My thoughts on Unitarianism

Many Christians in the world believe Jesus is God (the schools of Trinitarianism and Modalism), other Christians such as myself believe he is the created Son of God who existed before all other created things (Arianism), but other Christians believe in a school of thought known as “Unitarianism”.

Unitarians believe that Jesus is not God, akin to Arianism, but Unitarians go a step further by saying Jesus did not exist before he was conceived in Mary on Earth by God. This view sees Jesus as a very “human Jesus”, not too far off from Adoptionists or Muslims, who believe Jesus was just a man born of natural means (that he wasn’t a miracle virgin birth), and merely became a chosen prophet of God. Unitarians, Adoptionists and Muslims are all sharing in a belief known as “Socinianism”. Of course Unitarians do not go as far as denying his “begotten sonship”, but merely differ in opinion on “when” he was begotten (or “created”).

Unitarians will state the verses of the New Testament which speak of Jesus as the firstborn assisting in the creation at Colossians 1:1517, refers not to the ‘literal’ world, but to “the New World to come”, the Kingdom of God, which starts with Christianity.

  • “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the congregation; he is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, so that in all things He may have preeminence”. Colossians 1:15-18

This interpretation comes from reading into verse 18 in this passage, that he is the “firstborn among the dead”, and as such state that it is not a proof text of Jesus being in Heaven before the Earth was, but claim in context of verse 18 that it is talking about the creation of “all things new”.

In the same stead they will claim “the Word becoming flesh” at John 1 does not refer to Jesus literally existing in Heaven before God to ‘then’ become flesh, but refers to “God’s promise”, the “pre-destination” of Jesus becoming flesh, or “coming into fruition”.

  • “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was divine. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without him nothing was made that has been made… The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… “No one has ever yet seen God. The only begotten God/Divine (theos), the One being in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known.”. – John 1:1-3, 14, 18

However, as someone of the Arian persuasion, I believe the Bible points to Jesus being at God’s side as his “master worker” who rejoiced before him all the time before the “creations of old”.

  • Yehovah created me as His first course, before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, before the earth began. When there were no watery depths, I was brought forth, when no springs were overflowing with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I was brought forth, before He made the land or fields, or any of the dust of the earth. I was there when He established the heavens, when He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, when He established the clouds above, when the fountains of the deep gushed forth, when He set a boundary for the sea, so that the waters would not surpass His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was a skilled craftsman at His side, and His delight day by day, rejoicing always in His presence. I was rejoicing in His whole world, delighting together in the sons of men. Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, for blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to instruction and be wise; do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at the posts of my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains the favor of Yehovah. But he who fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death.” Proverbs 8:21-36

Some argue this was just talking about wisdom and not a person, for verse 1 of this passage states “Does not wisdom call out” and again in verse 12, it seems “wisdom” is speaking like a person in a form of poetry. This position is taken up by many Unitarians and Trinitarians, both who do not seem to like the idea of Jesus being “created” by God before the world was, for obvious reasons respectively.

Other Unitarians believe that Jesus is indeed being spoken of here, but that he is being “pre-destined” and is “not conscious” at this time, and is Jesus’ “non-conscious form” rejoicing before God in poetic language, before the physical world was created, whilst others believe that it is a form of prophecy in relation to “the New World” and what Jesus will do at that time.

I personally however don’t read either of those things here.

Firstly, it appears to me to be speaking of a conscious Jesus who loves his father and was the first creation, who assisted in the creation of all other things, and in turn was very fond of those creations. We must ask, can a “predestined concept” “rejoice before God” or be his “master worker”? Nothing in this verse indicates such, and so that would be an insertion based upon an “assumed premise” that Jesus did not exist before being born through Mary.

I also do not see enough evidence of this passage to be speaking prophetically of the “New Creation”, for verse 22 even states he was created “as the first course before the works of old”, the term “works of old” here, the mountains, the sea, the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens (Proverbs 8:24-29) is in stark contrast to the “new works”, that is, the “Kingdom of New Heavens and New Earth” which I believe based on the scriptures does not refer to a literal or physical new Earth which replaces the Earth we live upon now (Genesis 8:21-22, Ecclesiastes 1:4), but the reconciliation of it. As such, the language in Proverbs 8 to me seems to be talking about the creation of ‘this’ Earth and the physical universe, the works “of old”.

