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Introduction

As most people know, mainstream Christian churches teach that Jesus, himself, is actually Almighty God – by virtue of the fact that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. Basically, the Trinity teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all equally God; but there is still only one God – not three gods.

A small minority of Christian churches have “Unitarian” beliefs. In essence, that belief holds that only our Heavenly Father is Almighty God. That belief also holds that Jesus is the son of God – but not God, himself.

There are several different doctrines which have Unitarian beliefs. The two most well-known Unitarian doctrines are usually referred to as the “Biblical Unitarian” (or “Socinian”) doctrine, and the “Arian” doctrine. Both of those doctrines agree that only our Heavenly Father is Almighty God – but they differ on some other important points.

So, to begin with, let’s take a look at some of the differences between those two doctrines.

 

Comparison of the Doctrines

The following is an extremely brief overview, of some of the main beliefs of the Biblical Unitarian and Arian doctrines. These items should help to clarify some of the differences between those two doctrines.

 

Biblical Unitarian

– Jesus was always part of God’s plan. In other words, God always had Jesus “in mind” – even before He created the universe.

– However, Jesus did not personally exist, until God caused Mary to conceive.

– In other words, Jesus’ personal existence did not begin, until his mother conceived him – just like every other person’s existence does not begin, until our mothers conceive us.

– When God resurrected Jesus, He gave Jesus a “spiritual” body – as opposed to a “natural” (or “mortal”) body. As a result, Jesus is now a man who has a spiritual body. Spiritual bodies are immortal – so Jesus will never die again.

– In a similar way, when Jesus returns to the earth, he will resurrect his followers – and give them spiritual bodies. So, in the next age, Christians will become people who have spiritual bodies – just like Jesus is a man who has a spiritual body now.

– As a result, Jesus is the “firstfruits from the dead”, and the “beginning of the new creation” – because he is the first person who was resurrected with a spiritual body.

 

Arian

– Jesus is the very first being that God created. In other words, God created Jesus, before He created anything else – i.e., even before the universe existed.

– As a result, Jesus originally existed as a spirit being – i.e., as a being in heaven – rather than as a physical being on earth.

– After God created Jesus, then Jesus – himself – actually created the universe. In other words, God did not actually create the universe – instead, Jesus actually created it, under God’s direction. In essence, Jesus was God’s “agent” in creating the universe.

– The way that God caused Jesus to be born on the earth, is that He “transformed” Jesus into a human embryo – and then He “implanted” Jesus into Mary’s womb.

– So, with this doctrine, Mary did not actually “conceive”, per se – because by definition, conception refers to a woman’s egg being fertilized. In other words, in this doctrine, Mary was actually a “surrogate mother” – i.e., a woman who has a pre-existing embryo implanted into her uterus, for someone else.

– When God resurrected Jesus, he caused Jesus to become a spirit being again. So, Jesus is not a man at all any longer; instead, he is a spirit being once again – just like he was before God transformed him into a embryo in Mary’s womb.

– For the most part, followers of Jesus will never become spirit beings like Jesus is. Instead, Christians will remain human beings, even in the next age. So, Christians will live forever on the earth, as human beings; while Jesus lives forever in heaven – as a spirit being.

 

Issues with the Arian Doctrine

As shown above, the Biblical Unitarian and Arian doctrines have very specific beliefs, about Jesus’ origins, and about his current existence. From what I can see, many of the Arian beliefs are contradicted by Scripture. For example, consider the following beliefs of the Arian doctrine – along with the information that Scripture provides about those beliefs:

 

Item 1: According to the Arian doctrine, Jesus, himself, actually created the universe (under God’s direction). However, Scripture explicitly states that God created the universe all by Himself – i.e., no one assisted Him. For example, consider this passage:

Isaiah 44:24 (ESV):

Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself

As a result, the belief that Jesus actually created the universe is not supported by Scripture.

 

Item 2:  According to the Arian doctrine, God “transformed” Jesus into a human embryo, and then “implanted” Jesus into Mary’s womb. So, in that doctrine, Jesus is not a genetic descendant on Mary – because that pregnancy does not involve one of Mary’s eggs being fertilized.

