Oneness Pentecostalism

Oneness Pentecostalism
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Oneness Pentecostalism (also known as Apostolic Pentecostalism or One God Pentecostalism) refers to a grouping of denominations and believers within Pentecostal Christianity, all of whom subscribe to the nontrinitarian theological doctrine of Oneness. This movement first emerged around 1914 as the result of doctrinal disputes within the nascent Pentecostal movement and claims an estimated 24 million adherents today.[1] For a list of denominations in this movement, see List of Christian denominations.

Oneness Pentecostalism derives its distinctive name from its teaching on the Godhead, which is popularly referred to as the Oneness doctrine.[2] This doctrine states that there is one God, a singular spirit who manifests himself in many different ways, including as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This stands in sharp contrast to the doctrine of three distinct and eternal "persons" posited by Trinitarian theology. Oneness believers baptize in the name of Jesus Christ, commonly referred to as Jesus-name baptism, rather than using the Trinitarian formula.

In most other ways the beliefs and worship of Oneness Pentecostals are similar to those of other Pentecostals. However, they tend to emphasize strict "holiness standards" in dress, grooming and other areas of personal conduct that are not necessarily shared by other Pentecostal groups, at least not to the degree that is generally found in Oneness churches. Furthermore, Oneness soteriology differs significantly from that of most other Pentecostal and Evangelical factions. Whereas most of them require only faith in Jesus for salvation, Oneness Pentecostalism defines salvation as repentance, baptism (in Jesus' name) and receipt of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues.[3] This reflects their interpretation of the Bible, and has caused friction between Oneness Pentecostalism and other churches. The Oneness emphasis on "standards" has equally led to charges of spiritual legalism by members of other faiths, though Oneness believers ardently deny this allegation. They insist that these guidelines were mandated by the Apostles themselves in Scripture, and are thus incumbent upon all believers.


The Oneness doctrine of God

Characteristics of God

Oneness theology specifically maintains that God is absolutely and indivisibly one.[4] [5] It equally proclaims that God is not made of a physical body, but is an invisible spirit that can only be seen in theophanies (such as the burning bush) that he creates or manifests, or in the person of the incarnate Jesus Christ. In the person of Jesus, one sees the last, best and most complete theophany of God (Colossians 1:15).

Oneness rejects all concepts of a subordination, duality, trinity, pantheon, co-equality, co-eternity, or other versions of the Godhead that assert plural gods, plural beings, divine "persons", individuals, or multiple centers of consciousness within that Godhead. It equally denies all concepts of Jesus as anything other than fully God and fully man, together with all teachings that assert that he was merely a "good man," high priest or prophet, rather than God himself. Oneness doctrine declares that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, but that this happened only when he was born from Mary on earth. It rejects the view that any person can "obtain" the status of God whether by works or by grace, maintaining that Jesus Christ did not "obtain" his status, but rather that he is the one, eternal God himself manifested in the flesh according to the Oneness Pentecostal interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:16.

Oneness Pentecostals reject the Trinity doctrine as an extra-Biblical invention and distortion, which dilutes true Biblical Monotheism, and also in a sense limits God. Oneness believers say that God can operate as an unlimited number of faces or modes, not just three.

Oneness Pentecostals believe that Trinitarian doctrine is a "tradition of men" and neither scriptural nor a teaching of God, and cite the absence of the word "Trinity" from the Bible as one evidence of this. They generally believe the doctrine is an invention of the fourth-century Council of Nicea, and later councils, which made it orthodox. The Oneness position on the Trinity places them at odds with the members of most other Christian churches, some of whom have accused Oneness Pentecostals of being Modalists and derided them as "cultists".[6]

Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Oneness teaching asserts that God is a singular spirit who is one person, not three divine persons, individuals or minds. "Father", "Son" and "Holy Spirit" are merely titles reflecting the different personal manifestations of the One True God in the universe. When Oneness believers speak of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they see these as three personal manifestations of one being, one personal God:

The Father 
The title of God in parental relationship.
The Son of God 
Oneness believers consider that God was incarnate in human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth.[2] They use the biblical term "Son of God" rather than the non-biblical "God the Son". "Son" refers to either the humanity and the deity of Jesus together, or to the humanity alone, but never to the deity alone.[7]
The Holy Spirit 
The title of God in activity as Spirit.

Oneness teachers often quote a phrase used by early pioneers of the movement—"God was manifested as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Holy Ghost in emanation."

Oneness theology sees that when the one personal and omnipresent God manifests or reveals Himself it is in a personal way. Oneness theology sees the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as one transcendent, personal, omnipresent God manifesting Himself in three personal and distinct ways or forms to redeem and sanctify sinful and lost humanity, and also that all the fullness of the deity resides fully in the person of Christ. (Col. 2:1-10)

The Father and the Holy Spirit are one and the same person, according to Oneness theology. They teach that the "Holy Spirit" is just another name for God the Father.[8][9] These two titles (as well as others) do not reflect separate "persons" within the Godhead, but rather two different ways in which the one God reveals himself to his creatures. Thus, the Old Testament speaks of "The Lord God and his Spirit" in Isaiah 48:16, but this does not indicate two "persons" according to Oneness theology. Rather, "The Lord" indicates God in all of His glory and transcendence, while "his Spirit" refers to His own Spirit that moved upon and spoke to the prophet. This does not imply two "persons" any more than the numerous scriptural references to a man and his spirit or soul (such as in Luke 12:19) imply two "persons" existing within one body.[10]

In contrast, says Oneness teaching, the Son did not exist (in any substantial sense) prior to the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth except in the foreknowledge of God. The humanity of Jesus did not exist before the incarnation. Although Jesus (i.e. the Spirit of Jesus) preexisted in His Deity as eternal God.[11]

Oneness Pentecostals believe that Jesus was "Son" only when he became flesh on earth, but was the Father prior to his being made human. They refer to the Father as the "Spirit" and the Son as the "Flesh". But they believe that Jesus and the Father are one essential Person, though operating as different modes.

