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Here I am following the precedent of William James who added a postscript to his Gifford Lectures to state his general philosophical position; mine will define more concisely, than may perhaps be seen in the discourse spread through ten lectures, my theological outlook. I have just indicated at the end of the last lecture that I am a Unitarian; but there are many who do not understand what this means. The name, originally indicating that the holders of this faith did not accept the doctrine of the Trinity, suggests a narrow sect; the truth is that the tenets of the movement could not be more liberal or free from dogma. Unitarianism is based upon a progressive theology. This is well seen in the summary report of the Commission of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches which was published in 1945 as Part I of A Free Religious Faith1. No doubt much of what is here expressed has long been held by Unitarians since the great eviction from the Church of England just over three hundred years ago: much of it, however, has a truly modern ring. It says such things as these—“We do not base our church life on the acceptance of particular creeds,” “We believe that Christians have not only the right, but the duty to be free to seek new truth wherever it may be found,” or again, “We cannot regard the New Testament as a final and infallible expression of Christianity, nor as a court of final appeal.” Together with this scientific outlook it is a theology ablaze with religious spirit.

Because its faith is based upon spiritual experience it has no fear. It says:

We welcome every discovery that scientists and others are making, even though they bring with them new problems, because we are confident that when these discoveries are fully understood they can result only in a deeper sense of awe and reverence and gratitude before the great mystery of life. We believe that religion exists that we may have life, and have it more abundantly.

That is my faith. In mind I am a Unitarian, but as I said at the end of the last lecture, my heart is in the Church of England. I go there to pray in private; I cannot, however, attend its services without feeling intellectually ashamed. I hope the day may come when special services may be held for those of a more liberal faith; I believe that many thinking Christians are really Unitarian in outlook without knowing.

  • 1.

    Published at the Lindsey Press, Essex Hall, Essex Street, London, W.C.I. I should mention that I do not accept all the views expressed in Parts II or III of the book; they are personal views to be freely discussed, just as those of individual scientists are discussed at any scientific conference.

From the book: