Does Oneness Theology Deny Jesus' Deity?
I believe the Oneness doctrine to be a very serious error. At its heart is a denial of the deity of Christ. If you deny the distinctness of the Son from the Father then you deny Jesus. Oneness theology is a most crafty and subtle deception which has denied the real Jesus, and dishonored God's Son.
You have said, "At its [Oneness doctrine] heart is a denial of the deity of Christ. If you deny the distinctness of the Son from the Father then you deny Jesus." Let me respond.
Why would you think that Oneness people deny the deity of Christ? Oneness people insist on the full deity of Christ. Where Trinitarians and Oneness differ is not in the fact that one confesses the full deity of Christ whereas the other does not, but whether or not the eternal deity Christ is the same personal deity as the Father, or a distinct person in the Godhead; whether the deity of Christ is a distinct eternal personality in the Godhead from the Father, or whether His deity is that of the Father, but incarnated in flesh.
You assume we deny the distinctions between the Father and Son. We do not. We just place them in a different place and time than you. The distinction between the Father and Son is absolutely essential in Oneness theology. The distinction, however, is not in distinct eternal persons in the Godhead, but between God beyond the incarnation, and God in the incarnation. When God assumed a human existence, with a complete human mind, psyche, will, emotions, etc., this existence was in distinction to His continued transcendent existence beyond the incarnation. As a genuine human being, Jesus is distinct from the Father; distinct because of His humanity, not because He is a second divine person in the Godhead.
While we confess that the deity of the Son of God preexisted the incarnation, we do not see that preexisting deity as a second person known as the "Son" in contradistinction to Father/Spirit, but rather as the one uni-personal God of the OT, YHWH.
We only see one person in the Godhead, YHWH. He is uni-personal, not tri-personal. That one uni-personal God became a man, not the second person of a tri-personal God. In Oneness theology the deity of the Son (humanity and deity) is known as YHWH before the incarnation, and "Son" only after the incarnation, to distinguish God's new existence as a human being (the God-man) from God's continued existence beyond humanity (Father). In the incarnation "Son" and "Father" are used to describe the relationship between God transcendent and God immanent in flesh.
The fact that we deny the notion that the deity of the Son is a distinct person in the Godhead cannot be interpreted to mean that we deny Christ's deity, or that we make Christ out to be less than God. In fact, our position that the deity of the Father and the deity of the Son is the same person makes defending the deity of the Son simple, because it is the same personal deity in each case, and therefore the same identity and properties. It is the Trinitarian view which has to go to great lengths to prove that Jesus' deity is that of YHWH just like the Father, because Trinitarian theology makes the Son's deity a distinct deity from the Father. Trinitarians have to first demonstrate that the Son is coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial with the Father before they can declare/demonstrate that the Son's deity is YHWH. Oneness theology identifies the deity of the Son with the deity of the Father, therefore, the identity of the Father automatically proves that the deity of the Son is also YHWH and eternal.
We identify the deity of the Son as the uni-personal God, YHWH, while you identify Christ's pre-existing deity as "God the Son," the second person of the Trinity. We believe it was the eternal uni-personal God who became flesh while you believe it was the second person of a tri-personal God that became flesh. Either way, we have the same concept as far as Christ's eternal deity is concerned, so it cannot be said that we deny Christ's deity.
Also, how is denying the distinct personal deity of the Son from the Father a denial of Jesus? This has no bearing on the eternal nature of the deity of the Son. Of course we don't believe that Christ's deity is a distinct person in the Godhead, but we do believe His deity is eternal because we identify His deity with the Father.
You have confused the issue of whether or not Oneness will confess that Christ's eternal pre-existing deity is a distinct, second distinct person in the triune Godhead, or whether or not his eternal pre-existing deity is the same as the Father, with the issue of whether or not we believe Christ's deity is God at all. You seem to believe that if one denies that Jesus' deity is a distinct personal deity from the Father that they must not believe in Jesus' deity, but such falsely assumes that Trinitarianism is the only way to maintain Christ's ontological and consubstantial deity with the Father. It is not. Oneness is more firm in its affirmation than is Trinitarianism in this respect because we do divide up the Godhead into distinct persons, but affirm one personal God who Himself became a man. Therefore Christ's deity is the deity of the Father incarnated in flesh, with no distinction, and thus no need to compare one person to another to see if they share the same essence.
So making the issue out to be whether or not one calls Christ's eternal, preexisting deity as "Son," viewing Him as a distinct person from the Father, has no logical correlation to whether or not one sees Christ's deity as the one God in His fullness, eternal, and uncreated. You cannot dismiss this fact simply because we do not see Christ's deity as a second person in the Godhead.
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