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Danny W. Davis World Christianity I December 26, 2012 Box #084
2 Table of Contents
Introduction Trinitarian Motifs In The Old and New Testaments Old Testament Motifs New Testament Motifs Historical Formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity: The Early Apologists Logos Christology The Monarchian’s Origen: Subordination and Eternal Generation Arius Historical Formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity: The Council of Nicea 325 A.D. Constantine and the Edict of Milan The Council of Nicea 325 A.D. The Nicene Creed Trinitarian Life and Community 3 3 3 4 5 6 6 7 7 8 8 9 10 11
Personal Reflection and Polemic Against the Modalism of the United Pentecostal Church International 12 UPCI Soteriology 13 UPCI Doctrine of God’s Oneness 13 The Effect of UPCI Teachings on Christian Community, Church Government and Spiritual Gifts 14 Final Thoughts 19 Bibliography 21
3 Introduction The following paper attempts to summarily trace the historical development of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. First an examination of trinitarian motifs in the Old and New Testaments will reveal biblical patterns used to develop the doctrine. Second this paper will look at how some early Christian apologists created controversy by misinterpreting the incarnation of Christ in light of biblical trinitarian motifs. Next consideration will be given to the correction of the early apologists errors at the council of Nicea (325 A.D.). This will be followed by a short look at how the doctrine of the Trinity has impact on Christian community and mission. Lastly, a polemic will be offered against the modalism and the United Pentecostal Church International and its impact on their missional view. Trinitarian Motifs In The Old and New Testaments If God is, as Christianity asserts, three persons in one God, then biblical evidence must, implicitly or explicitly, point to this idea. None would argue that the actual word trinity makes appearance in the biblical autographs. Evangelical Christianity affirms the Scriptures as authoritative for faith and practice. As such, formulation of Christian doctrine like the Trinity must be inaugurated in God’s Word. The patristic fathers drew on biblical motifs and experience to develop the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.1 These men looked to the Old and New Testaments, abounding in trinitarian language and theme, and followed a God initiated trajectory toward trinitarian faith. Old Testament Motifs Genesis 1:26a declares, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”2 Plural language pointing to God shines forth in this passage. Though the passage does not point to the specific notion of three persons, it explicitly informs the reader of God’s
Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God, (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994), 70. 2 Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
4 plurality. Allusions to God’s plurality occur also in Genesis 3:22 where man is declared to have become like one of “us” (God). When Moses offers the account of God’s interaction with Babel he writes, “"Come, let Us go down” (Gen. 11:7). The prophet Isaiah speaks of God in the plural. When Isaiah records his calling to the prophetic ministry he records God’s question to him, “Who will go for Us?” (Isaiah 6:8)3. Isaiah also offers a significant insight into God’s diversity when he writes, “And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit." Arrington asserts this passage indicates a trinitarian idea whereby God the Father and God the Holy Spirit send forth God the Son into the world.4 The passage builds on the Genesis view of plurality; but demonstrates a theological progression toward a triune and diverse conception of the Godhead. Further progressive revelation will bring Isaiah’s view of the Godhead to light in the New Testament. New Testament Motifs The Old Testament witness establishes the foundation for further trinitarian revelation in the New Testament. The revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit flourishes in the Gospels, Acts and the Epistles. Probably the most obvious portrait of the triune God is found in the account of Jesus’s baptism. The Gospel of Matthew, written primarily to Jewish-Christians, gives the reader insight into each person of the Godhead. John baptizes Jesus the Son of God in the river Jordan. After Jesus comes out of the water the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus like a dove (Mt. 3:16b). God the Father speaks from Heaven giving His endorsement of Jesus as His beloved Son (Mt. 3:17). A trinitarian pattern for the New Testament description of God emerges in Matthew and continues through the Book of Acts.
See also Isaiah 63:10 where the writer speaks of God’s people rebelling against the Holy Spirit. French Arrington, Christian Doctrine: A Pentecostal Perspective, vol. 1, (Cleveland, TN: Pathway, 1992), 131.