As Jesus, God took human flesh at a precise moment in time, while remaining fully and eternally God: "for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily". Thus the Father is not the Son (this distinction is crucial), just like "Spirit" is not "Flesh", but rather, the Father is in the Son in a unique sense, as the fullness of His divinity (Colossians 2:9). Oneness theology does not claim to teach (as some falsely accuse) that the Father is actually the Son, but rather God is both Father and Son; the Father is in the Son (the Flesh) in a special sense (God in Christ).[12] Oneness doctrine views Isaiah 9:6 as prophecying that the Son shall be the "The mighty God" and "The everlasting Father". This divinity within Jesus was also the Holy Spirit, according to Oneness teaching, as the Father and Holy Spirit are one and the same. Oneness theology maintains that LORD and Jesus refer to the same God, who is also known as Jehovah to some modern-day Christians.


Oneness Pentecostalism subscribes to the common Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura. They view the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and as absolutely inerrant in its contents (though not necessarily in every translation). They specifically reject the conclusions of church councils such as the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed. They believe that mainstream Trinitarian Christians have been misled by long-held and unchallenged "traditions of men".[13]

The Word

Some Oneness teachers, such as Irvin Baxter, Jr., believe that "the Word" in John 1:1 was the invisible God choosing to manifest or express himself to his creatures: first the angels, then man. Before the creation of the universe (seen and unseen), God alone existed in eternity; he had no need to manifest or express himself, as there was no one else to manifest or express himself to. However, once the angels and later man had been created, the immaterial and uncircumscribable God manifested himself in an angelic form that his creatures could relate to. This form--"the Word", in Oneness teaching—later took on human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth.[14] Thus, the Word was never a second person in the Godhead, but rather the one God manifesting himself in a form his creation could comprehend. However, with his incarnation, God took on "the seed of Abraham";[15] this was something unique, as he had never taken on "the nature of angels" while previously manifesting himself as "the Word". Hence, Jesus' incarnation is a singular event, unlike anything God has ever done prior to it or ever will do again.

Although the Oneness belief in the union of the divine and human into one person in Christ is similar to the Chalcedonian formula, Chalcedonians disagree sharply with them over their opposition to Trinitarian dogma. Chalcedonians see Jesus Christ as a single person uniting "God the Son" (a being whose existence is denied in Oneness theology)[citation needed], the eternal second person of the traditional Trinity, with human nature. Oneness believers, on the other hand, see Jesus as one single person uniting the one God himself with human nature to form "the Son of God". They insist that their conception of the Godhead is true to early Christianity's strict monotheism, contrasting their views not only with Trinitarianism, but equally with the Arianism espoused by the Latter-day Saints (who believe that Christ was a separate "god" from the Father and the Spirit) and Jehovah's Witnesses (who see him as a lesser deity than his Father). Oneness theology is similar to historical Modalism or Sabellianism, although it cannot be exactly characterized as such.[16]

The name of Jesus

Oneness teaching maintains that God revealed himself as Jesus Christ,[17] and is based primarily on "the saving Name" of Jesus Christ and recognition of Jesus as the revealed, supreme, and one true name of God.[18] According to Oneness theology, all of the names and titles of God belong to Jesus, since all the fullness of God dwells bodily in him.

Critics of Oneness theology commonly refer to its adherents as "Jesus Only", implying that they deny the existence of the Father and Holy Spirit.[2] Most Oneness Pentecostals consider that term to be pejorative, and a misrepresentation of their true beliefs on the issue[citation needed]. Oneness believers insist that while they do indeed believe in baptism in the name of Jesus Christ, to describe them as "Jesus Only Pentecostals" implies a denial of the Father and Holy Spirit—a contention they vehemently reject.

