The Trinity, for Oneness People
It is not much good to have the same Bible if you are tricked by a new dictionary. Trinitarians believe what the Bible teaches: both a oneness of God and a threeness of God.
What are your definitions of Son of God, Son of Man, Jesus, and Christ.
I don't see this debate as about how God has to be, or what God can and cannot do. God is Almighty; He can be how He wants to be, and He can do whatever He wants to do. Rather, this debate is how God has revealed Himself to be, and what He has chosen to do. While we cannot know everything about the infinite God, we are responsible for knowing and believing what God has revealed to us.
Three types of errors of those who deny the Trinity
Summary of Bible Teaching on the Trinity
The Bible does not use the terms "Oneness", "Trinity", or even "Great Commission". These are simply human terms to quickly refer to certain doctrines. Here is a description of what the Bible teaches on the Trinity.
1. Only One Being is True God
Dt 4:35-39;6:4; Mk 12:29-33; Isa 43:10-12; 44:6,8,24; 45:5-6,14,21; 46:9; Joel 2:27; Mal 2:10; 1 Tim 1:17; 2:5; 6:15-16
2. There is a "threeness" about God
Mt 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Cor 13:14; 1 Pet 1:2; Eph 2:18; 3:14-17; 1 Th 1:3-5; Rev 4:8; Rom 15:16; Heb 9:14; Jude 20,21; Isa 48:16; 2 Th 2:13-14; John 15:26.
Is the work of our salvation at the cross a work of man or a work of God?
3. The three are inseparable
Mt 28:19; John 10:27-30; 12:44-46,49-50; 14:9-11; 15:26; 16:13-15; 17:10; Rom 8:9-11; 1 Cor 2:11-12. The Father & Jesus share at least 25 names and titles (Lord of Lords Rev 17:14; Dt 10:17, Alpha & Omega Rev 1:8,17-18).
4. They're the same in nature, honor & glory
John 5:18; 5:23; Col 2:9-10; (Is 44:6; Rev 1:8 vs. Rev 1:17-18; 22:13)
As John 5:18 shows, a father is equal in nature to the son he begets. Otherwise, your father must be greater than you, your grandfather greater than him, and your 100th ancestor must have been one super guy. People make things but "beget" only people. God made created things but "begets" only God't church worship be modeled after heavenly worship? If you have never sung or given glory to God and the Lamb, prayerfully read Rev 5:9,12-14.. Shouldn
5. They're three distinct "persons" who interact with each other
Mt 3:16-17; Lk 3:21-22; Jn 1:1; 6:38; 14:31; 15:26; 16:28; 17:5; Acts 5:31-32; Heb 5:7-8
The Three communicated when Jesus was baptized.
6. The three differ in role and rank: Father sends the Son, Spirit sent by both
1 Cor 15:25-28; Mt 12:18; Ephesians 1:17; John 1:33; 14:16,26,28; Rom 8:26-27; 1 Peter 1:3-4.
Mt 17:5 The Father spoke at the Transfiguration
Jn 20:17 Jesus said, My Father ..., my God
Heb 7:25 Jesus intercedes for us.
Rom 8:26-27 The Holy Spirit intercedes for us.
1 Cor 11:3 Father head of a son; God is head of Christ
Jn 14:28 Jesus said the Father is greater than I.
Heb 5:7-8 Christ, the Son, learned obedience
7. They indwell each other
If you have seen Jesus you have seen the Father, the Jesus in the Father. John 14:8-9, but 10-11
Three minds or one? If you think of the Trinity as three minds, you have to think of them as all well-connected. If you think of the Trinity as one mind, you have to think of it has three parts that talk among themselves.
Four Strains of Oneness
I call these "strains" instead of "types" because actually the first two are quite close to each other, and the last two are fairly close to each other.
1. Sabellius (Patripassians): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all born, suffered, died, and rose
Sabellianism is an old heresy that died out, but it is alive again within Oneness Pentecostalism. As a Oneness pastor said on the radio, "I refuse to worship a God who would send His boy to die instead of coming Himself!"
As Hippolytus observed, Sabellius' theology was sort of a throwback to Judaism, who would worship none but the Father.
2. Noetus: The Father was both Begotten and Unbegotten. The Father died only as the Begotten.
3. Theodotus the Tanner of Byzantium: At baptism, God "adopted" and indwelt a non-divine sinless man. Father suffered but left before the Son died.
4. Callistus bishop of Rome: Similar except indwelt at conception. Son's flesh raised to divinity (at some point).
Indwelling sounds sort of like John the Baptist. Callistus excommunicated Sabellius for "his unorthodox views".
Which of the four strains do you hold, or do you hold a fifth view?
Only 5 Answers Handle Most Questions
God has four definitions
Differ in role and rank
Inseparable yet distinct
Same in Love, Essence, Name, Glory, Titles, Honor
Bring Forth Your Witnesses!