5 Acts 6 and 7 chronicles the calling of Stephen and his convicting speech to the Jewish Council. He reviews the transgressions of Israel against God and lays the blame of killing Jesus squarely at their feet. Unable to bear his words, the Council falls upon Stephen dragging him outside the city to be stoned. As Stephen’s life ebbs away he looks into the heavens and sees the Triune-God. Through the power of the Holy Spirit Stephen sees the glory of God and Jesus standing at God’s right hand (Acts 7:55). Wayne Grudem points to a New Testament vocative pattern used to describe each member of the Trinity.5 The New Testament consistently uses the Greek theos to describe God the Father and kyrios (Lord) for the Son of God.6 The New Testament also speaks of the Holy Spirit (parakletos) in coordination with the Father and Son.7 The epistles use this pattern frequently and without reservation. Paul’s letters to the Corinthian church contain triune language describing the source and action of spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:4-6); and as benedictory prayer in 2 Cor. 13:14. Peter and Jude also utilize a trinitarian pattern in their pastoral epistles (cf. 1 Pt. 1:2; Jude 20-21). Historical Formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity: The Early Apologists Though a trinitarian pattern emerges in the Old and New Testaments this does not imply the church immediately accepted the idea. The Church struggled to correlate the necessity of monotheism with the incarnation of Christ. Questions arose among the early church concerning the divinity and humanity of Christ. In an effort to come to grips with canonized truths and the human experience of Christ great controversy entered into the Body.
Wayne Grudem, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teaching of the Christian Faith, (Nottingham: England: Inter Varsity Press, 1999), 106. 6 Ibid, 106. 7 Ibid, 107.
6 Logos Christology The path to the church doctrine of the Trinity began with Christological debate.8 Early Christological debates centered on the Stoic notion of logos.9 The Greek term logos can mean “word” or reason.”10 Logos Christology focused on bridging the gap between a perceived distant God and His personal activity in Christ in the world. Justin (Martyr), calling on Platonic philosophical concepts, postulated that God’s word or reason came into physical reality outside of Himself as the incarnate Christ. The incarnate word acted as an intermediary between God and the world. Justin’s Christology also posited that because Christ was the incarnation of God’s expression, then, the form of that expression must be divine. However, opponents of the logos Christology felt this created an avenue for bitheism.11 The Monarchian’s In an effort to maintain monotheism several “monarchial”12 views of Christ were offered by apologists. Theodotus developed the idea that Jesus was a human who was eventually adopted by God and thus became the Christ. The common term for Theodotus’s idea is dynamic monarchialism. Another group known today as “modalistic monarchians” attempted to retain Scripture’s trinitarian pattern with its concomitant monotheism in another way. Modalist apologists, like Sabellian, posited that God revealed Himself to humanity in different forms such as Creator, Son and Holy Spirit; but not as distinct persons. Praxeus, however, opposed modalism on the basis of the Crucifixion. If Christ was just a form of the one God and not a distinct person then God died on the Cross (patripassionism). Though the
Ibid, Grenz, 73. Jonathan Hill, The History of Christian Thought, (Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2003), 20. 10 Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity, (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2010), 65. 11 Ibid, Grenz, 75. 12 In this context the term “monarchial” refers to the idea that the source of identity must be singular in order to maintain a monotheistic theology.
7 monarchian’s were eventually declared heretics, they did push the envelope of theology forcing the church fathers to develop sound Christology. Origen: Subordination and Eternal Generation Origen (185-254 A.D.) attempted to maintain God’s personhood by developing a trinitarian model that included subordinationism. Origen taught a hierarchy in the Godhead. The Father is superior to all members while Christ is lesser than God but better than “rational creatures.”13 The Holy Spirit is less than Christ and “dwells within the saints alone.”14 Despite his ideas of subordination, Origen, made a unique contribution to later development of the doctrine of the Trinity. Drawing on earlier thoughts from Tertullian, Origen developed the idea of “eternal generation.” Later church theologians like Athanasius, rightly argue that Christ and the Spirit always existed within the Godhead and that Christ and the Spirit are generated from the Father. He further conceived the idea that the members of the Trinity were co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal. Arius Probably the greatest challenge and blessing to the development of trinitarian doctrine was the work of Arius (250-336 A.D.).15 Again, in an effort to maintain biblical monotheism, Arius taught, like Origen, that Jesus was a lesser God. He called on John 1:14 and the use of logos to present the idea that Jesus was not “the true God and that he had an entirely different nature, neither eternal nor omnipotent.”16 Jesus, according to Arius, was similar (homoiousias) in substance to God the Father but not the same substance (homoousias). Athanasius argued against Arius from a soteriological foundation. He contended that Christ must be homoousias otherwise His salvific act at Calvary loses its effectiveness. If Christ is not the incarnate God generated from the Father then we cannot truly receive
Ibid, Hill, 54. Ibid, Hill, 54. 15 Some resources list Arius’s birthdate at 256 A.D. 16 Bruce Shelley, Church History In Plain Language, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 100.
