Oneness Theology

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38)”

Which view makes sense considering this passage? That Jesus is a different person than the Father and they have separate wills? Or is it the case that Jesus and the Father are the same person and have two  wills at the same time that at times are in conflict?

This page gives an overview of two competing positions: Oneness Theology (Modalism) and the Trinity. It then shows some of the issues with the Oneness view based on the teachings of scripture.

Overview of the Trinity

The Trinity is one of the foundational doctrines of Christianity. The Trinity is the teaching that there is one God who exists in three distinct, concurrent, persons. Please note, though, this is not saying there are three competing and separate gods (polytheism). The Trinity is not the teaching, in spite of some of its critics, that there are three gods, nor is it the teaching that one person is three persons. What I am explaining here is a form of monotheism. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the one God in the sense that they are united in one purpose. Put another way, in the one substance of divinity, in the one being that is God, there are three co-eternal, co-existent, simultaneous persons: The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit.  To explain the doctrine as saying that “one person is three people,” or that there are three separate, competing deities is a misrepresentation of the doctrine.

Overview of Oneness Theology

"Bishop" T.D. Jakes, A Notable Oneness Pentecostal

“Bishop” T.D. Jakes, A Notable Oneness Pentecostal

Oneness theology (Modalism) denies the Trinity doctrine and claims that there is one person in the Godhead who has manifested himself in three different forms: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These “forms” are not three distinct persons, but one person who occupied consecutive modes.

Since the Trinity doctrine states there are three persons who, in union are the one God, and Oneness Pentecostal theology states there is only one person, it is not possible for both to be right.

 

Problems with Oneness Theology

The Garden of Gethsemane:

  • If there is only one “person” in the Godhead, why does Jesus say to the Father (who is in Heaven) let your will, not mine, be done? (Luke 22:41-42). This passage shows they are two separate, simultaneous persons who each have their own will. They each had a will, and Jesus submitted his will to the Father, whose will was different than His.
  • Also in the garden, Jesus prayed, saying, “O my Father.” These words show a “Me/ You” relationship as though they are two distinct, simultaneous persons.
  • Is Jesus His own Father? If there is only one person in the godhead, and Jesus is God, does this not mean that He is His own Father?
  • Was Jesus praying to Himself? If Jesus was praying to the divine side of Himself, then isn’t He still praying to Himself?
  • If it was the fleshly side of Jesus speaking to the divine side of Jesus in heaven, then does this not deny the true incarnation of God in Christ and invalidate the atonement?

The Baptism of Jesus:

  • Jesus, who is God incarnate, is baptized in the water. After He rises out of the water, the Holy Spirit comes down from Heaven in the form of a dove and rests upon Him. Then the Father speaks from Heaven, saying, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased. Were all three of these distinct persons who do something Jesus? If Jesus is the Father, how could someone else, who is called the Father in the text, speak from Heaven?

The Scene in Heaven

  • Jesus is presented in Heaven in His glorified human state in Revelation 1. He is still fully God and fully man. If He weren’t, He would not qualify to be our High Priest. If He is still fully human (and in Heaven, how can He be the same person as the Spirit, who is on the earth dwelling in believers (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)?
  • The Father is presented as on the throne and Heaven, and Jesus is presented as a lamb beside the throne. How can this be if they are the same person?
  • How can Jesus ascend to the right hand of God if He is the only person of the Godhead? Did He ascend to His OWN right hand?
  • “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him” (Daniel 7:13). This passage in the context speaks of the Ancient of Days sitting on the throne. Then in the passage I quoted, the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days where He [the Son of Man] is given an everlasting  kingdom. Jesus is spoken of as the Son of Man and as one given a kingdom by God in scripture. How can the oneness position make sense of this vision that presents Jesus and the Ancient of Days as two persons if they are the same person?

Jesus is Still Man and God

  • Since the Spirit teaches us that Jesus is in bodily form now (Col. 2:9), then how does the Oneness Pentecostal maintain that God is in the form of the Holy Spirit?
  • Jesus is spoken of as “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and the “exact representation of His [God’s] nature.” Is He a copy of Himself? He can only represent fully in His nature another person that exists.
  • “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). This passage is written after Jesus went to Heaven. He is spoken of as a “man” at this point in time. Also, how can Jesus be a mediator between us and the Father if He is the Father?

