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Blog Over-run

 

The Phillips, Craig and Dean Controversy Revisited...Again

 


James White

     It comes up every few years.  Ever since I noted something that had appeared in Charisma magazine regarding the singing group Phillips, Craig, and Dean, namely, that they are ministers in Oneness or non-Trinitarian churches, in the context of writing an article on loving the Trinity, we have received inquiries, and once in a while, disturbingly accusatory correspondence regarding the issue.  It seems PC&D’s management is quick to claim that 1) PC&D believe “in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” and 2) their critics (me, by name), have never contacted them and are simply wrong.
     First, one will note that the article I wrote for CRI contained footnotes that, at the time, provided accurate links to the websites of the relevant churches, providing direct citations from their statements of faith regarding the issue at hand.  Of course, it requires that a person have an understanding of both Trinitarian theology and Oneness teaching to be able to detect the terminological issues (one of the main problems in having concert promoters assuring churches about theological issues), but for anyone who actually knows the subject, the information was quite plain.
     Second, we have hosted a much fuller article on the subject by Eric Nielsen for quite some time, and it contains updated links information. 
     Third, almost anyone can say they believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Way International, all can make that statement.  Church history shows us that those who deny central aspects of the faith always cloak their denial behind orthodox language.  Given the content of the 1999 e-mail from Randy Phillips of PC&D (see the Nielsen article for its content), wherein a modalistic, Oneness position on the Trinity is clearly and plainly put forth (using the e-mail address of the ministry itself, EMAILPCD@aol.com), there is no question about the position at that time.  Indeed, we read,

We believe in one God who is eternal in His existence, Triune in His manifestation, being both Father, Son and Holy Ghost AND that He is Sovereign and Absolute in His authority.

This is not the doctrine of the Trinity. 

     Fourth, I corresponded, personally, in written form, with Shawn Craig, sending letters to him on August 20, 1999, and September 13, 1999.  I even included in the text of the second letter the e-mail from Randy Philips dated September 9th, only four days earlier.
     Fifth, if PC&D confesses the historic doctrine of the Trinity, including the existence of the Son as a distinct person prior to the Incarnation, indeed, in eternity past, not merely as a thought in the Father’s mind, but as an active, divine Person, and if they (as they would have to) likewise deny Oneness teaching on this issue, and repudiate the concept of the Trinity as merely involving “manifestation” but not personal existence, then why do they not simply come out directly and make this statement?  Instead, a quick trip to the PC&D website did nothing but confirm, once again, the accuracy of everything I said in that article, and have said since then.  Let’s begin with a little background.  When I speak of “Oneness teaching” or “modalism,” to what do I refer?  Well, let’s let the largest Oneness denomination define the term for us.  The UPCI (United Pentecostal Church International) defines Oneness Theology:

Oneness of God

In distinction to the doctrine of the Trinity, the UPCI holds to a oneness view of God. It views the Trinitarian concept of God, that of God eternally existing as three distinctive persons, as inadequate and a departure from the consistent and emphatic biblical revelation of God being one.

The UPCI teaches that the one God who revealed Himself in the Old Testament as Jehovah revealed himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. Thus Jesus Christ was and is God. In other words, Jesus is the one true God manifested in flesh, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (John 1:1-14; I Timothy 3:16; Colossians 2:9).

While fully God, Jesus was also fully man, possessing a full and true humanity. He was both God and man. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is God with us and in us. Thus God is 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.

In fact, you may want to look at more of what the UPCI has to say: click here.  Note as well their promotion of baptism in Jesus name only.  This will come up a bit later.
     Now, many evangelicals, it seems, have not taken the time to do just a little digging into PC&D.  Here is their website.  There is no statement of faith provided.  There is nothing about “No, no, we are Trinitarians” on this website.  Why not, if it is an issue?  When you go to “Who Are These Guys” you find direct links provided to their respective churches.  And it is just here that any discerning person will find all the evidence one needs to come to a sound conclusion regarding the theological orthodoxy, or lack thereof, of PC&D.  Let’s start with Randy Phillips.
     Here is RP’s website for his church, PromiseLand, in Austin, Texas.  Follow the links to “What We Believe” and you will find there the very confession of faith RP provided from the PC&D e-mail account in 1999, most importantly, word-for-word in the section that is clearly, without question, modalistic.  Compare the 1999 e-mail from PC&D cited above with this from July 23, 2004 on RP’s website:

We believe in one God who is eternal in His existence, Triune in His
manifestation, being both Father, Son and Holy Ghost AND that He is
Sovereign and Absolute in His authority.

