Musings on Jesus, the Father, and two wills

This is a response to a second article on Oneness Theology by Matt Slick from CARM. Click here to see the first.
Another look at Jesus, the Father, and two wills

Oneness theology teaches that there is only one person in the Godhead whose name is Jesus. Jesus is the Father and the Holy Spirit. Regarding His incarnation, oneness people say that Jesus was in heaven at the same time that He was on earth.

Unfortunately, the oneness position presents a serious problem.This is inaccurate ultimately. Some Oneness writers or believers may or may have articulate d their beliefs inadequately but that does not mean that is what they believe, or even what most believe. The UPC has a clear statement on the Union of the Humanity and Deity of Christ. We do not believe Jesus is the Father. To say Jesus is the Father is actually a contradiction of terms. The Father is God existing as God, whereas Jesus is God existing as a man. The Holy Spirit is the very Spirit of God, it is primarily reference as God in action. His Spirit indeed is holy.
God is Spirit (John 4:24). Jesus is the expressed image of God's being (Heb. 1:3). God was "manifest" in flesh (1 Tim. 3:16). God is a personal spiritual being. I do not consider the doctrine of an eternal son to be accurate. There is debate within Trinitarianism on this issue as well, at least to some extent. Most Oneness theologians do not believe that God pre-existed the Incarnation as Jesus Christ. The deity or divine identity that existed in Christ was God the Father. Jesus Christ was who He was on account of the union between deity and the virgin Mary. Jesus Christ came in time (Galatians 4:4), in the plan and as the visible image of the invisible God. Jesus is not the Father in an equivocal sense but His divine identity does come from the only Deity of Scripture--The Almighty God. Jesus is the Father Incarnate. It was not until the 4th Century that the Trinitarian doctrine became more clearly codified. A trinity of divine persons. It was perfectly acceptable to pagan philosophers and the Greeks themselves.
In the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42), Jesus prayed to the Father saying, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done." See also, ""And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, 'O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt'" (Matt. 26:39).

Notice that Jesus says that he has a will and that the Father has a will. That is two wills: one of the Son and the other of the Father. Furthermore, notice that the wills were in opposition. Jesus did not want to have to go to the cross and endure the suffering, but he submitted not to his own will, but the will of the Father. If this is so, then how can Jesus, who is the Father in flesh (and therefore, they are one person) have two separate and opposing wills on the same subject at the same time?

The response is generally that Jesus was fully a man and that in his humanity he was not the everlasting Father. But if this is so, then what was Jesus if not God incarnate? If He is not fully God incarnate, then the atonement is void since it isn't God making the sacrifice but a mere man. This is the danger of oneness theology. Ultimately, it denies the true incarnation of God.

Sometimes oneness people say that Jesus had another existence outside His existence as a man because he also was existing as the Father. But this implies that there are two beings since each has its own existence different than the other.
At the Council of Constantinople Trinitarians themselves concluded that two wills do not mean two persons. Slick is not aware of his own heritage here. The difference in existence is metaphysical and existential. The singular divine person of God took on human nature. Oneness theology also recognizes a distinction between the Father and the Son. While it does not suggest the Father is the Son one can rightly say the Father is in the Son. To honor one is to honor the other (1 John 2:23).

Jason Dulle, a graduate of Western Seminary suggests, "To confuse the issue of deity and existence when discussing the distinction is to confuse the entire issue." Dulle makes a salient point here. In further context, he states:
Because Oneness believers recognize Jesus' deity to be that of the Father it is tempting to conclude that there is no real distinction between the Father and Son. Such a conclusion would be inaccurate, however, in light of the incarnation and hypostatic union. In the incarnation God united human nature to His divine person to personally exist as man. As man God has a theandric24 existence. The Father is the deity of the Son, but the Son has a distinct existence from the Father because "Son" speaks of God's existence as man, while "Father" speaks of the same God's continued existence beyond the incarnation. To confuse the issue of deity and existence when discussing the distinction is to confuse the entire issue. Yes, Jesus' deity is the deity of the Father, but no, Jesus does not have the same manner of existence as the Father because Jesus is God's existence as man whereas the Father is the same God's continued existence beyond the incarnation as He is in Himself.