The Book of John

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The phrase “the Word [Jesus] was with God does not make sense if oneness theology is true. Was Jesus with God the Father? Or is the passage saying, “in the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with Himself, and Jesus was God”?
  • 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”?
  • Jesus says multiple times within the book of John that the Father sent Him. How is this possible if they are the same person? Did Jesus send Himself to the earth?
  • How can Jesus, if He is the same person as the Spirit, say that He is going to send the Spirit to earth when He returns to Heaven? He speaks of the Spirit as though He is a different person.
  • The Father didn’t send the Word who then became the Son upon entering the world at birth. Instead, he sent the Son into the world. In other words, he was already the Son before he was sent into the world. Jesus, speaking of himself, says in John 5:23 that the Father sent the Son. In John 10:36 Jesus rebukes the false teaches and says that the Father “sanctified and sent him into the world.” From this we see that the Word made flesh did not become the Son at his incarnation for he was already in that relationship with the Father before he was sent into the world.
  • “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” (John 16:28). This passage doesn’t make sense if Jesus and the Father are the same person.
  • Also, consider where Jesus was praying to the Father in John 17:5, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” How could He be with the Father if they are the same person?
  • Jesus says in John 17 that the Father gave Him authority over all flesh (v2). How can this happen if they are the same person?
  • Jesus says that the Father gave Him work to do in 17:4. He is speaking of the Father as a separate person.
  • Jesus in John 17:11 that He is going to the Father in His prayer to the Father. If Jesus is the Father, wouldn’t he already be with Him (Himself)?
  • Jesus prays to the Father that the disciples would be one JUST as Jesus and the Father are one. Does this mean that we should all be the same person? If this is what it means when Jesus says that the Father and He are one, why not say the same thing about us? Also, does this mean that my wife and I, who are one, are the same person?
  • “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:8).  Jesus speaks about His Father the same way you and I would. He speaks of Him in the third person as though He is a different person.

The Old Testament God

  • Since the Oneness position teaches that God is the Father only in the Old Testament, how could God be seen in a different form, such as in the form of a man or in the form of the angel of the Lord? (Exo. 6:2-3; Gen. 19:24; Num. 12:6-8) Remember that Jesus said that NO ONE has seen the Father (John 6:46, John 1:18). If they were seeing God Almighty (Exo. 6:2-3) but it wasn’t the Father, then who was it?
  • If God was in the mode of the Father, why all of the mentions of the Holy Spirit filling people in the Old Testament? The Holy Spirit is spoken of as a distinct being in the Old Testament also.
  • In Old Testament prophecy in the book of Isaiah, Jesus is called God’s servant multiple times? How can Jesus be the servant of God the Father if they are the same person?
  • Elohim, the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament referring to God, is a plural word. Scripture says that Elohim is one. How can a plural God be one God? Is this not showing the idea of the Trinity?
  • Amos says, ““I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I blew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, And I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord. I overthrew you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the Lord.” In this passage, YHWH is speaking. He says that He overthrew them like God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. Why does YHWH speak of God in the third person? May it be because One member of the Godhead is talking about another?
  • Psalm 45:6-7 says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 7  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows” (Psalm 45:6-7). Hebrews says that in this passage God is speaking to the Son (Heb 1:8). How can the Father speak to the Son if they are the same person?

The Book of Acts

  • We see that the Holy Spirit is called God in Acts 5:3-4 which tells us, “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4… Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.” Then, just a few chapters later, Stephen sees a vision in Acts 7 of Jesus in Heaven at the right hand of God. If the Spirit is the only person of the Godhead at this point, then why are Jesus and God mentioned as two distinct beings?
  • In Acts 7, Stephen (who is filled with the Spirit) sees Jesus in a vision sitting at the right hand of God. How can all three of the persons of the Godhead be present in different places if they are the same person?

Other Misc Questions:

  • Why did Jesus teach the disciples to pray to their Father in Heaven if the Father was not in Heaven, but before them in the person of Christ?
  • “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6) There is one Father and one Lord Jesus Christ. Does 1 + 1 = 2 persons or 1 person?

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Eddie Cairns says:

    I studied Greek at school and several years ago I looked at John 1 carefully.

    I concluded that a helpful translation of verse 1 would be:

    ‘In a beginning was the message and the message was pertaining to God and God was the message.’

    The Greek word that can be transliterated as ‘pros’ along with the accusative may be translated as ‘pertaining to’ as it is in Romans 15:17.

    I think the meaning is that the gospel message was about God and that message was personified later in Jesus.

    Eddie Cairns.

    • It is interesting Eddie that no reputable Greek scholars have translated the verse this way, and the early church did not look at the passage this way. I do not see a reason to re-translate it to fit a certain kind of theology.

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