I am accused of being a heretic because I believed in the doctrine of the Trinity for twenty-two years and then changed to believing that the Bible teaches there is only one God, numerically speaking, whom Jesus called “Father,” and therefore Jesus is Savior and Lord but not God. I have believed this ever since, for the past thirty-five years. But I am not a heretic. To call me a heretic because of this change in my theology is a misunderstanding of what a heretic is according to the Bible.
Heretics disrupt the unity of the church. I am not disrupting the unity that God gives his church through his Spirit. Rather, I am attempting to restore the true identity of God and Jesus that existed in the apostolic church of the first century, in which only the Father was viewed as God, so that Jesus was not considered to be God.
For example, the Apostle Paul provides a salutation in First Corinthians, as he does with most of his letters. In it he concludes, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3 NRSV). So, he says God is our Father, and he never says God is Jesus or Jesus is God. Paul adds, “I give thanks to my God” (v. 4; cf. Phil 1.3). He obviously refers to the Father. In all of Paul’s NT letters, he never calls Jesus “my God.” For Paul, only the Father is God.
Paul reveals in this letter of First Corinthians that there were divisions in this church. Thus he writes, “I appeal to you, . . . that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose” (v. 10). Paul reveals what some of these divisions are, and they do not have to do with theology. Actually, Paul addresses “matters about which you wrote” (1 Cor 7.1), indicating they had written to him and asked him questions about which they disagreed.
One disagreement was about whether or not to eat meat purchased in the marketplace that had been offered to idols (1 Cor 8.1). Paul explains, “we know that ‘no idol in the world really exists,’ and that ‘there is no God but one’” (v. 4), referring to the Shema (Deut 6.4-5). He obviously means “one” numerically, thus not a triune God, since he compares this God to the gods that pagans worship. This is clear as Paul continues, “Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as in fact there are many gods and many lords—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (vv. 5-6).
It is amazing to me that so many Trinitarians ignore Paul saying that “there is one God, the Father,” and focus only on how Paul ends 1 Corinthians 8.6 by saying of Jesus, “through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” They cite this as evidence that Jesus preexisted and created all things, and they think that if Jesus preexisted, that necessarily requires that he is God. But that is not what Paul means either here or in Col 1.15-16, which they also cite as a supposed preexistence text. Rather, Paul means that all things were created (by God) with Jesus in mind, since God has a plan for his kingdom in which he will make Jesus King of kings and Lord of lords over all the earth.
I believe 1 Cor 8.4-6 is one of the four, primary New Testament (NT) texts which affirms that only the Father is God, so that Jesus is not God. (Others are John 17.3; Mark 12.28-32; Ephesians 4.4-6.) It is Paul’s style throughout all of his NT letters to identify God as “Father” and Jesus as “Lord.” Paul certainly also believed that God was Lord; rather, this was Paul’s style for differentiating God and Jesus.
Thus, I am not disrupting the true unity of the church of God and Jesus Christ. Instead, I am seeking to restore the true unity that is based on the true identity of God and Jesus that existed in the early church of the first century and is taught in the NT. This teaching is what the Nazarenes believed. They were the first Jewish believers in Jesus who lived in the land of Israel (Acts 24.5). They were called Nazarenes because Jesus was called “the Nazarene,” and he also called himself that (2.22; 3.6; 4.10; 6.14; 22.8). Church fathers reveal in their writings that these Nazarenes existed through at least the fourth century CE. They believed that the God of Israel, whom Jesus called “Father,” is numerically one so that only the Father is God. They also believed Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, died for our sins on the cross, and God raised him from the dead; but they did not believe Jesus was God.It was later, Gentile, church fathers who began to say that Jesus is God. That was a departure from first century writings that later came to be called “the New Testament.” So, the Jewish Nazarenes had it right about the identity of God and Jesus, and writing church fathers, all of whom were Gentiles, got this wrong. At first, church fathers of the second and third centuries, called “apologists,” taught that Jesus was God, but not to the extent that the Father is God. Thus, they said the Father was a greater deity than Jesus was.
But in 325, the Catholic Church held its so-called First Ecumenical Council in which it decided that Jesus is “very God of very God.” That was Greek philosophical language that meant Jesus was and is just as much God as the Father is God. These purported 318 bishops drafted the Nicene Creed that included this statement. And this creed furthermore condemned to hell with several “anathemas” anyone who said otherwise. They did not discuss the nature of the Holy Spirit. So, the doctrine of the Trinity did not even exist then. Many Christians and some scholars get this history wrong. It was “the three Cappadocians” in the 370s who first taught that God is a triune being.
So, in 381, at the Second Ecumenical Council, church fathers augmented the Nicene Creed with the teaching that God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. From then on, the church has always been mired in quicksand, in the predicament of explaining how God can be one and at the same time three. Over a thousand years later, the Protestant church failed to critically examine this teaching and therefore adopted it. Many Christians have never questioned it. For instance, Daniel Webster, of dictionary fame, was asked, “How can an intelligent man like you believe one is three and three is one?” He answered seriously, “I do not question the arithmetic of heaven.”
Christians should do with the doctrine of Trinity what the Science Channel says on TV: “question everything.” The first sign of it being a red herring is that the word “trinity” is not even in the Bible. Moreover, nowhere does the Bible say God is “three,” “triune,” or anything of the sort. But let us lay to rest this accusation about being a heretic for not believing in the Trinity and do with this matter what Isaiah the Prophet says, “Let us reason together” (Isaiah 1.18 NIV).
See a similar post on 1/13/2016, “Am I an Evangelical or Not?”
To see a list of titles of 130+ posts (2-3 pages) that are about Jesus not being God in the Bible, with a few about God not being a Trinity, at Kermit Zarley Blog click “Chistology” in the header bar. Most are condensations of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. See my website servetustheevangelical.com, which is all about this book, with reviews, etc. Learn about my books and purchase them at kermitzarley.com. I was a Trinitarian for 22 years before reading myself out of it in the Bible.