Types of Non-Trinitarian Christians and Reasons for Their Rejection of the Trinity While the doctrine of the Trinity forms the foundation of most denominations in the
Christian faith, Non-Trinitarian faith groups reject the doctrine of the Trinity. Non-Trinitarian Christians base their beliefs on their understanding of the scripture, the works written by religious leaders within their denominations, and the information taught in their churches or places of worship. Some of the Non-Trinitarian Christians include Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Armstrongism, Christadelphians, Oneness Pentecostalism, and Unification Church, and these churches have amassed followers from different parts of the world. The reasons for the non-Trinitarian churches to reject the Trinity are well established in beliefs in Monarchianism, consideration of the Trinity as tritheism, Arianism (consideration of God the Son as less than God the father), among other beliefs. These beliefs, if considered independently in-depth and without the influence of theology as explored for various religions in this paper, provide sufficient support for non-Trinitarianism.
The Doctrine of the Trinity
The doctrine of the trinity is a concept that presents quite conflicting perceptions in the modern church. There are Christians who admit to not understanding the working of the doctrine, as well as others who argue that they understand the doctrine while they are unable to explain its foundational arguments in the real sense (BBC, 2011). The understanding of the doctrine is necessary to Christians because of its reflection of what Christians believe God is like, it gives a basis for the worship of an incomprehensible and unobjectifiable God, stresses the differences between God and humans, and is central to Christian identity as it reveals that it is only possible to experience the presence of God in the spiritual realm (BBC, 2011). As understood by contemporary Christians, the trinity is the existence of only one God with three distinct persons namely, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom is God (BBC, 2011). The complexity of this description is sufficient to result in confusion among Christians on the characteristics of the Trinity; it not only brings humans in contact with the mysterious nature of God but also provides an ideal relationship between man and God in which man worships God following Son’s example through the Spirit that lives in them. The absence of acceptance of the trinity, therefore, is founded on several factors, most of which are linked to a misunderstanding of the importance of the trinity in Christian life.
Mormons (Latter-day Saints)
Mormons identify themselves as Non-Trinitarian Christians based on their lack of belief in the Trinity and their understanding of the Bible. Joseph Smith founded this religious group in the period between the American Revolution and the Civil War, and today, people in other countries have adopted this religion. Mormons believe in the Bible as their main guide and accept most of the traditional Christian doctrines associated with Christ and their faith in God. However, unlike
other Protestant reformers, who interpreted the Bible and focused on understanding its meaning, Smith did not search the Bible for new insights while developing his beliefs but stated that he obtained his interpretation of the Word from heaven, just like the ancient prophets. Joseph Smiths’ belief as a Mormon (non-Trinitarian Christian) is comparable to that of individuals like Moses in Jewish history, during whose time there was no conceptualization of the Trinity (Bushman, Bushman and Bushman 2; Arrington and Bitton 8). As such, Mormons honor Smith as a prophet who taught God’s Word and laws that led people to salvation.
Mormons reject the existence of the Trinity based on the different beliefs that they hold regarding the existence of God, the Father, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit and their divine roles. Their rejection of the Trinity is associated with their belief that at one point, God was a man and that He, later on, progressed to godhood, which made Him an immortal man. They believe that the Trinity does not consist of three persons in one but of three distinct and different gods. Moreover, Mormons believe that there are thousands of gods besides the three recognized in other denominations through the Trinity, and that Jesus is a literal son of God and that He is separate from God the Father (Bowman 23). This belief is similar to most Christians’ perception of the relationship between Christ as the Jesus of Nazareth and God but differs through Mormons’ rejection of the Trinity (McCutcheon). Mormons’ rejection of the Trinity is also based on their belief that Joseph Smith was a prophet who received his revelation from heaven and thus taught the Gospel based on the information that he received from heaven, as opposed to his personal interpretation of the Bible (Bushman, Bushman and Bushman 3). As such, this group believes that, unlike preachers who can confuse God’s Word with their own interpretations, Smith’s prophecy was unique because he relied on the revelation directly from God.
The Jehovah Witness denomination was founded in 1879 by Charles Taze Russell and succeeded by Joseph F. Rutherford in 1917, and the faithful hold Non-Trinitarian beliefs that are different from mainstream Christianity. They originated from the 19th century within the American Adventist tradition and believe that the Bible was inspired by God and is the main way that He communicates with Christians. According to Losch, non-Trinitarians believe they possess the only true understanding of the Bible revealed to them through the Watch Tower Bible (44). Unlike the Christians who believe in the Trinity, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God rules the world as a single entity (Losch 45). Although some of their beliefs align with those of mainstream Christians, their rejection of the Trinity sets them apart.
Jehovah’s Witnesses’ rejection of the Trinity is based on their belief that God the Father or Jehovah is the only true God and cannot be compared to any other person, being, or spirit. They believe that God holds a higher position than Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Additionally, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus Christ is God’s firstborn son and was the first creation. They believe that Jesus Christ is inferior to God because he is a product or offspring of the creator.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus Christ is a supernatural power, the son of God, and is thus a lesser and separate being from God. Unlike God, who existed even before creation, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that since God created Jesus, Jesus is not eternal (Losch 45). However, they believe that Jesus is superior to Angels and that He is the Messiah predicted by Isaiah in the Old Testament (Bowman 13). Jehovah’s Witnesses view the Holy Spirit as an inanimate being or an active force that is used by God to accomplish His will; thus, the Holy Spirit is not equal to God (Ankerberg, Weldon and Burroughs 25-26). They associate the concept of the Trinity with Paganism based on their belief that it is inconsistent with the Bible.
is associated with organizations such as the Philadelphia Church of God, the Global Church of God, and the Worldwide Church of God that do not prescribe to the Trinity. As per Stokes, some of the key figures associated with the development of this denomination include Herbert W. Armstrong, Garner Ted Armstrong, Geral Flurry, and Roy Holladay (54). Herbert W. Armstrong began an intense study of the Bible in 1926 and claimed to have found the lost key of scripture, which associated some of the modern ethnic groups with what he believed were the ten Lost Tribes of Israel. He regarded himself as the only legitimate interpreter of the Bible and viewed his church as the only true church (Stokes 56-57; Walker 41). Most of his doctrines were based on his assumptions about the message in the Bible.
Armstrongism rejects the Trinity because of Herbert W. Armstrong’s interpretation of the Bible and the messages he taught to his church, which were later passed on to the other churches established across the globe. He believed and taught that God is comprised of the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, as a family unit. He excluded the Holy Spirit, as he believed that God and Jesus Christ constitute the God-family. He believed that the pre-existing Jesus described in the Old Testament was born as a man and was subordinate to the Father. After his resurrection, he was born again as part of the Godhead in a spiritual form (Walker 41). In Amrstrongism, the Holy Spirit is viewed as a divine force or a spiritual extension of God that contains his essence (Stokes 57). This belief does not align with the concept of the Trinity as established by most Mainline Protestant churches, which is based on the existence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit as a single unit, with three different persons constituting the Godhead.
Christadelphians belong to a denomination that originated in 1848 and was founded by Dr. John Thoma; Christadelphians claim to be the authentic Christian Church and believe that their
doctrines align with God’s intentions for Christians. Christadelphians deny almost all the doctrines shared by traditional Christians but acknowledge the existence and power of God and the devil. They believe that the devil is not a human being but a made-up concept that aligns with humans’ natural tendency to sin. Christadelphians deny the Trinity doctrine, salvation through grace, the atonement of Christ, immortality of the soul, the punishment of the wicked in hell, the divinity of Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. They associate their church and their existence with Luke 12:32, which states that a time will come when the original faith would be obscured by error (Stokes 62). They view themselves as the few remaining apostles who have kept the light shining despite the misinterpretations of God’s word by other denominations.
The Christadelphians’ rejection of the Trinity has anchored on their perception that Jesus Christ was a created being, who like other people on earth needed redemption from sin. They deny the divinity of Jesus Christ and believe that Christ died as a representative of human beings and their sins and not as a substitute.
