Oneness Pentecostal theology affirms that there exists only one God in all the universe. It affirms the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. However, Oneness theology denies the Trinity. The Trinity is the doctrine that there is one God who manifests Himself as three distinct, simultaneous persons. The Trinity does not assert that there are three gods but only one. This is important because many groups who oppose orthodoxy will accuse Trinitarians of believing in three gods. But this is not so. The doctrine of the Trinity is that there is one God in three persons.
Oneness theology denies the Trinity and teaches that God is a single person who was "manifested as Father in creation and as the Father of the Son, in the Son for our redemption, and as the Holy Spirit in our regeneration."1 Another way of looking at it is that God revealed himself as Father in the Old Testament, as the Son in Jesus during Christ’s ministry on earth, and now as the Holy Spirit after Christ’s ascension.
In addition, Oneness theology also maintains that baptism is a necessary part of salvation; that is, in order to be saved, one must be baptized and by immersion. If you are not baptized, you cannot be saved. However, not only must baptism be by immersion but also it must be administered with the formula "In Jesus’ name" rather than the formula "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" which is mentioned in Matthew 28:19. Finally, this baptism must be administered by a duly ordained minister of a church that maintains Oneness theology: United Pentecostal, United Apostolic, etc.
Oneness churches also teach that speaking in tongues is a necessary manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Since a person cannot be saved without the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9), it follows that only those who have spoken in tongues are really saved. There is, therefore, an emphasis that Oneness church members speak in tongues to "demonstrate" that they are saved and have the truth.
Oneness groups are decidedly Arminian in the doctrine of salvation. They deny predestination and maintain that it is completely up to the individual to decide whether or not he wants to be saved. They also teach that it is possible to lose one's salvation.
There is within the Oneness movement an attempt to represent themselves in a modest and holy manner. This is to be commended. However, sometimes it tends to become legalistic in that women are required to abstain from wearing makeup and pants. They also must have their heads covered. Likewise, men should be well-dressed--preferably in ties (this has been my experience with them). Such practices are not wrong in themselves and are good examples of propriety. However, when they become requirements for acceptance in a church, it is legalistic. Legalism leads to bondage and the requirements of keeping the law to maintain salvation. It then becomes a means by which a person's spirituality is judged. Oneness churches strongly imply that if you go to movies or have a TV or wear makeup, etc., then you are not "really" a Christian.
I am not saying that the Oneness theology necessarily leads to legalism, but it seems to be quite evident that it has taken over much of Oneness practice.
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- 1. http://www.upci.org/about/index.asp.