That the Son Has a Distinct Will From the Father Shown From John 6:38

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” John 6:38 NASB

The Word came down from heaven, we are told, not to do His own will, but the will of Him who sent Him. Now, this shows that the will of the Father and of the Son, are not only so distinct as that each individually possesses the power to will, and can individually perform the act of willing, but also that what the Father and Son will is not identically the same.

For if the Father and Son did not have distinct operations of will, then the Son could not speak of His own will, and that Him that sent Him; for every action of willing would be identically one and the same, and so the Father willing something, and the Son willing something, could not be distinguished one from another, as they are here.

And if the content of each person’s will were identically the same, then the Son’s will and the Father’s will could not be distinguished. For the Son says that He came to do the will of Him Who sent Him, and not His own will. But if their wills were identically the same, this would be impossible; for doing what the Father willed, the Son would be equally doing what He Himself willed; and so, He could not say that He did the Father’s will but not His own. He can only have come to do the Father’s will and not His own, if their wills were not identically the same.

This then shows beyond a doubt that the Son has a distinct will from the Father. And such we should expect, since the Son is not the Father, but a distinct person from Him; not the one God, the Supreme Being, but a distinct individual being besides Him.

Yet the heretics, trying to get around the obvious and natural implication that the Father and Son are genuinely distinct individual beings (persons), not merely modes of the same person, vainly imagine that a single person can have multiple wills. This is something foreign to our experience in creation, foreign to the pages of scripture, and utterly contrary to sound reason. For if a single person had two wills, then how could they decide between which will to follow in a given instance? Do they have a third will also, to break the tie, and decide between the two? Or if what is meant is only that they have two distinct conflicting desires, how is this any different from what all men experience? Yet we do not on that account declare that we have two wills. The concept of a single person having two wills, then, is shown to have no merit; it being itself a seemingly incoherent notion, and beyond that, one which, more importantly, we lack any reason to believe in, from either anything in creation, or the scriptures.

Rather the scriptures would have us believe in God, and in His Son, and have eternal life in Them; not in one God in two names or modes, but in one God, and one only-begotten Son of that one God, two distinct persons (that is, two distinct rational individual beings). “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 173 NASB).

 

Do You Know the Only True God, And Christ Jesus Whom He Has Sent?

“Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:1-3 NASB

From this rich passage, let us briefly observe this: that eternal life is to believe in the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent. This knowing is far more than a mere intellectual knowledge, but a relational knowledge; it is not to merely know about the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent, but to know Them- both of Them. For we have been told another place, that no one comes to the Father, except through Christ; and so, no one can know the only true God without knowing His Son, and anyone Who knows the Son, shall know the Father, the only true God, through Him.

But it is important for us to observe here one small word, the word “and” in verse three. For the heretics, wanting to deny the existence of the Son by making ‘Son’ merely a another name of mode of the only true God, Whose Son He is, do not believe in the only true God *and* Jesus Christ Whom He has sent, but in a God of their imaginations, Who is Jesus Christ, sent by Himself. But their false teaching is refuted by this one small word; and so all forms of modalism dealt a deathly blow by the clear teaching of scripture here, that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not the only true God Whose Son He is. For if the Son were the only true God, one could not believe in the only true God and in His Son, for believing in one would be to necessarily believe in the other also, if They are the same person, or the same individual being.

But here we read that there is one “only true God”, and this is clearly the very same one that the Lord Jesus Christ calls His Father, in verse one. This is the Supreme Being, the one God, the Almighty, the uncaused Cause of all; and Jesus Christ is not Him, not this one God, but another, a distinct person and a distinct individual being, Who the only true God sent. Not only here is the Lord Jesus Christ distinguished from the only true God by the word “and”; nor only also by the identification of the only true God with His Father, Who He is manifestly distinct from; but also by the fact that He is sent by the only true God, and so is distinguished from Him by that as well, since it is evident that one is sent by another, not by themselves.

