Yesterday morning I made a passing comment concerning a college friend of mine’s involvement in the Unitarian Church. I also pointed out that the leading historic opponents to the tenets of Unitarian doctrine were Calvinists — you know, those people who emphasize things like sound doctrine and Biblical principles. I didn’t want to leave those comments dangling, so here’s the info for those who want to pursue it.
This introductory quote is from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse, Traverse City, Michigan:William Ellery Channing (1780-1842) studied theology at Harvard. First, as minister in a Boston Congregational Church, he came to be known as “the apostle of Unitarianism.” He preferred to avoid abstruse points of doctrine, concentrating instead on morality, charity and Christian responsibilities. Denounced by the orthodox Calvinist periodical, “The Panoplist,” Channing issued several defenses of his position, the best-known being “Unitarian Christianity,” delivered at an ordination in Baltimore in 1819. In this famous speech he emphasized the unimportance of “the Trinity.”
You can see why a conflict would erupt between those who hold to the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity and those who felt it was “unimportant.” And while “morality, charity and Christian responsibilities” are all fine and good, they should not be emphasized to the exclusion or subversion of salvation by grace through faith.
So, here’s my point: Today Calvinism is often marginalized or represented as a recent novelty. Those opponents who admit to its historicity often treat Calvinism like Christianity’s ugly step-child. But, the more you know about church history, the more you recognize the indelible stamp of the Reformers on all Protestant and Evangelical churches, contending for truth and standing against the errors and contortions of fringe theologies and heretical groups. Whatever else you may say about Calvinism, its history is rich with education, thoughtfulness, and devotion to the sacred value of God-breathed Scripture.
If you’d like to read the entire text of Channing’s “famous speech,” you can read it here: