February 4, 2009

The Deep End

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:33 pm by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

To continue my response to the call for creating theological depth in UU Churches, I have three issues: Covenant vs. Creed, Theism vs. Atheism, Answers vs. Practices.

I will keep saying, until someone gives me a good reason not to, that ours is a covenential rather than a creedal faith. I draw my ideas of covenant from James Luther Adams and to a lesser extent from the Jewish religious tradition. A creed is a statement of belief that is used as a test or touchstone for belonging to a religious community. At most a statement of faith is the source of salvation; at least it is used as the central defining feature of a religion. UUism, on the other hand, allows for radical divergence of ‘credo’ (literally – “I believe”) on many matters. What we do believe in is making sacred promises, or covenants. These are agreements on how we will act, and on what principles will guide our actions. Our congregations currently have covenanted to affirm and promote seven principles.

Thus theological depth in UU religious life requires that we understand the difference between faith as ‘trust’ and faith as ‘belief.’ It requires that we understand that belief is central to Christian and Muslim faith, but not to every religion. Depth requires that we think about the difficulties caused by rejecting belief as a cornerstone of a religion, and to understand the ways that covenants are mis-used and mis-understood. It means that we think through the difference between covenant and contract, covenant and non-sacred promises, etc.

Most people in American and Eropean Culture begin their studies of religions in terms of belief. “What do Jews believe?” they ask for example, or “What do Hindus believe?” not realizing that these are Christian questions that may not lead to an adequate understanding of Hinduism or Judaism. To some extent the whole idea of “Hinduism” was created by British Christians who wanted to understand the religious culture of India, never realizing that there was not really “One” Hindu faith until they began asking, over and over again, what is Hinduism, and what do Hindus believe. The same thing happens with UUism. In order to break from this yoke we must be able to speak clearly to the theological justification of Covenant as the way that the true and good comes into human lives.

Thus an understanding of covenant and a deeper shared use of that term and the practices behind it is the starting point for UU Theological depth.

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2 Comments »

  1. […] Linked are the comments of Reverend Thomas Perchlik on his blog. Quoted below is the portion of interest that express this conundrum another way: Thus theological depth in UU religious life requires that we understand the difference between faith as ‘trust’ and faith as ‘belief.’ It requires that we understand that belief is central to Christian and Muslim belief, but not to every religion. Depth requires that we think about the difficulties caused by rejecting belief as a cornerstone of a religion, and to understand the ways that covenants are mis-used and mis-understood. It means that we think through the difference between covenant and contract, covenant and non-sacred promises, etc. […]

  2. Robin Edgar said,

    :These are agreements on how we will act, and on what principles will guide our actions. Our congregations currently have covenanted to affirm and promote seven principles.

    Hopefully after this year’s UUA GA in Salt Lake City U*U congregations will have covenanted to “honor and uphold” the Seven Principles of U*Uism that all to often they emptily and insincerely “affirm and promote” but don’t actually practice. . .


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