When I left the Lutheran church for Oneness Pentecostalism I was sure I had very good reasons for doing so. Raised in the Lutheran church, by my early twenties I thought I had seen enough to want to get out of it. I thought I had learned important truths about God, the Bible, church, history, life, and faith that made it necessary to leave the Lutheran church behind and join a Oneness Pentecostal church that was really moving with God. Over the course of the next twenty years I came to believe that all of those things that led me out of the Lutheran church were false. They are summed up below in three points, with a paragraph below each briefly describing what I think now. These brief paragraphs could be said to be the main themes of this blog, which will be elaborated upon in more detail in future posts.
1) Luther didn’t go far enough. He restored the truth that justification is by faith and not by works, but didn’t have either the time or the knowledge necessary to get rid of all the rites and traditions that keep Christians in bondage to dead religion.
What I think now: This is a very superficial and misleading view of Luther’s teaching. For one thing, early in the Reformation he became acutely aware that some of his followers wanted to get rid of all rites and traditions of Roman Catholicism. He strongly opposed them and preached against their efforts, teaching that traditions of the church in matters where the Scriptures are silent are good for the sake of order in the church. For another, it misses the full picture of what Luther meant when he taught that we are “justified by faith.” A more accurate statement of what Luther taught is that we are “justified by grace through faith.” By holding to a simplistic view of “justification by faith,” I was led into a system of works-righteousness that substituted other, more informal self-made works for the formal works and rites of Roman Catholicism, but just as surely missed the grace of God.
2) The “baptism in the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues” is an experience subsequent to conversion to Christ that the Bible shows all Christians are meant to have.
What I think now: The Bible in fact never says speaking in tongues is a necessary sign of receiving, being filled with, or being baptized with the Holy Spirit for all Christians of all times. The belief that the fullness of the Holy Spirit must come today with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues, and the belief that this is the key that ushers one into some kind of higher, better, or more complete Christian life with the use of more supernatural gifts, is not only impossible to support by a careful reading of everything the Scriptures have to say on the subject, but has also been the source of much confusion, instability, and damage to individual Christians and to the Christian church at large. It has left large parts of it awash in fanaticism and emotionalism, its members seeking God in their own imagination, feelings, and speculation, or in supernatural signs and wonders, instead of in the only place He is truly found today: the Word of the Old and New Testament scriptures.
3) The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, therefore the Trinity is an unbiblical doctrine. History shows that it’s a theological construct which was invented well after the time of the apostles and which came from Greek philosophy or pagan religion or both.
What I think now: The word “Trinity” does not primarily refer to the systematic doctrine and the creeds developed in response to false teaching about the nature of God in the first four centuries of the church but to the nature of God as He has always existed. The Bible shows that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just as much present in the Old Testament, and each is just as much seen as the one God there (though not as clearly described), as in the New. Though the word “Trinity” (which means “three in one”) is not used in the Bible, history shows that the Christian teachers who introduced the term based its use on the Bible’s teaching, which throughout shows three distinct personal identities (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) active in the one true God of Israel, the only Savior of mankind. Though they used Greek metaphysical terms to answer opponents who were using the same Greek metaphysical terms, those Christian teachers were expounding upon the meaning and proper sense of the Bible. They were adapting Greek terms of their day to the Bible, not adapting the Bible to Greek philosophy or pagan religion.