Addition & Subtraction: Truth Buried

Within a stone’s throw of each other, on Silver Street, in the Lancashire town of Bury, are two very different churches. Different, yet essentially similar. One is a rather grand Roman Catholic parish church, Saint Marie’s, with its tall Gothic Revival tower and traceried windows.

The other is the Bury Unitarian Church, below, in its rather dark but not unpleasing 1970s Modernist style.

These churches are poles apart (despite their respective leaders’ polite protests). Although both denominations started off soundly enough (St Marie’s from the Early Church Fathers in Rome, and the Unitarians through the ministry of ejected Puritan, the Rev. Henry Pendlebury of Holcombe), they drifted in opposite directions. Rome added to the gospel its canon laws, popes, saints, councils and traditions. The Unitarians busily subtracted and disbelieved Christ’s deity, authority, miracles and uniqueness. Rome thought the Scriptures insufficient and added to them; the Unitarians thought them inadequate and negated them. Both churches are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but if we see the spectrum as horseshoe-shaped, with the two extremes coming close together, we have a more accurate picture. For whatever reason one rejects the plain gospel and Christ’s saving power, the end result is the same. The gospel is God’s perfect plan for our salvation: whether we add to it, or subtract from it, one ends up with a very different calculation, the sum of which is eternal separation from God.

A church bell from 1777 is still displayed at the Unitarian Church, upon which is inscribed: "Come away make no delay". 

Begone, unbelief, my Saviour is near,
And for my relief will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle, and he will perform;
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.

Though dark be my way, since he is my Guide,
’Tis mine to obey, ’tis his to provide;
Though cisterns be broken, and creatures all fail,
The word he has spoken shall surely prevail.

John Newton, Gadsby's Hymns, No 232