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10 Questions to ask Oneness Believers

Answering Oneness Pentecostalism

 

 NOTE: the answers provided to the questions below are a simple and quick guide for the interested person wishing to compare Oneness theology with Trinitarian theology. The answers do not represent a *full exegetical presentation—rather it simply and basically demonstrates (a) the fundamental Oneness unitarian assumptions (viz. asserting that God is one Person) and (b) the basic theological errors of Oneness theology (e.g., denying the deity of the Son). For an expanded exegetical refutation of Oneness unitarian theology see Oneness Theology (Modalism).
 

Important Question: If Jesus is the Father, why is there not a single passage that states this in the NT or the OT? The fact is,  Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over 200 times in the NT--never as Father or Holy Spirit.  In the NT, Jesus refers to the Father over 200 times as someone else.

 

Further, the Father and Jesus are mentioned in the same verse over 50 times. Further, 179 times, Jesus refers to the Father as "the Father,” “my Father,” or “your Father” in the Gospels as distinct from himself, at no time does he refer to “my Son” or anything of the sort as distinct from himself! Forty times in John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as “sent by the Father,” but never does he refer to himself as the Father who sent the Son (see http://www.christiandefense.org/one_JesusFather.htm#_ftnref3).
 

Also, in Isaiah 9:6, where the name of the coming Messiah will be "Everlasting father," is of no help for Oneness advocates trying to prove Jesus is the Father See Isaiah 9:6: Oneness Refuted   

 

 

1. Can you point to a single passage in the Scripture where it specifically says or teaches God is unitarian? (or that God exist as one Person?)

 

 

2. If God is unitarian, how do you explain passages such as Genesis 19:24 where Yahweh (“LORD”), rained brimstone and fire from out of [Heb. min] Yahweh out of heaven?

 

 

3. If God is unitarian, why are there so many plural descriptions in the OT (viz. plural nouns, adjectives, and verbs) to describe God?

 

 

4. If God is unitarian, why is it that there are so many places in the Bible where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are clearly distinguished from each other in the same verse?

 

 

5. If Jesus is the Father, why is it that Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over two hundred times in the New Testament, and never once is he called “Father?

 

 

6. If the “Son” has not eternally existed with (personally distinct from) the Father why then is the Son presented as the Agent of creation, that is, the Creator? (for in Oneness theology only Jesus as the “Father” mode existed prior to Bethlehem).

 

 

7. If the Son did not eternally exist with the Father as a distinct Person why is it that the “Son” can say, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had [eichon, or “shared”] with You before the world was” (emphasis added)? Thus, how did the Son have (literally, “possessed”) glory with (para) the Father before time if the Son did not exist before Bethlehem?

 

 

8. If the Son did not eternally exist with the Father as a distinct Person why is it that the “Son” is said to be “sent” from the Father “out of heaven”?

 

 

9. If Oneness doctrine is biblically true, why then do the biblical authors use grammatical features that personally distinguish between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

  

 

10. If Oneness doctrine (or Modalism) is the so-called doctrine of the apostles, then, why was it universally condemned as *heretical* by the early church Fathers (some of who were disciples of the original apostles) and condemned by all the important church councils and creeds?

 

  


 

 

 1. Where in the Scripture does it say that God is unitarian? (or that God exist as one Person?)

 

Note: Nowhere in Scripture is God defined as one Person, but rather as one Being: mono (from monos, meaning, alone or only one) and theism (from theos, meaning, God). Oneness adherents (along with Muslims and Jehovah's Witnesses) wrongly assume that the concept or word "one" when referring to God (e.g., Deut. 6:4) has the strict denotative meaning of absolute solitude. Arguing unipersonalism (unitarianism) assumes a conclusion that is meant to be proved.      

 

 

2. If God is unitarian, how do you explain passages such as Genesis 19:24 where Yahweh (“LORD”), rained brimstone and fire from Yahweh out of heaven?

 

Note: there are many places in the OT where God is presented as multi-personal (e.g., plural nouns, verbs, nouns, prepositions, and plural adjectives were used of God, i.e., “Us,” “Our,” in Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; 11:7-9; Isa. 6:8; 54:5; Prov. 30:3; John 14:23]; Yahweh to Yahweh and Elohim (“God”) to Elohim correspondences in passages such as Gen. 19:24; Ps. 45:6-7; Hos. 1:6-7; etc.).

