Living the Theme: Lives on Fire – James Luther Adams & Liberal Theology

The Words of James Luther Adams

“We are not a religious tradition with a creed, but a religious movement that has always wedded social justice work to theology.”

“The faith of a church or of a nation is an adequate faith only when it inspires and enables people to give of their time and energy to shape the various institutions – social, economic, and political – of the common life.”


“An unexamined faith is not worth having, for it can be true only by accident.”

“Liberalism holds that the resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism.”

“A good deal of so-called atheism is itself, from my point of view, theologically significant. It is the working of God in history, and judgement upon the pious. An authentic prophet can be a radical critic of spurious piety, of sham spirituality.”


Learn about James Luther Adams and his theology

Consider what is still relevant today for Unitarian Universalism

Reflect on the social institutions to which we belong and the message/values they portray

Taking It Home

Watch the introductory video to our February Fuller Conversations on James Luther Adams at

Consider what it means to focus on deeds, not creeds. Ours is not a creedal faith, but we do have beliefs that translate into actions. What are those beliefs? Reflect on your personal beliefs and discuss these together as a family.

5 Smooth Stones: Use this simplified version of James Luther Adams’ 5 Smooth Stones from Rev. Naomi King:

  1. We’re always learning.
  2. Being together matters.
  3. How we are together matters.
  4. We  do good to be good & feel good.
  5. We always hope.

With these stones we build cities of refuge, houses of love, and gardens of peace

Adams was thinking about the tradition of five stones David needed to slay Goliath – mythologically, bringing down our own towering monsters of (1) ignorance, (2) individualism, (3) selfishness, (4) apathy and (5) cynicism.

What would it be like to take on the giants of our time? Even as adults we can feel small and overwhelmed at the enormity of the problems facing our society, but David had everything he needed to defeat Goliath. What skills equip you to take action?  

Create a certificate using the words below and fill it out when your child’s actions promote our values as Unitarian Universalists. Or use it for yourself as an adult as an affirmation of your efforts to build a better world.


This certificate is to honor the fact that


Did something about the problem of:

They did the following:

We appreciate this act of caring, kindness and responsibility (add other traits that apply).




Our RE Stories for the Theme

James Luther Adams, Excerpted from ‘Two Men Named James’, Amazing Grace, Tapestry of Faith, UUA

If I Had a Magic Wand, Moral Tales, Tapestry of Faith, UUA

David and Goliath by Sharla Guenther