Oneness

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The Oneness doctrine is a non-Trinitarian view of the The Godhead that is a fundamental belief of a number of Pentecostal denominations (see below). Historically, it has been referred to as modalism.

Contents

Monarchianism

Monarchianism refers to a movement in the second and third centuries that attempted to safeguard monotheism and the unity (mono-archē = “one source”) of the Godhead. Monarchianism denied any kind of difference in reality of the Son and the Spirit as separate from the Father. The first form of monarchianism was referred to as "patripassianism", which derived from the Greek words patēr (father) and paschō (to suffer). The term refers to an early type of modalism that suggested that the one God (the Father) became incarnate in the form of the Son, was born of a virgin and suffered and died on the cross.

From this, two distinct forms of monarchianism developed:

1. Adoptionist, or dynamic monarchianism, which understood Jesus as merely a prophet filled with the Spirit and thus “adopted” by God; and
2. Modalism (modalistic monarchianism or Sabellianism), which viewed Jesus as one of the modes through which the one God reveals himself to us.[1]

Oneness/Modalist Theology

The majority of message churches would be considered modalist or oneness in their view of the Godhead.

They believe in the one God, and the complete and full deity of Jesus Christ. Oneness Pentecostals reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Oneness Pentecostals maintain that the Judeo-Christian God is not three separate and distinct Persons, but is exclusively one God without any internal distinctions of persons, a belief based in part on a biblical passage found in Deuteronomy 6:4, "Hear oh Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord."

According to Oneness Pentecostals, God is not a plurality of persons, but does have a plurality of manifestations, roles, titles, attributes, or relationships to man. Oneness statements of faith generally refer to God as "Father in creation, Son in redemption, and Holy Spirit in emanation/regeneration" or that God exists in three "manifestations" throughout history. Oneness Christians maintain that there is no fundamental "threeness" to God, and consider it an injustice to speak of God as a "person".

Oneness Pentecostals are often referred to as "Jesus Only." The label arose early on in reference to their insistence on baptizing only in the name of Jesus, but it tends to be used only by the movement's critics today, and is generally disliked by Oneness Pentecostals. "Oneness", "Apostolic" and "Jesus' Name" are adherents' preferred self-designations.[2]

Adoptionist, or dynamic monarchianism

Lee Vayle took the teachings of William Branham and used them as the basis of an Adoptionist view of the Godhead. Detractors of Lee Vayle and his followers refer to his views as the "Twinity".

Concerns with the Oneness doctrine

An extreme Oneness t-shirt from fatherjesus.com

Sabellius was the original proponent of modalism.

Calvin saw Sabellius as having a false belief because he:

counted the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as almost of no importance, arguing that it was not because of any distinction that they were put forward, but that they were diverse attributes of God, of which sort there are very many. If it came to a debate, he was accustomed to confess that he recognized the Father as God, the Son as God, and the Spirit as God; but afterward a way out was found, contending that he had said nothing else than if he had spoken of God as strong, and just, and wise. And so he re-echoed another old song, that the Father is the Son, and the Holy Spirit the Father, without rank, without distinction. [3]

Wording that modalist believers never use

It is interesting to note that the people that ascribe to the modalist view of the Godhead never use wording like the following when they are talking about God:

But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.[4]


God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.[5]


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.[6]


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places...[7]


I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him...[8]


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[9]


We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you...[10]


And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.[11]


To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ...[12]


To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[13]


Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.[14]


Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.[15]


Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.[16]


Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.[17]


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.[18]


Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy...[19]


...that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.[20]


This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.[21]


...according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood...[22]


Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.[23]


To those who are called, beloved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ...[24]


Why is it that they never refer to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? Could it be that their understanding of the Godhead is incorrect? could it be an antichrist spirit that denies the Father and the Son?

William Branham and Modalism

William Branham tried to hold himself out as believing something that was between Oneness and the Trinity. As a result, a significant group of his followers, in particular the followers of Lee vayle, believe that God is two and not one. This doctrine is referred to in a derogatory manner by some as the doctrine of the "Twinity".

Notwithstanding his statements to the contrary, many followers of William Branham believed that he fundamentally taught modalism and would therefore be considered adherents to Oneness theology.