 

 

3. If God is unitarian, why are there so many plural descriptions in the OT (viz. plural nouns, adjectives, and verbs) to describe God? (As seen above).

 

Example: in Isaiah 54:5, “Maker” is plural in Hebrew, lit., “Makers”; same with Psalm 149:2 where “Maker” is in the plural in Hebrew. The same can be said in Ecclesiastes 12:1, where the Hebrew literally reads, “Remember also your Creators” (plural in Heb.). Thus, because God is tri-personal He can be described as both “Maker” and “Makers” and as “Creator” and “Creators.” He is one Being, not one Person—a point that is repeatedly brought to bear by the OT authors.

 

4. If God is unitarian, why is it that there are so many places in the Bible where the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are clearly distinguished from each other in the same verse?

 

 

Example, Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Also see passages such as Matthew 28:19; Ephesians 2:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2 where all three Persons of the Godhead are referred—in the same verse.

 

 

 5. If Jesus is the Father, why is it that Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over two hundred times in the NT, and never once is he called “Father?

 

 

 

The Pre-Existence of the Son

 

6. If the “Son” has not eternally existed with (personally distinct from) the Father why then is the Son presented as the Agent of creation, that is, the Creator Himself? (for in Oneness theology only Jesus as the “Father” mode existed prior to Bethlehem).

 

Note: in passages such as John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17, and Hebrews 1:10, the “Son” is clearly and grammatically presented as Agent of creation, the Creator Himself. Specifically, in John 1:3, Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:2, the Greek preposition dia (“though”) is followed by a pronoun in the *genitive* case (or possessive case). Grammatically, when dia is followed by the genitive (as in these passages), the preposition indicates “agency” (cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 368; J. Harold Greenlee, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, 5th ed. 31; A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 4:478-79; and cf. also Walter Bauer’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament, 3rd ed. [hereafter BDAG], 225).

 

Hence, exegetically these passages do not indicate that the Son was a mere instrument of creation (as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe), nor, as Oneness teachers say, do these passages indicate that the Son was only a thought or plan in the Father’s mind when the Father (Jesus’ divine nature) created all things. Rather the Son is biblically (exegetically) presented as the Creator of all things Himself. That the Son was the Creator clearly disproves the Oneness position.

 

This is the greatest weakness of the Oneness position: For if the Son created, then, He eternally existed with the Father.

 

 

 

7. If the Son did not eternally exist with the Father as a distinct Person why is it that the “Son” can say, “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had [eichon, or “shared”] with You before the world was” (emphasis added)?

 

How did the Son have (literally, actively possessed) glory with (para) the Father before time if the Son did not exist before Bethlehem?

 

Note: In this beautiful passage (Jesus’ high priestly prayer) the “Son” (for Jesus says, “Now, Father”) says that He possessed or shared glory with the Father, before time.

 

To avoid the plainness of the passage (namely, the preexistence of the Son and His personal distinction from His Father), Oneness teachers argue that the glory that Jesus (the Son) had with the Father, only signified the future glory or “plan” in the Father’s mind, thus anticipating the Son’s coming at Bethlehem. But the Son, they say, was not really there with the Father “before the world was.” However, consider the following:

 

First, note that the glory that the *Son* said that He possessed or shared (eichon) was when? Before time. The Son said that He *HAD* glory *before* time—with (para) the Father. Exegetically, it cannot refer to the Father thinking of the Son or having the Son in view or in His mind, for Jesus uses the imperfect tense (eichon, *had*), which shows that the Son had or possessed it, not in the Father‘s mind. The Son is speaking of something that He had, that He shared with the Father; the Son is not speaking of something that the Father had (in view).

 

Second, when did the Son have this glory (which only God has, Isa, 42:8)? Before time, with the Father. The term *with* is para in Greek. Grammatically, when the preposition para (“with”) is followed by the dative case (as in this verse: para seautō, para soi), especially in reference to persons, it indicates “near,” “beside,” or “in the presence of.” Noted Greek scholar Daniel B. Wallace provides the precise meaning of the preposition para followed by the dative: “In general, the dative uses suggest proximity or nearness. a. Spatial: near, beside, b. Sphere: in the sight of, before (someone), c. Association: with (someone/something) (BBGG). This is agreed by recognized Greek Grammars and recognized Lexicons of the NT such as BDAG, 757. Noted Greek grammarian, A. T. Robertson says of the passage that

 

This is not just ideal pre-existence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side (para soi, "with thee") “which I had” (hē eichon, imperfect active of echō. . . . (Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:275-76).

