Cult and Fringe Christianity Studies
Aren't We All "Christian Monotheists"?
"God is holy, pure, without sin, the Creator of all, and Triune in Being. He is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. We reject the teachings of the Projectionists, and the Christian Monotheists."
This brother angrily demanded to know why I rejected the teaching of his Church, as we seemed to agree on all points of doctrine. It was at that point that I began to understand that this good Christian misunderstood the term I used of "Christian Monotheist".
Now, just within the past two weeks, I received a letter from another Christian who pompously told me that he had numerous Seminary degrees from various learned institutions, a thousand book theological library, and then went on to upbraid me for using "non-standard terminology to address heresy". In one sense this brother is correct. The standard technical theological terminology for what I call "Christian Monotheism" is actually modalism, Sabellianism, or Oneness Pentecostalism. At least, this is the historic Church terminology for this belief. Yet "technical jargon" often confuses the average Christian, especially when one has not the privileges of this brother (three seminary degrees and a thousand book library). You see, most of us live in the real world. Pastors and not theologians live in the real world, and I am called by God to be a pastor. For this reason the writings you find at this site will often use terms understood by the real world, by Christians where they live, and not by theologians who wander the hallowed halls of prestigious seminaries. If I were to ask a Oneness Pentecostal if he or she were a "modalist" they would vehemently deny this, because most do not know what this term means. But if I were to ask them if they were a "Christian Monotheist" they would say yes, for this is how the Oneness believer addresses his or her belief.
All orthodox Bible believing Christians accept the fact that there is one God who is Triune in Being. We believe that He is present in three distinct persons, these persons being Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. All Christians are, by nature, monotheists. We believe in One God, not Three Gods, but we believe that One God to be Triune. A Christian Monotheist, however, is a bird of a different color. I speak from experience.
I was saved in a small Church affiliated with the Church of God. After about 5 years of studying God's Word I discovered that some of the doctrines that the Church promoted were inconsistent with what I felt God's Word to teach. Rather than sow discord in the Body (which no Christian should ever do) I left this denomination to find where God would have me serve. I began visiting different local Churches, and this is when I was exposed to Christian Monotheism (modalism, Sabellianism, Oneness Pentecostalism).
The Christian Monotheists teach that the doctrine of the Trinity is an evil heresy that the Protestant Church imported from the Catholic faith. "If the Catholics taught it", they reasoned, "it must be wrong". Today I take exception to this type of sweeping statement, for no Christian Church is completely wrong in every doctrine that it teaches. Nor is a doctrine immediately suspect if it comes from a denomination outside of your own. God manifests His Light to all Christians regardless of denomination.
The Christian Monotheists teach that there is only One God who represented Himself to man in one of three manifestations: Father, Son, and Spirit. They teach that this One God is in reality named Jesus Christ. Jesus, at different times and throughout human history, took on the guise of Father, Son, or Spirit. Imagine, if you will, a play performed with a cast of one. The cast (Jesus Christ) comes out and plays the part of the Father. After a while this person (Jesus Christ) goes behind the curtain, comes out again in the part of the Son. And this person (Jesus Christ) again goes back behind the curtain and returns to the audience in the part of the Spirit. This is what the Monotheists mean when they say that God is One who showed Himself to man in three manifestations.
The Monotheists carry this doctrine throughout their faith. They teach that if you were Baptized by the traditional "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit", then this water Baptism was invalid (at least, this is what I was told by the Oneness Church that I joined). All people who join their Church (and I must confess, they convinced me and I joined) must be re-Baptised "in the Name of Jesus" to be truly baptized. They also teach that your salvation is suspect if you believed in the Trinitarian person of Jesus. I joined the Christian Monotheists, was re-baptized, and was a faithful member for about a year. Just as when I joined the Church of God, I continued studying my Bible as the Lord led me. After about a year I once again had to admit that I was convinced that there is One God, Triune in Being, forever in three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit. I left the Christian Monotheists and continued my spiritual journey, seeking where the Father would have me serve. I hold no animosity towards the Christian Monotheists, and look back with fond memories of my time with the United Pentecostals and the Church of God of Prophecy. They were part of what made me the person I am today, and I love them for it. But their doctrine is "off base".
