Christians have firmly held that God is a Trinity since the first-century inception of the Church in the New Testament. However, Oneness Pentecostal theology and denominations that embrace it have contrasting views with orthodox Christianity.
Oneness Pentecostalism rejects the doctrine of the Trinity as unbiblical, as do denominations that affirm its theology, such as the United Pentecostal Church International. According to Oneness theology, the Father, the Son, who is Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are different manifestations of the same person.
What are the largest denominations that believe in Oneness theology? Why don’t Oneness Pentecostals believe in the Trinity? What is Modalism? How do orthodox and Oneness beliefs about salvation and baptism compare? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also, see Do Historic Pentecostals Believe in the Trinity? to learn more.
What Pentecostal Denominations Believe in Oneness Theology?
“Oneness Pentecostalism” describes a belief system that certain denominations affirm. The largest denomination to affirm Oneness theology is called the United Pentecostal Church International. Sometimes, people use the term “United Pentecostalism” to talk about “Oneness Pentecostalism.”
The largest Oneness Pentecostal denominations in the world are listed in the table below.
|United Pentecostal Church International||5.2 million|
|Pentecostal Assemblies of the World||2 million|
|Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus||2 million|
|Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith||500,000|
Do Orthodox Pentecostals fellowship with Oneness Pentecostals? No. Orthodox Pentecostals are Protestant, evangelical Christians who staunchly profess and defend the doctrine of the Trinity. Orthodox Pentecostals don’t consider Oneness Pentecostals to be Christians because of their theology. (Also see Pentecostal vs. United Pentecostalism: What’s the Difference?)
When did Oneness Pentecostalism originate? Modern “Pentecostal” denominations and organizations trace their roots to the Asuza Street Revival in Los Angeles, California, in 1906. Though most leaders and participants in the revival believed in the Trinity, small factions separated from the primary movement because they didn’t.
Why are both traditions called “Pentecostal” if they believe so differently? In the context of 20th and 21st-century theology, the term “Pentecostal” describes anyone who believes that baptism of the Holy Spirit occurs after a person’s conversion and that speaking in tongues is the initial evidence.
In addition, believing that all spiritual gifts mentioned in the New Testament are fully operational today, including healing, is a central tenet of Pentecostal beliefs.
Also, see Why Don’t United Pentecostals Wear Makeup or Jewelry? to learn more.
Why Don’t Oneness Pentecostals Believe In the Trinity?
Oneness Pentecostal theology, and the denominations and churches that embrace it, believe that a single being manifested first as the Father, second as the Son, and third as the Holy Spirit. Adherents reject the Trinity because they don’t believe that the Bible teaches the doctrine.
How are Oneness’ beliefs about God different than Orthodox Christian beliefs about him? Orthodox Christianity teaches that there is one God comprised of three eternal, separate, and unique persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. So, in essence, God is three and one.
To support this belief, they emphasize passages like the baptism of Jesus in which the Father spoke to the Son and the Spirit descended upon the Son, plainly revealing three separate persons.
“As soon as Jesus came up out of the water, He saw the heavens breaking open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.'” (Mark 1:10-11)
How do Oneness denominations and churches describe their beliefs about God? The doctrine of God in Oneness theology reflects that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different manifestations of the same person. For example, the UPCI doctrinal statement reads:
“There is one God, who has revealed Himself as Father; through His Son, in redemption; and as the Holy Spirit, by emanation. Jesus Christ is God manifested in flesh. He is both God and man. (See Deuteronomy 6:4; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 2:9; I Timothy 3:16.)” 
How does UPCI’s doctrinal statement about God compare to Orthodox beliefs? The largest orthodox Pentecostal denomination is the Assemblies of God, with 70 million members worldwide.
