The search for wisdom

I’ve been working my way through A Treatise on Atonement by Hosea Ballou, the great Universalist minister and theologian of the early nineteenth century. I like Ballou’s commitment to the use of common sense and reason in religion, as exemplified in passages like this one:

We feel our own imperfections; we wish for every one to seek with all his might after wisdom; and let it be found where it may, or by whom it may, we humbly wish to have it brought to light, that all may enjoy it; but do not feel authorized to condemn an honest inquirer after truth, for what he believes different from a majority of us.

This could be a central motto for religious liberals.

4 thoughts on “The search for wisdom”

  1. Understand this was written in the 19th century, but I would not subscribe to a motto that heralds our imperfections as a rationale for seeking wisdom (religious truth) wherever and in whomever it may be found. How is this substantially different from being told we need to seek the truth of Christ because we are all sinners? Frankly, I long for a religion that starts with the premise: You’re ABSOLUTELY PERFECT just the way you are, and you don’t need to atone for ANYTHING. You don’t need to be “saved” – or as we might say, “transformed within” – by seeking wisdom. And if you feel imperfect or broken, then get over it, and learn to love yourself.

  2. Except what is could do with some improvement at least while people are starved or beaten (physically or mentally), while the environment is destroyed, while we destroy the future for the next generation. To ignore that is to be blind.

    One difference between sinners/Christ and human/wisdom is that many Christians see Christ|God as an active participant (sometimes with God as the only active participant, sinners are predestined). Wisdom is an attribute not a participant.

  3. Victor, Ballou pretty much starts from the premise that you’re fine just the way you are — he’d phrase it that you are going to get to go to heaven no matter what, but given his early nineteenth century frame of reference, that’s not so very different from what you’re saying. When he’s talking about imperfections, he’s talking about imperfect understanding. Basically, in this passage he’s affirming the right of religious liberals to disagree among ourselves as we honestly inquire after truth.

    Erp, Ballou would pretty much agree that the world is a mess. His theology tended to lead Universalists to believe that we should spend a lot less time worrying about the afterlife (why worry about it if we’re all going to get to heaven anyway?), and spend a lot more time worrying about this life here and now.

  4. Did Ballou cite any dishonest inquirers and who and how should ferret them out? Otherwise I’d agree on the paragraph as good motto for liberal faith.

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