drove it underground. This was seen only months after Nicea when two leading bishops, Eusebius of Nicomedia and Theognis of Nicea, enlightened the Emperor to their dissatisfaction of the creed of 325 and withdrew their approval of it. Just prior to his death in 337, Constantine, influenced by the Arian party, was baptised as an Arian by Eusebius. After his death Constantine's three son's, ruled the empire. Constantine II and Constans shared their rulership in the West while Constantius became Emperor of the East. Although the exiles were permitted to return, it soon became apparent that the new political situation in the East favoured Arian Christology. However, Arianism had never really managed to flourish as successfully in the West because there was less fear of Sabellianism, and the formula "One God in three Persons" was common and in harmony with Nicene Christological thinking. Political unrest emerged in the West between the two Emperors and continued until the death of Constantine II in 340. Despite a further exile to Rome in 339 Athanasius was eventually allowed to return to Alexandria in 346 when Constantius became more moderate in his Arian convictions due to the influence of Constans.

 

From the death of Constans in 350, Constantius reigned as sole Emperor and through him a determined effort was made by his Arian advisors to bypass the Nicene doctrine with a formula that proclaimed the Son to be clearly subordinate to the Father (The Blasphemy of Sirmium 357). The belief known as homoousios, as a form of arianism that believed the Son was unlike the Father in all things, and of a different substance. They argued that while He could be called God in a sense, this was merely used to describe His connection and activity with the Father. But unlike Arius they believed that the Son did possess a form of divinity insofar as he was active in creation. This section of the anti-Nicene party, who were to become known as Anomoeans, or extreme Arians, succeeded in getting their thoroughly subordinationist creed established in the East, and was enforced violently in the West. Part of the formula that they proposed is as follows: "For it can be doubtful to none that the Father is greater than the Son in honour, dignity, splendour majesty, and in the very name of the Father, the Son Himself testifying "He who sent me is greater than I." The creed also goes on to say that the Son is "subordinated to the Father."

 

The Homoeans emerged and reasoned that the Son was 'like the Father in all things'. Some in this group, such as Ursacius and Valens were extreme Arians who supported the Anomoean agenda when they could, but generally tended to avoid any discussion on the subject of the homoousios so that they would not have to define what they really meant by their statement 'like the Father.' Others in the Homoean party objected strongly to the Anomoean statements about the Son and declared Him to be born of the substance (ousia) of the Father; but yet not God. Basil of Ancyra emerged as the leader of the group who became known as Homoiousians when in 358 he gathered together a synod and proposed the term homoiousios to describe the Son as being of 'like substance' to the Father including His essential being (ousia). With this proposal, the Homoiousians affirmed that the Son is to be considered next to the Father, not as a mere created being; but at the same time they avoided being misunderstood as Sabellians because they stressed a distinction between the Father and the Son. This managed to win the approval of the Emperor from the Anomoeans. Although the Homoiousians were initially opposed to both the Arians and the Nicene party their new term undoubtedly meant a significant move towards the view of Nicea.

 

Constantius, seeking reconciliation between the anti-Nicene groups called twin councils at Arminium and Seleucia in 359. At these councils the term ousia was rejected and it was argued that although both homoousios and homoiousios had no Scriptural warrant the term homoios did, and meant the same as homoiousios. By 360 bishops in both East and West had completely rejected the term homoousios as being unscriptural. This was the situation which instigated Jerome to write, "The whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian".

 

With the death of Constantius, Julian the Apostate permitted all exiles to return and work out any differences theologically rather than politically. With this opportunity Athanasius gathered a synod in Alexandria in 362 and to the surprise of Julian there was mutual understanding between the various groups. The synod was a great success for Athanasius, although he was exiled again by Julian for a brief period afterwards. Gonzalez observes how the Christological issue of the synod of Alexandria also opened discussion regarding the Spirit. Although the majority of bishops had by this time accepted the divinity of the Son in one way or another, there were some among their ranks who insisted that the Spirit was not coequal with the Father and the Son, yet professed the deity of the Son. Although after the council of Nicea Arianism had continued to grow, it was inevitable that its apparent success as a Christological doctrine would be short lived. Every time the Arians expressed their doctrine in its most extreme form the Christian conscience would react strongly against what was regarded to be an attack on the true honour that was due to Christ.

 

Common Misconceptions about Divinatarinism (homoousios)

 

One well circulated and widely held misconception is that homoousios arianism is held only by Jehovah's Witnesses or Mormons. Perhaps this is because JW's have written so many well cirulated materials in support of the subject, such as the booklet "Should You Believe In The Trinity?". However, in my personal research I have found many individuals on Beliefnet from different Protestant churches who also embrace homoousios as bibical fact.

 

 

Adoptionism

 

Christ was a fully flesh-and-blood human being, not pre-existent or, for most adoptionists, born of a virgin. They teach that Christ was not born the Son of God, but was adopted as such at some point later in his life (his baptism, his resurrection, etc.) Christadelphians, Abraham Faith Church of God (Open Bible church).

 

Arianism

 

The belief that Jesus was the first of all created beings, pre-existent but eternally subordinate to God, being of different substance from the Father (heterousios). Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Laymen's Home Missionary Movement, Epiphany Bible Students.

 

Semi-Arianism

 

The belief that the Son was “like” (homoiousios) the Father but not of one substance (homoousios) with him. The two words being distinguished by a single “i” led to the popular expression, “It makes not an iota of a difference.” ????

Monotheism (Serial)

 

In American Church history, the Protestant majority has remained Trinitarian chiefly by practicing serial monotheism-focusing now on one, now on another member of the Holy Trinity. Apparently this is a practical accommodation to confusing Trinitarian terminology that can be avoided if one does not try to talk about all three persons in one breath.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dowley, T. The History of Christianity rev. ed. Oxford: Lion Publishing, 1990.

 

Frend, W.H.C. The Early Church. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985.

 

Gonzalez, J.L. A History of Christian Thought, vol. 1, 3rd printing. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1970.

 

Hughes, P. A History of the Church, vol. 1. London: Sheed and Ward, 1979.

 

Jackson, F.J.F. The History of the Christian Church to A.D. 461. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1965.

 

Jedin, H. History of the Church, vol. 2. London: Burns & Oates, 1980.

 

Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Creeds, third ed. London: Longman Group Ltd., 1972.

 

Kelly, J.N.D. Early Christian Doctrines, fifth ed. London: A&C Black, 1989.

 

Newman, J.H. The Arians of the Fourth Century. London: Longmans Green and Co., 1909.

 

Williams, R. Arius Heresy and Tradition. London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1987.

 

 

 

Biibal Unitarians Articles:

 

http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/modules.php?name=Top

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