Theological Identification: “Oneness” theology, historically known as “Modalism.”[1]

Who: Oneness churches include the United Pentecostal Church International (hereafter UPCI), which is the largest Oneness domination. In addition to the UPCI, there are many other Oneness churches having generic names such as “Apostolic,” “Bethel Temple,” “Higher Ground,” “Jesus’ Name,” or even “Jesus Only,” etc. Further, there are many popular and prolific preachers on the airwaves that propagate Oneness theology (e.g., Trinity Broadcasting Network [TBN] features one of the most recognized Oneness preachers, T. D. Jakes of the Potters House, Dallas, TX.[2]

The basics of Oneness theology:

The Father: Jesus’ divine nature, God.

Son: Jesus’ human nature, the Son of God, not God the Son, for only the Father is God. Jesus’ divine nature is the Father (or the Holy Spirit), His human nature is the Son.

Holy Spirit: Jesus’ divine nature. Thus, as to His divine nature, Jesus is both Father and Holy Spirit depending on His particular function (e.g., Jesus as the Father created all things, but Jesus as the Holy Spirit mode is the Comforter).

Oneness Christology is a clear and major departure from biblical orthodoxy. It removes the personhood and deity and incarnation from the Son, thus removing the Son from the Trinity. The chief Oneness Christological divergences from that of the biblical teachings are as follows:

  • Oneness Christology denies the unipersonality of the Son, Jesus Christ. 
  • Oneness Christology denies that the “Son” is God. As stated, Oneness theology teaches that Jesus’ divine nature represents the Father and Holy Spirit, but not the Son—i.e., the “Son” is not God; He is merely the human nature of Jesus (see Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 99, 103, 252; UPCI, website, 2008).
  • Oneness Christology denies the preexistence and incarnation of the Son and His role as the agent of creation (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 103-4; Magee, 1988: 25). Thus, by denying the preexistence of the Son, Oneness doctrine rejects the incarnation of the divine Son holding to the erroneous notion that it was Jesus as the Father, not the Son, who came down and wrapped Himself in flesh (hence, not actually becoming flesh), and that flesh was called “Son” (see Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 106, 122; 1991:103).
  • Oneness Christology claims that Jesus is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (same Person), hence denying the concept of the Trinity (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 57; Weisser, 1983: 2; UPCI, 2008). Thus, Oneness theology is “unitarian” seeing God as a unipersonal deity, same as Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses. 

In sharp contrast, in the Pauline corpus, the deity, unipersonality and distinction of all three Persons are seen frequently either in the same passage or same context (cf. 2 Cor. 13:14). Both John and Paul present the Son as fully God and Creator of all things (cf. John 1:1, 3, 18; Col. 1:16-17; Phil. 2:6-11).

In the prologue of Hebrews, the author in v. 3 and God the Father Himself declares that the Person of the Son is “the God” (ho theos, v. 8) and further, God the Father *directly addresses* the Son as “Lord” (using the vocative kurie, “Lord”), thus, the YHWH of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator (1:10-12). The Father’s words here totally demolish the Oneness position, which sees the “Son” representing only the human nature of Jesus whose life started in Bethlehem.

Oneness theology cannot stand exegetically. It must circumvent and redefine the plain reading of many passages that state or imply, for example, the grammatical and contextual distinctions of the Persons in the Trinity, the preexistence and deity of the Son, and the deity and unipersonality of the Holy Spirit. Further, contrary to the historical revisionism frequently employed by Oneness authors and teachers, the early church prior to Nicea held to the concept of the Trinity and universally rejected Oneness doctrine, that is, they rejected both modalistic and dynamic forms of Monarchianism.

We must pray that God rescues Oneness believers from the darkness of Oneness-unitarianism. As Christians, we must present to them a coherent presentation of the gospel proclaiming the one true God and Savior of biblical revelation, who has revealed Himself as triune.

For a short outline on the Oneness rejection of the Son’s preexistence see this  See The Preexistence of the Son and Oneness Theology.

See10 Questions to ask Oneness Believers

See and print this short Oneness Tract

NOTES

[1] Oneness theology was first known as monarchianism, which comes from the Greek word monarchia, meaning single principle. There were two forms of monarchianism: modalistic, and the far less accepted, dynamic (or more properly called adoptionism), both of which emerged at the end of the second century. Modalistic monarchianism, known also as Modalism, Sabellianism (named after the heretic Sabellius, who came to Rome and taught it at the beginning of the third century) and even patripassianism (from Lat., meaning, “father to suffer”). Today, however, Modalism is generally classified as “Oneness.” Modalism earned its name from its distinctive theology. Basically, Modalism (or Oneness theology) teaches that God is a unitarian (i.e., unipersonal), indivisible monad. Hence, the titles “Father,” “Son,” and “Holy Spirit” were merely the different modes, roles, or offices that the unipersonal deity temporally manifested for the sake of redemption. Oneness teachers today tell us that Jesus is the name of the single, lone Person behind the three masks of the “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” (in contrast to early Modalism, which taught it was the Father Person behind the masks).

[2] If you are unsure about the orthodoxy of a particular church (or pastor), examine the church’s doctrinal statement concerning God. If it avoids the word “Person,” and/or describes God as three “manifestations” or “dimensions” (as T. D. Jakes does, see The Potter’s House  use extreme caution! Orthodox Christianity has never described God as merely temporary appearances, manifestations, or even worse, “dimensions.” Oneness churches typically describe God in those terms. However, if a church claims to be Trinitarian, yet uses terms like “manifestations” to describe the three Persons of the Trinity, it reveals theological ignorance or carelessness. In my observation, the term “manifestations” in a doctrinal statement frequently indicates Oneness rather than Trinitarian theology. Therefore, when churches avoid the term “Persons” in their doctrinal statements—beware.

The fundamental difference between biblical Christianity and Oneness theology is this: the Oneness view of God holds to a unitarian starting point, namely, the assumption that monotheism equals unipersonalism.

First, since Oneness doctrine asserts a unipersonal God without the distinction of three Persons, it sees Jesus then as the mere “name” of the unipersonal deity, who manifested as the modes or roles of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thus denying the unipersonality of Jesus Christ. Second, since it asserts that only the Father is God (i.e., Jesus’ divine nature/mode), the “Son” represents only Jesus’ human nature/mode, thus denying the Son’s deity. Third, since it rejects the idea that the Son is God, Oneness Christology denies (a) the Son’s pre-existence, (b) the Son’s active role as the agent of creation (the Creator), and (c) the Son’s eternal and intimate relationship with the Father. Pertaining to redemption, Oneness doctrine maintains that Jesus as the Father took flesh, hence denying the incarnation of the divine Son.

In contrast, an exegetical analysis of particular biblical passages in both the Old and New Testaments establishes the fundamental data for the doctrine of the Trinity. Hence, Scripture reveals in the clearest way that there are three distinct Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—that share the nature of the one God. Thus, the three Persons are co-equal, co-eternal, co-existence, and co-distinct. The full deity, incarnation and pre-existence of the Son, as a distinct Person from the Father, are especially expressed in the Apostle John’s writings.

In the Pauline corpus, the deity, unipersonality and distinction of all three Persons are seen frequently either in the same passage or same context. Both John and Paul present the Son as God and Creator of all things. In the prologue of Hebrews, the author asserts clearly and coherently that the Person of the Son is the eternal Creator; this assertion demolishes the Oneness position, which sees the “Son” representing only the human nature of Jesus whose life started in Bethlehem. This work concludes that the concept of the Trinity is inescapable in the light of biblical exegesis. Oneness theology cannot stand exegetically. It must circumvent and redefine the plain reading of many passages that state or imply, for example, the grammatical and contextual distinctions of the Persons in the Trinity, the pre-existence and deity of the Son, and the deity and unipersonality of the Holy Spirit.

Lastly, contrary to the historical revisionism frequently employed by Oneness authors and teachers, the early church prior to Nicea held to the concept of the Trinity universally rejecting both modalistic and dynamic forms of Monarchianism.   

