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Oneness Questions and Answers: with Responses

Someone sent me a set of "60 Questions on the Godhead With Bible Answers." The questions and answers are written from a "Oneness theology" perspective, i.e. the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just three different roles or modes (hence also called "Modalism") in which the one God operates. This idea is opposed to the doctrine of the Trinity which states the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons within the one Godhead.

In other words, Oneness theology teaches God is one Person, one essence, whereas the doctrine of the Trinity teaches God is three Persons in one essence.

Many of the questions and answers were designed to demonstrate Jesus is God and that there is only one God. Since Oneness theology and the doctrine of the Trinity are in agreement on these points, these have been omitted. The focus here is on the main area in which Oneness theology and the doctrine of the Trinity are in disagreement, namely, whether the one God exists as one Person or as three Persons.

The Oneness questions and answers are in purple and enclosed in single "greater than" and "lesser than" signs. My responses are in black.

>1. Is the word trinity in the Bible? No.<

True, the word "Trinity" is not in the Bible. But neither are the words Calvinism, Arminianism, dispensationalism, Catholicism, Reformed, sublapsarian, or for that matter, oneness or Modalism.

The point is, these words, along with many, many others, are simply ways to summarize theological doctrines and viewpoints. The important question in each case is, does the concept represented by the word accurately articulate or systemize what the Bible teaches.

In other words, it is the concepts represented by the words that are important not the words themselves. In this case, does the Bible teach God is one Person, one essence; or three Persons in one essence? That is the issue; not a squabbling over terms.

>2. Does the Bible say that there are three persons in the Godhead? No.<

Again, true; the Bible does not include the words, "there are three person in the Godhead." But, as my Scripture Study on The Doctrine of the Trinity 9found in my Scripture Workbook) shows, there are hundreds of verses in the Bible which uphold the idea that God is in some sense "one" but in another sense "three."

>3. Does the Bible speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? Yes.<

Of course.

>4. Do these titles as used in Matthew 28:19 mean that there are three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead? No, they refer to three offices, roles, or relationship to humanity.<

In Matt 28:19, neither the words "separate and distinct persons" are used nor the words "offices, roles, or relationship." Either way, it is an interpretation of the text.

The verse reads:
[Matt 28:19] "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,"

The important point to note is the word "name" is singular yet three "somethings" are classed under it: Father, Son, and Spirit. The first question to ask then is, what is meant by the word "name?" There are two possibilities.

The first is to take the word "name" literally as referring to a proper name or designation. So what is the "name" of the Father, Son, and Spirit?

Oneness people will claim the "name" is "Jesus" since the apostles only baptized in Jesus' name in the Book of Acts. However, nowhere is Scripture is the Father ever called "Jesus." And the same goes for the Spirit. Only the incarnate Son is called "Jesus." So what name is given to all three?

The OT very clearly gives the name of "Yahweh" (rendered "LORD" in most Bible versions) to the Father. That the word "Yahweh" is a name is clear from Exod 6:3; Isa 42:8 and other passages. That it is applied to the Father is clear from Isa 63:16; 64:8; Mal 1:6 and many other passages.

That great importance is attached to this name is seen from the prohibition against using it "in vain" in the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:7; Deut 5:11). Furthermore, it is this name the Jews were to exalt, glorify, and praise (Neh 9:5; Ps 30:4; 34:3; Ps 145:41; 148:13, and many others). And some of these references show the name "Yahweh" is exalted above all other names. Ps 148:13, for instance, says, "For His name alone is exalted."

This last point is important when we come to the next question, what is the name of the Son? Now it is obvious that "Jesus" is the name of the incarnate Son. But, Scripture says, "Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name" (Phil 2:9). From the above, the only name this could be would be "Yahweh."

As for the Holy Spirit, 2Cor 3:16 says, "the Lord is the Spirit." The Greek word translated "Lord" is *kurios. This word is used in the Septuagint to translate the word "Yahweh." So this verse is giving the name Yahweh to the Spirit.

So the Father, Son, and Spirit all can be said to have the name Yahweh. What does this show? Simply that there is Scriptural support for all three having the name "Yahweh" but none for them all having the name Jesus."

As for the "Jesus" only being used in Acts, simply put, in Acts the only person baptized were either Jews, Samaritans, or at least "God-fearers" (i.e. people who had accepted the Jewish religion up to but not including circumcision). All of these people would have already believed in Yahweh the Father. It was the Son they had to profess belief in. And since the name "Jesus" only applies to the Son, it was used for their baptisms.

