Christian Churches of God
Socinianism, Arianism and Unitarianism
(Edition 1.5 19961221-20150612)
The term Socinianism has been applied quite indiscriminately over a large body of anti-Trinitarian doctrine. The Godhead is the central issue of Socinianism. From both the Catholic and the Unitarian point of view, they rightly held that God is absolutely simple. They concluded that distinction of persons is destructive to that simplicity. From this logic, they denied the Trinity is unsound. The distinction between Trinitarianism and Unitarianism is that homage to Christ is in view of his relationship to the Father and of a secondary type, whereas the Trinitarians hold it is of the cult of the latria, where he is in fact God as the Father is God.
Socinianism, Arianism and Unitarianism
The term Socinianism has been applied quite indiscriminately over a large body of anti‑trinitarian doctrine. The term is derived from Lelius Socinius (1526-1562) and his nephew Faustus Socinius (1539-1604), natives of Sienna. The sect arose before Faustus came into contact with it, but it owes its individuality to him. A secret society was formed at Vicenza in the diocese of Venice to discuss the Trinity. Among the members were George Blandrata (physician), Alciatus, Gentilis and Lelio Socinius. Lelius (or Lelio) Socinius was a priest of Sienna and the friend of Bullinger, Calvin and Melancthon. The object of the society was the promotion of anti-Trinitarianism. The society was broken up and its members fled to Poland where they were again persecuted.
It should be noted that the Nominalists under Abelard were the real progenitors of anti-Trinitarianism in the Reformation period as the Catholics saw it and this is the sentiment of Hugh Pope in his article on Socinianism (Cath. Encyc., Vol. XIV, p. 113). Properly termed anti-Realists, Nominalism was rejected by Catholic philosophy. Nominalism is concerned with explaining things in terms of individual and particular external reality. It therefore denies the existence of abstract and universal concepts, and refuses to admit that the intellect has the power of producing them. Hence mystical progression is precluded. Exaggerated Realism invents a world of reality corresponding exactly to the attributes of the world of thought. Catholics were Aristotelian Moderate Realists (especially from Aquinas and Occam onwards), rather than Platonic Exaggerated Realists. This process of thinking has enormous implications and consequences for the explanation of Causal Theory and the spirit world. Modern science and empirical thought are essentially concerned with explaining events in physical terms. The Nominalists developed their theories most particularly through Hume, Stuart Mill, Spencer, Huxley and Tain. The Catholics hold them to confound essentially distinct logical operations (the simple decomposition of sensible or empirical representations with abstraction properly so-called and also sensible analogy with the process of universalisation) (see De Wulf, Nominalism, Realism, Conceptualism, Cath. Encyc., Vol. XI, p. 93). The Catholic Aristotelians are held (by themselves) to distinguish carefully between both of these mental operations. Nominalism is irreconcilable with a spiritualist philosophy and, hence, also with Scholasticism. Kant’s Phenomenalism is also held to destroy all the bonds that might connect the concept with the external world (De Wulf, ibid.). The Catholics held until late this century that we do not create wholesale the object of our knowledge, but we beget it within us under the causal influence of the object that reveals itself to us (ibid.). This has implication for God’s willing self-revelation and, hence, the nature of God. The explanation of reality is as an ontology. Ontology is the science of the study of being. It relates to the study of being or the essence of things in the abstract. Hence, all religion is concerned with this explanation in the abstract. Such explanation gives reality to God and to sons of God and to demons.
Ontologism, which is akin to Platonic Realism, arbitrarily identifies the ideal types, which come to us from the sensible world by means of abstraction, with the ideal types consubstantial with the essence of God. De Wulf holds that when we form our first abstract ideas we do not as yet know God. We are so ignorant of Him that that we must employ these first ideas to prove a posteriori His existence. De Wulf thinks Ontologism has lived its life and this world is now so enamoured with experiment and observation that it will not return to the dreams of Plato (ibid.). The Catholics did not take into account in their view that some of the greatest minds were Unitarians as well as producers of scientific and philosophical explanation of reality – John Locke and Sir Isaac Newton being notable examples. Thus, the Unitarians (or Arians as the Trinitarians called them) had probably as significant a part to play in this process.