In light of the theological views of Oneness theology, we must evangelize Oneness believers. We must proclaim to them the truth of the Jesus Christ of biblical revelation. And we must pray for them praying that God saves them and makes them alive to the gospel of the Son, “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;  and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Because of the phrase Eternal Father”  

Oneness advocates argue that the passage is teaching that the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the Eternal Father. Aside from the fact, that nowhere in the NT is Jesus ever called “Father,” there are several flaws in this kind of modalistic interpretation:

  1. Oneness teachers commit the fallacy of equivocation by asserting that the term “father” has only one meaning. The term father (ab) has various meanings in the OT, depending on the context.
  2. When the term father is applied to God (or YHWH) in the OT (only fifteen times), it denotes His parental character to His children, namely, Israel (e.g., Isa. 63:16). Primarily though, the usage of father denoted God as Creator. As a matter of fact, the term “father” is not even a standard recurring title for God in the OT;it is used only fifteen times.
  3. The word translated name (shem) as in His name will be called (shemqara) was not a formal title for God, but rather it denoted the essence or essential characteristics of who someone is (cf. Young, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah, 1972: 331). This was clearly the Semitic concept of name. Hence, as to the essence and character of the Messiah, He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.
  4. Along with the primary meaning of Creator, the term father correspondingly carries the idea of possessor or founder, as with His creation. For example, 2 Samuel 23:31 speaks of Abialbon, which name means father (or possessor) of strength, strong one. Exodus 6:24 speaks of a man named Abiasaph, whose name means father of gathering, he who gathers. Thus, the Messiah isab of eternity, that is, possessor of eternity. Richards further explains:

 The key word for father in the Bible is ab. It occurs 1,191 times in Hebrew and 9 times in Aramaic form. It is a complex word. Although it usually indicates a literal father or grandfather, it may also be used as a title of respect for a governor or prophet or priest. . . . Ab is also used to indicate the founder of a guild. Thus Ge 4:21 identifies Jubal as father of all who play the harp and flute, i.e., he was the first musician. . . . It is probable that the title Everlasting Father ascribed to Messiah by Isaiah (Isa 9:6) is better understood as father of eternity, i.e., founder of the ages (New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words, 1991: 266).

  1. Syntactically, the Hebrew term “father” precedes the word translated eternal (lit. father eternal) indicating the eternal nature of the Messiah. The Aramaic Targums reveal this thought well:

 For us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . and his name will be called the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, existing forever [or He who lives forever ]. The Messiah in whose days peace shall increase upon us (Targum, Jonathan; emphasis added).

  1. There has never been a Jewish commentator, Rabbi, or Christian scholar or writer that has interpreted Isaiah 9:6 as Oneness teachers do. Beisner in his book, Jesus Only Churches (1998: 32), dismantles the Oneness exegesis here simply by pointing out that “I am a father, but I am not my father.” Oneness teachers must prove that Jesus is specifically called the “Father” of the Son of God (i.e., His own Father). Isaiah 9:6 only calls Him father of eternity.

“Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (2 John 1:3; emphasis added).

Oneness apologists are constantly developing new arguments against the doctrine of the Trinity, to which Christians should know how to respond (see “Footloose Theology of Roger Perkins” pertaining to the adjective heis and John 10:30.   

One such argument states that in the NT, the Greek masculine adjective heis (“one”) always means “one person.” Thus, passages such as Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5; etc. teach that God is “one person.” However, the Oneness-unitarian so-called semantic rule is clearly refuted by the fact that heis appears in Galatians 3:28 referring to many:

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you [humeis, 2nd per. plural] are [este, plural verb] all one [heis] in Christ Jesus.”

Further, this Oneness notion completely backfires at 1 Corinthians 8:6, which contains a double usage of heis. If heis always means “one person,” as Oneness advocates argue, then, the “one [heis] God, the Father” is one person and the “one [heis] Lord, Jesus Christ” is another (distinct) divine person, which is consistent with Trinitarianism, not Oneness:

“yet for us there is but one [heis] God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one [heis] Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” (cf. Deut. 6:4)

Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advanced than that of the Trinity. It could have originated only in one mind, and that the mind of Satan the Devil (Reconciliation [Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1928], p. 101).

Since the beginning of human history, the nature of God (i.e., how He revealed Himself) has been furiously attacked (esp. ontological monotheism).[1] Though, one of the first heresies that emerged in first century church was that of the Judaizers.[2] And the second heresy that the early church dealt with was that of the Gnostics.[3] Both of which were thoroughly refuted by the apostles in there writings.[4]

Jesus was clear on the subject: eternal life is to have “knowledge” of the true God (cf. John 17:3; 8:24). And Scripture presents that there is one true God who revealed Himself in three coequal, coeternal, and coexistent *distinct* persons—thus, God is Triune. The biblical data is undeniable. But many today (and historically) deny, in some way, shape, or form, the doctrine of the Trinity. We are not speaking of some peripheral, non-essential doctrine here: The belief in the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to ones salvation, for it is how God revealed Himself—the very nature or essence of His essential Being, the only true God.