But all of this is still a little sidetracked. It still must be asked, what does it mean to baptize in the "name" of someone? There's much more to it than just a "formula." For instance, we are told to pray "in the name of" Jesus (John 16:26) and to pray for the sick in the name of the Lord (James 5:14). This is not a reference to taking on "in the name of Jesus" at the end of a prayer.

Think about it, what does "in the name of Jesus" mean? Jesus is His name. So you're saying "in the name of His name." But if the word "name" has a figurative meaning then there might be some sense. To do something in the "name" of another indicates to do it in their authority. "Stop in the name of the law!" What does that mean? "Stop in or by the authority of the law."

So when we baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, we are baptizing by their authority. It is that authority that makes baptism meaningful. So it is one authority, but three Persons who have given us that authority.

>5. Does the Bible use the word three in reference to God? Only one verse in the entire Bible does so 1John 5:7. It speaks of the Father, the Word (instead of Son), and the Holy Ghost, and it concludes by saying, "These three are one."<

Again, the question is, does the Bible teach that three distinct Person all possess the attributes of Deity?

>7. Can the mystery of the Godhead be understood? Yes. Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9; I Timothy 3:16.<

We can understand some of God's attributes from what He has revealed about Himself in nature, Scripture, and in Jesus. But we cannot fully understand God. He is infinite while we are finite. Many verses uphold this aspect of God's incomprehensibility: *from Attributes.

>8. Has the Christian only one Heavenly Father? Yes. Matthew 23:9. <

Agreed. God the Father.

>9. Then why did Jesus say to Philip, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:39)? Because Jesus is the express image of God's person. Hebrews 1:3. The Greek word for person in this verse literally means "substance."<

Interesting that the writer should admit the King Jams Version has mistranslated this verse. It does not say the Son is the express image of the "person" of God. The Greek word means essence or substance (cp. Heb 11:1 where even the KJV translates the same word as "substance"). So the verse is teaching the Father and Son are of the same essence, not that they are the same Person, which is exactly what the doctrine of the Trinity affirms.

That said, Jesus' words to Philip meant that Philip had seen the Father in seeing Jesus because they are of the same essence.

>10. Does the Bible say that there are two persons in the Godhead? No.<

Ditto above comments about three persons.

>11. Does the Bible say that all the Godhead is revealed in one person? Yes, in Jesus Christ. II Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Hebrews 1:3.<

Jesus is fully God, just as the doctrine of the Trinity affirms.

>12. Is the mystery of the Deity hidden from some people? Yes. Luke 10:21-22.<

The passage cited reads:
[Luke 10:21] In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. [22] "All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him."

The passages says nothing about the "mystery of the Deity." It is referring to knowing the Father and the Son. And it is interesting that the writer would cite Luke 10:22. The Father "delivers" things to the Son, the Son is "known" by the Father, and vice-a-verse, and the Son reveals the Father to people. All of these points argue strongly that the Father and Son are distinct from each other.

>13. Who is the Father? The Father is the one God, particularly as revealed in parental relationship to humanity. Deuteronomy 32:6; Malachi 2:10.<

True, God is our Father, indicating He has created us and is sovereign over us. But the same things are said of the Son (John 1:3; Matt 28:18). So there are no distinction of "roles" here if that is what the writer is implying.

>14. Where was God the Father while Jesus was on earth? The Father was in Christ. John 14:10; II Corinthians 5:19. He was also in heaven, for God is omnipresent.<

True God is omnipresent, and so is the Son. But that does not mean there are not distinct personalities within the omnipresent God.

The first verse cited reads:
[John 14:10] "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 on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.

So Jesus is referring to the Father as one separate from Himself, not in location, but logically. The Son receives "authority" from the Father.

>15. Did the prophet Isaiah say that Jesus would be the Father? Yes. Isaiah 9:6; 63:16.<

In Isaiah 9:6, Young's Literal Translation and The Darby Bible (both very literal versions) both more correctly have "Father of eternity" rather than the traditional "everlasting Father." The rendering makes more sense.

Look at the next phrase, "Prince of peace." Both phrases are the same grammatical constructions. So unless it should be "peaceful Prince" then "Father of eternity" is more consistent.

So the verse is saying the Son is the "Father" or originator of eternity. It is indicating what He does, just as "Prince of peace" indicates He is the One who will bring about lasting peace.