Since, then, it is eternal life to know the Father, Who is the only true God, and Jesus Christ His Son Whom He has sent, this cannot be regarded as any minor point of faith, but a very central and important teaching of scripture. For what is more central and foundational than the identity of the only true God? And alongside that, the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son? And if knowing God and His Son is eternal life, what can be said of those Who do not know, and do not believe, that the only true God is particularly the Father, and the Father the only true God? What life can those Who think that Christ is not sent by the only true God, and is not the Son of the only true God, have? For eternal life is to know the only true God, an Jesus Christ Whom He has sent; and one must doubt that a person knows Them, if he does not even understand their identity, and cannot correctly identify and distinguish one from the other.

Let us then believe the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, which is clear: that He is not Himself the only true God, but is another besides Him, sent by Him, His Son. Through this Son, we know the only true God, His Father; and if we deny these teachings, we deny the teaching of the Lord Himself, and deny ourselves of eternal life.

Individual Consubstantiality is Patripassionism

The Son of God suffered and died as the propitiation for the sins of men (1 John 2:2). The Father did not become man, or suffer, or die for our sins; and so this shows that the Son must be a distinct person and a distinct individual being from the Father. For if the Father and Son are the same person, then for the Son to have become incarnate, and suffer, and die, would be for the Father to do so equally; ‘Son’ and ‘Father’ being nothing more than two names for the same person. And as a person is a rational individual being, it then follows that the Son must be a distinct individual being, if He is a distinct person.

But some false teachers redefine ‘person’ as a consciousness alone, or as a mode of subsistence, and propose that the Father and Son are two persons inasmuch as They are two consciousnesses, or two modes of subsistence, but yet are still both the consciousnesses or modes of one and the same being. We must examine this possibility: for if this is possible, then showing that the Father and Son are two persons will not make Them two distinct individual beings. We must inquire: when they say that the Son is the same individual being as the Father, the same God as the Father, do they mean that He is a part of this one God, this one individual being, or that He is the one God? For certainly, if the Father and Son are each a part of the one God, then what is done by one, need not be done by the other, and what is experienced by one need not be experienced by the other, for they are distinguished as one part from another. Yet if this were the case, then it follows that neither the Father nor the Son is equated with the one God, but each is only a part of Him. For just as a man’s foot will not be made equal to the whole man, so a part cannot be equated to the whole. If then the Father and Son, as two mere modes or consciousness of one God, are parts of that one God, then although They can be distinct, neither truly is that one God. And such a notion is utterly repugnant to scripture, which says not that the Father is part of the one God, but that He is the one God.

It follows then, that, as they say, they believe that the Son is God, the one God, in that He is not a part of the one God, but the whole of the one God. And they teach that the Father likewise, is not a part of the one God, but the whole of the one God- which is also the Son. Therefore, whether the Father and Son be supposed to be mere modes, or mere consciousnesses, inasmuch as each is identical to the whole Supreme Being, the whole of the one God, each must be identical to one another; and so it follows, that each will be the other, the Father being the Son, and the Son the Father. If this is the case, then we return to our original dilemma; for this is to then say that just as much as the Son became incarnate, and suffered, and died as the propitiation for sins, so the Father became incarnate, and suffered, and died as the propitiation for sins; although a propitiation to Who we cannot know, since there is no one higher than Himself Whom He might propitiate.

It is demonstrated then, that to make the Father and Son out to be the same person, or the same individual being, is the ancient heresy of Patripassionism, which since ancient times has been rightly condemned as heresy. For God did not die to appease His own wrath; but He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, that we might be forgiven, and live through Him: knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He has sent.