Thirdly, if it ‘was’ speaking of Jesus’ non-existent pre-destination for the purpose of our redemption before our Earth was even created, then that means God knew the fall of Eden would happen. One could argue that He would not have needed to warn Adam and Eve not to eat the forbidden fruit, as there would have been no choice in the matter as it was all “part of God’s plan”, but I do not share this view of God and nor do I believe that the Bible teaches such. God highly values our freewill and either punishes or rewards us based upon our freedom of choice (Jeremiah 17:10), it appears that it was only after the first sin that it was ever stated in the scriptures that God made a plan to redeem mankind, as a response to what happened (Genesis 3:15).

Of course, one could fairly argue I suppose that even though God knew it would happen and made plans in advance, God still did not “predestine man to sin”, but merely saw the future of “mankind’s free willed rebellion” against his warnings that he would still have to express to them regardless in order to ‘retain’ mankind’s freewill, despite knowing the outcome, and thus made preparations for it in Heaven before He even created the Earth. So, I admit, the claim that Unitarianism makes God out to be someone who “predestined man to fall to then redeem him” in some form of Calvinistic theology, is a weak position to take, so I’m not going to use that as an argumentation, but all I can point to is that the chronological passages of scripture only tell us that God planned for Jesus to die for us, ‘after’ the first sin was committed, no single statement in the entirety of the scriptures tell us that “God planned to create Jesus before the Earth was made as a pre-emptive response to sin”, thus we have no scriptural support for viewing Proverbs 8 in such a way.

Another thought to take into consideration is the creation account of Genesis which states more than one person was involved. I would suppose, that if the context in Proverbs 8 indeed speaks of Jesus consciously existing before the world was and that he was assisting in the physical creation of this universe, then I think it would perfectly lead into the interpretation of “let us make man in our image” in Genesis 1:26 referring to God and Jesus working together. Nobody else afterall is ever described or hinted in scripture to have any role in God’s creative works, certainly not the angels, and we know that the Bible forbids polytheism, so there was not more than one Almighty God which created mankind. No, the only context that harmonises with scripture is an assistant of God, which is exactly what Proverbs 8, and several New Testament verses appear to describe (Colossians 1:15-16).

However, the Unitarian argument for the context of the passage in Colossians 1 referring to the “new creation” and the resurrection, as opposed to the physical creation of the world based upon verse 18; “He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, is quite strong I admit. Thus, one could argue; “what lens” do we interpret the scriptures in? Just as I spoke in my Trinity article, it becomes a matter of “framework”. We need a wholistic view of scripture, where the framework we come to must have no doctrinal nor textual contradictions…

Thus, if Colossians 1 speaks of Jesus as firstborn of the “dead” and ‘not’ of all creation, then do we view Proverbs 8 ‘through’ that lens? Let’s say we do… how do we then reconcile this view with the scriptures which say Jesus was God’s conscious Heavenly firstborn master worker before the “works of old”, as opposed to the Earthly firstborn master worker of the “works of new”?

I’d be perfectly willing to accept the interpretation of Colossians speaking only specifically of the “new creation” and his position as the firstborn of the dead, as opposed to Jesus’ pre-existence and assistance in the creation of the Earth, but even so, I do not think that alone is enough evidence to shoot down the idea of a pre-existant Heavenly Jesus altogether. I do not feel the book of Proverbs 8 in this case is to be interpreted through the lens of Colossians 1, for there is no harmonisation.

Proverbs 8 stands alone on its own merits by its clear language referring to the “the creations of old”, and as such I strongly feel that it can only be interpreted to refer to the creation of the universe with Jesus being God’s conscious assistant in such, and so I think that in turn should be kept in mind when reading all the passages of the New Testament.

