This sermon is number 4 in a series of 14
Strongholds Shaken - Part 4
by David Legge | Copyright © 2004 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
I want you to turn with me for an introductory reading of Scripture to 1 Corinthians, Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians chapter 1. Of course, as we have stated, we're looking this evening at the subject of 'Unitarianism', and let me just say - we will be touching on this as we go through tonight's study - that Unitarianism is commonly known in our province in the form of the denomination titled 'The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Ireland'. Maybe you have seen that name, or that sign outside buildings, and you've wondered what it is - well, you'll know by the end of this evening what they believe, and they are termed also as 'Unitarians'.
Let's read the Scriptures first of all, and we'll only take two verses of chapter 1 of 1 Corinthians. Paul asks rhetorically: "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of the thing preached", the Gospel, "to save them that believe".
Maybe you have come into the building tonight asking the question: who are the Unitarians? Well, you may not know this, but there are many prestigious names of history that are among those who class themselves as Unitarians. On the first slide up here on the screen you will see the five past presidents of the United States of America who classed themselves as Unitarians. If you look up at the far corner in the left you will see John Adams, and then if you look at the far right you will see John Quincy Adams, in the middle is the famous Thomas Jefferson, over on the left in the bottom corner Millard Fillmore, and over here on the right bottom William Taft - all of them Unitarians. Then when we turn to the literary world from politics, we find out that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - most of you have heard of Longfellow - and also Ralph Waldo Emerson and the famous Charles Dickens all classed themselves as Unitarians.
There have been no less than eight US Supreme Court Justices who classed themselves as Unitarians; and some famous women have also been Unitarians, including the lady of the lamp, Florence Nightingale; and several famous scientists, not to name any less famous than Charles Darwin and Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, were Unitarians as well. Under the umbrella of the title 'Unitarian Universalists', the members of Unitarianism comprise approximately 25 percent of those who are listed in America's Hall of Fame. Not just famous politicians, famous literary writers, famous scientists, famous Justices in the courts, but also 25 percent of America's Hall of Fame classed themselves as Unitarians.
Now let me give you a definition of what a Unitarian is by the mouth of two Unitarians whose statement is found on the Unitarian web site of St Stephen's Green Church in Dublin. It's defined by Paul Murray and Andy Pollock, and they write this: 'Unitarians are people of liberal religious outlook' - now please remember that - 'who are united by a common search for meaning and truth. Although of Christian origin, and still following the teaching of Christ as a great and godly leader, Unitarianism today also seeks insight from other religions and philosophies. Individual beliefs within our religious community are quite diverse, and personal religious development is seen as a continuing process. Unitarianism has no set doctrines or dogmas. The broad beliefs of the Irish Unitarians are summed up in the introductory statement in the Dublin Church's monthly calendar under the three central Unitarian principles of 1) Freedom; 2) Reason; and 3) Tolerance'. The statement reads like this, I quote: 'Love is the doctrine of this church, the quest for truth is its sacrament, and service is its prayer. To dwell together in peace, to seek knowledge in freedom, to serve mankind in fellowship, to the end that all souls shall grow in harmony with the Divine; thus do we covenant with each other and with God'.
This is a little form of so-called Christianity in our world today, we'll see later on that it's far from Christianity, but it is the epitome of all Christian liberalism. Practically it is meted out in their belief in no absolutes in the moral realm. In fact, not only is it morality relative, but all truth is relative in Unitarianism. That means there is a tolerance of various alternative lifestyles that we see in our world today in our modern contemporary age and culture. Lifestyles such as homosexuality; views such as radical feminism; practices such as abortion on demand are all condoned under the umbrella of the religious so-called Christian organisation 'Unitarianism'. Not only are these practices condoned and justified, but all religious beliefs are allowed as legitimate under the umbrella of Unitarianism.