8 salvation because “only God can save and only a man can represent humankind.”17 The incarnation of Christ created opportunity for humankind to enter into divine communion with Christ through faith. The Councils of Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.) argued that Christ must be of the same substance with the Father and thereby affirmed His divinity. Historical Formulation of the Doctrine of the Trinity: The Council of Nicea 325 A.D. Bishop Alexander of Alexandria excommunicated Pastor Arius for his unorthodox teaching in 320 A.D. However, Arius’s friend from the East, Eusebius the Bishop of Nicomedia, led a group of Arius supporters to the Council of Nicea. Athanasius, along with Alexander, led a group contending Arius’s teaching was heretical. In the end, the two parties split but from that synod came the Athanasius Creed that moved the church closer to the formulation of a codified trinitarian doctrine. Nevertheless, further fighting divided the Church and eventually Constantine, the Roman Emperor, would call for an ecumenical council to settle the issue. Constantine and the Edict of Milan Though the Athanasius Creed had been written and the synod dismissed, the battle between Arius and Athanasius was not over. Constantine (272-337 A.D.), Emperor of Rome, desired to use the church as a uniting force for a divided empire. In 313 A.D. Constantine handed down the “Edict of Milan” granting Christians religious freedom in the Roman Empire. Christians had suffered greatly under the empirical reigns of Decius (249-251 A.D.) and Diocletian (294-305 A.D.). Constantine’s edict brought to an end state sanctioned persecution of Christian’s. The “Edict of Milan” should be viewed in light of God’s grace and human political will. Constantine came to power in August of 306 A.D. inheriting a severely divided Empire.
Charles Self, “World Christianity I Fall 2012, “(presentation, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, MO, November 9-10, 2012), slide 50.
9 In October of 306 A.D. the Praetorian Guard supported the election of Maxentius as Emperor. Other leaders strove for control of the Roman Empire and by 307 A.D. there were five leaders. Eventually, Constantine gained solitary control of the Empire through various political (and nefarious) means. Granting Christianity legal status in the Empire should have been a catalyst for further unity. Sadly the years following such great persecution of the Church are marked by severe infighting among the members and leaders. The fighting (especially concerning Christology) became so fierce it threatened the already new and tenuous unity of Constantine’s empirical leadership. In an attempt to maintain and further unity, Constantine called for the Church Bishop’s to gather at Nicea in 325 A.D. The Council of Nicea 325 A.D. Approximately 300 bishops arrived in Nicea for the first ecumenical council. Many of these men carried the scars of Decian and Diocletian persecution. Shelley paints a picture of the gathering of bishops that includes one who had lost his eye. Another bishop was unable to lift his hands because of the torture he endured during persecution.18 Constantine may have gathered these bishops to further the cause of Empirical unity but the result was exponentially more profound. From this council came the Nicene Creed affirming the Triune God and sounding the defeat of Arianism as a viable Christian doctrine. According to Gonzalez the vast majority of bishops did not side with either Athanasius or Arius.19 Most were willing to come to some sort of compromise in order to keep the unity of the church.20 Eusebius Bishop of Caesarea was one such person. He was sympathetic to Arius’s views but also willing to come develop agreement between the parties.
Ibid, Shelley, 101. Ibid, Gonzalez, 189. 20 Ibid, Gonzalez, 189.
