Modalism, and it's implications.

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Tidwex

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello, I am a new user and I am not claiming to be as well-versed as my fellow brothers here on this site. I am a relatively new believer, I was saved about 16 months ago, and since then I have learned a great deal about theology on the side as I pursue entrance into a medical school while I finish up work as a Post-Bacc student. After becoming saved, I struggled with the doctrine of the Trinity, how the one God exists as three distinct persons that all share the same, one divine essence (clear that up for me if I am mistaken). I have encountered those who reject the Trinity yet still show (apparent) signs of regeneracy such as faithful preaching of the true Gospel, emphasis on the 5 solas, among other things. When I say reject the Trinity I mean that when confronted with the claim, "The Father did not die on the cross for our sins, it was only and solely the Son, who was sent by the Father." they get hostile. To be clear, they believe Jesus is God, that there are distinctions within the "persons" (which are really just modes) of God, and the three exist simultaneously, but it's just one person doing it all so when Jesus is called "Almighty Father" in Isaiah 9:6 they are saying "Jesus=Father" (which is wrong). Does this lack of holding to the doctrine of the Trinity laid out in the creeds put them outside of salvation (as the creeds say), or does it just show lack of maturity? Sorry for the long post, I am looking for those smarter than I to lend a hand. Thanks.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello, there are far more studied men and women on here than me who I hope will respond. That said, I’ll offer my two cents to be taken with a grain of salt. First off, I believe you are correct. The terminology typically used to describe God by Trinitarians is God is one being (i.e. same essence), three persons.

In my view, modalism boils down to a pride issue, in the sense they don’t like being unable to fully comprehend God. How can God be one, yet three different persons? How can God be completely sovereign, yet man still be held responsible? Well I don’t know, but that’s what Scripture reveals to us repeatedly throughout the OT and NT. It’s difficult to accept there are many things we don’t understand about God. But if God was simple to understand, what kind of a God would he be?

As God instructs us in Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

One of the more prominent verses to consider would be Matthew 3:16-17,
”And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.". Here we see all three persons interacting with each other.

One concept I’d encourage you and your friends to explore is the personal relationship expressed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For example, in John 17:5, Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Does this sound like one person?

Perhaps the most intimate relationship expressed between the Father and Son is Psalm 18, which I believe describes Christ’s resurrection from the dead. In this account, Christ has fully absorbed the wrath of God, yet God the Father in unimaginable love restores His Son.

I don’t think I can answer your question, but hopefully your friends will eventually come to the truth.
 

Tidwex

Puritan Board Freshman
Hello, there are far more studied men and women on here than me who I hope will respond. That said, I’ll offer my two cents to be taken with a grain of salt. First off, I believe you are correct. The terminology typically used to describe God by Trinitarians is God is one being (i.e. same essence), three persons.

In my view, modalism boils down to a pride issue, in the sense they don’t like being unable to fully comprehend God. How can God be one, yet three different persons? How can God be completely sovereign, yet man still be held responsible? Well I don’t know, but that’s what Scripture reveals to us repeatedly throughout the OT and NT. It’s difficult to accept there are many things we don’t understand about God. But if God was simple to understand, what kind of a God would he be?

As God instructs us in Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

One of the more prominent verses to consider would be Matthew 3:16-17,
”And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.". Here we see all three persons interacting with each other.

One concept I’d encourage you and your friends to explore is the personal relationship expressed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For example, in John 17:5, Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Does this sound like one person?

Perhaps the most intimate relationship expressed between the Father and Son is Psalm 18, which I believe describes Christ’s resurrection from the dead. In this account, Christ has fully absorbed the wrath of God, yet God the Father in unimaginable love restores His Son.

I don’t think I can answer your question, but hopefully your friends will eventually come to the truth.

Thanks for the Scripture and kind reply. It's funny, I actually looked into the Greek for some of those verses, and fully agree with you that Jesus isn't just talking to his Divine nature from his Human nature as asking to be glorified before the world was as a human nature is wrong and heretical. Jesus was clearly talking to another person. So I guess I'm 100% convicted I am right, but I am asking more along the lines of "What if someone rejects this?" in tandem with their standing before God. I'm assuming it falls under "It is a diagnosis that they are sick and not regenerate as, 'The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.'" (1 Cor 2:14) and the Spirit guides us into truth, so any true believer, given sufficient Biblical evidence, should embrace the Trinity, and the only believer who does not is the one who hasn't been instructed.
 

wcf_linux

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for the Scripture and kind reply. It's funny, I actually looked into the Greek for some of those verses, and fully agree with you that Jesus isn't just talking to his Divine nature from his Human nature as asking to be glorified before the world was as a human nature is wrong and heretical. Jesus was clearly talking to another person. So I guess I'm 100% convicted I am right, but I am asking more along the lines of "What if someone rejects this?" in tandem with their standing before God. I'm assuming it falls under "It is a diagnosis that they are sick and not regenerate as, 'The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.'" (1 Cor 2:14) and the Spirit guides us into truth, so any true believer, given sufficient Biblical evidence, should embrace the Trinity, and the only believer who does not is the one who hasn't been instructed.

To affirm and amplify your point: while I don't make a habit of judging if someone else is regenerate, Trinitarian heresy on the level of Modalism is a Big Deal. Someone who affirms it in ignorance may be regenerate, but that should be treated as an extraordinary thing. Such a person should be urged to correct their views, which are poisonous to sound teaching. But a preacher who preaches modalism, or a church that affirms modalism, is outside of the visible church. Outside of the visible church there is no ordinary means of salvation.

