I don’t really like expounding my personal theologies because I don’t always find them relevant, or having any sort of apologetic value, but I think there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle of Christianity that connect directly with the Oneness of God.
I will admit, I have been called a heretic for these beliefs, and if you disagree with what I believe, I do respect that, and I should qualify my believes with a few statements:
- I do not belong to the United Pentecostal denomination (which have a very firm Oneness theology). I have never attended one of their church services, spoken to a person of that denomination about these beliefs, and actually never heard of them before being accused (maybe too harsh of a word, as I don’t mean to say it is bad to be a United Pentecostal – at least I don’t think so, but my knowledge of them is limited) of being one of them.
- I do not deny the concept of Trinity, but rather view it differently than a theology of multiple persons of one substance
- I do not deny the pre-existence of Christ
- I do not deny the Sonship of Christ
These are all things I have been accused of, and sadly it was because I perhaps expressed my theology without specifically affirming these issues.
So, why did I come to this sort of theology, and more so why does it pose so much opposition from other Christians?
I came to this theology by, instead of reading the New Testament into the Old Testament, I reversed it, so I read the Old Testament into the New Testament. I did this because God revealed Himself linearly, being that at the beginning, He was God, then He became God of Israel, then He became YHWH, then He became the Judge of Israel, then He became the Restorer of Israel, then He became Jesus. I don’t mean to imply that He changed, but to us, God revealed pieces of Himself we previously didn’t know, such as knowing the name of God, knowing what He does, and ultimately being able to be in the presence of God by extension of Jesus. Progressive Revelation, I believe, is impossible for a Christian to not believe (You may not believe me, and you are free to comment on this). Now to qualify this, during the Reformation, and ideology of interpreting scripture came around, and it is this: Scripture could not mean now what it didn’t mean then. That is to say that God always makes sense at the time of revealing information to a writer of scripture. For instance, if I prophesied that God was blessing my family, that would be a literal God is blessing my family, and not necessarily a blanket statement for all families (You could also debate the idea of prophetic telescoping, which is prophesy that can and has been applied to more than one event, which I would definitely affirm). With this concept of meaning, it is bad practice to read the New Testament into the Old, because that is saying that a previous revelation also specifically implied a later revelation. Here is an example: for Christians, we believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah prophesied about in the Old Testament, and we read that specifically from Jesus quoting Old Testament scripture, saying those scriptures are fulfilled in Him. On the reverse side, people have read New Testament into the Old Testament by saying, for instance, reading through Psalms and seeing Christ parallels or that the Hebrew word Elohim (which is God, in plural form, but for YHWH all the verbs were singular) implies a Trinity (which is absolutely absurd, and if you want to argue that, I suggest finding a Jewish scholar of the Torah). This doesn’t mean that what is read into the Old Testament isn’t true, but it is not how it was revealed to the Old Testament crowd. So, what I am, in a round about way, am saying is that in the Old Testament, God repeats two ideas to Israel: I am God; God is One. This is key in understanding why Jewish people hate Christianity, and deny Christ. If Jesus was God, Christians assume there has to be a Trinity because it makes two people God, plus the Holy Spirit, so three people, and sha’zam, you have the Trinity. This is were I throw tradition in the garbage shute, because the Bible makes no Trinitarian claim (yes, look in the Bible – many hints, and many scholars weave together multiple passages to defend Trinitarianism, but wouldn’t you think God would have made a definite revelation on the three persons with one substance?). When I explore the “person” (for lack of a better term to describe God’s being) of God, I look through all the evidence I have for God, and use that as a framework, and I have to use both Testaments, because both contain the progressive revelation of God. If I ignore the Old Testament, then I might as well be of some other random religion, because that is the bulk of God’s revelation that any human being on Earth has. One thing I find no conflict in both Testaments is the Oneness of God. God says in the Old Testament, “I am One” (Deuteronomy 6:4), and Jesus says, “I and my Father Exist One” (John 10:30 – My own literal translation of the Greek; I know New Testament Greek, but for those that don’t, you might find this curiously helpful: http://www.greekbible.com/). This is cross-Testament teaching. Some have claimed that this means one substance, but the Greek implied one existance, one being – substance is just tissue, and in the same way, I could say that all of humanity is one being (as we are all flesh) with multiple persons, but this is wrong because humanity, although shares the common tissue of flesh, are radically different individuals. I encourage you to explore Trinitarianism through the Bible, and if at the end, you still believe in Trinitarianism, awesome, and if you don’t, that’s all right to. I don’t think we will ever have a perfect answer, but that shouldn’t deter us from searching and theorizing.