10 After Constantine opened the council, Arius was called to give account for his teachings. Arius explained his Christological conviction that Jesus was a created being capable of change and also a being capable good and evil. Eusebius of Nicomedia supported Arius in his Christological arguments. Bishops, previously ready to find compromise, found Eusebius and Arius’ s arguments blasphemous. They now saw the danger of Arianism and recognized the need to form a biblical statement affirming God as Triune and Jesus as a divine member of the Godhead. The one time Arius sympathizer, Eusebius of Caesarea, offered a creedal statement used in his church to the bishops. Whether his statement was presented, as a way of separating himself from Arius or for other reasons, remains ambiguous. Nevertheless, it provided a template from which the council could work and come to eventual agreement. The Nicene Creed Long debate by the bishops resulted in the formulation of the Nicene Creed based loosely on Eusebius of Caesarea’s creed. The Nicene Creed soundly repudiated Arianism by using the term homoousias affirming Christ to be of the same substance with God, therefore, divine. The Creed decisively affirmed the biblical trinitarian pattern discussed earlier. It also built upon and upheld theological advancements hammered out against the early apologists. The Nicene Creed codified what early Christians assumed in worship and sacrament: God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.21 Christian’s believe in “one God, the Father almighty,” and in “one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus was God’s begotten (not made/created) Son, of the same substance as the Father. The Creed, through its Christological definition, also presented the gospel with clarity. Jesus the incarnate Son of God suffered and died but rose again on the third day becoming the only means of salvation. The Nicene Creed would
The Didache (60 A.D.) clearly indicates the early church employed a Trinitarian formula in the sacrament of baptism. They restricted receiving the Eucharist to those who had been baptized in the Lord’s Name. The name of the Lord, for the early church, was expressed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
11 later undergo some revisions to clarify the humanity of Christ and the place of the Holy Spirit; nevertheless, this document declared God to be Father, Son and Spirit existing as three distinct persons in perichoretic community. Trinitarian Life and Community Over the next several centuries’ belief in the Doctrine of the Trinity has served as the basis for Christian orthodoxy and a test of fellowship. In recent years, theologians and missiologists have looked to the doctrine of the Trinity to formulate models of Christian life and community. The doctrine of the Trinity impacts humankind’s interaction with God through prayer and its interaction with the rest of the world.22 It is only right that a God who exists in cooperative community has an earthly body that interacts with and models the trinitarian life. Charles Van Engen writes, “[T]he Church’s purpose can be derived authentically only from the will of Jesus Christ its Head; from the Spirit who gives it life; from the Father who has adopted it, and from the trinitarian mission of God.”23 Implicit in Van Engen’s statement is the idea of cooperative community. The Triune- God exemplifies a “functional humility”24 to be emulated by the Church. Trinitarianism underscores the cooperative and communal nature of the Triune God. Within the community of the Trinity exists mutual submission and collaboration among its members. Motivated by love; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, fulfill their distinctive tasks in order to bring about creation, redemption and sanctification. The Triune God exhibits the prototypical community and serves as the ultimate example for the believing community. That is, a community where mutual submission and collaboration work together in cooperation with God to bring about the redemption and sanctification of humankind.
Ibid, Grenz, 96-99. Charles Van Engen, God’s Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Church, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991), 87. (Engen 1991) 24 Ibid, Self, slide 50.
12 Without a trinitarian theology the Church is unable to proclaim, “both the unity and the distinctiveness of God’s work in the forces of man’s environment and God’s work of regeneration within the soul of man.”25 Personal Reflection and Polemic Against the Modalism of the United Pentecostal Church International Looking back over the last year of my life I am in complete awe of where my journey with the Lord has taken me. I ministered as a pastor and fully appointed missionary with the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) for nearly two decades.26 The UPCI, an "Oneness" Pentecostal denomination, teaches a strict idea of monotheism and rejects any notion of a Trinitarian God. The denomination claims special revelation regarding the Godhead, rejects all Christian orthodox creeds (especially Nicaea),27 and limits entrance “into the New Testament church”28 to those who have received their idea of a “Bible standard of full salvation.”29
Paul Weston, Leslie Newbigin Missionary Theologian: A Read (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 83.
