Former UPC take on scripture

I thought this would be interesting reading. Here is a former UPC believer explaining how a new view and understanding of the scriptures essentially changed his view about UPC theology. I thought it would be interesting since this guy talking about alot of the same things we are here:

"Part 2: How I got out of it.
When I was involved with the UPC, I wasn't much interested in reading literature by non-Oneness "Christian" authors. I figured, If these guys aren't even true "born again" Christians (by the UPC definition), why should I pay any attention to what they have to say?

Still, I had an insatiable appetite for learning the scripture. If I didn't understand something, I would search and study until I did. I started reading non-Oneness authors, but only to debunk them. I would see a statement like "to be saved, all you have to do is accept Christ as your Lord and Savior," and I would think, "that is not even in the Bible; I have much more scripture to back up my position than they have to back up theirs!" "Traditional evangelicalism" seemed so much more shallow than the depth of experience and doctrine I had received as a Oneness Pentecostal.

However, as I studied, I ran across a passage in the Bible that shook my whole theological structure; it was the 4th chapter of Romans. When I honestly studied it, and grasped the full significance of it, I realized that I had forced the whole Bible to conform to my own misguided preconception. In light of this highly significant passage, the whole message of the Bible, including Acts 2:38, became startlingly clear. I realized that I had fully embraced "another gospel" than the one in the Bible!

One basic principle of Bible study is that "scripture interprets scripture." If one scripture is clear, and another is unclear, you must interpret the unclear one in light of the clear one, not vice versa. Romans 4 is very clear, as I will show you in part 3. However, I knew that there was some debate about what exactly Acts 2:38 meant, because of the words and grammar of the original Greek text. Still, I had always interpreted this verse in light of Oneness doctrine, and not truly in the light of "the whole counsel of God." Sure, I had lots of "supporting scriptures" to back up my position, but I also misinterpreted them to maintain my Oneness convictions."

I will soon explain the specific message of Romans 4; but for now, suffice it to say that once its truth fully took hold of me, I could no longer stay in this movement.

They say that hindsight is 20/20, and since I've been out of it for a while, I have been able to identify other serious problems with Oneness Pentecostalism, which I will touch on in part 6. The fact is that error always begets more error; when the foundation is flawed (in this case, the basic gospel message), the rest of the structure (the other details of the religion) can never be quite right.



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"Part 3: How Romans 4 changes everything.
Before we begin to examine specific scriptures, you must remember that Oneness adherents (along with the Churches of Christ, and some others) believe that water baptism is an essential part of spiritual rebirth. According to this interpretation of Acts 2:38, it is through water baptism that one's sins are forgiven (or "remitted," as the King James Version reads).

"Justification by faith alone"
As I said before, the basic teaching of Romans 4 is very clear. The theme of the whole chapter has been called "justification by faith alone," which was a primary principle in the reformers' position against Roman Catholicism. The distinction made by the reformers was the word "alone." In other words, God "justifies" (or declares "not guilty") a sinner the moment he puts his faith in the saving work and authority of Jesus Christ. Works of faith (like baptism, and a holy lifestyle) follow afterward, but these works can never bring about a person's right standing before God.

Like Roman Catholicism, Oneness Pentecostalism would agree with the idea of "justification by faith," but they would not use the word "alone." They believe that in order for faith to take its saving effect, it must first must be demonstrated through certain works. In both Catholicism and Oneness Pentecostalism, the primary work in one's initial salvation is baptism, but subsequent obedience is also necessary to maintain one's standing before God. For Catholicism, it is obedience to the Sacraments; for Oneness Pentecostalism, it is obedience to the "standards of holiness."

The message of Romans 4
As you run across the word "justification," you should know that it was originally a legal term, and that to be "justified" is to be legally declared 'not guilty.' It is a declaration from God that happens at one specific point in time.

Also, keep in mind that the Jews considered themselves "saved" because they were circumcised, in the same way that many Christians consider themselves "saved" because they are baptized. Here is a brief summary of the chapter (you can read the specific verses in your own Bible):

V.1: Paul, the writer of Romans, uses Abraham to illustrate his point, because Abraham was considered by the Jews to be the ultimate biblical example of faithfulness.

