Answering the 
Unitarian Universalists

Why Do you Call Me Good?

The crux of the dispute between the Unitarians and the mainstream Christian church concerns the Deity of Jesus Christ. Is He a man only, or both man and God?

Jesus taught by relating parables and stories, but also by asking questions. His questions could be gnomic and puzzling. He asked one questioner why he had called Him, 'good:'

"Now behold, one came and said to Him 'Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?' So He said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:16-17, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23).

What was the point in asking this question? Was this the same thing as to disclaim deity? We are likely, I think, to hear the question as a protest, as if Jesus is scolding: 'you should not have called me good.' Certainly people do say things like that. 'How can you say such a thing?' 'How dare you imply that I'm a thief?' The expected answer to such a question is not information, but an apology. So is that the response Jesus sought to elicit, an apology?

Are similar questions heard elsewhere in the New Testament? Yes, Jesus does ask people who they think He is. With most of us, such a question would only be asked in an indignant tone, 'What do you take me for?' 'Who do you think I am?' It's not common to ask someone to explain to you who you are, and the question be a well-meant, sincere inquiry. But it is when Jesus asks it. Jesus does not ask this type of question because He needs information He lacks, but because it is a very important question, one which everyone must ultimately answer: "So perhaps it would be fitting to describe what Jesus asked His disciples, 'Who do you say that I am?' (Matthew 16:15 NKJV) as the Great Question — without a doubt, history's greatest question." (Rice Broocks, Man, Myth, Messiah, page xix).

Muslims and other Unitarians assume the answer Jesus wanted to hear was, 'Of course you're not God; I erred in calling you "good."' But is this the Bible's answer to the question? Suppose the right answer to the question is, Yes, I called you good, and only God is good. But that is all right because You are God:

Jesus is God

Who is Jesus?

That is not, of course, the Unitarian answer, and it never has been, even back when the Unitarians were theists:

  • "Q. You said a little before that the Lord Jesus is a man by nature, hath he not also a divine Nature?

    A. At no hand; for that is repugnant not only to sound Reason, but also to the holy Scriptures."
  • (Racovian Catechism).

What, after all, is the answer to Jesus' question 'Why do you call me good?' Is He not good? So is He, indeed, God? What saith the scriptures?:

Jesus Christ is God!

The Son is God!

Your Throne, O God The Work of Your Hands Let Angels Worship
True God Express Image Visible and Invisible
For Himself Son of God Kiss the Son
A Son is born Honor the Son Only-begotten God
Pantocrator Believe on the Son Only Savior
Dead were Judged Everlasting to Everlasting

Jesus is Jehovah!

A Voice Crying Temple Visitor Stone of Stumbling
The Rock of Israel The First and the Last Lord of all
The LORD our Righteousness Holy, holy, holy Captivity Captive
House of David Answered prayers With all His saints
Israel's Savior Giver of Life Every Knee Shall Bow
Pastoral Supply I send you prophets Who forgives sin
I am He He is Lord Call upon the Name
Doxology God with Us Lawgiver
Great Shepherd You Only Lawful worship
Builder I AM THAT I AM Moses' Veil
Wine Press Lord Willing Secret Things
Boasting Excluded King of Israel Fount of Living Waters
Searches the Heart Till Death Do us Part Angel of the LORD
Take Refuge Has Reigned On His Forehead
Me Whom they have Pierced Stretched Out My Hands Head
Keeper of Israel The Amen

Jesus Christ is God!

The Eyes of the Blind Thought it not Robbery Eternally Blessed God
Fulness of the Godhead Great God and Savior Faith in Him
Redeemed King of Kings Spirit of Christ
Destroyed by Serpents Lord of Glory Renewed in the Image
New Jerusalem's Lamp Now is Christ risen Upholding all Things
Light to the Gentiles My Companion Miracles
Prosecutors' Indictment Sun of Righteousness Thirty Pieces
Testator's Death Author of Life The Blood of God
My Lord and My God One Mystery of godliness
God was in Christ The Word was God Shared Glory
Omniscience Omnipotence Omnipresence
Change Not Yesterday, Today and Forever Whose Hand?
Not of Man Receive my Spirit Believe in God
Only Holy Sole Proprietor Priests
Walk on the Water

Not by Man

Consider Galatians 1:1:

  • "Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)..." (Galatians 1:1).