Mt affiliation with the UPCI was not casual or distant. I was licensed and Ordained with the denomination for 17 years. I served in a variety of organizational positions on the District (State) level including: Home Mission Secretary, Sectional Home Missions Representative, and Assistant to the District Superintendent. I was also an appoint Intermediate Missionary with the UPCI World Missions for nearly 10 years serving as church planter and Bible school teacher in the Africa Region. I have also been an employee of the World Evangelism Center (headquarters) and graduated from Gateway College of Evangelism, an endorsed UPCI Bible School. I voluntarily resigned my Ordination and missionary appointment August 2012 after a long internal struggle to rectify the UPCI’s position on justification with the biblical and orthodox position. 27 "Doctrinal Views," Articles, http://www.upci.org/component/content/article/12home/48-intoduction (Accessed September 22, 2012). 28 “The Apostolic Message,” Our Foundational Doctrine, http://www.upci.org/about-us/beliefs/21-about-us/beliefs/91, (Accessed September 22, 2012). 29 “Fundamental Doctrine,” What We Believe, http://www.upci.org/aboutus/beliefs (Accessed September 22, 2012).
13 UPCI Soteriology The UPCI asserts that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.30 “Saving faith,” for the UPCI however, means “(1) acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the means of salvation and (2) obedience to that gospel (application or appropriation of that gospel).”31 The “appropriation” of the gospel (salvation) though only comes when someone emulates a tripartite allegorical formula reflecting Christ’s passion and resurrection. In other words, faith does not save; it only leads to further salvific requirements. For the UPCI, salvation only comes after one has demonstrated their faith by dying in repentance (emulating Christ’s death), being baptized in the Name of Jesus (emulating Christ’s resurrection), and being filled with the Holy Spirit initially evidenced by tongues (emulating Christ’s resurrection).32 Regeneration, justification and initial sanctification only come when someone has completed the “three step”33 formula described above. UPCI Doctrine of God’s Oneness Another hallmark doctrine of the UPCI centers on the Oneness of God - “God is absolutely and indivisibly one.”34 They deny the orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity in any form. Their indivisible God manifest Himself in a variety of modes. God the Father is viewed in a “parental”35 or creator mode, Jesus represents God’s human mode for the purpose of redemption, and the Holy Spirit symbolizes the regenerative mode of God.36 This form of teaching calls upon the ancient heresies of Sabellianism and concomitant modalism. Though
“New Testament Salvation,” Our Fundamental Doctrine, http://www.upci.org/aboutus/beliefs/21-about-us/beliefs/91 (Accessed September 22, 2012). 31 Ibid, “New Testament Salvation” 32 Ibid, “New Testament Salvation” 33 Ibid, “New Testament Salvation.” 34 “The Oneness of God,” Our Doctrinal Foundation, http://www.upci.org/about-us/beliefs/21about-us/beliefs/91 (Accessed September 22, 2012). 35 Ibid, “The Oneness of God.” See also question # 13 on the UPCI endorsed tract, “60 Questions On the Godhead: http://www.upci.org/resources/instructional-devotional-leadership/80-doctrine-60questions-on-the-godhead. This tract attempts to paint all Trinitarian believers as Tritheist’s by misrepresenting the orthodox teachings of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as co-equal and co-existent. 36 Ibid, “The Oneness of God.”
