Comparing two views of God
If you have read many of my blog posts, you have probably come to the conclusion that my understanding of the nature of God does not exactly line up with the traditional understanding of the Godhead.
For some, there is no need to read farther. If I’m not a true Trinitarian than I’m lost. In many peoples' minds, those are the two choices. You can be a Baptist, a Methodist, a Pentecostal, and maybe even a Catholic to make it to heaven, but if you don’t believe that God exists eternally in three persons then you are a heretic. Doctrine seemingly makes no difference, unless you dare to use the scriptural word “manifestation” and avoid the unscriptural word “persons” when describing God.
If that is the definition of a heretic, than I must make the same claim as Paul.
14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets:
I’ve found that marginalizing people and calling those that think differently names is much easier than considering their views and examining your own beliefs. It seems to be human nature to shout down voices of dissent instead of engaging in dialogue.
For those that are willing to look more circumspectly, this post will compare the orthodox position and what I consider the more biblical view, sometimes called Oneness.
Trinity: There are three distinct persons yet in unity they are one God. The three co-equal, co-eternal persons of co-essence are God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost.
Oneness: There is one God. He is a spirit. He has manifested Himself to men in different ways, primarily as our Father in creation, in the Son for redemption, and as the Spirit empowering the church today.
One minister described the core difference between these two belief systems this way, “Trinitarians believe in one what and three whos while Oneness adherents believe in one who and three whats.”
This statement is probably overly generalized but basically true. Is it more biblical to view God as one personal Spirit that we perceive in three primary ways or as one God that exists in three distinct persons?
In this blog post, I’ve summarized the Oneness view by quoting from scripture. The Trinitarian view is more complex and nuanced so I have attached the primary Trinitarian statement, the Athanasian Creed. This statement is accepted by essentially all Trinitarian groups as an accurate portrayal of their theology.
King James Version
1. “In the beginning God” (Genesis 1:1)
2. “The Lord our God is One Lord” (Deu.6:4)
3. “God is a Spirit” (John 4:24)
4. “God was manifest in the flesh.” (I Tim. 3:16)
5. “A son is given. His name shall be called Mighty God, the Everlasting Father.” (Is. 9:6) His name shall be called Immanuel for He is “God with us.”(Matthew 1:23) His name shall be called “Jesus for he shall save his people.” (Matthew 1:21) “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
6.”God was in Christ” (II Cor. 5:19) “All the fullness of the Godhead dwelleth in him bodily”(Col 2:9)
7. “He is the express image of His (God’s) person” (Heb. 1:3)
8. He is “the only wise God our Savior” (Jude 1:25)
9.He has “all power in heaven and earth.” (Matthew 28:18)
10. We are “complete in Him” (Col 2:10)
"Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the *universal faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the universal faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the universal religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity."
When comparing these two views, please consider the following scriptures:
2 Corinthians 11:3
3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
8Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. 9For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.10And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
*I substituted the word “universal” for the word “catholic" in the Athanasian Creed. These words are synonyms. I wanted to preserve the meaning and avoid the confusion of associating the term "catholic" exclusively with the Roman Catholic Church.