This view of knowledge and Causal Theory has been dealt with in the paper Creation: From Anthropomorphic Theology to Theomorphic Anthropology (No. B5). The Nominalists were anti-Trinitarians from their reason-guided philosophy which denied the neo-Platonist Mysticism. The distinction between the Catholics and the religious anti-Trinitarians was along similar grounds, in that God revealed Himself through self-revelation and only to the baptised adult in the Holy Spirit. Hence, only they could be consubstantial.
For this reason the Catholics suppressed this anti-trinitarian sentiment as it taught a consubstantial relationship consequent to obedience and on an equality with Christ but subordinate to the will of God. The Catholics denied this function as God initiated and relied on mystical progression to become as God as defined by the Cappadocians. This was the conceptual distinction which the Catholics opposed from the Cappadocians (see the papers The Holy Spirit (No. 117) and Consubstantial with the Father (No. 81)).
History shows us that the Church of God had long preceded the Reformation and the Waldensians were constantly anti-Trinitarians right up until the Reformation. Hugh Pope holds the anti-Trinitarians to be the representatives of the Sabellians, Macedonians and Arians of an earlier period. Indeed, the Waldensians were condemned with and under the general description Arianism in 1180 in the treatise by Bernard of Fontcaude (Adversus Vallenses et Arianos; see the paper The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170)).
The people in Europe termed anti-Trinitarians came into schism as an effect of the Reformation and because they held different views. It is thus misleading to refer to these people as Socinians. It is the same effect as referring to the Churches of God in the USA from the mid-1800s as Armstrongites. He was a later leader of one branch. Like Armstrong, we will see that the Socinians themselves altered their views on the nature of God.
Lelius Socinius lived mainly at Zurich but was the mainstay of the party which met at Cracow. He died in 1562 and the anti-Trinitarians suffered disruption from this point. In 1570 the Socinians separated and, influenced by John Sigismund, they established at Racow. In 1579 Faustus came to Poland with his uncle's papers. He found the sect divided and was at first refused admission because he would not submit to a second baptism. His first baptism must therefore have been as an adult. In 1574 the Socinians had issued a Catechism of the Unitarians. The nature and perfections of the Godhead were described but the document was silent on the divine attributes which were regarded as mysterious (by the Catholics). Christ was held to be the promised man and the mediator of creation.
Faustus Socinius united the factions under himself from 1579. He had been invited to Siebenburg (or Siebenburgen) to counteract the anti-trinitarian stand of Francis David (or Davidis) (1510-1579). David died at Deva Castle where he had been imprisoned for his views on the nature of Christ. The Church at Siebenburg, after the death of Francis David, was headed by Andreas Eossi and this was the Church in East Europe that descended from the Waldensians. We know without doubt that they were Unitarian (often termed Arians by the Catholics). They kept the Sabbath, Holy Days and New Moons and they were the true Church of God in Europe, being what we would call the Thyatiran era (see the papers General Distribution of the Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122) and The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170)).
David had refused to accept the peculiarly Socinian tenet that Christ, though not God, was to be adored. The Church of God in Europe had never accepted that Christ was the object of worship or adoration. The rejection of worship of Christ was the consistent view of the Church of God over the centuries, including the Waldensians of which the church at Siebenburg was a part. David was imprisoned for this view and died in prison. Hugh Pope also notes that Budnaeus was degraded for holding the same view as David and was excommunicated in 1584. These two were thus converted to the faith from so-called Orthodoxy.
The Socinians at this time suppressed the old catechism and issued a new one entitled the Catechism of Racow which although drawn up by Faustus Socinius was not published until 1605, the year after his death. It was first published in Polish and then in Latin in 1609.
The Socinians flourished. They established colleges, held synods, and owned printing presses from which they produced large amounts of literature. This literature was collected by Sandius under the title Bibliotheca Antitrinitarianorum. Faustus' works are collected in the work Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum.