      

 In sum, John 17:5 the Son first commands/asks (doxason, aorist impart.) the Father to glorify Him together with Him (para seautō, thus, a shared glorification, a glory that only God can have, Isa. 42:8), which shows that the glory that the Son had was in together in the presence of the Father. The *Son* said that He possessed (note the imperfect of echō) the glory WITH (para, in the presence of) the Father (not in the Father’s mind, for eh Son had it). And when did the Son have this glory? Before time. Also, only that the Son was God can He God make this request/command to the Father, not mere man. For God does not share His glory with no one (cf. Isa. 42:8).

 

 So when you say that the Son did not exist before time, remember, your conclusion is not based on biblical exegesis, but rather on what you have been taught by Oneness pastors/teachers. Also, John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; and Heb. 1:8-10 teach exegetically that the Son was God, the Agent of creation, the Creator, thus pre-existing with the Father.

 

Note, of all the times para is followed by the dative in John's literature (10 times), not once does para indicate with/in the mind, but rather, a literal association or in the presence of someone else or others, unless one (as Oneness advocates do) makes John 17:5 the exception to John's usage:

 

For example,

 

1:39: He *said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they came and saw where He was staying; and they stayed with Him [par’ autw] that day, for it was about the tenth hour

 

8:38:  "I speak the things which I have seen with My Father [para tw patri]; therefore you also do the things which you heard from your father.”

 

14:23: "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and we will make Our abode with him.'" Note the first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”).  

 

17:5: "Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had/possessed  [eichon] with You before the world was."

19:25: Therefore the soldiers did these things. But standing BY THE CROSS [para tw staurw] of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.

 

Rev. 2:13: "I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed AMONG YOU [par' humin], where Satan dwells."

 

 

8. If the Son did not eternally exist with the Father as a distinct Person why is it that the “Son” is said to be “sent” from the Father “out of heaven”?

 

Scripture presents in plain and normal language that the preexistent Person of the Son was sent from the Father (e.g., John 3:13; 16-17; 6:33, 38, 44, 46, 50-51; 62; 8:23, 38, 42, 57-58; 16:28; Gal. 4:4). Nowhere in the New Testament, however, is it said that Jesus sent the Son. If Jesus were the Father, as Oneness believers contend, one would expect to find a clear example of this—at least one passage.

John 3:13; 6:38, 46, 62; 8:23, 38, 42; 16:28.

 

No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven [ek tou ouranou]: the Son of Man” (John 3:13).

 

 

Referenes of teh Son coming down ek tou ouranou ("from the heaven")  appears 10 times in this chapter 6 alone!- - In Verses 31, in 32 (twice),    33, 38- (apo tou ouranou) 41, 42, 50, 51, and 58, which has “came down ex ouranou).-

 

27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.”

 

31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them BREAD [arton] ek tou ouranou to eat.’”

 

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the Bread ek tou ouranou, but it is My Father who gives you the true Bread ek tou ouranou.

 

33 For the bread of God [tou theou] is that which comes down ek tou ouranou, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”  

 

35: Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36: But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe (Oneness folks)

 

38: For I have come down apo tou ouranou, not to do My own will, but )the will of Him who sent Me

 

41: Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down ek tou ouranou

 

42: They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down ek tou ouranou?”

 

50 This is the bread which comes down ek tou ouranou, so that one may eat of it and not die. 

51: I am the living bread that came down ek tou ouranou

 

58: This is the bread which came down ex ouranou; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.”

 

Thus, the Person of the Son of Man was in heaven prior to being sent. That the “Son of Man” was in heaven prior to Bethlehem creates a theological problem for Oneness doctrine. For the “Son of Man” in Oneness theology was not the Father, but the human Son who emerged not until Bethlehem, but here, the Son of Man came from heaven, that is, the Son.