Thus, one may even argue, that even ‘if’ Colossians 1 mentions Jesus as “the firstborn among the dead” in verse 18, that need not take away from the meaning of the prior verses of 15 and 16. It may be a simple matter of separated context ‘within’ the singular passage, ie; “Jesus is the first created thing in the entire universe, ‘also’ he is the first of the resurrected from amongst the dead of the new creation”. It would be a beautiful form of poetry I think on God’s part for the first created being in all of existence to then also have the honour of dying for us, to then in turn ‘also’ be the first resurrected being of the new creation, this being perhaps the larger meaning of “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” in Philippians 2:9, in that Jesus not only can claim to be the first of the old creation, but also the first of the new creation, no other (created) name or being thus, can ever be above Jesus in any position, reward or achievement.

Alternatively, you could choose not to interlink those scriptures at all, and just have them separate of one another, not at all applying the lens of one upon to the other. If we do this, we still come to the same result, just that Colossians and Proverbs are speaking about two completely different subjects, one of Jesus during the new creation, one of Jesus during the old creation. No problem.

Of course, Colossians and Proverbs are not the only scriptures we should look to on the matter. I believe these passages in John are also very important to look at on this subject.

  • “No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man”. John 3:13
  • “Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!”John 6:26
  • “But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world”.John 8:23
  • “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”John 8:58
  • I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father”John 16:28
  • “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”John 17:5, 11

Whilst Unitarians will translate this in context to their theology, that it refers to the “pre-destined Jesus” having glory before God and then coming into existence on Earth, I believe that this interpretation, of John 3, 6 and 16 especially, does not fit into the ‘linguistic’ context of what is described, namely, that Jesus “goes up” in “the way” he came down. I believe the Unitarian interpretation of John’s words causes Jesus to cease existing when he returns to Heaven.

Jesus’ ascension was compared to his descension, and he spoke of his return to God in these passages that he wishes to be “beside God in the glory he ‘had’ before the world was”. If we are to translate these passages in John as “Jesus’ non-pre existent glory” then would we not be saying that Jesus would be returning to a state of nothingness? After all, his “glory” with God according to Unitarianism refers to his “pre-destination”, not his literal existence. So if Jesus is returning to ‘that’ glory, is he returning to a form of non-existent pre-destination?

Some may argue that he is returning to God to “receive” that glory “prepared” for him perhaps… but I find it a very questionable interpretation and lacking in strong support, as Jesus’ return to Heaven is directly compared to the way he came to Earth.

Furthermore, Jesus did not say “grant me the glory you have “prepared” for me before the world was”, but to grant the glory he “had”. If Jesus had that glory without existing for all that time before the world was even formed, and then we follow that logic to the point where Jesus then “comes into existence” on Earth, why has he then at that moment “lost” the glory he had?

If he can have glory as a non-existent person, then surely he does not need to ‘request’ that glory to be given to him now that he’s alive? To me, this statement shows that there was a difference from when he was not on Earth and when he was. How can non-existence be more glorious than existence? With the words “I had”, we see that Jesus requests to have his glory, not “given” to him, but “returned” to him just moments before he was about to ascend back into Heaven. Thus to me, I find these words to be a nail in the coffin to Unitarianism. A glorified non-existent Jesus would surely not lose his glory from being made alive and brought into the world… but a Heavenly spirt Jesus above the station of man, being then made into a man who is a little lower than angels, certainly can be said to be a loss of former glory…

  • “But somewhere it is testified in these words:’“What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honor’… But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”Hebrews 2:6-7, 9

No matter what way you cut it, whether you refer to the literal creation of the Earth, or the “new creation” in these passages, Unitarianism is making Jesus say that he is returning to non-existence, which to me is as illogical as the Trinity doctrine which says Jesus is returning to his “Godship beside God”.

I believe that both the Unitarian and Trinitarian interpretation of John 17:5 remove Jesus from existence. One through saying he returns to his non-existent state (because he didn’t exist before being born through Mary according to Unitarians), the other says he returns to be God (according to Trinitarians), which removes his existence as the separate person who is the “Son of God”.

Another thing to consider is to really think on just “how” Jesus is “the only begotten son”.

“For God so loved the world that He gave the only begotten Son, so that everyone believing in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life.”. – John 3:16

“Begotten” of course means “offspring” or “something brought about”, to be “born”.

