The Great Debate

Regarding The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit


The following is part of the book "The Great Debate Regarding The Father, Son, & Holy Spirit", copyright 1997, by Robert A. Wagoner, Santa Ana, California and is used on this web site by permission.

This part of the book is a question and answer section, where a question is asked and the answer given from each of four major views of the subject. In the printed book, this Q&A section is followed by a verse-by-verse commentary from each of these four major views on every passage in the Bible concerning God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For a copy of the complete book, contact the author, Robert Wagoner, at RnRWagoner@aol.com.


QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

 

INTERVIEW QUESTION

ONENESS THEOLOGY

TRINITARIAN THEOLOGY

ARIAN THEOLOGY

UNITARIAN THEOLOGY

Briefly Describe your view of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

We believe that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the same God with no distinction in person or being. The one God simply manifests himself in these three ways and/or at different times.

We believe that there is one God made up of three separate and distinct persons of but one indivisible essence. These three persons existed from eternity, and are equal in power and substance. They are known as Father, So n and Holy Spirit. The undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons. The Church confesses the Trinity to be a mystery beyond the comprehension of man. (Berkhof, pp 87-89)

We believe that there is one God, and that God is one. That God is called the Heavenly Father. That we have one Lord who is not God, Jesus Christ, who is the son of God. And we believe the holy Spirit is the influence of God's power. The Father and Son are separate beings and the Father is superior in power, wisdom and authority. Jesus is God's express image and was given all power on heaven and earth. See Gen 41:40-44 for a Scriptural Type of this relationship betwee n God and the Son.

We believe that there is one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus became God's son at his birth on earth but did not exist previously. The holy Spirit is God's power.

How does it differ from other views?

We are unique in that we conform strictly to the objective of having only one God where as others have more than one God.

We see a distinction in the persons of God, but hold that there is but one God. It is a mystery how this is possible, but understanding God is beyond our ability, and we should not seek to have it make sense to us. (Berkh of, pp 89-90)

We believe that there is but one God who is one person who is the Father.. That His son, Jesus Christ, was his first creation and through His son created all of creation. We do not believe that the holy Spirit is a person .

Our beliefs are similar to Arian, but we believe that Jesus's existence began with his earthly birth.

Describe your belief's history.

In the second century Irenaeus of Lyon is the first to use economy in describing the Trinity. He clearly reaffirmed monotheism while stressing the distinctions of the Godhead. He supported the concept of a single personag e. (Rusch, pg 7)

Bernard suggests: "Oneness was the only significant belief in the early second century with regard to the Godhead. Even when forms of binitarianism and trinitarianism began to develop they did not gain dominance until the later part of the third century." (Bernard, 10-1)

Most notable were leaders such as Noetus of Smyrna, Praxeas, and Sebellius.

John Miller, wrote the book Is God a Trinity in 1876 which supported Oneness ideas. Then Charles Parham, the first leader of the 21st Pentecostal movement, began to question the traditional trinitarian babtismal formula. And after 1913, many Pentecostals adopted the oneness doctrine. These was the beginning of the modern Oneness Pentecostal movement. (Bernard, 10-5)

There are two views: 1) Those of the Catholic and Episcopal Churches believe in Apostolic succession and that the Word of God is being developed on an ongoing basis from the apostles time to the present. They believe the do ctrine was slowly revealed to them over the years and that it was not clearly understood until about the 5th century when the Athanasius creed was developed. They believe the early church did not have the tools needed to clearly define and de scribe their faith. As a result, there are virtually no early writings to support the doctrine as it is understood today. (Rusch pp 3-6) It wasn't until the Gnostic view began to grow and became a threat to the church that men such as Origen, drawing on Platonic philosophy, guided by Christian faith, began to develop the doctrine known today as the Trinity. (Rusch pg 10)

2) Evangelicals and Fundamentalists believe that God's Word was complete and inerrant at the death of the apostles and that the doctrine of the Trinity was clearly taught in its pages. Many of this view believe are somewhat troubled by the lack of historical support in the first few centuries. Some assume that the doctrine was so well understood and accepted that the early writers did not need to comment on the subject

The Arian view is the closest to that of the Jews of Jesusí day. Jews did not need to change their view of God. They only needed to recognize that Jesus was the Messiah and that he is the Son of the living God. The early d isciples easily grasped this concept as expressed in virtually all first and second century writings.