Now that may come as a shock to many of you who have passed doors with signs above them 'Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland' - that they should believe such things, and should condone such immoral and unbiblical practices in our modern age. Perhaps one of the reasons why we have so easily been duped here in Ulster is because we're so familiar with denominations in not just Ireland, but in Scotland, that call themselves 'Presbyterian' - there is a plethora of them. Here in Northern Ireland alone there's the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, there's the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, there is the Reformed Presbyterian Church, there's the Free Presbyterian Church. Then if you go over to Scotland there are many more, and there's the 'Wee-Frees' and others that we could name tonight - so whenever we see a sign over a door entitled the 'Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Ireland', we assume that it's just another of the same. But then we are really surprised when we hear what they believe, and what they propound as the beliefs and tenets of their faith.
So let's look in more detail at Unitarianism, and specifically in our context of Northern Ireland the 'Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church'. Let's look first of all at their history. Now, if I can give you a short history lesson, during the plantation of the North of Ireland, you will know from your ancestry that the great number of Scots came to settle in this province of Ulster. During the first half of the 18th century, among those Scottish Presbyterians, there began to be a reluctance to accept the doctrine of the Trinity - that God is one, but that God is in three persons, one God but three persons. That view, that doubt and scepticism regarding the doctrine of the Trinity, expressed itself in religious thought and religious writing among the Presbyterian denomination. Now that viewpoint was not yet called 'Unitarianism', but that's what Unitarianism believes - it's not 'Trinitarianism', it's 'Unitarianism', in other words that God is one person and one person alone, that being the Father.
This doctrine that had arisen in the church was not new under the sun. If you care to read church history you will find that it found its embryo very early in the early church from a church father called Arius. Arius taught, along with other fathers such as Origen, that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not God, did not claim to be God, and we should not believe that He is God. He taught that the Lord Jesus was not one substance with divinity. Now we would have to say that that doctrine did not get much air outside, because right away the church at large rejected outright as heresy the Arian doctrine that our Lord Jesus Christ is not God. If there's any Church of Ireland people here, or even Presbyterians, you will probably be more familiar than some people in the Hall here with the Nicene Creed. It was at the Council of Nicea in AD325 that Arius' teaching on the non-deity of the Lord Jesus Christ was outrightly rejected by the church of the Lord.
So that movement that propounded that the Lord Jesus Christ was not God did not gain any real impetus until the time of the Reformation. The next slide that you see is a man called Servitus, he was a Spaniard and he was also an Arian in his belief. He lived from 1511-1553, and he is considered by many as the founder of Unitarianism in continental Europe. He denied that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and he wrote a strong polemic against the doctrine of the Trinity entitled 'On the Errors of the Trinity in Seven Books' - seven books trying to prove that God is not three in one, it was published in 1531. He asserted, I quote 'Your Trinity is the product of subtlety and madness, the Gospel knows nothing of it'.
Now, as you can imagine, just as I'm stating such things tonight in a Christian audience, during the Reformation times such statements and writings brought swift condemnation from the religious authorities of the day. This man, Servitus, had to flee to France, and stayed in France in exile, and even had to change his name. For several decades he escaped inquisition, only to be later executed by the reformer John Calvin in 1553 - you didn't know, perhaps, that Protestant Reformers also executed people as martyrs as well as Catholics putting Protestants martyrs to death. That is part of our history, perhaps, that is less to be desired - but nevertheless, it is accurate. Another who contributed to this early Unitarian doctrine was Faustus Socinus 1539-1604. He believed that the Holy Scriptures should be interpreted rationally, not so much a need for faith, but a need to understand and reason and rationalise the Scriptures - and therefore he believed that God, in essence, was one, only God the Father.
Now that is the roots, if you like, of Unitarianism. They would look back to Arius in the early church, who believed that Jesus was not God, but really the embryo of their beginnings can be found just after the Reformation, or during the Reformation period, in these two individuals. When we come now to look at the history of Unitarianism in Ireland, you see that this is a more modern concern in relation to church history, for the actual word 'Unitarianism' was not coined and came into common usage until 1770 when a former Anglican minister named Theophilus Lindsey began to teach again that there was no Trinity, and that the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ was some doctrine enforced upon the church in later years and was not the true belief of the Christian church. He started again to openly espouse Unitarian doctrine, and he founded a Unitarian chapel in central London. The next man that you see on your screen was one of the earliest members of that church, the scientist Joseph Priestley who actually was the discoverer of oxygen.
