UU Minute #40

What Unitarians Really Care About

John Biddle could go to the mat against anyone when it came to debating Christian doctrine. But what he really cared about was living a good life and being a good person.

Unitarians throughout our history could argue about the Trinity at great length -- and we did – but our driving passion – the flame that burned in the chalice of our hearts – was for a religion that supported us in being good and doing good.

John Calvin’s doctrine, “total depravity,” said every person is born enslaved to sin, depraved by nature, entirely unable to choose by themselves to follow God or refrain from evil. We cannot save ourselves, said Calvin, but God decides, by grace, to save some of us, though none of us deserve it. Thus Calvin was led to his doctrine of predestination – God made some people wicked and some people saints, and no one could do anything about it. You can’t make yourself good – only God can do that – and God decided before you were born whether or not you would be one of the good ones.

For us Unitarians, that has never made sense. We are not depraved by nature – instead, all of us have “inherent worth and dignity” – and together we can help each other flourish and choose to be kind. That’s what we’re all about today – and it’s what we’ve been all about from our beginnings.
“Despite all his written discourses concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Jesus, Biddle’s real concern had been for a moral and holy life. Perhaps it was this concern for piety that explains the obvious hold he had over his faithful followers. It may also explain why, with Biddle removed from the scene, his followers soon dispersed, leaving no permanent institutional legacy.” (David Bumbaugh)

NEXT: Come the Restoration (1660)

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