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Renewing Your Mind


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Cults and World Religions



Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.
UU Statement of Principles and Purposes 161

I want a religion that respects the differences between people and affirms every person as an individual.

I want a church that acts locally and thinks globally on the great issues of our time—world peace; women&s rights; racial justice; homelessness; gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender rights; and protection of the environment.
Quotes from the UU Web site

What do Unitarians and Universalists believe? Just about anything, in theory—since they have no requirements of belief—but an exhaustive survey of every fifteenth adult in the denomination shows an emerging doctrine of disbelief.

Less than 3 percent now believe that God is a supernatural being who reveals himself in human history. Just under one-fourth believe God is real but not adequately describable, while 44.2 percent think God is the natural processes in the universe.

The debate about Christ also seems to be dying out, with 59 percent no longer considering themselves Christians and a majority believing they know next to nothing about Christ.

As might be expected, Unitarians and Universalists turn out to be individualistic (but with pretty unified liberal views on politics) and have education and income well above the national average. 162

If one were to take the tenets of liberalism and create a church what would it look like?

The answer is Unitarianism.

In 1961 the Unitarian churches and the Universalist Churches merged to form the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). While the religion is worldwide, the organization is basically an American movement. In 1990, the UUA claimed a membership of about 500,000, although there are no official statistics and other estimates vary, mostly on the lower side. The most interesting feature of these churches is the lack of any complete doctrine or belief, other than, perhaps, the belief that one may believe anything. About one-in-four members claim to be Christian, while others claim to be Hindu, Islamic, Buddhist, neopagan, humanist, agnostic, or atheist. Simple logic would suggest that this cannot truly be a religion. 163

Definitional issues

“Unitarian” probably has two different meanings. The first is the belief in a single God, that is, not a Trinity. The second meaning, which has grown out of the first, is that all people are basically good. This leads to the belief that each person is responsible for developing his or her own system of beliefs and ethics.

“Universalism” is similar. At one level, it means a belief that Jehovah is the God of all people, not just the Jewish nation. At a second level, universalism represents the belief that all persons will go to heaven.

With these two very similar definitions, it is easy to see how the two church groups could merge and comfortably become one.


The history of Unitarianism or Universalism is, at best, confused. Some trace the origins to Origen, one of the early church fathers (c. 185-254.). Origen is represented as teaching that God would receive all people into heaven. Then, there is a gap until the years leading into the Reformation. John Hus, who is a forerunner of the Reformers (1372-1415) is viewed as teaching the same type of salvation message.

Others see the group known as the Monarchians (middle of the second through the end of the third centuries) as the first Unitarians. The Monarchians denied the Trinity, insisting that God cannot manifest Himself in three Persons. Then in the fourth century Arius came to prominence and effectively taught the same doctrine. As you may recall, it is the controversy with Arius over the divinity of Christ which led to the Council of Nicaea and the Nicene Creed. 164

The Unitarian Church was actually “formed” in Transylvania (1638). The group moved to England, and then, eventually to the U.S. The first true American universalist organization was formed in 1785 as the Universalist Church of America. The first Unitarian group in the country was formed around 1825 as the American Unitarian Association.

The leaders in America were Jonathan Mayhew and Charles Chauncey, who were involved in the operation of Harvard. They helped to move Harvard away from its Christian foundations. Others see Horace Bushnell (1802-1876) as the driving force behind the movement. Ralph Waldo Emerson is also seen as one of the movement’s mainstays.

Other famous Americans claimed by the Unitarians include Alcott, Bryant, Holmes, Locke, Milton, Newton, Florence Nightingale, Thoreau, John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Adlai Stevenson and William Howard Taft. The group also claims Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, and women’s right activitist, Susan B. Anthony.


Unitarians deny the doctrine of the Trinity by teaching that there is only one Uni-personal God, not the Christ nor the Holy Spirit. In fact, they may well teach that to worship Christ is idolatry. 165 As generally indicated above, the group places the Bible on the same level as the writings of Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, and similar religious books.

It is easy to see the comparison of Unitarianism and liberalism. Both hold the same beliefs about God. Unitarianism is an organized version of humanism, and nothing more. To quote Walter Martin,

Unitarianism is a product of the deification of Reason, the rejection of Biblical authority and an indescribably fierce pride in one’s ability to save himself from the awful penalty of sin. It is one thing for Unitarianism to exercise its prerogative of denial where the foundations of Christianity are involved. But it is quite another to use the Christian Scriptures and abuse numerous contexts therein in order to implement such denials. This is why not a few Christians thinkers have been led to observe that while Unitarianism may be a religion which attempts to exalt reason and rationalism, it is one in which logical consistency is conspicuously absent. 166

Indeed, in the newest edition of Kingdom of the Cults edited by Hank Hanegraaff, the Unitarians are referred to as the “one stop spiritual supermarket.” 167

Universalism in Christianity

As noted, the general concept of universalism is that God will ultimately bring all people to salvation. Some go so far as teaching that this includes Satan and the fallen angels (demons). The scary part of this definition is that it has found its way into some truly “Christian” groups. These groups view the God of the Bible as being one of love and see salvation as being delivered from eternal punishment, not from sin. Salvation is not from hell, but from sin.  There are two main camps in Christian Universalism: 168   

On paper these groups apply the right words for their statement of faith, but a close reading will show that their Jesus is a manifestation, an image, a representation of God&s essence, not One who is equal to the Father in essence. This leads to the conclusion that the Cross and Resurrection were not real. Jesus was spiritually, not physically, raised from the dead.

Unitarianism and Universalism, as a church, are clearly a cult, even by their own definitions. The real question for all these and all others is the same as Christ asked Peter . . . . “Who do people say that I am?”

Those Christians who believe in universalism fail to properly answer this question.

161. This quote and most information in this chapter comes from, unless otherwise noted.
162. Tan, Paul Lee, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations, (Garland, Texas: Bible Communications, Inc.) 1996.
163. Walter Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1965, 1977, 1985, 501, does not consider the Unitarians to be a Christian cult. He finds them to be completely non-Christian, thus, a “world religion.”
164. Fritz Ridenour, So What’s the Difference?, Glendale, CA: G/L Regal Books, 1967, 119. Irvine (Heresies Exposed, 196) also agrees the Unitarians are the outgrowth of the Arians. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, finds Cellarium, a contemporary of Luther, to be the first Unitarian.
165. William C. Irvine, Heresies Exposed, New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc. Bible Truth Depot, 1917, 193.
166. Water Marin, Kingdom of the Cults, 506.
167. Walter Martin, Hank Hanegraaff, Gen. Ed., The Kingdom of the Cults (Revised), Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1965, 1977, 1985, 1997, Electronic Edition STEP Files Copyright © 1997, Parsons Technology, Inc., PO Box 100, Hiawatha, Iowa., Appendix E.
168. Material for this section comes from




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