If one removes the Son from the Trinity (in any way), the Son is reduced to either to a created being (as with, for example, Oneness believers and Jehovah’s Witnesses [JWs]) or the Son becomes a “separate” God (as in Mormonism). The Trinity is the biblical explanation of how there is one God and yet the Son is presented as both Creator[5] and “God” (theos)[6] distinct from the Father and Holy Spirit who are likewise presented as God.[7]

==========================================

Main Objections to the Trinity[8]

Also, see JWs_Objections in which deals specifically with the Trinitarian objections made by the JWs. And see here Oneness_Objections in dealing with some of the specific Trinitarian objections made by the Oneness Pentecostals.

However, virtually all anti-Trinitarians utilize the same arguments as delineated below:

The Trinity is 3 separate Gods

This is a typical straw man argument that misrepresents the doctrine of the Trinity by assuming that “Trinity” means, three “separate” Gods. The very foundation, however, for the doctrine of the Trinity is *monotheism*: there exists only one true God (one Being, not one Person). As seen, the doctrine of the Trinity states that there are three *distinct* coequal, coeternal, and coexistent Persons who share the nature of the one true God. The belief in three separate Gods is not Trinitarianism, but tritheism, which is how the Mormons view the Godhead.

The Trinity is from pagan origins

This is an argument of false cause (i.e., misrepresents the cause of something). In pagan constructs, they worshipped and believed in three separate gods. The Trinity asserts one true eternal God revealed in three distinct inseparable Persons. The Trinity is indigenous only to Christianity. The burden of proof rests squarely on those who make this kind of assertion—asserting something does not prove anything.

“Trinity” is an unbiblical term

This is a very popular objection especially among JWs. For the JWs to argue that the Trinity is not true because the exact word “Trinity” is absent from the Bible is self-refuting. If that kind of reasoning was true, then, the JWs would have to admit: the “Trinity” cannot be pagan, for the word “Trinity is not found in any pagan sources either. Further, if the *non-biblical words = false doctrine* argument were true, then, the Watchtower[9] [WT] must be a false religion for distinctive words that describe their organization are not contained in the Bible either such as “theocracy.” Even the mispronounced and mistransliterated term “Jehovah” was not found until the early thirteenth century, as admitted by the WT.[10]

It is also self-refuting for Oneness advocates to pose the same argument. For many Oneness doctrinal terms that denote the Oneness concept of God are not found in Scripture either (e.g., “manifestations,” “modes,” “offices,” “unipersonal,” “monad,” etc.).

So on one side, both Oneness believers and JWs argue that the “Trinity” cannot be true because the exact term is not contained in Scripture, but on the other side, they both will assert the opposite: non-biblical terms can be used to justify their distinctive doctrines, which they say are biblical.[11] In point of fact, and what is not at all considered, is that terms like, “incarnation,” “self-existent,” etc. are not mentioned in Scripture and both are biblical truths, which by the way, all Oneness believers agree upon.

If we were only limited to strict biblical words, then, when teaching out of the NT, we would have to use only Koinē Greek words that the authors used! Employing extra-biblical terminology does not violate the rules of sola-Scriptura (Scripture alone), as long as the terminology is consistent with Scripture.

In other words, the term “Trinity” is merely a precise doctrinal word that defines the biblical revelation that is so overwhelmingly found in Scripture: There exists only one true God. Scripture also presents that there are three distinct Persons[12] who share the nature of the one true God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the church has used the term “Trinity” to describe the biblical data as with “incarnation” (cf. John 1:14) or God’s self-existence (cf. Ps. 90:2) all of which are biblical concepts. Again, this point must be understood: We cannot confuse the biblical data with doctrinal words that define that data.

The Trinity doctrine did not emerge until the 4th century

This is an argument from ignorance. First of all, the term was first used in the East as early as A.D. 180 to describe God by early church apologist, Theophilus, bishop of Antioch.[13] Further, it is completely misleading to say that the doctrine of the Trinity did not emerge until the 4th century.[14] This is a meaningless objection—for it confuses *doctrinal terms* with biblical revelation (as discussed above). The question of what is and what is not biblical is not determined by doctrinal terms, but rather the exegesis of the text. For a term to be “biblical,” it must be substantiated by the clear biblical data—i.e., what is stated in the pages of Scripture. Thus, we are not, as Paul instructs, to “go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6 NIV).