The Church of God at Siebenburg, on the other hand, was denied the status of a church and denied a printing press. Eossi wrote his work out by hand and it was copied by assistants.
In 1638 the Catholics insisted that the Socinians be banished. The sect was dreaded in Europe but Pope says many of the princes favoured it secretly (ibid., p. 114). It was thought at one stage that it might overrun Europe. The British Ambassador warned the states of Holland that the Socinians would arrive from Poland which they did in 1639. In 1653 it was suppressed there by very stringent decrees.
It did not get a big foothold in England, as Pope observes, although in 1612 Leggatt and Wightman were condemned to death for denying the divinity of Christ. John Biddle upheld what were described as Socinian principles and was banished by Cromwell to the Scilly Isles from which he returned under a writ of habeas corpus. He was again put in prison after the Restoration and he died in 1662.
Hugh Pope correctly notes (ibid.) that the Unitarians are frequently identified with the Socinians but there are fundamental differences between their doctrines.
We shall see that the term Unitarians is often misapplied by the Catholics and Pope uses the term in one sense only, which we regard as incorrect. The Catholics hold the terms Unitarian, Arian and Socinian to be distinct and exclusive terms whereas Schaff, for example, would class them all under the term Unitarian (with virtually everything else) as we see from his History of the Christian Church (Vol. II, pp. 571ff.).
The Socinians believed:
1. The Bible was the sole authority but had to be interpreted by reason.
2. They rejected all mysteries ("Mysteries are indeed exalted above reason but they by no means overturn it; they by no means extinguish its light, but only perfect it." John Crell (d. 1633) De Deo et ejus Attributis; cf. Pope, ibid.).
3. The unity, eternity, omnipotence, justice and wisdom of God are to be insisted on since we can be convinced of these by reason.
4. God's immensity, infinity and omnipresence were regarded as beyond human comprehension and therefore not essential to salvation.
5. Original justice meant that Adam was free from sin as a fact, not that he was endowed with peculiar gifts; hence Socinius denied the doctrine of original sin entirely.
6. Since faith was but trust in God, the Socinians denied the Catholic doctrine of justification in the sense in which they held it. It was nothing but a judicial act on the part of God.
7. There were only two sacraments but these were held to be only mere incentives to faith, they had no intrinsic efficacy (hence Transubstantiation was denied and the actuality of death of the old man in the baptism is also perhaps in question).
8. They rejected infant baptism and hell. The wicked were simply annihilated.
The Godhead is the central issue of Socinianism. From both the Catholic and the Unitarian point of view, they rightly held that God is absolutely simple. They concluded that distinction of persons is destructive to that simplicity. From this logic, they denied the Trinity as logically unsound. Catholics see this view as wrong from the doctrine of the Circumincession or the distinction of the Trinity within the Godhead. The modern Ditheism of Herbert Armstrong, as advanced from 1978, attempts to reconcile this problem of Unity and Distinction while trying to deny the Trinity and keep the Holy Spirit separate from the compound. This is the position that forced Constantinople in 381 and ended in formal Trinitarianism (cf. Gregory of Nazianzus 380 CE, as quoted in the paper The Government of God (No. 174)). It is similar to the Macedonian error which is also termed semi-Arianism, in that it attempts to accommodate an elevated Christology. Armstrong’s disciples got to the stage, by 1990, of declaring that God and Christ had a discussion as to who would come down to be sacrificed (Worldwide News and address by evangelist G. Waterhouse, Canberra, Australia – Tabernacles 1990).
Socinians, however, proceeded to deduce that there can be no proportion between the finite and the infinite and, hence, there can be no Incarnation of the Deity as that would demand such a proportion. However, if by an impossibility there were distinction of persons in the Deity, no divine person can be united to a human person since there can be no unity between two individualities. The second argument is contrary to Scripture. Aquinas deals with the first point from the Catholic view at Summa, I, Q. xii, a. 1 ad 4 am (see Petavius for the remainder).