As the church grew and gentiles began to out number the Jewish converts, it became dominated by gentile leadership. Many of the dominant personalities were schooled in and supported Hellenistic philosophies, which they believed added a dimension to understanding God that did not exist in scripture.

Pagan and Platonic philosophies had already begun to work in the apostles day. (1 Cor 1:22, 1 John 4:3, 1 Tim 6:20 First came the Gnostic view, followed by Sebellionism then the Trinity, and others. With the Roman Emperor's support of the Trinity teaching, Arianism was slowly replaced and only accepted in small and mostly unknown offshoots of the Church in the past 1500 years.

 

Who believes like this historically?

Noetus of Smyrna, Praxeas, and Sebellius were leaders in the early church during their day. Tertullian indicated that during his ministry 'the majority of believers' adhered to the Oneness doctrine. (Bernard, Pg 10-5)

Catholic Church, and most Protestant denominations.

This view was championed by the common man in most of the periods of the church. It was this association with the non-intellectuals which seemed to divide it from other parts of the early Church.

Most early Unitarians, and other sideline groups throughout the past 2000 years held this belief. (among which you find individuals such as Sir Isaac Newton).

 

Who believes like this today?

Some Pentecostal groups such as the United Pentecostal Church, The Pentecostal Assemblies of the Word, The Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ and others. (Bernard, 10-5)

Catholic Church, and most Protestant denominations.

Jehovah's Witnesses, Bible Students, some Messianic Jews, and a number of independent churches.

Unitarian Church, some Messianic Jews, and a number of independent churches.

Why is your belief important to you?

Unless one understands the true identity of Christ there is no opportunity for salvation. Only God coming to earth to save man could provide salvation.

Same as Oneness.

By clearly understanding who Jesus Christ is and was enables the Christian to see other key doctrines, such as the ransom. The confused doctrine of the trinity is a prime example of pagan concepts, "doctrines of devils," infused into Christian doctrine. The simple terms of the (so-called) Apostle's creed of the 2nd or 3rd century AD expressed the correct relationship of God and his son Jesus. The 4th century Nicean creed introduced pagan expressions to define the trini ty, and the later Athenasian creed adds hundreds of words of senseless confusion.

 

What are the consequences for others not believing as you do?

Same basic view as Trinitarian.

Unless one views Jesus as "God Almighty" they will not know the real Jesus. And if they do not know the real Jesus, they cannot be saved. Without salvation they will be condemned to spend eternity in the torments of Hell. They can live the purest life, in full devotion to God, full devotion to and belief in "Jesus Christ the Son of God", but without a clear recognition that Jesus is God they will of necessity suffer this awful punishment at the hands of God's judgment. < /FONT>

There are differences of opinion. Some believe that those who miss the truth on this will find it difficult seeing other truths around the full meaning of Christ's death as a ransom for all. God however, in due time will enlighten their minds to see the truth. If they do not see the truth in this life's opportunity, God, may or may not judge them worthy to live and reign with Christ in his Kingdom. Ultimately, it will take everlasting life to truly know God. (John 17:1)

 

Is God one person?

Yes. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are aspects of one person.

Some will say three persons, but others will say three personalities.

Yes. The Father is God and only one person.

Same answer as Arian.

Is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit the same being?

Yes.

Some yes. Some no.

No. The Father and Son are separate beings, with the holy Spirit being the power and influence of the Father.

Same answer as Arian.

Is there just one God?

Yes.

Yes.

Yes. There is only one true God of all, who is the Father. But there are others in the scriptures to whom the word God, in its Hebrew and Greek forms, have been applied. The word has been applied to Jesus.

Yes. Only the Father is God.

Is God one?

Yes.

Yes and No. God is three - but one too. This is a mystery that cannot be grasped with our finite minds.

Yes. "The Lord is our God, the Lord is one." Deut 6:4

Same as Arian.

Is Jesus God?

Yes

Yes.

No.

No.

Is Jesus "Divine"?

Yes.

Yes.