"Jesus Christ is here distinguished sharply from men and placed clearly on the side of God. What is more, even the Judaizers evidently accepted fundamentally the same view." (J. Gresham Machen, The Literature and History of New Testament Times, p. 84). "But apparently it never occurred to Paul that any one might say, 'By Jesus Christ and therefore by man.'" (J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion, p. 106.) And yet Jesus is truly man, only not a mere man.

Walking into one of today's remnant Unitarian Universalist churches, the visitor is as likely to encounter a self-professed Wiccan, Buddhist or atheist as any who will admit to the 'Christian' name: "Today, Unitarians who even claim Christian allegiance represent somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of the total movement." (The Deity of Christ (Theology in Community), Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson, p. 238). 'The Goddess' rivals 'Yahweh' in popularity: "Cakes for the Queen of Heaven and its follow-up, Rise Up and Call Her Name, are two Goddess spirituality study courses that were created by and for women within the Unitarian Universalist Church." (Drawing Down the Moon, Margot Adler, p. 273). But this is a new thing. Historically, the theology of the Racovian confession was the animating force behind the movement. This denies the true, rather than merely verbal or nominal, deity of Jesus Christ.

In their classical phase, the Unitarian Universalists professed, with what appeared to be sincere embarrassment and visible concern, that they could not affirm the triune nature of God because of their commitment to monotheism. That commitment is gone altogether: "In an essay written in 1985, four months before he was to be elected president of the U[nitarian] U[niversalist] A[ssociation], William F. Shultz, who later went on to head Amnesty International, wrote that there had been 'a religious revolution' in the Unitarian Universalist Association, that, 'to put it in symbolic terms, Ashtar, the Goddess, had been issued invitation where formerly only Lord Jehovah dared to tread.'" (Margot Adler, Drawing Down the Moon, p. 491). In my experience, not many devotees of the Goddess are even nominal monotheists. Even though it has been largely discarded, let's forge onward to study of the old-time Unitarianism, which some who have not examined it carefully foolishly assume must be intellectually respectable.

Is Jesus Christ God or man?

The Bible answers, Yes! He is very God and very man. These two truths are not mutually exclusive:

God or Man?

Jesus Christ: God or man?

Wise men still seek Him!

He Humbled Himself

Why does Jesus say, "...for My Father is greater than I." (John 14:28)?

He Humbled Himself

He humbled Himself

Back to the Bible

Given that many modern Unitarian Universalists do not venture to describe themselves as Christians much less as Bible-believers, it might surprise readers to discover that modern Unitarianism began as a back-to-the-Bible movement:

    Question. I would fain learn of you what the Christian Religion is.

    Answer. The Christian Religion is the way of attaining eternal life, discovered by God.

    Q. But where is it discovered?

    A. In the holy Scriptures, especially that of the new Covenant."
  • (Racovian Catechism).

"Unitarians claimed to be more biblical than the Trinitarians, not less." (Richard W. Fox, Jesus in America, Kindle location 2910). At any rate, so they said: "...the Christian religion is defined at the outset as a way of attaining...eternal life, divinely revealed in the Scriptures (especially the New Testament), which certain proofs show to be true, which are easy to understand, and which contain all things necessary for salvation. Throughout the book, therefore, the proof of its teaching is drawn from the Bible, and only in a few instances are orthodox doctrines opposed on the ground that they are unreasonable." (Our Unitarian Heritage, 'Faustus Socinus and the Full Development of Socinianism in Poland, 1579-1638,' Earl Morse Wilbur, p. 160). But saying doesn't make it so.

Faustus Socinus' disciples ultimately quit the Bible high ground, not by choice; they were forced from it by the nature of the case. The Bible does not say about Jesus what they say. When they sought to discomfit the Trinitarians by quoting from it, it had the nasty habit of blowing up in their hands:

John Locke, though he seems himself to have been an Arian, argues for a definition of Christianity so broad it would include Socinians. He could still discount his Trinitarian opponent's pledge to stand upon the Bible by alleging that all disputants would willingly do the same:

“What the unmasker, for the removing of difficulties, adds farther, in these words, 'But there is no difficulty as to the reality and certainty of the truths of the gospel; because we know, they are revealed to us by God in the holy scripture;' is yet farther from signifying any thing to the purpose, than the former. . .Is this all the explicit faith a Christian need have? If so, then a Christian need explicitly believe no more, but this one proposition, viz. That all the propositions between the two covers of his Bible, are certainly true. . .For, if that will serve the turn, I conclude he may make his set of fundamentals as large and express to his system as he pleases: Calvinists, Arminians, Anabaptists, Socinians, will all thus own the belief of them, viz. that all that God has revealed in the scripture, is really and certainly true.” (John Locke, A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity, Chapter X).

