Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Struggle with Modalism

This post comes after I've watched James White's sermon about "The Forgotten Trinity."  It was wonderful.  It is so hard to grasp how paradoxical the Trinity is that the churches do go to two extremes: Arianism and Modalism. 

Most Christians who actually read their Bible and know what they are talking about know without much study that Jesus is God, but they are also aware that he's God's Son.  So when they lead in church they talk about God sent is Son.  Son of God, God's Son.  They say it so much, that the average person will never hear that he's actually God.  This is a huge shame.  As a result, people believe in a Jesus who is a doormat who let his terrible father punish him for everyone's sins.  He's not the Victor over Satan who always planned on giving his life for his chosen.

However, Jesus's deity is foundational to my belief.  Usually, I can tell that someone is not a Christian or a true church because they reject Christ's deity.  So, I make sure that I always emphasize that Jesus is both the Son of God and God.  It confuses one of my kids greatly.  It's like I almost have to resort to modalism to help them understand.  Any human analogy will fall short, and God doesn't really provide one in Scripture, mainly because his Triunity is so foreign to us that we'll never be able to explain it.  St. Patrick used the shamrock: three leaves on one stalk.  So far, that's my favorite, but it doesn't explain it best because the three leaves are still separate leaves even though they are one plant.  The Trinity can separate, not even share a stalk, yet be one being.  Another favorite analogy is water.  It can be solid, liquid or gas.  The problem is, however, God is all three at once.

The one I use is dangerously modalistic.  I use Play-Doh.  I can hold one lump of Play-Doh, break it apart to make it two separate lumps, yea, even three, and then put it back together and it's still the same lump.  What do you 11 followers think?

I still stick with the conclusion that a person can be a modalist and still a Christian.  He at least believes Jesus is God, and so I don't get so concerned about it as James White does.  It's far worse to be Arian like the JWs and Mormons, and pretty much every cult and other religion. 

But then, I see the need to believe it the way Church Tradition teaches because it truly is what the Bible teaches.
The main passage that shows all three members and the same time, together yet being separate is the Baptism of Jesus by John in Matthew 3 and all its correspondents in the other Gospels.  Jesus goes down into the water and comes up, the Holy Spirit descends on him, and the Father says, this is my Son in whom I am pleased.

The separation of the members is especially important in God's method of saving us.  Jesus is on the cross, and God turns his back on him so that Jesus experiences hell.  Mark 15:34.  Luke 23:44-46.  They had to be separate so that Jesus could take the full punishment for our sins.
Hebrews 7:25.  He ever lives above to intercede for us.  God cannot be approached by sinful men, but Jesus being both God and the only perfect man can stand before him, connecting us to him.
John 14:15-17a is where Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit to live in all believers.  So, the HS has to live in us so that we have that interaction with God, the Father has to be in heaven ruling the earth and judging evil, and Jesus truly is, like the Point of Grace song, the bridge to cross the great Divide.  They truly have to be separate persons for our salvation to be complete.

But our salvation also, could not be complete unless they were all equally God.  Hebrews 1:6 where the angels worship the Son, Isaiah 41, where the Father says he is our only Savior, and Exodus 20 where he commands us to have no other gods.

The Trinity is everything to our faith and even people I don't agree wit.

So, we don't need a perfect understanding of it all, you just have to believe that God is three persons, yet one God and that the three persons can separate yet have always existed, and that this is essential to your faith.


  1. The Trinity is beyond our comprehension, but it is clearly taught in Scripture, so we believe it by faith.

    There is no perfect illustration of the Trinity. I like the three forms of water, because they are all the same essence, yet each one has a distinct function. However, as you so well pointed out, that one breaks down, also.

    One point I make when I am teaching is that Jesus is "THE" Son of God, not just "a" son of God. Even more important - He is not just "The Son of God," but He is "God the Son."

  2. Greetings Meghan Smith

    On the subject of the Trinity,
    I recommend this video:
    The Human Jesus

    Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you to reconsider "The Trinity"

    Yours In Messiah
    Adam Pastor

  3. Sorry Adam, but the Trinity is a non-negotiable. We have no faith without it. Jesus had to be God to save us. Acts 4:12 There's no other name in which we can be saved. Isaiah 41 repeatedly says that God is our only Savior. So if Jesus is our Savior, he has to be God because we believe in only one God.

    Also, in John 10 when he said I and the Father are One, the Pharisees moved to stone him. They would not have done that had they not completely understood what he was saying. To bad they understand better than you do.