Steven Ritchie's website apostolic Faith, says:
"3. The majority of the 2nd and
early 3rd century Christians were Modalistic Monarchians (Oneness) who
were the majority of the Christians believing in the full deity of Christ at
4. Most alleged Trinitarians of the second and third centuries such as Tertullian, Justin, Hippolytus, Clement and Origen were actually Arian (like Jehovah's Witnesses) in that they believed that the Son was created before being born."
Actually they were very Trinitarian. The few who used the term created were not so precise in their terminology. Even the three who said that the Son was created in time (which Steven Ritchie believes), still believed the Son pre-existed. Here are early Christians who wrote relating to the Trinitarian nature of God.
Justin Martyr (c.138-165 A.D.) (in time)
Evarestus (c.169 A.D.)
Athenagoras (177 A.D.)
Theophilus of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.) (Trinity)
Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.)
Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs (180 A.D.) (partial)
Clement of Alexandria (193-202 A.D.) (Trinity)
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) (Trinity, in time)
Hippolytus (222-235/236 A.D.) (Trinity)
Origen (225-254 A.D.) (Trinity, inconsistent use of 'created')
Novatian (250/254-256/7 A.D.) (Trinity)
Treatise Against Novatian (250-258 A.D.)
Cyprian of Carthage (256 A.D.) (Trinity)
Firmilian of Caesarea (256 A.D.) (Trinity)
Bishop Munnulus of Girba at The Seventh Council of Carthage (258 A.D.) (Trinity)
Euchratius Bishop of Thenae at The Seventh Council of Carthage (258 A.D.) (Trinity)
Theognostus of Alexandria (260 A.D.) (partial)
Gregory Thaumaturgus (240-265 A.D.) (Trinity)
A Sectional Statement of Faith (c.240-265 A.D.) (Trin.)
Dionysius of Alexandria (246-265 A.D.) (Trinity)
Dionysius bishop of Rome (259-269 A.D.) (Trinity)
Archelaus (262-278 A.D.) (partial, against Sabellius)
Peter of Alexandria (306,285-311 A.D.)
Methodius (270-311/312 A.D.) (Trinity)
Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.) (partial, 2 persons)
Alexander of Alexandria (313-326 A.D.) (Trinity)
List of every known ancient writer who taught oneness. There were from about 180-236 A.D.
Sabellius and Praxeas
Noetus and Cleomenes
Theodotus the Tanner of Byzantium
Callistus and Zephyrinus
1) Unless you ignore or redefine the words in the Bible, you have to see both a) God as One inseparable Being, and b) Three distinct Persons. Just as you have to think of a simple three-peak mountain as both one and three, you have to think of God as both One and three.
2) The early Christians had no trouble understanding the Trinity, even before they coined the term.
3) While the concept was (and still is) a challenge for young Christians, Irenaeus and Caius testify that it was universally taught by church leaders, except in Rome for a 37-year period starting with Callistus in 199 A.D.
(Bible verses are from the NKJV.)
Baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus Acts 19:5
Proving Jesus is the Christ Acts 18:5
Acts 19:13-16 seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches.
by Jason Dulle
I've been giving some thought to the traditional Oneness Pentecostal interpretation of Matthew 28:19, particularly our emphasis on the importance of the singular nature of "name." We argue that if Jesus meant for us to actually invoke three names over the baptizee (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), He should have used the plural form, "names" rather than the singular form, "name," which is grammatically incorrect. The reason Jesus used the singular was not because He made a grammatical mistake, but because He only had one name in view. ...
The linchpin of this interpretation is the assumption that the singular "name" is grammatically incorrect. I'm not convinced this is true. The phrase, "Of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is a string of three genitival phrases modifying "name." One could easily understand the prepositional phrase, "in the name," to be implied for both the Son and the Holy Spirit, so that the intended sense of the verse is, "Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and [in the name] of the Son, and [in the name] of the Holy Spirit." This would be similar to me saying, "Arrest them in the name of the king, and the queen, and the motherland." Here, the singular use of "name" is justified because "in the name of" is implied for both the queen and the motherland. The meaning of the sentence is, "Arrest them in the name of the king, and [the name of] the queen, and [the name of] the motherland." If the same is true of Matthew 28:19, then the singular "name" is being applied to each of the three appellations individually. This would mean there is no theological significance in Jesus' use of the singular "name," and it is irrelevant to understanding how Matthew 28:19 squares with the baptismal formula used by the apostles in Acts. ...
Of course, I could be wrong about Jesus' intention. Perhaps He did not intend to imply "in the name of" in connection with the Son and Holy Spirit. Perhaps he intended the singular use of "name" to signal to the apostles that they were to baptize in His name alone. Whether it was due to Jesus' singular use of "name" or Jesus' emphasis on His authority, the fact remains that the apostles understood Jesus to mean they were to baptize in His name, and we should follow their lead.
Q: In Mt 28:19, what exactly does "in the name of" mean?
A: The New Testament was written in Greek, with the exception that Papias said that Matthew was written in the language of the Hebrews. So we have to ask what this term meant in those languages.
In Greek literature, "in the name of" is a financial or accounting firm, such as "this money is deposited in the name of the account holder.
In Hebrew literature is has a much broader range of meaning than the Greek, though it also includes the Greek meaning. In Hebrew it establishes a relationship with something or someone. For example, when a Jewish person bought a slave, they were sometimes baptized "in the name of slavery". If a Jewish person freed a slave, they were baptized "in the name of freedom." To the Jews, what would be the difference between just slaughtering an animal verses sacrificing an animal to God. They would kill the animal "in the name of the burnt offering" (or sine offering, or other type of offering), "in the name of the altar fires", "in the name of the sweet savor", "in the name of God", or "in the name of the good pleasure of God".
So when a believer was baptized these are equivalent
"in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" (Matthew 28:19)
"in the name of Jesus Christ" Acts 2:38; 10:48
"in the name of the Lord Jesus". Acts 19:5
"into Christ" Gal 3:27
"into Christ Jesus" Rom 6:3-4
See the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters p.60-61 for more info.
The Didache (before 125 A.D.) vol.7 ch.7 p.379 quotes it as, "Having first said all these things, baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living water. [i.e. running water]. But if thou have not living water, baptize into other water; and if thou canst not in cold, in warm. But if thou have not either, pour out water thrice upon the head into the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit."
Irenaeus of Lyons (182-188 A.D.) "And again, giving to the disciples the power of regeneration unto God, He [Jesus] said to them, 'Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'" Irenaeus Against Heresies book 3 ch.17.1 p.444.
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) slightly paraphrases this verse as follows: "He [Jesus] commanded the eleven others, on His departure to the Father, to 'go and teach all nations, who were to be baptized into the Father, and into the Son, and into the Holy Ghost." On Prescription Against Heretics ch.20 p.252.
Tertullian says it slightly differently in On Baptism ch.13 p.676 "God, He [Jesus] saith, 'teach the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Hippolytus (222-235/236 A.D.) quotes it as "Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Against the Heresy of One Noetus ch.14 p.228
A Treatise Against Novatian (254-256 A.D.) ch.3 p.658 "Go ye and preach the Gospel to the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. That is, that that same Trinity which operated figuratively in Noah's days through the dove, now operates in the Church spiritually through the disciples."
Treatise on Re-Baptism (c.250-258 A.D.) ch.7 p.671 "Go ye, teach the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Seventh Council of Carthage (258 A.D.) p.567 Munnulus of Girba said, "... even especially in the Trinity of baptism, as our Lord says, 'Go ye and baptize the nations, in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."
Seventh Council of Carthage (258 A.D.) p.569 Vincentius of Thibaris said, "Go ye and teach the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Victorinus of Petau (-307 A.D.) quotes it as "He [Jesus] sent forth the apostles, saying: 'Go ye, teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Commentary on the Apocalypse from the first chapter no.15 p.345
Lucian of Antioch (c.300-311 A.D.) quotes Matthew 28:19 about baptizing. Creed of Lucian of Antioch in The Creeds of Christendom by Philip Schaff vol.2 p.27
What View Did Most Christians Have?
Tertullian (c.213 A.D.) The simple, indeed, (I will not call them unwise and unlearned, ) who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One), on the ground that their very rule of faith withdraws them from the world's plurality of gods to the one only true God; not understanding that, although He is the one only God, He must yet be believed in with His own oikonomia. The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity they assume to be a division of the Unity; whereas the Unity which derives the Trinity out of its own self is so far from being destroyed, that it is actually supported by it. They are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods, while they take to themselves pre-eminently the credit of being worshippers of the One God; just as if the Unity itself with irrational deductions did not produce heresy, and the Trinity rationally considered constitute the truth. We, say they, maintain the Monarchy (or, sole government of God). And so, as far as the sound goes, do even Latins (and ignorant ones too) pronounce the word in such a way that you would suppose their understanding of the monarchia (or Monarchy) was as complete as their pronunciation of the term. Well, then Latins take pains to pronounce the monarchia (or Monarchy), while Greeks actually refuse to understand the oikonomia, or Dispensation (of the Three in One). As for myself, however, if I have gleaned any knowledge of either language, I am sure that monarxia (or Monarchy) has no other meaning than single and individual rule; but for all that, this monarchy does not, because it is the government of one, preclude him whose government it is, either from having a son, or from having made himself actually a son to himself, or from ministering his own monarchy by whatever agents he will. Against Praxeas ch.3 p.598-599
Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) "The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion [death], and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father 'to gather all things in one,' and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ..." Irenaeus Against Heresies book 1 ch.10.2 p.330.
Caius (190-217 A.D.) writes, "For they say that all those of the first age, and the apostles themselves, both received and taught those things which these men now maintain; and that the truth of Gospel preaching was preserved until the times of Victor, who was the thirteenth bishop in Rome from Peter, and that from his successor Zephyrinus the truth was falsified. And perhaps what they allege might be credible, did not the Holy Scriptures, in the first place, contradict them. And then, besides, there are writings of certain brethren older than the times of Victor, which they wrote against the heathen in defence of the truth, and against the heresies of their time: I mean Justin and Miltiades, and Tatian and Clement, and many others, in all which divinity is ascribed to Christ. For who is ignorant of the books of Irenaeus and Melito, and the rest, which declare Christ to be God and man? All the psalms, too, and hymns of brethren, which have been written from the beginning by the faithful, celebrate Christ the Word of God, ascribing divinity to Him. Since the doctrine of the Church, then, has been proclaimed so many years ago, how is it possible that men have preached, up to the time of Victor, in the manner asserted by these? And how are they not ashamed to utter these calumnies against Victor, knowing well that Victor excommunicated Theodotus the tanner, the leader and father of this God-denying apostasy, who first affirmed that Christ was a mere man? For if, as they allege, Victor entertained the very opinions which their blasphemy teaches, how should he have cast off Theodotus, the author of this heresy?" Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History book 5 ch.28
Question: Steve Ritchie, will you please correct the errors your website. Now I know you have to see what errors there are, misrepresenting the Trinity, before you correct them, and hopefully by the end of this you will see what to correct. But when you see an error on your website, that you acknowledge to be an error, will you correct it?
On one hand you say (like David K. Bernard), that early Christians believed Oneness [without specifying which form]. On the other hand, you say that most early Christians writers were Arians.
Here is what the actually believed: The Trinity, whether they used the name or not.
Justin Martyr (c.150 A.D.) (partial, not say Trinity) says that we worship and adore the Father, Son, and the prophetic Spirit. First Apology of Justin ch.6 p.164
Justin Martyr (c.150 A.D.) First Apology of Justin Martyr ch.60 p.183 (partial, not say Trinity) mentions the Father as the first, the Son as the second, and the Spirit as the third.
Justin Martyr (c.150 A.D.) (partial, not say Trinity) in discussing baptism "For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit..." First Apology of Justin Martyr ch.61 p.183
Evarestus (c.169 A.D.) (partial, not say Trinity) says Polycarp to God, Jesus Christ the beloved Son, and the Holy Ghost be glory now and to all coming ages. Martyrdom of Polycarp ch.14 p.42
Athenagoras (177 A.D.) (partial, not say Trinity) "The Holy Spirit Himself also, which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun. Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?" A Plea for Christians ch.10 p.133 (He does not actually use the word Trinity though.)
Athenagoras (partial) "For, as we acknowledge a God, and a Son his Logos, and a Holy Spirit, united in essence, - the Father, the Son, the Spirit, because the Son is the Intelligence, Reason, Wisdom of the Father, and the Spirit an effluence, as light from fire;" A Plea for Christians ch.24 p.141
Athenagoras (177 A.D.) (partial) says the Father, Son, and Spirit have distinction in unity. A Plea for Christians ch.12 p.134 Note that Athenagoras talked about the Trinity in many places, and he discusses everything except he did not use the word "Trinity".
Theophilus of Antioch (168-181/188 A.D.) "In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries [sun, moon, and stars] are types of the Trinity (Greek triad), of God, and His Word, and His wisdom." Theophilus to Autolycus book 2 ch.15 p.101.
Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) (partial, not say Trinity) "The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion [death], and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and his [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father 'to gather all things in one,' and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, ..." Irenaeus Against Heresies book 1 ch.10.2 p.330. (He does not actually use the word Trinity though.)
Irenaeus (182-188 A.D.) (partial, not say Trinity) says "the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him, anterior to all creation. He then goes on quoting Proverb 3:19,20 and so forth, showing that the Holy Spirit is the third person. Irenaeus Against Heresies book 4 ch.20.3 p.488
Passion of the Scillitan Martyrs (180 A.D.) ANF vol.9 p.285 (partial, not say Trinity) "all [the Scillitan martyrs] together were crowned with martyrdom; and they reign with the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, for ever and ever." (Mention of the three, but no mention of the word Trinity.)
Clement of Alexandria (193-202 A.D.) "So that when he says, 'Around the king of all, all things are, and because of Him are all things; and he [or that] is the cause of all good things; and around the second are the things second in order; and around the third, the third,' I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father." Stromata book 5 ch.14 p.468
Tertullian (198-220 A.D.) mentioned the Trinity (Latin trinitas) numerous times. One place where he talked about the Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is in Tertullian On Modesty ch.21 p.99
Hippolytus (222-235/236 A.D.) says mentions that it is through the Trinity that the Father is glorified. Against the Heresy of One Noetus ch.14 p.228
Origen (225-254 A.D.) "so the washing with water which is symbolic of the soul cleansing herself from every stain of wickedness, is no less in itself to him who yields himself to the divine power of the invocation of the Adorable Trinity, the beginning and source of divine gifts; for 'there are diversities of gifts.'" Commentary on John book 6 ch.17 p.366
Origen (225-254 A.D.) (implied) speak of the three hypostases, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Commentary on John book 2 ch.6 p.328
Treatise On Rebaptism (c.250-258 A.D.) ch.7 p.671 (partial) mentions being baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. (Does not use the word Trinity though.)
Theognostus of Alexandria (260 A.D.) (partial) "Theognostus, moreover, himself adds words to this effect: He who has offended against the first term and the second, may be judged to deserve smaller punishment; but he who has also despised the third, can no longer find pardon. For by the first term and the second, he says, is meant the teaching concerning the Father and the Son; but by the third is meant the doctrine committed to us with respect to the perfection and the partaking of the Spirit. And with the view of confirming this, he adduces the word spoken by the Saviour to the disciples: 'I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. But when the Holy Spirit is come, He will teach you.' III. Then he says again: As the Saviour converses with those not yet able to receive what is perfect, condescending to their littleness, while the Holy Spirit communes with the perfected, and yet we could never say on that account that the teaching of the Spirit is superior to the teaching of the Son, but only that the Son condescends to the imperfect, while the Spirit is the seal of the perfected; even so it is not on account of the superiority of the Spirit over the Son that the blasphemy against the Spirit is a sin excluding impunity and pardon, but because for the imperfect there is pardon, while for those who have tasted the heavenly gift, and been made perfect, there remains no plea or prayer for pardon." Seven Books of Hypotyposes or Outlines ch.1 vol.6 p.155.
Gregory Thaumaturgus (240-265 A.D.) in A Declaration of Faith p.7 mentions the Father, Son, and he mentions the "Trinity" three times.
A Sectional Statement of Faith (c.240-265 A.D.) (probably by Gregory Thaumaturgus, but it does not say) mentions the Trinity in ch.5 p.41 cgh.7p.7; ch.18 p.45; ch.20 p.45
The schismatic Novatian (250/254-256/7 A.D.) wrote a whole Treatise Concerning the Trinity.
Treatise Against Novatian (248-258 A.D.) while against Novatian, also teaches the Trinity. "Go ye and preach the Gospel to the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' That is, that that same Trinity which operated figuratively in Noah's days through the dove, now operates in the church spiritually through the disciples." ch.3 p.658
Cyprian of Carthage (256 A.D.) after quoting Jesus speaking Matthew 28:18-19, says "He [Jesus] suggests the Trinity, in whose sacrament the nations were to be baptized." Letters of Cyprian Letter 72 ch.5 p.380.
Firmilian of Caesarea in Cappadocia to Cyprian of Carthage (256 A.D.) mentions the Trinity. Epistles of Cyprian Letter 74 ch.11 p.393
Bishop Munnulus of Girba mentions the Trinity and quotes Matthew 28:19 "...in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" The Seventh Council of Carthage (258 A.D.) p.567
Euchratius Bishop of Thenae quotes Matthew 28:19 "...in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" and mentions heretics as blaspheming the Trinity. The Seventh Council of Carthage (258 A.D.) p.568
Dionysius of Alexandria (246-265 A.D.) mentions the Trinity by name twice in Letter 4 ch.8 p.93.
Dionysius bishop of Rome (259-269 A.D.) "For the doctrine of the foolish Marcion, which cuts and divides the monarchy into three elements, is assuredly of the devil, and is not of Christ's true disciples... For these [true disciples] indeed rightly know that the Trinity is declared in the divine Scripture, but that the doctrine that there are three gods is neither taught in the Old nor the New Testament." Dionysius of Rome Against the Sabellians (ANF vol.7) ch.1 p.365
Peter of Alexandria (306,285-311 A.D.) (partial) "the Creator and Lord of every visible and invisible creature, the only-begotten Son, and the Word co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and of the same substance with them, according to His divine nature, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ,..." fragment 5 p.282
Methodius (270-311/312 A.D.) "For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one. Whence also, with one and the same adoration, we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreate, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality He is. For nothing of the Trinity will suffer diminution, either in respect of eternity, or of communion, or of sovereignty. For not on that account is the Son of God called king, because for our sakes He was made man," Oration on Psalms ch.5 p.397. (See also The Banquet of the Ten Virgins discourse 8 ch.10 p.338 and ch.11 p.339)
Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.) (partial, two persons) The Divine Institutes book 4 ch.29 p.132 "When he had set forth two persons, one of God the King, that is, Christ, and the other of God the Father, who after His passion raised Him from the dead,..."
Lactantius (c.303-c.325 A.D.) (partial, two persons) "God, therefore, the contriver and founder of all things, as we have said in the second book, before He commenced this excellent work of the world, begat a pure and incorruptible Spirit, whom He called His Son. And although He had afterwards created by Himself innumerable other beings, whom we call angels, this first-begotten, however, was the only one whom He considered worthy of being called by the divine name, as being powerful in His Father's excellence and majesty. But that there is a Son of the Most High God, who is possessed of the greatest power," The Divine Institutes book 4 ch.6 p.105
Alexander of Alexandria (313-326 A.D.) says that the third day after His death Jesus rose again, bringing to us the knowledge of the Trinity. All nations of the human race were saved by Christ. Jesus was made like as to man, ascended to the height of heaven, and the Father raised him and made Jesus the judge of the peoples and King forever and ever." Epistles on the Arian Heresy Epistle 5 p.302
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http://www.onenesspentecostal.com/ugstsymposium.htm 7/3/2015 says that both Trinitarianism and early modalism (of Sabellius, Praxeas, and Callistus) were wrong.
The Proper Acknowledgment of the Distinctions
While modern Oneness believers have rightly found affinity with Modalism as the historic precursor of Oneness theology, we must not too readily identify ourselves with the entirety of their theology. We ought to embrace their understanding of God as a singular person, but avoid conflating Father and Son. Similarly, we ought to acknowledge the reality and genuineness of the NT distinctions as do Trinitarians, but avoid redefining monotheism in the process. Whereas Trinitarianism overemphasized and misunderstood the distinctions, Modalism ignored them or explained them away.6 Oneness theology can rise above the errors of both positions by acknowledging the genuineness of the distinctions, but find a better way of explaining the reason for their existence, all the while maintaining the uni-personal nature of God.
Historically speaking, however, Oneness theology has tended to mimic Modalism's explanation of Father and Son as being mere nominal devices to refer to the same person of God, seeing no real distinction between the terms.7 This in turn has caused Oneness believers to use "Father" and "Son" as synonymous equivalents, exchanging one appellation for the other, and thus eliminating any real referential distinction between Father and Son.8 The reason for such a practice is typically the fear of violating the strict monotheism of Scripture. Such caution is well founded, but it has caused some Oneness adherents to adopt a hermeneutic which denies any real distinction between Father and Son, and thus ignores or explains away the hundreds of passages that make such a distinction. The fault does not lie in the caution to protect God's oneness, but in the fact that some feel the need to explain away the Biblical distinctions to protect monotheism, rather than explain why the distinctions exist.
Avoiding the Mistakes of Modalism and Trinitarianism: The Proper Placement of the Distinction Between Father and Son
Oneness theology has always been in the quandary of finding a systematic way to confess God as uni-personal, and yet fully acknowledge and explain the Biblical distinctions between Father and Son without resorting to a Nestorian Christology. On both an academic and lay level, when Oneness adherents have admitted a real distinction between Father and Son, they have traditionally located it within Christ between His divine and human natures, thus effectively destroying the unity of His person.9 Such Nestorian slants are so prominent in the Oneness movement that some have concluded it impossible to embrace Oneness theology without embracing some form of Nestorianism. Of course, some Oneness theologians are acutely aware of this tendency, and have formulated a Christology that is both devoid of Nestorianism, and consistent with strict monotheism. Not only is this possible, but it is also necessary if we wish to adequately explain the distinction passages. We can avoid Trinitarianism and Nestorianism by locating the distinctions in their proper place.
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plural (Jn 14:23; Jn 17:20-22
Singular pronoun 1 Th 3:11 (directed); 2 Th 2:16-17 (loved, gave)
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God is a person
I have encountered a number of Oneness Pentecostals who not only object to the Trinitarian concept of God as "three persons," but object to calling God a "person" at all. It is my opinion that it is appropriate to refer to God as a person. In what follows, I will answer the most common objections offered against calling God a person.
Objection: God cannot be a person because God does not have a body.
Response: Having a body is not necessary to personhood. A person is essentially incorporeal in nature. What makes something a person is their possession of mind, the very thing God is/has. Having a body may be commonplace to persons, but it is not necessary. Put another way, persons might have bodies, but persons are not identical to their bodies. That this is true should be obvious from the doctrine of the intermediate state. When we die our person goes on to be with the Lord in heaven, but our body stays in the ground. Such a state of existence is possible only because having a body is not an essential property of persons. And if it is not an essential property of persons, then God's lack of a body does not count as evidence against His personhood.
"Persons" applies to more than just human beings. A person is concrete, immaterial conscious substance, an individual of rational substance, the composite of characteristics that make up an individual personality, a self, the ego, defining who it is who is of a particular generic substance. Any being who is a conscious, rational, thinking, subject of various experiences is a person. Both angels and God fit this description, and thus they are persons: God is a divine person; angels are angelic persons; and humans are human persons. Humans are embodied persons, while God and angels are disembodied persons (apart from Christ, at least).
As an unembodied mind, God possesses all the capacities of mind, and thus is the paradigmatic example of a person. Indeed, since we are made in His image, we could not be persons if He was not a person.
Objection: The Bible never uses the term "person" of God.
Response: The question is not whether the Bible uses the term per se, but whether the nature of God as described in Scripture can rightly be described as personable given the definition of person: a conscious, rational, thinking, subject of various experiences (a mind).
Furthermore, the Bible does not speak of humans as "persons" either (in the philosophical sense of psychological self-consciousness), and yet no one disputes the legitimacy of applying such a term to human beings. The mere fact that such terminology is not used of God no more means that God is not accurately described as being a person than the absence of such terminology for humans means we are not accurately described as persons. If we do not hesitate to call ourselves persons, neither should we hesitate to call God a person.
Objection: The Bible calls God a Spirit, not a person.
Response: The two terms are not incompatible with one another. Humans are spirits as well as persons. "Spirit" describes the kind of substance our person is; i.e. our person is a spirit, or spiritual in nature. The same is true of God. He is a person who is spiritual in nature.
If God is not a person, what is He? Answering that He is a spirit will not do, because spirits come in two logically possible forms: personal, impersonal. Clearly God is not impersonal, so He must be a personable spirit. If God is personable, why not call Him a person? What other than "person" properly and accurately describes the attribute of being personable?
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The Father did not withdraw from Jesus just prior to His death
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46). These famous words, uttered by Jesus on the cross, have been a source of confusion for many. Some people interpret this to mean God left Jesus on the cross prior to His death. For example, after quoting Matthew 27:46 in his book If ye Know These Things, Oneness adherent Ross Drysdale writes:
It was while Christ was on the cross, as the sins of all humanity were being laid down upon Him (Isa. 53:5), as death was fast approaching, that the Godhead withdrew from His body. This was necessary in order for Christ to die. For Christ could not die if the Father remained in Him. ... [A] Holy God would have to, out of necessity, withdraw from that body. The Father, had remained in Christ up to the very moment of death. ... The eternal Spirit of the Father remained with the Son during the crucifixional offering. Then as the moment of death arrived, the Father withdrew and Christ felt something he had never felt before— the Father had left the human Temple he had lived in for 33 years. Christ had never experienced this before. Yes, He had felt the Father radiating through Him in the Mount of Transfiguration. But this was new. No wonder He cried out in surprise, "My God, My God why hast thou forsaken me?" A few seconds after that a second spirit came out of Christ, the one that comes out of all us when we die, The Human soul - for he was a man also.
I think this understanding is multiply flawed. It presents us with a Jesus who was not God for at least a few moments, if not a few days. The union of the deity and humanity of Christ was not metaphysical and indissoluble, but volitional and soluble. Jesus is not a human nature personalized by the divine person as Christians have traditionally maintained, but an ontologically independent human person who is capable of existing wholly on His own, independent of the divine person. As such, Jesus qua Jesus is not God, but a mere man in whom God dwelt in a special way. But surely this is not grounds for thinking Jesus is God. Having someone indwell you, and being that someone are entirely different things. The first is a relational association while the latter is an ontological/personal identity. One who is not something in their very identity can, at best, only be near that something. Jesus may co-habit the same body as God, but He cannot be God because He does not share in God's personal identity. In like fashion, God may co-habit the same body as Jesus, but He cannot be man because He does not share in Jesus' personal identity. For Jesus to be God — meaning to have God's nature — requires that His person be singular, and that singular person be identified as YHWH Himself in metaphysical union with human nature. Anything less, such as a phenomenological and relational union, will not do.
The second problem is related to the first. If the Father left Jesus on the cross prior to His death, then Jesus sacrifice was not efficacious for sin. What makes Jesus' death efficacious is not merely His sinlessness, but His divine identity. If God was not present in Christ when Christ died for our sins, then Jesus' death is of no salvific value to us. Second Corinthians 5:19 informs us that it was God in Christ who reconciled the world to Himself. Similarly, the author of Hebrews declared that Jesus offered His body through the Spirit (Heb 9:14). If God had withdrawn from Christ prior to Christ's death, these affirmations would be false.
Thirdly, if God would have withdrawn from Jesus prior to Jesus' death, then Jesus would have ceased to exist. An incarnation of God (rather than a mere indwelling of God in an independently existing human person) means that the deity and humanity of Christ were as inseparable as the genetic influence of a mother and father is inseparable in their offspring. Just as no human being could exist if all that was contributed to his existence by either his father or his mother were removed, so Jesus could not have existed apart from the deity contributed by His Father and the humanity contributed by His mother Mary.
