UNDERSTANDING THE CULTS
In this twelve-part series we are taking a brief look at some of the major cults,
past and present, that have found adherents in the United States. Your pastor can
help you if you’d like a more in-depth study of a particular group.
Come, return to your place in the pews,
And hear our heretical views:
You were not born in sin so lift up your chin,
You have only your dogmas to lose.
—Leonard Mason, Unitarian Universalist minister
Unitarianism, with its denial of the Trinity, was present in America as early as 1784, but it really took hold when William Channing (1780-1842) preached his “Baltimore Sermon” at the ordination of Jared Sparks in 1819. That sermon was published and reprinted seven times and became the bedrock of defense for the Unitarians. Under Channing’s influence, the American Unitarian Association was founded in May of 1825. At that time, Unitarians still held a high regard for Scripture along with their heretical teachings, but this would soon change.
When the Unitarians came under the influence of Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) and other Transcendentalists, the so-called “biblical phase” of the Unitarians came to an end. Intuition replaced Scripture, and any semblance of Christianity was replaced by non-Christian philosophy and assimilation of all major world religions. Channing and the “classic Unitarians” tried to stand against the new wave, but to no avail. The highest value in the minds and hearts of Unitarians became the “complete realization of human personality and the quest for the good life here and now.”
The development of the Universalist church took place at the same time as Unitarian growth in America. Universalist churches taught that everyone would ultimately receive salvation. By the time these churches organizationally became the Universalist Church of America in 1942, “universalism” had changed from universal salvation to universal religion—a blend of various global faiths.
The two streams—the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association—came to a confluence in 1961 and formed the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). In its 1985 General Assembly, the UUA declared that it was no longer a Christian denomination but an interfaith association.
Today, many Unitarian Universalists completely deny the existence of a god. Those who do admit a god are anti-Trinitarian, deny Jesus’ divinity, and some even dispute that Jesus was a good example and moral teacher.
Unitarian Universalists believe that all human beings are inherently good with no sin or guilt. They don’t believe in a bodily resurrection, and most deny any kind of life after death. To the Unitarian Universalist, “salvation” is making this world a better place, and “hell” is the trouble one experiences on earth.
The Unitarian Universalist Association regards the Bible as a non-inspired book written by erring human authors. UUA’s guiding principles are drawn from six non-biblical sources: 1) direct experience, 2) words and deeds of prophetic women and men, 3) wisdom from the world’s religions, 4) Jewish and Christian teachings, 5) humanist teachings, and 6) spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions.
This sect’s errors are blatantly obvious but spiritually dangerous nonetheless. Unitarians offer “something for everybody.” They are a one-stop shop for whatever spiritual or humanistic view you’d like to hold and foster. Their “gospel” is that they give a safe haven in which you can pursue your personal version of truth from whatever tradition you’ve come and whatever you wish to believe.
Unitarian Universalist history demonstrates that simply holding a high regard for Scripture does not automatically lead to soul-saving truth. God and His Word must have preeminence over human reason. Then the sinner is ready to humbly listen to the voice of his Good Shepherd (John 10:27-28) and treasure His words (Luke 11:28).
The sad reality is that Unitarian Universalism will welcome anything except the one thing needful—the Scriptures and the One Whom they proclaim.
Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.