Now, having said this, do I believe that the Christian Monotheist is unsaved? Some would vehemently say that these modalists worship only an icon Jesus, and are therefore cursed into damnation. I cannot agree. The Trinity of God is, indeed, a mystery that believers have difficulty grasping, and well it should. God is immense in being, and we are but amoebas when compared with His immensity. Christian Monotheists are those who have examined the Doctrine of the Trinity, found it implausible, and developed an alternate theology based on this. They believe that Jesus Christ died for them on the Cross, just as the Trinitarian believes, and believe that His atonement, once accepted in faith, pays for our sins. Is their salvation unreal because they theologically believe the being of God different than the Trinitarian does? I don't think so. I see no where in Scripture where Jesus said we have to have a theological degree to be saved. Salvation is simple: accept Jesus Christ in your heart, accept Him as your Savior, and confess Him with your mouth. Believe, and you will be saved.
The Doctrinal Basis
Of The Christian Monotheists
Christian Monotheists also refer to the following verses of Scripture:
Acts 2:38 "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
Acts 8:12 "But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women."
And, instead of baptizing using the formula "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost":
Matthew 28:19 "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost"
Baptize one another using the formula "in the name of Jesus Christ".
As I said before, the Christian Monotheist doctrine can be proved if you rely on human logic and poor interpretive skills in Bible study. From the human logic perspective, it is easier to understand our Creator's being if we follow the Christian Monotheistic viewpoint. I myself can understand the concept of One God who manifested Himself in three guises better than I can understand One God in Three Persons. But ease of understanding is not doctrinal truth. There are also inherent dangers to taking the easy road insofar as study of God's Word is concerned. These are just a few areas where the doctrine of Christian Monotheism falls short:
Isaiah 48:12-16 "Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together. All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous. Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me."
Where One member of the Godhead is speaking, calling Himself "I am he; I am the first, I also am the last". This is clearly and Scripturally terms that are only used of God by God. This member of the Godhead continues, in context, and ends His discussion with the statement "and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me". So God is speaking, and then God says that the "Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me". This, to my mind, clearly shows that there are three members in the Godhead. This verse, more than any other, moved me from Christian Monotheism.
I could go on and on, but one fallacy is enough to prove a doctrine as false. The Godhead is composed of three distinct Persons, each equal in power, together God, apart God. This is Biblical. Christian Monotheism is not. If you need further proof of the Triune nature of God, you will find it in the categoric outlines. And if you need more evidence, write me. I can easily find many more references that prove the Triune nature of God, but you can too. Just read your Bible in context, and rely on God the Holy Spirit to be your guide.
Now, having said all this, let me reiterate: I, myself, do not believe that the salvation that the Christian Monotheist possesses is any less effective than the salvation that the Trinitarian possesses, as long as believers in both camps have accepted the Jesus Christ portrayed in the Scriptures as their personal Savior. You may disagree, and that's fine. I do not endorse Christian Monotheism, I am a Trinitarian, but unlike most Trinitarians I have walked and lived among them and found them to be wonderful Christians. The fruit of the Spirit of God is clearly manifested in their lives. For that matter, though I believe many Charismatics (though not all) follow after the error of Corinthianism, I believe that the Charismatic Christian is equally saved if he has repented and called on the name of Jesus, accepting Him as his Savior. Bishop T.D. Jakes whom I love as my brother, has recently undergone attack as a Christian Monotheist/ modalist. He replied to these attacks by sending an op-ed letter of Christianity today. The letter, posted in full, follows:
HEARSAY, NOT HERESY
Op-ed Submission to "Christianity Today" by Bishop T. D. Jakes
I appreciate "Christianity Today" in its acknowledgment in recent years of contributions from diverse parts of the Christian community - including minority Christian leaders, and believers who worship Christ in differing ways. The magazine's open arms have broadened readers’ perspectives, enabling us to learn from each other.
This particularly encourages me, as God placed a burning desire in my heart to build cultural and theological bridges, by focusing on the things Christian brethren have in common -- not on those things bound to divide. I believe reconciliation is possible without assimilation.
I was raised a Baptist, but became Pentecostal 26 years ago at a Greater Emmanuel Apostolic Church, where I was later ordained a Bishop. I resigned from that denomination 11 years ago and have continued to fellowship with Higher Ground Always Abounding Assemblies. This small fellowship of churches is not a denomination, and differs in several ways from traditional Apostolic churches.
Both chapters of my early spiritual journey have contributed volumes to my faith and walk with God, helping to further hone my character. I have been shaped by and appreciate both denominations, but am controlled by neither. My association with Oneness people does not constitute assimilation into their ranks any more than my association with the homeless in our city makes me one of them.