Now when we come and move from London here to Ulster, we find that Ulster Presbyterians, just like all orthodox Christians, were absolutely astounded and alarmed at these heretical views concerning the person of the Lord Jesus and the authority of the Holy Scriptures. They were even more alarmed when they found that these doctrines were gaining root in some Presbyterian churches, some of the oldest churches in County Antrim and County Down - incidentally, where many of the Unitarian churches still reside. Their leaders didn't know what to do. They came together, they deliberated over this matter of false doctrine, and they decided that the only response that was really necessary and had to be made was a new subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith. You can see up here on the left the Westminster Confession of Faith in a modern edition; this is one of the originals from which the Longer and Shorter Catechism with scriptural proofs has come; and this is Westminster Abbey in the middle, where the Westminster Confession of Faith was authored. It took place in 1643 when the English Parliament decided that, I quote 'Learned and godly judicious divines should meet together in Westminster Abbey in order to provide advice on issues of worship, doctrine, government and church discipline'.
Now the Church of England did not adopt the Westminster Confession of Faith, although it was many Church of England divines who authored it; but many of what became known as the dissenting reformed Protestant congregations, Presbyterian and other reformed free churches, adopted the Westminster Confession of Faith, as it were, as their confession of doctrine and belief. Now immediately these ministers and godly men in Ulster decided that there was needing to be a subscription once again to the Westminster Confession, these liberal ministers that were beginning to espouse Arian doctrine here in Ulster were in an uproar. They were unhappy with these views of the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, in the year 1726, John Abernethy, who was also the leader of the so-called 'New Light Movement', along with 16 other ministers, refused to sign the Westminster Confession of Faith. They refused, in other words, to subscribe to the doctrine; and they and their congregations were subsequently expelled from the Presbytery of the Synod of Ulster. Now that was the birthplace of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland.
Irish Unitarianism was also strengthened by the influence of a great American Unitarian, William Ellerly Channing. He was a preacher and a writer in Boston, Massachusetts; and the reason why I refer to him is that he has had one of the greatest impacts on American Unitarianism - where it thrives more than anywhere else in the whole world. In fact, in his day he had a great influence on Harvard Divinity School and other US Protestant seminaries - he turned them to liberal thinking. Now here we come to a great Protestant reformer in our modern age here in Ulster, for the battle was not lost with Arianism in Ulster Presbyterianism, but in the 1820s and 1830s the Conservative Northern Ireland Presbyterian leader, the Rev. Henry Cook, came to the fore. Henry Cook took upon himself to fight Arianism in Irish Presbyterianism. He said himself that he wanted to rescue Irish Presbyterianism from, I quote 'The bog of indifference and moral laxity' - and Irish Presbyterians could be doing with some men like that today! Under the influence of those Arian views, he wanted to save those churches from orthodox Christian extinction.
Cook's energies didn't just limit to the North, but he also went into the south of Ireland, he did not confine himself to Ulster - from his work, I believe anointed by the Holy Spirit of God, there were only two churches, and still are only two Unitarian churches in the south of Ireland today - one in Dublin at St Stephen's Green, and the other in Cork. Let me just update you on the situation of that one church in Dublin today, this is the Unitarian church in St Stephen's Green in the city of Dublin, and the congregation testifies up-to-date to now to having somewhat of a kind of revival on their hands in recent days. Their Sunday morning congregations have risen from 15-20 to 62-80, and they testify that many young Roman Catholics and other people from nonreligious backgrounds 'are searching' - this is what they say - 'for a new form of spirituality in Ireland, the Ireland of the Celtic Tiger'. In other words, they are searching for a modern Christianity that will fit in and conform to their reasonable rational mind.