14 the UPCI “rejects”37 orthodox creeds as “only the thinking of men”38 they ironically embrace the dual nature Christology of Chalcedon (451 A.D.). In no small way, the UPCI adheres to a Nestorian view of a bifurcated Christ who does some things as God and others as human. The UPCI doctrine of “Oneness” fundamentally denies the pre-existence of Christ prior to His incarnation in flesh. Christ was the “logos” or thought plan of God, but did not exist as a person within the Godhead prior to His incarnation. Practically, the denominations core teaching of "Oneness" is fleshed out in the ordinance of baptism. Setting aside the Triune baptismal formula accepted by the Christian community as early as 60 A.D.39 Instead the UPCI baptizes in the "Name of Jesus" only. Why? Simply put, "Oneness" doctrine only allows for a single person in the Godhead. Therefore, use of the Triune name of God would not be permissible because Jesus is the revealed name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.40 The “Oneness” view of God flies in the face of Christian orthodoxy and, in my estimation, negatively impacts their view of Christian community and engagement of the lost. The Effect of UPCI Teachings on Christian Community, Church Government and Spiritual Gifts I recently had a conversation with a UPCI minister that lead to the subject of Christian community. He lamented his inability to come to a biblical definition of community without employing a Trinitarian hermeneutic. Trinitarianism stresses a perichoretic interdependence
37 38 39
Ibid, “Doctrinal Views.” Ibid, “Doctrinal Views”
The Didache reflects the early church’s use of the three-fold name of God in water baptism. Scholars place the writing of the Didache between 60 and 100 A.D. One can rationally presume that the worship of a Triune God came long before a codified statement existed in the Didache. The Bible does not present its reader with a completely developed view of the Trinity. However, a casual reading of the Bible would reveal much Trinitarian language. 40 “The Formula of Baptism,” Why We Baptize in Jesus Name, http://www.upci.org/resources/instructional-devotional-leadership/83-why-we-baptize-in-jesus-name, (Accessed September 22, 2012).
15 existing within the Godhead. In contrast, the modalist emphasis of the UPCI seems to stress a God who cooperates with no one. Trinitarianism underscores the cooperative and communal nature of the Triune God. Within the community of the Trinity exists mutual submission and collaboration among its members. Motivated by love; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, fulfill their distinctive tasks in order to bring about creation, redemption and sanctification. The Triune Godhead exhibits the prototypical community and serves as the ultimate example for the believing community. That is, a community where mutual submission and collaboration work together in cooperation with God to bring about the redemption and sanctification of humankind. Without a Trinitarian theology the Church is unable to proclaim, “both the unity and the distinctiveness of God’s work in the forces of man’s environment and God’s work of regeneration within the soul of man.”41 I do recognize that the Christian community, unlike the Godhead, contains flaws. Humanities defects, however, do not destroy the example provided in the Triune Godhead. Instead, the model of divine community should keep the believing community moving forward to God's intended purpose of unity within diversity. The community of Christ aims toward providing a venue of accountability where its member’s gifts are encouraged so that edification of the whole body is accomplished. In a strict "Oneness" view of the Godhead only a single member exists. Jesus sits alone as Creator and sustainer of all things, counseling with no one; and possessing all divine power. Like a divine autarch, Jesus's only concern revolves around what is best for Him. No sense of divine community exists in their Unitarian Godhead, as such; the UPCI often reflects a polity of authoritative inflexibility rebuffing distinctiveness of Christian thought and
Paul Weston. ed., Leslie Newbigin Missionary Theologian: A Read (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006), 83.
16 practice. Though churches may employ several staff members, the idea of a leadership plurality does not find much traction within most UPCI circles. Governmentally, UPCI adopts a blended polity of congregationalism and presbyterianism.42 Local churches govern their own affairs, elect pastors and etc. The UPCI’s denominational government allows for licensed ministers to elect officials at various state (District) and national (General) conferences. Local churches are principally tied to the larger organization via the credentialed or Ordained local pastor. At one point in my history with the UPCI, local church bodies could choose whether or not to “affiliate.” There were some legal issues surrounding affiliation but primarily it restricted the local congregation from electing non-UPCI minister as its pastor. However, the congregation’s pipeline to the state or national governing officials came through the local pastor. UPCI preaching often focuses on one’s submission and obedience to the local pastor. Rebellion (whether real or perceived) against the local pastor is tantamount to direct rebellion against God. Due to the "pastor centered" (or personality centered) orthopraxy, members of local bodies usually have a limited view of spiritual gifts. "Oneness" believers traditionally consider the gifts of Ephesians 4:11 as preeminent for the church today. In practice, the UPCI emphasizes the Pastoral gifting reckoning that Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists and Teachers are subordinate to it. One would not find this subordination detailed in the UPCI general literature but can find it being promoted in its proclamation and practice. By removing Trinitarianism, "Oneness" believers also removed any model of mutual submission of spiritual gifts and interdependence that may lead to the edification of the community. Instead an autocratic, top-down, polity exists in local churches (and some District governance) where congregants unquestionably submit to the authority of the pastor. Denying the Triune God
“History of the UPCI,” Articles, http://www.upci.org/component/content/article/12-home/48intoduction (Accessed September 26, 2012).
