Unitarianism: The path to One God

Unitarian symbol

Unitarianism is the Christian belief that God is one being, not three forms as expressed in the Trinity. Unitarian churches adhering to Unitarianism are organised both nationally and locally in the USA and the UK.

Meaning of the word Unitarianism

Unitarianism is a theological movement that differs from the doctrine of the Trinity in Christianity. In contrast to the view of God as three persons in one being, Unitarians believe that God is one being. They believe that Jesus was inspired by God but is not a divine incarnation. Unitarianism is not limited to one particular Christian denomination, but unites various Christian groups that share similar views of God's one essence.

History of Unitarianism

Unitarianism, as a Christian denominational group of churches, first appeared in Poland-Lithuania and Transylvania in the late 16th century. Over time, until the early nineteenth century, it continued to develop in England and America, having its canonical predecessors from the earliest days of Christianity. In the middle of the nineteenth century it developed its classical form and then developed further in different ways in different countries.

Unitarians trace their history back to the apostolic era and claim that their faith was prevalent before the First Council of Nicaea in 325. Many of them believe that their Christology is most consistent with the views of the "original Christians."

Origins of the Unitarian Church

The Unitarian Church in Transylvania was first recognised under the Edict of Torda, issued by the Transylvanian Sejm under Prince John II Sigismund Zapolje, and was originally led by Ferenc David. The term "Unitarians" first appeared as "Unitarian religion" in the text of the Sejm of Lekfalva (Transylvania) in October 1600, although it did not become widespread in Transylvania until 1638, when the official declaration "Unitarian Religion" was published.

The Unitarian movement became prominent in England during the Enlightenment period and began to take shape as an official denomination in 1774, when Theophilus Lindsay, along with Joseph Priestley, organised meetings and founded the first public Unitarian congregation in the country at Essex Street Church in London.

In America, the first official recognition of Unitarianism in a congregation came from the King's Chapel Church in Boston, under the leadership of Pastor James Freeman. In 1785, the church switched to a Unitarian liturgy. In 1800 Joseph Stevens Buckminster became pastor of Brattle Street Church in Boston, where his skilful sermons, literary projects, and familiarity with German "new criticism" contributed to the further development of Unitarianism in New England.

The beliefs of the Unitarian Church

Unitarians emphasise that many Christian movements do not adhere to strict monotheism, while Unitarians adhere to this principle, arguing that Jesus was a great man and prophet of God, perhaps even a divine being, but not God in the full sense. They reject the trinity idea, believing that Jesus never claimed to be God, and his teachings do not include the notion that God is made up of three parts.

In the early nineteenth century, Unitarian Robert Wallace identified three main currents within Unitarianism:

 Arianism, which recognised the pre-existence of the Logos but held that Jesus was created as a man.
 Socinianism, which rejected the divinity of Jesus but recognised his right to be worshipped.
 "Strict Unitarianism", which denied the presence of the Holy Spirit and did not recognise the worship of the "man Christ", believing that God is incommensurable and cannot be worshipped.

Although Unitarianism has no official authority other than its rejection of the Trinity theory, the following core beliefs are often highlighted:

  • The unity and oneness of God.
  • The life and teachings of Jesus Christ as the ultimate role model.
  • The harmonisation of religion with reason, science and philosophy.
  • The possibility of exercising free will in responsible and ethical behaviour through religion.
  • The dual nature of man, capable of both good and evil, according to God's design.

The rejection of the doctrines of predestination, eternal damnation, substitutionary sacrifice, and atonement through suffering as distorting the image of God and the true message of Jesus Christ.

John Quincy Adams - Unitarian Universalist President

Famous Unitarians

Classical composers

  • Edvard Grieg
  • Béla Bartók

Theology and ministry

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Theodore Parker
  • Thomas Lamb Eliot

Scientists and inventors

  • Oliver Heaviside
  • Erasmus Darwin
  • Joseph Priestley
  • John Archibald Wheeler
  • Linus Pauling
  • Sir Isaac Newton
  • Inventor Sir Francis Ronalds

U.S. Presidents

  • John Adams
  • John Quincy Adams
  • Millard Fillmore
  • William Howard Taft

In addition, Julia Ward Howe was a leader in the suffrage movement, the first woman elected to the Academy of Arts and Letters, and the author of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" as well as books of poetry and essays.

In conclusion, Unitarianism is a Christian movement that stands out for its strict monotheistic approach and its denial of the doctrine of the Trinity. It emphasises the importance of the unity of God and argues that Jesus was an outstanding man and prophet, but not God in the full sense. Unitarianism emphasises a rational approach to faith and calls for the conformity of religion to reason, science and ethics.

Historically Unitarianism has had various currents, from Arianism to Socinianism to "strict Unitarianism", each emphasising different aspects of the doctrine. Despite this, the basic principles of the unity of God and rational thought remain central to all Unitarian believers.

Unitarian belief emphasises the importance of human free will and rejects the doctrines of predestination and redemption through suffering, believing them to be distortions of the image of God. Unitarianism calls for religion to help people exercise free will in responsible and ethical behaviour, adhering to moral principles and striving for spiritual improvement.


Q: What is Unitarianism?
A: Unitarianism is a Christian faith based on the principles of monotheism, where God is one being rather than three persons as expressed in the Trinity.

Q: How does Unitarianism differ from other Christian movements?
A: Unitarians do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, but see him as a God-inspired man and a great prophet.

Q: When and where did Unitarianism originate?
A: Unitarian ideas can be traced back to the early days of Christianity, but as an official denomination Unitarianism was formed in the 16th century in Poland-Lithuania and Transylvania.

Q: What are the core beliefs of Unitarians?

  • The unity and oneness of God.
  • The life and teachings of Jesus Christ as the supreme example to follow.
  • The harmonisation of religion with reason, science and philosophy.
  • Man's free will and responsibility.
  • The dual nature of man.
  • The absence of predestination, eternal damnation, substitutionary sacrifice, and redemption through suffering.

Q: What impact has Unitarianism had on the world?
A: Unitarianism has made significant contributions to liberal Christianity, transcendentalism, and to literature, art, music, science, and politics.


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