Accusations of Modalism and Arianism

Oneness believers are often accused of being Monistic or Modalistic.[19] They have also occasionally been accused of Arianism, usually by isolated individuals rather than church organizations.[20] While Oneness theologian Dr. David Bernard indicates that Modalistic Monarchianism and Oneness are essentially the same (so long as one does not understand Modalism to be the same as Patripassianism),[16] he vehemently denies any connection to Arianism in Oneness teaching.[21]

Oneness Soteriology

In common with most Protestant denominations, Oneness Pentecostal soteriology maintains that all people are born with a sinful nature, and sin at a young age, and remain "lost" without hope of salvation, unless they embrace the Gospel; that Jesus Christ made a complete atonement for the sins of all people, which is the sole means of man's redemption; and that salvation comes solely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.[1][22] Oneness doctrine also teaches that faith without obedience is not faith, and that to gain salvation, a person must meet certain requirements which they consider to be set forth in the New Testament.[23][24] These requirements are:

  • repentance
  • water baptism in Jesus' name;
  • the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues.[1]

Most Oneness Pentecostals believe that scripture records these acts of faith as commanded by God for salvation, and therefore insist that the lack of any one of them would result in a person not being saved.(John 3:1-8)[25]

Grace and Faith

Oneness Pentecostals maintain that no good works or obedience to law can save anyone, apart from God's grace. Furthermore, salvation comes solely through faith in Jesus Christ; there is no salvation through any name or work other than his. Oneness teaching rejects interpretations that hold that salvation is given automatically to the "elect"; all men are called to salvation, and "whosoever will, may come".[26]

While salvation is indeed a gift in Oneness belief, it must be received.[3] This requires one to fulfill all conditions mandated by the giver (God); without doing so, one cannot receive the gift and remains eternally lost. The first mandate is true faith in Jesus Christ, demonstrated by obedience to God's commands, and a determination to submit to his will in every aspect of one's life. Oneness adherents reject the notion that one may be saved through what they call "mental faith": mere belief in Christ, without life-changing repentance or obedience. Thus they emphatically reject the idea that one is saved through praying a Sinner's Prayer, rather than the inclusion of being baptized in water and receiving the Holy Spirit with accompanying evidence of the infilling of God's Spirit. Oneness Pentecostals have no issue with the Sinner's Prayer itself, but deny that it alone represents "saving faith"; the Bible, accordingly mandated repentance, baptism by water and spirit with receipt of the Holy Spirit as the manifestation of the spirit part of the rebirth experience, this represents the manifestations of true, godly faith. Thus, one who refuses these other things has not complied with the biblical conditions for salvation, even if they do believe in Christ. According to these believers, Jesus and the Apostles taught that the New Birth experience includes repentance (the true Sinner's Prayer), and baptism in both water and God's Spirit.[27]


Oneness Pentecostals maintain that salvation is not possible without repentance. One must feel a "godly sorrow" for sin, confess one's sins to God (confession to another human being, such as a pastor, is deemed insufficient and unnecessary), ask him for forgiveness, and consciously determine to abstain from sinning again in the future.


The majority of Oneness Pentecostals believe that baptism is essential to salvation. A small minority believe that baptism is symbolic in nature. Since they believe that one must have faith and repent before being baptized, baptisms of infants or by compulsion are deemed unacceptable.[citation needed]

Oneness Pentecostal theology maintains the literal definition of baptism as being complete immersion in water. They believe that other modes either have no biblical basis or are based upon inexact Old Testament rituals, and that their mode is the only one described in the New Testament. This contradicts sprinkling, pouring or head-only immersion, and also contradicts the use of any substance other than water for baptism.[citation needed]

The Oneness baptismal formula

Oneness believers believe that for water baptism to be valid, one must be baptized in the name of Jesus, rather than the mainstream baptismal formula in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. This follows the examples found in the Book of Acts. "Jesus-Name" is a description used to refer to Oneness Pentecostals and their baptismal beliefs.[28]

This conviction is mainly centered around the baptismal formula mandated in Acts 2:38: "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". Oneness Pentecostals insist that there are no New Testament references to baptism by any other formula—save in Matthew 28:19 which most hold to be simply another reference to Jesus-name baptism.[29] Although Matthew 28:19 seems to mandate a Trinitarian formula for baptism, Oneness theology avows that the "name" in that verse is actually singular and refers to Jesus, whose name they believe to be that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[30] Oneness believers insist that all of the Bible's texts on the subject must be in full agreement with each other; thus, they say that either the Apostles disobeyed the command they had been given in Matthew 28:19 or they correctly fulfilled it by using the name of Jesus Christ.[31]

Some Oneness believers consider that the text of Matthew 28:19 is not original, quoting the early Church historian Eusebius, who referred to this passage at least eighteen times in his works. Eusebius' text reads: "go and make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." However, most Oneness believers do believe that Matthew 28:19 is authentic and original due to divine providence and preservation of the Scriptures.[32][33] Other Church Fathers are alleged to have not known of any triune formula in that text.[32] The latter believe that Jesus is the name correctly applied to God as a whole: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,[34] and that to baptize in the name of Jesus therefore fulfills the requirement of Matthew 28:19.

Oneness Pentecostals assert that of the five mentions of baptism in the Book of Acts, all were performed in the name of Jesus Christ,[35] and that no Trinitarian formula is ever referred to therein.[36] In addition, 1 Corinthians 1:13 is taken by Oneness Pentecostals to indicate baptism in Jesus' name, as well.[37] Hence, Oneness believers claim that this constitutes proof that the "Jesus-name" formula was the original one, and that the Trinitarian invocation was erroneously substituted for it later.[38] The Catholic Encyclopedia admits some theologians have considered in the past that the apostles baptized in the name of Christ only.[39]

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

Oneness Pentecostals believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a free gift, commanded for all.[40] The Holy Spirit is defined in Pentecostal doctrine as the Spirit of God (also known as the Spirit of Christ, Rom 8:9) dwelling within a person. It is further explained as the power of God to edify (build up) them, help them abstain from sin, and anoint them with power to exercise the Gifts of the Spirit for edification of the church by the Will of God. This differs substantially from the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ, for the Incarnation involved "the fullness of the Godhead" Col 2:9 uniting with human flesh, inseparably linking the deity and man to create the man, Christ Jesus. Believers, on the other hand, can only receive a portion of the Spirit and are not permanently bonded with God as Jesus is. Nor, for that matter, can any believer ever become as Jesus is by nature: God and man.