There are currently 32 churches in Northern Ireland, Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Unitarian churches. If you look at the next slide, you will see up here on the left, that is one of the churches here in Ulster, that is the Crumlin church, over here is the Moira church, down here is Killinchy Church, and this is the Rosemary Street church which I think is the oldest Presbyterian Church in the whole of Ireland - it was established in the 1600s, 1644, and that church was erected in 1783. On the next slide, most of you will recognise that one, it's only round the corner! It's only round the corner, and that is the Mountpottinger Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church on Castlereagh Street. There's only two churches in the Republic, and in Northern Ireland and the South of Ireland there are about 4000 members, 20 ministers, both men and women clergy - and the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Ireland, and please mark this, it's astounding, is a member of the Irish Council of Churches. Now you will be gobsmacked, when you hear tonight what they believe, how they could be a member of the Irish Council of Churches. Other members of the Irish Council of Churches, I hasten to add, are the Church of Ireland, the Methodist Church in Ireland, and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland along with others.
Now let's broaden it out for a moment to talk about Unitarianism worldwide, because although individual Unitarian churches are autonomous - that means they rule themselves - they are linked together by a general assembly and by a united group called 'The Unitarian Universalist Association'. They link together, and in 1995 there was approximately 195 of these congregations in Britain; in the Commonwealth countries, in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa there were estimated to be 15,000 Unitarians - whereas there are estimated to be as many as half a million Unitarians in America today. Unitarianism also can be found in Romania, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, West Germany, and even in India. I am told that they are growing at a four percent rate annually. The church in Britain is a member also of the British Council of Churches, and Unitarianism worldwide is a member of the World Congress of Faiths.
Now we're going to come to look at what they believe, and if the statement that I give you from the St Stephen's Green church in Dublin is not enough to take the breath from your lungs, here is another one that is an official publication of the general assembly, if you like, of Unitarianism; and they're trying to define for us - not my words, their words - what Unitarianism is. Listen carefully: 'Unitarianism is a liberal religious movement arising out of Christianity'. Many Unitarians today - if I can just say in parenthesis - will not claim now to be Christians in the traditional sense. It goes on: 'expressing itself largely, but not wholly, in Christian forms and terms' - they're not restricting themselves to the definitions and doctrines of Christianity. It goes on: 'and in the spirit of the man Jesus' - the man Jesus. 'It is a liberal belief in rejecting the ideas of a unique and final revelation of truth, and it trusts men to discover and believe as much as they can for themselves. It is a religious movement inasmuch as it has churches, and a ministry, and ways of worship; and it is glad to remain Christian where it can, but glad also to discover other truths and beauty and goodness in other faiths and other lives. Unitarians know of no better man in religion than Jesus of Nazareth, but they believe that there have been others like him in the past, and that there will be others like him again in the future'.
I think that you can see right away that the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church in Ireland is far from Presbyterian, let alone far from Christian. So I want to take a deeper look at this, and spend some time in doing so, what Unitarianism teaches. Now although it does not have a set group of doctrines and a taught dogma, they do have beliefs and general tenets of faith that this whole umbrella of Unitarianism right around the globe adhere to.
Let's look first of all at their belief concerning deity, God. What do they say about God? Well, in their name they confess right away that they believe in one God - well, we agree with them there - but they believe that that one God has only one personality, and that personality is expressed in the Father. Do you know something? Modern Unitarianism today has reached such a stage that several people in it believe that no human language is adequate to define God at all. Of course, we believe that too in one sense, we can't define God otherwise He wouldn't be God - but some Unitarians have found it even helpful not to use the word 'God' at all. They're not sure what God is, who God is, so you're better to leave God out of this religion. Seems very strange, doesn't it?
Why do we believe in a triune Godhead? I hope, perhaps, in the not too distant future to do, if you like, the transverse of what we have been doing in these weeks and actually lay down the fundamentals of our faith, and go into it in great detail that we don't have time to do these evenings. Let's just turn for a moment to Genesis chapter 1 to just make a few marks on the Scriptures regarding this doctrine of the Trinity that we believe in, and that the church historically has propounded. Genesis chapter 1 and verse 26, and I know that some of you were using these verses last week with the Mormons: 'And God said, Let us', notice the plural, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image'. Some people say: 'Well, this is the angels talking with God, and God to the angels' - but it says in verse 27: 'So God created man'. We are not created in the likeness of angels, we are made in the likeness of God.