William Branham often said statements such as, “God is not one like your finger” (Sermon: Lord, Show us the Father, Sept 7, 1953). This appears to be directed at doctrines he was hearing among the people at the time, even though this is not the current doctrine of the United Pentecostal Church. Websites such as FatherJesus.com are evidence of this extreme Oneness view that Jesus is God the Father. In contrast, William Branham taught that there is a threefold being to God, but God is not three individuals nor so singular that the Son of God is God the Father.

I do not believe that Jesus could be His own father. I believe that Jesus had a Father, and that was God. But God dwelled and tabernacled in this body called Jesus, and He was Emmanuel: God with us. And there's no other God besides this God. He is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. And the Name of the Father, Son, Holy Ghost... Father: the Lord, Son: Jesus, Holy Ghost: Logos, Spirit of God. Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Lord Jesus Christ; that's Him. And in Him dwelled the Fullness of the Godhead bodily. (William Branham, Sermon: Q&A, June 28, 1959)

William Branham referred to "Lord Jesus Christ" as the name of God, and to the "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" as titles of God. But this isn't right. For example, "Christ" is a title. It means "Messaiah" or "anointed one", while "Holy Spirit" is the best name form the Spirit of God that can be found. "Lord" also reflects the authority of Jesus. But referring to "Lord" as "Father" both removes authority from Jesus, and removes his identity as the Son of God.

Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is Lord, and Jesus is God. The basis for those statements can all be found in scripture. Saying that Holy Spirit is a title and that Christ is the Name is not scriptural. And saying that "Abba" is impersonal is like telling a child that she must call her father by his given name. William Branham's doctrine of the Godhead sacrifices the relationship that God has with man.

Unitarianism verses Oneness

There are many who confuse the terms unitarian and Oneness. This is because both essentially believe that God can only exist as a single "unit," or monad. He cannot be divided into separate parts, or a plurality of "persons" and still exist as a whole deity. Although unitarians and Oneness are similar in the belief that there is not a plurality of persons in the Godhead, unitarians believe that Jesus was only a moral authority whereas the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ is essential to Oneness doctrine.

In Oneness theology there is an existential distinction, where God in the incarnation comes to exist in Christ in complete human existence and continues to exist as God eternally as Spirit ("Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matthew 1:23).

Organizations

There are many Oneness Pentecostal organizations. Here are a few of the larger ones:

International

Oneness Pentecostal groups with headquarters in other countries include the United Pentecostal Church of Colombia, an indigenous church and the largest non-Catholic church in the country; the United Pentecostal Church of Australia; the Apostolic Church of the Faith in Christ Jesus, with headquarters in Mexico; the Oneness Pentecostal movement in the former U.S.S.R.; and the True Jesus Church], an indigenous church founded by Chinese Christians on the mainland but whose headquarters is now in Taiwan. At times they have affirmed to be the only true church. There are many smaller organizations (approximately 130 worldwide), independent churches, and charismatic fellowships that are Oneness in doctrine.

In existence is also the Apostolic World Christian Fellowship which has been trying to unite all Oneness Pentecostal denominations in existence through a loose fellowship. There are some Oneness denominations that have refused to join -- for example the United Pentecostal Church.

References

  1. Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, 80 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999).
  2. Dr. David K. Bernard, Unmasking Prejudice, Cyberjournal for Pentecostal-Charismatic Research
  3. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, 125 (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011).
  4. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ac 7:55.
  5. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Co 1:9.
  6. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Co 13:14.
  7. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Eph 1:3.
  8. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Eph 1:16–17.
  9. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Php 1:2.
  10. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Col 1:3.
  11. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Col 3:17.
  12. Grace to you and peace. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Th 1:1.
  13. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Th 1:1–2.
  14. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Th 2:16–17.
  15. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Ti 1:2.
  16. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Ti 1:2.
  17. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Tt 1:4.
  18. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Phm 3.
  19. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Pe 1:3.
  20. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 1:3.
  21. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Jn 2:22.
  22. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 1 Pe 1:2.
  23. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), 2 Jn 3.
  24. Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Jud 1.

"The Pentecostals", by Walter J. Hollenweger, Professor of Mission at the University of Birmingham

External links

Favoring Oneness view

Opposing Oneness view

Oneness organizations

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