Unitarianism eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 50 pages of information about Unitarianism.
‘Persons’ in One God—­Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—­’Persons’ with different:  functions, but all equal and co-eternal.  The Eastern (Greek Orthodox) Church differs from the Western (Roman Catholic) in holding that the Third Person ‘proceeds’ from the Father alone; the Western adds—­’and from the Son’ (filioque).  The full dogma as given in the ‘Athanasian Creed’ is not thought to be earlier than the fifth century; debates as to the ‘two natures’ in Christ, and the ‘two wills,’ and other abstruse points involved in the dogma, continued for centuries still.  At an earlier period discussion was carried on as to whether the Son were of the ‘same substance’ (homo-ousion) or ‘similar substance’ (homoi-ousion) with the Father.  The latter view was held by Arius and his party at the Council of Nicaea, A.D. 325.  Athanasius held the former view, which in time, but only after many years of controversial strife and actual warfare, became established as orthodox.  The Arians regarded the Son, as a subordinate being, though still divine.  Another variety of opinion was put forth by Sabellius (c. 250 A.D.), who took the different Persons to be so many diverse modes or manifestations of the One God.  This Sabellian idea, though officially condemned, has been often held in later times.  Socinianism, so far as regards the personality and rank of Christ, differed from Arianism, which maintained his pre-existence, though not eternal; the Socinian doctrine being that the man Jesus was raised by God’s approving benignity to ‘divine’ rank, and that he thus became a fit object of Christian ‘worship.’  The Humanitarian view, finally, presented Jesus as a ‘mere man,’ i.e. a being not essentially different in his nature from the rest of humankind.  Modern Unitarianism, however, usually avoids this kind of phrase; ‘all minds,’ said Channing, ’are of one family.’

THE EARLIER MOVEMENT IN ENGLAND

I. THE UNITARIAN MARTYRS

The rise of any considerable body of opinion opposed to the cardinal dogma of orthodoxy was preceded in England by a very strongly marked effort to secure liberty of thought, and a corresponding plea for a broadly comprehensive religious fellowship.  The culmination of this effort, is reached, for the period first, to be reviewed, in the writings of John Locke (1632-1704).  This celebrated man, by his powerful arguments for religious toleration and his defence of the ‘reasonableness’ of the Christian religion, exerted an influence of the most important kind.  But we must reach him by the path of his predecessors in the same line.  The principles of liberty of thought and the broadest religious fellowship are warmly espoused by Unitarians, and they look upon all who have advanced these principles as in spirit related to them, however different their respective theological conclusions may have been.

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Unitarianism from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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