When we turn to another scene in chapter 11, we see that the plural is also used of God, here is the Tower of Babel - and man, a bit akin to Unitarianism, and confusing cults and false faiths in our world today, is trying to get to God on their own terms. It says in verse 7: 'Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech'. Verse 8: 'So the LORD scattered them abroad' - not angels, not seraphim or cherubim, or any other supernatural being - God said: 'let us', in the plural. 'Elohim', in the Old Testament Scriptures is a plural name for God. Now let us come to the New Testament for a moment, if we turn to Matthew 28 we come to what has been commonly called the baptismal formula of the Christian church. Some other false cults tell us, and sects of pentecostalism incidentally, also Oneness Pentecostalism found in the Church of God - not the Brethren form, but the Pentecostal form of the Church of God, the 'Oneness Movement' here in Ulster - teach that we should baptise in the name of Jesus, but here we find clearly taught, the Lord's instruction is in Matthew 28 verse 19: 'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost'. Now I want you to note that it says 'baptising them in the name' - singular, one name, but that name is expressed in three personalities: Father, Son and Holy Ghost. That is the essence of the Trinity: one substance, all God, very God, but expressed in three persons.
There are many other Scriptures I could show you this evening, we don't have time to do it. Let me give you something that helps me in remembering some verses that shed light on the doctrine of the Trinity - they're all three first chapters in the Holy Scriptures in the New Testament. The first is John 1, John 1 verse 1: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' - the Word being Christ, the logos, the expression of God. In verse 14: 'the Word became flesh and dwelt among us', the Word was with Him and the Word was God, John 1. Hebrews 1, God says: 'unto the Son, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever'. Revelation 1, God is described as Alpha and Omega, and as you go down that chapter and later on in that book, you find that the Lord Jesus is also described as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last - and can there be two firsts and two lasts? There cannot be! Those are Scriptures that allocate divinity to the Lord Jesus Christ, none other greater than Thomas' confession as he falls at the feet of the risen glorious Lord Jesus Christ, and he says: 'My Lord, and my God!'. 'Great is the mystery of godliness', Paul says to Timothy, 'God manifest in the flesh' - I could go on and on, 'the fullness', Colossians 1, 'of the Godhead bodily dwells in Christ'.
But what of the other Scriptures that point to the Lord Jesus Christ, referring to the Holy Spirit? What of His baptism in Matthew's gospel chapter 4, when He is in the water a dove-like creature comes down from the sky and a voice is heard from glory of the Father saying: 'This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased'. Three persons, but there is one God - has Moses taught the people to say, inspired of God, 'Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one God' - we believe in one God, but we believe in the scriptural doctrine of the Trinity, and if God pleases I'll expound it in more detail in days that are yet to be.
Let's look at what they teach as Unitarians concerning the Bible. Well, they teach that man is to be guided by his individual conscience - isn't that a very dangerous teaching? When we consider that Jeremiah says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and we know everything that the fall of man has wrought upon the old human nature - but Unitarians teach that man is to be guided by his own human reason, that is the source which is to be believed - you! Now, they will admit that the Bible is a helpful guide, and it does contain religious insights and wisdom, yet they reject the Holy Scriptures as God's Word inspired and God-breathed. In fact, they go as far as to say that this is one of many divine books, it's not the only holy book in the world. The writings of Buddha are holy, and Mohammed, and Confucius, and many others - they say that God is continuing to reveal His truth today to pure people and good people. There is this idea of universal inspiration in life in some kind of abstract way, in the order and beauty of nature, in moral standards and neighbourliness and charitableness all around. Those good spiritual desires that you have, those human aspirations in love for what is good and pure, that is how God speaks today.
Is that what God's word testifies to? Turn with me for a moment to Isaiah chapter 8 - and let me say that you should take these Scriptures down, because all of these have reference to all of the cults and the false religions that we'll touch upon these evenings - Isaiah chapter 8 verse 20, God says: 'To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word', not 'my word in nature, or human conscience, or rationale, or aspiration', but 'this word, the law and the testimony: and if they speak not according to it, it is because there is no light in them'. It doesn't matter if they call themselves the organisation of 'New Light' or not, it makes no difference, God's word is clear.
