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The United Pentecostal Church IS NOT A CULT


The True Doctrinal Views of the United Pentecostal Church on the Godhead
By David K. Bernard

(These page was taken from his book, "The Oneness View of Jesus", 1994)

In a newsletter, Walter Martin, the self-styled Bible Answer Man and a radio speaker who specializes in identifying cults, called the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) "the fastest growing of all the cultic structures" and certainly one of the most, dangerous."
Normally, such an extreme attack merits no comment, but the surprising amount of misinformation accompanying this remarkable assertion needs to be pointed out.
The newsletter declares that "the most lethal danger" of the UPCI is "the Jesus Only doctrine which states that there is no Trinity; that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are only titles for Jesus." This definition of the Oneness position is simplistic, misleading, and inaccurate.
First, the UPCI does not use the label "Jesus Only", because it may erroneously imply a denial of the Father and the Holy Ghost. Second, the UPCI teaches that the one God existed as Father and the Holy Spirit before His incarnation as Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and that while Jesus walked on earth as God Himself incarnate, the Spirit of God continued to be omnipresent. We affirm that God has revealed Himself as father (in parental realtionship to humanity), in the Son (human flesh), and as the Holy Spirit (in action). We do not accept the trinitarian concept of three distinct centers of consciousness in the Godhead, but we hold that God is absolutely and indivisibly one (Deut.6:4, Gal.3:20). Moreover, we affirm that in Jesus dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col.2:9) and that Jesus is the only name given for salvation (Acts 4:12). The Father is revealed to us in the name of Jesus, the Son was given the name of Jesus at birth, and the Holy Spirit comes to us in the name of Jesus (Matthew 1:21, John 5:43, 14:26, 17:6).
The newsletter also errs historically: "The United Pentecostal or 'Jesus Only' church was disfellowshipped and deemed a non-Christian cult by the Assemblies of God in 1916." The UPC did not come into existence until 1945. In 1916 the Assemblies of God adopted a strong, detailed trinitarian statement that caused Oneness preachers to leave the two-year-old organisation. Some trinitarian preachers left also, because the church had violated it's founding principle of adopting no creed other than the Bible. Those who remained in the Assemblies of God felt that the Oneness believers were in doctrinal error, but at no time did they classify them as a non-Christian cult. To the contrary, books and personal interviews from both sides reveal that the trinitarian majority was saddened by the loss of those whom it considered to be mistaken brethren, and Oneness ministers preached for Assemblies of God churches long after the split.
In any case, do the doctrinal teachings and ministerial requirements of the Assemblies of God determine whether or not a group is a cult? No one can be a preacher in that denomination unless he has received the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tounges; does it follow, then, that all non-Pentecostal groups are cults? Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church, which has a far greater history and membership than the Assemblies of God, officially excommunicated the Protestants, consigning them to damnation. Does this action mean that all Protestants are cultists? We can only appeal to the Bible, not a denomination, to determine whether a doctrine is true or false.
The newsletter further claims, In John 10:30 the original Greek has Jesus saying: I and my Father, we are in union" (emphasis is Martin's), describing this verse as "devastating" to the Oneness position. But no major translation of the Bible adopts this rendering. The King James Version says, "I and my Father are one." The Greek word hen inthis verse is the first cardinal number (neuter form). Like the English word one, hen can sometimes have the connotation of unity, but it's fundamental meaning and translation is simply "one". Moreover, the Greek preposition for "in" does not appear in this verse. Saying that hen means "in union" instead of "one" is a theological interpretation, not a direct translation from the Greek. Moreover, there is no reason to supply the word we. It is true that every Greek verb indicates the person and number of it's subject. Thus, John 10:30 uses the verb esmen, which is the first-person plural form of the verb to be. In much the same way, the English verb are tells us that the subject is plural rather than singular. Standing alone, esmen would imply it's own subject and be translated "we are." In John 10:30, however, the subject is already supplied--"I and the Father" (ego kai ho pater)-- and esmen is used merely to agree with the subject. It simply means "are". Greek has a separate word, hemesis, for the pronoun we, but it does not appear in John 10:30. (The entire verse reads, ego kai ho pater hen esmen).
In short, this "devastating" argument from the Greek tells us nothing that we do not already know from the English: "I and the Father" is a first-person plural subject, and the word one sometimes bears the connotation of union. we recognize that there is a plurality of persons in the Godhead (John 17:3, I Tim.2:5). We agree that the man Christ Jesus was fully united with the Spirit of God, but we also understand that the Father was incarnate in Jesus (John 14:9-11). Finally, the newsletter maintains that "tongue speaking and other phenomena" in the UPCI are actually "counterfeit", saying that the UPCI "imitates modern charismatic or pentecostal revival techniques". How can someone say that the biblical experiences of Oneness Pentecostals are all counterfeit while evidently accepting trinitarian Pentecostal experiences as genuine? How can he explain the thousands of divine healings, manifestations of spiritual gifts, and baptisms of the Holy Spirit in the UPCI, particularly when many people receive the Holy Ghost in UPCI churches before they study Oneness doctrine? If all Oneness tongues speaking is countefeit, how can thousands of trinitarians receive the Holy Spirit (some of them while in trintarian churches), subsequently be led to the truths of baptism in Jesus' name and Oneness, and then continue to speak in tongues and enjoy the presence of the Holy Spirit in the same manner as before? Far from imitating modern charismatics, the founders of the UPCI were an integral part of the twentieth-century Pentecostal movement from it's beginnings.
Because this article is a bit lenghty, I have to cut some explanations here. Ed.
Martin not only believes that some UPCI members are saved but also that once a person is saved he can never lose his salvation. This means he is attacking those whom he considers to be fellow Christians and seeking to destroy their churches. It would seem more appropriate to let the Lord of these people decide how to judge these churches and deal with them as He wills, rather than appointing oneself to that role. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4). In summary, Walter Martin's explanation of UPCI doctrine and history is clearly erroneous, as someone can readily ascertain by consulting either trinitarian or Oneness sources. His translation of John 10:30 is biased, unwarranted, and misleading. His characterization of the faith and spiritual experiences of UPCI members is a sweeping generalization unsupported by concrete evidence or comparative study. In addition to being inbiblical, his form of trinitarianism deviates from the very standard to which he appeals: church tradition and majority opinion.
The conclusion is enscapable: Walter Martin's attack on the United Pentecostal Church is not credible. At best, it is a case of faulty scholarship; at worst, it is a deliberate distortion.
We can only hope that in the future those who wish to analyze our movement will approach us with an open mind, state our doctrinal position and history accurately, observe the work of God's Spirit in our churches and lives, and reason with us scripturally. If they do, they will find that, while we do not regard man-made creeds and traditions as authoritative, we are firmly commited to studying, discussing, preaching, teaching, believing, and obeying the Word of God.



Prepared by Frank Buhain
for the Christian Investigator's Account (C.I.A.)
NSW Sydney, Australia December 17,1997
last modified MARCH 5,1998
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