The Elephant Room controversy has claimed another victim, Brian Broderson of Calvary Chapel. In a blog post he has stated:
"According to the Oneness doctrine, there is no Trinity—one God in three persons; rather there is one God who expresses Himself in different modes, sometimes as Father, sometimes as Son, and sometimes as Spirit. Now this teaching is certainly contrary to the biblical doctrine of the triune nature of God and is therefore "heretical," but to say that those who hold this view are not Christians is in my opinion going too far. Granted, it is an incorrect view regarding the nature of God, but it is not like other anti-trinitarian views that deny the full deity of Christ. I personally do not think you can put those who hold the Oneness doctrine in the same category as a Jehovah's Witness or a Mormon. I might be wrong, but that's the way I see it at this point. Should we seek to correct the view of the Oneness Pentecostals? Yes we should, in the same way we would seek to correct any person or group that has fallen into theological error. What I don't think we should do is spurn them or cast a final eternal judgment on them."
Now this is, I am afraid, appallingly bad theology, and shows a huge doctrinal blind spot in Broderson's thinking; yet it is a blind spot that is increasingly common in Evangelicalism. Increasingly the tendency is to say "Well, so-and-so believes in Jesus" and leave it at that, as if that is enough. Broderson has taken this a little further and said, "Well, so-and-so believes Jesus is God, so he can't be that bad."
On the contrary, he can be; for the question is really more fundamental than "who is Jesus?" it is, "Who is God?" That brings us back to the question of the Mormons, for the Mormon says "Jesus is God." Now Mr. Broderson is still sharp enough to recognise that the Mormon god is not the same as the God of trinitarian Christianity, but seems to have compromised enough that he is willing to fudge the issue on the god of Oneness Pentecostalism.
A denial of the Trinity is fundamental, for it affects one's whole perception of God in a multitude of ways. If God is unipersonal, then what does it mean for God to be love? Love is defined in the Bible in terms of self-giving, but if God is unipersonal, to whom can that one person give himself? It means that either he is not essentially love, or that the universe is necessary to God; that God could not have done other than create beings whom he could love. It challenges the doctrine of the love of God and changes it, it also challenges the independence of God, giving us a picture of a god who needs something outside of himself and upon whom is therefore laid the necessity of creating.
And despite Mr. Broderson's naive remarks, Oneness does alter the conception of Christ. According to classical Oneness teaching Christ has two personalities, a human and a divine, and when he prayed it was the human personality praying to the divine. That creates at best a schizophrenic deity, and at worst an incarnation that is not truly an incarnation at all, where the human and divine are separated to such an extent that the divine merely indwells the human, in which case I fail to see how there is a difference of anything but degree between Jesus of Nazareth and a Christian who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It creates huge problems for our Theology and Christology.
Where does one draw the line? The moment you start to draw it anywhere other than where the Bible has drawn it, you are in trouble. Who is a Christian? Either we say "All those who claim the name are", which Broderson does not do, or we say "all those who believe in the Christ of the Bible." There is no middle ground.
So what is going on in Broderson's statement? What is going on all over the place; based on a personal and unwritten standard people are affirming modalists as, in some sense, brothers in Christ. Well, I am having none of it. If a fellow will not confess the Apostles' Creed I will not baptize him, and I cannot affirm as a brother in Christ a person whom I could not baptize. Nor can I share the Communion with him, and so again, he is not a brother in Christ.
That does not mean I could not call him a friend, or like him; I have never met a Unitarian I did not like, and I parted from the last Jehovah's Witness I had any interaction with on the best of terms, but we are quite clear; the Unitarians and I, the JW and I, may be friends, but we can never call one another brethren. We certainly cannot call one another Christians