The Socinians did not become so-called Arian as did Campanus and Gentilis. It is seen that Gentilis was one of the original society. He was beheaded in Berne in 1566 and some levelled the term Tritheist at him as Pope observes (see A Short History of Valentius Gentilis the Tritheist, London, 1696). Ditheist views can collapse into this problem when the Holy Spirit is unclearly expounded or where there is some leaning to Trinitarianism. This happened in the Seventh Day Adventist Church which became Trinitarian from 1931 after the death of Uriah Smith to its declaration in 1978 and in the Worldwide Church of God between 1978 and 1993 when it also became Trinitarian.
The Catholics hold that Socinius did not become Unitarian even though, like Paul of Samostata and Sabellius, he regarded the Holy Spirit as merely an operation of God, a power for sanctification.
It was in the teaching of Christ that Socinius differed from the Unitarians, even though he taught the adoration or worship of Christ which the Church of God refused to do. Socinius held that Christ was the logos but denied his pre-existence. As the Word of God he was the interpreter. Pope says (ibid.) Socinius explained John as referring to regeneration only. No doubt this was derived from the tohu and bohu concept of Genesis 1:1-2. (This idea has much more acceptance with modern archaeological finds.) Christ was, however, miraculously begotten. He was the perfect man. He was the appointed mediator but he was not God, only deified man. In this sense he was to be adored.
The Catholics hold this to be the precise dividing line between Unitarians and Socinians (see Pope, ibid.). The Catholics hold that Unitarians deny the miraculous birth of Christ and refuse him adoration. Pope holds that, on their principles, the Unitarians are much more logical.
Thus the Catholics hold the distinction between Arians, Unitarians, and Socinians to be:
1. Arians hold Christ to be pre-existent as a product of the Father. The Catholics claim that the Arians hold the Holy Spirit as a product of the Son. This is based on no writing of the so-called Arians but a later Athanasian supposition.
2. The Unitarians are held to deny the pre-existence, divine birth and hence the worship of Christ. (We term this view Radical Unitarianism and the Catholics should distinguish this point.)
3. The Socinians are held to deny the pre-existence of Christ but accept his miraculous birth and hence give him worship.
This distinction is fatally flawed as we will examine below.
The formal condemnations of Socinianism do not correctly reflect their doctrines as the condemnations were issued before the publication of the Catechism of Racow in 1605. The condemnations are in the Constitution of Paul IV, Cum quorundam, 1555 (Denz. 993) confirmed by Clement VIII in 1603 Dominici gregis. Moreover, the catechism may not actually reflect the more developed views of the leaders of the party (see Hugh Pope, ibid., p. 115). From these decrees it appeared that it was assumed in 1555 and again in 1603 that the Socinians held:
a. there was no Trinity;
b. that Christ was not consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit;
c. that he was not conceived of the Holy Spirit but begotten by Joseph;
d. that his death and passion were not undergone to bring about our redemption;
e. that the blessed virgin was not the mother of God, neither did she retain her virginity.
From the Catechism of 1605, the Socinians clearly held that Christ was miraculously conceived but Pope says (ibid.) in what sense is not clear. Thus the condemnations rest on incorrect and contradictory evidence. What is perhaps the most important problem in this Catholic account of the doctrines of the Socinians is that they hold that the Socinians denied the pre-existence of Christ. However, when we examine their statements regarding the account in John relating to Messiah, we see that the Socinians held that John 1:10 referred to a regeneration account and not to the initial creation. This would leave no problem with the clear statements in Ephesians 3:9 in the ancient texts and also Revelation 4:11 which clearly exclude Christ on any account of the Godhead. The re-creation scenario of Genesis 1:1-2 is now considered the more likely scenario from what we know of the earth’s age and its history. It is impossible to reconcile the denial of the pre-existence of Messiah with his regenerating the earth in John 1:10. The Socinians thus could not possibly have held the doctrine of radical Unitarianism and must have been subordinationist Unitarians, wrongly termed Arians by the Catholics. This view then merges the two groups and gives them a history from the Waldensians. The most likely explanation is that radical Unitarians were present in small numbers throughout the European churches but did not represent their true doctrinal view. In much the same way, they exist today in small numbers in some branches of the Church of God.
