What is Biblical Unitarianism?
In the name “Biblical Unitarianism”, “Biblical” denotes faith in the Bible; serving to distinguish from Unitarian Universalists, a liberal non-Christian group. “Unitarian” simply refers to the belief that the one God of the Bible is only one person, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. A “Biblical Unitarian” then is a Bible-believing Christian who believes that the God of the Bible is one person, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than a Trinity of three persons. Biblical Unitarians believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but do not believe that they are all one God; rather, the one God is the Father alone.
Biblical Unitarians note that in the Bible, God is never spoken of as being a Trinity, or as being multiple persons. Rather, they note that all throughout the Bible, God is always spoken of as a single person, indicated by the use of hundreds of singular personal pronouns, and that the one God is expressly equated with the person of the Father alone several times:
Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.1 Corinthians 8:4-6 NKJV
Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, 2 as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.John 17:1-3 NKJV
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.Jude 1:24-25 NASB
There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.Ephesians 4:4-6 NASB
These passages of scripture all expressly equate the one God of the Bible with only one person, the person Jesus calls His God and Father. Biblical Unitarians note that Jesus never claimed to be the one God, but rather taught things which clearly distinguish Him as another person or being besides God:
“Believe in God, believe also in me.” -Jesus, John 14:1 NKJV
“Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.” -Jesus, John 8:54 NKJV
“I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.” -Jesus, John 20:17 NKJV
Biblical Unitarians thus conclude that Jesus is not the one God of Israel, but another person and being besides the one God- His only-begotten Son, His appointed Christ, the one mediator between God and man, as the following texts say:
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” -John, John 3:16 NASB
“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him.” -Peter, Acts 3:13 NASB
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” -Peter, Acts 2:36 NASB
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” -Paul, 1 Timothy 2:5 NASB
Biblical Unitarians note that the apostles call Jesus a man, repeatedly, and without qualification; for this reason, Biblical Unitarians confess that Jesus Christ is a true man, fathered uniquely by God in the womb of Mary, by the agency of the Holy Spirit. Not only did Jesus’s apostles call him a man, but he also called himself a man -and so do the Old Testament scriptures:
“But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.” -John 8:40 NASB
“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—” -Peter, Acts 2:22 NASB
“Because [God] has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.” -Paul, Acts 17:31 NASB
“He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” -Isaiah 53:3 NASB
Thus the simple confession that the one God is one person, the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and that Jesus is the human Son and Christ of God, forms the heart of Biblical Unitarian faith in God and Christ.
But what about the traditional doctrine of the Trinity? That there exists one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
Biblical Unitarians note that besides the fact that this doctrine is absent from the Bible, it also conflicts with several things the Bible teaches. If we have to choose between tradition and scripture, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29 NASB). We must “Test all things, and hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thess 5:21) rather than simply believing something because it is traditional. Biblical Unitarians note that the doctrine of a triune God is incompatible with some of the Bible’s clear teachings about God and Jesus. Where the doctrine of a triune God teaches that the Father and Son are equal and identical, the Bible repeatedly marks God and Jesus as distinct and different from one another:
- God is the Almighty (Greek “Pantokrator”, meaning, ‘Ruler over all’); He is supreme in authority over all (Rev 4:8, 2 Cor 6:18). Jesus is subject and obedient to the Father as His God, and so is not supreme over all in authority (1 Cor 11:3, 1 Cor 15:28).
- God is uncaused, the Maker of all things. Jesus is caused by the Father, as the very name ‘Son’ implies; He also expressly declares that He lives because of the Father (Jn 6:57).
- God is immutable, meaning He is eternally unchanging. He is also not a man, for the Bible says “God is not a man” in Numbers 23:19, and “For I am the LORD, I do not change” in Malachi 3:6. Thus it is impossible that God would have gone from not being a man to being a man, as this would obviously be a change in God. This contradicts the Trinitarian teaching that the one God became a man.
- God is invisible, having never been seen by man, and is declared to be incapable of being seen (1 Tim 6:16). “No one has seen God at any time.” -1 John 4:12 NKJV. Yet Jesus Christ was seen.
- God is omniscient; He knows all things absolutely (1 Jn 3:20). Jesus declares plainly that He did not know something, which only the Father knew: “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” -Mark 13:32 NKJV. If only the Father and no other person knows this, then the Father alone knows all things; and so, the one God, Who knows all things, must be only one person, the Father, and no other.
- God is immortal; He is not subject to death (1 Tim 1:17). Whatever death is, an immortal being, by definition, cannot experience it. Yet Jesus Christ died (and rose from the dead); and this is a central part of the gospel. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:8 NKJV
- “God cannot be tempted by evil”; yet Jesus “was tempted in all things” (Ja 1:13, Heb 4:15).
- Jesus is the Christ of God; that is, the anointed king, prophet, and priest of God, sent and empowered by God. Is the one sent by God the same as He Who sent? Is the one who is anointed the same as He Who anoints?
- Jesus is the Son of God; and no son is the same individual being as their father.
- Jesus is the one mediator between God and man, and by definition, no mediator is a party to their own mediation. “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” -1 Timothy 2:5 NKJV. Notice, Jesus is simply described as a “man”, not a “God-man”, as trinitarianism says.
- Jesus is the Lord appointed by God over the universe, subject to God. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” -Acts 2:36 NKJV. A person who is the one God has no need to be made Lord by God, for God has always been Lord.
- Jesus is the High Priest of God; a high priest worships His God, and is necessarily distinguished from the God whose priest he is. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.” -Hebrews 4:14 NKJV.
Biblical Unitarians note that these truths about God and Christ make it impossible to reasonably believe that they are together one being or one God. Rather, the one true God, the God of the Bible, is only one person, the one Jesus Christ calls His God and Father.