The Son is truly distinct from the Father because in the incarnation God brought human nature into metaphysical union with Himself, and began to exist as man. The union of the divine and human natures in Christ brought into being a mode of existence distinct from God's normal and continued manner of existence beyond the incarnation as the transcendent, unlimited Spirit.25 There is, then, an existential26 distinction between Jesus and the Father because of the incarnation, but not an eternal distinction within God's essence apart from, and prior to the incarnation. This distinction arises because of God's newly acquired human existence, not between Christ's deity and the deity of the Father (Trinitarianism), or between Jesus' divine and human natures (Nestorianism).(2) Click here to read entire article.
The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the image of God’s hypostasis (KJV person; NIV being; NRSV being Grk hypostasis). In context, the God who spoke to us by His Son is the Father of the Son (1:1-2, 5). God spoke to us by the prophets but now speaks by the Son. Hebrews is declaring Jesus to be the image of the God the Father’s subsistence. In Jesus “How wonderful God is can be seen in how wonderful he is..."what God is like is what he is like...what is true about God is true about his Son."(1)

I would further say that there is no mention of the Son having a separate hypostasis from the Father. Nor are there any references to this word in the plural form. I believe the whole of Scripture testifies of this as well. I conclude then that Jesus is the image of the invisible subsistence or person (KJV) or being (NRSV) of God. Only if we were to believe that God exists as three persons could there be multiple beings. A human nature is not a person. Human nature is personalized by the person. That is actually the problematic nature of using the plural form of person.
Furthermore, the Oneness position would have a will of the Father and a will of the Son which are in opposition to each other -- yet they are supposed to be one person? This makes no sense. If the oneness people state that Jesus' flesh was at odds with His own presence as the Father in heaven, then again we have no true incarnation.

The problem with the oneness position is serious and the fact that Jesus' will was separate from the Father's demonstrates that the Father and the Son are different persons within the Godhead. The oneness people are very wrong.

Jesus is the Son of God. He is not the Son of a second divine person. He is the Word that became flesh. God’s word is not separate or apart from Himself. In the Son is a true incarnation or an embodiment of all the fulness of deity (Col. 2:9). This deity cannot be separated from that of the Father. No matter how many persons we are contending for God did indeed become Incarnate in Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). Trinitarians simply believe that the Son, a separate person in the nature of God, became Incarnate. Oneness theology teaches that the Father Incarnated Himself in human nature. God became a man (John 1:14). Alister McGrath speaks of this distinction and suggests this:

"In one sense, Jesus is God; in another, he isn’t. Thus Jesus is God incarnate-but he still prays to God, without giving the slightest indication that he is talking to himself! Jesus is not identical with God in that it is obvious that God continued to be in heaven during Jesus’ lifetime, and yet Jesus may be identified with God in that the New Testament has no hesitation in ascribing functions to Jesus which, properly speaking, only God could do."(2)
In order to understand the term “persons” outside its normal meaning, a special meaning must be offered by Trinitarians. This further complicates the entire ordeal. Theological meaning should be translated as comprehensible as possible. Using the plural form of person is not congruent with the teaching of Monotheism and in any case contradicts apparent meaning.


1. Jason Dulle, Avoiding the Achilles Heels of Trinitarianism, Modalistic Monarchianism, and Nestorianism: The Acknowledgement and Proper Placement of the Distinction Between Father and Son. Access online: http://www.apostolic.net/biblicalstudies/ugstsymposium.htm

2. Ellingworth, P., & Nida, E. A. (1994). A handbook on the Letter to the Hebrews. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators (9). New York: United Bible Societies.

3. Alister E. McGrath, Studies in Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987) pgs. 202-203)

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