However, Scripture explicitly states that Jesus is a literal, genetic descendant of King David; and that, in turn, means that one of Mary’s eggs must have been fertilized – i.e., she must have conceived. For example, consider these passages:

2 Samuel 7:12 (ESV)  (God speaking to King David):

12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.

Luke 1:30-31 (ESV):

30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.

As a result, the belief that Jesus was transformed into an embryo, and implanted into Mary, is not supported by Scripture.

 

Item 3: According to the Arian doctrine, Jesus is not a man at all any longer – instead, Jesus is now a spirit being. In essence, the belief is that when God resurrected Jesus, Jesus became a spirit being again – just like he was before God transformed him into a human embryo.

However, the apostles repeatedly refer to Jesus as a man – even after he was resurrected, and even after he ascended into heaven. For example, consider these passages – which were written after Jesus had been resurrected:

1 Timothy 2:5 (ESV):

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

Acts 17:31 (ESV):

30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

As a result, the belief that Jesus is no longer a man is not supported by Scripture.

 

Item 4: According to the Arian doctrine, Jesus was originally created as a spirit being, in heaven. So, in that doctrine, Jesus lived with God, in heaven, for a very long time (probably millions of years), before God sent him to the earth.

As a result, with the Arian doctrine, Jesus had personally experienced God – i.e., he had “seen” God, and “seen” heaven, before he was born on the earth. That, in turn, means that during Jesus’ time on the earth, he already knew – for a fact – that God exists, and that God loves us – because he had lived with God, in heaven, for eonsbefore being born on the earth.

The above belief is very “problematic”, though, because Scripture explicitly states that Jesus was tempted in the same way as we are. For example, consider this passage:

 Hebrews 4:15 (ESV):

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Now, let’s think about this issue for a minute. According to the Arian doctrine, while Jesus was on the earth, he already knew, for a fact, that God exists – because he had already lived with God in heaven.  However, we do not know that God exists – because we have never lived with God in heaven. (We believe that God exists – but we do not know that He exists – because we have not personally seen God in heaven.)

As a result, with the Arian doctrine, Jesus had an enormous advantage over us, when it comes to resisting temptation. Basically, in the Arian doctrine, Jesus already knew that God exists – because he had already spent millions of years living with God, in heaven. That, in turn, would have greatly assisted Jesus in resisting sin – because he personally knew God already. However, we have never lived with God in heaven – so we do not have that advantage, when we need to resist temptation.

Of course, as mentioned above, Jesus was tempted in exactly the same way as we are. Also, as mentioned, having previous experience of living with God, in heaven, is an enormous advantage when resisting temptation. So, since we do not have that advantage , that indicates that Jesus also does not have that advantage. In other words, the above passage indicates that Jesus did NOT live in heaven with God, prior to being born on the earth.

As a result, the belief that Jesus lived with God in heaven, before being born on the earth, is not supported by Scripture

 

Also note: the following documents contain much more information about the Arian doctrine. In particular, those documents address many of the common “proof texts” for the Arian beliefs:

Was Jesus the “Agent” of Creation?

The Idiom of Prolepsis

Primogeniture in Scripture

Let US Make Man, in OUR Image

 

Two “Unresolved” Questions

As shown above, in many specific areas, the beliefs of the Arian doctrine do not appear to be supported by Scripture. In those same areas, the beliefs of the Biblical Unitarian doctrine are supported by Scripture – and as a result, from what I can see, the Biblical Unitarian doctrine is definitely closer to the truth.

However, there are two specific questions that arise with the Biblical Unitarian doctrine – questions for which I have still not have found a “definitive” answer. Those two questions are as follows:

– If Jesus is a man just like we are, then how can it be that Jesus is in heaven currently? After all, Scripture states that human beings will not go to heaven at all – not even after we have spiritual bodies – instead, we will live on the earth forever. So if Jesus is a man, how can it be that he is in heaven now?