Modalism Refuted From John 14:1

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.” John 14:1 NASB

This brief statement “Believe in God, believe also in Me” shows that the Son has real existence distinct from the Father, and is not merely a mode or name of the same individual being. And one must note that He does not say “Believe in the Father, believe also in Me’, so that one might argue that He is here teaching to believe not only in one mode of the Supreme Being, but two modes, but rather, by not merely distinguishing Himself from the Father, but from “God”, He shows that He is not Himself the God He is distinct from, but another distinct individual being besides Him. And certainly, if one will inquire into which ‘God’ the Lord intended to signify here by the word ‘God’, and enjoined His disciples to trust in, it must be acknowledged to be none other than the God of Israel, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the one and only true God, the Supreme Being, Who alone is the supreme Cause of all things, and supreme Ruler over all things. It is this God that Christ distinguished Himself from; not to deny His own divinity, but to show that He is divine, not as being the Father Himself, but as being the Son of the one and only God.

Now the modalists, including so many who falsely style themselves as trinitarians when they are not, cannot consent to such language as our Lord uses here. For to believe in God, according to them, requires one to believe in the Son and Spirit as well, for they define God as being Father, Son, and Spirit all together. And for this reason, they rage against anyone, for instance, who says that Jews, or Muslims, worship the same God as Christians; for they insist that such is impossible, when the God of Christians is ‘triune’ or ‘tripersonal’, while the God Muslims and Jews try to worship is one person only. And so according to their standards, no one can worship, or believe in, the true God, the Almighty, the God of the Bible, without worshipping and believing in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together; and to believe in God, for them, is to, in the same exercise of faith, believe in the Son, as well. And this is a necessary thing for them to think, who make the Father and Son out to be one and the same individual being.

Yet the Son of God here refutes them with only a few words when he says “Believe in God, believe also in Me”. For He makes clear, by His statement, and especially by the term “also”, that to believe in God and to believe in Him are two distinct things; and so it follows, according to the words of Christ, that one could believe in God, without believing in His Son. Now this shows that God and His Son are two distinct individual beings, or else, it would truly be impossible, as the modalists say, to believe in God without believing in Christ, Christ being the very self-same individual being. It necessary follows, from the words of the Lord here, then, that the Son is a distinct individual being from the Father, not the one God Himself.

 

The Father’s Distinct Action From the Son in John 8:54

“Jesus answered, “If I glorify Myself, My glory is nothing; it is My Father who glorifies Me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God’;” John 8:54 NASB

Those Who make the Father and Son the same one God, the same individual being, cannot assent to the teaching of the Lord here; for the distinction between God and His Son here is too clear to escape. For the Lord says that if He glorifies Himself, His glory is nothing; that is, were He to glorify Himself, He would have no glory at all. Instead, the Father glorifies the Son. Now this will be impossible, if the Father and Son are the same individual being; for both being the same individual being, and all the actions of one being equally the actions of the other, for the Father to glorify the Son will be the same as for the Son to glorify Himself, and visa versa, since their actions are all one and the same. But for the Son to be glorified by the Father, without glorifying Himself (and so nullifying His own glory), the action of the Father in glorifying the Son must be an action which is performed by the Father, and not by the Son. If, then, the Father acts without the Son sharing in that same action, then it is shown that the Father and Son are not one and the same individual being, but two distinct individual being, truly distinct from one another.

They are not then both the same individual being, but the Father only is the Supreme Being, and the Son is another distinct individual being besides Him, glorified by Him. And this is made all the clearer by the last clause of the verse, where the Lord mentions that the Jews worship the Father as their God. And Who then, did the Jews worship, but the one God, the Almighty, the Supreme Being? Yet we know these Jews the Lord spoke to, who were about to attempt to stone Him momentarily, did not worship Christ. The Son then identifies the God of Israel, the God of the Old Testament, not with Himself and the Father, but only with the Father; and proclaims Himself not to be the one God, the Supreme Being, the God of Israel, but the Son of that one God, another individual being distinct from Him, in proclaiming that the one that they worship is His Father.

This passage proves that the Father can, and did, act distinctly from the Son, then, and so is not the same individual being as the Son; and also, that the God of Israel, the one God of the Bible, is, according to Christ, not Himself, but the Father, as it is the God of Israel Who glorifies the Son, and not the Son Himself.

