Over the years, I’ve spoken to many people within the oneness Pentecostal movement. They deny the Trinity and teach that there is one person in the Godhead whom they call Jesus. But, there are numerous problems with their position. I will elaborate on them in this article. In short, oneness theology is not Christian since it denies the True God, the True Incarnation of Christ, and the True Atonement. Let me explain.
For clarification, the Trinity is one God in three distinct simultaneous, coeternal persons. God is one substance, a triune substance. There are not three gods. This is not social trinitarianism with three separate centers of consciousness. Instead, it is one God, one divinely simple being who expresses himself to us in three distinct simultaneous persons. (See The Christian Trinitarian God Examined In Depth).
To the best of my recollection, not a single oneness person has ever refuted how the doctrine of the Trinity is arrived at using the Scriptures. It is simple. The Bible teaches there is only one God (Isaiah 43:10:44:6, 8; 45:5). Yet, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each called God. Furthermore, each has a will, speaks, loves, and with whom we can have fellowship. The table below shows the supporting scriptures. Oneness people have never refuted these facts found in the table below – especially where the distinction of persons is clearly seen in Scripture when the persons speak to and about each other. Instead, they ignore the facts of distinction and force scriptures into a oneness interpretation while ignoring the very nature of personhood.
Regarding the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
“They must be different considering that the Father sent the Son (Matt. 10:40; John 5:23; 6:38-39; 8:42; 12:44-45, 49; 13:20). The Son did not send the Father. Jesus came from the Father (John 6:38; 17:1-5); the Father did not come from Jesus. The Father and the Son manifest at the same time (Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 3:17; 11:25, 27; 16:17; 24:36; Mark 13:32; 2 Pet. 1:17). They were in different locations at the same time (Matt. 3:17; 16:17; 2 Pet. 1:17), have separate thrones, (Rev. 3:21), separate wills (Luke 22:42), and Jesus is now presently at the right hand of God the Father (Acts 7:56; Heb. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:3).”
Personhood of God
Personhood is having the quality or characteristic of self-awareness, awareness of others, rationality, the ability to love, speak, recognize others and one’s self, etc. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each exemplify attributes of personhood. Yet they speak of each other and to each other designating separation among persons. This is exactly how the Trinity doctrine is arrived at.
In the light blue section in the table below are the characteristics of God. In the green section are the characteristics of personhood. Again, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each exemplify attributes of personhood.
CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD
HOLY SPIRIT, THE
John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9
Rom. 8:11; Heb. 9:14
John 1:3; Col. 1:15-17
Job 33:4, 26:13
2 Cor. 6:16
1 John 3:20
John 16:30; 21:17
1 Cor. 2:10-11
1 Kings 8:27
Searches the heart
1 Cor. 2:10
1 Thess. 1:10
John 2:19, 10:17
1 Thess. 5:23
1 Pet. 1:2
CHARACTERISTICS OF PERSONHOOD
Has a Will
1 Cor. 12:11
Matt. 3:17; Luke 9:25
Luke 5:20; 7:48
Acts 8:29; 11:12; 13:2
1 John 1:3
1 Cor. 1:9
2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:1
We belong to
1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; 4:10
2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 1:4; 3:6
John 5:21, 30
1 Thess. 1:6
Problems with oneness: Static Mind Problem
If god is one person, then how does that affect his ability to contemplate? If God knows all things from all eternity, then can he contemplate? In other words, can he think about what he’s going to do and draw conclusions and make decisions based on that contemplation? The answer would be no, because if he knows everything already, how could he think about what He knows? He would already know everything he would contemplate. This implies a static mind of simple knowledge without the action of contemplation. It seems problematic.
