One of the “essentials” of Christian doctrine is the trinitarian view of the nature of God. Trinity is a word created out of tri- (three) and unity—a concept designed to describe the supposed three-part nature of God. This view usually presents either three beings in a harmonious relationship or a single being with three parts. The competing view of God is the Unitarian view which maintains that there is only one God. This view usually presents either a single being which manifests itself in three different ways, or multiple beings, only one of whom is God. I’ve deliberately left out the specifics of aberrant views such as those of the Mormons, because the complexity of the discussion would increase exponentially. Some aspects of both traditional views are questionable. I’ll present my thoughts over three posts. The floor is open for discussion along the way and at the end.
While there could be many individual views that incorporate aspects of several of the views which I’ll discuss, I’ve found that most Christian views can be categorized as either Unitarian or Trinitarian, with one hybrid view. This post will be a brief synopsis of the Unitarian views of the nature of God.
Unitarian Views of the Nature of God
1. God is one. There is only one God—only one omnipotent (all powerful), indivisible being. There is no “trinity” as such.
Subset A: Jesus is God’s begotten or “born” Son (begotten before time, prior to the creation of humans).
Subset B: Jesus is God’s begotten or “born” Son (begotten during time, when Jesus was born).
Subset C: Jesus is a created being, different in substance from the Father, created either prior to the creation of humans or at his birth. This view is referred to as “Arianism.” Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to this view.
Subset D: Jesus is a created being, similar in substance (but not the same substance) to the Father, created either prior to the creation of humans or at his birth. This view is called “Semi-Arianism.”
Unitarian views of the Holy Spirit:
Subset K: The Holy Spirit is simply another way to refer to God.
Subset L: The Holy Spirit was created by the Father, and is subordinate to Him.
Subset M: The Holy Spirit is the synergistic power of the Father and Son.
2. God is one but manifests Himself in three forms: one form is “the Father,” one is “the Son,” and one is “the Holy Spirit.” These three manifestations portray different aspects of God to humans or highlight different roles that God plays in our lives (i.e. creator, redeemer, example, advocate, etc.). This is commonly called “Modalism.” Oneness Pentecostalism holds very similar views. God, under this view, can be analogized with water in its three forms (ice, water, and steam).
The next post will be an overview of Trinitarian views of the nature of God.