Friday, February 02, 2007

Theologically Sick: What do Baptists Have in Common with Unitarians?

Unitarians deny the Trinity, the "first name of God" as Karl Barth once quipped. Baptists, along with the mainstream of Christianity for the last two millenia, have affirmed the Triune nature of God. Try telling that the this church in Bolton, Massachusetts.

As someone who went to seminary in Massachusetts and pastored in New Hampshire, this pagan synchetism is hardly new to me. A Unitarian pastor I knew in New Hampshire, a brand new Havard Divinity School grad, told me he was a Christian Unitarian because he "actually believed that Jesus of Nazareth lived"! Read it and weep...

Thursday, February 01, 2007 - Updated: 03:32 PM EST

The First Parish of Bolton, 673 Main St., has made its name change “official” with the installation of a new sign. Since 1931, the town’s oldest church had been known as the Bolton Federated Church, the result of the town’s three churches — Unitarian, Baptist, and Quaker — agreeing to worship together and have one minister, while maintaining their own individual identities. In 2002, the church voted to use its original and historic name — “The First Parish of Bolton, Interdenominational.”

“We have not been a federated church for two decades,” said Rev. Richard Jones, the church’s minister. “The federated name really only indicated a small part of the church’s history.”

Jones said the federation formally ended in 1985. Most new members had chosen simply to join the church, he said, rather than align with either the Unitarians or the Baptists (the Quakers disbanded in the 1950s), so it made sense to become what is known as a “merged parish.” The church maintained its affiliations with the Unitarians and Baptists, but there were no longer distinct denominational groups within the church. In 1999, the church added an affiliation with the United Church of Christ (Congregational), a liberal Christian denomination whose perspective, Jones said, is much the same as that of the Bolton church.

“The worshipping congregation is largely young and relatively new to the town,” said Jones. “They are seeking community. Providing a sense of community is the role our church has played in the town since its inception.”

“It took vision and some courage for Bolton’s three churches to unite in 1931,” Jones said. “The great gift those churches gave was the intent to be a community that focused on what all held in common, rather than what might divide them. Today we are affiliated with three denominations, but we have members that come from nearly a dozen more. What unites us is a liberal and decidedly ecumenical Christian perspective that is unique among churches in the area.”

The new sign, the gift of several individuals, features the logos of the Unitiarian Universalist Association, the United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches. It was crafted by Lloyd Dubois, founder and head of Lloyd’s Woodworking of Hudson, which specializes in work for churches. Dubois’ late wife, Doris Babcock Dubois, who died in 2006, was a life-long member of the church and the granddaughter of one of its longest-serving ministers, Rev. Joseph Pardee.


Anonymous said...

Should have changed the name to The First Ichabod Parish of Bolton.
1 Sam. 4:19-22.

jesuit spy said...

We Baptists in MA have quite a reputation! But we're not all apostate! We keep looking for ways to link with those that confess the historical faith but there's not too much on the horizon too hopeful at the moment.
Still standing after all these years...

Anonymous said...

Jesuit, there are plenty of groups to identify with. How is your church growing or is it pretty much the same after standing all these years....

Anonymous said...

Reviewing the Fundamentals
Ted Haggard's fall raises crucial questions about holiness.
A Christianity Today editorial | posted 12/27/2006 08:55AM

The initial shock over Ted Haggard's fall has passed. The mainstream media spotlight has thankfully turned elsewhere. Nevertheless, Haggard's New Life Church and evangelicals nationwide continue to wrestle with disappointment, anger, grief, and compassion. One particular question has burdened many: How can I avoid something like this happening to my church, my spouse, or me?

Related articles and links

One place to begin is by recalling that no one is exempt from temptation. Our "enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8). Temptations will vary, as do our responsibilities, and Haggard's fall reminds us that God holds leaders to strict standards (James 3:1), even though their temptations may be more severe.

Reactions to Haggard again testify that evangelicals, contrary to many cinematic portrayals, have a warm appreciation for the grace of God. Most of us have heeded Jesus' warning not to judge, echoed by Paul: "Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4). Many evangelicals, having fled from churches characterized more by judgment and hypocrisy than by grace and holiness, have no interest in condemning Haggard.

At the same time, we must not unwittingly encourage misconduct. Despite his struggles, Paul also wrote, "We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin" (Rom. 6:6).

How do we treat sinners (that is, one another) with compassion, while still taking sin with utmost seriousness? Some call for increased accountability that can sound like legalism. Others fall over backwards to dismiss sin as mere human weakness that we must learn to live with. The Bible never divorces grace from holiness, and we are wise to recall the great biblical principle: Only by God's grace do any of us become holy. True grace not only treats sinners with compassion, but it also calls and enables them to live a life of holiness.

Holiness is indeed God's indisputable call on us: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect," Jesus commanded (Mt. 5:48). Phoebe Palmer, the influential 19th-century holiness leader, put it this way: "If you are not a holy Christian, you are not a Bible Christian."

The life of holiness is more arduous than the war on terror, which is why we need help from our wisest teachers. "Be killing sin or it will be killing you," Puritan theologian John Owen warned in the 17th-century classic Of the Mortification of Sin in Believers.

Owen said we start by confessing our need for Christ to accomplish this work within us. We're encouraged to do so precisely because of the mercy and tenderness of God, our High Priest (Heb. 4:15-16). Finally, we can be confident that God will break the bondage of sin. As Owen wrote, "[N]ever any soul did or shall perish by the power of any lust, sin, or corruption, who could raise his soul by faith to an expectation of relief from Jesus Christ."

Thus, the "impossible" command to be holy as our heavenly Father is holy is grounded in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Grace and holiness merged at Calvary. And so "sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace" (Rom. 6:14).

Nothing new here, really. Just a review of the gospel, the Good News. But recent events suggest it is a good time to recall the fundamentals.

firstbaptist said...

Anonymous - While I hesitate to respond to anonymity, I will - As Mark Heard said once, I'm "too conservative for the liberals & too liberal for the conservative."
What's a non-cessasionist, non-dispensational, post-denominational, missional, Reformed Augustinian to do?

Robin Edgar said...

While you are at it read this and weep. . .