The Trinity would solve this problem. It would mean that God was eternally knowing and experiencing the mutual contemplation of the three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Problems with oneness: Eternal Fellowship and Love
God is a personal being. He is self-aware and aware of others. But, if God is one person from all eternity as Oneness teaches, then was it possible for him to experience fellowship or love if he was by himself – from forever ago? This is problematic because the very nature of God is love (1 John 4:8). Love is other-centered (John 3:16; 15:13) and requires fellowship in its expression. In the case of Oneness theology, the full expression of personhood, fellowship, and love would be dependent upon the creation of something else. So the idea from oneness theology that God is a single eternal person means that from forever ago, he had no one with whom to fellowship and no one to love or be loved by. How does this issue reflect on the personhood of God, who is supposed to be self-sustaining and completely self-dependent from eternity past? But the Oneness theology poses problems by restricting God’s ability in and of himself to have fellowship and to love and be loved – until something other than himself exists. This implies that God is not eternally self-sufficient in all areas. That is a problem for oneness.
But the Trinity would solve this problem. It would mean then that God was eternally capable, in and of Himself, to experience the fellowship and the love among the persons of the Trinity.
Problems with oneness: Jesus is not the eternal God
Jesus came into existence 2000 years ago when He was born. Jesus is, by definition, one person with two distinct natures: a divine nature and a human nature. The union of both divine and human natures (hypostatic union) did not occur until 2000 years ago. Prior to that, the pre-incarnate Christ existed as the word (John 1:1). So, when oneness adherents say that the name of God is Jesus or that there is one God is Jesus, they are making a mistake in theology and logic. This is because prior to the incarnation of Christ Jesus, there was no Jesus.
Problems with oneness: Nestorianism
In my discussions with oneness experts and laity, when discussing the two natures of Christ, they repeatedly support the idea that within the body of Christ are two distinct persons: God and man. They often “say” that Jesus is one person, but when cross-examined, they affirm two persons in one body. When I ask who Jesus was praying to in the garden (Luke 22:42), they say it was human nature praying to the divine nature. This is the heresy of Nestorianism, which teaches two persons in the body of Jesus.
On several occasions, I’ve had in-depth discussions with oneness believers. When I ask them for an analysis of John 6:37-39, I get some very interesting responses. The following section of scripture contains which nature was speaking at what time – according to the Oneness people I’ve spoken to.
John 6:37–39, “All that the Father gives Me [HUMAN NATURE] will come to Me [HUMAN NATURE], and the one who comes to Me [HUMAN NATURE] I [HUMAN NATURE] will certainly not cast out. 38 “For I [DIVINE NATURE] have come down from heaven, not to do My [HUMAN NATURE] own will, but the will of Him who sent Me [DIVINE NATURE].” 39 “This is the will of Him who sent Me [HUMAN NATURE], that of all that He has given Me [HUMAN NATURE] I [HUMAN NATURE] lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
The problem should be obvious. Nestorianism, the logical result of oneness theology regarding the person of Christ, leads to a scenario where the different natures of Christ speak alternately at different times even though they’re in the same sentence. This makes no sense.
Problems with Oneness: The Atoning Sacrifice of Christ
Furthermore, this negates the sufficiency of the atoning sacrifice of Christ because it negates the divine quality of that sacrifice. How so? If there are two persons in the body of Christ then and only the human person died. Therefore the sacrifice is not of divine quality, and it cannot be said that God who was pierced.
Zechariah 12:10, “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
The solution is found in the next section.
The truth: Hypostatic Union and the Communication of the Properties
The truth of who Christ is is found in these two doctrines, known as the hypostatic union and the communication of the properties. The hypostatic union is the teaching that in the single person of Christ are two distinct natures: divine and human. It negates Nestorianism, which states that in the body of Christ are two distinct persons. Furthermore, the communication of the properties means that the attributes of both natures are ascribed to the single person of Christ. This means that Jesus would say, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28) and “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20). In this, Jesus, the single person designated by the word “I” claims the attributes of both natures. Therefore when Christ, the person, died on the cross, then the sacrifice was of divine value.
Oneness theology denies the true God by denying the Trinity and proposes a Nestorian view of Christ where the two natures (human and divine) are actually two persons who speak alternately – even in the same sentence. Furthermore, it denies the true incarnation by denying the hypostatic union, separating the persons into two and only the human person died on the cross, thereby negating the divine sufficiency of the sacrifice.
Oneness theology is not Christian.
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