Outline of Nontrinitarianism

Nontrinitarianism is a form of Christianity that rejects the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity—the teaching that God is three distinct hypostases or persons who are coeternal, coequal, and indivisibly united in one being, or essence (from the Greek ousia). Certain religious groups that emerged during the Protestant Reformation have historically been known as antitrinitarian, but are not considered Protestant in popular discourse due to their nontrinitarian nature. See Being and Existence

According to churches that consider the decisions of ecumenical councils final, Trinitarianism was definitively declared to be Christian doctrine at the 4th-century ecumenical councils, that of the First Council of Nicaea (325), which declared the full divinity of the Son, and the First Council of Constantinople (381), which declared the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

This is the Outline of Nontrinitarianism.

A fresco inside the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome

A fresco inside the catacomb of Priscilla in Rome, November 2013. The catacomb was used for Christian burials from the late 2nd through the 4th century CE. Photo by Reuters/Max Rossi

Main articles:

Traditional Christian groups

Various views exist regarding the relationships between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

  • Those who believe that Jesus is not God, nor absolutely equal to God, but was either God’s subordinate Son, a messenger from God, or prophet, or the perfect created human:
    • Adoptionism (2nd century AD) holds that Jesus became divine at his baptism (sometimes associated with the Gospel of Mark) or at his resurrection (sometimes associated with Saint Paul and Shepherd of Hermas);
    • Arianism – Arius (AD c.250 or 256–336) believed that the pre-existent Son of God was directly created by the Father, and that he was subordinate to God the Father.
    • Psilanthropism – Ebionites (1st to 4th century AD) observed Jewish law, denied the virgin birth and regarded Jesus as a prophet only;
    • Socinianism – Photinus taught that Jesus was the sinless Messiah and redeemer, and the only perfect human son of God, but that he had no pre-human existence. They interpret verses such as John 1:1to refer to God’s “plan” existing in God’s mind before Christ’s birth;
    • Unitarianism views Jesus as the son of God, subordinate and distinct from his Father;
    • Many Gnostic traditions (Gnosticism) held that the Christ is a heavenly Aeon but not one with the Father. The creator of the (material) universe is not the supreme god, but an inferior spirit (the Demiurge).
  • Those who believe that the Father, the resurrected Son and the Holy Spirit are different aspects of one God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons:
    • Modalism – Sabellius (fl. c.215) stated that God took numerous forms in both the Hebrew and the Christian Greek Scriptures, and that God has manifested himself in three primary modes regarding the salvation of mankind.
  • Those who believe that Jesus Christ is Almighty God, but that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are actually three distinct almighty “Gods” with distinct natures, acting as one divine group, united in purpose:
    • Tritheism – John Philoponus, an Aristotelian and monophysite in Alexandria, in the middle of the 6th century, saw in the Trinity three separate natures, substances and deities, according to the number of divine persons.
  • Those who believe that the Holy Spirit is not a person:
    • Binitarianism – Adherents include those people through history who believed that God is only two co-equal and co-eternal persons, the Father and the Word, not three. They taught that the Holy Spirit is not a distinct person, but is the power or divine influence of the Father and Son, emanating out to the universe, in creation, and to believers;
    • Dualism – The dualism between God and Creation has existed as a central belief in multiple historical sects and traditions of Christianity, including MarcionismCatharismPaulicianism, and other forms of Gnostic Christianity. Christian dualism refers to the belief that God and creation are distinct, but interrelated through an indivisible bond.
    • Marcionism – Marcion (AD c.110–160) believed there were two deities, one of creation and judgment (in the Hebrew Bible) and one of redemption and mercy (in the New Testament).

Modern Christian groups

  • Latter Day Saint movement (Mormonism)– Latter Day Saint movement (also called the LDS movement) is the collection of independent church groups that trace their origins to a Christian primitivist movement founded by Joseph Smith in 1830. Most members of the movement today are part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but a fraction of Latter Day Saint sects, most notably the Community of Christ, the second largest Latter Day Saint denomination, and those sects that split from the Community of Christ, follow a traditional Protestant trinitarian theology.
  • Oneness Pentecostalism – Oneness Pentecostalism (also known as Apostolic Pentecostalism or One God Pentecostalism) refers to a grouping of denominations and believers within Pentecostal Christianity, all of whom subscribe to the nontrinitarian theological doctrine of Oneness.
  • Bible Student movement – Bible Student movement is the name adopted by a Millennialist Restorationist Christian movement that emerged from the teachings and ministry of Charles Taze Russell, also known as Pastor Russell.
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses – A millenarian restorationist Christian denomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity.
  • Christadelphians hold that Jesus is the actual son of God, the Father; and that Jesus was fully an actual human (and needed to be so in order to save humans from their sins). The “holy spirit” terminology in the Bible is interpreted as referring to God’s power, or God’s character/mind (depending on the context).
  • Church of God General Conference (Abrahamic Faith).
  • The Cooneyites is a Christian sect that split from the Two by Twos in 1928 following Edward Cooney’s excommunication from the main group; they deny the Living Witness Doctrine.
  • Iglesia ni Cristo (Tagalog for Church of Christ) views Jesus as human but endowed by God with attributes not found in ordinary humans, though lacking attributes found in God. They contend that it is God’s will to worship Jesus. INC rejects the Trinity as heresy, adopting a version of unitarianism.
  • The Members Church of God International believes in the divinity of Christ but rejects the doctrine of Trinity.
  • Armstrongism believe that Christ the Son and God the Father are co-eternal, but do not teach that the Holy Spirit is a being or person. Armstrong theology holds that God is a “Family” that expands eventually, that “God reproduces Himself”, but that originally there was a co-eternal “Duality”, God and the Word, rather than a “Trinity”.
  • Swedenborgianism holds that the Trinity exists in one person, the Lord God Jesus Christ. The Father, the being or soul of God, was born into the world and put on a body from Mary. Throughout his life, Jesus put away all human desires and tendencies until he was completely divine. After his resurrection, he influences the world through the Holy Spirit, which is his activity. In this view, Jesus Christ is the one God; the Father as to his soul, the Son as to his body, and the Holy Spirit as to his activity in the world.
  • Unitarian Universalism – Numerous Unitarian Christian organizations exist around the world, the oldest of which is the Unitarian Church of Transylvania.