Yes, on the strength of Col 2:9 and Heb 1:3. However, there is no specific scripture which uses the word "divine" (Greek theios) for Jesus. The word appears three times; Acts 17:29, 2 Pet 1:3,4. The first two refer to Go d, the third says the church becomes "partakers of the divine nature." In the latter sense, however defined, Jesus would have to be included.

No.

Did Jesus have a beginning? If so when?

No. He has existed from eternity.

Same answer as Oneness.

Yes. The Logos (Christ) was created before any other thing was created. See Rev 3:14, Col 1:15, and Prov 8.

Yes. His existence began with his begattal in Mary.

Are Jesus and the Father co-equal?

They are the same entity.

Yes. The are equal in every way: they are Co-eternal and Co-equal. They are of the very same substance and nature.

No. Although Christ has been given all power in heaven and earth, the Father is still greater in every way.

No.

Does Jesus have a God?

No.

Some will say yes and others will say no.

Yes. His God is his Father. See Rev 1:6

Yes.

Does the Father have a God?

No.

Some will say yes based upon Heb 1:8, while others will say no.

No.

No.

Do the Father and Son worship each other?

This is Impossible because they are the same.

Yes. The recognition of the Divine Nature in each other prompts worship.

The Son worships the Father, but the Father honors rather than worships his Son.

Same as Arian.

Was or is Jesus 100% God and 100% man at the same time?

Yes.

Yes. Ever since his earthly experience he has had a human body and been 100% God at the same time.

No. There is no scripture to support the illogical idea that something can be 200% of anything. 1 Cor 15:35-49 tell us that a spirit body is one thing and a fleshly body is another. From the context it seems clear that o ne cannot be the other. Jesus was flesh on earth, but God has always been spirit.

No.

Do you believe the Holy Spirit is a person? Why?

It is God which is one person.

Yes. The Spirit demonstrates qualities such as grief and discernment which prove that it is a person.

No. The Spirit as the Father's influence can manifest itself in many ways.

The holy Spirit was used to baptize God's people (Mat 3:11; Acts 1:5; 2:2-3; 10:44-48). It fills them (Acts 2:4; Eph 5:18), is poured out on them (Acts 2:17, 18, 33; Joel 2:28, 29), abides in and dwells in them (John 14:17; Rom 8:9,11; 1 Cor 3:16), is upon them (John 1:32-33; Acts 19:6) and they are in it (Rom 8:9, 14, 17; Gal 3:3). The holy Spirit is used to anoint (Psa 133: 1-2; Luke 4:18; Isa 61:1; 2 Cor 1:21; 1 John 2:20-27). God's people drink it (1 Cor 12:13). It is the down p ayment they make on their inheritance (2 Cor 1:22; 5:5; Eph 1:14, see margin), that which seals them (Eph 1:13, 4:30). It is the symbolic ink whereby they are inscribed as living epistles (2 Cor 3:3), and is given to them and they possess it (Luke 11:13) . It is like dew (Psa 113:3). This does not fit the description of a person. (PT785, pg 61)

No.

How do you explain the passages of scripture which make a distinction between God and Jesus Christ?

These seeming distinctions don't really exist when one understands them. Sometimes a distinction is drawn between the office or role of Father and Son for example. Other times the distinction is between the human and divi ne natures of God in the role of the Son

Any apparent distinctions between Jesus Christ and God can almost always be explained as a distinction being made between Jesus and one of the other members of the Godhead.

We agree with the distinctions made in scripture.

Same as Arian.

List your primary proof verses for your understanding of the subject:

(See those passages which have the symbol "V " associated with the comment.)

Isa. 9:6 which shows that the Son is the Father and God. See also Mat 23:9.

John 1:1 which shows that the Logos is God. Other verses which imply the Trinity or support the doctrine of the deity of Christ are as follows: Mat 19:6, Mat 28:19, John 2:19, John 20:28, Acts 20:28, Phil 2:6, Col 2:9, He b 1:8, 1 John 5:20.

Every scriptural passage which names Jesus and God in the same context assigns the superior position to God and the inferior position to Jesus. The Scriptures expressly and repeatedly affirm that God is the Father, and the God of Jesus. 1 Cor 8:5,6; Rev 1:6.

God is one and not two, three or any other number. DEU 6:4 "Hear, O Israel! The Lord2 is our God1, the Lord2 is one!

Same as Arian.