My day-to-day affiliation is with the Pater Alliance, an interdenominational network of some 250 churches, which I founded three years ago. I serve as CEO, senior minister and mentor, providing leadership for pastors who range from Presbyterian, to Baptist to Pentecostal.
My own 23,000-member church, The Potter's House in Dallas, is non-denominational, and continues to grow exponentially each week. There I serve widely different people whose common desire is to know God, and to grow in the knowledge of, and fellowship with, Jesus Christ.
While I mix with Christians who represent a broad range of theological perspectives, I can only speak for my personal faith and convictions. I am not a theologian, and avoid quoting even from theologians who may agree with me, as I prefer to go directly to the Bible for the defense of my beliefs.
My views on the Godhead are formed by the scriptural passage found in 1 John 5:7-8, "For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one." (NKJV)
I believe in one God who is the Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. I believe that these three are distinct and separate in their function. Their distinctives are so separate that each has individual attributes, yet they are one. I do not believe in three Gods.
There are many things that can be said about the Son that could not be said about the Father. The Son was born of a virgin. The Father created the virgin from whom He was born. The Son slept (Luke 8:23), but the Father never sleeps (Psalm 121:3-5). The Son took on the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3), but God is a spirit (John 4:24).
Likewise there are several things that are totally distinctive to the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit alone empowers the believer (Acts 1:8), indwells the believer (2 Tim 1:15), and guides the believer (John 16: 14).
In spite of all the distinctives, God is one in His essence. Though no human illustration perfectly fits the Divine, it is similar to ice, water and steam, which are three separate forms, yet all are H2O. Each element can coexist, have distinguishing characteristics and functions, but still have sameness.
The Apostle Paul says in first Timothy 3:16, "Without controversy, great is the mystery of Godliness." Without controversy, it is a mystery – not to be figured out, but to be entered into.
The language in the doctrinal statement of our ministry that refers to the Trinity of the Godhead as "manifestations" is not derived from modalism. The Apostle Paul himself used this term in reference to the Godhead on several occasions, including 1 Timothy 3:15, 1 Corinthians 12:7, and I John 3:5-8. Peter also used the term in 1 Peter 1:20. Can this word now be heresy when it is a direct quote from the Pauline epistles and elsewhere in the New Testament?
I believe that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. I believe that He was born of a virgin, crucified on a cross, arose from the dead and is coming back again for His church. I believe that He sent the Holy Spirit to lead the Church and to guide it. I believe in justification by faith.
I also believe that baptism is a commandment that should be observed as an act of obedience to God's Word. The rites of baptism are celebrated in our church by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ. I have always, without exception, baptized as the early church did in Acts 2:38, 10:44 and 19:1-4. That is my conviction based on Scripture.
Nevertheless, many of my respected colleagues quote Matthew 28:19 when they baptize, while others use both, saying "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost we do all things in Jesus name." Our love for the same Lord has enabled us to walk together in love without dissension in spite of a variance in procedures.
Christians will never agree on every theological issue any more than the colors of our skin will all suddenly match. Finite minds cannot wrap around an infinite God, or the limitless revelation of his wisdom and beauty. But we can all agree on Whom we worship: He is the Great I AM.
I look forward to the day when Christians do not judge one another by the diversity of our associates, nor the distinctives of semantics. Rather by the love of Christ we reflect, the integrity of our personal convictions, and the sweet fruit of both in our lives.
There are a few things I would die for; a few more I would argue strongly; after that I am too busy trying to preach the Gospel to split hairs. People in my generation are lost, hungry, in prison, wounded, and alone. Many are dying without knowing God. Many of our generation are dying without knowing God – not dying for the lack of theology, but for lack of love.
Bishop T. D. Jakes
Now, can you see the works that T.D. Jakes has done, and read this letter, and believe that he is not a "son of God by faith in Christ Jesus" as you are? I hesitate to post works from Christian Monotheists at this site because I am decidedly Trinitarian, but do not believe they are less saved than I. I am growing daily under the sanctifying hand of God's Holy Spirit, just as my brother in Christ T.D. Jakes is, just as the saved Charismatic Christian is, just as the Methodist, the Presbyterian, the Church of God, the various "flavors" of Christians all over our world are. Let's stop straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel, promote - preach - and believe in the same Jesus Christ, and love one another as Christ called us to do.
God Bless you all!