V.2: Abraham could perhaps do good works to justify himself before people, but no good works could justify him before God.

V.3: Genesis 15:6 is quoted to show that Abraham was accounted, or credited with righteousness simply because He believed God's promise.

V.4: If we could earn salvation, it would not be a gift, would it?

V.5: A person is not justified through doing something, but only by believing in the God who justifies undeserving, ungodly people.

V.6: This is not only a New Testament idea; king David wrote about it in the Old Testament.

V.7: Psalm 32:1,2 is quoted to show that justification includes the forgiveness and covering of sins.

V.8: The Lord no longer holds sin against a justified person. Remember, justification is God's legal declaration about a person.

V.9: The question is raised: Does a person have to be circumcised (an Old Testament sign of obedience) to receive this blessing of justification?

V.10: The answer is, No.

V.11: Abraham was circumcised as a sign of obedience to God, but only after he had already put his faith in God, and after he had already been justified by God. In the same way, we are justified before we ever obey God.

V.12: As Abraham was justified by faith alone, we are in the same way justified by faith alone.

V.13: It was not God's commandment that brought about God's promise to Abraham, but simply Abraham's faith in God's promise.

V.14: If people could obey God perfectly, there would be no need for faith (but of course they cannot).

V.15: God's commandments only serve to show human guilt, and to bring about God's wrath...

V.16: ...That's why God's grace is offered through faith (alone); so that all believers can benefit, whether they are circumcised or not.

V.17: That's how Abraham is the father of "many nations." He is the father of all who put their faith in God, whether they are circumcised or not.

V.18: Abraham's faith was in God's promise that seemed impossible.

V.19: The circumstances of Abraham's life made God's promise seem even more impossible.

V.20 Still, Abraham unswervingly trusted God's promise.

V.21 He trusted that what God promised, He could and would do.

V.22 It is because of this kind of faith (trust in God's promise) that God justified Abraham (declared him "not guilty").

V.23 The whole point of this discussion is not only to show Abraham's faith, but...

V.24 ...for everyone who has the same trust in God's provision of salvation through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

V.25 The promise Christians believe is that Jesus took the punishment for our sins, and he was raised from the dead so that we could be justified (declared "not guilty").

Here are the significant points of this chapter:

-Abraham was justified because of his faith alone, not because of anything he did (vv. 1-4).

-This justification includes the forgiveness (or "remission") of sins (vv. 5-8).

-Abraham was justified by faith alone before he did any acts of obedience (vv. 9-12).

-The specific kind of faith Abraham had was simply an unswerving trust in God's promise (vv. 13-22).

-In the same way, we are justified (credited with perfect righteousness) when we trust in God's provision of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (vv. 23-25).

Yes, it is also said in James 2:21-23 that Abraham was "justified by works" when he offered up his son as a sacrifice to God. This "justification" obviously took place several years after the justification referred to in Romans 4. God justifies us at the moment of our faith; however, others cannot see our faith until we display it through obedience to God. When we obey God, our invisible faith is made visible, and we are then "justified" in the eyes of those who witness our lives. James 2:21-23 was written to teach that true faith always manifests itself in good works. However, it is still true that justification comes from God before any good works are done.

Notice that Romans 5:1 states that it is "justification" that gives a believer peace with God; also notice that water baptism is not mentioned once in this entire passage. In fact, the whole idea that God requires water baptism for the forgiveness of sins is incompatible with the teaching of Romans 4. Forgiveness from God and peace with God come before a person could ever be baptized in water.

Another observation should be mentioned about justification. It is a declaration that comes from God at one specific point in time. Before God justifies a person, they are guilty of all their sins, and are considered to be children of the devil (John 8:44). However, after God has justified a person, they are freed from all guilt, and they are considered to be children of God (John 1:12-13). Either a person is saved, or they are not; there is a universe of difference between these two conditions, and the only thing that makes the difference is God's justification of the sinner.

