Will the real 'Oneness' Pentecostals please stand up?

Who in the history of the world has ever been saved? Were even the third century 'modalist monarchians' saved by 'Oneness' Pentecostal standards? 'Oneness' Pentecostals proclaim an 'Acts 2:38 Salvation Plan', according to which a believer must, not only believe in their form of modalism, but must also have been baptized while the minister said, 'I baptize you in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ' (reciting the 'titles' of Matthew 28:19 doesn't count) and must have spoken in tongues in order to have any hope of salvation. Were there any believers who met these criteria prior to 1913? Let's see if we can find them:

Let us Make Man Polycarp
Ignatius Clement of Rome
Shepherd of Hermas Justin Martyr
Athenagoras Irenaeus
Simon the Sorcerer Gnostics
Noetus Pope Zephyrinus
Sabellius Pope Callistus I
Tertullian Beryllus of Bostra
Montanists Donatists
Marcellus of Ancyra Photinus
Priscillian Albigensians
Waldensians Michael Servetus
Anabaptists Munster Communards
Unitarians William Penn
Benjamin Franklin Thomas Jefferson
Emanuel Swedenborg Joseph Smith
Karl Barth Yves Congar
Return to answering 'Oneness' Pentecostalism...

Let us Make Man

Were the apostolic fathers and early church apologists 'Oneness' Pentecostals? A good test case of how they view Jesus' pre-existence of His incarnation is Genesis 1:26, "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;...So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." (Genesis 1:26-27). Do they understand 'Let Us make man' to intimate Father, Son and Holy Spirit...or do they resort to the Rabbinic dodge of angelic co-creators?:

"And furthermore, my brothers: if the Lord submitted to suffer for our souls, even though he is Lord of the whole world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, 'Let us make according to our image and likeness,' how is it, then, that he submitted to suffer at the hands of mean? Learn!" (Epistle of Barnabas, 5.5).
"And the same sentiment was expressed, my friends, by the word of God [written] by Moses, when it indicated to us, with regard to Him whom it has pointed out, that God speaks in the creation of man with the very same design, in the following words: 'Let Us make man after our image and likeness...And God created man: after the image of God did He create him; male and female created He them.'...For I would not say that the dogma of that heresy which is said to be among you is true, or that the teachers of it can prove that [God] spoke to angels, or that the human frame was the workmanship of angels.  But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God, who has also declared this same thing in the revelation made by Joshua the son of Nave (Nun)." (Justin Martyr, martyred 165 A.D., Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter LXII).
“Moreover, God is found, as if needing help, to say, 'Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness.' But to no one else than to His own Word and wisdom did He say, 'Let Us make.'” (Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter 18).
"Now man is a mixed organization of soul and flesh, who was formed after the likeness of God, and molded by His hands, that is, by the Son and Holy Spirit, to whom also He said, 'Let Us make man.'" (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Preface, 4).
"And this is He of whom the Scripture says, 'And God formed man, taking clay of the earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life.' It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God, nor any one else, except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands.  For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, 'Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;' He taking from Himself the substance of the creatures [formed], and the pattern of things made, and the type of all the adornments in the world." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 4, Chapter 20, 1.)
"Thus it was that the Father did say beforehand to the Son: 'Let us make man in our image and likeness.  And God made man,' -- that is, the creature which He fashioned -- 'to the image of God,' -- of Christ, of course, -- 'He made him.'" (Tertullian, The Resurrection of the Dead, 6:2, 361, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume 1, William A. Jurgens, p. 149).

Since these early Christians heard in Genesis 1:26 a conference call amongst Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they are not at home in the modalist camp.  They situated the Son with the Father before the ages, as does scripture; they did not identify the Son as the Father before the ages.


Polycarp was a 'right hand' man:

"'Therefore prepare for action and serve God in fear' and truth, leaving behind the empty and meaningless talk and the error of the crowd, and 'believing in him who raised' our Lord Jesus Christ 'from the dead and gave him glory' and a throne at his right hand; to whom all things in heaven and on earth were subjected, whom every breathing creature serves, who is coming as 'Judge of the living and the dead,' for whose blood God will hold responsible those who disobey him." (Polycarp, To the Phillippians, 2).
"For this reason, indeed for all things, I praise you, I bless you, I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom to you with him and the Holy Spirit be glory both now and for the ages to come. Amen." (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14.3).
"Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth and in all gentleness and in all freedom from anger and forbearance and steadfastness and patient endurance and purity, and may he give to you a share and a place among his saints, and to us with you, and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead." (To the Philippians, 12.2)


"Since, therefore, in the persons mentioned above I have by faith seen and loved the whole congregation, I have this advice: Be eager to do everything in godly harmony, the bishop presiding in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the council of the apostles and the deacons, who are most dear to me, having been entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ, who before the ages was with the Father and appeared at the end of time." (Ignatius, To the Magnesians, 6.1).
"For the most godly prophets lived in accordance with Christ Jesus.  This is why they were persecuted, being inspired as they were by his grace in order that those who are disobedient might be fully convinced that there is one God who revealed himself through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word which came forth from silence, who in every respect pleased him who sent him." (To the Magnesians, 8.2).

Ignatius identifies Jesus as 'the Son', not 'the Father', respecting the usage of the apostles:

"Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the church that has found mercy in the majesty of the Father Most High and Jesus Christ his only Son, beloved and enlightened through the will of him who willed all things that exist, in accordance with faith in and love for Jesus Christ our God, which also presides in the place of the district of the Romans, worthy of God, worthy of honor, worthy of blessing, worthy of praise, worthy of success, worthy of sanctification, and presiding over love, observing the law of Christ, bearing the name of the Father, which I also greet in the name of Jesus Christ, Son of the Father; to those who are united in flesh and spirit to every commandment of his, who have been filled with the grace of God without wavering and filtered clear of every alien color: heartiest greetings blamelessly in Jesus Christ our God." (To the Romans, Preface).
"For if I in a short time experienced such fellowship with your bishop, which was not merely human but spiritual, how much more do I congratulate you who are united with him, as the church is with Jesus Christ and as Jesus Christ is with the Father, that all things might be harmonious in unity." (To the Ephesians, 5.1).
"Become imitators of Jesus Christ, just as he is of his Father." (To the Philadelphians, 7.2).

Clement of Rome

"For as God lives, and as the Lord Jesus Christ lives, and the Holy Spirit (who are the faith and the hope of the elect), so surely will the one who with humility and constant gentleness has kept without regret the ordinances and commandments given by God be enrolled and included among the number of those who are saved through Jesus Christ, through whom is the glory to him for ever and ever. Amen." (First Clement, 58.2).

Shepherd of Hermas

"'First of all, sir,' I said, 'explain this to me: Who is the rock and the door?'  'This rock,' he said, 'and the door are the Son of God.'  'How is it, sir,' I said, 'that the rock is old, but the door is new?'  'Listen,' he said, 'and understand, foolish man.  The Son of God is far older than all his creation, with the result that he was the Father's counselor in his creation. That is why the rock is old.' ..." (The Shepherd of Hermas, 12. 89, Parable 9).

Justin Martyr

An early rule of faith of triune form: "Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity.  But both Him, and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught." (Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 6).

Simon the Sorcerer

Simon the Sorcerer turns up in the Bible as a rival claimant to deity: "But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great, to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, 'This man is the great power of God.'" (Acts 8:9-10). Later writers recalled him as having sketched out the conceptual framework of Sabellian-style modalism:

“‘“And so (it was that Jesus) appeared as man, when in reality he was not a man. And (so it was) that likewise he suffered — though not actually undergoing suffering, but appearing to the Jews to do so — in Judea as ‘Son,’ and in Samaria as ‘Father,’ and among the rest of the Gentiles as ‘Holy Spirit.’” And (Simon alleges) that Jesus tolerated being styled by whichever name (of the three just mentioned) men might wish to call him.” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 6, Chapter 14).

Like other gnostics, Simon was a polytheist. Simon associated with the Christian church for a time, then struck out on his own. Do the 'Oneness' Pentecostals want to claim Simon's heritage, when he was not actually proclaiming the Christian gospel, but his own?


Some gnostics say things that sound like the 'Oneness' Pentecostals:

"Now the name of the Father is the Son. It is he who first gave a name to the one who came forth from him, who was himself, and he begot him as a son. He gave him his name which belonged to him; he is the one to whom belongs all that exists around him, the Father, His is the name; his is the Son." (The Gospel of Truth, The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson, p. 49).
"Therefore they knew what I [Jesus] was saying, for we took counsel about the destruction of the rulers. And therefore I did the will of the father, who is I." (The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, The Gnostic Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer, p. 471).

Of course, 'The Second Treatise of the Great Seth" also says, "And then a voice of the world ruler came to the angels: 'I am god and there is no other god but me.' But I laughed joyfully when I examined his conceit." (The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, The Gnostic Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer, p. 469). Chuckling at expressions of monotheism is a common theme with gnosticism:

"And he is impious in his arrogance which is in him. For he said, 'I am God and there is no other God beside me,' for he is ignorant of his strength, the place from which he had come....And when he saw the creation which surrounds him and the multitude of the angels around him which had come forth from him, he said to them, 'I am a jealous God and there is no other God beside me.' But by announcing this he indicated to the angels who attended him that there exists another God. For if there were no other one, of whom would he be jealous?" (The Apocryphon of John, The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson, p. 111-112).
"Their chief is blind; [because of his] power and his ignorance [and his] arrogance he said, with his [power], 'It is I who am God; there is none [apart from me]." (The Hypostasis of the Archons, The Nag Hammadi Library, James M. Robinson, p. 162).

Gnostics believe in at least two gods, a bad god who made the world, and a good god who sent Jesus Christ. The bad god who made the world speaks in the Old Testament, they say, whereas the good god speaks in the New. Some gnostics are willing to identify Jesus as same in person with the good god. But what about that bad god who made the world..?

Sometimes when you point out to 'Oneness' Pentecostals what these groups actually believed, they respond with incredulity, complaining that no one could believe such ridiculous things. But not only were such views popular in the day, a modern author, Elaine Pagels, has made a lot of money bowdlerizing them for a contemporary audience.