Christadelphians believe that Jesus needed to save himself from his sinful nature. According to Christadelphian doctrine, God had Jesus in His mind throughout the creation process and wanted to use him to end the Mosaic Law (McCutcheon 21). Moreover, they associate the doctrine of the Trinity with Paganism and believe that there is only one God and that the Holy Spirit is a force from God but not a part of or a representation of God. They also argue against other dominations’ interpretations of the Bible because they view certain sections of the Bible as being complex and difficult to understand (Stokes 63-65). While their rejection of the Trinity contradicts some of the information in the Bible, their argument on the complexity of the Bible and rejection of Jesus Christ as a deity whose power is equal to God has attracted followers from different parts of the world to their denomination.
The Oneness Pentecostals, which began in 1901, are another set of Christians who do not believe in the Trinity because of their faith in Jesus. The church uses the King James Version of the Bible and teaches revelations received by their leaders, who they perceive as being anointed or divinely inspired interpreters of the Bible. For instance, they perceive the writings of Frank Ewart and John G. Scheppe as being literal interpretations of the Bible and treat such individuals as authoritative figures in their religion. Furthermore, Oneness Pentecostals reject the Trinitarian doctrine because of their belief that the Godhead only consists of one person, Jesus, which explains why they are referred to as the “Jesus Only Movement” (Stokes 166). They base their philosophies on the information published by people such as John G. Scheppe who, according to them, was guided by God to document the truth about the Bible and God’s relationship to humankind.
The Oneness Pentecostals reject Trinity because of their belief that God exists in two forms, as God in heaven and as Jesus Christ on earth. The Oneness Pentecostals believe that God did not send his Son on earth but appeared on earth through a different form, Jesus Christ (Segraves). They believe that Jesus and God are the same, despite their existence in two different forms in heaven and on earth. According to the Oneness Pentecostals, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are title variations that are used to refer to one spiritual being (Bernard 134). Oneness Pentecostals reject the divinity of the Holy
Spirit and perceive the Holy Spirit as a manifestation of Jesus’ power. The Oneness Pentecostals associate their beliefs to Biblical verses like Colossians 2:9, which they interpret as saying that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus. They also believe that when Jesus prayed, as was his human nature, he was praying to his divine nature (Stokes 166). The above factors differentiate Oneness Pentecostals from the Trinitarian Christians.
The role of the Trinity in the life of Christians is highly debatable, particularly between Trinitarian and Non-Trinitarian Christians. For the non-Trinitarian Christians, different Christian denominations have different perceptions of God, which drive their lack of belief in the trinity. Some of these beliefs include the consideration of belief in the Trinity as a form of Tritheism, Monarchianism (which downgrades the power of the Trinity through insistence on the existence of only one God), and Arianism among others. Considering the beliefs of non-Trinitarian churches from an objective position can help realize the insignificant position of the Trinity and understand the rationale for the beliefs of the non-Trinitarian Churches.
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- Need to compose a more compelling argumentative thesis statement, making a claim why people should know about nontrinitarian Christianity; you can add this to your existing introduction, which is very well written as it is.
- Overall organization clear; good use of section headings
- Good use of sources; clear explanations throughout
- It would have been helpful for you to first explain the Doctrine of the Trinity as understood by most Christian denominations. It seems like some of the groups you included in your discussion here are marginal, such as the Unification church, Christadelphians, and Armstrongism. Perhaps you can omit these sections and add in a first section, explaining the Doctrine of the Trinity, the parts of the Trinity accepted by most Mainline Protestant churches, and the concept of homoousios. You can choose to ignore this recommendation, but I think it would help strengthen your paper and make it clearer what’s at stake.
- Paper appears to lose its academic tone around pages 5-6; see comments and fix where noted.
- Inaccurate explanation of Arius’ teachings on page 6; fix or omit.
- Good use of topic sentences throughout to organize the sections of your paper.
- Your conclusion needs a lot of work.
- Overall, mostly well written, but could stand some improvement by adding a section at the beginning of the paper to explain the Doctrine of the Trinity as it is understood by most Trinitarian Christians; it will help frame the following discussion of nontrinitarian Christianities (and omit Armstrongism, Christadelphians, and Unification church). If needed, add a section at the end about the Unitarian church, which is a larger and more historically established church than any of these three you included in your discussion.
Clear topic sentence ☺