Does Church History Hurt Oneness Apostolics? by Bobby Killmon, M.Div.
This is a tired argument leveled against us that is very quickly losing sway. Some have argued that if Jesus said, "The gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church..." then why is it that there seems to be an inconsistency with that truth and finding Oneness believers throughout Church history. So the question becomes, does Church history hurt us as Apostolics and Oneness people?
A more detailed look at this argument, and those purporting it, shows us not only does the theological bias of many Trinitarians cause them to misread Scripture it also causes them to misread history as well. There are a myriad of scholars and historians who are becoming more honest in their evaluation of the facts of history. The notion that the Trinity was uniformly endorsed from the early times or even after is not tenable in most circles of theology today. (1)
Further, writers of antiquity even acknowledge that their particular beliefs were not indicative of the majority of believers at that time showing, that even as doctrines around issues in the godhead and doctrine of salvation faced innovations and corruption, there were still a majority of believers holding other views. For instance, Tertullian says in his work "Against Praxeus" that most people of his day would reject his views. He said the "majority of the faithful" whom he dismissed by terming "simple people" were adverse to believing his doctrines. This shows he was not in the majority in the late second and third centuries.
We also must remember that history is written by the winners. Whenever the Trinitarian position became the popular position in various places and times those leaders often took the opportunity to murder their opponents as well as burn any of their works. You could be killed for having a copy of a "banned book." The fact that any documents at all survived from the lists of banned books shows that people were willing to preserve these works even when it might mean personal peril.
Most suggesting we are hurt by this argument would not stand under the scrutiny of their own polemic. After all most would be products of the Reformation and believe in Sola Scriptura which says Scripture alone is the standard of doctirne. After all, if we wanted to go by numbers alone we would need to be Catholic or perhaps, even more pointed, Muslim. The point is no matter how many deviate from the truth, the Word is our standard. So , most proponents against us would fall prey to the very sword they level at Apostolics.
(1) See Oscar Cullman's The Christology of the NT, James D. G. Dunn's Christology in the Making, Hendrikus Berkhof's Christian Faith, Luke Timothy Johnson's The Early Experience of the Divine and a host of others.
Bobby Killmon is the Dean of Biblical Studies at Indiana Bible College (IBC). Killmon has a B.A. in Theology from IBC and an M.Div. from Christian Theological Seminary where he graduated Magna Cum Laude.