But the Bible is not after all so vague and uncertain in its meaning: it does explicitly teach the deity of Christ. Those unwilling to accept this Bible teaching will be left in the end complaining about the 'fundamentalists' who actually believe the Bible, which is the trajectory Unitarianism has historically traversed. John Locke, no Deist, was willing to aver that Jesus is the Messiah, but was not entirely willing also to hail the Messiah as God, with the words of the psalmist,

"Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows." (Psalm 45:6-7).

It should be easy enough for those who believe the Bible to say with the Bible what the Bible says, without hesitation or equivocation!

Born at Bethlehem Pierced
O God His Bones
Cast Lots Born of a Virgin
Mother's Children Lifted Up
Stretched Out My Hands On a Donkey
Weeks The Grave
Thirty Pieces of Silver Light to the Gentiles
Out of Egypt House of David
House of My Friends With the Transgressors
Eyes of the Blind With the Rich
I thirst Darkness over the Land
Gall and Vinegar Shame and Spitting
Familiar Friend Son of Man
Den of Thieves Afar Off
E'er the Sun

The Eternal Son

". . . since he had necessarily a human nature, he could not be God, nor, indeed, have existed antecedently to his birth." (Racovian Catechism).

Eternal Son

The Son: Eternal God or Beginning in Time?

The Vineyard Without beginning of days
From Everlasting The Same Yesterday, Today and Forever
Behold, I come With the Father
Eternal Life Son of God
By Him all things were created In the Beginning
Thy throne Mind in Christ
Before me My Redeemer
First and Last Before Abraham was
Enduring Love Downward Mobility
Beginning Where He was before
Came down from Heaven In the Wilderness
Temple Vision The Firstborn
The Word Stands Forever From the Womb
At the Beginning of His way The Ending of the Sonship?

The Son in the Old Testament

"Obviously the Son did not actually exist before Bethlehem, else we should have no difficulty locating Him as being actually present in the Old Testament and the period it covered." (Chapter 4, Gordon Magee, Is Jesus in the Godhead or Is the Godhead in Jesus?). Where was 'the Son' in the Old Testament?  He's in there!  "Who has ascended into heaven, or descended?  Who has gathered the wind in His fists?  Who has bound the waters in a garment?  Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's name, if you know?" (Proverbs 30:4).

"'Look!' he answered, 'I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.'" (Daniel 3:25).

Here are some of the exploits of the Son of God, as reported in the Old Testament:

The Word was God Identity
Philo Judaeus Creation
Anomalies Life-Giver
Interaction Theophanic Angel
God's Reason God's Wisdom

The Logos

This next identification is far more controversial, though I think it is correct.

Manoah and His Wife Gideon
Moses at the Burning Bush Definition
Sacrifice of Isaac Hagar
Jacob the Wrestler Captain of the Lord's Host
Jesus the Sent One

Theophanic Angel


The effort to find Socinianism in first century Judaism runs aground on the literary remains of that era. However the theology of first century non-Christian Judaism is to be categorized, Unitarianism isn't it:

Early testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ can be found not only in Christian sources, but also from hostile witnesses:

Pagan Testimony
Hostile Testimony
Christian Testimony

The First and the Last

Christians sing, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."  The God of the Bible does not change: "For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob." (Malachi 3:6).  The God we meet on the first page of the Bible is the same as the God we meet on the last page: He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

The First PageThe Last Page

Jesus Christ is the Creator!

Let Us Make Man

In Genesis 1:26, God makes a proposal:

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26).

In the next verse it's a done deal, and we learn that man is made in the image of God and no other: "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:27). Who are the "we" who created man in "our image"?

Let Us Make Man

Answering Objections

The Nescience of the Son

Anti-trinitarians demand an explanation for Mark 13:32:

"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

Omniscience is one of the essential attributes of Deity.  If Jesus Christ is God incarnate, as Christians confess, then He must be omniscient.  He is elsewhere so stated to be: "Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God." (John 16:30).  How, then, could there be a circumstance of which He is ignorant?

  • "That Jesus Christ was not God is evident from his own words, where, speaking of the day of judgment, he says, 'Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in Heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.' This is giving up all pretention to divinity, acknowledging in the most explicit manner, that he did not know all things, but compares his understanding to that of man and angels; 'of that day and hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son.' Thus he ranks himself with finite beings, and with them acknowledges, that he did not know the day and hour of judgment, and at the same time ascribes a superiority of knowledge to the father, for that he knew the day and hour of judgment."
  • (Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man, Chapter IX., Section III.).