The Pentecostal doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is most simply explained as:

  • God dwelling within an individual,
  • God communing with an individual, and
  • God working through that individual.

Oneness doctrine maintains the Holy Spirit is the title of the one God in action, hence they maintain that the Holy Spirit within any individual is nothing more or less than God Himself in action, through and indwelling that individual.

Pentecostals, both Oneness and Trinitarian, maintain that the Holy Spirit experience denotes the genuine Christian Church, and that he carries with him power for the believer to accomplish God's will. As do most Pentecostals, Oneness believers maintain that the initial sign of the infilling Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues, and that the New Testament mandates this as a minimal requirement. They equally recognize that speaking in tongues is a sign to unbelievers of the Holy Spirit's power, and is to be actively sought after and utilized, most especially in prayer. However, this initial gift of the Holy Spirit is seen as distinct from the "gift of tongues and interpretation" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10, which is given to selected spirit-filled believers as the Holy Spirit desires.[41] Unlike most Trinitarian Pentecostals, Oneness adherents assert that receipt of the Holy Spirit is necessary for salvation.[42]



In common with other Pentecostals, Oneness believers are known for their charismatic style of worship. They believe that the spiritual gifts found in the New Testament are still active in the church; hence, services are often spontaneous, being punctuated at times with acts of speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophetic messages, and the laying on of hands for the purposes of healing. Oneness believers, like all Pentecostals, are characterized by their practice of speaking in other tongues. In such ecstatic experiences a Oneness believer may vocalize fluent unintelligible utterances (glossolalia), or articulate an allegedly natural language previously unknown to them (xenoglossy).

Some Oneness Pentecostals practice foot washing, often in conjunction with their celebration of Holy Communion, as Jesus Christ did with his disciples at the Last Supper.

Holiness standards

Oneness Pentecostals believe that a Christian's lifestyle should be characterized by holiness.[1] This holiness begins at baptism, when the blood of Christ washes away all sin and a person stands before God truly holy for the first time in his or her life. Subsequent to this act, Oneness believers hold that separation from the world in both practical and moral areas is essential to spiritual life.[43] Moral or inward holiness consists of righteous living, guided and powered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Practical or outward holiness for Oneness believers involves certain "holiness standards" that dictate, among other things, modest apparel and gender distinction. Some Oneness organizations, considering current social trends in fashion and dress to be immoral, have established "dress codes" for their members. These guidelines are similar to those used by all Pentecostal denominations for much of the first half of the 20th century.[1] Generally, women wear long sleeves & skirts are expected not to wear pants, makeup, jewelery or short hair; men are enjoined to be clean-shaven, short-haired,no jewelery and are expected to wear long sleeve button up shirts, long-legged pants, as opposed to shorts.[44] Additionally, many Oneness organizations proscribe their members from watching secular movies or television(no tv). Many of these views on "standards" have roots in the larger Holiness movement. However, the precise degree to which these standards are enforced varies from church to church and even from individual to individual within the movement.

Due to the comparative strictness of their "standards", Oneness Pentecostals are ofttimes accused of "legalism" by other Christians.[45] Oneness believers respond by saying that holiness is commanded by God,[46] and that it follows salvation, rather than causes it.[43] "Holiness living", for Oneness Pentecostals, proceeds from love rather than duty, and is motivated by the holy nature inparted by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.[43] While the Christian life is indeed one of liberty from rules and laws, that liberty does not negate one's responsibility to follow scriptural teachings on moral issues,[43] many of which were established by the Apostles themselves.[47]



The Oneness Pentecostal movement is considered to have begun in 1914,[1] as the result of severe doctrinal disputes within the nascent Pentecostal movement. During these formative years, doctrinal division developed and widened over traditional Trinitarian theology and the formula used at baptism, with some Pentecostal leaders claiming revelation or other insights pointing them toward the Oneness concept. Pentecostals quickly split along these doctrinal lines. Those who held to belief in the Trinity and the Trinitarian baptismal formula condemned the Oneness teaching as heresy.[48] On the other hand, those who rejected the Trinity as being contrary to the Bible and a form of polytheism (by dividing God into three separate beings, according to their interpretation), formed their own denominations and institutions, which ultimately developed into the Oneness churches of today.

Scholars within the movement differ in their views on church history. Some church historians, such as Dr. Curtis Ward, Marvin Arnold, and William Chalfant, hold to a Successionist view, arguing that their movement has existed in every generation from the original day of Pentecost to the present day.[49][50][51] Ward has proposed a theory of an unbroken Pentecostal Church lineage, claiming to have chronologically traced its perpetuity throughout the church's history.[52]

Others hold to a Restorationist view, believing that while the Apostles and their church clearly taught Oneness doctrine, the Apostolic church went into apostasy and ultimately evolved into the Catholic Church. For them, the contemporary Oneness Pentecostal movement came into existence in the early 20th century, during the latter days of the Azusa Street Revival. Restorationists such as David K. Bernard deny any direct link from the Apostolic church to the current Oneness movement, believing that modern Pentecostalism is a total restoration originating from a step-by-step separation within Protestantism, culminating in the final restoration of the early Apostolic Church.