Now come to John 17 and look at the words of the Lord Jesus as He prays to His father, verse 17, speaking of His people, praying for His church, He says: 'Sanctify them through thy truth' - what is His truth? 'Thy word is truth' - God's word is the only truth. We read at the very beginning of our meeting in 1 Corinthians 1:20-21 that testifies that the wisdom of this world, the wisdom of reason and human rationale and intellectual aptitude, is not how God reveals His truth to men - but God reveals His truth through the foolishness of the message preached: that is, Christ and Him crucified. Foolishness to the Greek, a stumbling block to the Jew, that's why they couldn't grasp it in all the religious wisdom and intellectual rationale. If we were to turn to 1 Corinthians, on from chapter 1 - there should be more pages rustling than that now, don't fall asleep or get lazy - 1 Corinthians chapter 2 and verse 14, this is an absolute contradistinction to what Unitarianism teaches: 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned'. If there was ever a proof that those who espouse Unitarian doctrine are not saved and cannot be such, it is this: because they have rejected the true gospel, and they have chosen man's wisdom over God. That is what they believe concerning the Bible, yet the Bible - this is the very ironic thing about it - they actually use the Bible on many occasions to prove some of their doctrines, yet in the next breath they tell us that the Bible really can't be relied upon and it is just another holy book.
Let's look thirdly at what they teach concerning the person of Christ. I have tried to teach you each week that one of the chief marks of a cult is when you ask them: 'What think ye of Christ?', they have a blasphemous, sacrilegious, denigrating view of our blessed Saviour. Unitarianism does not fail on that count either. They teach, as you have heard, that the Lord Jesus Christ was and is only a man. They teach that He should not be worshipped, in fact they say He is an example - a good one at that - and He has even shown us what man can be if he listens to God and follows God's Spirit; but they say that the Lord Jesus Christ is only one of many great leaders in the world. John Mendelsohn is a respected Unitarian minister, and he has stated these words - now listen carefully, I quote them verbatim: 'I am willing to call myself Christian only if in the next breath I am permitted to say that in varying degrees I am also a Jew, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Stoic, an admirer of Zoroaster, Confucius and Socrates'. Dr Carl Jowarski (sp?), another Unitarian minister, has put it like this: 'Unitarians do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah either of Jewish hope or Christian fantasy' - they state it from their own mouths! They're not ashamed of it! Yet there are Christian churches and denominations in our land that are fellowshipping with such Satanic darkness!
What does God's word say about the Lord Jesus? Turn to Matthew 16, I hope you're taking these down, Matthew 16:16 - and this is the truth on which the church of Jesus Christ was built, Jesus said: 'Whom do men say that I am? Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias' - and He says to Peter: 'Who do you say that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God'; and Jesus retorted: 'Simon: flesh and blood', human wisdom, 'has not revealed this unto you, but my Father which is in heaven. I am the Son of God!'. John 5 verse 18: 'Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God' - the Jews understood it, He was claiming to be God's Son. If He was claiming to be God's Son, He was claiming to be in essence God! When we turn to John 10 we see it again in verse 30, He says: 'I and my Father are one'. In John 14:6 He claims that He is the way, the truth, and the life - and the Greek is in fact, not 'a way', not 'a truth', not 'a life'; but 'the way, the truth, the only life' - for no man can come to the Father but by Him.
When we move from the person of Christ to the work of Christ, His death, we see that Unitarianism does not believe that man needs a mediator. Man does not need a saviour, because man intrinsically is good, they believe in the innocence of the little child therefore they don't need to believe in some kind of sacrificial death or substitutionary atonement - that's why many Unitarian congregations don't observe communion. Those that do observe communion, all it is for them is a mere remembrance of the life and teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet what does Romans 3:20 tell us? Man does need a Saviour, man does need a Redeemer, it tells us 'for by the works of the law shall no man be justified'. Look to Ephesians 2 for a moment, Ephesians chapter 2 and verse 13: 'But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Jesus'. Now in His life He fulfilled all the law, praise His holy name, and He had to do such if He was going to be our Saviour, but the atoning work was at Calvary, not at Gethsemane, at Calvary where He shed His precious blood for us. Look at verse 18: 'For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father'. First Peter 3 and verse 18 says how He as the just, justified the unjust, and brought us to God by His precious blood - but they denigrate the blood, they don't believe in the blood! Yet without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, the Scripture is clear on that one.