On its face this situation does not seem promising for the Unitarians, who rank Jesus as a mere man, because these scriptures at a minimum place Him high above the celestial angels. B. B. Warfield, at any rate, saw in these passages evidence of Christ's exaltation above the creatures, not evidence of His mere humanity:

"Already in the Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen (Mk 126, Mt 21:37, Lk 20:13, cf. Mt 22:1), He sets Himself as God’s Son and Heir over against all His servants, of whatever quality; which would seem to withdraw Him out of the category of creatures altogether. And this tremendous inference is fully supported by the remarkable utterance in which, in declaring His ignorance of the time of His future coming, He places Himself outside of the category even of angels, that is of creatures of the highest rank, and assimilates Himself as Son to the Father (Mk 13:32, Mt 24:36)."
(Warfield, B.B.. The Lord of Glory: The Designations of Our Lord in the New Testament (Kindle Locations 1240-1243). Titus Books.)

The attraction in these passages for them is not so much that the Bible says what they believe, as that it apparently fails to say what Christians believe: that Jesus is God.

A similar puzzle is posed by Mark 10:18, which is taken by some readers to suggest that Jesus is not good, and thus not God:

"Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, 'Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?' So Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.'" (Mark 10:17-18).

What conclusions can we draw from this verse? Does it prove that Jesus is not God? Does the Son's not knowing the day or the house prove the same?:

Nescience of the Son

Satan tempted Jesus to use His divine powers to overcome the inconveniences and weaknesses of the humanity He had assumed, thus ensuring a pleasant and painless incarnation.  To hunger is an affliction of flesh, but God can turn even stones to bread, raining down manna on His children in the wilderness: "And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, 'If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.'" (Matthew 4:2-3).  So did He do it?  No; He did not become incarnate to evade our ills and burdens, zooming by suffering humanity in an air-conditioned limousine, but to take them upon Himself: "Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4).

Darkness Too Pure
Psalm 22 Suffering Servant
Say It and Mean It Quest for the Historical Jesus
Ends of the Earth

My God, My God

The Bible: God's Word?

Jesus was of the opinion that the Holy Spirit spoke through prophets like David: "Then Jesus answered and said, while He taught in the temple, 'How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the Son of David? For David himself said by the Holy Spirit: "The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'" (Mark 12:35-36).  He quotes Exodus as "spoken to you by God": "But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'?" (Matthew 22:31-32).

Eager-beavers step forward, ready to 'correct' the odd notions found in scripture, like that Jesus Christ is God. Some of the Talmudists had a similar 'attitude': "When the sages refused to accept Rabbi Eliezer's view, he called upon the forces of nature to prove his theory correct, crying: 'Let the carob tree be uprooted from its place, let the water change the direction of its flow.' To this Rabbi Joshua replied: 'You cannot cite evidence from the carob.' Then Rabbi Eliezer appealed to Heaven to prove that his ruling should be accepted, and a divine voice was heard saying: 'What do you want of my son, Eliezer, whose rulings are universally accepted.' Still Rabbi Joshua was firm in his opinion, saying: 'Torah is no longer in Heaven. God has given it to men, and it is they who will decide this matter.' Most of the scholars then ruled against Rabbi Eliezer." (The Essential Talmud, Adin Steinsaltz, p. 218).

That's an attitude, but it's wrong: "LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." (Psalm 119:89). Why not allow God to offer His input into the discussion?  If He wanted to author a book, who could stop Him?

Authenticity of the Gospel Record: Ancient testimony

Early testimony is available respecting the reliability of the gospel record:

  • "We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith...For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia."
  • (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 1.1)

Mark's gospel has the authority of Peter to back it up: "'Mark, having become Peter's interpreter, wrote down accurately everything he remembered, though not in order, of the things either said or done by Christ.'" (Fragments of Papias, The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition, J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, p. 316).

Luke turns up in Acts, when the voice of the narrator shifts to 'we'.  He makes no claim to have witnessed anything prior to that, but knows those who did: "Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed." (Luke 1:1-4).

Modern scholars scoff at the idea that any of the gospels originated amongst people who had any first-hand knowledge of Jesus, or even knew anyone who had. Their rule of thumb is that anyone who wrote about Jesus must not have known Jesus.  But well-placed observers who lived in that time report it quite differently: "So Matthew composed the oracles in the Hebrew language and each person interpreted them as best he could." (Fragments of Papias, from Eusebius, quoted in The Apostolic Fathers, J. B. Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, p. 316.)

