Examining Shincheonji’s Understanding of the Trinity

How do Shincheonji members view Jesus? What do their instructors actually teach about the Trinity? A former member explains.

Over the course of history, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity has faced persistent challenges and misunderstandings from various cults, fringe denominations, and religious groups. Misguided attempts at defending the Trinity often occur when people don’t fully comprehend the doctrine of the Trinity, and how to defend it. These attempts often involve metaphors to do with eggs or water, and often leave people more confused than they were before. It is a matter of fact that many Shincheonji (SCJ) instructors are better at attacking the Trinity than what most Christians are at defending it. 

In this article, we aim to address some of the thought-provoking questions raised by Shincheonji that challenge the very core of the Trinity doctrine and the deity of Christ. We will also seek to provide clear and reasoned responses, shedding light on the profound coherence and significance of the Christian belief in the Trinity.

The Trinity: Can we Defend it Biblically?

In a video titled “The Trinity: Can we Defend it Biblically?” Mike Winger, a pastor and theologian, shared seven questions that Trinity critics often pose. [1] These are important to understand as Shincheonji instructors frequently pose similar ones: 

  1. Why isn’t the word Trinity found in the Bible? Why do you believe in words that aren’t in the bible?
  2. How is Jesus God, when Jesus said that the Father is the only true God. (John 17:3)
  3. In John 14:28, how can Jesus say that the Father is greater than he is? 
  4. Who does Jesus pray to? How can God pray to God? 
  5. How can Jesus be God if he is God’s son? I’m not my dad.
  6. It says that Jesus is created in Colossians 1:15. How can he be God if he is created? 
  7. If Jesus is God then why didn’t Jesus just say that he is God? 

If you are a Christian I’m sure these are questions that you have heard before. If you are a Shincheonji member, these might even be the reasons that you don’t believe in the Trinity. I encourage you to read the document and look into the bible. These questions will be addressed in their appropriate section. We will separately look at the deity of Christ and the deity of the Holy Spirit, then finally will pull these all together with an explanation and analysis of the Trinity. 

The Deity of Christ

The Jesus of Shincheonji

Is Jesus God? Shincheonji do not believe so. Instead they believe he is a glorified created being. There are many biblical things about Jesus which they believe, such as, he lived a perfect life and his sacrifice on the cross atones for our sins, that he is God’s son, his virgin birth, he was raised from the dead, that he was sent into the world by the Father, and that he fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. They refer to Jesus as the “Promised Pastor” of the Old Testament, which is not a false belief as such, but rather, terminology that doesn’t occur in Christian doctrine. This terminology is hugely emphasised by them as forms the basis for  their founder, Lee Man-Hee, to claim to be the so-called “Promised Pastor” of the New Testament. In other words, they claim that Lee Man-Hee is the pastor whom Jesus promised, and the pastor whom Jesus has chosen to work through and to fulfill the book of Revelation. 

Jesus is still a very important and prominent figure in Shincheonji’s doctrine. After all, they are called the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. However, he has been somewhat demoted to a created being or a Promised Pastor, rather than God. It is noteworthy, that in many of Shincheonji’s official statements or widely available resources, it is very hard to find a comment on Jesus’s deity [2]. They would often state that they believe in God the Father, and His Son Jesus Christ (note the comma).

Skimming over this, one would assume that this affirms Jesus’s deity – but it doesn’t! It is just clever wording to appear that way. Shincheonji members will not directly confirm or deny that Jesus is God, because it is hugely controversial and would turn potential recruits away. 

Some common arguments that SCJ instructors use against why Jesus is God, usually stem from a misunderstanding of the Trinity. One instructor shared to me “If Jesus is God, who does Jesus pray to? Is he praying to himself?” They would also use scripture for their argument, such as John 14:28, Mark 10:18, and 1 Corinthians 15:24-28. But what does the Bible really say?

The Jesus of the Bible

The bible teaches that Jesus is both truly man and truly God. It is important to note that Jesus is not the Father, but He is still God. The fullness of God dwells in Him (Col. 1:19), all things were created through Him and held together by Him (Col. 1:16-17),  He is the Word that became flesh and was with God in the beginning (John 1:1-14).

Jesus says that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). SCJ misconstrue this verse stating that the verse simply means that they are one in purpose and goal, like a husband and wife are one. However, looking at the context for this, we see that claiming to be one goes deeper than that. We need only to look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement to know He was claiming to be God. They tried to stone Him for this very reason: “You, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33). The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was claiming: deity. Jesus was saying that He and the Father are of one nature and essence, not only purpose and goal. 

