The other day someone commented on one of the posts in this series saying that my arguments against Oneness Pentecostalism were not very good. He said that I was creating a “straw man” while negatively painting the movement with a “broad brush”. He has misunderstood what I am trying to do.
I said this in the introductory post:
Let me provide a disclaimer from the very beginning. I am not writing this post and the next few in order to try to apologetically disprove Oneness Pentecostal dogma. In fact, I will be ignoring comments that try to bait me into such debates. I have written plenty elsewhere saying openly why I disagree with their teachings.
Likewise, I have no illusions that these posts will “convert” anyone. I have met some people who have told me that my story gave them the strength to leave, but I know that there are many others whom I have failed to convince, including some family. If you are happy where you are as a Oneness Pentecostal, or if you are needing to be “convinced”, then this is a dead end.
So if you are an apologist for Oneness Pentecostalism you will find these writings frustrating because I am not trying to show that Oneness Pentecostalism is misguided. I’ve written elsewhere in an attempt to do that very thing. What I am writing here presupposes a level of agreement between me and my readers. No, you don’t have to be fully convinced that it is time for you to exit Oneness Pentecostalism, but I assume that you, the reader, already have thought about it for a while and that you are seriously weighing your options. Whether or not you leave is between you and God. I am writing for those who either have made the choice to reintegrate into the broader Christian family or who will in the near future.
That being said, let me get to the main subject of this post. One thing that Oneness Pentecostalism does share with most every other “type” of Christianity is a underlying tribalism. We all want to be “in” and not “out”. We want to belong. Sadly, this means that we are often forced to choose another group so that we do not have to feel like Lone Rangers.
There is nothing wrong with finding a place to belong. There is nothing wrong with affirming a creed or confession. Two bloggers that write here have recently aligned themselves with large groups holding very historic confessions. JohnDave Medina has returned to Roman Catholicism and Josh Smith has entered into the Anglican fellowship. They are both former Oneness Pentecostals.
I have remained unaffiliated though I have had times where I was drawn to Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, and I even thought ever so briefly about the Reformed. I once considered becoming part of the Assemblies of God so I could retain a Pentecostal identity. I have been going to a seminary that has Baptist roots, so I thought I may become a Baptist (probably wouldn’t be too hard to make this transition now). I discovered that for the time being I was happy committing as deep as a local independent church would ask of me. Unlike my fellow bloggers I am not part of a larger group.
What I do fear is that while some people can be removed from the sectarianism of Oneness Pentecostalism, some cannot have the sectarianism removed from within them. So they are suddenly as militantly for this group or that group as they were for Oneness Pentecostals a few months earlier. While this may be my committed ecumenism speaking, I ask you to be careful not to chose a group merely to belong.
I say this because your identity must be grounded in Christ. You must see yourself first and foremost as a Christian before you say you are a Roman Catholic, a Presbyterian, or a Methodist. You need to learn to love the people of God broadly before aligning with a group for pragmatic or polemical reasons.
There is a purging that must occur. While not all Oneness Pentecostal congregations are suspicious of other Christians a great many are. There is a good chance that if you fellowshipped with the church down the street it was through minimal interaction. Whatever you do, don’t leave where you are only to go somewhere similar.
Also, there are many Oneness Pentecostals who had to accept what their pastor taught lest they be isolated. You had to affirm particular views on particular passages. You didn’t study these things to see if they were true because in part you feared your conclusions. If you did study it was only to learn how to “defend” yourself against Trinitarians.
If you pray and study and one day realize you belong amongst the Southern Baptist then so be it. But don’t choose to be Southern Baptist because you need a “team”. Don’t choose to be Southern Baptist because you need an “us” to oppose “them”. Do not choose to be Southern Baptist simply to belong. Why? Because one day you will wake up and realize you are in a place that is vaguely familiar. You have doubts, you need answers, and you aren’t sure what to do. Too much could be at stake to ask the questions floating through your mind, so you will shut up and live with the tension. Tension it will be.
This is all I have to say on this subject. In my next post I will address something a bit more concerning. I will be writing on the pendulum swing that I have experienced and seen experienced by other former Oneness Pentecostals in the area of morals and convictions.