Justin Martyr likewise, in the mid-second century, described the gospels as the "memoirs" of the apostles and their followers:

"For in the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them, [it is recorded] that His sweat fell down like drops of blood while He was praying and saying, 'If it be possible, let this cup pass'..."
(Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter CIII.)

Tertullian joins the chorus:

"We lay it down as our first position, that the evangelical Testament has apostles for its authors, to whom was assigned by the Lord Himself this office of publishing the gospel. Since, however, there are apostolic men also, they are yet not alone, but appear with apostles and after apostles; because the preaching of disciples might be open to the suspicion of an affectation of glory, if there did not accompany it the authority of the masters, which means that of Christ, for it was that which made the apostles their masters. Of the apostles, therefore, John and Matthew first instill faith into us; whilst of apostolic men, Luke and Mark renew it afterwards."
(Tertullian, 'Five Books Against Marcion,' Book IV, Chapter 2)

To outweigh Irenaeus', Papias', Justin's and Tertullian's early testimony, where is the countervailing contemporary testimony? There is none, yet people who would in most matters endorse the principle of going by the evidence, in this area prefer to discard all available ancient evidence and substitute conjecture.

Gospel Authors

The Unitarians have traversed the whole distance from the scriptural high ground where they started to the skeptical extremes of Robert Price and Bart Ehrman, because there are scriptures which inconvenience them. It would have been better to keep the high ground, and abandon the errors which had been shown to be such.

Definition Perfect Example
Inerrancy Mislabeled
Authority Figures Emergent Church
Bible Contradictions Who Wrote the Gospels?
Are the Gospels Metaphorical? One Way
One Author, One Voice


The Trinity and Its Discontents

What is the Doctrine of the Trinity?

The word 'Trinity' does not occur in the Bible. Neither does the word 'Unitarian.' Is what this doctrine seeks to communicate Biblical?

Bible Proof:

We've already run through the third point, that the Son is God. One down and three to go!

Some may object that this is a stripped-down, Reader's Digest version of the doctrine, which in its finer points is far more complex and involved. Their preference would be to focus on esoteric points most people have never heard of. But the real point of contention here is the divinity of Jesus Christ, about which the Bible is not ambiguous or unclear.

"I have seen God face to face"

The church sings, "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity!" Is this language Biblical?


Is Person a Biblical Word?

The First Time Boethius
What does it Mean? Face to Face
The Father and the Son The Holy Spirit
Express Image To Each His Own
Men and Angels Persona
Thrice Holy Who are the 'God-people'?
Separate or Distinct? Bible Terminology
Individuals God-beings


One proof of God's triunity -- His 'Three-in-One'ness -- are the many instances where scripture ascribes one divine work indifferently to Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The principle: "With regard to the divine nature, on the other hand, it is otherwise.  We do not learn that the Father does something on his own, in which the Son does not co-operate.  Or again, that the Son acts on his own without the Spirit.  Rather does every operation which extends from God to creation and is designated according to our differing conceptions of it have its origin in the Father, proceed through the Son, and reach its completion by the Holy Spirit." (Gregory of Nyssa, On Not Three Gods):

Three in One
Who Raised Jesus from the Dead? Who Authored Holy Writ?
Who Alone is Holy? Who Sanctifies Believers?
Who Gives Eternal Life? Who Supplies Pastors?
Who Draws Believers? Who Regenerates Believers?
Who is the Comforter? Tempting in the Wilderness
Who Created the World?

The early Unitarians were a voluble lot, though one will search this literature in vain for any explanation of why the letter to Hebrews says that Jesus created the world (1:10). After extensive debate, both Unitarians and the orthodox found that they concurred, the Unitarians do not believe the Bible. Oddly enough, modern 'secular' Bible study has been saddled with this movement's long abandoned, indefensible set of interpretations of the numerous problem texts. The early writers, however, still thought there was hope.

John Toland
Christianity Not
William Ellery
Unitarian Christianity

Humble, Meek and Mild

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is humble: "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29).

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21:5).

But hear the words of Jesus: "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." (Matthew 10:37). Hear His words: "That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." (John 5:23).

"Is He, if He be not God, really humble? Is that reiterated self-assertion, to the accents of which we have been listening. . .consistent with any known form of creaturely humility? Can Jesus thus bid us believe in Him, love Him, obey Him, live by Him, live for Him; can He thus claim to be the universal Teacher and the universal Judge, the Way, the Truth, the Life of humanity — if He be indeed only man? (H.P. Liddon, Lecture IV, The Divinity of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, The Witness of His Consciousness, Was He Really Humble?).

