Non-trinitarianism is the collective name of Christian movements based on faith in the One God, but on the denial of his trinity (Trinity).
In other words, adherents of non-trinitarianism reject the trinitarian dogma about the three hypostases of God – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Trinitarians considered this view to be non-trinitarian heresy. The original formulation of the doctrine was approved at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. In 451 the dogma became known as the Nicene Creed. Most Christian denominations of our time accept the doctrine of the Trinity.
Unitarianism (unitarian church) is the first movement to be discussed in this article. This is a non-trinitarian Protestant movement that rejects the dogma of the Trinity. In addition, some theologians reject the doctrine of the fall into sin.
Swedenborgianism is the second nontrinitarian movement. This group supported the doctrine developed by the Swedish scholar and theosophist Emmanuel Swedenborg.
Then the Christadelphians are discussed. It is a Christian Unitarian denomination that originated in the nineteenth century in Great Britain and the United States.
Another nontrinitarian movement is known as the Bible Students. This is a millenarian movement that originated in Pittsburgh between 1870 and 1872.
Nontrinitarian views on the concept of the Trinity
Nontrinitarian denominations and independent Bible scholars have criticized the concept of the Trinity. They believe that the doctrine has no reasonable explanation, and do not understand how three separate “different” hypostases, communicating with each other, can be in one God. The concept of “Trinity” is absent in the Old and New Testaments.
Nontrinitarians consider the doctrine of the Trinity to be a distortion of Christianity and the opposite of evangelical definitions such as “One God and one mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ.”
History of Unitarianism
Unitarianism has its roots in early Christian movements that did not recognize the divine nature of Jesus Christ and rejected the concept of the trinity of God.
In 1565, in Poland, Unitarians were expelled from the Polish Reformed Church, but in the same year, they established the Small Reformed Church. In 1605, the Unitarians published their doctrinal book, The Racovian Catechism. A community, founded in 1579 in Rakov, became the main home of the new church. Fausto Sozzini was its leader, so the Polish Unitarians were called Sozzinians.
In Lithuania, an offshoot of the Socinians occurred – The Lithuanian brothers. These completely abolished the worship of Jesus Christ. Unitarians experienced their heyday in Poland and Lithuania between 1580 and 1620. After this they began to be persecuted, and in 1658 they were completely expelled from the country. Many emigrated to Transylvania to other brethren of the faith.
Ferenc David was the head of the Unitarian Church of Transylvania, and in 1658 he received the rank of the bishop of the Reformed Church of Transylvania. There was a strong Unitarian movement within this church. The strengthening of the position of Unitarianism in Transylvania and Hungary was facilitated by the fact that King János Zapolya himself converted to this faith. Then, under Prince Stephen Bathory, the life of believers in Transylvania became more complicated. The Unitarian Church of Hungary, however, having survived the persecution, took a prominent position. Nowadays, there are also followers in Romania.
In England, Unitarianism was championed by John Biddle (1615–1662), who wrote several theological treatises supporting the movement. The first English unitarian community appeared in 1774, founded by Theophilus Lindsey, a former Anglican clergyman. The famous English chemist Joseph Priestley was an active supporter of the movement, but in 1794, he had to flee to the United States. There, in Pennsylvania, two years later, he opened the first US Unitarian church.
In 1925, the most prominent Unitarian organizations in the United States formed an alliance. The views of American Unitarians and the Universalists, who believed that all men were worthy of salvation (Christian universalism), were similar. In 1961, they united to form the Unitarian Universalist Association which adheres to liberal views, and actively participates in the life of society.
Modern Unitarians do not rely on a clearly defined creed, but are free in to form their judgments about matters of faith and their interpretation of the Bible.
Some Unitarians reject the doctrine of the Fall, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. They believe that at the Last Judgment, all people, regardless of religion, should be saved.
There are no sacraments in Unitarianism, and Communities differ from each other in their traditions. At meetings, they preach sermons and sing hymns.
In Some Unitarian communities, it’s permitted to enter into same-sex marriages.
In 1787, in London, Emmanuel Swedenborg opened the Swedenborgian Church — the Church of the New Jerusalem, which spread through Great Britain and America in a short time.
By the end of the 19th century, there were about 80 Swedenborg communities in the UK and 116 in the US.
Adherents of the teachings of Swedenborg penetrated into Germany, France, Sweden and Russia.