Of these views, as listed by the Catholics, the Church of God held only a few and to suggest that the Church of God in Europe, either at Siebenburg or as Waldensians, were either Socinians as the Catholics define them or radical Unitarians, i.e. those who deny the pre-existence of Christ, is simply mischievous. At the very best it oversimplifies and obscures some fundamental distinctions. It may be, also, that the Catholics are simply playing with the term pre-existence to obscure the commonality of doctrines. If the term pre-existence is held to imply existence before the generation of the Host, instead of existence prior to the Incarnation, then we have a new definition of the term. If this is the solution to the absolute conflict in Catholic presentation of Socinian dogma, then their distinctions and academic honesty are in serious question. At any rate the view of Consubstantiation is also in question.
The views of the Church and the other parties can best be described as follows.
The Church of God was always, from the inception with Christ and the apostles, subordinationist Unitarian. It held:
1. There was only One True God who is the God and Father of all.
2. That Christ was a subordinate God and not the one true God. He was the only-born God (Jn. 1:18; see Irenaeus for correct text, cf. Marshall's Greek-English Interlinear RSV).
3. That Christ and all the Sons of God were products of the Father and in this sense their generation involved an act of will and hence an act of creation (Mal. 2:10; Heb. 2:11 RSV; cf. Eph. 3:9 RSV. Note KJV has added words by Jesus Christ not in ancient texts; see Companion Bible, n. to v. 9 and also n. to Rev. 4:11).
4. Christ had pre-existence as the Messenger of God and hence the being that spoke to Moses at Sinai and the Messenger of the Old Testament (Gen. 48:15-16; Isa. 9:6 LXX; Zech. 12:8; Acts 7:38; Gal. 3:19). No man has seen God at any time (Jn. 1:18; 1Tim. 6:16). (The Septuagint (LXX) terms Messiah from Isaiah 9:6 as the Angel of Great Counsel).
5. Christ had a divine conception being born by the virgin for the redemption of sin.
6. Mariam (Mary) conceived and bore children to Joseph who are listed in the Bible as the brothers and sisters of Christ.
7. They denied any worship of any entity other than God the Father.
8. They had two sacraments.
9. They had no symbol of the cross.
10. Transubstantiation does not appear to have been taught by them.
11. The Holy Spirit was the force or operation and power of God which conferred the capacity to be sons of God and to be consubstantial with the Father as Christ was consubstantial with the Father (see the papers The Holy Spirit (No. 117) and Consubstantial with the Father (No. 81)).
12. Christ did not attempt to seize equality with God but made himself of no account, taking human form and became obedient unto death (Phil. 2:6, RSV). He obtained a more excellent ministry (Heb. 8:6). By offering himself he became the mediator of a new covenant having purified the heavenly things and not just the earthly (Heb. 9:14,15,23). Christ who sanctifies and they who are sanctified are of one origin (Heb. 2:11 RSV). Christ came to do the will of God and after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down at the right hand of God (Heb. 10:5-9,12). Christ endured the cross for the joy that was set before him and for this reason is set down on the right hand of God (Heb. 12:2). God deals with all of the Host as sons and we are in subjection to the Father of Spirits who chastises us for our profit. Christ endured and became a son of God in power from his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4).
These views were more or less consistent throughout the history of the Church as we see from the records of persecution of the sects (see the paper The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170)). We know the views were held by the Siebenburg church as we have a complete record of their views from the work of the Chief Rabbi of Budapest at the turn of the last century (DIE SABBATHARIER IN SIEBENBURGEN, Ihre Geschicte, Literatur und Dogmatik, Budapest, Verlag von Singer & Wolfer, 1894’). They were not radical Unitarians; they were subordinationist Unitarians as we are. (See The Sabbatarians in Transylvania A_B2.)