The reason I bring this up is because according to the Oneness gospel, there are three "steps" in the new birth: Repentance, baptism in Jesus' name, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking in tongues. If someone has not completed all three of these "steps," they are still "in the process" of their new birth. For example, if a person has repented and spoken in tongues, yet they haven't been baptized "correctly" ("in the name of Jesus Christ"), they would not be considered born again. If a person has repented, and been baptized "correctly," yet they have never spoken in "tongues," they would still not be considered born again.

This unbiblical view of salvation creates great and unnecessary spiritual frustration for anyone seeking salvation. Instead of understanding the amazing grace of God that immediately frees a undeserving sinner from the guilt of their sin, people in Oneness churches are taught that they are not yet saved if they haven't spoken in tongues. Oneness Pentecostals also cannot believe that any non-Oneness Christian is really saved, because they haven't been baptized "correctly." In Oneness thinking, to be baptized "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" is the equivalent of not being baptized at all. A common saying among Oneness Pentecostals is, "If you were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, all you got was wet."

The doctrine of justification by faith alone, as it is clearly presented in Romans 4, completely disassembles every false religious system of "salvation by grace through works of faith," including the whole "gospel" according to Oneness Pentecostalism.

Because the teaching of this chapter is so powerful and so clear, we must now interpret the rest of scripture in light of it. We must keep this fact in mind as we interpret other verses, like Acts 2:38, that speak of conversion, baptism, and the Holy Spirit. But first, we will consider another significant "proof text" for the Oneness view of salvation -- John 3:5.

There is more but I won't cut and paste the rest.

I encourage those who are interested to go to:

www.caicusa.org/biblebase/upc/upc.htm

It is interesting to get a view from someone who was apart of the UPC and now isn't and read his story as to why he is no longer apart of the UPC. He gives some very poignant and interesting points as to why he is no longer apart of the UPC.

Bludhall,

You DON'T have to read it. I wouldn't if is boring to you. I also wouldn't read it if it wasn't interesting to you. You certainly have the right and the ability to read or do something else if this particular article bore and doesn't interest you.

MG, I'd be happy to address any of the multiple critiques brought up in this article if you can stick to one. Otherwise we'd be here all day. Trinity, tongues, baptism, legalism, standards, etc. Can you pick one?

Luther wrote that we are justified by faith. Yet he believe you had to be baptized to be saved and that infant needed to be baptized. What say you. I love your UPC vendetta. I hope it causes more people to research it and yes, please, please read Dr. David Bernards book "the Oneness of God". Read it as a critic. Read it for ammo, but for God's sake, read it!

That Luther was wrong about infants. That's what I would say.

-Tom

What about his view on baptism being essential? Thanks Tom.

Why would an infant need to be baptized?

SCRAP

Rooster,

Most of what is in this article has been discussed already. The purpose of posting this article was more so to provide information for those who are interested in the topic.

The article itself is pretty long and has 6 parts. I only posted part of the article along with the URL so that those who desire to read more of it would be able to.

I was more interested in providing interesting reading then debating specific issues.

One of the things I enjoy doing is actually going to the various sites that people provide links for. It is one way I get more information of alot of the subjects discussed on this and other forums.

Scrapper, I don't believe in infant baptism as biblical (although Luther, Augustine and other "church fathers" did) but they thought a baby was born with "original sin" and if they were not baptized, they would go to "limbo" or be "lost".

Right MG

Rooster,

Just out of curiosity why do you only make a big deal about the church fathers, Luther etc when they agree or you think they agree with you, as if they agree with you on every matter, BUT don't do the same when you comes to issue they don't agree with you on.

What you said about just said Luther is a classical example.

Earlier you made the point that Luther essentially agreed with you on Baptism being essential and because of this "agreement" you must be correct. Luther than must be someone to listen to concern Baptism being essential because you "agree" with or he "agrees" with you. BUT since Luther holds a different position concerning infant baptism is he still a man worth listening to?

Or is the only time him and the church fathers really worth listening to is when they agree with you or when you perceive that they agree with you. What about the moments that they don't like this time?

I mean since you are using their views as a source of validation for some of your beliefs shouldn't their other belief be valid as well even if they?