Oneness views on the early church

Both Successionists and Restorationists among Oneness Pentecostals assert that the Apostolic Church believed in the Oneness and Jesus-Name baptism doctrines. Oneness theologian David K. Bernard claims to trace Oneness adherents back to the first converted Jews of the Apostolic Age. He asserts that there is no evidence of these converts having any difficulty comprehending the Church's teachings, and integrating them with their existing strict Judaistic monotheistic beliefs. In the Post-apostolic Age, he claims that Hermas, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Polycrates and Ignatius, who lived between 90 and 140 A.D., and Irenaeus, who died about 200 A.D, were either Oneness, modalist, or at most a follower of an "economic Trinity", that is, a temporary Trinity and not an eternal one.[53]

Bernard theorizes that the majority of all believers were Oneness adherents until the time of Tertullian, who died circa 225, and was the first notable Church figure to use the term Trinity to describe God. In support of his allegation, Bernard quotes Tertullian as writing against Praxeas: "The simple, indeed (I will not call them unwise or unlearned), who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One), on the very ground that their very Rule of Faith withdraws them from the world's plurality of gods to the one only true God; not understanding that, although He is the one only God, He must yet be believed in with His own economy. The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity, they assume to be a division of the Unity."[54]

Later non-Trinitarian teachers included: Abelard (1079–1142), who was accused of Sabellianism and forced into refuge in a monastery in France; Michael Servetus (1511–1553), an eminent physician from Spain, sometimes cited as a motivating force of Unitarianism, who wrote, "There is no other person of God but Christ ... the entire Godhead of the Father is in him",[55] and was burned at the stake for heresy on October 27, 1553; Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772); and Presbyterian minister John Miller, author of Is God a Trinity? (1876). John Clowes, pastor of St. John's Church in Manchester, England, reportedly wrote a book in 1828 that taught Oneness.[56] Karl Barth wrote several books and papers on the Godhead in which he spoke of the "modes" of God when referring to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[57] Bernard says that Barth's doctrine bears such similarities to Oneness thought that his critics labeled him a "modalist." [58]

Beginnings of the Oneness movement

In April 1913, at the World-Wide Apostolic Camp Meeting held in Arroyo Seco, California and conducted by Maria Woodworth-Etter, organizers promised that God would "deal with them, giving them a unity and power that we have not yet known."[59] Canadian R. E. McAlister preached a message about water baptism just prior to a baptismal service that was about to be conducted. His message defended the "single immersion" method and preached "that apostolic baptism was administered as a single immersion in a single name, Jesus Christ," saying: "The words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism". This immediately caused controversy when Frank Denny, a Pentecostal missionary to China, jumped on the platform and tried to censor McAlister. Oneness Pentecostals mark this occasion as the initial "spark" in the Oneness revival movement.

John G. Schaepe, a young minister, was so moved by McAlister's revelation that, after praying and reading the Bible all night, he ran through the camp the following morning shouting that he'd received a "revelation" on baptism, that the "name" of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was "Lord Jesus Christ".[60] Schaepe (whose name is often misspelled Scheppe in a number of sources) claimed during this camp-meeting that the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost was the name Lord Jesus Christ which name was later part of the baptismal command posited by Peter in Acts 2:38 — i.e., baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ" — was the fulfillment and counterpart of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 constituting baptism "in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (which "name" Oneness believers hold to be that of Jesus)." This conclusion was accepted by several others in the camp and given further theological development by a minister named Frank J. Ewart.

On April 15, 1914, Frank Ewart and Glenn Cook publicly baptized each other in "the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but as the one name of Jesus, not as a Trinitarian formula." This is considered to be the historical point when Oneness Pentecostalism emerged as a distinct movement.[1] A number of ministers claimed they were baptized "in the Name of Jesus Christ" before 1914, including Frank Small and Andrew D. Urshan. Urshan claims to have baptized others in Jesus Christ's name as early as 1910.[61] Even Charles Parham himself, founder of the modern Pentecostal movement, baptized using a Christological formula prior to Azusa Street.[62]

However, it was not the Oneness baptismal formula which proved the divisive issue between Oneness advocates and other Pentecostals, but rather their rejection of the Trinity. In the Assemblies of God, the re-baptisms in Jesus' name caused a backlash from many Trinitarians in that organization, who feared the direction that their church might be heading toward. J. Roswell Flowers initiated a resolution on the subject, which caused many Oneness baptizers to withdraw from the organization. In October 1916 at the Fourth General Council of the Assemblies of God, the issue finally came to a head. The mostly-Trinitarian leadership, fearing that the new issue of Oneness might overtake their organization, drew up a doctrinal statement affirming the truth of Trinitarian dogma, among other issues. When this Statement of Fundamental Truths was adopted, a third of the fellowship's ministers left to form Oneness fellowships.[63] After this separation, most Oneness believers became relatively isolated from other Pentecostals.[1]