Muslims and Socinians claim to hold Jesus in high regard. Do they really? They don't believe the claims He made about Himself. A man who would make such claims, if they were not true, would not be a good man:

"If this religion is untrue, it is the most stupid lie that can possibly be conceived. It would be extremely stupid to say that a crucified man is God – unless it was true. . .Had Christ, in spite of His assertions, not been God, His pride and dishonesty would have been unparalleled. . ." (Girolamo Savonarola, The Truth of Our Faith Made Manifest in the Triumph of the Cross, Book 2, Chapter 7, pp. 107-108.)
"Let us approach the issue in this way - either Christ is the true God and the First Cause of all things, or He is not. If He is God, it follows that Christianity is true; and there is no need for further discussion. If He is not God, He must have been the proudest man, and the greatest liar that ever lived. He must also have been exceedingly foolish. . .If Jesus of Nazareth was not true God, then He was a most foolish and blasphemous seducer. . .If any mere man were to speak in this way, would we not dismiss him as a madman?" (Girolamo Savonarola, The Truth of Our Faith Made Manifest in the Triumph of the Cross, Book 2, Chapter 13, pp. 121-122).

One must either believe the claims, or condemn the man who made them.

  • "Q. Show how it is also repugnant to the Scripture that Christ should have a divine Nature.

    A. First, because the Scripture proposeth to us but one God by nature, whom we formerly demonstrated to be the Father of Christ."
  • (Racovian Catechism).

Is God the 'Father-Only'?

This is at the crux of the dispute:

Is God the Father-only?

Is the Trinity of Pagan Origin?

Anti-trinitarians trace the origin of the doctrine of the trinity to pagan sources: "The actual origin of the Trinity Doctrine predates Christianity. The ancient Babylonians and other Pagan nations all worshiped the Trinity." (Biblical Apostolic Organization web-site). However, when asked for an example of a 'pagan trinity,' they supply a random assemblage of three pagan gods:

Pagan Trinity?
Pagan affinities? Alexander Hislop
Changing God Masked Gods
Hindu Modalist Trinity Plato
Plotinus Jehovah's Witnesses
Isis, Osiris and Typhon Zeus, Hera and Athena
At Random Jupiter, Mars and Venus
Diana Bus Herds


In 1961, two declining denominations, the Unitarians and the Universalists, joined forces to become the Unitarian Universalists. The guiding idea of Universalism is that a loving God would never consign anyone to hell-fire, not even Josef Stalin or Osama bin Laden. Is this Biblical?

Lake of Fire Worm Dieth Not
Lazarus I'm Not Going
The Face of God Dark Fire
Wheat and Chaff Vengeance is Mine
Wheat and Tares Old Testament
God's Will Gandhi in Hell
Hell in the Koran Infinite Loss
Do Unto Others Atheists in Hell

Unitarians find the idea of hell repugnant to their broader, more enlightened sentiments; they dislike the "howling and imperfect God, grim, jealous and revengeful, loving but a few, and them not well," (Theodore Parker, Works of Theodore Parker, Volume 3, Chapter VIII, The Position and Duties of the American Scholar, Kindle location 13196) of orthodoxy. But the pre-eminent preacher of hell was Jesus Christ.

Patriot Games

Trail of Tears

On the surface, 'Oneness' Pentecostalism and Unitarianism appear to be poles apart, inasmuch as the 'Oneness' Pentecostals claim strongly to believe that Jesus is God, while the Unitarians explicitly reject this claim. But some of their differences are more verbal than real, and it is not surprising that they lay claim to the very same martyrs, including Michael Servetus, burned at the sake in John Calvin's Geneva:

Michael Servetus

The first generation of American Unitarians could still believe they were enacting the Reformation agenda of returning to the condition of the primitive church. Theodore Parker knew them:

"Some seem to think that if Jesus were to come back to the earth, he would preach Unitarian sermons, from a text out of the Bible, and prove his divine mission and the everlasting truths, the truths of necessity that he taught, in the Unitarian way, by telling of the miracles he wrought eighteen hundred years ago; that he would prove the immortality of the soul by the fact of his own corporeal resurrection."
(Parker, Theodore. Works of Theodore Parker (Kindle Locations 149-151). The Perfect Library.)