– If Jesus was born as a man with a natural body – exactly the same as all of us were – then how is it possible that Jesus did not commit any sins? In other words, why is it that we cannot avoid sin – if Jesus is exactly the same as we are, and Jesus avoided sin?

Both of those two questions are non-issues in the Arian doctrine – because in that doctrine, Jesus is actually a spirit beingnot a human being. In other words, Jesus is in heaven now because he is a spirit being – and he was able to avoid sin because he is a spirit being. So, those questions do not come up at all, with the Arian doctrine.

In the Biblical Unitarian doctrine, the above two questions are issues, however – and so far, I have not found a completely “definitive” answer to those questions, with that doctrine. The section below contains the best explanation that I have so far, about how those questions could be answered with the Biblical Unitarian doctrine.

 

One potential answer to the first question is that we cannot go to heaven, because we have all committed sins – and hence, we are “impure”, or “defiled”. As it turns out, this very idea – of “impure” people not being able to approach God – actually exists in the Old Testament.

Basically, priests were not able to enter the Temple if they were “unclean”. In essence, priests need to go through very specific “purification” rituals, before they could enter the Temple. One such purification ritual was that priests needed to perform sacrifices, in order to have their sins forgiven.

The other item to note is that entering the Temple was symbolic of approaching God. In addition, the New Testament states that the Temple on the earth was a “copy” of the heavenly Temple – i.e., the ultimate Temple is in heaven.

Of course, Jesus did not commit any sins – and as a result, he was already “pure”, or “clean”. So, one explanation for this overall issue is as follows: Jesus is able to be in heaven – i.e., in the “heavenly Temple” – is because he did not commit any sins. However, we are not able to be in heaven, because we did commit sins – and therefore, we are “unclean”. As a result, we are not able to “approach God”, in the heavenly Temple – but Jesus is able to do so.

 

Of course, that still leaves us with the second question – how is it possible that Jesus never committed any sins – when Scripture tells us that every other human being has sinned? That is, since Jesus was able to avoid committing any sins, then why is it that no one else – during the entire course of human history – has been able to avoid committing any sins?

Some groups provide the following type of explanation: Jesus was a “direct creation” of God – just as Adam was. As a result, Jesus and Adam did not have any “inherited sin” – and therefore, Jesus and Adam had more ability to resist temptation than we do. There does seem to be some merit to this argument; especially since Jesus is called the “last Adam”; and because Scripture states that sin entered the world through Adam, and sin was forgiven through Jesus.

Of course, the above explanation states that Jesus had more ability to resist temptation than we do. That is a problem; because Hebrews 4:15 states that Jesus was tempted in exactly the same way as we are – and if Jesus had more ability to resist temptation than we do, then he was not actually tempted in exactly the same way as us. (This is the same problem that the Arian doctrine has – i.e., the Arian doctrine also implies that Jesus had more ability to resist temptation than we do.)

 

The only explanation that seems to make sense for this issue is that Jesus was tempted in exactly the same way we are – i.e., he did not have any “extra” ability to resist temptation. However, Jesus is the only person who has ever truly followed God with his whole heart. In other words, Jesus is the only person who has ever lived, who has totally and completely surrendered his will to God’s will – so that he was willing to conduct himself exactly as God commanded him to.

To put it another way, every person has the potential to follow God perfectly, as Jesus did. However, no one else – no one other than Jesus – has ever been willing to follow God with “100% obedience”. (Remember – even “hating your neighbor in your heart” is sinful behavior…)

There are a number of passages in Scripture which refer to Jesus’ “wholehearted” commitment to obeying God. For example:

Luke 22:41-42 (ESV):

41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”

John 5:30 (ESV):

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

John 8:28-29 (ESV):

28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

Philippians 2:8-9 (ESV):

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name

Hebrews 10:7 (ESV):

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

Hebrews 5:7-10 (ESV):

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

The above passages make it clear that Jesus faced enormous temptations – but he was willing to completely submit his will to God’s will. That, in turn, allowed him to overcome all of his temptations – and avoid sin.

