An Atheist and a Unitarian Universalist

They’re really not that far apart.

It probably comes as no surprise that a Unitarian Universalist has no real grasp on the gospel.  However, it may surprise some people that an atheist is actually closer to the truth than someone who considers themselves a “Christian.”  I found it interesting to compare and contrast the views of atheist Christopher Hitchens and Unitarian minister Marilyn Sewell in this interview between the two.

A few interesting exchanges are highlighted:


The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make any distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?


I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.


Let me go someplace else. [continues with next question…]

While Hitchens rejects God and the gospel, at least he understands what the gospel message is.  Sewell thinks you can have “Christianity” without the gospel, and doesn’t really want to talk about the gospel.

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Is Postmodernism for real?

[D]on’t we live in a postmodern culture in which…appeals to traditional apologetic arguments are no longer effective?  Since postmodernists reject the traditional canons of logic, rationality, and truth, rational arguments for the truth of Christianity no longer work!  Rather in today’s culture we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it.”

William Lane Craig responds:

In my opinion, this sort of thinking could not be more mistaken.  The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable.  Nobody is a postmodernist when it comes to reading the labels on a medicine bottle versus a box of rat poison.  If you’ve got a headache, you’d better believe that texts have objective meaning!  People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they’re relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics.  But that’s not postmodernism; that’s modernism!  That’s just old-line Positivism and Verificationism, which held that anything you can’t prove with your five senses is just a matter of individual taste and emotive expression.  We live in a cultural milieu which remains deeply modernist.  People who think that we live in a postmodern culture have thus seriously misread our cultural situation.

Indeed, I think that getting people to believe that we live in a postmodern culture is one of the craftiest deceptions that Satan has yet devised.  “Modernism is passe,” he tells us.  “You needn’t worry about it any longer.  So forget about it!  It’s dead and buried.”  Meanwhile, modernism, pretending to be dead, comes around again in the fancy new dress of postmodernism, masquerading as a new challenger.  “Your old arguments and apologetics are no longer effective against this new arrival,” we’re told.  “Lay them aside; they’re of no use.  Just share your narrative!”  Indeed, some, weary of the long battles with modernism, actually welcome the new visitor with relief.  And so Satan deceives us into voluntarily laying aside our best weapons of logic and evidence, thereby ensuring unawares modernism’s triumph over us.  If we adopt this suicidal course of action, the consequences for the church in the next generation will be catastrophic.  Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality, while scientific naturalism shapes our culture’s view of how the world really is. (emphasis added)

from Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics