Is the Oneness Pentecostal movement Christian?
You may have driven by a church that had the words “apostolic” or “oneness” in the name of it. Inside they sing songs about Jesus and read from the same Bible you might read. From a distance, they seem like just another charismatic Christian church, but there are a few key differences that may put them outside of the boundaries of Christianity.
The major issue within the oneness movement is an old heresy that resurfaces every now and then. Its theological name is modalism, but it is most commonly known as oneness. This simply means that they do not believe in the Trinity. Believers in this idea say that God appeared in different modes at different times. It’s as though God the Father has a mask that He puts on. Sometimes He is the Son, and sometimes He is the Father, but they never coexist.
Another one of their beliefs is that you must be baptized in the name of Jesus only, and a true conversion will be evident by the speaking of tongues. This means that if you have never spoken in tongues then the Holy Spirit doesn’t really live within you. The Oneness Apostolic group was kicked out of the Assembly of God church for teaching things that are contrary to Scripture.
Like many false teachers, they put forth the claim that the Trinity was some pagan invention that was forced into the church. Not only is this easy to disprove but we see the Trinity in the Old Testament, and Jews historically believed in one God who existed in several persons. They often called this the two powers of heaven with a growing belief that there was a third that was some kind of Spirit. It wasn’t until the rise of Christianity that Jewish leaders began to forbid talking about the two powers in heaven belief because it sounded too much like Christianity.
This was documented by the late scholar Alan Segal in his book “Two Powers in Heaven.” The two powers idea was a way to understand certain passages like Genesis 19:24 where God seems to appear in two separate ways that interact with each other. We even have the Hellenistic Jew Philo of Alexandria writing before the birth of Jesus in a way that sounds very Trinitarian. He wrote, “the one living and true God there were two supreme and primary powers–goodness and authority; and that by his goodness he had created every thing, and by his authority he governed all that he had created; and that the third thing which was between the two, and had the effect of bringing them together was LOGOS, for that it was owing to LOGOS that God was both a ruler and good” (cheribum 27-28).
There are also some verses that make the oneness belief really awkward. For example, how can Jesus pray to the Father if Jesus and the Father cannot coexist at the same time? Despite all the problems that come with this belief, it continues to grow all over the world. I encourage you to make yourself aware of some of their beliefs so that you can have healthy conversations with those around you.
If you would like to read more on this subject I recommend the book “Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity” by Gregory Boyd.