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Friday, October 10, 2008

Baptist Unitarianism?

I found the following journal article -- God in Three Persons: Baptist Unitarianism and the Trinity by Curtis Freeman -- linked from Wade Burleson's blog. It is originally from Perspectives in Religious Studies, the Journal of the National Association of Professors of Religions, Volume 33, Issue 3, Fall 2006.

I've just begun to look over it, but it seems like an interresting read. In the beginning, Freeman starts by looking at some
Trinitarian/Unitarian controversy among English Baptists. Do modern Baptists have problems with Trinitarianism/Unitarianism? What is you view? What is your experience?

4 comments:

Jim1927 said...

Harry Emerson Fosdick, a famous "Baptist" preacher was a unitarian, and I recall a couple of preachers in the Baptist Convention, in Canada, who were unitarian back in the 50's.

Cheers,

Jim

R. L. Vaughn said...

Jim, in my own experience I have never run into any out-and-out unitarians among common Baptist folk. I have read of some. OTOH, I had a preacher friend whose explanation of the Trinity could easily be taken as his believing in three different Gods!

I just finished Freeman's "God in Three Persons" last night. It is a very interesting read that I would recommend. This seems to be something he finds very bothersome, but, IMO, he overstates the case. Two things he notes: (1) Evangelicals tend to be "Unitarians of the Second Person", and (2) most Baptists are Unitarians that simply haven't gotten around to denying the Trinity.

It is mainly this second point that I see as overstated. But perhaps my running with common Baptist folk as opposed to acadamians skews my perspective. To me it seems that most Baptists (that I know) accept the Trinity as a cardinal theoretical doctrine, but find it an incomprehensible mystery that has little practical effect on their faith and practice.

I found his points about the lack of Trinitarianism in Baptist hymnals to be interesting. It would seem that a denominational hymnal like the SBC's Baptist Hymnal would have made a little more conscious effort to include the doctrine of the Trinity. I think his inclusion of William Walker's Southern Harmony in the discussion is somewhat irrelevant in that Southern Harmony is a tunebook rather than a hymnal -- much more concerned with the presentation and preservation of tunes than any systematic presentation of theology.

Jim1927 said...

Try this letter written by Fosdick.
http://www.religion-online.org/showchapter.asp?title=583&C=794

Fosdick taught at the Chicagi Divinity School where I took my doctorate. He also taught at Union Seminary in New York. Liberal of the liberals.

Cheers,

Jim

R. L. Vaughn said...

I pretty much consider Fosdick a heretic across the board.

Thanks for the link.