I have heard that some non-trinitarian Christians reject the concept of the trinity and say that there is only one indivisible divinity. Are there any Christian denominations that believe in a "duality", i.e. that there are exactly two persons in the god-head?
3Note that in the context of the question, there's a big difference between Dualism -- the idea that God and Satan are equal but opposite, and the duality that I think the questioner is asking about. I think he's driving more at a theory that only two of the traditional three persons of the Trinity are real, like a belief that Father and Holy Spirit are God but Jesus was just an ordinary man.– JayDec 13, 2013 at 5:25
If I understand your meaning correctly, I think you mean a "duinity" or "bi-nity", not "duality"... A duality would be two distinct, but opposite things. A dui/bi-inity would be, as with the trinity, two-in-one. Your question also seems to confuse the concept of the trinity as "three divinities", which isn't really accurate...– FlimzyDec 14, 2013 at 23:20
Historically, there was a group of persons who claimed to be Christians, but denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. They were derided by orthodox Christians as Pneumatomachoi (literally, “those who fight the Spirit”) or Macedonians (after the proponent of this idea, named Macedonius—no relation to the geographical region by that name).
The Macedonians were apparently “homoiousians”: those who affirmed that the nature of the Son is “similar” to that of the Father (a position that Athanasius discovered was actually nearly orthodox, at least as regards the divinity of the Son).
Hence, this sect could be said to have been “binitarian” or “dualitarian.”
1"but denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit" - just the divinity, or the entire existence of the holy spirit? It would be slightly odd to accept the existence of it, but deny that it is divine.– TKoLSep 7, 2021 at 14:22
@TKoL it's not that odd if you already reject the unity of the Godhead. JWs for instance don't recognize the Holy Spirit a person let alone a divine one.– equesSep 8, 2021 at 17:14
The question is, if it's not divine then what is it?– TKoLSep 8, 2021 at 17:17
@TKoL, then Pneumatomachoi didn’t deny that the Holy Spirit existed; they just thought He was a sort of super angel (similar to what the Arians thought the Son was). Sep 9, 2021 at 18:38
1@MikeBorden, my understanding is that the Pneumatomachoi didn’t deny the personhood (in modern terminology) of the Holy Spirit—i.e., they still considered Him a personal subject answerable to the question “who?”—but they denied that He was God, consubstantial with the Father, like the Son. Oct 18, 2022 at 15:50
The term you should look for is "binitarianism".
Binitarianism - Wikipedia needs improvement, but it's a good start in your research:
Binitarianism is a Christian theology of two persons, personas, or aspects in one substance/Divinity (or God). Classically, binitarianism is understood as a form of monotheism—that is, that God is absolutely one being—and yet with binitarianism there is a "twoness" in God, which means one God family. The other common forms of monotheism are "unitarianism", a belief in one God with one person, and "trinitarianism", a belief in one God with three persons.
Here is an extract from a specific example of one denomination's teaching:
Notice this admission in the New Bible Dictionary:
"The term 'Trinity' is not itself found in the Bible. It was first used by Tertullian [one of the early Catholic church theologians] at the close of the 2nd century, but received wide currency and formal elucidation only in the 4th and 5th centuries" (1996, "Trinity").
The same dictionary explains that:
"the formal doctrine of the Trinity was the result of several inadequate attempts to explain who and what the Christian God really is... To deal with these problems the Church Fathers met in 325 at the Council of Nicaea to set out an orthodox biblical definition concerning the divine identity." However, it wasn't until 381, "at the Council of Constantinople, [that] the divinity of the Spirit was affirmed."
Another theological source admits that there was "an impression of binitarianism [that is, two in unity, the Father and Son] given by much second- and third-century thought ... Pluralist thinkers ... maintained the full co-presence of the two (later three) distinct entities within the Godhead" (Alan Richardson, editor, A Dictionary of Christian Theology, 1969, p. 345).
Indeed, the second-century bishop Irenaeus, an earlier church father, stated unequivocally, "There is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption [i.e., sonship as God's children]" (Against Heresies, Book 4, preface; compare Book 3, chap. 6). We find no mention here of the Holy Spirit being a third person as God. Rather, the concept here is that of human beings becoming part of the family now consisting of God the Father and God the Son.
We see, then, that the doctrine of the Trinity wasn't formalized until long after the Bible was completed and the apostles were long dead in their graves. It took later theologians several centuries to sort out what they believed concerning the Holy Spirit. Regrettably, the Trinity doctrine has been a major barrier to clear comprehension of the biblical truth that God is a divine family.