John 8:58 is another example. Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!” This is a reference back to Exodus 3:14 when God revealed Himself as the self-existent “I AM.” The Jews who heard this statement responded by taking up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, as the Mosaic Law commanded (Lev. 24:16). Shincheonji states that this is in reference to Jesus being prophesied before Abraham. While it is true that Jesus was prophesied before Abraham (Gen. 3:15), in the original Hebrew language the phrase “I AM” is a direct reference to the covenant name of God, Yahweh, which the Israelites knew clearly. 

There are many comparisons that can be drawn between Yahweh of the Old Testament and who Jesus comes and proclaims himself to be. Jesus comes and says He is the final judge of all people (John 12:48), even though the Old Testament says that Yahweh is that (Ps. 50:6; 75:7; 76:8-9; Is. 32:22). Jesus says He raises the dead at the final resurrection, even though the Old Testament says that Yahweh will do this. Jesus also calls himself the Lord of the Sabbath, greater than God’s temple, that He has a unique relationship, and that He is with them wherever they go (Matt. 28:18-20).

If it is still not clear, then consider John 20:28, “Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”. This is Jesus’s own disciple calling Him God. Or consider Paul’s words in Titus 2:13 “while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Confusion can come here as some might think it is referring to two persons: the “Great God”, and “Saviour, Jesus Christ”. But this is a false understanding. According to “Granville Sharp’s Greek” grammar rule [3], when a definite article (e.g. “the”) is followed by two nouns, both nouns must refer to the same antecedent.  

τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ χριστοῦ

…of the glory of the great God and Saviour of ours Jesus Christ.

In this case, both “Great God” and “Saviour Jesus Christ” grammatically refer to the same person. A similar thing occurs in 2 Peter 1:1.

Shincheonji will deny that these verses state that Jesus is God, rather saying that since God’s spirit has become one with Jesus, then seeing Jesus is seeing God and it is fine to call him God. However, in Acts 7:54-56 we can clearly see that once Jesus has ascended, they are separate entities. 

Several times in Scripture Jesus receives worship (Matt. 2:11; 14:33; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). He never rebukes people for worshiping Him. If Jesus were not God, He would have told people to not worship Him as God, just as the angel in Revelation 19:10. This is a problem as the Old Testament prohibits idolatry, which is to worship an image or something else that is not God as God (Ex. 20:3-5). Even the worship of something else bearing the image of God or likeness of God is idolatry. Isaiah 42:8 reads “..I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to Idols” and Isaiah 48:11 says “.. My glory I will not give to another.”. It is clear that God does not share his Glory with another. The Bible teaches that Jesus is God.

Does the Bible teach that Jesus is not God?

Now that we have a good understanding of how the scriptures teach that Jesus is God, let’s address some common verses and arguments that SCJ instructors use to justify why Jesus is not God. 

John 14:28 “The father is greater than I.” SCJ instructors would ask: how can the Son and the Father be the same if Jesus is saying that he is less than God? However, a key thing to keep in mind is that he says “the Father is greater than I”, not God. This is in reference to the person of the Trinity, not being or “essence”. (The concept of the being and persons of the Trinity will be more explained in the “Triune God” section). The context for this verse is that Jesus is in his earthly body. John 17:5 states that Jesus had glory before. In Philippians 2:6-7 he was humbled and took on flesh and gave up his status. Jesus is still fully God, but came as a human, humble, and obedient to the point of death on a cross. Jesus was looking forward to being with the Father again, who at that time was greater than the Son.

Mark 10:18 “Why do you call me good? Only God is good.” SCJ instructors would claim that if Jesus is saying that only God is good and not himself, how could he be God? Again, context is key. A man calls Jesus “Good teacher” and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus then says the above back to him. Jesus is not denying that he is God here, nor is he saying that he is not good. He is asking if the man understood the implications of calling Him good. He is asking whether the man knows his identity (God). It could be phrased as “why do you call Me good? Are you calling Me God? If you are, are you prepared to listen to me?” Jesus could also be trying to make the man reflect on his depravity and need for a Saviour as no one is good but God. 