But he also knew they were mistaken. One of the great, and unheralded, victories of Christian apologetics, is that the national debate touched off by the Unitarians ended with the Unitarians themselves conceding their faith was not Biblically based. He was obliged to acknowledge, of the gospel affirmations, "To me they are not truth and fact, but mythic symbols and poetry. . ." (Theodore Parker, Works of Theodore Parker, Kindle location 275). Whoever was the primitive church, it wasn't them.

When they started out, the Unitarians claimed to be Bible-believers. The Deists never claimed to believe the gospel at all:

"The Christian believes the gospel to be true and of divine authority, the Deist believes that it is not true and not of divine authority. . ." (Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man, Chapter VIII, Section III.)

As time went on and their detractors explained to them that, no, they did not believe the gospel, showing them chapter and verse, the Unitarians came to admit they did not. This was really a great success, showing what apologetics can achieve. Unitarianism in America started off great guns, taking over entire Congregational Churches at a gulp; but then its progress slowed, and was ultimately reversed, leaving the Unitarians as a small outfit, with now a smaller still remnant. The Bible was not with them, and this became clear to everyone. Thus in time, the differences between these two groups, Unitarians and Deists, evaporated into mist:

Unitarian Presidents

The third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, was somewhat of a crypto-Unitarian. But four others were openly acknowledged public Unitarians: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Millard Fillmore, and William Howard Taft. This is a remarkable achievement for what is after all, in the end, a small sect. One would like to think such a feat was accomplished by means entirely above-board, and not, for example, by means like the way the Unitarians 'took over' Harvard University, by engaging in joint, concerted action to thwart the endeavors of Trinitarians to maintain their positions.

John Adams, another Unitarian President, wrote to his son, John Quincy Adams, on March 28, 1816, "An incarnate God!!! An eternal, Self existent, omnipotent omnipresent omniscient Author of this Stupendous Universe, Suffering on a Cross!!! My Soul Starts with horror, at the Idea, and it has Stupified the Christian World." In fact this sect is so over-represented at the highest levels of American political life, as compared with its prevalence in the population, as to excite conspiratorial speculation.

How to explain the anomalous abundance of Unitarians in the ranks of U.S. presidents? This is admittedly a small sample, which could be expected to be 'noisy.' But it is not a mirror of the United States population by religious demographics. Why not? There have been four presidents who have been Baptists (my own affiliation): Warren Gamaliel Harding, Harry S Truman, Jimmy Carter, and William Clinton. Why so many more Episcopal and Presbyterian presidents? And why only two Roman Catholics, John F. Kennedy and Joe Biden? There are two Quaker presidents, Herbert Hoover and Richard M. Nixon. Yet Roman Catholics represent about a fifth of the American public. It could be that there is some amount of religious bigotry involved. I was happy to vote for Mitt Romney, a smart and capable man. But it could be that some voters had suspicions about his religious affiliation. There has never been an atheist president or a Jewish president.

And of course, religious demographics have changed greatly over the course of 250 years of history. There has never been a Pentecostal president, probably in part because there were no Pentecostals in the early republic. And the Anglican/Episcopal church was a church that still saw mass attendance up until fairly recent times, when it saw precipitous membership declines consequent to adopting 'liberal' doctrine. One profession, lawyers, is greatly over-represented, yet one cannot deny there seems to be a genuine tie-in to job-related duties. Having tried the experiment with a president who was a Game Show host, maybe we can go back to the lawyers now.

When a small group has a disproportionately large representation, what is the reason for that? Was there ever a small, self-perpetuating cabal that boosted its own membership at the expense of others? Is that why our money has on it a picture of an eyeball above a pyramid? Beats me.

Three of Six The Problem
Sister Heresy Then and Now
The Face of God Church Government
All Paths He Says
Mary in the Koran Post-Modernism
David Barton Et Tu
Desire of Nations Restoration

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence and was our third president, spoke as disparagingly of the Trinity as did Tom Paine. However, in other respects, he was not like Tom Paine. Many Deists were skeptical altogether of the claims of revealed religion, Christianity included in the pack. By contrast, Thomas Jefferson sought, at times, to model his behavior according to the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. I say "at times" because I'll leave it up to the reader to ponder how impregnating a slave in his possession fits the bill.