Scripture presents God as triune. As Christians, we must present a positive affirmation of the gospel (i.e., the true God) and a biblical defense to those who oppose it.[15] For this glorifies God. The JWs spend literally thousands of hours teaching (in literature and personal interaction) against the Trinity. In 2006, they conducted over six million Bible studies every week worldwide! Thus, we must take the time to accurately present the doctrine of the Trinity (the one true God) in our gospel presentation. Pastors especially should be mindful that by never mentioning the Trinity, it is nearly as bad as rejecting the doctrine itself.

NOTES

[1] Ontological (by nature) monotheism (one God) is the doctrine that there exists only one God by nature (cf. Deut. 4:35; Jer. 10:10-11). Mormons, although, claim that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are “one God,” but only in the sense of “unity,” not one in essence. But, as they assert, these three are three “separate” Gods, with the Father as the head God in whom they worshiped alone—thus, the Mormon view of the Godhead. But whether one or more Gods are worshiped is irreverent, the question is: how many true Gods exist? The fact that the Mormons believe that many “true” Gods exist, therefore, categorizes the Mormon people as overt polytheists (the belief in many true Gods) and hence, non-Christian. Not only in the OT, but in the NT as well, strict monotheism was strongly asserted (e.g., Mark 28:29; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5).

[2] Simply, the Judaizers taught that one had to practice the OT law, rituals, ordinances, etc. (esp. circumcision), to obtain salvation. And this, was the primary reason as to why Paul wrote to the Galatians.

[3] The Gnostics (from gnōsis, meaning “knowledge”) held to a dualistic system: spirit was good and all “matter” (esp. flesh) was inherently evil; some even taught that “matter” did not exist; it was illusory—as with the theology of Christian Science today. Both the Apostle John and Paul specifically refuted this teaching (esp. in Col. and 1 & 2 John).

[4] As seen above.

[5] E.g., Isa. 9:6; John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17)

[6] E.g., John 1:1, 18; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8-10

[7] Of course, the OT and NT teaching of “one God” (i.e., monotheism) does indicate or equate “one person” as *unitarian* groups such as Jews, Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals, etc. presuppose. Monotheism simply means “one God” (viz. “one Being”). To argue that “one God” equals “one person” is to argue in a circle. It assumes what is meant to be proven.

[8] These examples, however, are not necessarily in order of usage. Further, this is not an exhaustive list, only a sample of some of the main objections that are utilized most commonly by anti-Trinitarians.  

[9] That is, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which is the organization of the JWs.

[10] The WT publication, Aid To Bible Understanding, states:

The first recorded use of this form [Jehovah] dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish [Roman Catholic] monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270 C.E. (Aid To Bible Understanding, 1971, pp. 884-5).

For more information on the term “Jehovah” see www.christiandefense.org/Article on Jehovah.htm

[11] In logic, this kind of argumentation is called “special pleading” for it “pleads” to or argues only one side of the evidence while ignoring the other side.

[12] The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are called “persons” for the simple fact that (a) they all possess *personal* attributes (e.g., they communicate, make decisions [viz. a will], exercise emotion, etc. also referring to themselves as “I” (egō)—the hallmark of personhood. Even more, Jesus used first person pronouns (“I”) to refer to Himself and third person pronouns (“He,” “His”) to refer to the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. John chaps. 14-16). Note that anti-Trinitarians such as JWs have no problem seeing the Father as a person, but the same evidence that demonstrates the personhood of the Father can be equally applied to the Son and especially the Holy Spirit. The JW’s are taught that Satan is a person because he communicates, however, that is true of the Holy Spirit at many places (e.g., Acts 10:19; 13:2) and yet they deny the personhood Holy Spirit due to their prior theological commitments: the Trinity is a false doctrine, thus, the Holy Spirit is merely Jehovah’s active non-personal force.

[13] Cf. Theophilus, To Autolycus, 2.15, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers [ANF], vol. 2. And the term “Trinity” was first used in the West around A.D. 213, by the brilliant church theologian, Tertullian of Carthage (cf. Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 2, in ANF, vol. 3).

[14] Many falsely assume that the doctrine of the Trinity was not developed until the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325). But the Trinity was not even discussed there.

[15] E.g., Titus 1:9, 13; 1 Peter 3:15; etc.