This teaching originated with the Worldwide Church of God (Herbert W. Armstrong). The first article of faith from their official website said that “God is the eternal, all-powerful, supreme creator and sustainer of the entire universe. God is one, composed of spirit and comprising a family presently consisting of God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son.” Jesus Christ is “the second member of the God family”.
After the death of Hebert W. Armstrong, the Worldwide Church of God began to embrace a more orthodox understanding of the Christian faith. Armstrong’s successors, Joseph Tkach, Sr., and Joseph Tkach, Jr., have led the Worldwide Church of God in a more orthodox direction, rejecting British Israelism, accepting the Trinity, etc. The organization/denomination now refers to itself as Grace Communion International. A brief history of the transition from Armstrongism to Grace Communion can be found at www.gci.org/aboutus/history
Since the Worldwide Church of God split (mainly over the issue of the Trinity), other branches arose. One is the Church of God Worldwide Association. Their first article of faith says this:
God is an eternal family currently consisting of the Father and the Son. Both the Father and Son are involved in the creative work of expanding this family by bringing many children (sons and daughters) to glory. The Holy Spirit is the power of God and the Spirit of life eternal, not a separate entity or being. https://cogwa.org/about/fundamental-beliefs/#1
Next, we come to the Continuing Church of God, which says this in its official website:
In the 20th century, the Philadelphia era of the true Church (Revelation 3:7-13) was raised up. This “era” was primarily represented by the old Radio Church of God which was renamed the Worldwide Church of God under the leadership of the late Herbert W. Armstrong. While that “era” apparently ended upon his death, a faithful Philadelphia remnant exists that now carries that mantle and pillar of truth and will exist until the end of the church age. The Continuing Church of God, with its world headquarters in the Five Cities region of California (specifically now, the City of Arroyo Grande), tries to feed the flock around the world in the 21st century.
THE GODHEAD: The Father and Son comprise the Godhead and work through the Holy Spirit. Scripture shows that God is one eternal divine Family consisting of two, God the Father and the Word, at this time, with faithful children to be added to become as Jesus Christ, who is God. The Holy Spirit is not a separate being in the theological sense and is given to those after those who have properly repented and been baptized. The early original Christians had what has been called a “binitarian” view of the Godhead. Source: https://www.ccog.org/statement-of-beliefs-of-the-continuing-church-of-god/
As you can see, there is more than one church that believes the Godhead consists only of the Father and the Son and that the Holy Spirit is God’s power or energy but “is not a separate entity or being”. The ones I’ve mentioned have articles of faith almost identical to that of the original Worldwide Church of God. Ray Butterworth has already posted an answer about the United Church of God.
@NigelJ, GTA was the son of HWA. Following his death, the church was taken over by people that totally changed the doctrines and name of the organization. Most pastors and congregations left the organization, many forming their own churches, leaving the Tkach's with all its assets.To say that Tkach was the successor is like saying Trump was the successor of Obama. The Wikipedia article about the WCG is very ugly, disorganized, and uninformative. A possibly biased but very informative history of the breakup is Raising the Ruins Nov 14, 2020 at 19:07
1"Ray Butterworth has already posted an answer about the United Church of God". I tend to refer to publications from the UCG because they are the largest and most conservative of the groups that formed after the Worldwide Church of God was usurped, plus their website is the easiest to search. There are many other churches resulting from the split, so many that I didn't even know about the two you mentioned. Nov 14, 2020 at 19:29
The Christian Biblical Church of God believes in the duality of the Godhead. It was established in 1983 by a small group of seven true believers and one minister, Fred R. Coulter.
You can find teaching on the duality of the Godhead on the web site, https://www.cbcg.org/.
I found some writing by Carl D. Franklin, entitled "The Two Jehovahs of the Pentateuch" and "The Two Jehovah of Psalms". There are other writings. It all speaks of the duality of the Godhead. I believe that the duality of the Godhead is the way to go.
Do any denominations follow Franklin's teachings? If not then this isn't quite what the question is asking about.– curiousdannii ♦Sep 8, 2021 at 1:58
Welcome to Christianity Stack Exchange. Is this the "First Church" led by the Apostle Pastor Gino Jennings, who claims to be "a true prophet of the Lord Jesus Christ": truthofgod.com/literature/history-of-the-ministry– LesleySep 8, 2021 at 16:07