Hence, in speaking for the entire group in 1999, RP quoted a modalistic definition of the Godhead, and that viewpoint has not changed.  But this is not all.  Later in the same statement of faith we read:

We believe that believers should be water baptized by immersion in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ for the circumcision of our hearts.

 Baptism in “Jesus’ Name” (capitalized) is part and parcel of Oneness teaching as well.  Note the description of RP’s father on the “staff” listing of the church:

Kenneth and Wanda Phillips are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have pastored The World of Pentecost, PromiseLand for 35 years. During this time, because of blessings and the efforts of many, phenomenal growth has included over 18,000 people being baptized in Jesus' Name.

Please note, “being baptized in Jesus’ Name.”  Note the form as well.  This is classic Oneness terminology.  For those not familiar with Oneness teaching, not only is the Trinity denied, but baptism is to be only in the name of Jesus, never in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (see again the UPCI website above).
     When we move to Dan Dean’s website, we again find clear evidence of modalism and Oneness belief.  Under “What We Believe” we again find a modalistic definition of God, not a Trinitarian one:

We believe in the true one God who is revealed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Again, please note, this is the second member of PC&D whose statement of faith (he is the senior pastor at Heartland Church) is non-Trinitarian and modalistic.  Note as well:

We believe in the Virgin Birth, The Begotten Sonship, and Deity of Jesus Christ; that He was God and Man.

“Begotten Sonship” seems like an odd phrase, but it is used in Oneness theology to distinguish between their view and that of the Trinity, wherein Christ’s Sonship is eternal, not merely begotten.  Remember, Oneness teaching is essentially unitarian, over against Trinitarian.  One Person vs. Three Persons.  Note that Dean’s statement of faith likewise continues,

We believe in the necessity of water baptism by immersion in the Name of the Lord.

Note again the consistent Oneness background with the use of “Name” with reference to Jesus-only baptism. 
     The website provided on the PC&D page for Shawn Craig is not as full as the others, and does not provide a statement of faith.  But it is very interesting to note one of the staff members, one Jim Farmer.  This staff member graduated from the Apostolic Bible Institute in St. Paul, Minnesota.  This school is recommended and approved by the UPCI itself (see here).  Check out their theology, and you will again see it is pure modalism and Oneness. 
     Now, surely, the above is more then enough to establish the connection between Oneness theology’s denial of the historic (biblical!) doctrine of the Trinity and the members of PC&D.  Are there encouraging things in some of what is said on these websites, such as a willingness to abandon the works/legalism of the UPCI and confess a belief in salvation by grace through faith?  Surely!  Many of those churches that split from the UPCI in the middle 90s have adopted a much more “evangelical friendly” stance on such things.  But the fact remains that they remain thoroughly unorthodox in the issue of the very nature of God.  The real issue we are facing today with regards to PC&D is simple: many evangelicals simply do not care about the Trinity.  It is a vestigial doctrine in their practice and their worship.  Hence, when they encounter someone who does not believe in one aspect of that doctrine, it is easy to say, “Oh, but look at how much the Lord is blessing them” and turn a blind eye to their positive belief in simple heresy. 

     I wish to call upon PC&D to clearly, openly state their position.  Will they denounce the concept of modalism, the idea that there is one divine Person in the Godhead?  Will they openly state that baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is biblical and proper and acceptable to God?  Will they confess that the Son, as an eternal, divine Person, distinguishable from the Father, has eternally existed, not merely as a plan or thought in the mind of the Father, but as a divine Person in His own right?  Only a clear, open profession of faith in the historic doctrine of the Trinity will suffice to end the controversy over non-Trinitarians leading professed Trinitarians in “worship” in the church.


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