The 'Oneness' Pentecostals -- and also the Jehovah's Witnesses, who claim these same authors -- base their case that the early writers were not Trinitarians on the fact that they did not employ the word 'Trinity'. But while early writers like Athenagoras (177 A.D.) may not employ the word, their statements of faith are triune in form:

"That we are not atheists, therefore, seeing that we acknowledge one God, uncreated, eternal, invisible, impassible, incomprehensible, illimitable, who is apprehended by the understanding only and the reason, who is encompassed by light, and beauty, and spirit, and power ineffable, by whom the universe has been created through his logos, and set in order, and is kept in being -- I have sufficiently demonstrated. [I say 'His Logos'], for we acknowledge also a Son of God. Nor let any one think it ridiculous that God should have a Son. For though the poets, in their fictions, represent the gods as no better than men, our mode of thinking is not the same as theirs, concerning either God the Father or the Son. But the Son of God is the Logos of the Father, in idea and in operation; for after the pattern of Him and by Him were all things made, the Father and the Son being one...The Holy Spirit Himself also, which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun. Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists?" (Athenagoras, A Plea for the Christians, Chapter X).


Here are two summary statements of faith by Irenaeus, no doubt squirming uncomfortably in his role as early 'Oneness' believer:

"This, then, is the order of the rule of our faith...God the Father, not made, not material, invisible; one God, the creator of all things: this is the first point of our faith. The second point is this: the Word of God, Son of God, Christ Jesus our Lord, Who was manifested to the prophets according to the form of their prophesying and according to the method of the Father's dispensation; through Whom (i.e. the Word) all things were made; Who also, at the end of the age, to complete and gather up all things, was made man among men, visible and tangible, in order to abolish death and show forth life and produce perfect reconciliation between God and man. And the third point is: the Holy Spirit, through Whom the prophets prophesied, and the fathers learned the things of God, and the righteous were led into the way of righteousness; Who at the end of the age was poured out in a new way upon mankind in all the earth, renewing man to God." (Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, chap. 6, quoted on p. 53, A Short History of Christian Thought, Linwood Urban.)
"The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father 'to gather all things in one,' and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, 'every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess' to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all..." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book I, Chapter 10, 1).

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The modalist heresy first turns up in the second century. Far from being of 'apostolic' origin, Hippolytus could recall the time of its introduction:

"There has appeared one, Noetus by name, and by birth a native of Smyrna. This person introduced a heresy from the tenets of Heraclitus." (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 9, Chapter 2).
"But in like manner, also, Noetus, being by birth a native of Smyrna, and a fellow addicted to reckless babbling, as well as crafty withal, introduced (among us) this heresy which originated from one Epigonus." (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 10, Chapter 23).

Noetus affirmed that Jesus was His own Father and His own Son: "Now, that Noetus affirms that the Son and Father are the same, no one is ignorant.  But he makes his statement thus: 'When indeed, then, the Father had not been born, He yet was justly styled Father; and when it pleased Him to undergo generation, having been begotten, He Himself became His own Son, not another's.'" (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 9, Chapter 5).

'Oneness' Popes of Blessed Memory: Zephyrinus

Hippolytus of Rome
Hippolytus of Rome

Two Bishops of Rome (a.k.a. Popes), Zephyrinus and Callistus, are reported as modalists by Hippolytus, a well-placed contemporary observer.  How strange that 'Oneness' Pentecostals, so addicted to blistering anti-Catholic rhetoric, should trace their heritage to two early Popes!  These two Popes were reportedly forceful advocates for this heresy: "The school of these heretics during the succession of such bishops, continued to acquire strength and augmentation, from the fact that Zephyrinus and Callistus helped them to prevail." (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 9, Chapter 2).


Because Sabellius is the most famed of the modalists, Christians on first encountering 'Oneness' Pentecostals debate against Sabellian tenets remembered from theology text-books.  The response they hear is invariably a shocked, 'But we don't believe anything like that!'  Indeed, Sabellius' vocabulary, of Father "dilating" into Son and Holy Spirit, is not commonly heard from the 'Oneness' crowd:

"Sabellius also raves in saying that the Father is Son, and again, the Son Father, in subsistence One, in name Two; and he raves also in using as an example the grace of the Spirit. For he says, 'As there are "diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit," so also the Father is the same, but is dilated into Son and Spirit.'" (Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 4, 25).
"If then the Monad being dilated became a Triad, and the Monad was the Father, and the Triad is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, first the Monad being dilated, underwent an affection and became what it was not; for it was dilated, whereas it had not been dilate. Next, if the Monad itself was dilated into a Triad, and that, Father and Son and Holy Ghost, then Father and Son and Spirit prove the same, as Sabellius held, unless the Monad which he speaks of is something besides the Father, and then he ought not to speak of dilation, since the Monad was to make Three, so that there was a Monad, and then Father, Son, and Spirit." (Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 4, 13).

Sabellius would appear to have been wholly innocent of the most objectionable feature of modern 'Oneness' Pentecostalism, the identification of 'the Son' as 'the flesh.' Hilary reports that a later modalist, Photinus, criticized Sabellius for his failure to get with Pope Callistus' program: "He [Photinus] castigates Sabellius for denying that the Son of God is Man, and in his turn has to submit to the reproaches of Arian fanatics for failing to see that this Man is the Son of God." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, Book VII, Chapter 7).

In defense of the orthodoxy of the two 'Oneness' Popes of Blessed Memory, Roman Catholics note that Callistus excommunicated Sabellius.  But Hippolytus says he did so out of fear: "Thus, after the death of Zephyrinus, supposing that he had obtained (the position) after which he so eagerly pursued, he [Callistus] excommunicated Sabellius, as not entertaining orthodox opinions.  He acted thus from apprehension of me, and imagining that he could in this manner obliterate the charge against him among the churches, as if he did not entertain strange opinions." (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 9). In the present day, we do not observe fond feeling between heretics of differing opinions: the Jehovah's Witnesses do not love the 'Oneness' Pentecostals, who do not love the Mormons. Hippolytus does not ascribe the same heresy to Sabellius and Callistus, but significantly different ones.

Pope Callistus I

Callistus was the innovator who introduced the definition that 'the Son' means 'the flesh', i.e., the humanity, of Jesus of Nazareth: "For that which is seen, which is man, he [Callistus] considers to be the Son; whereas the Spirit, which was contained in the Son, to be the Father." (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 9, Chapter 7). This is the man!

This imaginative definition at the heart of modern-day 'Oneness' Pentecostalism was not part of Noetus' system; Hippolytus gives the credit to Callistus: "Callistus corroborated the heresy of these Noetians, but we have already carefully explained the details of his life.  And Callistus himself produced likewise a heresy, and derived its starting-points from these Noetians, -- namely, so far as he acknowledges that there is one Father and God, viz., the Creator of the universe, and that this (God) is spoken of, and called by the name of Son...And he is disposed (to maintain), that He who was seen in the flesh and was crucified is Son, but that the Father it is who dwells in Him.  Callistus thus at one time branches off into the opinion of Noetus, but at another into that of Theodotus, and holds no sure doctrine." (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, Book 10, Chapter 23).  So Hippolytus perceives Callistus' heresy, so similar to modern 'Oneness' Pentecostalism, as a blend between true modalism and the 'Unitarian Universalism' of the day, promoted by Theodotus, who denied the Deity of Jesus Christ.

So we've found our first 'Oneness' believer, the third century Roman Pontiff Callistus!  Sadly, there is no historical evidence that he either spoke in tongues or introduced any innovative baptismal formula. Thus even this 'Oneness' Pope of Blessed Memory cannot have been 'saved', by 'Oneness' Pentecostal standards. Could anyone, prior to 1913?


Tertullian, like Hippolytus, could recall when the "new-fangled" heresy of modalism first hit town. He reports that Praxeas, against whom he defended the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, was the "first" to import modalism into Rome:

"...as, for instance, Praxeas. For he was the first to import into Rome from Asia this kind of heretical pravity, a man in other respects of restless disposition, and above all inflated with the pride of confessorship simply and solely because he had to bear for a short time the annoyance of a prison; on which occasion, even 'if he had given his body to be burned, it would have profiled him nothing,' not having the love of God, whose very gifts he has resisted and destroyed. " (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, I).
"That this rule of faith has come down to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be apparent both from the lateness of date which marks all heresies, and also from the absolutely novel character of our new-fangled Praxeas. In this principle also we must henceforth find a presumption of equal force against all heresies whatsoever-that whatever is first is true, whereas that is spurious which is later in date." (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, II).

'Oneness' Pentecostals call Tertullian as hostile witness to testify against his own clear understanding that modalism was a "new-fangled" heresy with his plaint that most believers of his day could not clearly and affirmatively explain what it was they did believe, when challenged by heresy:

"The simple, indeed, (I will not call them unwise and unlearned) who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One), on the 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 ['oikonomia']. The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity they assume to be a division of the Unity; whereas the Unity which derives the Trinity out of its own self is so far from being destroyed, that it is actually supported by it." (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, III).

But it takes liberal use of white-out to blot out one of an author's statements with another. If, as they claim, the author is 'lying' in one of his assertions, why would he all of a sudden be forced to 'admit the truth' on the very next page? To see all he says in context, download 'Against Praxeas' from the Thrice Holy library. Once while a figure-skating competition was playing on hellivision, the skater gave a little hop. As the commentator helpfully explained, if you hop, then 'keep on hopping'—the judges might be persuaded to see a choreographed move instead of a bobble or a misstep. If Tertullian is purportedly 'lying' in his first statement, then he ought to keep on 'lying'—not that the saints should lie at all, but who will believe the initial 'lie' if he then reverses field and 'tells the truth'? Rather, a more rational way to read the text is, not to negate one of the author's statements with another, but to try to discern the intent of the author, who made both statements.