In 1 Corinthians 15:28, Paul says “When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.” What SCJ instructors interpret this verse to be saying is that since God has put Jesus under him so that God may be in all in all, Jesus can’t be God. However, this appears to be a messy interpretation and injecting meaning that is not really there. Firstly, we should note that the Son is subject to the Father in the relationship of the Trinity. An example to help understand this concept is that even though I am employed by my boss or manager and subject to them, we are still equal, both just as important. It is not saying that one is less than the other. In this instance, the Son is subject to the Father. They are both God, as discussed previously, but the Son does the will of the Father (John 5:17-19). 

The Deity of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit of Shincheonji

Does SCJ believe that the Holy Spirit is God? When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Shincheonji have an interesting interpretation. The first thing we should understand is they make a distinction between The Holy Spirit and a holy spirit (note the capitalisation). The word “spirit” to them means angel and they get this from Hebrews 1:14 which says “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”. They teach that “The Holy Spirit” is one specific angel with a duty: to be the counselor whom Jesus promised in John 14-16, and then to return at the time of Revelation and work through Lee Man-Hee and the angel mentioned in Revelation 1:1, and Revelation 10. Lee Man-Hee says, “”According to SCJ’s interpretation, a “holy spirit” refers to any angel that belongs to God (Rev. 5:11). There are also evil spirits, which are demons or angels that once belonged to God but joined Satan (Jude 1:6).  

There are two important implications of SCJ’s view on the Holy Spirit. Firstly, it is clear that they deny the Holy Spirit as a person of the triune God. Secondly, they do not believe that the early church received the Holy Spirit at all since the Holy Spirit only comes at the second coming of Christ. 

For example, Shincheonji claims that in Acts 2, on the day of Pentecost, was not when the Holy Spirit came, rather it was only fulfilling the prophecy spoken about in Joel, and that the disciples only received a “holy spirit”[4]. He also says “the spirit of the advocate, who comes in the Lord’s name, chooses one pastor (i.e the promised pastor) in the physical world and speaks through him.”[5] However, there are a few problems with this view. Firstly, Paul refers to the Holy Spirit throughout many of his letters (1 Cor. 1; 3; 12; 14; 1 Thess. 1; Gal. 3; 5). Also, Acts 2:4 states that the disciples who were gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit. They are also commissioned by Jesus to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How could they baptise in the name of the Holy Spirit if this is something that does not come until the second coming? 

Whenever reference to the Holy Spirit appears within the epistles, Shincheonji instructors often change the meaning to suit them. By first using John 6:63 to explain that word = spirit, they then use this to freely swap the word “Spirit” to mean “Word” whenever it suits them. For example, where in Romans 8:5 it reads “but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires”, SCJ instructors would interpret this to mean lying according to the things of the Word (Bible). Other times, SCJ might take the word “Spirit” to mean “God”, justifying it by claiming that John 4:24 says that “God is spirit”. They also might change the meaning of some of these verses to mean spirits in general. “The work of spirit” is a saying they often throw around to mean the work of God, or angels, doing God’s work. But often, they change Holy Spirit to holy spirit to fit with their definitions, so that it does not mean The Holy Spirit. In this way, SCJ instructors explain away each instance of The Holy Spirit in the New Testament in a way that denies His divinity and person. 

The Holy Spirit of the Bible

What is the Holy Spirit or rather who is the Holy Spirit? Shincheonji often misunderstand who the Holy Spirit is and teach many different things on what a verse means when it says “the Holy Spirit”. Using the techniques above, they will variously teach that “the Holy Spirit” refers either to the Angel that comes at the time of Revelation, or to another angel that is holy, or to God’s Holy word (John 6:63), or to God the Father as he is spirit (John 4:24). 

When understanding the Holy Spirit biblically, it is so important to realise that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person from the father and is God itself. Shincheonji, do not believe that they are the same, but it is still important for us to note. John 14:26 makes this clear as it says “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” 

In the original Greek, the Holy Spirit’s personhood is even more explicit:

ἐκεῖνος ὑμᾶς διδάξει πάντα καὶ ὑπομνήσει ὑμᾶς πάντα ἃ εἶπον ὑμῖν.

This one will teach you all things and he will remind you everything that I have said to you.

So we can see that the Father is the one who sends the Holy Spirit in the Son’s name, and that He is a distinct person. 

