Beware: The Fundamentalists Are Coming!
— Sunday, June 1st, 2003 —
Don’t say you haven’t been warned. One of America’s oldest denominations is moving toward a dangerous right-wing fundamentalism. The grassroots are mobilized to fight valiantly against this “conservative resurgence” of intolerant confessionalism, but the forces of theological oppression are on the move.
But this isn’t the latest liberal hysteria about the Southern Baptist Convention. Instead, this controversy is brewing within the nation’s most tolerant religious groups-the Unitarian Universalist (UUA), a group so inclusive that it includes everything from Zen Buddhists to atheist humanists to Wicca priestesses. The denomination’s liberal base is up in arms about what they call “creeping creedalism” coming from the group’s headquarters.
No, the UUA is not about to affirm biblical inerrancy-or even biblical relevance. They are not about to affirm salvation through Christ alone-or even salvation in Christ at all. Instead, the left is worried because the denomination’s president suggested their churches might consider the possibility of talking about an old concept called “God.”
As soon as UUA President William Sinkford told The New York Times of his suggestion, he quickly qualified it. Unitarians don’t necessarily need to use the word “God,” he contended, but they at least should affirm something religious-whatever that is. After all, Sinkford noted, this “God” language is “tender territory” for his denomination. But even that is too much for many in the denomination’s churches. One church member told the Times that the Sinkford suggestion “makes me feel that atheists are less welcome in Unitarian Universalism.” The Times noted that Sinkford’s initiative led to a revolt among the denomination’s large “humanist” wing-as Internet sites immediately warned of “creeping creedalism” in the church.
The controversy in the UUA is, in many ways, unique. Mainline Protestantism is still okay with the word “God”-even if biblical terms for Him like “Father”, “King,” and, for that matter, “Him” are increasingly out of fashion. But the Unitarians have something to teach us about what a “creedless” denomination really looks like. The Unitarians started off by uniting together on what they didn’t believe-the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. Their anti-confessionalism now has led them to its natural conclusion. The only thing they have in common is what they don’t believe-and that has grown to include more and more. Now the denomination’s churches are little more than social clubs for those who don’t have anything else to do on a Sunday morning than to listen to lectures on the Oprah Winfrey book club or the correct way to weave an authentic “dream catcher” for the bedpost.
And so the Unitarians ought to teach our churches something about the culture in which we live. Almost any confession of belief is going to be seen, by somebody, as “fundamentalism.” Any claim to conviction-no matter how anemic-is going to be labeled, by somebody, as “oppressive.” And yet, Scripture says that the church is identified-not by a vague reference to an undefined “God”-but by a confession of the God and Father of Jesus Christ, a God who has revealed Himself in His Word (2 Tim 2:8-14). It is little wonder that biblical Christianity stirs such opposition. And yet, biblical Christianity claims to offer something that cold, bloodless liberalism cast aside long ago. It deals with the hard truths that generic “spirituality” tactfully avoids-sin, righteousness, and judgment. And it holds out something the religious left has ridiculed from the beginning-new life in the Messiah of God.
That might be unpopular, but it is very good news. Let’s pray that the world–and even some in denominational office buildings–might turn to Christ, and find the kind of life a generic “God” can never give.