As for Isaiah 63:16, the passage begins, "I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD" (v. 7). There is nothing in it to indicate it is the Son being called "out Father" in verse 16.

>16. When God said, "Let us make man in our image" (Genesis 1:26), was He speaking to another person in the Godhead? No. Isaiah 44:24; Malachi 2:10.<

The cited verses read:
[Isa 44:24] Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: "I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone, Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;

[Mal 2:10] Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously with one another By profaning the covenant of the fathers?

So God created "all alone" and "by Himself." And "one God created us." But John 1:3 and Heb 1:2 indicate God created "through" the Son. So that is two involved in creation. And Job 33:4 says "the Spirit of God made [Job]." So that is three involved in creation.

How to reconcile this apparent contradiction: one vs. three being involved in creation? Answer, to say that God is "one" in one respect yet "three" in a different respect. And that is exactly what the doctrine of the Trinity affirms.

As for the "us" in Gen 1:26, if it is not intra-communication within the Godhead, then who is God speaking to? The angels? There is no indication in Scripture that angels were involved in creation, or that we are created in the image of angels.

>20. Whom do some designate as the first person in the trinity? God the Father. <

The designations of first Person, second Person, and third Person in the Trinity are simply a way of differentiating the three Persons of the Godhead.

>21. Whom do some designate as the last person in the trinity? The Holy Ghost. But Jesus said that He was the first and last. Revelation 1:17-18.<

I have no idea who the "some" are here. I have never, before reading the above, heard or read of the Holy Spirit being called the "last" Person of the Trinity. As the above indicated, the Sprit is called the "third" Person of the Trinity.

That said, the comment is irrelevant; it is comparing apples and oranges. Jesus is said to be the first and the last because He is the creator and will bring history to a close, and/ or, it is a reference to His eternality. The statement has nothing whatsoever to do with "positions" within the Godhead.

>22. How many persons did John see sitting on the throne in heaven? One. Revelation 4:2.<

The cited verse reads:
[Rev 4:2] Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.

Note, the word "One" is in italics. That indicates it is not in the Greek text. As such, no doctrine can be built upon it. But even if it was, "One" what? One Person, or One God?

>39. How many names has the Lord? One. Zechariah 14:9.<

The cited verse reads:
[Zech 14:9] And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be-- "The LORD is one," And His name one.

"the LORD" is a translation of Yahweh, which, as indicated above, is the "name" of all three Persons of the Godhead. Jesus is the name of the second Person as a result of the incarnation, which occurred after time of the above verse.

>46. If God and the Holy Ghost are two separate persons, which was the Father of Christ? Matthew 1:20 says that the Holy Ghost was the Father, while Romans 15:6, II Corinthians 11:31, and Ephesians 1:3 say that God was the Father. There is no contradiction when we realize that God the Father and the Holy Ghost are one and the same Spirit. Matthew 10:20; Ephesians 4:4; I Corinthians 3:16.<

The Holy Spirit was the Agent that God the Father used in bringing about the incarnation, just as the Son was the Agent the Father used in creation. So there is no contradiction when we realize the Father can use one of the other Persons of the Godhead in bringing about His actions.

>52. Did Jesus ever say, "I and my Father are one?" Yes. John 10:30.<

The word "one" in Greek is neuter. As such, Jesus' statement cannot be taken to mean they are one Person. That would require the masculine gender. But since it is neuter, it means the Son and the Father are one in essence, or possibly, one in agreement.

>53. Can it be proved scripturally that Jesus and the Father are one in the same sense that husband and wife are one? No. The Godhead was never compared to the relationship of a husband and wife. Jesus identified Himself with the Father in a way that husband and wife cannot be identified with each other. John 14:9-11.<

The analogy of husband and wife for the Father and Son comes about because the same word "one" used in Gen 2:24 is used in Deut 6:4. So there is a linguistic connection. But as with all analogies about God, the husband and wife analogy cannot demonstrate all aspects of the relationships within the Godhead.

>55. Does the Bible call the Holy Ghost a second or third person in the Godhead? No. The Holy Ghost is the one Spirit of God, the one God Himself at work in our lives. John 4:24; I Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; 12:13.<

That God is by His essence Spirit is true (John 4:24; ALT). But this does not equate Him with the Person of the Holy Spirit. It just shows one of His attributes.

As for the other verses, they equate Christians as being the temple of God with being the temple of the Holy Spirit. This simply shows the Spirit is as to His essence God. There is no mention of the Father in any of the verses.