It is usually alleged by unitarian/unipersonal (i.e., groups that believe God exists as one sole person, thus denying the Trinity[1]) that the OT is entirely unconscious to the idea that God is multi-personal—the one God. Remember, that the divine truth and the way in which God unfolded that truth in the history of redemption has been progressive. Thus, as it has been asserted that the OT is the NT concealed, whereas the NT is in fact, the OT revealed.

So while such truths as the incarnation, the substitutionary atonement of the Redeemer exist primarily in the shadows of OT narrative, poetry, prophecy and their fulfillment in the fuller revelation of the NT, is perfectly consistent in the singular theme of God’s purpose among men: His work of salvation in Christ, to the praise and glory of His grace (cf. Heb. 1:1-2). The doctrine of the Trinity as defined in the fourth and fifth-century creeds is not contained in the OT, in terms of the specific doctrinal language. But, it does not follow to assert that because the OT utilizes different language than that of post-Nicene language, that this somehow militates against the notion that the Jews did, in fact, envisage God as multi-personal.

Monotheism & the Word “One”

As stated, groups such as Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and of course, Oneness believers are functionally defined as unitarian, for their commitment to absolute unipersonalism/unitarianism, which maintains the notion that God is unipersonal (i.e., one divine Person). This is, of course, why these groups flatly reject the doctrine of the Trinity—thinking that the Trinity is three separate Gods. However, in Hebrew there were various words that could be translated as “one” and the word that speaks of God being “one” (in the OT), every time, is echad (אחר, e.g., Deut. 6:4).

As many have pointed out, the term echad can indicate compound or composite unity—not necessarily absolute solitary oneness, as in Genesis 2:24, for example: “Adam and Eve became one [echad] flesh” (also see Gen. 11:6; 2 Chron. 30:12). Further, the word in the OT lingua franca, which does strictly signify absolute solitary oneness, is yachiyd (cf. Ps. 68:6), but this term is never once applied to God. If God were an absolute lone unipersonal Deity, as anti-Trinitarians assume, surely the biblical authors would have used the term yachiyd to say that God is “one,” but they did not, they exclusively used echad.

The Plurality of Persons Expressed

Aside from the first person plural verbs, nouns, adjectives, and prepositions used of God in the OT (i.e., “Let Us,” “Make Our,” “[One] of Us,” et al; cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; 11:7-9; Isa. 6:8; 11:7; Isa. 6:8; 54:5 [lit. Heb., “Makers,” “Husbands”]; also “Maker” is plural in Ps. 149:2 and Job 35:10; Prov. 30:3 [qadoshim, lit., “Holy ones”; same with LXX–hagiōn]; Eccl. 12:1 [li. Heb. “Creators”]) to underscore the multi-personality of God. Similar with Jesus’ usage of first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) to both Himself and His Father, in John 14:23 clearly distinguishing Himself from His Father). Note both Gen. 1:26 (LXX) and John 14:23 contain the same plural verb of poieō (“to make”). Thus, OT clearly presents Yahweh as multi-personal. 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 demonstrated by the OT authors.

The idea that God is an undifferentiated unipersonal Being is simply foreign to the OT message itself. Note some examples below: poieō

 

Yahweh to Yahweh

In Genesis 19:24, we read of the LORD’s wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah:

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD [Yahweh] He rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD [Yahweh] out of heaven (vv. 23-24). 

Notice that it was the Yahweh, who rained brimstone and fire from the Yahweh out of heaven. Two distinct divine Persons called “Yahweh,” nothing more nothing less, if of course, you take Scripture on its own merit. But Unitarians cannot do so; their allegiance to their prior assumption that “God is unipersonal precludes even the possibility that such evidence might be considered objectively.

Psalm 45:6-7: Elohim to Elohim

Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows.

Not only do we have a clear multi-personal reference of Elohim (“God”) speaking to Elohim in direct address, but, the writer to the Hebrews applies this very text to the “Son” (not the Father), who Oneness teachers say is not God—only the Father is God. 

The author of Hebrews quotes the Father directly addressing the “Son” as ho theos, “the God.” For God (the Father) speaking to God (the Son) is consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity; two divine Persons differentiated from one another, yet each equally identified as “God.” God the Father speaking to God the Son.

