We all know one of the most important characteristics of our being Unitarian Universalists is the refusal of every dogma. Have you ever asked to yourself the reason for this position?
I suppose the first question we have to ask to ourselves is “what is a dogma?” In definitional terms a dogma is “a truth which can’t be explained with the reasoning but which must be believed only by faith”.
What’s wrong with this? Actually many things.
The first and most important thing which is clearly unacceptable derives from the definition itself. If something can’t be explained by reasoning, it consequently falls into the category of the unreasonable things. So, the question immediately coming to my mind is: given that the capability to reason is one of the most important and distinguishing gifts we received from God, does it make sense that this same God giving us the “Logos” could show Himself to the human beings in a way so openly denying His gift?
Moreover, if these dogmas have no explication and don’t fall into the kingdom of logic, who can decide about the acceptability of their assumptions? Even more radically, who can enunciate them in the moment they refuse any self-evidence?
The common answer to this question is, generally speaking, that they come from an “inspiration” by God, which immediately turns the question into another: “what is an inspiration by God?” Once again starting from definitions, an inspiration can be considered (or, better, it is considered) a sudden revelation about a truth given by God to a single person or to a group of people.
Now, if we try to analyze this last definition, it is impossible not to see that it ends up clashing with some basic common beliefs of the Christian faith. Aren’t we all made after the “image of the Father”? Aren’t we all His sons in the same way? Why, therefore, should the Father choose only some few “elected” people to reveal His will and to disclose His mysteries? And, if God wants the salvation of His sons, the salvation of all of His beloved creatures indistinctively, why should He choose such an indirect way to reveal His ways? Why should He privilege some of His sons in respect to all the others? Ok, I know the immediate answer to this last objection: this is also the way He used to let us know His will through Jesus. Even forgetting about the fact that the strongest supporters of the dogmas are the ones also claiming about an ontological superiority of Jesus (or, more exactly even his divine being), a superiority with no comparisons with any other human being before and after him (a thing, this last, by itself denying the possibility of an equal role of “bridge between God and men” for anyone else), two more things must be said.
1) All along his preaching Jesus never affirmed anything going against the logic and the rationality: his preaching, in its continuous underlining of the need for a pre-eminence of love, was, in many occasions, opposed to the morality of his times but never irrational (meaning with this something going against what we would now define “Aristotelian logic”). The same, for sure, can’t be said about many of the dogmas and of the rules which were later stated by his followers: let’s think, just to give a couple of examples, to the Trinitarian affirmation that “1=3”, clearly against the principle of identity , or, to come to more recent statements, that, as mentioned, all men are equally beloved sons of the Father but one of them is “infallible” speaking as a leader for all, which clearly goes against the principle of non-contradiction.
2) Having a look to Church history, what clearly emerges is that in the definition of dogmas there was nothing divine and, on the contrary, they were just human products aimed to impose some hierarchic figure as “heavenly messenger” just to strengthen his power, in a political picture which, once again, is by far removed from the message of universal brotherhood of Jesus. This point is really central: in any occasion dogmas have always been tools of power in the hands of someone using them to subjugate the others. All councils have, historically, been examples of the attempt to impose an idea as “sacred” denying the validity of another idea and to destroy the claim of an equal “sacralized power” by someone else.
In this context, what is the most incredible thing to me is that these dogmas, as well as many “moral prescriptions”, though being, as any other human product, localized in time and space, have become, in the moment of their rise to a special role”, crystsllized, a-temporal and eternal, forming the basis on which to build new theories and to give new prescriptions endorsed by the previous statements. This system of self referentiality is just another example of a totally a-logic way to proceed: I state a datum basing its validity on another non-verified datum, in a process aimed only to form a corpus of suppositions given as absolute consequential truths.
The result is just to transform a message rooted on a bond of love linking God and human beings reciprocally and human beings to human beings in a cage of rules, prohibitions and ancient fantasies, ending up with a distortion of the original core of the teaching.
This doesn’t mean that humans can understand everything of God: the unbalance in the relation between Infinite divine Being and finite capability of vision of the human genre surely doesn’t allow it. This simply means all the black holes we will necessarily always have in our understanding of God can’t be filled with absurdities, fictionally derived rules and human created assumptions. Mainly, this means that we must never abdicate to the use of reason and we must never absolutise a human attempt to make us believe there are dark shadows in the divine logic governing this world.
Wherever we turn our sight on nature we can see there is a perfect consequentiality, a sharp mechanism governing the creation: everything makes sense, everything has a sense and a consequentiality, everything tells us about a logic God. Surely you can say God is not subjected to His own laws (it is what many people claimed for centuries) but the question stands: why should a God who created a world according to a perfect shape based on some laws deny the same laws only in the moment in which He refers to Himself, in the moment in which He reveals His will to the highest peak of His creation?
In our experience God is logic, human beings not always are: where could illogic statements come from? It’s up to us to decide.