The 'Oneness' Pentecostals assert that the reason the 'simple' were resisting Tertullian's offer to help them vanquish Praxeas' "new-fangled" heresy was because the 'simple' already embraced Praxeas' "new-fangled" heresy, and indeed had always done so. But this interpretation is clearly impossible,—how could Praxeas' heresy be "new-fangled" if 'the majority of believers' already embraced it? How could Praxeas be the "first" to introduce what everyone already believed? Praxeas was encountering sales resistance among the 'simple' as he peddled his novel wares; but so was Tertullian, as he offered his remedy for the malady Praxeas had introduced.

How could this be? It is scarcely an unusual situation. The crime victim clutching his empty wallet may not be eager to go to the police for assistance, even though cops fight robbers; many crimes go unreported, not because victims share their victimizers' values or delight in having been robbed, but because they fear or dislike the police, or for other reasons. Sick people do not always rush to the doctor, even though doctors fight disease; their resistance to swallowing the remedy the doctor prescribed is not evidence of their fondness for cancer or whatever else ails them. Were Iraqis disgusted at Saddam's tyranny obliged to embrace American troops as liberators? Supposing people do not want what is behind Door No. 1; does this mean they must eagerly embrace what is behind Door No. 2?

The 'simple' believed, as they had been taught, that there is only one God, that the Father is God, that the Son is God, and that the Holy Spirit is God. They would have been happy to go on so believing. But the heretics warned them what they they had been taught was self-contradictory, and they would have to choose. The Unitarian Universalists and the 'Oneness' Pentecostals tell the 'simple' today they have to 'fudge' this one of these four propositions: that 'the Son is God,' explaining that they really ought to say, 'God was in the Son,' who is the 'flesh'. It wasn't the orthodox who forced the issue, but the heretics. Tertullian wanted to teach the 'simple' a new vocabulary, which he had learned from Hippolytus, so that they would not have to sit there tongue-tied when the heretics came by to argue; but they resisted his gift, because it was new. The language was new to them, but it wasn't new to God—it was in the book! As Tertullian showed them, while his vocabulary was unfamiliar, it was nevertheless Biblical, and talking this way was better than just sitting there making faces at the heretics.

Epiphanius shared Tertullian's anxiety about the "simple": "Then, when they encounter simple or innocent persons who do not understand the sacred scriptures clearly, they give them this first scare: 'What are we to say, gentlemen? Have we one God or three gods?' But when someone who is devout but does not fully understand the truth hears this, he is disturbed and assents to their error at once, and comes to deny the existence of the Son and the Holy Spirit." (The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, translated Frank Williams, Books II and III, Section IV, 2,6, Against Sabellians, 62, p. 122.) These authors' concern is not that the "simple" already believed in one of the many anti-trinity heresies, whether modalism or Theodotus' explicit denial of the deity of Jesus Christ, else where would be the need to 'scare' them? Rather their experience was that some of the "simple" 'assented' all too readily to these novel teachings upon first hearing, and those who did not assent maintained a sullen silence, unable to defend their faith. The remedy they prescribed is the same offered here at thriceholy.org, namely scripture.

Beryllus of Bostra

"Beryllus, whom we mentioned recently as bishop of Bostra in Arabia, turned aside from the ecclesiastical standard and attempted to introduce ideas foreign to the faith. He dared to assert that our Savior and Lord did not pre-exist in a distinct form of being of his own before his abode among men, and that he does not possess a divinity of his own, but only that of the Father dwelling in him. Many bishops carried on investigations and discussions with him on this matter, and Origen having been invited with the others, went down at first for a conference with him to ascertain his real opinion.  But when he understood his views, and perceived that they were erroneous, having persuaded him by argument, and convinced him by demonstration, he brought him back to the true doctrine, and restored him to his former sound opinion. There are still extant writings of Beryllus and of the synod held on his account, which contain the questions put to him by Origen, and the discussions which were carried on in his parish, as well as all the things done at that time." (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book VI, Chapter 33).

It's a toss-up whether to class Beryllus as a precursor to Unitarian Universalism or to 'Oneness' Pentecostalism; the two come out much the same in the end. Both assert that there is a mere man called 'the Son' who came into existence in the days of King Herod, not having existed previously except as a 'plan' in the mind of 'the Father', who alone is God. Both allow that this mere man was occasionally and voluntarily indwelt by 'the Father', who alone is God, in similar manner to the prophets of old.  Only 'Oneness' Pentecostalism, though, adds the ghoulish touch of the 'Ending of the Sonship'; the Unitarians at least allow 'the Son' the eternal destiny common to the rest of mankind.


The great apologist Tertullian belonged to this charismatic splinter group. While Hippolytus counts some Montanists as followers of Noetus, most were as orthodox as Tertullian.  Some (though not all) of their number prophesied...unfortunately, not always accurately! "In the wilds of Phrygia, a Christian, Montanus, with several male helpers and two prophetesses, began to speak the words of the Holy Spirit....By 177 [A.D.], the Spirit was very widely known. "Lo!' it said, through Montanus, 'man is like a lyre, and I strike him like a plectrum.  Man is asleep, and I am awake'...As critics agreed, Montanus' followers were not intellectual heretics. They parted from fellow Christians only in their acceptance of the Spirit's new words, and they persisted far into the sixth century, suffering legalized persecution from their 'brethren.'...In one of the Spirit's 'oracles,' a Montanist prophetess was said to have seen Christ, dressed as a woman, and heard that 'here' (or 'thus') the 'new Jerusalem will descend.' She believed, said the critics, that the reign of the Saints would begin at Pepuza in Phyria, a site as bizarre as little Abonouteichos before it changed its name. Unlike the new 'Ionopolis,' it remained Pepuza, a site so obscure that it has eluded all attempts to find it on the map." (Robin Lane Fox, Pagans and Christians, p. 405).

The failure of the heavenly Jerusalem to descend upon this obscure Asia Minor burg may invite charges of false prophecy, but Montanism seems basically to have been a Back-to-the Bible reform movement. Consequently, Tertullian has aptly been called 'the First Protestant.' Though evidently not gifted himself, he had seen charismatic gifts in operation: "'Among us,' he wrote in Carthage, 'there is a "sister," gifted with revelations. She talks with angels, sometimes even with the Lord.'...She sees and hears mysteries.'" (Quoted p. 410, op. cit.)

As noted, a subset of Montanists were also Noetians. This group still existed in Jerome's day:

"In the first place we differ from the Montanists regarding the rule of faith. We distinguish the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as three persons, but unite them as one substance. They, on the other hand, following the doctrine of Sabellius, force the Trinity into the narrow limits of a single personality." (Jerome, Letter 41.3).

An anonymous Latin treatise, 'Against All Heresies,' gives the name of one of these people, Aeschines, the leader of this tendency: "But the particular one they who follow Aeschines have; this, namely, whereby they add this, that they affirm Christ to be Himself Son and Father." (Against All Heresies, Chapter 7).

These people were 'two-fers': both charismatic and also modalist. There is no evidence, however, that they employed any unusual baptismal formula. Moreover, as Tertullian's testimony shows, it was not the normal expectation that all members of the sect would be charismatically gifted, only some.


The Donatists were not doctrinal innovators, but moral rigorists concerned that believers who had abjured their faith under persecution should not be readmitted to fellowship. "His [Augustine's] extensive polemics against the Donatists were on the burning issues on which the latter separated from the Catholic Church. These were not what are usually called doctrinal questions, for on such points as those on which Gnostics, Marcionites, Arians, and Monophysites differed from the Catholic Church Donatists were in accord with the latter. The contention, rather, as we have seen, was over the moral character of the priesthood and the treatment which the Church should accord to those Christians who, having been guilty of serious lapses, repented." (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume I, p. 175).

Marcellus of Ancyra

Marcellus has been accused of denying the Trinity: "The followers of Marcellus and Photinus...say that there is God, and the Logos, and the Spirit. The Son, however, who is a man born of Mary, is a fourth one, whom the Logos assumed. And they say that the Logos rules as an administrator in this man, who was prepared as a dwelling for Him.  Thus do they destroy the Trinity. If, however, the Trinity is to remain, there is one who is man and Logos: which Logos we have already demonstrated above to be the Son." (Marius Victorinus, Against Arius, 905 [1, 45] c. 355 A.D.)

The traditional Christian understanding treats 'Son' and 'Word' as synonymous: "On the contrary, Augustine says (De Trin. vi. 2): 'By Word we understand the Son alone.' I answer that, Word, said of God in its proper sense, is used personally, and is the proper name of the person of the Son. [...] Hence Augustine says (De Trin. vii. 2): 'Word and Son express the same.' For the Son's nativity, which is His personal property, is signified by different names which are attributed to the Son to express His perfection in various ways. To show that He is of the same nature as the Father, He is called the Son; to show that He is co-eternal, He is called the Splendor; to show that He is altogether like, He is called the Image; to show that He is begotten immaterially, He is called the Word." (Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part Q. 34, Art. 2.)

By his own confession, Marcellus shares this traditional understanding: "Now I, following the sacred scriptures, believe that there is one God and his only-begotten Son, the Word, who is always with the Father and has never had a beginning, but is truly of God -- not created, not made, but forever existent, forever reigning with God and his Father, 'of whose kingdom,' as the apostle testifies, 'there shall be no end.'" (The Panarion of Ephiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III, translated by Frank Williams, Section VI, 72, p. 425, A Copy of a Letter of Marcellus, 2,6.)

Nevertheless, Basil condemns Marcellus as a heretic: "He [Marcellus] grants indeed that the Only begotten was called 'Word,' on coming forth at need and in season, but states that He returned again to Him whence He had come forth, and had no existence before His coming forth, nor hypostasis after His return.  The books in my possession which contain his unrighteous writings exist as a proof of what I say." (Basil, Letters, 69:2, To Athanasius).

"Sabellius the Libyan and Marcellus the Galatian alone of all men have dared to teach and write these things which now those who guide the people among you are trying to publish as their own discoveries, babbling with their tongues and being incapable of bringing these sophisms and fallacies into even a plausible formulation." (Basil, Letter CCVII, p. 183, Loeb edition, St. Basil, The Letters, Volume III.)