The Assemblies of God’s belief statement about the nature of God is clearly and strongly Trinitarian, which is carefully described in the denomination’s doctrinal statement called The 16 Fundamental Truths (the link takes the reader to a page that lists the doctrines as well as the Scriptural support for them). The doctrine of God is #2 on the list of 16.
|2.||The one true God: The one true God has revealed Himself as the eternally self-existent “I AM,” the Creator of heaven and earth and the Redeemer of mankind.|
He has further revealed Himself as embodying the principles of relationship and association as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
|2a.||a. Terms Defined: The terms “Trinity” and “persons” as related to the Godhead, while not found in the Scriptures, are words in harmony with Scripture, whereby we may convey to others our immediate understanding of the doctrine of Christ respecting the Being of God, as distinguished from “gods many and lords many.”|
We therefore may speak with propriety of the Lord our God who is One Lord, as a trinity or as one Being of three persons, and still be absolutely scriptural.
|2b.||b. Distinction and Relationship in the Godhead: Christ taught a distinction of Persons in the Godhead which He expressed in specific terms of relationship, as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but that this distinction and relationship, as to its mode is inscrutable and incomprehensible, because unexplained.|
|2c.||c. Unity of the One Being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Accordingly, therefore, there is that in the Father which constitutes him the Father and not the Son; there is that in the Son which constitutes Him the Son and not the Father; and there is that in the Holy Spirit which constitutes Him the Holy Spirit and not either the Father or the Son.|
Wherefore the Father is the Begetter, the Son is the Begotten, and the Holy Spirit is the one proceeding from the Father and the Son.
Therefore, because these three persons in the Godhead are in a state of unity, there is but one Lord God Almighty and His name one.
|2d.||d. Identity and Cooperation in the Godhead: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are never identical as to Person; nor confused as to relation; nor divided in respect to the Godhead; nor opposed as to cooperation.|
The Son is in the Father and the Father is in the Son as to relationship. The Son is with the Father and the Father is with the Son, as to fellowship. The Father is not from the Son, but the Son is from the Father, as to authority.
The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son proceeding, as to nature, relationship, cooperation and authority. Hence, neither Person in the Godhead either exists or works separately or independently of the others.
Also, see Why Do United Pentecostals Wear Long Dresses and Skirts? to learn more.
What is Modalism? Modalism is the name of a heresy that the early church refuted and condemned as non-biblical. Modalism, from the word “modes,” taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were different modes or forms of the same person as Oneness theology teaches.
Orthodox Christians contend that Oneness theology is a revival of Modalism, which Orthodox churches have soundly rejected for 2,000 years.
Orthodox and Oneness Beliefs About Salvation Compared
Another significant difference between Orthodox and Oneness Pentecostalism regards how God saves sinners, and they go to heaven. As Protestant Christians, orthodox Pentecostals affirm that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. In Protestant Christianity, neither baptism in the Holy Spirit nor water baptism saves a person.
According to Oneness theology, what role do Spirit and water baptism play in salvation? Being baptized in the Holy Spirit and fully immersed in water during physical baptism are necessary to be saved, according to Oneness theology.
Although these result from a sinner receiving God’s grace through faith in Christ, they are outcomes that must occur for a person to go to heaven when they die.
|Orthodox Pentecostals||Oneness Pentecostals|
|Is grace necessary to be saved?||Yes||Yes|
|Is faith necessary to be saved?||Yes||Yes|
|Is salvation through Christ?||Yes||Yes|
|Does a person need to be baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues to be saved?||No||Yes|
|Does a person need to be baptized in water and fully immersed in order to be saved?||No||Yes|
Also, see Why Do You United Pentecostals Have Long Hair? to learn more.
Orthodox and Oneness Beliefs About Baptism Compared
Like other Christians, Pentecostals baptize people in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, in Oneness Pentecostalism, people are baptized in the name of Jesus alone because the tradition believes that “Jesus” is God’s only name. This practice is why some people call the organization the “Jesus Only” church.
The UPCI doctrinal statement about salvation and baptism reads: “The saving gospel is the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again. We obey the gospel (II Thessalonians 1:8; I Peter 4:17) by repentance (death to sin), water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ (burial), and the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial sign of speaking in tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance (resurrection). (See I Corinthians 15:1-4; Acts 2:4, 37-39; Romans 6:3-4.)”
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