Quick Look at Oneness Pentecostalism
- What: A multifaceted movement that denies the doctrine of the Trinity and requires repentance, baptism by water, and baptism by the Holy Spirit as essential requirements for salvation. Oneness Pentecostalist believe God is one (which is a Biblical view), but then deny the doctrine of the Trinity by claiming that God manifests himself variously as God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
In addition Oneness Pentecostalist churches emphasize overly strict ‘holiness standards’ in dress, grooming and other areas of personal conduct. Oneness Pentecostalists insist that Christians should be re-baptized ‘in the name of Jesus only’
- Where: The movement consists largely of independent churches, and has not central authority
- When: Oneness Pentecostalism emerged in 1914 within the Assemblies of God. It took on an organizational form in 1917 as a result of the expulsion of its adherents from the Assemblies of God. Originally called the “New Issue” or “Jesus Only” movement, by 1930 the self-designation was “Jesus’ Name,” “Apostolic,” or “Oneness” Pentecostalism. 
One of the largest denominations within Oneness Pentecostalism is the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI)
- Controversies:There are those why view this movement as a denomination within Christian Pentecostalism. However, since the doctrines and practices of Oneness Pentecostalist churches violate the essential doctrines of the Christian faith, this movement must be considered as, theologically, a cult of Christianity. [Note the difference between theological and sociological definitions of the term ‘cult.’]
- Note: Popular preacher T.D. Jakes adheres to Oneness Pentecostal theology. In January, 2012, the Baptist Press reported, “Bishop T.D. Jakes says he has moved away from a “Oneness” view of the Godhead to embrace an orthodox definition of the Trinity — and that some in the Oneness Pentecostal movement now consider him a heretic.” But numerous apologists and other theologians note that Jakes is an expert in vagueness, and seriously doubt that he indeed has rejected Oneness theology.
In his book Charts of Cults, Sects, and Religious Movements, H. Wayne House says “United Pentecostals call their theology ‘Oneness,’ because they believe a plurality of persons does not exist within God’s nature. In other words, God exists only as one ‘person.'” He then explains:
This is an ancient heresy known by a number of different names, including Modalism, Monarchianism, and especially Sabellianism — after Sabellius, a third-century teacher whoc prominently championed this doctrinal position.
The orthodox position is that the God of the Bible exists as three distinct persons — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — who are one essence or being sharing all attributes of deity including eternality, infinitude, uncreated spirituality, ominscience, omnipresences, and omnipotenence.– Article continues after this advertisement –
The doctrine of the Trinity is derived from Scriptures that clearly show different entities (The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit) that are all ascribed all of the characteristics of both individual personhood (intellect, emotions, and will) and a divine nature.– Source: H.Wayne House, Charts of Cults, Sects, and Religious Movements, ZondervanPublishingHouse, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000, Page 242.
- Answering the charge of cultism (Pro) by David Bernard, currently superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International and president of Urshan Graduate School of Theology — both entities that adhere to Oneness Pentecostalism. Published in the 1993 issue of Forward (a quartely magazine for United Pentecostal International ministers).
Christian theologian E. Calvin Beisner answers Bernard’s article.
- Baptismal Regeneration (Contra) A chapter from the book Oneness Pentecostals & The Trinity, by former Oneness Pentecostalist Gregory A. Boyd. (It should be noted that many Christian theologians have serious concerns regarding Greg Boyd’s theology)
- The Gospel According to Oneness Pentecostalism (Contra) by former Oneness Pentecostalist Mike Barden.
My purpose here is to expose the unbiblical “gospel according to Oneness Pentecostalism,” and to present the “gospel according to the Bible.” The primary reason I label this movement a cult is their gross perversion of the Bible’s message of salvation; secondary reasons would include their unbiblical view of the Godhead, legalism, hyper-experientialism and spiritual elitism. their unbiblical view of the Godhead, legalism, hyper-experientialism and spiritual elitism.
- Oneness objections to the Trinity (Contra) By Frank J. Beckwith
Understand the monumental task of the Oneness apologist: he must overturn our common sense intuition that when the Bible speaks of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit the Bible is in fact speaking of three persons rather than one. That is to say, on the face of it, it would appear that a plain reading of the text clearly presents three distinct persons, since we have numerous verses that indicate communication and relationship between persons, such as when Jesus prayed to his Father and the Holy Spirit descended upon him. In other words, since the common sense plain reading of the text indicates three distinct persons, the burden of proof is without a doubt on the Oneness person to show the common sense plain reading is false. The Trinitarian does not have the burden of proof.
- The Oneness Pentecostal view of salvation (Contra) by Gregory A. Boyd.
- The Other Pentecostals (PDF, Pro) “There are 17 million of them in the world, but Oneness Pentecostals are not even considered Christians by some in the church. Who are these people, and why have they been labeled heretics for more than 80 years?” By J. Lee Grady, at the time Executive Editor of Charisma magazine. Charisma, June 1997. A prime example of Charisma’s record of promoting un-biblical beliefs and practices due to an apparent lack of discernment.
- Refuting the Modalists: Common Objections To The Distinct Persons In The Godhead (Contra) By The Bereans Apologetics Research Ministry
- Sharing your faith with a Oneness Pentecostal Part 1 | Part 2 by former Pentecostalist Gregory A. Boyd
- The Trinity, the Definition of Chalcedon, and Oneness Theology (Contra) by James White.
- Charts of Cults, Sects, and Religious Movements by H. Wayne House. The chapter on the United Pentecostal Church deals extensively with Oneness Pentecostalism. It provides a good overview of UPC/Oneness beliefs, with direct, referenced quotes from UPC sources, juxtaposed with the orthodox Christian response.
- In Jesus Name – The History and Beliefs of Oneness Penecostals by David A. Reed, a former Oneness Pentecostalist. It is an authoritative account of the movement, but see this critique Doing Double Duty: David Reed as Apologist and Critic of Oneness Pentecostalism published in the Canadian Journal of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity for some critical notes: “Few scholars have addressed the issue of Oneness Pentecostalism with first-hand knowledge, and even fewer have experience on both sides of the fence. This article focuses on David Reed, whose most recent book offers the definitive scholarly analysis of Oneness Pentecostalism.”
- Jesus Only Churches by E. Calvin Beisner. A good book for those looking for an easy to understand, yet thorough introduction to the movement. This is a volume in the Zondervan Guide to Cults and Religious Movements series:
All books but the summary volume, Truth and Error, contain five sections:
- A concise introduction to the group being surveyed
- An overview of the group’s theology — in its own words
- Tips for witnessing effectively to members of the group
- A bibliography with sources for further study
- A comparison chart that shows the essential differences between biblical Christianity and the group
Profiles / Encyclopedia
- Bereans: Oneness Pentecostalism (Contra) Profile at Christian apologetics site The Bereans
- Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, ZondervanPublishingHouse, Grand Rapids, MI, 1988. The 8-page entry on Oneness Pentecostalism provides an overview of the movement’s origins, birth, organizational development and theology. However, keep in mind that this dictionary as a whole suffers from an overly sympathetic, head-in-the-sand approach to controversial subjects.
- Spiritual Abuse: With a Secondary Focus on the United Pentecostal Church Lois Gibson’s excellent collection of material and links. Deals with the subject of spiritual abuse in general, and in relation to the United Pentecostal Church/Oneness theology.
- Information from DA Reed, Oneness Pentecostalism, Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1988. Page 644. Note: this book is a largely sympathetic work. We do not recommend it for serious study.
Related topic(s): oneness pentecostalism
First published (or major update) on Tuesday, September 25, 2012.
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