from the editor
Explorations of Theology
“Faith seeking understanding” is Anselm of Canterbury’s classic definition of theology. Unitarian Universalist theology doesn’t fit that neat eleventh-century package. Each in our own way, we seek understanding of life’s ultimate commitments—through our personal experience. This issue of UU World offers three very different articles that I hope will help you in your search for understanding.
One is quite practical: the Commentary that leads our Reflections section, which is adapted from a new Beacon Press book by the Rev. John Buehrens called Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals (see page 10).
Buehrens squarely addresses a topic that makes many Unitarian Universalists uncomfortable—the Bible. He offers a guide on terms designed to work for religious liberals—and counsels heeding personal experience. When reading the Bible, he says, the crucial questions aren’t simply, “Did this really happen?” and “How do I feel about God in this story?” Buehrens urges us to ask: “What was the purpose of this story? What deeper insights was it intended to convey?”
The second article is a news report—about Humanist Manifesto III, issued this year on the seventieth anniversary of the original Humanist Manifesto (see page 37). In many traditions, humanism would be ruled way out of bounds theologically. But not in ours. Humanism offers a way of understanding the world we experience and is thus very much theology for Unitarian Universalists. Unitarian Universalists are prominent among the signers of all three Manifestoes.While most humanists turn away from theism and the supernatural in all forms, many proudly call themselves “religious humanists.” (Buehrens classifies himself as a “biblical humanist.”) Neat packages aren’t for us.
The third is an essay reflecting on the experiences and thinking of the process theologian Charles Hartshorne, by the Rev. Gary Kowalski of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vermont (see page 30).
Kowalski makes process theology accessible with crystal-clear prose.
He draws on Hartshorne, a disciple of the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, and filters it through his own experience as an artist. In the liberal theological tradition, both Hartshorne’s and Kowalski’s theology are the result of searches for understanding rooted in personal experience.
Hartshorne lived for more than a century and “would never abandon
a quest to find a God who was intellectually tenable and in tune with
the modern world,” Kowalski writes. To Hartshorne, creation was
far more alive than the dead particles central to the Newtonian world;
Hartshorne’s world “is composed of verbs rather than nouns,”
Kowalski writes. But I’ll stop here—I don’t want to
give away the ending!