 

Also see Philippians 2:6-11, where we read that the “Son” (see vv. 1:2, 2:9, 11) who, “existed in the form of God” [literally, “always subsisting as God”] . . . did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasp . . . emptied Himself . . . taking the form of a bond-servant.” Note that the Apostle Paul indicates that the “Son” was always existing as deity. Oneness deny that the Son is God, only the “Father” (i.e., Jesus’’ divine nature) is God. However, here the “Son” is presented as fully God. To say that the Father did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasp and then emptied Himself taking the very nature of a man is biblical incoherent. for     

 

For in verse 6, Paul plainly asserts that Jesus was always subsisting as God: “who . . . existed [huparchōn] in the form of God [morphē theou]” (emphasis added). The word translated “existed” is huparchōn (the present active participle of huparchō). The present particle indicates a continuous existence or continually subsisting (see BDAG, 1029; Thayer, 638)—the Son was always God.

 

Hence, Jesus, the Son (cf. 1:2, 2:9, 11), did not become the very form or nature (morphē) of God at a certain point in time, rather He always existed as God. Further the “Son” is said to have voluntarily “made Himself nothing, taking [labōn]1 the nature of a servant” (vv. 7-8). Also note that the reflexive pronoun heauton, (lit. “Himself He emptied”) indicates a “self-emptying.”2 Thus, it was not the Father, as Oneness teachers suppose, but the Son who voluntarily emptied Himself and became obedient to death—“even death on a cross” (v. 8).

 

 

9. If Oneness doctrine is biblically true, why then do the biblical authors use grammatical features that personally distinguish between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?

 

 

 

 Example,

 

First and third person personal pronouns:

 

Throughout chapter 14, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father by using first person personal pronouns (“I,” “Me,” “Mine”) to refer to Himself and third person personal pronouns (“He,” “Him,” “His”) to refer to His Father (e.g., John 14:7, 10, 16). This case of marked distinction is also evident when Jesus differentiates Himself from God the Holy Spirit:

 

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [allon]3 Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16; also see 14:7, 10, 26; emphasis added).

 

 

Specifically, the repetition of the article tou (“the”) before each noun and the conjunction kai (“and”) that connects the nouns clearly denote a distinction between all three Persons named.4 Note Matthew 28:19: “in the name of the [tou] Father and the [kai tou] Son and the [kai tou] Holy Spirit.” Further, Paul clearly presents the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, not as three modes of a unipersonal deity, but rather as three distinct Persons. The same grammatical distinctions are observed in 2 Corinthians 13:14:

 

The grace of the [tou] Lord Jesus Christ, and [kai] the love of God [tou theou (lit. “the God”)], and [kai] the fellowship of the [tou] Holy Spirit be with you all (emphasis added).

 
In Revelation 5:13, the Lamb and the Father are presented as two distinct objects of divine worship, as they are clearly differentiated by the repetition of the article :

 

To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion for ever and ever (emphasis added).

           

 
"To Him who sits” (tō kathēmenō [lit. “to the one sitting”—the Father]) “and the Lamb” (kai tō arniō—the Son) are grammatically differentiated by the repeated article (“the”), which precedes both nouns and are connected by the one conjunction kai (“and”). Further, turning to 1 John 1:3, not only does John show that believers have fellowship with both the Father and the Son, but the Father and the Son are clearly distinguished as two Persons by the repeated article tou (“the”) and the repeated preposition meta (“with”):

 

we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with [meta] us; and indeed our fellowship is with the [meta tou] Father and with [meta] His Son [tou huiou] Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3; emphasis added).

 

            There are many other passages where this construction applies clearly denoting distinction between the Persons in the Trinity (e.g., 1 Thess. 3:11; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 John 2:22-23).

 

Different prepositions: Throughout John chapter 14 (and chaps. 15-16), Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using different prepositions. This use of different prepositions “shows a relationship between them,”5 and clearly denotes essential distinction, e.g., “no one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me” (John 14:6); “he who believes in [eis] Me . . . I am going to [pros] the Father” (v. 12; cf. also John 15:26; 16:28). Paul, too, regularly uses different prepositions to clearly differentiate the Father from the Son. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul teaches that by the agency of the Son, Christians have access to the Father by means of the Spirit:

 

For through Him [di’ autou—the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera] (Eph. 2:18).

 

 

 

10. If Oneness doctrine (or Modalism) is the so-called doctrine of the apostles, then, why was it universally condemned as *heretical* by the early church Fathers (some of who were disciples of the original apostles) and condemned by all the important church councils and creeds?