>56. Can Trinitarians show that three divine persons were present when Jesus was baptized by John? Absolutely not. The one, omnipresent God used three simultaneous manifestations. Only one divine person was present--Jesus Christ the Lord.

57. Then what were the other two of whom Trinitarians speak? One was a voice from heaven; the other was the Spirit of God in the form of a dove. Matthew 3:16-17.

58. What did the voice say at Jesus' baptism? "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Mark 1:11. As the Son of God, Jesus was the one God incarnate.<

Taking these three questions together, if someone was standing three watching the scene they would have see Jesus standing there, and heard a voice booming from heaving, "This is my beloved Son!" Now, would that person's first thought have been, Jesus is talking to Himself? Doubtful. The hearing of a voice speaking to someone is most naturally taken as one Person talking to another.

Moreover, why the analogy of "Father" and "Son?" As indicated above, analogies about God can only be taken so far. But they are intended to indicate something. And the most natural indication of the Father--Son relationship is just that, relationship. And a relationship takes two persons.

As for the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, it is true, God could manifest Himself in two ways at once. But what was the point? Why show up as a dove at all? Again, the visual representation would most naturally be taken by a viewer of the scene that two distinct entities were in view, Jesus and the dove.

So a viewer would have seen Jesus, heard a voice speaking to Jesus, and seen a dove separate from Jesus. The most natural reaction would be that three "somethings" were involved in the scene.

>60. The Bible says that God is coming back with all his saints (Zechariah 14:5) and also that Jesus is coming back with all his saints (I Thessalonians 3:13). Are two coming back? No. Only one is coming back--our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. Titus 2:13.<

As with similar questions and answers that were skipped, such equations of God (more specifically, Yahweh) and Jesus indicate the deity of Jesus; a point on which Oneness theology and the doctrine of the Trinity are in agreement. So yes, only One is coming back, Jesus, as it was only the second Person of the Trinity who became incarnate in the first place.


Follow-up

>Hi Gary:

I enjoyed the recent article "Oneness Questions." It would seem that one of the best refutations against Oneness Theology is Revelation 5, where the Father and Son appear at the same time and place.

(Rev 5:1 NKJV) And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.

"Him" obviously refers to the Father on the throne.

{2} Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, "Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?" {3} And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. {4} So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. {5} But one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals."

It is quite obvious that Jesus is the Lion of Judah and the Root of David. Jesus is the One who prevailed on the cross.

{6} And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth. {7} Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Now Jesus, the Lamb of God stands in the midst of the throne (on which the Father sits) and of the elders comes and takes the scroll out of the hand of the Father who is seated on the throne. This is an impossible to solve problem for modalists as there must be two Persons present if words mean anything.

{8} Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. {9} And they sang a new song, saying: "You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, {10} And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."

{11} Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, {12} saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" {13} And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!" {14} Then the four living creatures said, "Amen!" And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Again, it is Christ who has redeemed the elect to God and who has made them priests to God. Blessing and honor and glory are given to Him who is on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever.

The best Oneness adherents can argue for is Duality if not Trinity, and of course other NT passages speak of the Holy Spirit.

God Bless,
Chris
6/30/1999<

That was quick! I just posted that article a few hours before I received your e-mail. But your exposition of Revelation 5 is very good, and right on target.

As for the Spirit, as I've been working on the Analytical-Literal Translation I came across the following verse:

[Eph 2:18] For by means of Him we both have access [or, the privilege of entrance] by one Spirit to the Father.

The "Him" would be Jesus. So that is by means of Jesus, by the Spirit, we have access to the Father. Sure sounds like three Persons to me. And I can't see how the oneness people can say "Spirit" here is just an attribute of God. It is "by" the Spirit we come to the Father.

For more on this subject, see the book Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity, by Gregory Boyd, available from Books-A-Million.


Bibliography:
Taken from the Word Aflame Tract "60 Questions on the Godhead with Bible answers" #6125. Word Aflame Press ~ 8855 Dunn Road ~ Hazelwood, MO 63042-2299.

Scripture verses in the Oneness questions and answers are apparently from the King James Version. Scripture verses in my responses are from: The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1982. Verses copied from: Lardian PalmBible. Copyright 1998 by Craig Rairdin. All rights reserved. Portions Copyright 1998 by Jeff Wheeler. All rights reserved.

Darby, John Nelson. The English Darby Bible (DBY). Public Domain, 1890.
Young, Robert. Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (YLT). Public Domain, 1898.

The above article was posted on this Web site June 30, 1999.

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