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The Biblical Data and the Theological Constructs Developed to Account for It
As explained in my article, "Oneness vs. Trinity—A Reason for the Different Theologies," the problem facing both Trinitarians and Oneness believers is how to reconcile three seemingly contradictory teachings of Scripture: 1. there is only one God; 2. The Father is referred to as (that one) God, the Son is referred to as (that one) God, and the Holy Spirit is referred to as (that one) God; 3. distinctions are made between Father, Son, and Spirit. The task of all Christians is to develop a doctrine of God that can incorporate all three of these truths without contradiction. Trinitarianism as well as Oneness theology are theological constructs that attempt to do just that. They do so, however, from different starting points, and thus end up with two different conclusions. Oneness theology starts with the OT teaching that God is one, and then proceeds to incorporate the NT distinctions in light of this foundation. Trinitarians start with the NT distinctions, and then proceed to fit such diversity within the OT teaching of monotheism. What is the outcome? Oneness theologians understand the NT distinctions as temporal and incarnational in nature, while Trinitarians understand the distinctions as eternal and personal in nature.
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As Millard Erickson has said, this willing limitation God imposed upon Himself when He became a could be likened to the world's fastest sprinter pairing up with the world's slowest sprinter to run a three-legged race. By willingly and intentionally binding himself to another runner, the fastest runner is going to slow himself down considerably. This type of running is a new experience for him. Although his individual physical strength and speed has not diminished, it has been circumscribed by the conditions in which it now existence. The essence of ability and strength has not been diminished, but the conditions willingly imposed upon them have limited the exercise of their full potential.
The solution to understanding the dual nature of Christ (a seeming contradiction) will not be found in minimizing or redefining Jesus' deity or humanity. The solution lies in the acknowledgment of Jesus' complete, authentic, and genuine humanity; a humanity which imposed limitations (accepted willingly and intentionally) upon the fullness of Christ's deity so that He could live on the same plane as any other human, sharing in all of their experiences, so that He could relate to man and be a sufficient high priest (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:14-16; 5:1-9; 7:13-28).
This kenosis explains the functional relationship between the genuine and complete humanity and deity of Christ. The deity was latent (there, but not being utilized) within Christ. In the willing limitation of His deity, living life as a man anointed by the Holy Ghost, the exercise of Jesus' knowledge, power, and presence, as God, was limited. If the fullness of the deity of the Father was in Christ, but the exercise of this deity was willingly limited so that Jesus could live within the limits of every human being, then there is no contradiction. Jesus, because of His complete humanity, is limited; because of His complete deity, is unlimited. Functionally, however, the two natures exist in a fashion where neither is compromised. His [Jesus'] two natures exist "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the difference of the natures having been in no wise taken away by reason of the union, but rather the properties of each being preserved....," as the Chalcedonian Creed says. The full ontological existence of God was in Christ (who was also ontologically a complete human being), but the essential properties (omnies) were not being exercised in Him.
Moulder makes the mistake of equating Jesus and God. In doing so, he sees it contradictory to find anything different be said of Christ, or done by Christ, that is not said of God, or done by God. It must be realized that although Jesus is God, He is more than God. Jesus' identity goes beyond that of the Father in that the Son has a component to His existence the Father (God in His transcendence) does not have, namely humanity. In a sense it can be said that Jesus was more than God; not more in His deity, but more with respect to the addendum (addition) of His human existence. Because this is so, Jesus and the Father are functionally distinct, which accounts for the differences we read about in the NT.
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Do not think I am saying that wherever the Bible says "Holy Spirit" that we should substitute "Father" in its place. There is a reason why the Scripture speaks of God as the Holy Spirit. God's Holy Spirit is "just God himself in the innermost essence of his being."1 The references to God's Holy Spirit often speak of God in activity. The term serves to signify a certain aspect of God's self-revelation to man. There is a reason why God is called the Holy Spirit. If terminology was not important, God would not have called himself by this name, and associated the Holy Spirit with certain activities such as sanctification. For such reason I do not try to substitute the references to God's "Spirit" in Romans 8:26-27 with "Father."
You can point to Romans 8:26 in an attempt to show that the Spirit is distinct in person from the Father, but what about Romans 9:9, 11? Here Paul said, "But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of the God dwells in you. Now if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. ... But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also give life to your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you." In verse fifteen we are said to be filled with the Spirit. If the Spirit of God is the Father as contrasted with the Spirit of Christ, and the Spirit of adoption, then we are said to be filled with the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. These names are used interchangeably. It cannot be that we are filled with three Spirits, for there is only one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4). It seems that the Holy Spirit is the Father, and is the Spirit of Christ (See also II Corinthians 3:17; compare Acts 5:3 with 5:4; Romans 8:26 with 8:34; I Corinthians 3:16 with 6:19).
Just as passages such as Romans 8:26-27 cause some difficulty for the Oneness position, passages like Romans 8:9-11 and others cause trouble for Trinitarians. We all have our problem passages to deal with. It is not a matter of one position having all the easy answers to all the tough questions, but which position most faithfully deals with the whole of the Biblical teaching on the nature of God, and can most adequately deal with the "problem" passages.
Steve Morrison: disagree. The Trinity is not "three" but both "one" and "three".
For more info please contact Christian Debater™ P.O. Box 144441 Austin, TX 78714 www.BibleQuery.org
by Steven M. Morrison, PhD.