Then we move from the death of Christ to the resurrection of Christ and, wait for it, they interpret the resurrection of Christ as the resurrection of Christ's deeds and Christ's thoughts and teachings living on in the lives of other people all throughout history. Just us thinking about Him, and talking about Him, and teaching about Him - in fact, there's no physical or spiritual resurrection of the body of the Lord, or of ourselves. Yet in Luke 24 verses 5 and 6 the angel said: 'Why seek ye the living amongst the dead? He is not here, He is risen as He said!'. What about 1 Corinthians 15, we can't not turn to this chapter, 1 Corinthians 15 verse 4: 'he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures' - can you get any clearer than that? And then when you move to verses 17 to 20, this is the outcome if He didn't rise: 'And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins'. Unitarian, if you're here, you're still in your sins and you'll never get out of them unless you believe in the crucified and risen Saviour! 'Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished' - our dead loved ones are gone, they're lost if there's no resurrection. 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable' - you're miserable! - 'But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept'.
My friends, I think you can see clearly that Scripture contradicts what Unitarianism teaches. What about the Holy Spirit? Well, they believe the Holy Spirit is the influence of Christ's teaching today in our world upon people, or they also believe variantly that the Holy Spirit is the way of revealing Himself in our lives - our lives take a change, well, that's the Holy Spirit. He reveals Himself through the joys and through the sorrows of life in some strange abstract way, or alternatively the Holy Spirit is the power beyond us, that source of divinity that is moving behind everything in the universe; but He is not a person, and why would He need to be there as a person if man doesn't need to be saved, if man is essentially good, he doesn't need to be regenerated and changed, and be made a new creature in Christ, he doesn't need to be sanctified! Yet Psalm 51 verse 5 says that we were born in iniquity, we were shapen in sin: 'Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me'. What did the Lord say in Matthew 15:19? 'Out of the heart of mankind proceeds evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, blasphemies', on and on and on. Romans 3 and verse 10 testifies the same, that there is no difference, Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. John 16:7 tells us the Lord Jesus said: 'I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him' - a personality - 'unto you'. Acts 5:3 and 4 that I've told you about before, Ananias and Sapphira, they lied, it says, to the Holy Ghost, and it also says that they lied to God - because the Holy Ghost is God, and He is a person and He can be lied to.
What about when we come to salvation? What do they teach concerning this? Well, they are called 'Unitarian Universalists', and they believe ultimately that everybody will be alright in the end, because they believe all faiths are equally valid schemes and systems to bring us to God, and Jesus belongs to a class of great saviours of mankind - yet what does John 10:9 say? Jesus said: 'I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture'. What does the apostle say in Acts 4 and verse 12? 'Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved'. What did Paul say to the desperate Philippian jailer? 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved'.
Now I want you to witness tonight the arrogant commentary of Unitarian man in all of his rationale and intellectual aptitude in response to Acts 16:31: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus'. This is what Mendelssohn, John Mendelsohn, said in response to Paul's answer: 'Here was the trap of authoritarianism on which the orthodox Christianity would run from Paul's day to our own. It did not occur to Paul' - mark this - 'that the jailer might have some thoughts and insights of his own worth probing and nurturing. Paul saw no reason whatsoever for encouraging the man to think, to use his own mind, to exercise his reason, to ponder the experiences of heart and conscience for satisfying religious answers. Paul said none of the words that might have moved Christianity in the direction of freedom and personal responsibility, instead he uttered a dogma. He said, in effect, this is not something to discuss, to weigh, to test by the experience, no, this is something you simply accept' - praise God! It wasn't to be doubted, it wasn't to be discussed, it wasn't to have human wisdom to augment it - it was to be accepted! Well, this is his finishing retort: 'Unitarian Universalists will have none of it!'. Well, if you have none of it, you will have none of Christ's salvation!