It seems your picking and choosing when which view of the church Fathers one should heed and listen to (only the ones that you think agree with you) and which ones you should throw away (the ones you don't agree with).

Mg, great point, I'm glad you pointed that out. I do not give any credence to the Church fathers as anything more then men with opinions, like us. They are not Apostles. I hold the scriptures to be the ultimate authority. There is certainly value in reading others opinions and they certainly have influenced the orthodox.

My point is, that in debating with you, you have given them tremendous credence in the area of the godhead (Trinity specifically)and as the positors for credibility for the faithful. You also hold to the position of "by faith are ye saved, not works" a definite Lutheran influence.

So, I am placing you in a dilemna. You hold these early church fathers as corret in matters of faith. They were guided by the Holy Spirit in matters essential (ie: the Trinity). As such, you hold them in high regard. The dilemna is, how much of what they said was inspired? Was it just their opinions on the Trinity, or was it also their opinions on baptism? What about infant baptism, or communion?!? What about Limbo? Was Luther right and inspired and used by God to show that it is not works but faith yet at the same time "uninspired" and wrong when it came to baptism (essential) or infant baptism?

I have no dilemna because I do not look at the creeds, doctrines, opinions, statements as anything more then man made opinions. They were not inspired (as to the level of the Apostles) and were frankly wrong on a lot of things. So, you are with them (to support their view of the Trinity) which causes you to be inconsistent in abandoning their views on baptism, OR you recognize that they can be wrong in their views and that the fact that they were in the majority did not mean it was right. So which is it?

Rooster,

What you are trying to do would work but it is based on your faulty assumption.

When did I ever say that the Church Fathers were "correct" on every matter and were without error?

I never said that. Truth be told you seem to know far more about what the church fathers believe than I. This indicates that you have spent far more time studying and pondering their position on various matters of faith than I have. Your assuming I hang my hat on every word stated by the Church Fathers. But since I have very few references and sources as to what the church fathers stated my theology and understand can't be based or derived from them.

For example I never really read or studied any of Luther's works. So my theology can't really be influenced by him. So no offense to Luther but I really don't care what he believed. His views and beliefs were his views and beliefs. I personally don't believe or feel Luther created the idea and premise "justification by faith". He that may have been something he preached in his time. But my understanding and belief in that premise didn't come from him.

Anyway you are trying to create a dillema for me by using the words and opinions of the church fathers and you are failing. I don't read the works of the Church fathers or any other theologian and make their theology my own.

mg: When did I ever say that the Church Fathers were "correct" on every matter and were without error?

me: pretty much in our discussion of the trinity. You relied on the weight of evidence from the early fathers and the view that it became the dominant theological viewpoint, therefore it must be right. You consistently pointed to the apologist as having rightly postulated in the matter of the godhead. So, you are now admitting that these hallowed fathers can be wrong and are not infallible or inspired as we would view scripture. Further, that there writings and viewpoints on the godhead, baptism, salvation etc. are subject to error?

mg: But since I have very few references and sources as to what the church fathers stated my theology and understand can't be based or derived from them. For example I never really read or studied any of Luther's works. So my theology can't really be influenced by him.

me: just as I am influenced by the body of work done by prior modalists, you are most definitely influenced by the body of work done by the orthodoxy. Pastors, ministers etc. who are theologically trained and have influence via the pulpit, sunday school, publications, ministries etc. are classically trained in the various doctrines, councils, decrees etc.

mg: I don't read the works of the Church fathers or any other theologian and make their theology my own.

me: except the Trinity...then they are right, right?

blud: yeah nevermind the 5-10 billion people who lived and died before jesus showed up, they weren't baptised so they were lost.

me: not the ones in a covenant relationship with him via the prior covenant/dispensation. In every time period God has governed man through a particular covenant or dispensation. So people certainly could have been saved prior to the institution of baptism.

blud: nevermind the 3-7 billion people who lived around the world and never heard of jesus since he showed up.

me: where did you get that stat?!!?

Rooster,

You said: "You relied on the weight of evidence from the early fathers and the view that it became the dominant theological viewpoint, therefore it must be right. You consistently pointed to the apologist as having rightly postulated in the matter of the godhead."

