Re: Compare and Contrast: Trinity and Oneness
Originally Posted by PneumaPsucheSoma
Historically, like it or not, the Church has rejected modalism, which is essentially what Oneness theology holds to. It started with the first council which met at Nicea, which specifically referred to such teachings as unChristian, and this position was uniformly upheld in subsequent councils.
If I understand Oneness theology correctly, they say that God revealed himself as Father in the OT, as the Son through Jesus during His ministry on earth, and now as the Holy Spirit after Christ ascended.
Now the reason for such a seeming overreaction is because in a sense Oneness does not hold to the deity of the Son of God exactly but only to the deity of God, since there is only one Person, and they are all the same, just different manifestations. Of course they do not deny the deity of Christ, though they view Him as the same as the Father, and it would not be accurate to say that. Personally, I do not see it as unChristian, though it does get confusing when you consider their form of the gospel. My concern with Oneness theology is more with the works salvation soteriology.
It is interesting that IMO many Christians of other persuasions hold to some form of modalism and don't even know it. In fact, we (the elders of our church) were interviewing a young seminary student who had graduated from a Bible college so that we could approve him as the youth director of our church. We asked him several doctrinal questions as well as others to see if he was prepared to lead. I said something like, "How would you describe your understanding of the trinity?" I paused, then I said, "Would you agree that God sometimes appears in the form of the Father, sometimes in the form of the Son and other times in the form of the Spirit?" He was agreeing before our pastor told him that I was leading him down a path. Often even fairly mature believers misunderstand the trinity.
So I don't react too much when believers struggle in this area. But you are knowledgeable about the teaching of the Word in this area, so I'll have less patience with you I suppose.
MarkEdward gave a good explanation of the differences between traditional, historical Christianity and Oneness theology. It's been my personal experience that often those who hold to Oneness theology that I have met misunderstand what Trinitarianism teaches. They see it as Polytheism, which it is not.
CARM gives us some good questions to be asked of those who hold to Oneness theology. IMO if we simply ask a few good questions it becomes apparent that Oneness theology has issues in how they handle the Godhead:
- Is Jesus His own Father?
- If Jesus' will and the Father's will were identical, then why did Jesus express the desire to escape the cup but resigns Himself not to His own will, but the will of the Father?
- Was Jesus praying to Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane?
- If Jesus was praying to the divine side of Himself, then isn't He still praying to Himself?
- Why was Jesus not saying, "Not My will, but MY will be done?" if there is only one person and one will involved when He was praying in Luke 22:42 and Matt. 26:39.
- Since the Bible teaches us that Jesus is in bodily form now (Col. 2:9), then how does the Oneness Pentecostal person maintain that God is in the form of the Holy Spirit? Also, when Jesus returns, will He return in His body? Will God's form then revert to the form of the Son at a later date?
- If God is only one person, why did Jesus say in John 14:23, "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." If God is only one person, why does Jesus say, "we"?
- Oneness theology teaches that God was in the mode of the Father in the Old Testament. God was seen in the OT (not as a vision or a dream or an angel in the following verses: Exo. 6:2-3; Gen. 19:24; Num. 12:6-8). But, Jesus said no one has seen the Father (John 6:46). If they were seeing God Almighty (Exo. 6:2-3) but it wasn't the Father, then who was it?
Personally, I have an issue with how Oneness treats the fact that Jesus become a human being (flesh) at a point-in-time. You see, the Father and the Spirit do not have a human nature, yet the Son did and does still. Hence whether they realize it or not Oneness theology affects the gospel. So it is not surprising then that Oneness theology holds to a form of salvation by faith plus works. Another major distinction of Oneness theology is that it also holds to the necessity of water baptism for salvation, which ties right into their works-oriented soteriology.
But I'd be very interested in PPS's answers to CARM's questions above.
I'm not trying to give PPS a hard time, because I do not expect him to change his position, but I want those watching this thread to see the common sense errors in logic of such a theology. I noticed that some have remarked here that they essentially agree with the Oneness view of the Godhead. But it is in error. I wouldn't say it is a cult or that it is even unChristian, though I believe that CARM may view it as such. But it is error.
3 John 4 - "No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my [spiritual] children walk in the truth.