 

  

Example, Theodotus (the first known dynamic monarchianist) was excommunicated by Victor, the bishop of Rome, around A.D. 190; Noetus (the first known modalist) was condemned by Hippolytus and by the presbyters around the same time; Praxeas was marked as a heretic by Tertullian; Paul of Samosata was condemned at the Third Council in Antioch (A.D. 268); Dionysius of Alexandria and Dionysius bishop of Rome along with many important church Fathers condemned Sabellius and his teachings as Christological heresy. Moreover, significant Christian church councils affirmed the Trinity and explicitly rejected Oneness doctrine: e.g., Council of Nicea (325); Chalcedon Creed (A.D. 451); Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381); etc.

 

Consider this, Trinitarians, not Oneness believers, conducted all of the major revivals worldwide. Virtually all of the great biblical scholars, theologians, and Greek grammarians, historically have been and presently are Trinitarian, not Oneness—for obvious reasons. The church has branded Oneness theology as heretical since the days of Noetus at the end of the second century. Moreover, when it found its way in the twentieth century, departing from the Trinitarian Pentecostals, it was again rejected by the church.

 

Modalism rips the heart out of Christianity—it denies Christ by misrepresenting Him. To be sure, Modalism embraces another Jesus, another Gospel, and another Spirit. There is only one true God. The Apostle John was very concerned as to the false beliefs and teachings of Jesus Christ, as he gives this warning:

 

Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also (1 John 2:23).

 

By promoting the Son as a temporary mode or a role of the unitarian deity whose life started in Bethlehem, denies the Son, as well as the Father.

 

 

1. Oneness theology rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, for they are unitarian (i.e., believes that God exists as one Person—unipersonal).

 

2. Oneness theology rejects the eternality of the Person of the Son.

 

3. Oneness theology rejects that the Son was the actual Creator.

 

4. Oneness theology rejects the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

 

5. Oneness theology distorts and thus rejects the biblical concept of the Son being Mediator (Intercessor) between the Father and men (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). For if Jesus is the Father, then, between whom would He Mediate since by definition a mediator/intercessor represents two distinct partiers, other than Himself. Biblically, only Jesus, God the Son, can rightfully represent the Father (because He is God a distinct Person from the the Father), and represent man because He is fully man. Again, in its proper sense, a "mediator" is one who is other than or distinct from the parties, which are being mediated. However, since in Oneness theology Jesus is both Father and Son, Jesus cannot be properly "Mediator" between two parties--God the Father and man.    

 

 6. Many Oneness churches especially the UPCI rejects justification through faith alone by teaching that one must be water baptized (“in the name of Jesus” only) to be saved—with the evidence, as the UPCI teaches, of speaking in other tongues.

 

7.  Virtually all Oneness churches reject that water baptism should be done in the *triune* formal as instructed by Jesus in Matthew 28:19, rather, as they insist, it should be dome in the name of Jesus only.

 

 

 

NOTES

 

[1] The participle labōn, is a participle of means (cf. Wallace, Beyond the Basics, 630). The participle describes the means or manner of the emptying. Hence, the Son emptied Himself by means of His incarnation (cf. John 1:14). Note that the emptying did not involve His deity, for Paul safeguards against such an assertion in verse 6: hos en morphē theou huparchōn (“who [Christ] always and continually subsisting in the very nature and substance God”; author’s translation).

[2] Cf. Wallace, Beyond the Basics, 350-51; Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology, 263.

[3] BDAG defines allos here as “pert[aining] to that which is other than some other entity, other . . . distinguished fr. the subject who is speaking or who is logically understood. . . .” (BDAG, 46).

[4] This grammatical rule is also know as “Granville Sharp rule #6: when multiple personal nouns in a clause are each preceded by the article ho (“the”) and linked by kai (“and”) each personal noun denotes a distinct person as in Matthew 28:19 (esp. 2 Cor. 13:14; also cf. 1 Thess. 3:11; 1 John 1:3; 2:22-23; Rev. 5:13).As NT scholar Harold Greenly points out, “When the article is used before each member, each is to be considered separately” (Greenlee, Exegetical Grammar, 23).

[5] Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 34. Additionally, the repetition of the preposition distinguishes the Father and the Son as two distinct self-aware Subjects (e.g., 1 John 1:3).

 

 

 

 

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