Forming Oneness organizations

Having separated themselves from the Trinitarians within the new Pentecostal movement, Oneness Pentecostals felt a need to come together and form an association of churches of "like precious faith." This led in January 1917 to the formation of the General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which merged by 1918 with a second Oneness body, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (sometimes referred to simply as the "PAW").[64]

Several small Oneness ministerial groups formed after 1914. Many of these were ultimately merged into the PAW, while others remained independent. Divisions occurred within the PAW over the role of women in ministry, usage of wine or grape juice for communion, divorce and remarriage, and the proper mode of water baptism. There were also reports of racial tension in the organization. African Americans were joining the church in great numbers, and many held significant leadership positions.[citation needed] In particular, the African-American pastor G. T. Haywood served as the church's General Secretary, and signed all ministerial credentials. Resolutions were eventually proposed that all PAW credentials be signed by individuals of the same race.[citation needed] This factor, along with Jim Crow segregation policies, contributed greatly to a split in the PAW in 1924, primarily along racial lines. In 1925, three new organizations were formed: The Apostolic Churches of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel's Church in Jesus Christ and The Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance. The first two later merged to become The Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.[64]

In 1945 a merger of two predominantly-white Oneness groups, the Pentecostal Church Incorporated and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ, resulted in the formation of the United Pentecostal Church, or UPCI. Beginning with 1,800 ministers and 900 churches, it has become the largest and most influential Oneness organization today through its evangelism and publishing efforts.[65] This church added "International" to its title in 1972.

The UPCI has suffered several schisms since its inception in 1945. In 1955, a group of ministers led by Bishops C. B. Gillespie (Fairmont, WV), Ray Cornell (Cleveland, Ohio), and Carl Angle (Nashville, Tennessee) rechartered the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC) using the original charter.[citation needed] In 1968, a number of ministers organized the Apostolic Ministerial Fellowship (AMF), citing the UPCI as "too liberal." Central issues driving this schism included holiness standards and local church government. In 1986, Pastor L. H. Hardwick, a UPCI pastor in Nashville, Tennessee, broke away citing the UPCI as being "too conservative" and referred to them as "legalists" on issues of dress code and standards. He then formed the Global Network of Christian Ministries.[citation needed]

Recent developments

In 2001, Bishop Teklemariam Gezahagne and the more than 1 million members of the Apostolic Church of Ethiopia (ACI) broke their 45 year alignment with the UPCI. The official position of the UPCI is that this division centered on Christology. Teklemarim taught that the flesh of Jesus was God and had no human connection to the seed of Adam, David, or his mother Mary. He taught one nature in Christ and it was divine. The UPCI has always taught two natures in Christ, human and divine. Teklemarim refused to reconsider his stance, even after high ranking envoys came from the UPCI to Ethiopia to discuss his error. Thus, says the UPCI, divisions over Christology caused this schism.

The Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus (AAFCJ) and its sister church, the Apostolic Church of the Faith in Christ Jesus (IAFCJ), left the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World to serve the Hispanic community in the United States and the nations of Latin America.[citation needed] The Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus is the largest Oneness Pentecostal group of predominantly Spanish-speaking people in the United States.[citation needed]

LGBT affirming Oneness Pentecostals (Gay Apostolic Pentecostals) first began to organize in 1980 in Schenectady, New York. Such denominations today include the Affirming Pentecostal Church International, the Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals and Reconciling Pentecostals International.[66]

Notable Oneness Pentecostals

It is reported that Elvis Presley was baptized in the Assemblies of God at age nine, but was later re-baptized (at age around 14) according to the Jesus' Name formula by Bishop Joseph Rex Dyson, according to Dyson himself.[67]

Garfield Thomas Haywood was Presiding Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World from 1925-1931. He was also the author of many tracts and composer of many Gospel songs, including I See a Crimson Stream of Blood.

Bishop Robert C. Lawson was founder and chief apostle of the Churches of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith from 1919 to his death in 1961.

Bishop Sherrod C. Johnson was also founder and chief apostle of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith.

Bishop Smallwood Williams was a civil rights activist and presiding bishop of the Bibleway Churches of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Aposolic Faith (Washington DC)

Bishop T.D. Jakes is an adherent to Oneness theology, though he tones his views down to some degree in his public ministry.[68]

Former billionaire and Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth was raised in the Jesus Name Oneness church in Roseburg, Oregon, where his father was a minister. In an interview with the New York Times, when asked if the "family values", he often talks about concerning the Yellowstone Club, was another way of saying that the club emphasizes Christian values replied, "There's one member in my religion, that's me,". He also stated, "Based on what I went through as a kid, I don't belong to any organized religion. I'm spiritual, but I don't belong to a group.".[69]