“Gennétos: Definition: begotten, born”
“Monogenés: only, only-begotten; unique.” – Strong’s Concordance

If “only begotten” as Unitarians claim means “the only human to be made by God directly” as opposed to a human being conceived of a man and woman in sexual relations, then how was Adam created? Jesus can’t be the only begotten on Earth, because that would be Adam’s unique claim, he was the first human to be made without the need of semen or even other humans. We could try and claim that this phrase merely means “the only son of man who was put into the womb of a woman without human sperm”… however, John goes on to further clarify:

  • “No one has ever yet seen God. The only begotten God/Divine (theos), the One being in the bosom of the Father, he has made Him known.”John 1:18
  • No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. – John 6:46

As we can see, Jesus is not just “the only begotten man”, but is the “only begotten theos”, which means divine being. Whilst admittedly this is sometimes used to refer to humans (such as the judges of Israel), it is more often used to refer to Heavenly beings or spirits.

Of course, because it can also refer to humans, using the word “theos” is not the strongest part of this verse to argue with on its own merit, however a point to look at here is that we are told Jesus was in the “bosom” of the Father as this “divine” being, which is why he can make him known to us in the way no other holy prophet or agent of God before him has. Jesus is compared to everyone else who has ever come before him, all the spirit inspired holy men, in that not one of them, not Moses, not Abraham, not Noah, not Elijah, not Isaiah, Daniel or Ezekiel, nobody has ever “seen God” but Jesus… he has indeed seen God, he was in his very “bosom” and is why he can explain God to us, that here is the comparison.

In a Unitarian world, what does Jesus have that the other inspired prophets don’t, other than being of a virgin birth? How does that alone grant superior knowledge to the other prophets before him? Why couldn’t they “see God” and be granted the knowledge and intimacy Jesus was granted?

There are only two ways to “see God”. Moses himself was said to “see God”, not literally, but through divine revelation (Exodus 33:18-20, Exodus 33:11), thus, if Jesus “seeing God” was to only refer to divine inspiration, then he is ‘not’ the only person to have “seen God”, for Moses beat him to it. If it refers to Jesus ‘literally’ seeing God (unlike Moses) but was still just a man and nothing but a man his entire life and had no pre-existence in Heaven, then he would have died, for “no man can see God and live” (Exodus 33:20).

So if seeing God is not to mean through divine revelation, contact or inspiration (because Moses had that before the Earthly presence of Jesus), then the only form of “seeing God” which can be referred to is the “physical seeing” of God, which no “man” can see. Thus, I believe the wording of these verses speak literally, that Jesus has such intimate knowledge of the Father because; as opposed to all men who were born on Earth, Jesus had existed in Heaven and knew God personally and was instructed by him face to face. That to me is what John is conveying to us.

Thus, I think the very definition and logic of being “the only begotten Son”, and the personal physical face to face intimacy described between Jesus and God being his “source of knowledge,” as opposed to the form of knowledge granted to the holy men and prophets of the past through “inspiration of holy spirit only”, puts another big nail in the coffin of the theology of Unitarianism.

Of course, some scriptures the Unitarian outlook may have correct, and I find the idea of the “creation of the world” in Colossians referring to the “new world” and not this world an interesting interpretation as I’ve said.

I even believe this context may also support some of the other scriptures which use this phrase, such as when Paul said that “Christians were predestined before the creation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Alternatively I believe Paul’s words are a possible reference to the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, that is “creation of the Satan’s world”, ie; the “take over of Satan” (1 John 5:19), but I digress.

Whilst several New Testament passages may indeed refer to the new creation, I do not think this debunks the idea of a pre-existant Jesus in Heaven before the creation of the literal universe, as other scriptures I feel strongly point to, Proverbs 8 especially.

That all being said, I still have a high respect for those of the Unitarian position, they are brave enough to study the scriptures and refuse to accept the long held tradition that “Jesus is God”, and they do believe “he is God’s only-begotten son who died for our sins”, which is something we Arians and Unitarians both share, just in a slightly different format.

Published by Proselytiser of Jah

Christian Restorationist

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