In your opinion, where has opposing views gone astray?

Arians and Unitarians have failed to see that Jesus is God. Trinitarians have failed to recognize that God is one.

The Oneness theologies ignore the fact that there is too much scriptural support for more than one person being referred to at the same time when speaking of the Godhead.

The Arian position reduced Jesus to a position less than God. Not only is this approach much too simplistic, but they fail to accept that God is far too great to ever understand.

They also do not understand that salvation can only be in believing that Jesus was and is God. Any other position causes one to lose salvation.

Arias' view was only accepted by unlearned men. The weight of the educated and scholarly sided with the view of the Trinity.

 

The mistake made by most of those holding other views was their lack of reliance on scripture. Most of the early champions of the Trinity, or Oneness theology in its various forms, were men associated with and greatly infl uenced by Greek, Platonic, and Philonic philosophies. These philosophies colored everything they believed. As a result, pagan ideas began to creep into the Church. In ancient Greek belief gods came to earth. Some of those who converted to Christianity believed Jesus was a god who came to earth. But they had a problem in that the Scriptures clearly said there was only one God. So scholars educated in Platonic schools spent the better part of 250 years refining the doctrine of the Trinity to fit the be lief that God came to earth.

Also noteworthy, most of the pagan religions both of Rome and Greece and other nations had triads, of gods. Platonic scholars found that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost seemed to fit well into a triad. They just needed to solve the is sue of one God.

The Oneness theology, and Trinitarian theology both reduce God to a level impossible for God -- the level of man in the form of Jesus.

Too often, Trinitarians find comfort in the idea that God is too great to understand, and thus, what they propose should naturally make no sense to finite beings. However, they have no scriptural support for such a view. The scripture s speak instead of the simplicity of Christ. (2 Cor 11:3)

The other views on this page have primarily been championed by the intellectuals. No one can deny that the doctrine of the Trinity was formed by the intellectuals of their day. The Arian view has been championed primarily by the commo n man: the fisherman and the carpenter. Arias was criticized because mostly unlearned men accepted his view. Thank God He gave His truth to the "foolish things of the world."

We agree with most of the comments suggested by the Arian view.

In addition we feel that the others make too much out of the passages of scripture which can imply Jesus had a pre-existence. We believe that these passages need to be looked at with more reason.

What do you wish those of other views would consider?

Trinitarians are mistaken in believing that God can be more than one. They are foolish in believing that God is one and three at the same time for such a thing is impossible. Trinitarians need to realize they have a signi ficant truth in realizing Jesus as God, but they need also to harmonize that belief with the fact that God is one and not three.

Arians and Unitarians fail to believe that Jesus is God who had no beginning. They need to consider the plain texts that there is only one God, and that Jesus is God.

Men of great knowledge and faith spent centuries forming the creeds. Our counsel to others is that they accept by faith the reasonableness of the creeds established long ago.

There is no need to reinvent new doctrine when the Church established these truths at a great cost. Just as we see Godís overruling in protecting his word from destruction and used the Church to preserve it intact to this day, he has a lso blessed the Church with doctrine, and the blessings and overruling of God are not to be questioned.

1) We wish others would take the Scriptures as the sole source of belief.

2) We would encourage others to reason on the Scriptures rather than accepting creeds with blind and foolish faith. They need to ask probing questions like: Would the author say it this way if he believed my way?

3) Instead of wrestling the scriptures to prove a creed, it is better to cast off the creed and look at the scriptures as a whole. Don't be persuaded by one or two scriptures which seem to prove your point. But take the weight of all the scriptures into consideration. All too often men are told what the Bible says, and then told that they must by faith accept it. It is better to be like the Bereans who searched the scriptures to see if these things were so.

4) The Jew and the Arian view God very much alike. The thoughtful student must ask himself: If it was hard to convince the Jews in the early church to let go of the Law, wouldn't it have been even harder to get them to change their vi ew of God? Fifteen New Testament chapters are dedicated to changing the Jew's mind on the Law. And if it took that much to deal with the Law, shouldn't we find at least 1 or 2 chapters explaining the change in how God would be viewed from now on? But no t a single verse suggests the Jew change his view of God. It's clear to the student of the Scriptures that the Jew was never asked to change his belief regarding God.

Same as Arian