There is a virus that has infected the Church. It is a disease that gets to the heart of all manner of unchristian thinking. It masquerades as a super spiritual way to be. It sets itself up as the pinnacle of Christian thought, behavior, and love. Its main tenet is that God doesn’t desire for us to know theology. It says that God is more concerned with how we act than with how much we know. True though this assertion is, it is our knowledge of God that encourages us to act better. For instance, if I know how much of a sinner I am and how gracious God has been to me in my salvation, I should go from there and “sin no more.” However, if I think that I have a right to the salvation given to me by God, I have very little reason to improve myself. So we see that our understanding of theology is quite important for the practical lives we live. To quote Dr. James White, “Theology matters.”
I want to focus, in this post, on two very insidious versions of an evil heresy that is a detriment to its adherents as well as the rest of Christendom. The heresy is called Unitarianism. It is the belief that God is only one Person. This heresy stands against what the Church has said for millennia. The Scripture teaches that Jesus is God, that the Father is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. At the same time, it plainly teaches that there is only one God. To reconcile these two truths, the Church discovered the beauty of God’s Triune nature. Trinitarianism (the belief that God is Three Persons and only one God) was born.
Unitarianism exists in two forms: Modalism and Arianism.
Modalism rejects the idea that God is three Persons. It affirms that God is one Person and that this Person exists in different “modes” or “forms.” Modalism does also affirm that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are God, but not that they are their own Person.
In the system of Modalism, God the Father became the Son in order to go to the cross and die, be buried and resurrected, and ascend into heaven once more. After this, He became the Spirit to empower people to believe in his work on the cross. On the face of it, it doesn’t seem that far out there. It seems like a good system, but the problems arise when we get to the text of Scripture and begin to look at the implications of the doctrine.
Firstly, this understanding forces us to misread the texts concerning the baptism of Jesus. Who says, “This is my beloved Son?” Does Christ project his own voice into heaven? The same problem arises when Christ prays in John 17. If Christ is God, and there are no other Persons in the Godhead, to whom is he praying? Himself? And if that is the case, why would his prayer be “Not my will, but yours?” Isn’t He also the Father? Why would his will be different?
Next, this understanding means that when Christ took upon himself flesh, and thereby all of the attributes of man, God gave up his omnipresence. He couldn’t be everywhere. In essence, Heaven’s Throne had no King to sit in it. And even now, in the age of the Church, because God is the Spirit, the Father and the Son don’t exist.
Upon scrutiny, the ridiculousness of this position is exposed.
Arianism is a much more convincing form of Unitarianism. It states that Christ is not God. The system says the Father is God and there are no other Persons within the Godhead. This is much less ridiculous than Modalism, but it is still untrue. Again, the biblical texts and implications of the position are impossible to overcome.
There are all kinds of Arianism that I don’t have the time to go through in this post so I’ll focus on the main point of Arianism: Jesus isn’t God. This flies directly in the face of Romans 9:5, John 1, and countless other portions of Scripture that clearly proclaim the deity of Christ. In fact, John’s Gospel is structured specifically to make the argument that Jesus is God in the flesh.
Beyond this, when we look at the cross of Christ, it is a very fearful thought to imagine that Christ was simply a regular man. See, Christ, in order to save us, must have borne the wrath due us. The problem is that we can’t pay for our own sins. That’s why hell’s torment is eternal. We can never pay what we owe. Yet, the Arianistic position wants us to place our faith in the ability of a regular man paying the debt of millions? Does that make sense to you?
“See, only a human can substitute for human lives / But only God can take the wrath of God and survive.” – Shai Linne, Hypostatic Union
Jesus must have been both God and man. If he was less than God, or less than man, we have no reason to trust in his person and work for our salvation.
This position cannot stand up to scrutiny either.
Unitarianism is a blight on the Church. Regardless of the form it takes, it is a cancerous heresy that must be stamped out. We need a modern Reformation in our understanding of whom we worship. If we worship the Unitarian god, we do not worship the Christian God. I say once more, “Theology matters.” Let’s reform our understanding of who God is.
For further reading:
Delighting in the Trinity, Michael Reeves
Forgotten Trinity, James R. White
Soli Deo Gloria.