It certainly seems reasonable to assume that no other person has ever completely submitted their will to God as Jesus did – and that, in turn, could explain why everyone else has committed sins. So, this might be an explanation for why Jesus was able to avoid sin, but no other human being has ever been able to do so.

 

Conclusion

The Biblical Unitarian and Arian doctrines agree on many points – most notably, that only our Heavenly Father is Almighty God. There are a number of differences between those two doctrines as well, however; primarily regarding the identity of Jesus.

For the most part, from what I can see, Scripture appears to support the Biblical Unitarian doctrine. In other words, in the areas where the two doctrines differ, Scripture more clearly supports the Biblical Unitarian belief, over the Arian belief.

However, there are two specific “questions” which arise, about the Biblical Unitarian doctrine. Those questions are as follows:

– If Jesus is a human being just like us, then why is Jesus in heaven – when every other human being will never go to heaven?

– If Jesus is a human being just like us, then how can it be that Jesus was able to avoid sin – when every other human being was not able to avoid sin?

Those two questions are not issues in the Arian doctrine – because in that doctrine, Jesus is actually a spirit being (as opposed to a human being). So, for those two specific issues, it is easier to support the Arian doctrine – i.e., the Arian doctrine appears more “viable”, for those specific items.

In the previous section, I provided the best explanations that I have, about how to answer the above two questions with the Biblical Unitarian doctrine. Those explanations appear to be reasonable, but I am not “completely” convinced about them.

As a result, I would classify my beliefs as follows: I am about “90% convinced” that the Biblical Unitarian belief is correct; but I still have about “10% doubt” – i.e., I still have a small amount of belief that the Arian doctrine could be correct.

I hope this article was useful to you!

3 Responses to “Unresolved Questions, about the Biblical Unitarian Doctrine”

  1. on 29 Mar 2018 at 7:49 amSamual Yoder

    Why is it necessary to believe what man says the scripture teaches? Can we not think for ourself? it does say the spirit will lead us into all truth, granted seems throughout all of the assembly or body of Christ there is much disagreement on what scripture teaches. No unity in belief on certain doctrine(s).
    Now we see through a glass darkly… Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind is another scripture. I have to rely on the spirit and yes I have to test the spirit to see if it is the right spirit talking to me and that again points to scripture for the testing.
    I don’t see it being resolved until he returns and tells us what is truth, what has been rightly divided and what has been wrongly divided with scripture. I am of Calvin, I am of Arminius, I am of E.G. White sounds like what Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians 1:13 & 3:4.

  2. on 27 Jun 2018 at 6:47 amRonald Slyderink

    Dear friends, Thank you for your openness in discussing somewhat hard to understand topics about God the Father and Jesus. I must admit I am undergoing soul searching and seeking the ‘truth’ here, but it may pervade me with so many views and arguments. Maybe God doesn’t really focus too much on ‘our correct’ understanding. He just wants us to come to him in faith, believing what Jesus did and said about his loving Father and how we can know him and the Father by the indwelling Christ and his and God’s Spirit. I do believe this more and more. God reveals himself to the humble, to the repentant searching seeking, hungering after him person. He is willing to give his Spirit to such, so they will know and grow in him and Jesus and be in union and fellowship growing in the Kingdom of God where Jesus rules.
    Love to you.

  3. on 24 Jul 2018 at 7:34 amrebe

    1) While I agree with the statement that we will not go to heaven ..this is debatable and not all BU would agree on this. However Jesus ascended to be at the right hand of God because God has given him all power in heaven and earth..God decreed it so , so that is how it is. (by the way Enoch and Elijah both were taken to heaven by God).

    2.) Jesus was miraculously conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary; he was not conceived by ordinary human generation and consequently did not inherit the guilt or corruption of Adam. He was in the same condition as Adam was in the Garden of Eden, but rather than transgress God’s commandments like our forefather, Jesus chose to obey God.
    Colossians 2:9 he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
    We can be too Ephesians 3:19

  

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