So, it sounds like I’m completely destroying the Trinity you know and have been taught since you first became a Christian, and has been taught since about 300AD. Well, not entirely, but I want people to understand that proper exegesis (study by detail) of the Bible is important for tackling this issue.
How do I justify the Trinity? I am a modalist, and as such, I believe the various names we have seen in scripture that associate with God are different manifestations, or modes, that God has presented to us. There are over a hundred different names that have been associated with God, so why would we just stick with three? This is something Trinitarianism justifies by saying the three names (Father/YHWH, Son/Jesus, Holy Spirit) are the final revelation of God, but you won’t find that ideology in scripture, because the nature of scripture is progressive (never “replacement” – the progression builds on previous revelation without changing it), and at the time of scripture, the progression was Jesus, but by extension of now having a personal connection to Jesus, the progression continues because we now have flesh and bones that we can fully communicate with, without needing to be pure and sinless. God will continue to manifest Himself and reveal Himself, and we will definitely have the next “blast of revelation” on the second coming of Jesus Christ.
How do I justify the pre-existence of Jesus? God is eternal and has always existed, and Jesus is God incarnated in flesh, so the God-component of Jesus was absolutely pre-existent, just not as a separate person. Trinitarians, you are probably upset at this, and that is because it sounds like I am creating two persons, which seems to go against what I have been saying. No, God is one person. Jesus is flesh, and Christ is God, and God is Spirit, therefore Jesus was not a second person, but the same first person. There is no second, third, or however many more you want to put in persons. Saying multiple persons is basically mangling the beliefs of a polytheist to work in the context of monotheism. God is one, the Bible never says “one with multiple persons” and certainly never says “one substance with multiple persons.”
How do I justify the Sonship of Jesus? People believe that Oneness theology automatically denies this because Jesus is One with God, but as I hinted at, Jesus is “Jesus the Man” and “Christ who is God.” Jesus could not survive without the flesh component and certainly not with the Divine (otherwise we could discern that Jesus is not God, which is very much not true). The answer goes back to John 10:30 (I believe I mentioned that a paragraph or two ago), which I’ll reiterate my translation of the Greek: “I and my Father Exist One.” I definitely believe that Jesus was the Son of God, because the Bible affirms that. I justify it by saying that God essentially fathered Himself (many naturalists will disagree with me there), when an angel said to Mary that God’s power will overshadow her and she will give birth to Jesus. This doesn’t mean that God had sex with her, but it does mean that God implanted the genetic material and Himself into Mary to create the human being that we call Jesus. Mary gave birth, not to God, but to the flesh incarnation of God – God has been around forever – Mary, like the rest of humanity, is limited and had a lifespan, and beyond God’s favour, had absolutely nothing different than any other person (including a sin nature). Joseph, as we read, was not the father (if he was, he wouldn’t have wanted a divorce because it would shame both him and Mary – he wanted a divorce because the baby was not his: they were betrothed, meaning they were not living/sleeping together, but promised for marriage), so the only logical explanation is that God fathered Himself, which also means that He is His own Son, and thus we see the relationship between the flesh of Jesus being fathered by God, maintaining both God’s divinity and Jesus’ sonship to God.
So, you can see that I still believe Jesus is pre-existent, is the Son of God, and by extension of both, even completely self-aware of both His flesh and His Divinity.
On that note, I would like to encourage you to explore scripture, not just on the Trinity vs Oneness, but on all the theology you are taught to simply accept because a pastor or an author says it is biblical. Explore both sides of the argument.