Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Love is the doctrine...

An unabashed call for the teaching of Unitarian Doctrine in our Sabbath schools from Sylvester Judd...

"There is another point on which I wish to offer some suggestions. It is involved in the question whether you should teach the children doctrines. On the supposition that we have a right idea of the term, I answer, Yes, by all means. Let the children be indoctrinated. Let no child ever leave the Church Sunday school without being thoroughly informed in all the doctrines of the Church. But what do we mean by doctrines ? As has been already indicated, I mean the simple Gospel of the Son of God,— all that of which the Gospel is at once the basis, essence, and repository. I mean Christian doctrines, that is, doctrines which Christ taught. I mean evangelical doctrines, that is, Gospel doctrines. I do not mean what ordinarily passes under the name of doctrines. I mean Gospel doctrine, which is simply Gospel teaching.
But do I mean Unitarian doctrine? I mean precisely that. And what is Unitarian doctrine ? It is what Christ taught. Unitarian doctrines are Christian doctrines, evangelical doctrines, Christ's doctrines, — no more, no less. But does the question still return, What are Unitarian doctrines ? The answer itself resolves into a question. Did Christ teach anything ? Did he utter any important truth ? Did he announce any great principle ? If he did, that is Unitarian doctrine. Did Christ leave any enduring impressions on the minds of his immediate disciples? Did John, or Peter, or Martha, or Mary, derive any appreciable, interesting, or solemn lessons or ideas from him? These are Unitarian doctrines. Did they believe in anything, or have faith in anything? That is our belief, our faith. You are, then, to teach what Christ taught, and that is Unitarianism. I speak advisedly. It is the beauty and the boast of Unitarianism, that it takes off those folds which have been wrapped about the Gospel, exhumes the sacred page, and lets us have it in its original and undiminished glory.

But what is the great Unitarian doctrine ? You mean, rather, what is the great doctrine of Christ, and of Christianity ? or what did Christ most emphatically, elaborately, and plainly teach ? The Apostle seems to furnish an answer to this question in our text. " Now the end of the commandment," he says, " is love, out of a pure heart." He cautions Timothy as to what should not be taught, and then impresses on him what is the sum and substance of all teaching and doctrine, namely, love out of a pure heart. This is the end of the commandment, the grand consummation of the whole matter; all vitality, all essentiality, all fundamentalness of doctrine and belief, is contained in this. This is the fulfilling of the law; and Paul elsewhere seems to speak as if he did not know there was any other commandment.

To return now to the question, Shall we teach the children doctrines? I reply, Yes! But what are doctrines ? I have given you specimens of what are called doctrines, what are everywhere taught for such, and professedly believed. But they are what the Apostle calls fables and genealogies, what Christ calls traditions of men. They are not the genuine Christian doctrines; they are not Unitarian doctrines. I have just given an instance of a Unitarian doctrine, — love out of a pure heart; and this doctrine I want teachers in the Sunday school to teach. I want you to teach it as one of the great, cardinal doctrines of the Unitarian Church, to teach it as a most vital, searching, paramount doctrine of Christianity. You should inculcate it as that* on which all the law and prophets hang, for the voice of inspiration tells us it is so. The faithful teacher will tell the children how love to God and love to man fulfils the law; he will show chapter and verse in the Bible where it is said, " He that loveth is born of God " ; he will impress upon their minds how this love is greater than faith or hope, greater than all conceivable things ; he will demonstrate to them what are the fruits and evidences of it; he will instruct them in the methods of preserving, strengthening, and increasing this chiefest of Christian graces. In a word, he will indoctrinate them in this doctrine. He will so thoroughly indoctrinate them that they will all know the essential element and groundwork of their faith ; and should any one ask them what they believe, or what is a doctrine of the Unitarian Church, they will at once and comprehensively reply, " Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and thy neighbor as thyself."



UUFreespirit said...

Mr. Judd presumes that UU is about correctness of theological doctrine, which I would dispute (rather vigorously, actually). UU, to me, is a particularly radical mode of liberal religion which is centered around a "way" of life, an methodology, an attitude and a temperament than with a fixed of "correctness of product." This approach to religion yields a variety of theological inclinations, ideally within a larger "unity of spirit." I see no reason to circumvent the methods espoused by Channing and Sophia Fahs...about teaching in "the liberal, critically-questing way." No doubt we can improve upon our method, but I see no need to change it.

boston unitarian said...

Hello Freespirit,
Many thanks for your comment. It is good to hear from you. I would argue that Rev. Judd is reacting against the doctrine of Calvinist orthodoxy and is, indeed, talking about a critical "way" of life. But he is also saying that we must afirm certain things and are not just a questioning/critical body.
Channing, in his talk "The Sunday-School" is almost identical in his views. They both argue for the teaching of a simpler, spiritual Christianity not bound by creeds.
Finally, of course, you don't have to be a Christian in doctrine to teach walking in love and walking in love is the central doctrine that Judd promoted.
Again, it is a pleasure to hear from you and I appreciate your view.
many blessings, BU