Trinitarian or Unitarian – does it matter?

Unfortunately, Trinitarianism versus Unitarianism has been, and still is, a source of conflict and ugly debate among Christians. Trinitarianism has also been a source of conflict between Christians and members of Unitarian, or monotheistic, religions like Judaism and Islam, making it difficult for members of those religions to accept the Christian message.

So, rather than conflict, is there a way of finding common ground? Trinitarians and Unitarians both believe in one God, for instance, and both believe that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

Does that verse mean, though, that Christ is also God? Well, yes, Trinitarians say, because he’s the ‘fullness of the Deity’, which has to mean he’s God. But, Unitarians point out, the verse also says he’s ‘in bodily form’, which sounds like Christ is in a separate body of his own, in which case there are now two Gods, not one.

A similar difficulty arises in John’s statement that the “the Word was with God and the Word was God,” which sounds like there are two separate Gods. “Not so,” Trinitarians and Unitarians would both yell together, which is good – at least they’re in agreement on that point too – but how do you define Jesus instead if he’s not a separate God?

Paul jumps in with 2 Corinthians 4:4 where he describes Jesus as “the image of God,“ meaning, two verses later, that we can see “the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Look at Jesus and there we see what God is like. And isn’t that why, as both Trinitarians and Unitarians, we call ourselves ‘Christians’? It’s because in Christ we have all we need to know about God. Paul assures us there isn’t anything missing about God in Christ. Christ contains “the fullness” of everything God is.

Whether that makes Christ ‘God’ as the Trinitarians say, or the ‘perfect manifestation of God’ as the Unitarians say, is not my reason for being a Christian. I’m a Christian because in Christ I can know God. And that was Christ’s reason for being here too, that in him we see the Father and come to know him. By calling myself a ‘Christian’, then, I’m saying my focus is the same as Christ’s, which is coming to know God through him.

It’s not about knowing what God is like in form, though, because I can’t know that as a human, but in Christ I can come to know God in the fullness of his nature and character, and as his adopted child that’s what I want to know. I want to know my Dad. And thanks to Christ being in his image, I can.

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