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This article is about a doctrinal position within Christian theology.
For the doctrine of God's unity in religions
generally, see Monotheism.
Nontrinitarianism is a form
of Christianity that
rejects the mainstream
Christian doctrine of
the Trinity—the teaching that God is
hypostases or persons who are coeternal, coequal, and
in one being, or essence (from the
Greek ousia). Certain
that emerged during
the Protestant Reformation have
historically been known as
antitrinitarian, but are not
considered Protestant in
popular discourse due to their
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
full divinity of the Son, and the First
Council of Constantinople (381),
declared the divinity of the Holy Spirit.
of number of adherents, nontrinitarian denominations comprise
of modern Christianity. The largest nontrinitarian Christian denominations are
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oneness Pentecostals,
Jehovah's Witnesses, La Luz del Mundo and
the Iglesia ni Cristo,
though there are a number of
other smaller groups, including Christadelphians,
Christian Scientists, Dawn Bible Students,
Living Church of God,
Assemblies of Yahweh,
Church of God in Jesus Christ,
Church of God International,
The Way International,
Church of God International,
and the United Church of God.
Nontrinitarian views differ widely on the nature of God,
Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Various nontrinitarian philosophies,
such as adoptionism, monarchianism,
existed prior to the
establishment of the Trinity doctrine in AD 325,
381, and 431, at the Councils of Nicaea, Constantinople,
and Ephesus. Nontrinitarianism
was later renewed by Cathars
in the 11th through 13th centuries, in
the Unitarian movement
Reformation, in the Age of Enlightenment of
18th century, and in some groups
arising during the
Awakening of the 19th century.
The doctrine of the Trinity, as held in mainstream Christianity,
is not present in the other major Abrahamic religions.
The phrase non-Trinitarian churches is
sometimes used to refer to a number of
New religious movements (NRMs)
grounded in Christianity, which parallel each
other in non-belief in the Trinity and also a
certain aloofness from other Christian
denominations, due to a degree of mutual distrust. One notable user of
umbrella term is “Whitaker’s Almanac”.
Many of these churches started in the 19th and
early 20th centuries.
The term non-Trinitarian is considered less offensive than various
but it should be pointed out however, that non-Trinitarian
rarely engage with one another. However, they do share some
Their biggest memberships tend to be in
the Americas, Europe and Australasia
(including Polynesia), in already Christian areas.
Some Unitarians, liberal mainstream
Christians etc are also “non-Trinitarian”,
but are not usually included in this grouping.
Many ancient churches were not Trinitarian,
such as Nestorianism and Gnostic Christians,
and indeed some of these modern movements bear theological
resemblances to these ancient
so-called “heresies”. Islam too seems to have some
of its roots in a variety of non-Trinitarian
Christianity in seventh century Arabia,
and there is a slight, but notable non-Trinitarian
tendency throughout Christian history. However, the modern
non-Trinitarians do not derive
from these ancient groups, but display affinities
with/influences from Protestant Christianity.
non-Trinitarians tend to accept the standard Bible canon
(as well as their own scriptures) rather than rejecting it,
but also due to Protestant influence
rarely pay much attention to the Apocrypha itself.
In this they diverge from historic
non-Trinitarians, in that those groups tended to have a canon entirely
independent of today’s
and sacred texts
produced closer in time to the Bible.
- Non-belief in the Trinity. This is the most fundamental
link, but the churches are divided on whether God is a triple entity or a
single entity. Henotheistic tendencies are also detectable in
some non-Trinitarian churches.
- Eschatology and a belief that the Apocalypse is
- A strong belief in healing powers of confirmed members,
and restoration of priesthood.
- Full immersion adult baptism.
- Modern day prophets, sometimes as founders, but also
frequently a continuing dynasty of these. More recent pronouncements may
be considered more significant than older ones. The founders are usually
dead, and extremely highly venerated.
- Sacred texts additional to the Bible unique to
that group, or “retranslations” of the Bible. Usually these are held to
be equal, or superior to the mainstream Bible.
- A very strong newspaper or magazine, which is read avidly,
and often used for missionary work.
- An exceptionally strong missionary bent, and
fairly high pressures on members. Missionaries usually travel in pairs.
- Considered non-mainstream by most other churches, and
themselves displaying a strong exclusivity towards other churches, which
makes inter-communication difficult.
- Despite continuing controversies and accusations of cultishness, they also have a degree of societal
acceptance that certain other large NRMs do
not, such as Scientologists and Eastern-derived religions. The
LDS are an integral part of mainstream life in several US
states for example, and “The Christian Science Monitor” is a
- Bigger, older non-Trinitarian groups tend to have strict
attitudes towards sex, and frown upon promiscuity and sex before
marriage. They also dress “modestly”.
- Bigger groups do not live in communes, although their
- Members do not drink alcohol, smoke tobacco and tea & coffee are
also banned. Wine is not used for Holy Communion equivalents. Vegetarianism is
a feature shared by some, but not all these groups, most notably Jehovah’s
Witnesses who consider blood transfusion a violation of
- Many non-Trinitarian churches are claimed to be too male
dominated, but this is certainly not the case with Christian Science which
was founded by a woman.
These are all general characteristics however,
and some of the big groups have smaller splinters, which tend to be more
controversial. The groups share several or more characteristics.
List of major non-Trinitarian churches
- Mormonism/Restorationism -
there are over thirty Mormon sects, but these two are the biggest
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (biggest,
best known Mormon group)
- Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganised LDS,
the second biggest grouping)
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