The Oneness doctrine is a non-Trinitarian view of the The Godhead that is a fundamental belief of a number of Pentecostal denominations and most churches that follow William Branham. However, those message churches that follow the teachings of Lee Vayle have espoused an adoptionist view of the Godhead. Historically, the oneness view has been referred to as modalistic monarchianism or modalism.
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:
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.
Adoptionist, or dynamic monarchianism
Concerns with the Oneness doctrine
Sabellius was the original proponent of modalism.
Calvin saw Sabellius as having a false belief because he:
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:
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.
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).
There are many Oneness Pentecostal organizations. Here are a few of the larger ones:
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.
"The Pentecostals", by Walter J. Hollenweger, Professor of Mission at the University of Birmingham
Favoring Oneness view
Opposing Oneness view