When he was running for president, he allowed his surrogates to claim, falsely, that he was orthodox on the Trinity. However, he did express his real opinions clearly in his private correspondence, and he did use the word 'Unitarian' of himself:

"I am anxious to see the doctrine of one god commenced in our state. But the population of my neighborhood is too slender, and is too much divided into other sects to maintain any one Preacher well. I must therefore be contented to be an Unitarian by myself, altho' I know there are many around me who would become so if once they could hear the question fairly stated." (Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Benjamin Waterhouse, excerpted at

So it is not unfair or presumptuous to call this man a Unitarian. Thomas Jefferson's sometime pastor was a man named Joseph Priestley, whose scholarship Jefferson highly recommended. This noted chemist is remembered for the discovery of oxygen. . .and phlogiston (oops). Judge for yourself whether his theological discoveries are a keeper like oxygen, or a loser like phlogiston:

The Logos Bible Doctrine
Plain and Obvious A River in Egypt
Doubts and Fears Assail Plato's Trinity
Jewish Church Filled with the Spirit
Thomas Jefferson Draft Board
Person and Being Religious Liberty
Who You Calling Idiots? Absence of Evidence

Joseph Priestley


As pointed out, Unitarianism just isn't what it used to be. When you walk through the door of a Unitarian Universalist church, the person greeting you is as likely to be an atheist as any Socinian Christian. But this state of affairs proved impossible to sustain. While the founding generation may have been pious theists who denied the Trinity, the next generation were not so pious, and this process of devolution kept on until we are where we are today. For some reason, Socinian Christianity does not seem to be a religion which can be passed on from generation to generation. 'Liberal' Christians, who have in many cases adopted Socinian views, are finding the same thing. The distance between adopting these views and the church's collapse is often brief.

This isn't to say there aren't any such people in the world today; there are private individuals who still espouse this old-time religion, the Muslims believe something similar, and small new religious movements like the Iglesia Ni Cristo try to defend Socinianism on the world stage. I emphasize the word 'try,' because these unfortunate pastors have been dealt a bad hand; they want to claim that they believe the Bible, but the Bible keeps ascribing deity to Jesus Christ:

Martin Luther King, Jr.

As mentioned above, the Unitarian Universalists are a small sect, who have nevertheless punched far above their weight in American history. In addition to boasting of a number of American Presidents, should they count celebrated Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. as a crypto-Unitarian?

“During an hour of wide-ranging conversation, I mentioned to her that I was in seminary to become a Unitarian Universalist minister. What frankly surprised me was the look she gave me, one of respect and delight.

“'Oh, I went to Unitarian churches for years, even before I met Martin,' she told me, explaining that she had been, since college, a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which was popular among Unitarians and Universalists. 'And Martin and I went to Unitarian churches when we were in Boston.'

“What surprised and saddened me most was what she said next. Though I am paraphrasing, the gist of it was this: 'We gave a lot of thought to becoming Unitarian at one time, but Martin and I realized we could never build a mass movement of black people if we were Unitarian.'”
(Rosemary Bray McNatt, To Pray Without Apology, UUWorld, November/December 2002).

Martin wrote some extremely 'liberal' things when he was in seminary. Defenders of his orthodoxy say that this is just juvenilia, that in later years he returned to the faith of his fathers, as he himself said. Martin explained that, as a young man, he was a thorough-going liberal: "At this stage of my development I was a thoroughgoing liberal. Liberalism provided me with an intellectual satisfaction that I could never find in fundamentalism." (Martin Luther King, Jr., Pilgrimage to Non-Violence, the Christian Century, April 13, 1960).

In later years, in light of experience, he rejected liberalism's over-optimism about the perfectability of human nature. It seems like, however, what he held onto from liberalism included things which were not so good. He never became a fundamentalist: "Liberalism's contribution to the philological-historical criticism of biblical literature has been of immeasurable value and should be defended with religious and scientific passion." (Martin Luther King, Jr., Pilgrimage to Non-Violence, the Christian Century, April 13, 1960).

It would be nice to think that his earlier rejection of the Trinity is one of the bad things he outgrew, but I have been unable to find much evidence of that. There are feints in the other direction: "In other word, we are only saying that God is Christlike. This, my friends, is the ultimate meaning of the doctrine of the Trinity. It affirms that in some mysterious way God and Christ are one in substanse. [sic]" (Martin Luther King, Jr., "O That I Knew Where I Might Find Him!" January 1, 1951.) But what does that mean?

Unfortunately, modern liberalism is all tied up with Unitarianism in the sense of denial of the true deity of Jesus Christ. While Martin Luther King, Jr., seems to have freed himself from some of the other distortions that go along with this tendency, I haven't been able to find any solid evidence that he ever broke free from this one. He was never an 'official' Unitarian, rather, he pastored a Baptist church, but his theology would seem to have been closer to Unitarianism than to what Baptists believe, so far as one can now judge. So I would think the Unitarian Universalists can claim him, as a feather in their cap, if they want to.

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