Other views emerged in Europe in addition to both radical Unitarianism which denied the pre-existence of Christ and Socinianism which allegedly has the flawed doctrines we see above. Manichean Dualism also emerged as did Catharist Montanism with their ascetic doctrines stemming from Gnosticism and the Mysteries which are outlined in the paper Vegetarianism and the Bible (No. 183).
The Churches of God in the nineteenth and twentieth century have the same doctrines as the church has held throughout history. The alterations to those doctrines in the SDA and WCG churches are noted above. If the accounts given by the Catholics about the Arian doctrines are correct, then the Arians differ from the original Church concerning the Holy Spirit and do not understand its function. That may, of course, be untrue given the nature of Catholic propaganda and the absence of any confirming statement in the Thalia or other works of either Arius, or Eusebius, or Asterius, or of any other bishop of the party. The name Arian is given from the name of one man to a party which long preceded him. It is standard Catholic practice to try to name the Church for individuals so as to break up our continuity. This ploy is aided and abetted by the cult of the personality which is endemic in the USA.
The simple and fundamental distinction between orthodox Trinitarianism and the subordinationist Unitarianism of the Church is this:
· Both agree that there is only one true God. He is underived and self-existent (Ex. 3:14). In comparison with Him all else is as nothing (Isa. 40:17; cf. Wisdom 11:23). God is the beginning and end of all things (Isa. 48:12; cf. Rev. 1:8). All other things are from God the Father and by Him and in Him through Christ (Rom. 11:36; 1Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16). God is the absolute and independent sovereign (Ps. 46:12; Isa. 44:24; Heb. 1:10). The Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. IV, article ‘Creation’, p. 471) says: That these texts equivalently assert that God is the creator of all things finite is too obvious to call for further comment. The texts are not equivalent as we see.
· Both agree that the son is a generation of the Father.
The points in issue are these:
1. Trinitarians hold:
· The Son was eternally extant as the Son in the Godhead. His generation did not involve an act of creation and he was true God from true God (contrary to Jn 17:3).
· God was eternally Father, and Christ was eternally Son.
· The other sons of God were not generated from the Father in the same way and as being consubstantial with the Father. There is no scriptural evidence for this claim and resort is made to the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus to justify the claim. The distinction was not resolved until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215.
· From Augustine, time began with the creation of the Host. Thus there is an implicit and unstated distinction between the generation of the Son and that of the other sons of God in the Host. This claim is necessary from the texts concerning the beginning of time.
· If the Son was not truly God he could not atone or justify the reconciliation to God. Again this assertion is not justified by Scripture but by resort to Plato and Aristotle.
2. The later councils have also decreed:
· Christ was not seen in the Old Testament or by any man prior to the Incarnation.
· Christ is not the Angel of Yahovah, the elohim of the Old Testament that appeared to Moses and gave him the law at Sinai, as no man has seen God at any time and, hence, they could not have seen Christ who is God.
· Christ is omniscient and when he said he did not know things it was as a rhetorical statement.
The evidence of the early Church shows that there was no cultic view regarding angels and they were seldom represented in Christian art until Constantine. The oldest fresco in which an angel appears is the Annunciation scene (second century) of the cemetery of Priscilla (see Cath. Encyc., Vol. I, p. 485). The winged angel does not appear in pre-Constantine art. They were never represented unless historically necessary and not always even then (ibid.). A dove was used to represent the angel in the furnace with the Hebrew children in the third century fresco in the cemetery of Priscilla. In the fourth century fresco on the same subject, the hand of God was substituted for the heavenly messenger. From the time of Constantine a new type of angel with wings appears in Christian art probably being based on the Victories (ibid.). The oldest existing examples of winged angels appear on bas reliefs from Carthage and a representation on ivory of Michael, both from the fourth century. The figure (in the British Museum) has a staff in one hand and a globe surmounted by a cross in the other. In the fifth century we see angels become attendants on Christ and the Virgin Mary. The triumphal arch of Mary Majors shows a winged Gabriel flying through the air to Mary who is surrounded by attendant winged angels. In the sixth century the work Hierachia coelestis by pseudo-Dionysius played an important part in the depiction of angels. Until that time the view of the rank and function of the angelic Host was not distinguished in the manner in which we have become accustomed to view or conceptualise their being and function. From that time onwards the relationship of the angels to God were represented from the East after the manner of the various grades of court functionaries rendering their homage to the Emperor (Cath. Encyc., ibid., p. 485b). Early Christian literature, like its art, contains few references to angels. The Catholic view is that with the popular belief in a multitude of deities it was necessary to lay particular emphasis on the unity of God (ibid.).