Works of the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit is at work in God’s redemption. Sinners are saved through Christ and The Holy Spirit makes this happen. Andrew Menkis details this in an article on the Holy Spirit. Take note of the capitalisation of Spirit and Holy Spirit in the verses, and we can understand that it is referring to the same person: [6]

First, the Spirit caused the Virgin Mary to become pregnant, thus enabling the Son to become truly human (Luke 1:35). Second, the Bible teaches that the Spirit equipped and qualified Christ to do the work of Redemption. The Spirit came upon Christ in a powerful way at his baptism, the start of his redemptive ministry (Luke 3:22). In fact, the Bible tells us the Spirit was given to Christ in all of his fullness to aid him in the work of redemption (John 3:34). Even as he went to the cross, it was with the help of the Spirit that Christ offered his life for our sins (Heb. 9:14).

The Spirit’s role in redemption doesn’t stop with Christ’s death and resurrection. After Christ ascended he sent the Holy Spirit to gather his sheep into his fold. The Spirit does this by inspiring the authors of the Bible so that people like you and me would know who Jesus is and what he has done for our salvation (1 Cor. 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:21). Through the word the Spirit builds the church as sinners are called to repentance and faith (Ep. 1:22-23; 2:22; 1 Cor. 3:16; 12:4).  The Spirit dwells in the church, teaches and guides Christians (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14; Acts 5:32; Heb. 10:15; 1 John 2:27).

We also see that the Holy Spirit creates (Ps. 104:30), is omniscient (1 Cor. 1:10), omnipresent (Ps.139), eternal (Heb. 9), can be grieved (Eph. 4:30), has a will (1 Cor. 12:4-7), and He has fellowship with believers (2 Cor. 13:14). The Holy Spirit is also not a mere force, but a person. 

Why should we believe that the Holy Spirit is God? Consider Acts 5:3-4: “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?… You have not lied to men but to God.’” The above verse equates that when Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, he lied to God. We also have 2 Corinthians 3:17 that reads “Now the Lord is the Spirit…”. Like how Jesus and the Father are called Lord, the Holy Spirit is also called Lord. 

The Triune God

The Trinity of Shincheonji

Shincheonji do not believe that God is Triune (three-in-one). They do claim that they believe in a Trinity, but not the Trinity of the bible. Their Trinity is found to be working in and through their founder Lee Man-Hee. They teach that this is found in Revelation 1:1-3, where the Father, the Son, and an angel are involved in giving revelation to John. Shincheonji instructors also claim that the doctrine of the Trinity is something which is man made false commentary, was only introduced once the church became corrupt, and is stolen from Paganism [7], where there is God made up of three. This shows a huge misunderstanding of the Trinity and the Scriptures. We will examine some of the scriptures that support the Trinity, but it should be noted that the pagan religions where it was claimed that the Trinity was stolen from is actually the practice of Tritheism, three different Gods, not a Trinity, where we believe that there is one God who is three in one. 

Shincheonji instructors often ask things to disprove the trinity like “Why was Jesus praying to himself? Why would God pray to God?” This shows how they misunderstand the Trinity as the doctrine is clear that the Father is not the Son. They are different persons of the Trinity and are in relationship with one another. They would also ask why the word Trinity is not in the bible? A response to this would be that there are many things that we believe about God, that are not in the bible. The word Trinity comes from the concepts found in the bible. God is omniscient, however that word itself is not in the bible, but helps us to describe God. In fact, Shincheonji themselves frequently use certain words for their doctrines which don’t derive from the Bible itself. For example, they believe in a “Promised Pastor” or “New John”, yet these are not terms found in the bible. 

The Trinity of the Bible

Kevin DeYoung, “How many persons are there in God?” [8]

The Trinity does not teach that there are three Gods (tritheism). Nor does it teach that the persons of the Trinity shape shift into one another, where the Father turns into Jesus, and then into the Spirit (modalism). The word Trinity can be broken down into “tri”, meaning three, and “unity”, meaning united, which is how we come to the understanding of “three in one”. We believe that there is one God as Deuteronomy 6:4 says “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”. We also believe that the Father is God, the Son Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. There is one being of God, but three persons. It can also be described as “three who’s and one what”.

Why do Christians believe in the Trinity? Is it really a man-made teaching? Was it something stolen from another religion? No. Christians ultimately get this view from how the Triune God has revealed Himself, not by church councils and traditions. It is simply the best explanation for what Scripture presents God Himself to be. 