The contemporary Christian music trio Phillips, Craig, and Dean adhere to Oneness theology and have garnered criticism because of it. The three each serve as ministers for Oneness churches. [70]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Patterson, Eric; Rybarczyk, Edmund (2007). The Future of Pentecostalism in the United States. New York: Lexington Books. pp. 124. ISBN 978-0-7391-2102-3. 
  2. ^ a b c Patterson, Eric; Rybarczyk, Edmund (2007). The Future of Pentecostalism in the United States. New York: Lexington Books. pp. 123. ISBN 978-0-7391-2102-3. 
  3. ^ a b See also Chapter 2 of David Bernard, The New Birth. Retrieved on 4/5/09.
  4. ^ David Bernard's The Oneness of God, Word Aflame Press, 1983, ISBN 0-912315-12-1.
  5. ^ Talmadge French, Our God is One, Voice and Vision Publishers, 1999, ISBN 978-1888251203. The most recent and collegiate work was done by David S. Norris,PhD, "I Am: A Oneness Pentecostal Perspective.", Word Aflame Publishers, 2009, ISBN 978-1-56722-730-7.
  6. ^ See, for instance, "Clarification from the Assemblies of God", for an incident in which that denomination apologized to the UPCI, a major Oneness organization, for a publication of theirs that openly called Oneness Pentecostalism a "cult". See also A Definite Look at Oneness Theology: Defending the Tri-Unity of God, for one example of a website that refers to Oneness as a "cult" and seeks to refute it using Biblical and historical references.
  7. ^ See under "The Son in Biblical Terminology" in Chapter 5 of David Bernard The Oneness of God. Retrieved on 4/8/09.
  8. ^ See under heading "The Father is the Holy Ghost" in David Bernard, The Oneness of God, Chapter 6.
  9. ^ See also David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988.
  10. ^ See under "The Lord God and His Spirit," in Chapter 7 of David Bernard, The Oneness of God.
  11. ^ See under the headings "Begotten Son or Eternal Son?" and "The Son and Creation," in Bernard, David K. The Oneness of God, Chapter 5.
  12. ^ See under heading "The Son" in Bernard, David K. The Oneness of God, Chapter 6.
  13. ^ See, for example, "A Response to the Oneness-Trinity Debate": a letter to Rev. Gene Cook, Pastor of the Unchained Christian Church (Reformed Baptist) of San Diego California, by Tom Raddatz. Retrieved on 3/31/09.
  14. ^ See Under "God became a Finite Form, in Understanding the Godhead, by Irvin Baxter, Jr. Retrieved on 4/4/09.
  15. ^ Hebrews 2:6.
  16. ^ a b David Bernard, The Oneness of God, Chapter 10. The research paper "Modalistic Monarchianism: Oneness in Early Church History" found at the end of this chapter also explains the relationship of Modalistic Monarchianism to the modern Oneness teaching. Retrieved on 3/29/09.
  17. ^ Zecharaiah 14:9, John 14:13-14, Colossians 3:17, Isaiah 52:6, Acts 3:6, 16, 4:7-12 17-18, 30, Philippians 2:9-11, James 5:14
  18. ^ Matthew 1:21, Acts 3:16, 4:12, 10:43, 15:14-17, 22:16, Romans 10:13, I John 2:12
  19. ^ See under heading "The Council of Nicea", in David Bernard, The Oneness of God, Chapter 11. Retrieved on 3/29/09.
  20. ^ See, for instance, See under "Oneness Doctrine;" this sermon directly accuses theologian Dr. David Bernard, a leading spokesman of Oneness Pentecostalism, of teaching Arianism.
  21. ^ See under heading "The Council of Nicea", in David Bernard, The Oneness of God, Chapter 11. Retrieved on 3/29/09.
  22. ^ See under "Only through faith in Jesus Christ", in David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988, pp. 31-32.
  23. ^ See under "Salvation is through faith" in David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988, pp. 31-35.
  24. ^ See Chapter 12: "Are there exceptions?" in David Bernard, The New Birth. Retrieved on 4/5/09.
  25. ^ See Chapter 12, "Are There Exceptions?" and Chapter 14: "An Honest Answer" in David Bernard, The New Birth. Word Aflame Press, 1984. Retrieved on 4/2/09. See also Statement of Faith of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, and the Doctrine Statement of the Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ.
  26. ^ This popular quote references Revelation 22:17. See "Grace and Faith" in Chapter 2 of David Bernard, The New Birth. Retrieved on 4/5/09.
  27. ^ See under "Those Who Profess Christ", in Chapter 12 of David Bernard, The New Birth. Retrieved on 4/5/09.
  28. ^ Patterson, Eric; Rybarczyk, Edmund (2007). The Future of Pentecostalism in the United States. New York: Lexington Books. pp. 123–124. ISBN 978-0-7391-2102-3. 
  29. ^ See "The Baptismal Formula: in the Name of Jesus" and "The One Name in Matthew 28:19, in David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988, pp. 43-45.
  30. ^ See under "The Singular Name" in Chapter 7 of David Bernard, The New Birth. Retrieved on 4/5/09.
  31. ^ See under "Matthew 28:19" in Chapter 7 of David Bernard, The New Birth. Retrieved on 4/5/09.
  32. ^ a b "A Colossal Collection of Evidence Against the Traditional Wording of Matthew 28:19". Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  33. ^ Lake, Kirsopp. "Baptism (Early Christian)". Retrieved 2009-04-05. 
  34. ^ See Randall Hughes, The Lord's Command to Baptize: A Study of the Hermeneutics of Matthew 28:19, for a Oneness study on this topic.
