Updated June 25, 2019
The doctrine of the Trinity is central to most Christian denominations and faith groups, although not all. The term Trinity is not found in the Bible, and the concept is not easy to grasp or explain. Yet most conservative, evangelical Bible scholars agree that the Trinity doctrine is clearly expressed within Scripture.
Non-trinitarian faith groups reject the Trinity. The doctrine itself was first introduced by Tertullian at the end of the 2nd century but wasn’t widely accepted until the 4th and 5th centuries. The term comes from the Latin noun “trinitas” meaning “three are one.” The Trinity doctrine expresses the belief that God is one being made up of three distinct persons who exist in co-equal essence and co-eternal communion as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
9 Non-trinitarian Faiths
The following religions are among those that reject the doctrine of the Trinity. The list is not exhaustive but encompasses several of the major groups and religious movements. Included is a brief explanation of each group’s beliefs about the nature of God, revealing a deviation from the Trinity doctrine.
For comparison purposes, the biblical Trinity doctrine is defined by The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church as “The central dogma of Christian theology, that the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is one, yet self-differentiated; the God who reveals Himself to mankind is one God equally in three distinct modes of existence, yet remains one through all eternity.”
Founded By: Joseph Smith, Jr., 1830.
Mormons believe that God has a physical, flesh and bones, eternal, perfect body. Men have the potential to become gods as well. Jesus is God’s literal son, a separate being from God the Father and the “elder brother” of men. The Holy Spirit is also a separate being from God the Father and God the Son. The Holy Spirit is regarded as an impersonal power or spirit being. These three separate beings are “one” only in their purpose, and they make up the Godhead.
Founded By: Charles Taze Russell, 1879. Succeeded by Joseph F. Rutherford, 1917.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God is one person, Jehovah. Jesus was Jehovah’s first creation. Jesus is not God, nor part of the Godhead. He is higher than the angels but inferior to God. Jehovah used Jesus to create the rest of the universe. Before Jesus came to earth, he was known as the archangel Michael. The Holy Spirit is an impersonal force from Jehovah, but not God.
Founded By: Mary Baker Eddy, 1879.
Christian Scientists believe the Trinity is life, truth, and love. As an impersonal principle, God is the only thing that truly exists. Everything else (matter) is an illusion. Jesus, though not God, is the Son of God. He was the promised Messiah but was not a deity. The Holy Spirit is divine science in the teachings of Christian Science.
(Philadelphia Church of God, Global Church of God, United Church of God)
Founded By: Herbert W. Armstrong, 1934.
Traditional Armstrongism denies a Trinity, defining God as “a family of individuals.” Original teachings say Jesus did not have a physical resurrection and the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force.
Founded By: Dr. John Thomas, 1864.
Christadelphians believe God is one indivisible unity, not three distinct persons existing in one God. They deny the divinity of Jesus, believing he is fully human and separate from God. They do not believe the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity, but merely a force—the “unseen power” from God.
Founded By: Frank Ewart, 1913.
Oneness Pentecostals believe that there is one God and God is one. Throughout time God manifested himself in three ways or “forms” (not persons), as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Oneness Pentecostals take issue with the Trinity doctrine chiefly for its use of the term “person.” They believe God cannot be three distinct persons, but only one being who has revealed himself in three different modes. It is important to note that Oneness Pentecostals do affirm the deity of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
Founded By: Sun Myung Moon, 1954.
Unification adherents believe that God is positive and negative, male and female. The universe is God’s body, made by him. Jesus was not God, but a man. He did not experience a physical resurrection. In fact, his mission on earth failed and will be fulfilled through Sun Myung Moon, who is greater than Jesus. The Holy Spirit is feminine in nature. She collaborates with Jesus in the spirit realm to draw people to Sun Myung Moon.
Founded By: Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, 1889.
Similar to Christian Science, Unity adherents believe God is an unseen, impersonal principle, not a person. God is a force within everyone and everything. Jesus was only a man, not the Christ. He merely realized his spiritual identity as the Christ by practicing his potential for perfection. This is something all men can achieve. Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, but rather, he reincarnated. The Holy Spirit is the active expression of God’s law. Only the spirit part of us is real; matter is not real.
Scientology – Dianetics
Founded By: L. Ron Hubbard, 1954.
Scientology defines God as Dynamic Infinity. Jesus is not God, Savior, or Creator, nor does he have control of supernatural powers. He is usually overlooked in Dianetics. The Holy Spirit is absent from this belief system as well. Men are “thetan” – immortal, spiritual beings with limitless capabilities and powers, though often they are unaware of this potential. Scientology teaches men how to achieve “higher states of awareness and ability” through practicing Dianetics.
- Kenneth Boa. Cults, World Religions and the Occult.
- Rose Publishing.Christianity, Cults & Religions (Chart).
- Cross, F. L. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Oxford University Press. 2005.
- Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry. Trinity Chart. https://carm.org/trinity