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What's The Difference

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As you can probably surmise, I consider myself a Transcendentalist. I am also considered a Deist (which I may be) by many of my friends at the United Deist Church. I can no longer use the "Christian" label with any honesty because of my inability to accept a personal God, the trinity, the divinity of Jesus, miracles....


It appears, from reading your website, that many of you share these same beliefs, but feel comfortable with the Christian name. What is the difference between a Progressive Christian and a Deist? Or, for that matter, a Unitarian?


Is it more of a cultural thing? :unsure:


I am very much interested your replies.


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Re: " What is the difference between a Progressive Christian and a Deist? Or, for that matter, a Unitarian?"


Well, to my mind, Deism is the notion that there is a supreme being/deity who created the universe but who then steps back to watch it all unfold. The old image that comes to mind is that of a "cosmic watch maker" who creates the watch, winds it up, and stands back to allow it to unwind without intervening in it in any way. Contrary to what many Right wing Christians are asserting, many of the early "founding fathers" of the U.S. held deistic beliefs about God.


In contrast, Christianity, even progressive Xty, views God as very involved with the affairs of creation. Spong and certain other self-identified progressive types may state that they no longer believe in a traditional theistic God who "intervenes" supernaturally in our lives (via miracles, etc.), however, they do seem to conceed that God is actively involved in our lives. Process theologians would say this is a given; i.e. that for every event that transpires in time, God has an "initial aim" (or preferred range of options) for what should happen next - to the exent that a creature chooses one of those preferred options to actualize, their action is in sync with God's will, to the extent that it isn't - it is sinful/deviant of God's will.. and so on and so on - kind of like God trying to be the lead partner in a cosmic Divine-Human (and other creatures) dance.



Re: Unitarians, as I understand it, the original Unitarians were self identified Christians who simply denied the doctrine of the Trinity as being essential to proper Christian belief (Thomas Jefferson being an example). A little while ago, the Unitarians merged with the Universalists and are know the U.U. denomination. I've heard that U.U.s on the East Coast (of the U.S.) tend to be more likely to identify as being Christians and those on the West coast tend not to - instead preferring a "cafeteria/smorgasbaord" approach, picking and choosing from what catches their fancy from among the many world's religious traditions.

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BrotherRog, I need to challenge your reply on two accounts.


Deists are now a much more varied group than the definition that you offer (sort of like the changing definition of Christians ;) ). That definition describes the Classical Deist (like your orthodox Christian), but says nothing about the Deists who believe in God's intervention. There are several varieties including Panendeists, Taoist Deists, Process Deists, Intuitive Deists..... They all can be found at The United Deist Church.


There is also a growing number of Unitarians who wish to separate themselves from the UU churches. Many identify with Jesus and use the Bible as their primary religious source. They share many, if not all, of the Progressive ideas that you mention. Their website can be had at American Unitarian Conference.


I honestly see little difference between the three groups.


Not to sound offensive, but..... if he aint' the messiah, then why use the term Christ?




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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi, Transcendentalist, what a fascinating question. I have been thinking around this subject for a long time during what has been a pilgrimage back from what i thought was atheism to what I can now say confidently is Christian faith.


Like you, I don't believe God is a 'person' a humanoid, deciding intelligence 'out there' making laws for the earth, getting angry, chucking peole into hell, etc. I beilieve God is what we call the Universe, the energy behind the creation of the cosmos and of tiny insects, of glaciers, and iof the human imagination, which is all we have to experience God. For a ,.ong time I couldn't use the word 'God' because of its connotations with the old man in the sky.


So Why 'Christian'? because I believe the story of the life and resurrection of Jesus is a supreme image of the fulfilled life we can live when we resolve our divided natures. It is a story rich in mythology and legend and tells us so much about the peole who compiled it over the years. itis a wonderfully useful part of our heritage. I can read the Bible and accept the metaphors and legends, and the profound human truths they express.


I believe everyone has a right to form their own beliefs. As you can see mine are raher 'sea of faith' and Cupitt, by way of John Robinson and David Jenkins, with a dash of pan-theism thrown in. thee are mesage boards in England where I would be burnt for saying this! So I'm glad to be here.

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