It would appear Marcellus was, or had been, unwilling to describe the pre-incarnate Logos as 'Son': "'Now the Son also "is"; but Paul the Samosatian and Marcellus took advantage of the text in the Gospel according to John, "In the beginning was the Word." [John 1:1] No longer willing to call the Son of God a true Son, they took advantage of the term, "Word," I mean verbal expression and utterance, and refused to say "Son of God."'" (Letter of George, quoted p. 447, Epiphanius, Panarion, Books II and III, Section VI, Against Semi-Arians, Chapter 53 (73), 12,1). He was, in short, an exponent of the 'Incarnational Sonship,' which Basil considers indistinguishable from modalism.

Church, John Collett
The false church


While Marcellus had at least one foot in the orthodox camp, his disciple Photinus was an undoubted fellow-traveller to Pope Callistus I, whose innovations are detailed above.  This condemnation of his heresy pronounced by a conventicle of Arianizing bishops (commentary provided by the orthodox Hilary of Poitiers) gives an overview of his teachings:

"'If any man say that the Son existed before Mary only according to foreknowledge or predestination, and denies that He was born of the Father before the ages and with God, and that all things were made through Him: let him be anathema.' [...]
"These points had to be inserted into the creed because Photinus, against whom the synod was held, denied them.  They were inserted lest any one should dare to assert that the Son of God did not exist before the Son of the Virgin..."
"A condemnation of that heresy on account of which the Synod was held necessarily concluded with an explanation of the whole faith that was being opposed.  This heresy falsely stated that the beginning of the Son of God dated from His birth of Mary.  According to evangelical and apostolic doctrine the corner-stone of our faith is that our Lord Jesus Christ, who is God and Son of God, cannot be separated from the Father in title or power or difference of substance or interval of time."
(Hilary of Poitiers, On the Councils or the Faith of the Easterns).

Epiphanius confirms Photinus asserted that "Christ's existence dates from Mary": "He [Photinus] claims that Christ did not exist from the beginning but dates from Mary's time--after the Holy Spirit came upon her, he says, and Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit." (Epiphanius, Panarion, Section VI, 51 [71] Against Photinians).

  • "The heresy of Photinus, then, is as follows: He says that God is singular and sole, and is to be regarded as the Jews regarded Him. He denies the completeness of the Trinity, and does not believe that there is any Person of God the Word, or any Person of the Holy Ghost. Christ he affirms to be a mere man, whose original was from Mary. Hence he insists with the utmost obstinacy that we are to render worship only to the Person of God the Father, and that we are to honor Christ as man only. This is the doctrine of Photinus."
  • (Vincent of Lerins, A Commonitory, Chapter 12, Section 33).

Also included in the condemnations issued by the above-mentioned Council are views which sound very much like those of Sabellius quoted above, about the Monad 'dilating' into a Triad.  It's not clear from Hilary's commentary whether these 'expansions' and 'contractions' were also part of Photinus' vocabulary, or whether the Council condemned these Sabellian notions just for good measure:

"'VI.  If any man says that the substance of God is expanded and contracted: let him be anathema.'
"To contract and expand are bodily affections: but God who is a Spirit and breathes where He listeth, does not expand or contract Himself through any change of substance...
'VII.  If any man says that the expanded substance of God makes the Son, or names Son His expanded substance: let him be anathema.'
"The above opinion, although meant to teach the immutability of God, yet prepared the way for the following heresy." (Hilary of Poitiers, On the Councils or the Faith of the Easterns).


Priscillian represented an ominous precedent for the church: he was the first heretic executed under nominally 'Christian' auspices: "...in 385, the Bishop of Avila [Spain], Priscillian, a notable ascetic and preacher, had been accused of gnosticism, Manicheism and moral depravity, had been indicted under the imperial law of witchcraft, tried at Bordeaux, and brought to the imperial court at Trier.  There, under torture, he and his companions confessed they had studied obscene doctrines, held meetings with depraved women at night, and prayed naked.  Despite the protests of a leading Gaulish bishop, Martin of Tours, they were executed -- the first instance we have both of the slaughter of 'heretics' and of witch-hunting under Christian auspices." (Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 117). This was not a lawless act of mob violence, responsibility for which comes to a rest with the criminals who ordered it or carried it out, but an officially sanctioned, state sponsored execution, for which society at large must shoulder the blame.

It required no great legal innovation to bring a charge of witch-craft; laws against black magic had been on the books from pagan times: "In legal history, as early as Rome's 'Twelve Tables,' one finds the following threat to practitioners of the occult: 'Anyone who, by means of incantations and magic arts, prevents grains or crops of any kind belonging to another from growing, shall be sacrificed to Ceres' (Table VII.)" (Daniel N. Robinson, Wild Beasts & Idle Humours, The Insanity Defense from Antiquity to the Present, p. 75).

Contemporary observers report Priscillian as a gnostic:

"For then, for the first time, the infamous heresy of the Gnostics was detected in Spain -- a deadly superstition which concealed itself under mystic rites...Marcus was the first to introduce it into Spain, having set out from Egypt, his birthplace being Memphis.  His pupils were a certain Agape, a woman of no mean origin, and a rhetorician named Helpidius.  By these again Priscillian was instructed, a man of noble birth, of great riches, bold, restless, eloquent, learned through much reading, very ready at debate and discussion...He, after having himself adopted the pernicious system referred to, drew into its acceptance many persons of noble rank and multitudes of the common people by the arts of persuasion and flattery which he possessed." (The Sacred History of Sulpitius Severus, Book 2, Chapter 46).

Gnosticism, as explained above, severs the two testaments and posits a multiplicity of principles. Gnostics are ditheists at best, who, in this case, consider the devil a separate, uncreated power: "The sixth notice points out that they say the devil never was good, and that his nature is not GOD’s handiwork, but he came forth out of chaos and darkness: because I suppose he has no instigator, but is himself the source and substance of all evil: whereas the true Faith, which is the catholic, acknowledges that the substance of all creatures spiritual or corporeal is good, and that evil has no positive existence; because GOD, who is the Maker of the Universe, made nothing that was not good. Whence the devil also would be good, if he had remained as he was made." (Leo the Great, Letters, Letter 15, To Turribius, Section VII). Our world is the handiwork of this fallen creator: ". . .since the world itself, with its elements, they hold to be not the work of the good GOD, but the outcome of an evil author. . ." (Leo the Great, Letters, Letter 15, To Turribius, Section XV).

Priscillian's followers thought the human soul a particle of God, which pre-exists its 'incarnation': "A Priscillianist saith, that the soul is a part of God, and of the same nature and substance with Him. This is a great and detestable blasphemy." (Augustine, Against Lying, 8). Priscillian adopted other Manichaean and heathen ideas, such as reincarnation and astrology. They condemned marriage, as did the Manichaeans: "In the seventh place follows their condemnation of marriages and their horror of begetting children: in which, as in almost all points, they agree with the Manichaeans’ impiety." (Leo the Great, Letters, Letter 15, To Turribius, Section VIII). Marriage was evil in their eyes because the flesh was evil: "Their eighth point is that the formation of men’s bodies is the device of the devil, and that the seed of conception is shaped by the aid of demons in the wombs of women: and that for this reason the resurrection of the flesh is not to be believed because the stuff of which the body is made is not consistent with the dignity of the soul." (Leo the Great, Letters, Letter 15, To Turribius, Section IX). As Leo remarks there is great similarity between these two gnostic systems, "This is done by Priscillianists and Manichaeans alike; for there is such a close bond of union between the two that they are distinct only in name. . ." (Leo the Great, Letter 15, To Turribius, Section XVII). Like other gnostics, their basic theological framework is not monotheism.

With the caveat that gnostics are ditheists at best and not monotheists, it is certainly possible for gnostics to adopt a 'oneness'-style description of their good god (never to be confused with their bad god, in this case the devil.) Certain Latin prefaces to the Vulgate survive under Priscillian's name. Though 'Oneness' Pentecostals might stop praising gnosticism if they understood what it was, Priscillian is quoted as saying: "Nullum alium deum esse credentes nisi Christum Deum Dei Filium," i.e. 'Jesus only' (Tractatus I. p. 31, quoted p. 311, A History of the Christian Church, S. Cheetham). This fundamental error, the departure from monotheism into ditheism or polytheism, is not a small, correctible mistake, but the foundation stone of the gnostic system. Nevertheless, one of two gods follows the 'Oneness' paradigm:

  • "And so under the first head is shown what unholy views they hold about the Divine Trinity: they affirm that the person of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is one and the same, as if the same GOD were named now Father, now Son, and now Holy Ghost: and as if He who begot were not one, He who was begotten, another, and He who proceeded from both, yet another; but an undivided unity must be understood, spoken of under three names, indeed, but not consisting of three persons."
  • (Leo the Great, Letters, Letter 15, To Turribius, Section II).

The Priscillianists seem likewise to have adopted the 'Oneness' idea that the Son had a beginning in time: “Again the third head is concerned with these same folk’s impious assertion that the Son of GOD is called 'only-begotten' for this reason that He alone was born of a virgin.” (Leo the Great, Letters, Letter 15, To Turribius, Section IV). So, although they were not monotheists, the Priscillianists were 'Oneness' of a sort, as far as concerns one of their two gods. Evidently the 'Oneness' authors who champion Priscillian are willing to compromise on monotheism.



The Muslims are Unitarians who have, down through the centuries, committed ghastly atrocities against trinitarians. They believe, as do Socinians, that Jesus was a mighty prophet, but not that He is God incarnate. Certainly 'Oneness' Pentecostals do not perceive the Muslims as brothers, and yet they will sometimes, in their surveys of history, count people who believed little more about Jesus than do the Muslims as 'Oneness.' The question of Mohammed ibn Abdallah's sources is complex; he may have come into contact with docetists or other groups espousing Christological heresies. Those generalizing about 'trinitarians' who commit acts of violence against 'unitarians,' as some do, should not omit to notice that the casualty count runs higher in the other direction.



