A key concept

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about an article on the Alban Institute Web site which introduces the concept of distinguishing between that which is foundational and that which is accretional within a religious tradition. The article focuses on foundational and accretional practices in worship services, but the concept can be applied more widely. A good bit of Harvey Cox’s latest book, The Future of Faith, is his attempt to show that belief is an accretional practice within Christianity, whereas faith (in his careful definition) is foundational. So this has gotten me thinking about what is foundational and accretional within the liberal traditions of Unitarian Universalism. Liberal traditions tend to embrace the surrounding society, so my feeling is they accumulate lots of accretional practices — and as shed lots of those accretional practices as time goes on. This raises the interesting question of what, exactly, is foundational to Unitarian Universalism; a question to which I have no firm answers yet, but I’m thinking about it.

2 thoughts on “A key concept”

  1. I suggest that traditional Unitarianism (Channing/Parker) included Reason as foundational: that their religion had to stand up to reasoned analysis. (It doesn’t always seem so today – so maybe you’re correct in questioning what is foundational to the modern thing called Unitarian Univesalism.)

  2. Tom @ 1 — I think you’re spot on — use of reason in religion was foundational at the start of liberal religion in the early Reformation, and continues to be so today. We may now have questions about the limits of reason, but I can’t see that any of us is ready to give it up.

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