This is not alarmism or precisionism. How can Jesus be our mediator with the Father if Jesus simply equals the Father? While Father, Son, and Spirit have one will and one activity, they are distinct from each other on account of their relations of origin. The Father begets the Son, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Therefore for us and for our salvation the Father sends the Son to become man and redeem us. Without the Trinity the Gospels are nonsensical, as are the epistles.

That is not to say that God never uses preachers who hold grave heresy. But it is not the preacher who effectually calls us to faith and repentance. It is the Spirit who does so, and any spiritual blessing we gain from any minister of God, true or false, sound or unsound, worthy or scandalous, we ultimately receive from the Spirit of God.

That point has been especially of comfort to me lately, as I see my old pastor from my teenage years publicly go further and further off the rails. He can fall into error and doctrinal indifference, and that does not take away from the blessings God gave me through his past work. It is also a reason why we should not judge a pastor's genuineness from numbers or the apparent presence of genuine converts from their ministry.
 
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Jerrod Hess

Puritan Board Freshman
In accordance with Kevin's post in regards to the importance of the Trinity, and heresy in regards to who God is, consider the Baptist divines who summed up 1 of the 3 major Puritan confessions of faith:

In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided: the Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son; all infinite, without beginning, therefore but one God, who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations; which doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and comfortable dependence on him.

Why is the Trinity the foundation of all our communion with God? Because the doctrine of the Trinity is simply what God has revealed himself to be in his word, which believers receive by faith, regardless of how well our finite minds can grasp the doctrine. However close we are to understanding the doctrine of the Bible, if we believe in a god that is not that same God revealed in Holy Writ, we are not serving and praying to the one true God; this is of logical deduction.

Imagine how foolish it is, to think that there can be nothing in the infinite God that is beyond our understanding; yae, that a sinful finite creature would be able to fully comprehend the Almighty's essence in its entirety.

I will pray for your friends this evening, as I myself also have seen a brother who has been in the faith wrestle with the doctrine of modalism. It is one thing to not perfectly understand the doctrine of the Trinity, but another to teach contrary to it. Isaiah 8:20
 
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jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
Hello, there are far more studied men and women on here than me who I hope will respond. That said, I’ll offer my two cents to be taken with a grain of salt. First off, I believe you are correct. The terminology typically used to describe God by Trinitarians is God is one being (i.e. same essence), three persons.

In my view, modalism boils down to a pride issue, in the sense they don’t like being unable to fully comprehend God. How can God be one, yet three different persons? How can God be completely sovereign, yet man still be held responsible? Well I don’t know, but that’s what Scripture reveals to us repeatedly throughout the OT and NT. It’s difficult to accept there are many things we don’t understand about God. But if God was simple to understand, what kind of a God would he be?

As God instructs us in Deuteronomy 29:29, "The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

One of the more prominent verses to consider would be Matthew 3:16-17,
”And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.". Here we see all three persons interacting with each other.

One concept I’d encourage you and your friends to explore is the personal relationship expressed between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. For example, in John 17:5, Jesus prays, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” Does this sound like one person?

Perhaps the most intimate relationship expressed between the Father and Son is Psalm 18, which I believe describes Christ’s resurrection from the dead. In this account, Christ has fully absorbed the wrath of God, yet God the Father in unimaginable love restores His Son.

I don’t think I can answer your question, but hopefully your friends will eventually come to the truth.
The problem people seem to have is multifaceted
1. logical
2. an abberent understanding of the Creator/creature distinction
3. an uncomfortable perspective on mystery
1 is wrong because the law of non-contradiction says that something cannot be one and three in the same sense. Since we confess that God is one in essence and three in person's, that's two different senses, I can elaborate on that if you want. It's not a contradiction.
Since God is creator, problem 2, He is not like us (creatures) so our conceptions don't exactly apply to him. Only those he takes up in his self-revelation to us. We can't peak into heaven and examine God.
Problem 3, we must stop our speculations short of God's revelations ( we have nothing else to go on). So mystery is part and parcel of our faith. We can't understand it so we must sit in silence.
I hope that helps.
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
The problem people seem to have is multifaceted
1. logical
2. an abberent understanding of the Creator/creature distinction
3. an uncomfortable perspective on mystery
1 is wrong because the law of non-contradiction says that something cannot be one and three in the same sense. Since we confess that God is one in essence and three in person's, that's two different senses, I can elaborate on that if you want. It's not a contradiction.
Since God is creator, problem 2, He is not like us (creatures) so our conceptions don't exactly apply to him. Only those he takes up in his self-revelation to us. We can't peak into heaven and examine God.
Problem 3, we must stop our speculations short of God's revelations ( we have nothing else to go on). So mystery is part and parcel of our faith. We can't understand it so we must sit in silence.
I hope that helps.
I fully agree with you and hope I didn’t misspeak. I’m not implying it’s a contradiction, but simply that I have no ability within the limits of my human rationality to understand or natural analogy to properly compare. While many do view it as a contradiction, we have faith to accept what God’s word reveals, even when we can’t fully comprehend.
 

jwright82

Puritan Board Graduate
I fully agree with you and hope I didn’t misspeak. I’m not implying it’s a contradiction, but simply that I have no ability within the limits of my human rationality to understand or natural analogy to properly compare. While many do view it as a contradiction, we have faith to accept what God’s word reveals, even when we can’t fully comprehend.
I understand. I might have misspoke. I wasn't trying to imply that, sorry for that. I was just being general about it. The logical problem is easily dismissed, that's all I was saying. Good question though!
 
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