Friday, March 07, 2008

Heretical Friday: Modalism


Known as Sabellianism, Modalism, and Patripassianism.
  • Sabellianism after its founder, Sabellius, a Libyan priest of the third century

  • Modalism after the three modes or roles which it claimed the one person of the Trinity occupied

  • Patripassianism after its implication that the person of the Father (Pater-) suffered (-passion) on the cross when Jesus died, a term created by Tertullian in his work Adversus Praxeas, Chapter I
Modalism is the heretical belief that God is one person who has revealed himself in three forms or modes. This is in contrast to the Trinitarian doctrine where God is one being eternally existing in three persons.

Thus, according to Modalism, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, Jesus was simply God acting in one mode or role. After Jesus' ascension, the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was God acting in a different mode. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another. Modalism denies the distinctiveness and coexistence of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ.

Modalism quickly died out as it was too contrary to the ancient Christian faith to survive for long. It was condemned by Tertullian (c. 213, Tertullian Against Praxeas 1, in Ante Nicene Fathers, vol. 3) and was condemned as heresy by Dionysius, bishop of Rome (c. 262).

Unfortunately, it was reintroduced in the early twentieth century in the new Pentecostal movement. In its new form, Modalism is often referred to as Jesus Only theology since it claims that Jesus is the only person in the Godhead and that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are merely names, modes, or roles of Jesus.

Today the United Pentecostal Church and United Apostolic Churches, as well as numerous smaller groups which call themselves "apostolic churches," teach the Jesus Only doctrine. Through the Word Faith movement, it has begun to infect traditionally Trinitarian Pentecostalism. They deny the Trinity, teach that the name of God is Jesus, and require baptism for salvation.

These modalist churches often accuse Trinitarians of teaching three gods. This is not what the Trinity is. The correct teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM)
Catholic Answers

Previous heresy posts:


Adam Pastor said...

Yep. In many ways, the Modalism/Jesus Only/Oneness doctrine is indeed wrong.

But sadly, the trinity doctrine is also equally wrong in this regard:
that both modalism and trinity doctrines try to make Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah our Lord,
into Almighty GOD!!
And both doctrines state that you must believe that the Lord Jesus
is Almighty GOD to be saved!
In this regard, both doctrines do err and are scripturally wrong.

Both doctrines appeared hundreds of years after the ascension of Christ.
Both doctrines try to explain how Jesus can be both God and man at the same time!! The Godman!!

But the original faith which was once delivered unto the saints [Jude 3] did not suffer from this problem.

The original faith has always been

that there is solely ONE GOD,
the Father.
And Jesus of Nazareth, is the one man, the one human being whom Almighty GOD raised from the dead, made him, both Lord and Christ, and exalted him to His right hand.

Hence, Jesus of Nazareth is
the Lord Jesus Christ,
a man approved of Almighty GOD,
who is currently at the right of the ONE GOD in the heavens. Whom we await for his return.

(1 Cor 8:4) ... there is none other God but one.
(1 Cor 8:6) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him;
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

(1 Tim 2:5) For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

(1 Th 1:9-10) For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.

Hundreds of years after the pure, true, apostolic faith was propagated;
Greek, Hellenistic and pagan philosophy/doctrines changed the human Jesus into a demigod then into a godman.
And in response, both the doctrines of the trinity and
tried to solve this self-inflicted problem.

The solution then, is to return to the pure faith and doctrine as taught in the Scriptures:

that there is solely ONE GOD, the Father.
And there is solely one man, one human, whom the ONE GOD has made
"Lord of all", the man Messiah Jesus.

And indeed the day is coming where ...
(Phil 2:11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

May I suggest that one can prayerfully begin this journey of recovery by viewing a helpful video at

The Human Jesus

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor

Anne Coletta said...

Sorry, Adam, I'm going to have to go with Athanasius of Alexandria and Augustine of Hippo on this one. It is, of course, in the end a mystery of faith.

From On the Trinity [De Trinitate, Libri XV.] by Augustine, chapter 6:

They who have said that our Lord Jesus Christ is not God, or not very God, or not with the Father the One and only God, or not truly immortal because changeable, are proved wrong by the most plain and unanimous voice of divine testimonies; as, for instance, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

For it is plain that we are to take the Word of God to be the only Son of God, of whom it is afterwards said, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” on account of that birth of His incarnation, which was wrought in time of the Virgin. But herein is declared, not only that He is God, but also that He is of the same substance with the Father; because, after saying, “And the Word was God,” it is said also, “The same was in the beginning with God: all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made.”

Not simply “all things;” but only all things that were made, that is; the whole creature. From which it appears clearly, that He Himself was not made, by whom all things were made. And if He was not made, then He is not a creature; but if He is not a creature, then He is of the same substance with the Father.

For all substance that is not God is creature; and all that is not creature is God. And if the Son is not of the same substance with the Father, then He is a substance that was made: and if He is a substance that was made, then all things were not made by Him; but “all things were made by Him,” therefore He is of one and the same substance with the Father. And so He is not only God, but also very God. And the same John most expressly affirms this in his epistle: “For we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know the true God, and that we may be in His true Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”

And from part of the Athanasian creed:

For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal.
Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate.
The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible.
The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Etneral and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal.
As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible.
So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

Adam Pastor said...

I am truly sorry too!
I would rather you go with the holy prophets, and the apostles of the Lord and Saviour; and of course, the creed of Jesus.
[Acts 26.27-29]

Nevertheless, Anne, please watch the video:

The Human Jesus