The development of the view regarding angels became necessary to make positive distinction between the sons of God in the Host and the role and function of Christ as it came to be determined from 381 at the Council of Constantinople. From the Council of Chalcedon the role and function of the sons of God as messengers and ministering spirits was reduced to the point that their existence had become trivialised and the word angel ceased to be a descriptive function of a son of God in execution of the plan of God. It had become an entity in its own right which achieved an inferior existence to the perceived role of Messiah and the elect. This view served to elevate the Christology and remove Christ from the creation at all levels in accordance with trinitarian dogma. This view was not the view of the early Church and the term angel was simply seen as a function of the sons of God. This reduction argument is the biggest single problem to this day in explaining the true biblical cosmology to beginners who have not read the Bible thoroughly. Justin Martyr (Apol. 1:6) says the host of Good angels was held in the greatest veneration. Athenagoras refers to the duties of the loyal Host whom God appointed to their several posts, to occupy themselves about the elements, and the heavens and the world (Legatio x). In the fourth century, Eusebius of Caesaria distinguishes between the cult rendered to them and the worship paid to God (Demonstratio evang., III, 3). By the end of the fourth century Ambrose of Milan is recommending prayers to them (Cath. Encyc., ibid.). We thus see that the soul doctrine had penetrated Christianity. These Athanasians had reduced the position of the sons of God in relation to the Father to that of other beings in relation to a perceived Trinity.
At the same time they established a cult which promoted prayer and veneration to them and to Mary as a resurrected being. The doctrine of Consubstantiality from this time removed the Host from its relationship with God, confining it to a Trinity. The most ancient litanies from this time venerated the Trinity and then Michael (meaning Who is like God) and Gabriel (meaning Man of God) and then Mary (ibid.). These distinctions we see above became fundamental to the division between the true Church and Athanasian (or mainstream) Christianity.
It was not until the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, in view of the position taken by the Dualists among the Albigensian Cathars, that the Roman Church declared angels to be created (as opposed to Christ who was not created) and that men were created after them (decree Firmiter; cf. Cath. Encyc., article ‘Angel’, Vol. I, p. 476). The Hebrew, of course, is simply the word malak from the root lak meaning one going or one sent, hence messenger. The angel of His presence is in Isaiah 63:9 and the LXX terms Messiah the Angel of Great Counsel. Aquinas declares the angels where not co-eternal with God but created ex nihilo. In this way Aquinas maintains the distinction between Christ and the other sons of God. From Tauler (d. 1361) and his contempories the Dionysian classification of Spirits is followed.
The notion of worship is as the process of paying honour. It is applied by degrees. It is addressed directly to God and in this sense it is superior absolute supreme worship of adoration. This sovereign worship, the latria, is due to God alone (Cath. Encyc., Vol. XV, article ‘Worship’, p. 710). When worship (dulia; hyperdulia for Mary) is addressed to others it is only indirectly to God but addressed to them in view of their relationship with God. Both forms are derived from the concept of homage as proskuneo or prostration from the Greek. Thus, biblically, the homage paid to Christ and the elect is derived from their relationship with God. In this sense, the distinction between Trinitarianism and Unitarianism is that homage to Christ is in view of his relationship to the Father and of a secondary type – whereas, the Trinitarians hold it is of the cult of the latria, where he is in fact God, as the Father is God.