My friend your gravely mistaken. My proof of this is compare my posts to yours. Let's see who mentions and refers to outside sources such as the so-called Church fathers, Luther and other notable in Christianity the most? You do.

You constantly REFERENCE and QUOTE these source. You use them and depend on them more than I.


The one outside thing I used in regards of the trinity doctrine was the FACT it is commonly accepted by mainstream Christianity (Catholicism, Orthodox, Mainline Protestantism). I refer to the common acceptance of the Nicean and other Creeds to prove that the doctrine of the Trinity is COMMONLY ACCEPTED by mainstream christianity.

BUT I never use it to prove the doctrine was true only that was commonly accepted in mainstream Christianity.


In regards to what I specifically use to prove the Trinity is true is scripture. I alway reference the same scripture. AND I don't go into some elaborate explanation as how it proves the point like you do.

I told you once I'll tell you again I don't have to go no further than John 1:1-18 or John chapters 14 - 17.

Bottom line is you are angry at the FACT the doctrine of the Trinity IS so widely accepted in Christianity AND you want to blame the church fathers etc for this.
You believe (and the last comment of your post substantiates this) that they influenced and coerce everyone into believeing this doctrine. This is why you spend so much time and effort attacking them. Why else would you CONSTANTLY quote, reference and examine their words. You obviously don't agree with them so you must use their words as fuel for your disagreement.

mg: The one outside thing I used in regards of the trinity doctrine was the FACT it is commonly accepted by mainstream Christianity (Catholicism, Orthodox, Mainline Protestantism). I refer to the common acceptance of the Nicean and other Creeds to prove that the doctrine of the Trinity is COMMONLY ACCEPTED by mainstream christianity.

BUT I never use it to prove the doctrine was true only that was commonly accepted in mainstream Christianity.

me: C'mon bro, the very inference that is is COMMONLY ACCEPTED" by 'mainstream christianity' is an appeal to it's truthfulness! If not, what's the point of pointing that out?!?

So is the Nicean Creed correct in regards to the godhead but incorrect in regards to "baptism for the remission of sins"?

mg: In regards to what I specifically use to prove the Trinity is true is scripture. I alway reference the same scripture. AND I don't go into some elaborate explanation as how it proves the point like you do.

me: no you don't. You have "favorites" and other scripture you don't accept as God's word (ie: Isaiah 9:6, Revelations 21:7) etc.

mg: I told you once I'll tell you again I don't have to go no further than John 1:1-18 or John chapters 14-17.

me: lol!!! You mean you don't interpret LOGOS as "god the son, the 2nd person of the trinity"?!!? You do interpret it as it means in the original greek (Plan, Character, Nature, Moral Character, Word)?!? ...and you also agree if all things were made through and BY the Word, then Jesus MADE OR CREATED HIS OWN BODY!

The problem is not the verses, it's your subsequent interpretation of what they mean that conflict with other scriptures.

mg: Bottom line is you are angry at the FACT the doctrine of the Trinity IS so widely accepted in Christianity AND you want to blame the church fathers etc for this.

me: wrong, I'm not angry. I'm sad for those who do not understand the true revelation of Jesus. That He alone is God and beside Him there is no other. That He came as a man and died for our sins. I'm sorry that people are confused and believe in multiple gods.

Any anger I have is reserved for the orthodoxy KILLING those who did not agree with them thus revealing their fruits.

mg: You believe (and the last comment of your post substantiates this) that they influenced and coerce everyone into believeing this doctrine.

me: fact. the various theological leaders set up theological schools (Antioch, Rome etc.) and were later supported by the state (Rome). No hidden conspiracy here. Further, it's no hidden fact of history that heretics were harrassed, excommunicated and even tortured and killed (and we are not talking torture as in what US troops did in Iraq ;-)

mg: Why else would you CONSTANTLY quote, reference and examine their words. You obviously don't agree with them so you must use their words as fuel for your disagreement

me: because you do. You hold them in esteem in that you believe what they believe. You believe in their creeds (Nicea) and in their doctrines (trinity) and they are foundational to your theology.