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Thursday, November 03, 2005

Oneness Pentecostalism’s Philosophy

Part I
Oneness Pentecostalism has made it a point to place a negative connotation on the doctrine of the triune nature of God; the Trinity. They claim that the doctrine is not Biblical but rather philosophical. Thus, they will quote, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8). They claim that all of their doctrines come from a plain reading of the Bible and so they do not rely on man’s philosophy.

Here we will discuss an instance in which Oneness Pentecostals do indeed rely on philosophy, and this philosophy contradicts the Bible.

The Bible states, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). This is the NKJV rendering which includes a footnote at everlasting that reads “Lit. the days of eternity” which is exactly how the NASB: 1995 Update renders it.

Both Jews and Christians have understood this text as referring to the Messiah. Oneness Pentecostals believe in oneness, which is a form of modalism. They believe that God is not three persons who make up one God but rather that God takes different roles or modes; He is the Father, then the Son, then the Holy Spirit.

Thus, regarding the verse in Micah (among others that we will not be discussing here) the question posed to Oneness Pentecostals is, you claim that Jesus, the Son, is not eternal but this is exactly what the text is teaching us. This is one of the times when Oneness Pentecostalism does in fact concoct, as it were, a philosophic escape. Their response, to what is really a devastating blow to oneness-modalism philosophy, is that Jesus the Messiah was eternal in the mind of God, as a thought of God, as a plan of God. The problem is that this concept is not to be found anywhere in the whole of the Bible, not even a hint. It is indeed an unbiblical philosophic response to an argument and it lacks any hint whatsoever of hermeneutics.

Part II
We now point out another instance in which Oneness Pentecostalism employs philosophical reasoning in order to deal with a text of scripture that is problematic to their doctrines.

John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

In this case, Oneness Pentecostalism mocks Trinitarians as they sarcastically ask, “What kind of God would say, ‘I love them so much that I am going to send you to die for them.’” They can’t understand why Trinitarians would believe that God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to die for us. What possible response could we offer such a charge since that is precisely what the very Word of God states!

Oneness Pentecostals do not deny that the translation is accurate and so we must ask them what the verse could possibly mean according to their oneness doctrine. It would seem that if oneness doctrine were true the verse would read something like, “For God so loved the world that He gave Himself…” or maybe “For God so loved the world that He gave Himself in the mode (or manifestation) of His own only begotten Son, which is He Himself…”

The grammar is all too clear about the fact that there are two persons being referred to in the verse; God is referred to as He and His and God’s Son is referred to as Him. Two persons are referred to, one giving the other. John 3:16 is not awkward to Trinitarian doctrine but it is awkward to oneness doctrine and mocking the clear reading to scripture is no way to construct a doctrine.

Part III
Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Oneness Pentecostals rely quite heavily on this part of a verse in their attempts to substantiate oneness, or modalistic, theology. Yet, the simple context of Jesus’ statement, the simple reading of the text without preconceived notions, explains itself and paints a vivid picture of the circumstance that necessitated such a statement.

Jesus said:

“Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, so that where I am, you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, Lord, we do not know where You go, and how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.
If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also. And from now on you know Him and have seen Him. Philip said to Him, Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us. Jesus said to him, Have I been with you such a long time and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. And how do you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The Words that I speak to you I do not speak of Myself, but the Father who dwells in Me, He does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the very works themselves” (John 14:1-11).

Firstly, note that Jesus is equating Himself to God, “You believe in God, believe also in Me…If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also…He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
Also, far from being the Father incarnate Jesus clearly draws distinctions between Him and the Father—they are two persons, “My Father’s house…no one comes to the Father but by Me…known Me…known My Father also.”
Yet, He clearly draws likenesses—they are one God, “seen Me…seen the Father…I am in the Father and the Father in Me…the Father who dwells in Me…I am in the Father and the Father in Me.”
The Apostles have been walking with Jesus, living with Jesus, speaking to and listening to Jesus, and witnessing all that He did. Yet, still Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father, which to them, being Jews, simply meant reveal God to us. It is as if they are looking all around for God and Jesus is waving His arms and telling them, hey, guys look at me, you want to see God, here I am, don’t you get it?, “Have I been with you such a long time and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

Thus, Jesus is not claiming to be the Father, He is claiming that to see Him is to see the Father because the Father is in Him and He is in the Father, “I am in the Father and the Father in Me…the Father who dwells in Me.

We should always let the clear teachings of scripture direct our doctrines and not preconceived notions that force the text to become twisted and turned into something that it cannot substantiate.


  1. Anonymous8:40 AM

    Excellent little argument against oneness believers. May God bless you.

    John B.

  2. Thank you kindly!


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