The distinctions between Catholicism and Protestant Trinitarianism are held to be constant and additional to the arguments above. Protestantism has two views. One is that of Luther, which adopted the doctrine held by the Church long before him, namely that of Sola Scriptura, or the Bible alone, as authority. The Anglican Church and others accept the Councils as having validity up until Chalcedon in 451 and hence are tainted in the same way doctrinally as Roman Catholicism but to a lesser degree. The Lutheran Church does not follow this doctrine of Luther – otherwise they would have restored more of the original truths than they actually restored. Harnack holds that Christianity became contaminated by Polytheism and adopted numerous pagan practices (Das Wesen des Christentums, Berlin, 1900, pp. 126,137-138,148). This has been essentially the dispute between the mainstream church and the Church of God over the centuries.
Binitarianism, which must also be subject to these arguments, is another incoherent diversion which does not stand according to logic and, hence, has not survived as a doctrine in any serious way.
The Church and Worship
Christ founded one Church with one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all (Eph. 4:5-6). This baptism represents the entire worship, which should be one, addressed to the same God by the same Christ (Cath. Encyc., article ‘Worship’, ibid.). This faith has not changed and the Church still worships the same God and Father of all. God is entitled to worship as a matter of justice and worship is not an optional act of His creation (Cath. Encyc., op. cit.). Justice and righteousness are the same word (tsedek) in the Hebrew language. Worship in private or even individual worship in public is not sufficient. Society should honour Him and Christians should assemble in public to worship Him and to praise and thank Him (ibid.).
The Montanists in the second century started a cult of worship of the Holy Spirit as they expected the Holy Spirit to come and take the place of the sons and announce a more perfect gospel. This view was repressed but led to the Fourth Council of Rome in 380 where Pope Damasus condemned whoever denied that the Holy Spirit should be adored like the Father and the Son (ibid., p. 711). Thus the next year (381) at the Council of Constantinople, the Holy Spirit was added to the Godhead as the Trinity but not perhaps as successfully as the Cappadocians would have liked. This forms the next great distinction between the Church and Trinitarianism.
The Catholics acknowledge (ibid.) that Christ carefully observed all the prescriptions of Jewish worship (including Sabbaths and Feasts) for a deviation on one point or another would certainly have aroused protest of which some echo would have been preserved in the gospels. The only such protest was concerning the method and not the fact of Sabbath observance.
The True Church
The mainstream system has tried to bury all trace of a continuous Church in opposition to their doctrine. The accounts of the history and doctrines are inaccurate from the misconceptions of the individuals involved and the secrecy of the Church under persecution. The Catholic Church has persecuted the Church of God for centuries. In 1179 the Third General Lateran Council prohibited the Church called Vallenses from that year. Pope Lucius III issued a Bull of excommunication at Verona in 1184 because the Church decreed that obedience was to God and not man and refused to give up the faith. A general conference between the Church and the Catholics was held in 1191 and was followed by a second at Parmiers in 1207. In 1192 bishop Otto of Toul ordered all Waldenses to be delivered up in chains to the episcopal tribunal. In 1194 Alphonso II of Aragon ordered their banishment from his dominion and forbade them shelter or food. The Council of Genoa (1197) affirmed these provisions and ordered death by burning against the Church. From then, they tried to kill or suppress the Church by any means possible. The existence of contemporaneous heretical sects has compounded the problem of identification and the Catholic history is simply wrong in its attempt to confine the Church to Peter Waldo and the twelfth century and to trivialise its doctrines and its effect (see the papers General Distribution of the Sabbath-keeping Churches (No. 122) and The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170)).
Christ has one Church – albeit in various administrations or operations as Paul says (1Cor. 12:6). That Church has not stopped operating or changed its basic doctrines in two thousand years. The Catholic Church wants everyone to believe that they are that body. That claim is false. Christ did not start the work this century nor did he change his views. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. We are the true inheritors of that faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).