Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Unitarianism - A Pick-n-Mix Faith

Post by Graham.

I was reminded,watching Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sachs in conversation with the philosopher Alain de Botton on TV recently, of what Yewtree had said sometime ago in response to one of my earlier blogs:that heresy is not something bad at all. Lord Sachs, a man whom I like and greatly admire, spoke in a kindly but derogatory way of `pick and mix` faith, which in his eyes had little value.

De Botton had mentioned Unitarianism and obviously Lord Sachs associated our beliefs with such a faith. He mentioned the etymological meaning of heresy which is `believing what you choose`. The more I thought about this and consulted Yewtree`s comments again, the more I thought there was nothing at all wrong in this.

Religious leaders of the Judaeo-Christian tradition are always referring to free-will and what a great gift from God this is. What, then, am I doing other than exorcising this amazing gift in choosing to adopt some aspects of Christianity and in rejecting others ? I just don`t wish to opt for one particular faith and bne constrained by its dogma and doctrine but wish to be free to reject some aspects of religion I find unacceptable, wherther it be something written in the aBible or a code of practice that a particular church adopts.

If being a heretic means thinking for myself and believing what I think is right and prioper and not what others have told me to believe, so be it-I`m a heretic.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

On The Third Day

Post by Ann

An extract from the novel `On The Third Day` by Piers Paul Read

As Simon wandered first through the Christian Quarter and later amongst those of other faiths he was struck by the Universality of the faithful. He reflected with sudden joy that the Cross without the Resurrection made him love Jesus all the more, sharing with him his human fraility.Walking south, towards the Jewish Quarter, he came to the top of the steps of the Western Wall where, as always, there stood a row of pious Jews nodding and chanting as they prayed. He suddenly felt this intense warm kinship with them, he had never known before.

He had considered their frock coats, beards and ringlets so strange to him, but now he rejoiced in the sharing of the mutual strangeness, they in their costume of the Polish gentry of the 18th century and he in the habit of a medieval monk.

Both bore witness, in their eccentric attire, to their faith in the same God. The Muslims too he thought, who had occupied the Temple Mount since Saladin had taken Jerusalem, believed, like Jews and Christians, in the existence of a single God.

"The faith that sustains me", he reflected, "must not depend on the detail of a human requirement of God`s conformity. It must not be that trivial.It must be something underlying and pervading all these things- yet that does not invalidate the more particular way I have chosen to express my faith.The way I have chosen is right not because it is the way for me because it is favoured by the One I worship , but because it is the way for me."

For my God is greater than all these things.

Through the doubts that have descended upon me today I am finding a deeper faith.

And with that he returned to sing vespers in the church of St Simon Doris.

Ed Note: The Author is a British Novelist and non-fiction writer born in March 1941.A practising catholic, his work is heavily influenced by his faith. The reader will draw their own conclusions upon any parallels between the sentiment expressed above, and liberal faith. The most recent edition of this book (March 2000) for those who may be interested, is available via publishers Hodder and Stoughton.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010


Post By Ian

In my studies of early Christianity, I've come across various non-dogmatic views on the divinity of Jesus. The one which, I feel, corresponds most closely to the "original" Christianity are those of the Ebionites. The Ebionites were a 1st Century sect of Judaic Christianity, focussing on the message of Jesus without claiming divinity on his behalf. They believed he was the messiah and would herald God's Kingdom, a physical kingdom here on Earth rather than a heavenly spiritual kingdom. They practised as Jews, following the Torah and observing the festivals. They accepted Gentiles to the faith as long as the Noahide laws were observed.

In Mark, Matthew and Luke, during the baptism of Jesus by John a light descends from Heaven and a voice is heard saying "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased". The virgin birth story leads the reader of the Bible to think this is a confirmation, rather than an adoption. Without the virgin birth story, a common story in the Roman middle-east, the passage could indicate an adoption or a blessing.

So where does the virgin birth story come from? The authors, Matthew and Luke, were documenting oral infancy stories that were around at the time of authorship (between 75ad and 95ad). They both used different stories as a basis, hence the differences between the accounts, but both reference Isaiah as a prophecy of Jesus. However, Isaiah doesn't refer to Jesus and the prophecy of a virgin birth, I believe, comes from a mistranslation.

The Septuagint was the Greek version of the Tanakh in use at the time when Matthew and Luke were writing their accounts. Both accounts were written in Greek, both seem to have used the Septuagint as a source. In Isaiah 7:10-17, Isaiah points out a young pregnant woman seen across from Ahaz and himself. Before that child is grown, Isaiah says, the two kings feared by Ahaz will be gone and God will bring Ahaz's people to their ancestral house.

The virgin part of the account comes out of the translation of Hebrew in to Greek. In Isaiah, the Hebrew word used to describe the young woman is almah, which means "young woman". In the Greek Septuagint, the Greek word used is parthenos , which means "virgin". The Hebrew word bethulah is the word meaning "virgin", and is used elsewhere in the Bible where this meaning is required. It can be deduced therefore that, because, almah is used the meaning of "virgin" was not meant and the meaning of "young woman" is the one that should be read. In the Didache (the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), the Eucharist is taken thanking God for the message given through Jesus and the line of David, both referred to as "Sons of God".
Didache 9:2 First, concerning the cup. We thank thee, our Father, for the holy vine, David thy Son, which thou hast made known unto us through Jesus Christ thy Son; to thee be the glory for ever.

Could it be that Jesus is A Son of God rather than THE Son of God? David is also referred to as the Son of God (2 Samuel 7:14). The Son of God that was used as a title of the kings of Israel? The comparisons of Jesus are then with David as king, being the promised Messiah who would bring God's Kingdom in to effect and rule from God's throne, the throne of David. Not a divine god-creature, but a human - favoured by God and chosen to teach. A teacher who shows the path to God. It's up to us to follow the path he laid down and become children of God ourselves. The divine spark resides within us. It's up to us to nurture it.