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Ancient Truth. Contemporary Conversations.
- A statement of faith modalists will loveThis is a modalist statement of faith so long as what is meant by “persons” is anything less than “beings”. And in the case of the vast majority of Trinitarian teachers, this is indeed the case.
- Thanks, Zyxl, I appreciate your detailed and scripture filled response. I have a few follow-up questions. Regarding Christ, would you agree with the Nicene Creed where it says: " And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end." And further regarding Christ, would you agree with the the Symbol of Chalcedon where it says: "We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential] with us according to the manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us." And finally, do you consider yourself a Trinitarian, in the sense required by the Athanasian Creed, where it says: "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith; Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord; And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead; He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies; and shall give account of their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved."
Zyxl — EditedEric Seelye I do not think it is good to be speculating about essences and natures—language which scripture does not normally use—especially if you are going to make it required dogma. Hence I would be more in line with the 4th century homoians and this creed (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Constantinople_(360) ) which declares the Father and the Son to be similar but rejects the ousia language. Precisely what is meant when one says that the Father and Son are of the same essence or that Christ has two natures is vague. However, these ideas are associated with anti-scriptural teachings. For example, the former is associated with the idea that everything which is true of the Father is true of the Son and vice versa, except for a few exceptions—such as the Son having been begotten and become incarnate. However, scripture teaches that the Father alone is the most high God and is the head of Christ and that Christ has always been subservient to His Father, so the two are hardly the same in these matters. They also differ in holiness, ability, visibility, sovereignty, mutability, and natural immortality, as well as taking different roles throughout OT history before the incarnation. The idea of Christ having two natures is associated with Christ having two wills and two minds, but scripture indicates that He has only one mind (1 Cor 2:16), and biblically one's will is usually another way of referring to one's desire—not one's decision-making faculty (which is the mind). If He had two minds then I'm very much inclined to say that would be two persons (Rom 7:22, 25). There is also no indication that Jesus took on an additional soul; His incarnation is consistently explained in scripture as Him taking on flesh. Biblically, a person just is their soul, so this would be tantamount to taking on another person and becoming two persons. The pseudo-Athanasian creed is very confused and advocates a form of modalism, declaring that the three persons are not three eternals, three uncreated things, three incomprehensibles, or three almighties, but one—meaning that the three cannot be distinguished and are really one and the same thing (numerically identical).Council of Constantinople (360) - WikipediaIn 359, the Roman Emperor Constantius II requested a church council, at Constantinople, of both the eastern and western bishops, to resolve the split at the Council of Seleucia. According to Socrates Scholasticus, only about 50 of the Eastern bishops, and an unspecified number of the western ones, a…en.wikipedia.org
- Zyxl, I disagree with your assessment of the Athanasian creed, where you conclude that the result of the language is that the three cannot be distinguished and must be one and the same thing. For me, the doctrine of the Trinity does the best job, within our human limitations, of trying to make sense of the God presented to us in scripture. As happens often, the Bible presents us with a paradox. We don't really understand how God can be both three and one, but then God is not like us and we shouldn't expect to be able to reduce Him to something that we can make sense of. Nevertheless, I appreciate your explanation and I learned something new, since I hadn't read the creed from the council of Constantinople before. So thanks for that.
- An honest criticism of modalism?What criticism makes this a farce exactly, and why can't the same criticism be levelled at Trinitarians? Modalists can believe that God became a man (while also remaining God) and that the man died (although God didn't) and was brought back to life. This is effectively what many Trinitarians also believe, which just goes to show that they are modalists at heart. The farcical parts are that God would become a man (Numbers 23:19, Hosea 11:9) and that Jesus the person, the Son of God, didn't die, only His human nature died.Lexham Survey of TheologyLikewise, if modalism is true and there is no distinction among the divine persons, then the Son’s humanity and subsequent death and resurrection are a farce, leaving us in our sins.
- Only God can saveI guess Gideon didn't save anyone. Nor did Othniel (Judges 3:9). And Moses wasn't involved in the Israelites being saved from Egypt (Exodus 14:30). And what does one make of the “saviours” God gives in Nehemiah 7:27 and Obadiah 1:21? As in all these past examples, it would make sense for God to save His people from their sins through another person who is not Himself. It is God who was sinned against, and it's God's wrath that needs to be propitiated. If the Son and the Holy Spirit are also God then why wasn't their wrath propitiated as well as the Father's? And if that is what happened (although scripture nowhere hints at such a thing), how could Jesus exhaust His own wrath upon Himself?
- Did they just say God can't do something?Chapter and verse, please. I don't put limits on what God can do through others. My God is in the heavens; He does as He pleases. Jesus Himself said that He was *given* the authority to grant eternal life to others (John 17:2). God doesn't need to be given any authority.Lexham Survey of TheologyIf, as dynamic monarchianism insists, the Son and Spirit are not truly divine, then they are in no position to achieve and apply the salvation that humanity so desperately needs
- A description of modalism, or Trinitarianism?This is in fact what a lot Trinitarian teachers, pastors, and pew-warmers believe. They refer to God as a “He”, not a “they”. They think of God as a friend, not three friends. They pray to God as a person, not a community. Their God is a person, not three persons. They redefine the word “person”, or rather, neglect to define it at all so that they can avoid the obvious contradiction. The “persons” these people believe in are nothing more than sock puppets controlled simultaneously by the mysterious divine nature who works behind the scenes controlling these three sock puppets.Lexham Survey of TheologyIn modalism, on the other hand, the Father, Son, and Spirit are not individual persons within the Triune Godhead, but rather they are three modes of being in which one divine person exists.
- One name?If the three share one name then what is this name? Chapter and verse please. Luke 9:26 speaks in a similar way when literally translated, speaking of the glory of Christ, and of the Father, and of the holy angels. Does that mean that the Father's glory is no different from the glory of angels? Or could it be that we ought to recognise ways of speaking (that we even use today) instead of grasping for proof texts? And shouldn't we also be open to the idea that a name or authority can be shared between three ontologically different parties?
- Trinitarian formula casts doubt on the three being one GodUm, this verse implies the three are distinct, which means they are three beings. Moreover, you either have to admit that the Father isn't mentioned in this verse (which is claimed here to be of a Trinitarian formula), or that “God” is used as a synonym for the Father. Isn't it a bit suspicious that it is used for the Father and not for the Son or the Spirit? If this is Trinitarianism, why isn't the Trinity normally explained as God plus Jesus plus the Holy Spirit? That's how Paul describes it.
- Three persons involved in one eventHow is this supposed to be evidence of ontological unity? Two men and God can be involved in growing the church (1 Corinthians 3:6-8), but that doesn't imply they have ontological unity. The argument from these verses appears to be that the three persons are one actor/agent. However, it's not clear how this is distinct from saying they are one person, which is modalism. Moreover, it is easily disproved that they are one actor by the fact that they have different roles in creation, the incarnation, etc. They can only have distinct roles if they are three distinct beings.Lexham Survey of TheologyAdditionally, Scripture speaks of all three persons of the Trinity as being involved in the creation (Gen 1:1–3; Eph 3:9; John 1:3; Job 33:4), the incarnation (Luke 1:35; John 1:14), the resurrection of Christ (Gal 1:1; John 10:17–8; Rom 8:11), and the sanctification of believers (1 Thess 5:23; Heb 13:12; 1 Pet 1:2).