17 not only results in a limited view of community and authority; but also, the community’s greater mission. The UPCI’s doctrine of strict indivisible monotheism has impact on its view of the Body of Christ. The UPCI affirms that only those who have adhered to the formula of repentance, baptism in the Name of Jesus, and being filled with the Holy Spirit (evidenced by tongues) are members of God's body.43 On the surface the aforementioned formula sounds biblical (cf. Acts 2:38). However, UPCI soteriology vastly differs from orthodox and/or biblical Christianity. Salvation is not necessarily an issue of faith but one of completing a formula. UPCI soteriology posits that justification requires all three steps of Acts 2:38. Repentance serves as the first of three steps in the salvation process. After repentance comes either water or Spirit baptism. One may receive the Spirit (with tongues) before water baptism in Jesus Name, but complete salvation requires both baptisms. Without completing the three steps one is not justified (neither by faith or works). In reality, UPCI adherent’s struggle to have any security of their salvation, even if they have fulfilled the salvation formula. The UPCI also requires a "holiness standard" of dress for men and women (mostly women). Compliance with the "holiness standards" is vital (dare say essential) to the believer’s ongoing relationship with God. Conversely, non-compliance with “holiness standards” visibly demonstrates the believer’s lack of faith and move away from God. Early Pentecostal believers sprang from the Wesleyan/Arminian tradition with its emphasis on holiness. The UPCI proclaims that holiness is a process of sanctification not
I have heard preaching by UPCI ministers proclaiming that other “Christians” might be saved but would not be a part of the “Bride of Christ.” Furthermore, they taught these “Christians” would ultimately act as servants to the Bride, i.e., those baptized in Jesus Name and filled with the Holy Spirit initially evidenced by tongues.
18 meant to earn salvation.44 Realistically, however, church members and leaders often determine the veracity of one’s salvation experience based on an individual’s compliance with the “holiness standards.” “Holiness standards” vary widely between pastors and the locale, however. The UPCI urges its members to abstain from alcohol, avoid gossip, demonstrate a Christian attitude and carefully monitor the use of all media. Few would disagree with the positive benefits of these moral principles.45 The UPCI further list the following outward dress standards as a part their founding doctrine: modesty, no jewelry, moderation in clothing costs; additionally, women cannot cut their hair while men are to cut theirs “noticeably short.”46 Ironically the UPCI website does not list their staunch position against women wearing pants (trousers) in the “Life of Holiness” section of their website.47 The UPCI lays out generalized principles but each local pastor determines how those principles will be worked out in his congregation. Thus, one pastor may allow its members to wear wedding rings, others will not. One pastor may approve of women wearing pajama pants to bed while others claim this acts as a violation of modest dress. Pastors may require white long sleeve dress shirts for men serving on the platform and women’s hair in a top-knot (uncut of course). Other pastors allow women to wear shoes that expose the toes others condemn this shoe style. Disobedience to a pastor’s dress code often equates with a direct rebellion against God’s plan for modesty.