For example, in Genesis 1:1-2 we see God, and also the Spirit of God, hovering over the waters. Then, in Genesis 1:26, God says “Let us” make humanity after our image, our likeness. Who is the plural? Not the plural of majesty, not the angels as God alone created the universe (Is. 44:24). In Isaiah 9:6 there is a prophecy that a child is to be born as is said to be God. Isaiah 48:16, Yahweh is speaking, and says that the Lord God has been sent by God along with the Spirit of God. In Zechariah 12:10, Yahweh will pour out a spirit which will cause people to repent, and look on Yahweh whom they have pierced. How can He be pierced unless He takes on a body?

For clarity we should also note that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not the same, they are different persons. Jesus’s baptism in Matthew 3:16-17 shows us this (explanation added):

“As soon as Jesus (2nd person of the Trinity) was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God (3rd person of the Trinity) descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven (1st person of the Trinity) said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

In a sermon on the Trinity, apologist Dr David Wood states: “Well what do we do with all of this? If the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Spirit is God. But the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father and there is only one God. The Trinity is our only way out.” [9]


We have examined Shincheonji’s understanding of the Trinity and highlighted some of the thought-provoking questions raised by the Shincheonji instructors and members. It is evident that Shincheonji challenges the core Christian belief in the Trinity and the deity of Christ. However, upon closer examination of the Biblical Scriptures, their arguments are found to be based on misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

Shincheonji’s belief regarding Jesus, as a glorified created being and a “Promised Pastor”, falls short of the biblical teaching that Jesus is both truly man and truly God. The scriptures clearly reveal that Jesus claimed deity and equality with the Father, as evidenced by the reactions of the Jews and the disciples’ confessions. Verses such as John 20:28 and Titus 2:13 affirm Jesus’ divine nature.

Similarly, Shincheonji’s doctrine on the Holy Spirit, differentiating between “The Holy Spirit” and a “holy spirit” as an angel or God’s Word, overlooks the biblical portrayal of the Holy Spirit as a distinct person of the triune God. The Holy Spirit’s role in the work of redemption, as well as the references to the Holy Spirit in the epistles, support the understanding of the Holy Spirit as God Himself.

In conclusion, Shincheonji’s rejection of the triune nature of God and their assertion that their founder, Lee Man-Hee, is a clear sign that their teachings should not be trusted. God’s Word warns us to be cautious of hollow and deceptive philosophies that rely on human tradition and worldly forces rather than on Christ. The fullness of the Deity resides in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority (Col. 2:8-10). Therefore, it is important to base our beliefs on a thorough understanding of the Scriptures so that we may discern the truth from deceptive teachings.


  1. Winger, Mike. 2019. “The Trinity: Can We Defend it Biblically?” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p0cLKtR5kfE.
  2. See the Statement of Faith page on Shincheonji’s official websites, e.g. https://www.newzealand.shincheonji.org/shincheonji.
  3. “What is the Granville Sharp Rule? | GotQuestions.org.” 2022. Got Questions. https://www.gotquestions.org/Granville-Sharp-Rule.html.
  4. The Creation of Heaven and Earth, Lee Man-Hee, 27. The Advocate, the holy spirit, and the promised pastor, pp 440
  5. The Creation of Heaven and Earth, Lee Man-Hee, 27. The Advocate, the holy spirit, and the promised pastor, pp 438
  6. Menkis, Andrew. 2019. “How Is the Holy Spirit Different from the Father and the Son?” Core Christianity. https://corechristianity.com/resource-library/articles/how-is-the-holy-spirit-different-from-the-father-and-the-son/.
  7. https://www.ucg.org/bible-study-tools/booklets/is-god-a-trinity/how-ancient-trinitarian-gods-influenced-adoption-of-the-trinity 
  8. The Gospel Coalition. “New City Catechism: How Many Persons Are There in God?”. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/new-city-catechism/how-many-persons-are-there-in-god/
  9. Wood, David. 2018. “Dr. David Wood Concisely Proves The Trinity.” YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyW0Vu-Em0Y.

Further Resources:

  1. The Forgotten Trinity, James White https://manna.co.nz/forgotten-trinity-1119 
  2. Nabeel Qureshi on the Trinity, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0JpwOSKRC0 
  3. The Truth about the Council of Nicaea, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSKBGdv07nQ 
  4. Shincheonji’s teaching on the Trinity, https://www.reddit.com/r/Shincheonji/comments/vv69gg/scjs_teaching_on_the_trinity/
  5. What is the Trinity and how did it originate, Shincheonji Blog, http://noahbrown1984.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-trinity-what-is-it-and-how-did-it.html (“Noah Brown” is a Shincheonji member’s pseudonym)

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