'Oneness' Pentecostal historians report the Cathari of southern France as full-fledged 'Oneness' Pentecostals.  But were they?  It's on the back of these poor souls that the 'Oneness' Pentecostal claim of thousands of martyrs rests, because the Pope launched a genocidal crusade against them in the thirteenth century:

"Historians found that since antiquity it [Languedoc] had been a stronghold for nonCatholic Christians, particularly for monotheistically inclined Apostolics. (Z. Oldenbourg, pp. 41,258; J. H. Blunt, p. 16). No one can possibly know the number of Apostolic Christians who lived and died in that area, but the figure would be big.  Certainly religious people that embraced Petrine-Pauline faith (Acts 2:1-4,36,38) were dominant from AD 50-60 until ca. AD 1233 in Languedoc. Here were found the Christians that most historians slandered as Cathari.  These pious believers were later referred to as Albigensians...There were masses of Oneness Christians.
"For centuries Languedoc was a theological heaven. Then the crime of the Centuries was committed when the Vatican initiated the frightful Tolsan Inquisition against the Bible believing, tongues-speaking people of Southern France.  A noted bigot, a Catholic named Dominic, in 1206-1208 discovered the massive numbers of Christian Apostolics at Toulouse and Albi. He engineered their slaughter and wanted theological genocide to be committed. (Laux, p. 351)."

('Christian Church History', by Rev. Marvin M. Arnold, D.D.).

Running a fact check on this claim is complicated by the loss of the sect's own teachings. But they are not lost altogether. What remains is consistent with the testimony of history. By the testimony of their own writings, the Albigensians were gnostic dualists, who believed that Satan had created the world and sent John the Baptist:

"And Satan came down into this firmament, and he could find (make) no rest for himself nor for them that were with him. And he asked the Father saying: Have patience with me and I will pay thee all. And the Father had mercy on him and gave him rest and them that were with him, as much as they would even unto seven days.
"And so sat he in the firmament and commanded the angel that was over the air and him that was over the waters, and they raised the earth up and it appeared dry: and he took the crown of the angel that was over the waters, and of the half thereof he made the light of the moon and of the half the light of the stars: and of the precious stones he made all the hosts of the stars...
"And he sent forth angels to be ministers over them. And he commanded the earth to bring forth every beast for food (fatling), and every creeping thing, and trees and herbs: and he commanded the sea to bring forth fishes, and the fowls of the heaven.
"And he devised furthermore and made man in his likeness, and commanded the (or an) angel of the third heaven to enter into the body of clay. And he took thereof and made another body in the form of a woman, and commanded the (or an) angel of the second heaven to enter into the body of the woman. But the angel lamented when they beheld a mortal shape upon them and that they were unlike in shape. And he commanded them to do the deed of the flesh in the bodies of clay, and they knew not how to commit sin.
"Then did the contriver of evil devise in his mind to make paradise, and he brought the man and woman into it...
"And after that I, John, asked of the Lord, saying: How say men that Adam and Eve were created by God and set in paradise to keep the commandments of the Father, and were delivered unto death? And the Lord said to me: Hearken, John, beloved of my Father; foolish men say thus in their deceitfulness that my Father made bodies of clay: but by the Holy Ghost made he all the powers of the heavens, and holy ones were found having bodies of clay because of their transgression, and therefore were delivered unto death." (Cathar text: Book of John the Evangelist, From "The Apocryphal New Testament", M.R. James - Translation and Notes, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924)

The major innovation produced by this group, versus the gnosticism that followed the church like a shadow from its early days, is their identification of 'Satan' as the fallen demiurge who, in gnostic lore, created the world:

"Satan fell from heaven, created the visible universe, and will finally return to glory. The law of Moses was dictated by him, and Moses was the greatest of sinners. Human souls are fallen demons, who transmigrate into other human bodies, or into those of animals, until released by death-bed consolamentum." (Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Book II, Chapter IV, Kindle location 17407).

This innovation might have facilitated the spread of this gnostic doctrine amongst the people, who would at least have heard of Satan, though not of the other outlandish names and designations the gnostics offer for their bumbling, or evil, world creator. At least there's no 'Barbelo' here, to which the uninitiated must query, 'Who?' Gnosticism finds its origin in paganism, and so accomodations to Biblical terminology were tailored to make it more attractive to the faithful. The faithful could not rebut this presentation by denying the existence of Satan, though of course he is not the creator, the living God is the creator.

So the Bible teaches. But they demurred. They believed this world is so thoroughly permeated with evil, that no good God could have created it:

"At its center lay that profoundly pessimistic view of the world which characterizes all dualist teaching. 'Everything that exists under the sun and the moon,' an inhabitant of St.-Paul-de-Fenouillet told the Bishop of Alet, 'is but corruption and chaos.' All matter is evil and transiftory, containing the seeds of its own destruction. What possible connection can it have with a God who is both permanent and perfect? A good God cannot have created a world which the experience of every man shows to be wicked." (Jonathan Sumption, The Albigensian Crusade p. 48).

Is that what 'Oneness' Pentecostals believe? That Satan created the world? If so do they follow the Biblical mandate, "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" (Ecclesiastes 12:1)?

The religion of the Cathari ('the Pure') was not easy to follow, at least not for the 'advanced class': "The Cathari were of two grades. Those who had fully embraced their way of life were called the 'perfect' (perfecti). Admission to the 'perfect' was by a kind of spiritual baptism, called 'consolation.'...The perfect must remain continent. If unmarried they must continue celibate, and if married, husband must separate from wife and the man must never again so much as touch a woman.  They were never to eat meat, milk, or eggs, since these were the fruits of reproduction.  They were not to engage in war or to own property." (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume I, p. 454). The lower grade, called 'believers' (credenti), got an easier deal; their only heavenly hope, however, lay in transmigration of the soul; perhaps in the next life they would be so fortunate as to become one of the 'perfect,' though a deathbed promotion to that status was often accepted. The perfect observed certain dietary restrictions; they were expected to promise not to eat meat, eggs nor cheese: "'Dost thou give thyself to God and to the gospel?' and after an affirmative response, 'Dost thou promise that in future thou wilt eat no meat, nor eggs, nor cheese, nor any victual except from water and wood; that thou wilt not lie or swear or do any lust with thy body, or go alone when thou canst have a comrade or abandon the faith for fear of water or fire or any other form of death?'" (Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume I, Kindle location 1718).

The religion of the Cathars differs from 'normal' gnosticism in that the bad god who made the world is expressly identified with 'Satan:'

"Satan is the Jehovah of the Old Testament; the prophets and patriarchs are robbers, and, consequently, all Scripture anterior to the Gospels is to be rejected. The New Testament, however, is Holy Writ, but Christ was not a man, but a phantasm — the Son of God who appeared to be born of the Virgin Mary and came from Heaven to overthrow the worship of Satan. Transmigration provides for the future reward or punishment of deeds done in life." (Henry C. Lea, A History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume I, Kindle location 1664).

This seems an accommodation to Christianity, which acknowledges the existence of Satan, though certainly not crediting him with creating the world: "And Satan said to them, 'See that I am your god and that there is no other god but me.'" (The Gospel of the Secret Supper, The Gnostic Bible, edited by Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer, p. 746).

While it is not true that the Cathari were 'Oneness' Pentecostals, what is true in historian Arnold's account is that the Catholic church waged a genocidal war of extermination against them. While the lower echelon believers often conformed under pressure, the 'perfects,' the higher rank of the sect, preferred to die as they had lived, defying the Creator of this world with their deaths, as with their lives. The siege of Minerve ended in a holocaust of the recalcitrant Cathars:

"Three of them were persuaded to return to the church by Matilda de Garlande, the mother of the crusader Bouchard de Marly, who was even then lying in a cell at Cabaret. The others, some 140 in number, were taken to a clearing outside the village and thrown onto a huge blazing pyre. Few of them offered any resistance. Many were seen to throw themselves joyfully into the flames, embracing martyrdom and the end of the tyranny of the flesh with the same enthusiasm as the heroes of the early Christian church. None of the ordinary believers was willing to share the fate of the Perfects. They accepted the mercy of the church with gratitude." (Jonathan Sumption, The Albigensian Crusade, p. 118).

The Albigensian crusade was one of the signal human rights atrocities of human history. This doesn't make the victims orthodox, and it certainly doesn't make them 'Oneness' Pentecostals. The bloody suppression of the Albigensians testifies against the Papal system.  In the earliest years of the church, bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, were elected by popular suffrage of the clergy and laity of the district.  As tiara-ed tyrants grabbed power, this ceased to be the case.  As they say, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  This bloody crime against humanity staggers the imagination: "Years of warfare followed, with wholesale destruction. It is said that when one of the first cities to be taken, Beziers, was entered, and the Papal Legate was asked whether the Catholics should be spared, the latter, fearing that the heretics would feign orthodoxy to save their lives, commanded: 'Kill them all, for God knows His own.'" (Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity, Volume I, p. 456).

"The Church reserved to itself the right to redistribute among the more faithful crusaders the confiscated lands of the defeated heretics. Thus the crusade attracted the most disreputable elements in northern France, and the result was horror. In 1209, Arnold Aimery exulted to the Pope that the capture of Beziers had been 'miraculous'; and that the crusaders had killed 15,000, 'showing mercy neither to order, nor age nor sex.' Prisoners were mutilated, blinded, dragged at the hooves of horses and used for target practice." (Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 252).

The religion of the Cathari was stamped out. . .or was it? In Provence within this time frame, a form of Jewish mysticism called 'Kabbalah' began taking shape. Many of the features of this system, including reincarnation, are shared both with the Cathari and also with the modern New Age:



In Godhead theology, the Waldensians held no unorthodox views: "These men [the Poor of Lyons] were strictly orthodox in their beliefs, but they took apostolic poverty literally and were outside the Church's organizational structure.  The clergy thus regarded the Waldensians as a threat.  As Walter Mapp put it, when he saw some in Rome in 1179: 'They go about two by two, barefoot, clad in woollen garments, owning nothing, holding all things in common like the Apostles...if we admit them, we shall be driven out.' They were excommunicated three years later." (Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, p. 251).

They were trinitarians:

"Be it noted by all the faithful that I, Valdensius, and all my brethren, standing before the Holy Gospels, do declare that we believe with all our hearts, having been grasped by faith, and that we profess openly that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three Persons, one God..." (Giorgio Tourn, The Waldensians, the first 800 years, Waldo's Profession of Faith, p. 13).

