THE ONENESS VIEW
The Oneness view was popular in the Third century A.D. and helped lead to the Trinity. It became popular again at the beginning of this century with the Pentecostal movement. Like the Trinity, this view holds that God is one person rather than three. They explain Jesus and the Spirit as manifestations of God's separate roles: the role of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God reveals Himself to man as one or more of the three (but not necessarily limited to three.)
Lack of Scriptural Support:
The Oneness theology has one major problem, over and above the problems it shares with Trinity. Very few verses support the concept of God being three in one person. One such scripture is found in Isaiah 9:6 where the Messiah is said to be the Everlasting Father (The Father), Prince of Peace (the Son), Wonderful Counsel (Holy Spirit) and the Mighty God (God.) Conversely, there are a wealth of scriptures that show a distinction between the Father and the Son.
Oneness believers have explanations for each verse which indicates a distinction between the Father, Son, and Spirit, but those explanations, no matter how clever, are hard to follow and even harder to square with the natural expression of scripture. For example, when Jesus prayed the Oneness interpretation is that the humanity of God was praying to the divinity of God. (The Oneness view shares the Trinitarian belief of the dual nature of Jesus Christ.) When the voice of God declared "This is my beloved Son", it is reasoned that God is omnipresent and could send His voice from heaven at the same time he was being baptized by John. As is true with the Trinitarian view, the best explanation is simply that it is one of the "mysteries of godliness".
THE UNITARIAN VIEW
The Unitarian doctrine is similar to the Arian view, with the most notable difference being in the understanding of the pre-existence of God's Son. Unitarian belief is that the Son's existence began when he was conceived in the womb of Mary. This view is difficult to understand and, therefore, unconvincing.
THE ARIAN VIEW
Named after Arius, the champion of the view at the Council of Nice in 325 A.D., the paradigm was very popular from the beginning and faded as the Roman Church (the apostate church) gained more and more acceptance from the 4th century on. It is very unpopular today, (because it flies in the face of orthodoxy), and is thus considered by many in Christendom to be the mark of a cult. The Jehovah's Witnesses are the only organization of large size who believes this doctrine. Bible Students are not considered an organization per say, but merely an association of independent bible student’s classes sharing a common faith or bond.
Despite its lack of popularity, the predominance of scripture leans heavily, and much more naturally, in the direction of the Arian view. It is also much more harmonious with the divine testimony and does not require any great wrestling or bending of the meaning of the text as does the trinity doctrine.
The Arian view is monotheistic. It has no difficulty with verses such as Deut 6:4 which plainly state that God is one. There is no problem with passages that show the superiority of the Father. It views Jesus as "a god" or "godlike," as a mighty being beneath but next to the glory of the Almighty God.
Because it does not equate Jesus with the Almighty God, no explanation is necessary for the illogic of Christ dying while at the same time being declared immortal and therefore death proof. Because it views the Father and Son as separate persons, there is no attempt to reason how the Son would pray to the Father. Because it recognizes that Jesus had a pre-existence with the Father, it is not difficult to accommodate Jesus as the creator through the power of the Father. With its belief that Jesus is the first (and only) direct creation of God, who was highly exalted after his resurrection, it harmonizes with the scriptures which speak of Jesus being worthy to receive honor and worship. It also agrees with the historical writings of the early church. As for the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is the influence of God's power, IT is not an individual but rather the spirit of God as it emanates through Himself, His son and all those possessed of His spirit.
DOES IT MATTER which one believes?
Some may ask: what difference does it make? Why is this important?
For many, God is "incomprehensible." This makes Him inapproachable, resulting in a loss of genuine relationship based on understanding. Additionally, if our understanding of Christ is unclear we will miss important features of God's plan of redemption. The Arian view allows Jesus, as a perfect man instead of a God-man, to be a substitutionary "ransom for all." Those who believe that Jesus is both God and man suggest that salvation is very limited. The Trinity and oneness doctrines cloud one's ability to see Jesus providing a full ransom for Adam and his race, because Jesus would not be a "corresponding” price to Adam. Thus the price for error is twofold: missing out on a close personal relationship with our Creator. These are significant losses.
Since the Trinitarian doctrine began to dominate the Christian world in the late fourth century, there have always been small clusters of those who have championed the Arian view of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When the Roman Church dominated the world these few were greatly persecuted. Arians were run out of their homes and countries, killed and burned at the stake for their belief. Such persecution, however, has never stopped true men of faith from embracing this simple truth.
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