Dialectical Unitarian Universalist Theology - Introduction

Theology (“words about God”) is a conversation across centuries about what is most important in human life. For most of history, the nature of God was considered to be of supreme importance. After all, if human life was created and controlled by such a higher power, understanding the character and purpose of that power would be crucial.

However, in the 19th Century, the proposition that such a higher power does not actually exist became part of the theological discussion. When the idea of God no longer exists, the theological question becomes “what is most important, now”?

Theological discourse develops in relationship to itself, as theologians try to harmonize theological propositions which appear to be in contradiction to each other. For example, if God creates everything and is good, where does evil come from? Therefore, because theology is forced to harmonize numerous contradictory realities, theology builds toward synthesis, toward systematic theology.

Unitarian Universalist theological conversation was shaped by the debate about the existence of God for most of the twentieth century.

More recently, Unitarian Universalist theological discussion has been interested in harmonizing insights from world religions into a whole sufficient to sustain our worshipping communities. (The Kenneth Patton project of articulating a “Religion for One World,” for example.)

However, theology also develops in conversation with all human knowledge, including cultural trends, the historical situation, the state of scientific knowledge.

Dialectical UU Theology is interested in the ways that our ongoing theological conversation responds to the historical situation, as perceived by its people, and through the lens of UU’s different experiences. 

Dialectical theology also asks who is doing the theological talking? The power to define UUism has been contested for decades as people on the margins 'bring their folding chairs to the table;' how do these internal power shifts change what UU’s think is most important in human life?

I am starting a long series of blog posts that will attempt to bring a dialectical analysis to Unitarian Universalist theological development since World War 2. I will start with a dozen or so entries on UU history since the 40’s/50’s. Then, I will offer a series of very short essays isolating specific learnings that I think our history has taught us.

My premise is that our covenant as Unitarian Universalists is, in reality, our agreement to hold ourselves accountable to what we have learned together as a people. Our understanding of our contemporary history is weak and fuzzy which explains our fuzzy and half-hearted covenant.

Watch this space: 


  1. So glad you are blogging again. It's been a while. Very much looking forward to this series. Thank you so much!


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