In fact these good folk were Protestants before the Protestant Reformation. They suffered a long and brutal history of repression. Later when they joined forces with their reformed brethren, Rome's violence against them grew to the level of genocide:

"Avenge, O Lord, thy slaughtered saints, whose bones
Lie scattered on the Alpine mountains cold;
E'en them, who kept thy truth so pure of old,
When all our fathers worshipped stocks and stones,
Forget not: in thy book record their groans,
Who were thy sheep, and in their ancient fold
Slain by the bloody Piedmontese, that roll'd
Mother with infant down the rocks." (John Milton, quoted p. 125, Giorgio Tourn, The Waldensians, the first 800 years.)

The blameless Waldensians suffered cruel repression:

What Rome found threatening in the Waldensians was not their Godhead theology, but their refusal, on sound Biblical grounds, to serve as revenue agents for Rome.  That's what the Medieval Church was all about: keeping the revenue stream flowing. Dante, an earnest and sincere critic, saw it with tears:

"O Simon Magus! O his sad disciples!
Rapacious ones, who take the things of God,
that ought to be the brides of Righteousness,
and make them fornicate for gold and silver!
The time has come to let the trumpet sound
for you, your place is here in this third pouch...
"'Then tell me now, how much gold did our Lord
ask that Saint Peter give to him before
he placed the keys within his care? Surely
the only thing he said was: 'Follow me.'...
"I'd utter words much heavier than these,
because your avarice afflicts the world:
it tramples on the good, lifts up the wicked.
You, shepherds, the Evangelist had noticed
when he saw her who sits upon the waters
and realized she fornicates with kings,
she who was born with seven heads and had
the power and support of the ten horns,
as long as virtue was her husband's pleasure.
You've made yourselves a god of gold and silver;
how are you different from idolators,
save that they worship one and you a hundred?"
(Dante, Inferno, Canto XIX)

While many of them retained some elements of the Roman Catholic belief of the medieval period, like transubstantiation, they were plainly, under the influence of scripture, moving toward reformation and abandonment of extra-biblical doctrine: "Although they still believed in transubstantiation, the making of the body and blood of Christ depended on the purity of the ministrant; a sinner was impotent to effect it, while it could be done by any righteous man or woman. It was the same with absolution: they held the power of the keys direct from Christ, and heard confessions and imposed penance. Their antisacerdotalism was strongly expressed in the simplification of their faith. There was no purgatory, and consequently masses for the dead of the invocation of the suffrages of the saints were of no avail; the saints, in fact, neither heard nor helped man, and the miracles performed in their name in the churches were fictitious. The fasts and feasts prescribed in the calendar were not to be observed, and the indulgences so lavishly sold were useless. As of old oaths and homicide were forbidden. . .The Waldenses sought only to restore Christianity to its simplicity; their doctrines could be understood by the poor and illiterate, groaning under the burdens of sacerdotalism, and they found constantly wider acceptance among the people, in spite of all the efforts put forth by the waning power of the Inquisition" (Henry Charles Lea, A history of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, Volume 2, Kindle location 15586-15606). However, the rigor of their practice was not generally followed up as a theme of the Protestant Reformation, nor was their preference for ascetic discipline followed up even by the Radical Reformation. Their heritage, which does not include 'Oneness,' has been partly vindicated, partly lost.

'Oneness' Pentecostals explain the stubborn refusal of history to credit 'Oneness'-type views to dissident groups like the Albigensians to an elaborate campaign of falsification.  The Waldensians are a good test case to determine if any such conspiracy, intended to besmirch the reputation of non-conforming groups by substituting heresies like gnosticism for their actual views, was in force, because we have in hand Inquisitor Bernard Gui's report on the Waldensians: "The principal heresy, then, of the aforesaid Waldensians was and still remains the contempt for ecclesiastical power.  Excommunicated for this reason, and delivered to Satan, they were precipitated into innumerable errors, and mingled the errors of earlier heretics with their own.  The erring followers and sacrilegious masters of this sect hold and teach that they are not subject to the lord pope or Roman pontiff or to any prelates of the Roman Church, declaring that the Roman Church has persecuted and condemned them unjustly and undeservedly.  Also they assert that they cannot be excommunicated by the Roman pontiff and the prelates, and that they ought not to obey any of them..." (Medieval Reader, James Bruce Ross, Manuel de l'inquisiteur, G. Mollat, ed., p. 204). Notice that there is no effort to ascribe gnosticism to this threatening proto-Protestant group; the Inquisitor actually tells it like it is.

Expect to hear from 'Oneness' Pentecostals that 'trinitarians' brutalized the Waldensians...who were, themselves, trinitarians! This is the mentality of bigotry, which ascribes all deeds committed by a member of a group to the group as a whole. It is the mentality of the lynch mob which, having strung up a black man, considers it superfluous to determine whether he is the same black man reported to have committed the crime.

Michael Servetus

Michael Servetus, burned at the stake in John Calvin's Geneva as an anti-trinitarian heretic, looms large in the trail of tears 'Oneness' Pentecostal historians delineate for their movement. Although the Protestant reformers, including John Calvin, had made clear and even eloquent pleas for religious liberty, especially as applying to their own sweet selves, when confronted by dissidents, they often relapsed into the old ways. They were challenged for their inconsistency by members of their own movement, however, resulting ultimately in widespread acceptance of freedom of conscience.

Various strains of anti-trinity thought lay claim to this man, including Unitarians and 'Oneness' Pentecostals. While he was certainly anti-trinity, it is difficult to decode his obscure writings to describe his own position with accuracy. While he accepts the Deity of Jesus Christ, it is after all in a rather equivocal sense: "Christ there makes it clear that he is God not in Nature but in appearance, not by nature but by grace. . .By way of privilege, therefore, it was given to him to be God, because the Father sanctifies him; he was anointed by grace, exalted because he humbled himself, exalted above his fellows." (The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, On the Errors of the Trinity, Michael Serveto, translated by Earl Morse Wilbur, p. 21).

In his own cavalcade through church history, Servetus passes by the modalists without a nod or any jolt of recognition: "The Monarchians, such as Praxeas and Victorinus, said that Jesus Christ was God the Father almighty, and that he sat at his own right hand. And after them the Sabellians confuse the person and the names of Christ and the Father, and are also called Patripassians, since they believe that the Father suffered." (Michael Servetus, On the Errors of the Trinity, pp. 60-61, The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, translated by Earl Morse Wilbur). He does not seem to realize these are his own folk. They are, only insofar as their views intersect with the kind of Unitarianism which downplays the deity of Jesus Christ.

Servetus was not a 'Pentecostal'; his only potential real link to 'Oneness' Pentecostalism is his anti-trinity views. However, since pentecostalism in general comes out of Arminian Holiness Methodism, the 'Oneness' crowd have inherited a particular animus against John Calvin from their heritage. Although their own salvation views are generally closer to open theism than to James Arminius or John Wesley, they have 'inherited' a dossier against John Calvin including the murder charge on Servetus's account. But do 'Oneness' Pentecostals really believe what this fearless dissenter believed, which at times seems closer to Giordano Bruno's pantheism than to modalism?

Freedom of Conscience John Calvin
Et Tu Three-Headed Cerberus
Eternal Son Ye Are Gods
Pantheism Grieving the Spirit
In the Stars The Unlettered Prophet
The Logos Christian Nation


The Anabaptists are often listed in roundups of 'Oneness' Pentecostals down through history. 'Anabaptist' is not the name of a church, but a grab-bag category for radical Reformers of any persuasion.  This umbrella term incorporates a wide range of beliefs and practices, from the peaceful Amish and Hutterites to the violent fanatics who instituted a reign of terror in the German city of Munster.  These radical reformers practiced believers' baptism, as do the Baptist churches today.  It is presumably owing to the popularity of Faustus Socinus' anti-trinitarianism in some radical reformation circles that these folks get counted as 'Oneness' believers.  But like most anti-Trinitarians, Faustus Socinus simplified the Godhead by booting Jesus out of it, not by collapsing it down to Jesus!

Munster Communards

After seizing control of the German city of Munster, the Munster Communards communized all property and instituted a bizarre set of repressive laws:

"All books, except the Bible, were to be burnt.  A long list of offences, including blasphemy, swearing, adultery, backbiting, complaining, and any form of disobedience, were to be punished by instant execution.  There was to be control of labour, and compulsory polygamy.  The regime was violently anti-women.  A man sexually dependent on one wife, thought Beukels, was led about 'like a bear on a rope'; women 'have everywhere been getting the upper hand' and it was high time they submitted to men.  Hence any women who resisted polygamy were to be executed; and unmarried women had to accept the first man to ask them...This gaudy terror was partricularly hard on women, forty-nine of whom were killed for infringing the polygamy decree alone." (Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, Part Four, pp. 262-263).
"At the end of 1533 the Anabaptist group at Munster in Westphalia, under the leadership of a former Lutheran minister Bernard Rothmann, gained control of the city council.  Early in 1534 a Dutch prophet and ex-innkeeper named John of Leyden appeared in Munster, believing that he was called to make the city the new Jerusalem. On 9 February 1534 his party seized the city hall.  By 2 March all who refused to be baptized were banished...John of Leyden was proclaimed King of New Zion, wore vestments as his royal robes, and held his court and throne in the market-place.  Laws were decreed to establish community of goods, and the Old Testament was adduced to permit polygamy.  Bernard Rothmann, once a man of sense, once the friend of Melanchthon, took nine wives.
"They now believed that they had been given the duty and the power of exterminating the ungodly.  The world would perish, and only Munster would be saved.  Rothmann issued a public incitement to world rebellion: 'Dear brethren, arm yourselves for the battle, not only with the humble weapons of the apostles for suffering, but also with the glorious armour of David for vengeance...in God's strength, and help to annihilate the ungodly.'" (Owen Chadwick, The Reformation, p. 190).

