Christian Churches of God

No. 185z




Socinianism, Arianism and Unitarianism

(Edition 1.0 19961221-19961221)


The term Socinianism has been applied quite indiscriminately over a large body of Non‑Trinitarian doctrine. The Godhead is the central issue of Socinianism. Unitarians see that homage to Christ is in view of his relationship to the Father and of a secondary type. Trinitarians hold that Christ is in fact God, as the Father is God.






Christian Churches of God

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(Copyright ã 1996 Wade Cox)

(Summary ed. by Wade Cox)



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 Socinianism, Arianism and Unitarianism


The term Socinianism originates from a sect lead by Helius Socinius and his nephew from the 1500s. They were against the idea of God as a trinity. There was a strong following in Europe, often persecuted and suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholics held God to be a three person Trinity. Some scholars incorrectly group the Arians and Socinians together under the term Unitarian, but there are differences between their doctrines.


The Socinians took the Bible as sole authority but it had to be interpreted by reason. They rejected all mysteries, reason convinced them of the unity, eternity, omnipotence, justice and wisdom of God. God's immensity, infinity and omnipresence were regarded as beyond human comprehension and therefore not essential for salvation. Original justice meant Adam was created free from sin so they denied the doctrine of original sin entirely. Since faith was but trust in God, the Socinians denied the Roman Catholic doctrine of justification.


There were only two sacraments but these were held to be mere incentives to faith. They also rejected infant baptism and the aspect of Hell. The wicked were simply annihilated after death. The Godhead is the central issue of Socinianism. They held that God is absolutely simple and singular, and concluded that distinction of persons is destructive to that simplicity. They differed from the Unitarians, especially the Church Of God, in that they taught adoration or worship of Christ. They held that Christ was The Logos but denied his pre-existence. As the word of God, he was the interpreter, he was miraculously begotten, he was the perfect man. He was the appointed mediator, but he was not God, only a deified man. In this sense he was to be adored.


The Catholics hold this as the dividing line between Socinians and Unitarians that Unitarians deny the miraculous birth of Christ and refuse him adoration. The Catholics hold that Arians say Christ was pre-existent as a product of the Father. Radical Unitarians still deny the pre-existence, divine birth and worship of Christ. The Catholics often over simplify and obscure some fundamental distinctions between these groups. Refer to the full paper (No. 185), which covers this in much greater detail.


The Church of God from its inception with Christ and the apostles was always subordinationist Unitarian. It held that:

1) There was only One True God, who is God and Father of all.

2) Christ was a subordinate God (Elohim) and not the One True God. He was the only born God (Jn.1:18).

3) Christ and all the sons of God were products of the Father. Their generation involved an act of will and hence an act of creation

4) Christ was pre-existent as the Messenger of God, the being that spoke to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and the Messenger of the Old Testament; as no man has seen or heard The God at any time (Jn.1:18;1Tim.6:16).

5) Christ had a divine conception being born of the human virgin for the redemption of sin.

6) Miriam (Mary) had other children by Joseph.

7) They deny any worship of any entity other than God The Father.

8) They have two sacraments, baptism and Passover.

9) No symbols of the cross were used.

10) Transubstantiation wasn't taught.

11) The Holy Spirit was the force, or operation and power of God, which conferred the capacity to become sons of God and be 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 took human form and became obedient unto death (Phil. 2:6). He obtained a more excellent ministry (Heb. 8:6). By sacrificing himself he became the mediator of a new covenant. Christ who sanctifies and they who are sanctified are of one origin (Heb. 2:11). Christ came to do the will of God and after he offered one sacrifice for sins forever sat down at the right hand of God (Heb. 10:5-9,12; 12:2). Christ became a son of God in power from his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4).


Other views emerged in Europe in addition to Radical Unitarianism and Socinianism. Manichean Dualism and Catharist Montanism appeared with their ascetic doctrines stemming from Gnosticism and the mysteries. They believed that spiritual perfection could be reached by practising rigorous self-discipline and austere self-denial. See paper Vegetarianism and the Bible (No. 183).


Trinitarians hold that:


The later Catholic councils also decreed that:


The evidence of the early church shows that there was no cultic view regarding angels, and they were seldom seen in art until the time of Constantine. From then angels with wings were seen in Christian art and literature. This view of angels developed to make a distinction between Christ and the other sons of God in the spiritual host. From the Council of Chalcedon the angels were reduced to 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 in accordance with Trinitarian teaching. At the same time they established a cult, which promoted prayer to angels and Mary as a resurrected being.


From the Fourth Lateran Council 1215, the Catholics declared angels to be created as opposed to Christ who wasn't, and that man was created after them. The notion of worship is as the process of paying honour; it is applied in degrees. The absolute supreme worship is to God The Father alone. God is entitled to be worshipped as a matter of justice and worship is not an optional act of His creation. When worship is addressed to others it is because of their relationship with God. This homage is derived from the word in Greek proskuneo or to prostrate; that is, lying in a posture of humility. Thus, biblically the homage paid to Christ and the elect is derived from their relationship with God The Father. Unitarians see the homage to Christ in view of his secondary type of relationship with God, but Trinitarians hold it where Christ is God as The Father is God. True Christians need to assemble together in public to worship and thank God. Private worship is not sufficient.


The mainstream Christian system has tried to bury all trace of a continuous church in opposition to their doctrines. The accounts in history and doctrines have often been inaccurate so misconceptions are formed in people’s minds. Christ has one church, which hasn't changed its basic doctrines or stopped operating for two thousand years. The Catholic Church wants people to believe they are that body, but this claim is false. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Church of God is the true inheritor of that faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).