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Summary in 400 words or less:
Oneness theology, also called Oneness Pentecostalism or the “Jesus Only movement” holds to a modalistic understanding of God. Modalism has been around for centuries and teaches that there is only one divine person who fills multiple roles throughout history. Thus, it denies the Christian concept of there being one Godhead with three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which is referred to as the Trinity in Christian theology.
Scripture plainly and abundantly references the three members of the trinity all throughout the text. In order to deal with this, oneness theology teaches that all three members of the Trinity are one person, wearing a different mask. That is, God reveals himself differently across history as one member of the Trinity.
Orthodox Christianity has deemed this view heretical for centuries. While the word “trinity” is not explicitly stated in scripture, it does directly make distinctions between the three personalities within the Godhead. We see various members of the Godhead present simultaneously and interacting with one another (see John 1:21, John 3:16 & 35, John 14:16, John 11:41-42, Matthew 11:27, Luke 3:22). One must do great damage to the text to escape the Trinitarian doctrine.
While modalism looms largest as a difficulty within Oneness theology, there are other problems as well. It also teaches that salvation is not solely “by grace, through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9). In addition to faith in Christ and repentance, Oneness Theology teaches that a person must also experience water baptism with the specific phrase uttered “in the name of Jesus.” One must also receive the “baptism of the spirit” which is validated by speaking in tongues, defined as an unknown, heavenly language. One must also maintain salvation by righteous living. Thus, salvation is attained and maintained by human effort, which flies in the face of scripture.
Scripture teaches that man is saved by faith in the salvific work of Jesus Christ and repentance from sin (Eph. 2:8-9, Gal. 3:24, Rom. 3:28). Works, or righteous living, are to be viewed as evidence of salvation (James 2:18), but have no salvific function.
For the aforementioned reasons, any individual that desires to uphold the integrity of scripture cannot espouse oneness theology. Modalism should continue to be viewed as heretical, regardless of theology behind which it masquerades.
Scripture for YouVersion:
A Biblical Case Against Oneness Doctrine
Three questions (1 fill-in-the-blank, 1 multiple choice, and one discussion question):
References for further reading:
Collaborators: Josh Fults, Marcia Montenegro
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