Presumably 'Oneness' historians draft the Munster Communards, beloved of Communist historians, to serve under the banner of 'Oneness' Pentecostalism because the bloody suppression of the Munster Commune feeds 'Oneness' Pentecostal delusions of persecution.  Yet given their own violent reign of terror, it would seem their equally violent end proves the principle, "...all who take the sword will perish by the sword." (Matthew 26:52).


Unlike the 'Oneness' Pentecostals, the Unitarian Universalists can truthfully lay claim to a long legacy of martyrs.  Sometimes the 'Oneness' Pentecostals try to grab these for their own, on the strength of their hostility to the Trinity.  Yet 'Oneness' Pentecostals also claim to believe that Jesus Christ is God, the denial of which sent these brave men and women to their graves. In fact 'Oneness' exponents can end up closer to this viewpoint than might at first be thought. Unitarianism and 'Oneness' are far from being opposite points of the spectrum; devotees of these two schools of thought can find themselves saying the same thing in slightly different language:

William Ellery
 Unitarian Christianity
John Toland
Christianity Not

David Ferencz (Francis David), a Unitarian martyr, died in prison November 15, 1579.  For what faith? This: "All this time David was ill; but the next day, being Sunday, he roused himself and preached in the two churches at Kolozsvar, telling his people of what was impending, eloquently defending the Unitarian doctrine, and declaring the worship of Christ to be just the same as invoking the Virgin Mary or the saints. It was the last sermon he ever preached. 'Whatever the world may say,' he concluded, 'it must some time become clear that God is but one.'" (Earl Morse Wilbur, Our Unitarian Heritage, p. 242).

William Penn

Many 'Oneness' Pentecostals claim early Quakers such as William Penn as pre-1913 'Oneness' Pentecostals. This is ironic given the Quakers' approach to church ordinances. Not only did William Penn not proclaim the 'Acts 2:38 Salvation Plan', he did not believe in water baptism at all!:

"PRINCIPLE: Whatever is truly a Gospel ordinance, they [the Quakers] desire to own and practice.  But they observe no such language in the Scriptures as in the reflection.  They do confess the practice of John's baptism and the Supper is to be found there but practice only is no institution, nor a sufficient reason for continuation.  That they were then proper, they believe, when the mysteries lay yet couched in figures and shadows.  But it is their belief that no figures or signs are perpetual or of institution under the Gospel administration, when Christ, Who is the Substance of the, is come.
"It were to overthrow the whole Gospel dispensation, and to make the coming of Christ of no effect, to render signs and figures of the nature of the Gospel, which is inward, spiritual, and eternal.  If it be said, but they were used after the coming of Christ, and His ascension too they answer, so were many Jewish ceremonies.  It is sufficient to them that water baptism was John's, and not Christ's; that Jesus never used it; that it was not part of Paul's commission, which if it were evangelical and of duration, it certainly would have been; that there is but one baptism, as well as one faith, and one Lord; and that baptism ought to be of the same nature with the kingdom of which it is an ordinance, and that is spiritual.  The same holds also as to the supper,both alluding to old Jewish practices, and used as a signification of a near and accomplishing work, namely, the Substance they represented...
"Hence it is that the Quakers cannot be said to deny them but them, truly feeling in themselves the very thing which the outward water, bread and wine signify, leave them off, as fulfilled in Christ, Who is in them the hope of their glory, and henceforth they have but one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one bread, and one cup of blessing, and that is of the kingdom of God, which is within."
(The Key, William Penn, Section X.)

Given that 'Oneness' Pentecostals affirm views on baptismal efficacy reminiscent of baptismal regeneration, it is anomalous that they list as precursors early Quakers who did not practice water baptism at all.  Since they would not count them as saved, how were they precursors?  Because many of them came, in time, to doubt the deity of Jesus Christ? But 'Oneness' Pentecostals generally claim that they do believe Jesus is God!

Though the 'Oneness' Pentecostals claim to believe that Jesus Christ is God, in their romps through church history, they gladly own as brethren anti-trinitarians whose rejection of the Trinity is premised on denial of Christ's Deity.  The early Quakers are one example, because some were Socinians, as are most Quakers today.  In spite of 'Oneness' Pentecostal claims to acknowledge the Deity of Jesus Christ, one must concur there is a kinship here.  Both the Unitarians and the 'Oneness' Pentecostals believe that a mere man called 'the Son' was born to the virgin Mary in the days of King Herod, no 'Son' previously having existed.  They believe this mere man was fitfully and occasionally indwelt by Deity, whom they jointly confess as 'Father-only.'  The only difference between the two systems - whether it is a real difference or only nominal I leave to readers to judge - is that the 'Oneness' Pentecostals aver, on the strength of conflating Matthew 28:19 with Acts 2:38, that 'Jesus' is also a name of the Father whom alone they confess as God. The dispute between the Unitarians and the 'Oneness' Pentecostals is not about facts, but only about names.

Benjamin Franklin

This early American patriot went through a Deist period, according to his autobiography:

"My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my childhood piously in the Dissenting way. But I was scarce fifteen when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist." (Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, Kindle location 1082).

However, Franklin, a practical businessman, discovered by experience that free-thinking was inimical to fidelity in business dealings. As he put it, "I began to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful." So he backed away from pure Deism, and resolved to live a life of integrity, though "Revelation had indeed no weight with me as such. . ." (ibid.). Several of the American patriots, such as Ethan Allen and Tom Paine, subscribed to this view, which was generally hostile to revealed religion in general and to Christianity in particular.

Late in life, he confessed to "doubts" touching on the deity of Christ, and given his admittedly guarded approach to discussing religion, this may be taken as an admission of Unitarianism:

  • "As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the system of morals and religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity, tho' it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it. . ."
  • (Benjamin Franklin, Letter to Ezra Stiles, quoted p. 193, Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus through the Centuries).

At this late stage in life, he considered Jesus a good moral teacher. But is this really what 'Oneness' people think about Jesus?: "'Imitate Jesus and Socrates,' Franklin advised in the early 1780s in his Autobiography." (Richard W. Fox, Jesus in America, Kindle location 1912). Jesus and Socrates? Christ and Belial? This very weak kind of Unitarianism considers Jesus to be a great moral teacher, on a plane with Socrates, but not God incarnate. Franklin thought it "needless to busy myself" with the great question of Jesus' deity, but saw "no harm" in it, if it led believers to observe Jesus' teaching. (Richard W. Fox, Jesus in America, Kindle location 1983). This focus on Jesus' ethical teaching was shared by Thomas Jefferson among other Solons of the early Republic.

On the plus side, he cannot be accused of atheism:

"I have lived for a long time [81 years]; and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid?" (Benjamin Franklin: Speech in Convention for forming a Constitution for the United States, quoted Kindle location 78724, Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David).

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, the drafter of the Declaration of Independence and the third President of the United States, was one of these Unitarians, who deny the eternal Deity of Jesus Christ. Thomas Jefferson understood that the Bible does not 'work' very well for his theology, but he didn't much care; he was the kind of Bible-reader who takes out his editor's red pencil when he encounters something he does not like. He said about the Book of Revelation, a book which unmistakably proclaims the deity of Jesus, "It is between fifty and sixty years since I read it, and I then considered it as merely the ravings of a maniac, no more worthy nor capable of explanation than the incoherencies of our own nightly dreams." (Thomas Jefferson, quoted p. 181, The Jefferson Lies, by David Barton). Thomas Jefferson admired Jesus' moral teaching, and even compiled his own New Testament gathering these 'diamonds,' snipping out all the Bible's extraordinary claims about Jesus' person and work, which he considered the 'dunghill' in which the 'diamonds' had become mired:

Christians have differed in their evaluation of Jefferson. Some, upset by his contempt for the Bible and disbelief in the deity of Christ, have read him out of the ranks: "For example, in another area, if one were to ask whether Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Jefferson personally were Christians, the answer, as best we can judge from what they have said, is no." (Art and the Bible, Essay Two, p. 68, Francis A. Schaeffer). Today, revisionist David Barton is trying to make him into an Evangelical; whether Barton welcomes all Unitarians into his big-tent fold along with Jefferson, I couldn't say.

Emanuel Swedenborg

Emanuel Swedenborg would indeed appear to have been a modalist.  At least here the 'Oneness' historians have come up with a genuine modalist; often even that much eludes them.  He's anti-Trinity: "I have quite often talked with angels about this, and they have invariably said that in heaven they are quite incapable of dividing the Divine in three...They have further said that church people coming from the world with the idea of three 'Divines' cannot be let into heaven, since their thought wanders from one to another, and since in heaven they may not think 'three' and say 'one'." (Heaven & Hell, Emanuel Swedenborg, 1.2).

He's neither Arian nor Socinian, the commoner anti-Trinity heresies, kicking them out of his heaven: "Church people who deny the Lord, recognizing only the Father, and who let themselves harden in this kind of faith, are outside of heaven." (Heaven & Hell, 1.3);

"People who deny the Divine side of the Lord and recognize only His Human side, like Socinians, are likewise outside of heaven.  They are moved forward a bit toward the right and let down deep, so becoming completely separated from everyone else from Christendom." (Heaven & Hell, 1.3).

He seems not to have accepted the orthodox distinction of two natures in Christ, human and Divine, much less the 'Oneness' tendency to split these two 'natures' into two interacting persons: "One can see from these selections that the Lord's Human is Divine, and not -- as is believed within the church -- that His Human is not Divine." (Heaven & Hell, 11.78).  He seems to have thought, like Joseph Smith, that God has always been a man, as opposed to the orthodox view that He took on human nature in the incarnation: "The question of the ancients' having an anthropomorphic concept of the Divine is settled by the appearances of the Divine to Abraham, Lot, Joshua, Gideon, Manoah, and his wife, and others, who did see God as a person, but did worship Him as God of the universe, calling Him 'God of heaven and earth,' and 'Jehovah'.  It was the Lord who appeared to Abraham..." (Heaven & Hell, 11.84)

Swedenborg was a visionary who chatted with acquaintances from the planet Mercury: "There are spirits whose special passion is getting knowledges because these alone delight them.  So these spirits are allowed to travel around, even to go from this solar system to others...They have said that there are planets with people on them not only in this solar system, but beyond it, in the star-covered heaven, a tremendous number (these spirits are from the planet Mercury)." (Heaven & Hell, 43.417).

