The Identity of the Son of God in Oneness Theology as Compared/Contrasted to Jehovah's Witnesses and Trinitarianism

by
Jason Dulle
JasonDulle@yahoo.com


Question:

Oneness believers have a false Jesus. For you, like the Jehovahís Witnesses (the modern form of the ancient heresy of Arianism) deny that the Son is eternal, and thus make Jesus out to be a mere created being. Only Trinitarians believe that the Son is both God and eternal. Oneness people deny that the Son is God. Only the Father who indwells the Son is regarded as the eternal God, but not the Son.

I realize that you claim that the Son is God, but if He is how can you claim that the Son did not eternally exist as the Son? God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), so if the Son is God, then the Son is eternal. Your position is a denial of God's immutability, and a denial of the deity of the Son.

You will not admit that the Son is eternal because if He was, according to Oneness theology, God could no longer be considered to be "one person," which is so important to your theology.

 

Answer:

Let me explain what Oneness theology does and does not mean when it says that the Son is not eternal. I also wish to demonstrate why we cannot be compared with Arianism (or its modern expression among Jehovahís Witnesses) which contends that the Son is a created deity, and thus not eternal.

Oneness theology does not deny that the Son is eternal, nor does it confess that Jesus is a created deity. It is one thing to say that Christ's deity is the same as the Father as do Oneness believers, but it is another thing to say that the deity of Christ is a created deity by the Father as do JWs. The only way in which it could be said that Oneness believers believe in a created Son is that we believe Jesus' humanity came into existence at 5-4 BC. (because we understand "Son" as being intrinsically connected with the incarnation), but this is believed by all Christians, not just Oneness believers. If we are not claiming that Jesus' deity is created by the Father, then we do not hold to the JW doctrine, and thus we cannot be accused of teaching a created Son anymore than Trinitarians can be accused of such. Where Trinitarians and Oneness differ is whether or not the eternal deity of the Son of God is the same personal deity as the Father, or a distinct person in the Godhead.

Oneness people deny the orthodox Trinitarian doctrine that the Son of God is eternally begotten according to His deity, confessing only that He was begotten in time according to His humanity. We do confess that the deity of the Son, Yahweh, is eternal. The disagreement between Oneness believers and Trinitarians pertains to whether or not the deity of Christ is a distinct eternal personality in the Godhead from the Father, or whether His deity is the same person of the Father, but incarnated in flesh. We disagree with Trinitarianism that the deity of the Son is distinct in person from the deity of the Father.

Is the Oneness concept of the incarnation in error? If it is, then so is the Trinitarian concept. Our concept of the uni-personal, eternal God becoming incarnated, yet still existing beyond the incarnation is no different in principle from the Trinitarian concept that a second eternal person of the tri-personal Godhead became incarnated, yet still continued to exist beyond the incarnation (This is why your charge that a Oneness perspective of the incarnation violates Malachi 3:1 is unfounded. If our theology demands that God changed, do does yours. This is not a problem unique to Oneness theology. Whether you say it was the uni-personal God who was incarnated, or the second person of the tri-personal God who became incarnated, you have God experiencing something He never experienced before). Neither of our positions deny the eternal deity of the Jesus, and both confess the temporal beginning of His humanity.

Because we see the appellation, "Son," as applying only after the incarnation, we do not usually say that the Son is eternal, because from our perspective such would be an affirmation that Christ's humanity was eternal. From your perspective "Son" is an eternal person in the Godhead apart from, but also including the incarnation, not just God's incarnation into a human existence. You understand Son to refer to both pre and post-incarnation, while we understand the term to only apply after the incarnation, coming into existence only because of the addition of humanity to Godís previously unmitigated deity, to describe the relationship between God transcendent beyond humanity and God limited in a human existence. Because of this Trinitarians see the Oneness refusal to say that the Son is eternal as a denial that His deity is eternal. As you can see, we are each using "Son" in different ways. You must understand our use of the term "Son" in its theological context lest you think we are saying that Jesusí deity was created.

Let me elaborate on the Oneness understanding of "Son." We understand the appellation to be a relational term arising only after the incarnation, and as calling attention to the humanity emerging from the incarnation. As such we would not say the Son is eternal because we do not believe that Jesus, who is God and man simultaneously in one person, existed in such a state before the incarnation. Trinitarians concur with this. We are only stating the obvious. We do confess that Jesus, as it pertains to His deity, is eternal. It is just that we see that deity as being the uni-personal God, the Father, and not a second person of a trinity, the Son. There is no denial that Jesus' deity is eternal, we simply do not see His deity as being a separate eternal person in the Godhead. We do not say that the Son is eternal because Jesus' humanity is not eternal.. The difference between Oneness and Trinitarian theology is not that Oneness does not see Jesus' humanity as eternal, nor is it that Oneness does not see Jesus' deity as being eternal, but rather that we understand Jesus' deity to be that of the Father, and not of a second eternal person called God the Son.

Let it not be thought that because Oneness theology only applies the term "Son" in connection with the incarnation that this means that Oneness theology believes "Son" refers only to Jesusí humanity, in contradistinction to His deity. Although some Oneness theologians tend to limit "Son" to refer to Jesus' humanity only, this is not the position of all Oneness believers. Some would contend that "Son" refers to Jesus' whole person, and is not "assigned" to either His deity or to His humanity. Son refers to the God-man, Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the virgin Mary.1

"Son" refers to more than Jesusí human nature, but we do not see it as appropriate to apply the term to God apart from the incarnation in Christ. Oneness theology sees the term "Son" coming into use because of the incarnation, being used to distinguish God's existence in the flesh and God's existence beyond the flesh (There are no OT references to the Son of God. The fact that we do not find this language employed until the NT causes us to believe that the usage is due to the incarnation wherein God actually fathered Jesus Christ). We contend that "Son" never refers to the incorporeal Spirit alone apart from referencing the humanity of Christ.

We are against the term "God the Son" because it equates the word "Son" with deity alone, which we do not find Scriptural support for so doing. We see the references to the Son as emphasizing the humanity God assumed in the incarnation, but do not exclude Jesus' deity from this reference. But only the whole person of Christ, both deity and humanity, can rightly be called the Son.


Footnotes

1. That "Son" cannot attributed purely to Christ's humanity is evidenced by the fact that Hebrews 1:8-9 connects "Son" with "God," saying, "But unto the Son He says, 'Your throne, O God...'." If Son referred only to Christ's human nature, such a statement would be meaningless. Clearly the author of Hebrews is attributing deity to Son. Another example is found in Matthew 16:16-17 when it is revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Son of God. If "Son of God" only refers to Jesus' humanity, no revelation from the Father would have been necessary. Anybody could have seen that Jesus was a human being by just looking at Him. Even the unbelieving Jews understood Him to be a genuine human being. It is what the Jews could not believe, that Peter understood by the revelation of God; i.e. Jesus was divine, being both God and man simultaneously. <back>

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