Nothing — 14 April 2017
Eight Barriers to Reaching Unitarian-Universalists: Part 1

The past several decades have spawned a number of divisive issues that often involve religious values. The two most notable were the abortion controversy and same-sex marriage. In both of these issues, evangelical Christians have found their rights not to participate in activities related to these things severely challenged. Christian hospitals have been threatened with loss of government funds if they do not perform abortions. Christian bakers have been forced out of business (usually by liberal judges) simply for declining, on religious grounds, to bake cakes for same-sex weddings.

In all this religiously based conflict, I have noticed something about the mainline media in America. It seems that often, when they want to find someone to counter the biblically based values of conservative Christian ministers, they find either a an ordained liberal mainline protestant (usually United Church of Christ or Episcopal) clergy man or woman, or one affiliated with the Unitarian-Universalist Association (UUA) of churches.

In previous articles on this website we have discussed the ambiguous belief system of the UUA (see menu at: http://www.marketfaith.org/non-christian-worldviews). In this article and the next, we will review eight reasons why it is so difficult for Christians to reach UUAs with the truth of the Bible and the Gospel. We will, in the course of the article, suggest a few principles that may help to communicate with them. Let’s begin with the first four barriers to reaching UUAs.

1. Mostly UUAs Are Atheists or Agnostics and Reject the Trinity
The UUA is an organized religious movement with a long history in America dating back to the 1700s. In those days Unitarians regarded themselves as a biblically based (albeit nontrinitarian) Christian denomination. In 1961, The American Unitarian Church and the Universalist Church of America merged to form the Unitarian-Universalist Association (UUA) of churches. In its present state, it is fair to say that most, if not all, UUA clergy people and members still reject the Trinity, but, even more, make no claim to be Bible believing or Christian. In fact, most of them reject any kind of dogmatic assertions about the existence of a god or, if one does exist, what that god (or gods) is like.

Those who are not thorough-going atheists would likely describe themselves as agnostic. In either case, UUAs generally have a naturalistic world-view. In recent decades, however, there has been a growing number of adherents of paganism among those in UUA fellowships.

This lack of conviction about belief in God obviously makes witnessing to UUAs very difficult. It is plain that we have to start, literally, at ground zero. That is, we have to present rational reasons for believing that the personal God of the Bible does indeed exist. A good place to start is with the creation of the universe. One question for which naturalistic atheists and agnostics have no answer is how the universe began from nothing. They also cannot give a naturalistic explanation for how life began. These issues are often open doors to discussing the rationality and probability of Theism. See: Why Should I Believe?: Part 1 – Why Should I Believe in God? (http://www.marketfaith.org/2013/03/why-should-i-believe-part-1-why-should-i-believe-in-god)

2. UUAs Do Not Recognize the Bible’s Authority
As we mentioned, in the early days of Unitarianism in America, most of its adherents acknowledged the authority of the Bible. However, an increasing number of its ministers and educators (such as at Harvard University) became indoctrinated into accepting the allegations of the higher critical school of biblical study. Consequently, over time, they totally jettisoned any pretense of belief in biblical inspiration or authority. Today, the Bible is seen as just one among many ancient texts that may contain some wisdom, but is devoid of any supernatural origin.

Its easy to see how this makes Christian witness difficult. We are used to quoting Bible verses when we share Christ because most (but fewer and fewer) people in our culture still accept its authority to some extent. It requires extra time and study to show why we accept the historical and spiritual truth of God’s Word. Of course, we must also rely of God’s Spirit to open the hearts of biblical skeptics to receive its message. See: What’s So Special About the Bible? Part 1: What is the Purpose of the Bible? (http://www.marketfaith.org/what%E2%80%99s-so-special-about-the-bible-part-1-what-is-the-purpose-of-the-bible)
What’s So Special About the Bible? Part 2: The Bible’s Meaning for Today (http://www.marketfaith.org/what%E2%80%99s-so-special-about-the-bible-part-2-the-bible%E2%80%99s-meaning-for-today)

3. UUAs, Even If They Believe in a God, Reject the Deity of Jesus Christ and His Uniqueness
In early American history, most Unitarians believed that Jesus Christ was more than a meager human being. They asserted, as did the ancient heretic Arius and modern Jehovah’s Witnesses, that Jesus was a created being by the one God. They saw him as having a special place in divine history as the Messiah, but absolutely denied his equality with God.

Today, most UUAs, if they believe Jesus existed at all, and some do not, see Him as nothing more than a great religious teacher and reformer. They generally do not ascribe any kind of supernatural quality to Him. He was just one of many great world religious and ethical teachers including Confucius, Buddha, Moses, Muhammad, and many others. Many UUAs probably consider His teachings inferior to more modern philosophers and ethicists who reject divinely ordained truth.

So, again we have to explain why we believe what we believe about Jesus. We can start by introducing them to his teachings in the Gospels and explain why we they are superior to any other’s. We need to confront them with the audacious claims Jesus made about Himself. Perhaps our most important point of contention for Jesus’ divinity and uniqueness rests on the historical validity of His resurrection. We need to be prepared to present objective reasons why we believe Jesus rose from the dead. See: Why Should I Believe?: Part 2 – Why Should I Believe in Jesus? (http://www.marketfaith.org/why-should-i-believe-part-2-why-should-i-believe-in-jesus)
Why Should I Believe?: Part 3 – Why Should I Believe in the Crucifixion? (http://www.marketfaith.org/why-should-i-believe-part-3-why-should-i-believe-in-the-crucifixion)
Why Should I Believe?: Part 4 – Why Should I Believe in The Resurrection? (http://www.marketfaith.org/why-should-i-believe-why-should-i-believe-in-the-resurrection)

4. UUAs Assert That Human Reason and Science Are the Only Ways to Truth, Not Divine Revelation
One of the most famous philosophical documents of the 20th century was The Humanist Manifesto, published in 1933. That document set out a series of basic principles that most Secular Humanists of that day agreed upon, as do most today. The key elements of those principles are based on a totally naturalistic worldview. That includes the rejection of any supernatural power or forces that work in the world. It argues that only human reason and science are capable of discovering truth, and of correcting the world’s problems. One-half of its signees were Unitarian ministers.

That fact still reflects the modern ethical and philosophical beliefs of the UUA. Most UUA ministers and members do not trust in any power beyond themselves, and advocate secular humanist values. As a result, very few, if any, UUAs are conservative, ethically or politically. Many are involved in promoting progressive political activities. In recent decades much of their energy has been focused in support of LGBT issues, particularly same-sex marriage. They also strongly oppose any restrictions whatsoever on abortions.

This all shows that most UUAs reject any type of divine revelation, and books that claim divine authority. Thus they do not regard the Bible as inspired, nor any other religious scriptures – like the Qur’an, the Book of Mormon, The Bhagavad Gita, or anything else. Therefore, we must help the UUA to recognize the limitations of human reason and scientific research. Actually, many scientific discoveries made over the past fifty years point to divine intervention. Those discoveries include the overwhelming evidence that the universe was created from nothing, the fine tuning of the laws of physics in the universe, and the apparent intelligent design in the complexity of life. These are powerful verifications of the Theistic and Christian worldview.

The above are just four of the barriers we face when witnessing to Unitarian-Universalists. In part 2 of this series, we will examine four more obstacles that make it difficult to evangelize UUAs, and look at more helpful principles for engaging them in dialog.

© 2017 Tal Davis

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