What about the future? Well, some of them believe in personal immortality, some of them believe we live on in the deeds and thoughts that we have left behind in the memories of others, some just don't know - but ultimately they don't believe in heaven, they don't believe in hell, even though it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment - Hebrews 9:27. Many other Scriptures, I have to leave you with them tonight: Job 19:25-26; Matthew 25:46; John 5:28, telling in verse 29 as well about the resurrection of the just unto life, and the resurrection of the damned unto eternal perdition. What did Job say? That on that day, his flesh that had been eaten by worms would stand and see God, his Redeemer who he knew was alive.
Even when it comes to prayer, our next point, and the supernatural; they believe prayer is just something that affects ourselves. It changes ourselves so that we become better people, so that we become an example to others and in turn change others. Let me say that it is worrying to me, although I agree that probably prayer changes us, maybe more at times than it changes things, there is a worrying trend in sceptic evangelicalism today that suggests some kind of fatalism that God does not answer prayer and change things! Scripture says it does, yet Unitarians don't like praying in Jesus name, because we don't need a mediator; yet Scripture says we ought to pray in Jesus name - the Lord Jesus in John 16:23 said whatever you ask in His name according to the Father's will, He would give it. First John 5:14 says that our confidence is that because we pray through the Lord Jesus, He - the Father - hears us.
Can I say, just like many of the cults that we have pondered these last few weeks, they are full of good works at times - there were some lovely gentleman that we were discussing these matters with last week in the Mormon faith, polite, full of good works, seemingly gracious in their approach. Unitarianism is extremely charitable, it's full of kindness, it fights for the freedom of others at times, even against the doctrines that we would believe and the practical morality that we would espouse - yet they are fighters for freedom and justice, and peace and tolerance, but whatever they are they are far from Christian! In fact, they are a non-Christian cult with liberal humanistic attitudes, liberal humanistic beliefs and practices - and I declare on the authority of God's word that 'Unitarianism' as a term, and the term 'Christian', are mutually exclusive by their definition, Christianity is Trinitarian; by their history, Christianity is historically rooted in the orthodox faith and the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, His person and work and the apostles' doctrine. It is mutually exclusive in its theology that we have heard tonight.
W. P. Nicholson, that great evangelist and revivalist of a bygone age here in Ulster was preaching in the Assembly Buildings down in the centre of Belfast. He came in his preaching message to touch upon the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. As he preached on the subject, he remembered that there was a bookshop below him, and of course in his own imitable and even a little ignorant way, he said: 'And as for that accursed bookshop down the stairs, you couldn't even buy a book on the blood'. From that came the evangelical bookshop that we have today on College Square, but he ended that meeting that particular evening by saying now we're going to sing 'There's Power in the Blood'. He told the deacons to open all the doors and all the windows of that building, and he said 'Sing it at the top of your voice, and let those unbloody Unitarians on Rosemary Street hear you sing it!'. That's what we're going to do tonight. There's another hymn that goes like this:
'I need no other argument,
I need no other plea:
It is enough' - if you're not saved tonight you need to know this, if you're a Unitarian, if you belong to any other religion or cult that does not tell us that salvation is found in Christ and in Christ alone, you need to hear, listen:
'It is enough that Jesus died,
And Jesus died for me'.
Hallelujah! The blood will never lose its power! I might lose my power, and this church might lose its power, your denomination might lose its power, but Jesus never - glory to His name!
Lord, we thank Thee tonight for a mighty Saviour, sin-destroying, Satan-overcoming, world-defeating Saviour who alone has power to save, seeing He ever liveth. O, dear God, we thank You that we rest upon that Rock, Christ Jesus, but Lord tonight if there's one that is resting on self, or resting on some sacrament, or resting on some system, that Lord You would give them the light of Your Spirit to see that the Saviour alone can save them from sin, and can take them to heaven. O God, would You move tonight in our midst, make it clear and plain that they must be born again. We exalt and praise, as we close this meeting tonight, the wonderful name of the Lord Jesus Christ in whose name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth tape in his Strongholds Shaken series, titled "Unitarianism" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word. The inclusion of Images and diagrams in this transcript is done without intention to breach any copyright restrictions. If this has been done in any instance, please contact us and we will willingly remove the offending item.
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