Some of his ideas are distinctly off-kilter Biblically, like his revelation that angels are all former human beings: "It is quite unknown in the Christian world that heaven and hell are from the human race.  In fact, it is believed that angels were created at the beginning, resulting in a heaven; and that the Devil or Satan was an angel of light, but was cast out with his faction because he became rebellious...The existence of this kind of belief in Christendom utterly amazes angels...They therefore want me to declare on their behalf that in all of heaven there is not a single angel who was created at the beginning, nor is there in hell any devil who was created an angel of light and cast down.  Rather, all the individuals in both heaven and hell are from the human race." (Heaven & Hell, 35.311).

But, again, was this man even saved according to the so-called 'Acts 2:38 Salvation Plan'?  Not only did he not advance any unusual baptismal formula, he did not even think baptism necessary for salvation!:

"Some people hold the belief that only children born within the church enter heaven, not children born outside the church.  The reason they give is that children within the church have been baptized, and by means of baptism have been introduced into the faith of the church.  These people, however, do not know that no one gains heaven or faith by means of baptism.  Baptism simply serves as a sign and reminder that the person needs to be reborn..." (Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven & Hell, 37.329).

He thought all who loved the good and true would be granted entry to heaven.  Once there, those professing non-Christian religions would receive remedial instruction:

"Then behind these are people devoted to the Mohammedan religion who lived a moral life in the world, recognizing one Divine Being and recognizing the Lord as the Essential Prophet. Once they withdraw from Mohammed, because he cannot help them, they approach the Lord, worship Him, and recognize what is Divine about Him; then they are taught in the Christian religion...Mohammedans are taught by angels who were once involved in that religion and have turned to Christianity; the heathen too are taught by their own angels." (Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven & Hell, 53.514-515).

Even pagan idolators are welcome in Swedenborg's heaven:

"It is customary for Gentiles who have worshipped some god in an image or statue, or some idol, to be introduced when they enter the other life to people who stand in lieu of their gods or idols, so that they may shed their illusions.  After they have been with them for a few days, they are brought away." (Ibid., 36.325).

He thought people of every religion would be saved:

"It may be seen above that the Lord's church is distributed over the whole world - it is universal - that it includes all people who live in the good of charity in accord with their own religious persuasion..." (Heaven & Hell, 36.326).

It seems distinctly odd for a group making exclusive claims to salvation on the premise they've discovered the only baptismal formula that 'works' to include, in their triumphal march of 'Oneness' believers down through history, folks like the Quakers who don't baptize at all, and folks like Swedenborg who don't think baptism much matters!

Emanuel Swedenborg has followers down to the present day.  Oddly enough, they are not in fellowship with the 'Oneness' Pentecostals, who list Swedenborg as one of their own.  There are three main bodies: the General Convention of the New Jerusalem in the U.S.A., the General Church of the New Jerusalem, and the General Conference.  The General Convention's doctrine on the nature of God is as follows: "That there is one God, in whom there is a Divine Trinity; and that He is the Lord Jesus Christ." (Handbook of Denominations in the United States, Frank S. Mead, p. 92).

The Book of Mormon

Looking for tongues-talking modalists who believe in baptismal regeneration? Look no further—the early Mormons fit the bill!  Inexplicably, 'Oneness' historians overlook this group, though nowhere else can such a close fit be found. They spoke in tongues, though this practice varied in acceptance and popularity at different times:

  • “We will first notice the gift of tongues, exercised by some when carried away in the spirit. These persons were apparently lost to all surrounding circumstances, and wrapt up in the contemplation of things, and in communion with persons not present. — They articulated sounds, which but few persons professed to understand; and those few declared them to be the Indian language.”

  • (Ezra Booth, Letter Three, quoted Chapter XV, Mormonism Unveiled, Ed Howe).

As readers of the Book of Mormon can attest, Joseph was under the influence of the doctrines of Alexander Campbell, an advocate of baptismal regeneration, when he wrote that work. One of his early and influential converts was a man named Sidney Rigdon, also a Campbellite: "This Rigdon was a man of great eloquence, belonging to a denomination of Christians who style themselves, 'Disciples,' or 'Reformers,' and who are also, by their opponents, in derision, called 'Campbellites.'" (Mormonism Unveiled, Chapter VIII, by Ed Howe). There is no evidence, however, that they ever used any 'Jesus only' baptismal formula:

"The Mormonite preachers go forth proclaiming repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost. The form of baptism is similar to other orders; only it is prefaced with — 'having authority given me of Jesus Christ;' also, the laying on of hands — 'In the name of Jesus Christ, receive ye the Holy Ghost.'" (Ezra Booth, Letter Two, quoted Chapter XV, Mormonism Unveiled, by Ed Howe).

At the time he wrote the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was also a modalist:

  • “And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.  And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son -- The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son -- And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation...”
  • (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 15:1-5).

  • “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father. Amen.”
  • (Book of Mormon, Mosiah 16:15).

  • “Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last; and he shall come into the world to redeem his people; and he shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name. . .”
  • (Book of Mormon, Alma 11:38-40).

The form of modalism preached in this book is the same as pioneered by Pope Callistus, in which the phrase 'the Son' is referred to the 'flesh' of the incarnation:

  • “Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfill all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh.”
  • (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 1:14).

Readers may object that the Book of Mormon reports conversations between Jesus Christ and His Father, as does the Bible. It is true that some modalists are embarrassed by such conversations, and explain them away as theatrical productions just for show, the kind of 'conversation' held when the speaker presses the button down on the phone and pretends to talk into it. But modalists of Pope Callistus' stripe are by no means embarrassed. They explain that the flesh ('Son') is conversing with the Spirit ('Father').

In the time frame of the Joseph Smith Translation [paraphrase] of the Bible, he was still espousing modalism:

  • “All things are delivered to me of my Father; and no man knoweth that the Son is the Father, and the Father is the Son, but him to whom the Son will reveal it.”
  • (Luke 10:23 (22), Joseph Smith Translation).

Later on Joseph Smith, a restless genius, adopted outright polytheism: "And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth." (Abraham 4:1).  One must wonder, though, if the founders of 'Oneness' Pentecostalism mightn't have read the Book of Mormon with open eyes and taken its teachings to heart. The very real similarities: modalism, speaking in tongues, baptismal regeneration—make 'Oneness' Pentecostalism look like an early Mormon restoration movement.

Return to Answering the Latter-Day Saints...

Adam Clarke

This Methodist leader wrote a Bible commentary of enduring popularity which, at a minimum, teaches the 'Incarnational Sonship:'

"The only begotten of the Father - That is, the only person born of a woman, whose human nature never came by the ordinary way of generation; it being a mere creation in the womb of the virgin, by the energy of the Holy Ghost." (Adam Clarke Commentary on John 1:14).

"Therefore also that holy thing (or person) - shall be called the Son of God - We may plainly perceive here, that the angel does not give the appellation of Son of God to the Divine nature of Christ; but to that holy person or thing, το ἁγιον, which was to be born of the virgin, by the energy of the Holy Spirit. The Divine nature could not be born of the virgin; the human nature was born of her. . .Two natures must ever be distinguished in Christ: the human nature, in reference to which he is the Son of God and inferior to him, Mark 13:32; John 5:19; John 14:28, and the Divine nature which was from eternity, and equal to God, John 1:1; John 10:30; Romans 9:5; Colossians 1:16-18." (Adam Clarke Commentary on Luke 1:35)

This view, understanding 'the Son' not eternally but as pertaining to the incarnation, is not modalism in itself but might be perceived as a stepping-stone leading thereto.

Karl Barth

This modern author did not intend to deny fundamentals of the Christian faith like the eternity of the Son of God:

"'Ho logos', the 'Word' spoken of in Jn. 1:14, is the divine, creative, reconciling, redeeming Word which participates without restriction in the divine nature and existence, the eternal Son of God." (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume I, the Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 2, Section 15, 2. Very God and Very Man, p. 132).
"We infer from the reality of Jesus Christ that God is free for us, in the sense that He reveals Himself to us in such a way that His Word or His Son becomes a man -- not God the Father, and not God the Holy Spirit." (Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, Volume I, The Doctrine of the Word of God, Part 2, Section 13, 2., p. 33).

If they would join him in his affirmations, that would be wonderful. Whatever the merits, or lack thereof, of his system it seems a bit of a reach for the 'Oneness' crowd to grab him.

Yves Congar

"There can be no question of our duty to acknowledge the economic, provisional character of the reign of Christ as Christ, as the envoy of God and the suffereing Servant.  His royal priesthood is a path to the throne of God and still possesses an intermediary character (Heb 10:20, etc.)  The Kingdom, in its earthly and preparatory form, is the Kingdom of Christ; in its final perfect form, it will be the Kingdom of God, that is, of the Father, of the Source without source: perfect monotheism [!].  In somewhat similar fashion, there had been, in Israel, a return to the lordship of the one Yahweh through the 'parenthesis' of the Davidic kingship..." (Yves Congar, O.P., Jesus Christ, p. 182). Yikes!  What does the Nicene Creed say...something about, "...whose kingdom shall have no end"?



In their cavalcades of Oneness believers down through history, the 'Oneness' Pentecostals do sometimes include actual Modalists, although their list is top-heavy with Socinian Unitarians. If they really do want to make common cause with this latter group, who consider Jesus a mere man, then they should state this commonality frankly, and not say things that sound sweet to Trinitarian ears which they do not really mean. However, while it is possible to find Modalists at various times, there is more than that to the 'Oneness' Pentecostal 'salvation plan:' the believer must also be baptized while the preacher says 'I baptize you in the name of [the Lord] Jesus [Christ],' and the believer must personally speak in tongues. These two elements are mandatory. Conclusion: there were none 'saved' according to the 'Oneness' Pentecostal plan prior to 1913, when Heaven's gates were at long last swung open. This conclusion is so startling as to invite re-evaluation.