In What Manner is Jesus Considered
"God" in Oneness Theology?

by
Jason Dulle
JasonDulle@yahoo.com


Question:

It seems to me that Oneness theology is a resurgence of the ancient heresy of Adoptionistic Monarchianism; i.e. Christ is God only because the Spirit of God indwells His human body in its fullness. While you say that Jesus is God, you only mean that the Father who dwelt in the Son is God. The only basis for Oneness theology to claim that Jesus is God is that the man Jesus who walked this earth had God the Father inside of his human body. When you say that the Son is the eternal God, all you actually mean is that the Father who indwells the Son is eternal, because to you "Son" only means humanity.

To you Oneness folks the Son is only the humanity of Jesus, a mode, role, or manifestation of the divine nature of the Father, while God the Father alone is considered divine. In Oneness theology the Son is relegated to a mere role played by God, for according to your view Father, Son, and Spirit are three roles played by a uni-personal God, rather than three distinct persons within one God as in Trinitarianism. I do not see how the Son can be God if He is a mere role or manifestation of God, or merely has God inside Him!

 


Answer:

Your comparison of Oneness theology with Adoptionistic Monarchianism is surprising. I say so because Adoptionism and Oneness are so diametrically opposed in their theology. Adoptionism and Oneness both attempt to protect the idea that there is only one God, and one person in the Godhead (monarchy). The Adoptionists protected Godís oneness by denying the essential deity of Jesus. They made Him into a mere man anointed by God in a special way at His baptism. Oneness theology protects Godís oneness by arguing that Jesusí deity was the same deity as that of the Father, not a second person or another personality in the Godhead. Although our goal is the same, the two theologies are quite different. The Adoptionists protected the monarchy by denying Jesusí deity, while Oneness believers protect the monarchy by affirming Christís full deity. Oneness theology is infamous for its dogmatic insistence on the essential deity of Christ from the point of conception.

Then you said, "The basis for a Oneness believer saying that Jesus is God, is the man called Jesus who walked this earth had God the Father inside of his human body." Again, this statement makes it sound as though we are Adoptionists, claiming that Jesus was just an ordinary man who happened to have God in Him in a special way. We do not believe this. We believe that Jesus was God from His birth, because it was God who became a man. Seeing an absolute ontological and hypostatic union between Christ's two natures (in opposition to Nestorianism which views them as separate), we believe Jesus' humanity could not have existed apart from the Father, because it was the Father who contributed to His human existence. Just as we could not exist apart from the contribution of our mother and father, Jesus' humanity could not exist apart from the contribution of both the Father and Mary. In other words, we do not conceive of it even being possible that Jesus could ever be "just a man." That being so, to say that the basis for us calling Jesus "God" is that the Father was in Him is to say, or seems to say that we only attribute deity to Christ because the Father dwells in Him. It seems to imply that if this was not so, Jesus would just be an ordinary man. We do not believe this is possible. Jesus is essentially divine and essentially human from His conception, and could never be anything but God manifest in the flesh.

The Scripture itself speaks of God dwelling in Christ, or the Father being in Christ (John 10:38; 14:10-11; 17:21; II Corinthians 5:19; I Timothy 3:16), so I do not see any reason to interpret our assertion that Jesus is God because the Father dwelt in Him to be taken in an Adoptionistic way. The only way this could be is if we were claiming that there was ever a time when the Spirit of God was not in Christ, or if we denied that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost, and thus part of His Person was not dependent on the contribution from God, but as stated above, Oneness theology does not maintain such a position.

Your statement that our only basis for claiming that Jesus was God is that He had God inside of Him is intended to demonstrate that Oneness theology is deficient because it claims that Jesus would just be an ordinary man had the Father not indwelt Him. Such a claim is an inaccurate portrayal of Oneness theology. Oneness theology maintains that Jesus could not have even existed apart from the Spirit of God because Jesus was God incarnate. Jesusí human existence was dependent on the Spirit of God.

If you want to find fault with the Oneness claim that Jesus is God because the Father dwells in Him, you must also examine your own Trinitarian theology, for Trinitarian theology claims the same thing but on different grounds. They argue for Jesus' divinity, but do so by saying that it was God the Son who was incarnated instead of God the Father. The fact remains that if Jesus was not conceived by the Holy Ghost, and it was possible for Him to have existed apart from contribution of the Holy Ghost in Mary's womb, that Jesus would have only been a man. If, as a Trinitarian would argue, God the Son was not incarnated, then Jesus would not be God. Jesus is not God as it pertains to His humanity. Both Trinitarians and those of the Oneness faith confess this. Jesus did not have a deified humanity. It was like ours in every way. He was 100% man, but He was also 100% God, and that by conception. So when it is said that a Oneness personís only justification for calling Jesus "God" is due to the fact that the Father indwelt Him is misleading. When a Trinitarian says that "Jesus is God," all they mean is that God the Son (without excluding the Father and Holy Ghost) "indwells" Jesus because it was God the Son who became a man. If it was not for this fact, Trinitarians would also have no basis for claiming that Jesus is God either.

Now concerning the statement that God exists in three modes, or even three "roles" as it is sometimes said, I do not favor such terminology. When such terms as "modes" and "role" are attributed to God by Oneness believers, it is perceived that our conception is that Jesus is only a role that God is existing in at this time, but He could cease existing in that role at some point in the future. But we do not believe that Jesus will ever discard His humanity. The humanity of Christ has been forever incorporated into the Godhead. The place of the Son as the mediator between God and man will cease (I Corinthians 15:24-28), but the Son of God will never cease to be. The Son had a beginning in the incarnation, but He will have no end, just as we will also live eternally. What we mean when we speak of "modes" or "roles" is the way in which God reveals Himself to mankind. Oneness believers maintain that God reveals Himself to humanity in three primary ways (I prefer this explanation over "roles" or "modes"): Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These ways in which God reveals Himself, however, are not distinct persons or personalities within God. So we are not saying that God exists in three ways all at the same time, but that God reveals Himself to mankind in three distinct ways.


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