Also see Daniel 7:9-14

The Angel of the LORD

We also see clear multi-personal references of God as we read of “the angel of the LORD [Yahweh]”. This angel was not some indefinite angel, one among many. This angel, who was called “the angel of the LORD,” claimed that He was “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exod. 3:6). When Hager encountered the angel of the LORD (cf. Gen. 16:7ff.) being frightfully responsive (due to of Exod. 20:19: “for no man can see Me and live”), said to Him, “You are a God who sees . . . Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” (16:13). There are many “angel of the LORD” references (e.g., Gen. 22:9-14; Exod. 23:20-21; Num. 22:21-35; Judg. 2:1-5; 6:11-22; etc.). Most significant is the account recorded in Judges 13:1-25 where Manoah and his wife (Samson’s parents) dialogued with this angel. And when Manoah discovered that it was “the angel of the LORD” he declared to his wife, “We will surly die, for we have seen God” (v. 22).

The “angel of the LORD” was clearly identified as Yahweh to those who interacted with Him. Yet in Zechariah 1:12, however, we find the angel of the LORD (who claimed to be Yahweh throughout the OT) praying to the “LORD [Yahweh] of hosts,”—Yahweh praying to Yahweh.

 

All these OT plural descriptions of the one Yahweh can only be consistent with monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism.

 

The biblical doctrine of the Trinity is arguably the pinnacle of God’s self-disclosure to mankind. From the multi-personal references of God in the OT to the personal distinctions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit expressed in the NT (cf. Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14), the triune nature of God has been well established. Despite this evidence, however, it seems that the preaching and teaching of the truth of the Trinity is largely absent from many Christian pulpits. Moreover, though some notable scholars have produced worthy contributions on the subject there appears to be a definite lack of ecclesiastical material, apologetic literature and other resources affirming and defending the doctrine of the Trinity.

The biblical conclusion: God in three Persons

When we proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ we must proclaim the truth of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When the person of the Son is detached from the Trinity, the very Being of God is confounded. To deny the Trinity denies the person of the Son, and thus, the very essence of God: 

22 “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. 23 Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:22-23).

Notes

[1] E.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Jews, Muslims, etc. etc.

John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” The one true God has revealed Himself as three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Oneness Theology is non-Christian

Oneness Christology is a clear and major departure from biblical orthodoxy. Similar to Islam, it teaches a unitarian/unipersonal (i.e., one person) concept of God. Hence, the chief Oneness Christological divergences from that of the biblical teachings are as follows:

  1. Oneness Christology denies the unipersonality and deity of the Son. It teaches that “Jesus” is the name of the unipersonal deity. Accordingly, the “Son” merely represents the human nature of Jesus, while “Father/Holy Spirit” represents the divine nature of Jesus—thus, the Son is not God, only the Father is (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 99, 103, 252). 
  1. Along with the deity, Oneness Christology denies the preexistence and incarnation of the Son, and thus, His role as the Creator (cf. Ibid., 103-4; Magee,Is Jesus in the Godhead or Is The Godhead in Jesus?, 1988: 25). By denying the preexistence of the person of the Son, Oneness doctrine rejects the incarnation of the divine Son holding to the erroneous notion that it was Jesus as the Father, not the Son, who came down and wrapped Himself in flesh, and that “flesh” was called “Son” (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 106, 122).

In sharp contrast to Oneness Christology, Scripture presents clearly and definitely that the distinct person of the Son 1) is fully God (cf. Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:18; 5:17-18; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:13, 8, 10; Rev. 1:8, 17), 2) was the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12), 3) eternally coexisted with and is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. Gen. 19:24; Dan 7:9-14; Matt. 28:19; John 17:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13-14), and 4) became fully man in order “to give His life a ransom for many” (cf. John 1:1, 14; Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:6-11). This is the Jesus Christ of biblical revelation. 

Jesus Christ is the only mediator and intercessor between God the Father and human beings. The Jesus of biblical revelation is the divine Son, the monogenēs theos who always is in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), a personal self-aware subject, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. Hence, in biblical opposition to Oneness Christology, Jesus is not the Father, but “the Son of the Father” (2 John 1:3).

Worshiping the unipersonal God of Oneness theology is neither worshiping the true God in spirit nor truth. The Oneness concept of God is fundamentally the same as Islam: a unipersonal deity with no distinction of persons. The true God of biblical revelation is triune—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is and has been the historic biblical position and foundation of the Christian religion.