“The Life of Holiness,” Our Doctrinal Foundation, http://www.upci.org/component/content/article/83-beliefs/91-our-doctrinal-foundation, (Accessed September 26, 2012). 45 Ibid, “The Life of Holiness.” 46 Ibid, “The Life of Holiness.” 47 The UPCI tract entitled “The Scriptures Decree Modesty In Dress,” asserts that women “desire” to dress like men (e.g. wear pants and cut their hair). According to the tract, women who fulfill this desire participate in an abomination against God (cf. Deut. 22:5). The tract relies upon a Western view of modesty and apparel giving no thought to the international scope of the church. See http://www.upci.org/resources/instructional-devotional-leadership/88-the-scriptures-decree-modesty-in-dress
19 As a UPCI appointed missionary I preached in more than 200 UPCI churches to raise support. I was admonished by the Foreign Missions Department to be aware of and obey the various local standards. Disobedience to local standards (even if I was not made aware of them) might be cause for withholding financial support. The local pastor often determined the worthiness of a missionary by his wife’s adherence to the dress code. Though the UPCI may claim obedience to “holiness standards” are not salvific, the local church practice sends a very different message. Local pastors feel justified in their actions because District and National officials promote it through their preaching and practice. Final Thoughts The UPCI’s orthopraxy promotes the idea that those who have not "obeyed Acts 2:38" or complied with the “holiness standards” cannot claim membership in Christ’s Body. Therefore, cooperation with other Evangelical and/or Pentecostal Christian groups cannot happen with any sincerity or right motive. The mission of evangelizing the whole world rests solely on those with the “truth of Acts 2:38.” The works of other Christian organizations are legitimate only in the sense that they create opportunities for people to "come to the whole truth."48 As such, mission becomes more about promoting a particular doctrine about the person of Jesus, not justification by faith in that person. Mission, then, equates to bringing people into compliance with three things: 1) justification through obedience to the three-part message of Acts 2:38, 2) adherence to and propagation of the holiness standards and, 3) denial of a Triune God and acceptance of a modalist paradigm. It is my assertion that the UPCI’s denial of Trinity has damaged its view of Christian community and diversity. Their modalist view of God has taken them away from orthodox Christianity. In turn, allowing space to refashion the Gospel of grace into a system of works.
My leaders admonished me to never allow a Trinitarian to speak or participate in one of our services. On the other hand, I was expected to accept any invitation to speak at one of their functions because it was an opportunity by God to bring “truth” to “them.”
20 Reliance on works for salvation creates the necessary room for church leaders to compound lists of local requirements necessary to keep one’s salvation. Leadership’s power to determine others salvation produces a culture of insularity pushing out any who may challenge the status quo. The Body of Christ, then, ceases to be diverse but turns out to be exclusive to those who “follow the rules.” However, the plurality of the Trinity demands a model of Christian collaboration that focuses on graceful interaction within the members. Therefore, for the UPCI to accept the historic doctrine of the Trinity would require a complete overhaul of its polity and proclamation thus sounding the death knell for the organization as a whole.
21 Bibliography Arrington, French. Christian Doctrine: A Pentecostal Perspective. Vol. 1. 3 vols. Cleveland, TN: Pathways, 1992. Engen, Charles Van. God's Missionary People: Rethinking the Purpose of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1991. Gonzalez, Justo. The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. Vol. 1. 2 vols. New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2010. Grenz, Stanley. Theology for the Community of God. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1994. Grudem, Wayne. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of teh Christian Faith. Nottingham: Inter Varsity Press, 1999. Hill, Jonathan. The History of Christian Thought. Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2003. Self, Charles. “World Christianity I Fall 2012." Presentation, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Springfield, MO, November 9-10, 2012. Shelley, Bruce. Church History In Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2008. Unknown. "Doctrinal Views." Articles. http://www.upci.org/component/content/article/12home/48-intoduction (accessed September 22, 2012). __________. “Fundamental Doctrine.” What We Believe. http://www.upci.org/aboutus/beliefs (accessed September 22, 2012). __________. “History of the UPCI.” Articles. http://www.upci.org/component/content/article/12-home/48-intoduction (accessed September 26, 2012). __________. “New Testament Salvation.” Our Fundamental Doctrine. http://www.upci.org/about-us/beliefs/21-about-us/beliefs/91 (accessed September 22, 2012). __________. "The Apostolic Message." Our Foundational Doctrine. http://www.upci.org/about-us/beliefs/21-about-us/beliefs/91 (accessed September 22, 2012). __________. “The Formula of Baptism.” Why We Baptize in Jesus Name. http://www.upci.org/resources/instructional-devotional-leadership/83-why-webaptize-in-jesus-name (accessed September 22, 2012). __________. “The Oneness of God.” Our Doctrinal Foundation. http://www.upci.org/aboutus/beliefs/21-about-us/beliefs/91 (accessed September 22, 2012).
22 Weston, Paul. Lesslie Newbigin Missionary Theologian: A Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2006.
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