  35. ^ Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48;19:3-5; and 22:16.
  36. ^ David Bernard, The New Birth, Chapter 7, section entitled "The Doctrine of the Trinity."
  37. ^ David Bernard, The New Birth, Chapter 7, section entitled "The Bibilcal Record."
  38. ^ David Bernard, The New Birth, Chapter 7, section entitled "The Bibilcal Record." See also Chapter 10: "The Witness in Church History: Baptism".
  39. ^ "Baptism". The Catholic Encyclopedia.  "some theologians have held that the Apostles baptized in the name of Christ only."
  40. ^ See under "The Baptism of the Holy Ghost: Promise and Command", in David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988, pp. 45-46.
  41. ^ See under "After the Baptism of the Spirit" and "The Gift of Tongues" in Chapter 9 of David Bernard: The New Birth. Retrieved on 4.11/09.
  42. ^ See under "The Baptism of the Holy Ghost: Promise and Command", in David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988, pp. 45-46. See also under "Salvation in Acts Without the Spirit?" in Chapter 8 of David Bernard, The New Birth. Retrieved on 4/5/09/
  43. ^ a b c d See "Holiness and Christian Living", in Essential Doctrines of the Bible, Word Aflame Press, 1999.
  44. ^ Item 5, "Appearance" in "Holiness and Christian Living", from Essential Doctrines of the Bible, Word Aflame Press, 1999.
  45. ^ See, for instance, Oneness Pentecostalism Exposed, by Michael Powell, as an example of a website in which Oneness Pentecostals are accused of this.
  46. ^ Hebrews 12:14-17.
  47. ^ For a complete list of Oneness biblical references on this subject, consult Chapter 4, "Holiness and Christian Living," in David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988, pp. 61-100.
  48. ^ See "Formation of the Assemblies of God", in Brief History of the Assemblies of God. Retrieved on 4/2/09.
  49. ^ William Johnson, The Church Through the Ages, Bethesda Publishing, 2005, pp 25. See also The Apostolic Messenger, "Church Succession", pp.2-4, 2005, Kingsport, Tenn.
  50. ^ Marvin Arnold, Pentecost Before Azusa, Bethesda Ministries, 2002
  51. ^ William B. Chalfant, The Champions of Oneness, Word Aflame Press, 1984.
  52. ^ William Johnson, The Church Through the Ages,Bethesda Books, 2005, pp 27. Also quoted in "The Apostolic Messenger", Church Succession, pp. 2-4, pp. 6, 2005, Kingsport, Tenn.
  53. ^ Bernard, David K., The Oneness of God, Word Aflame Press, 1983, Ch. 10.
  54. ^ Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 3, rpt. in Alexander Robers and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers (rpt. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), III, 598-599.
  55. ^ "Unitarianism," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, XII, 520.
  56. ^ Campbell, David, All the Fulness, Word Aflame Press, 1975, p. 167-173.
  57. ^ Karl Barth, Mueller, David L., Word Books,1972
  58. ^ A History of Christian Doctrine, Volume 3, Bernard, David K., Word Aflame Press, 2000.
  59. ^ "World-Wide Apostolic Faith Camp Meeting", Word and Witness, 20 March 1913, 1; Blumhofer, The Assemblies of God, 222; Blumhofer, Restoring, 20.
  60. ^ Reckart, Sr. Gary P., Great Cloud Of Witnesses, Apostolic Theological Bible College, 124; Ewart, Phenomenon, 123-124; C. M. Rabic, Jr., "John G. Schaepe", in Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ed. Burgess and McGee, 768-769; J. Schaepe, "A Remarkable Testimony", Meat in Due Season, 21 August 1917, 4; Minute Book and Ministerial Record of the General Assembly of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, 1919-1920, 11.
  61. ^ Andrew D. Urshan, Pentecost As It Was in the Early 1900's (by the author, 1923; revised edition Portland, OR: ApostolicBook Publishers, 1981, 77); The Life Story of Andrew Bar David Urshan: An Autobiography of the Author's First Forty Years (Apostolic Book Publishers, 1967),102; Cf. E. N. Bell, "The Sad New Issue", Word & Witness, June 1915, 2-3; Anderson, Disinherited, 176.
  62. ^ Charles Wilson, Our Heritage, p. 12.
  63. ^ Cecil M. Robeck (2003), "An Emerging Magisterium? The Case of the Assemblies of God", Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies 25 no. 2: 172
  64. ^ a b UPCI History. Retrieved on 4/4/09.
  65. ^
  66. ^ See the website of Reconciling Pentecostals International.
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^ Blixseth on religion- Accessed and Retrieved; 2011-10-20
  70. ^

External links


Websites speaking favorably of Oneness Pentecostalism.


Websites critical of Oneness Pentecostalism.

  • Oneness versus Trinity Anti-Oneness website offers links to articles on this subject from both a pro and anti-Oneness perspective.
  • Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM) Website critical of many movements it considers heretical, including Oneness Pentecostals. Contains text of some online debates.
  • Criticism from former members.
  • The Other Pentecostals - There are 17 million of them in the world, but Oneness Pentecostals are not even considered Christians by some in the church. Who are these people, and why have they been labeled heretics for more than 80 years? - Charisma Magazine/June 1997 - By J. Lee Grady
  • PBS Ministries Criticism from a Cessationist perspective.

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