This poses an insurmountable difficulty to modalism, then, as they conclusions here drawn are unavoidable corollaries of what the text of scripture says. And so all the modalists, whether they openly proclaim themselves such, or falsely call themselves trinitarians, will be rebuked by this one small verse. Let us leave behind the doctrines of Sabellius, Marcellus, Photinius, Augustine, and the scholastics; and instead drink of the pure milk of the word of God, truly believing in Christ as the Son of God, which He so clearly proclaimed Himself to be.

That the Son Is Caused By the Father, Demonstrated From John 6:57

“He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” John 6:56-58 NASB

“I live because of the Father”, the Lord said. Here we see that the Son is caused, not having life without cause or origin, but having His life, His being and existence, from the Father. And this text refutes the one who seeks to deprive these words of their force by appealing to the humanity of Christ, as though He had only said that His flesh lived because of the Father, for He says “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father.” Hear, then that He Who lives because of the Father is He Who was sent by the Father; not the flesh, which, when He had came, the Word took on Himself, but the Word Himself Who was sent, lives because of the Father. And this is confirmed again, by the next verse, when He declares “This is the bread which came down out of heaven”; for it was not His flesh that came down out of heaven, but the Word Himself, the Son of God.

It is shown, then, that the Son, as Son, lives because of the Father; and this is important to note, as it refutes the heresy of the Modalists, Who say that the Son is Himself the Supreme Being, together with the Father. For the Father is uncaused, having no one greater than Himself, as the Lord said “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all” John 10:29 NASB. And so it is evident that the Supreme Being, Who is alone the supreme uncaused Cause of all else that exists, is the Father alone, the Son not being the Supreme Being Himself, but another distinct individual being, Who lives because of the Father: and so it is shown that the one God, the Supreme Being, is Father of a Son, His only-begotten Son our Lord.

How Different Would Church History Look If the Nicene Creed Had Not Won?

In the trinitarian debates of the fourth century, many differing articulations of the doctrine of the Trinity competed with one another. After Arianism had been condemned not only prior to the council of Nicea by regional authorities in Alexandria and Antioch, but also by the first ecumenical council itself, debate over the Trinity continued. It centered much on the language of the Nicene Creed in itself; language which, at the suggestion of the emperor, had been included more for the sake of excluding Arianism, than for sake of articulating the church’s beliefs in a precise way.

This lead to prolonged controversy for the next 50 years surrounding he terminology of ‘homoousias’ or ‘same being’ in the Nicene Creed. The language had a history of association with both modalism and the gnostic heresies, which made it suspect; on top of that, bishops such as Marcellus of Ancyra, prominent supporters of the Nicene Creed, employed its terminology in a modalistic fashion. This is because ‘same being’ is vague; it can mean generically the same, that is, that two distinct individuals share the same nature, or it can mean individually the same, that is, that two persons are the same person, the same individual being. The usage of the ‘homoousias’, ‘same being’ by Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, and Marcellus of Ancyra lead to the conservative majority of bishops to rejecting the language of Nicea altogether, as not necessarily wrong, but at least wide open to a dangerous and heretical interpretation.

Alternative suggestions included ‘homoiousias’ which is ‘like being’, and simply ‘homoi’, which is to say that the Son is ‘like’ the Father, without reference to substance or ‘ousia’. In 359, two joint councils, considered ecumenical at the time and representing the churches of the entire Roman Empire, met and decided on the ‘Homoian’ formula, to remove the language of Nicea from the church’s dogma and simply state that the Son is like the Father. This was ratified at another synod at Constantinople in 360 and gained acceptance not only within the Empire, but also among the churches of many barbarian nations in Europe. Although these creeds were slandered as ‘Arian’ by the pro-nicenes, who had effectively lost for a time, the Homoian formula does not teach any peculiar tent of Arianism, but rather rejected it, and specifically left Arianism anathematized, again proscribing its doctrines.

In 381, some twenty years later, Theodosius I became emperor and enacted changes to the church’s doctrine again, this time establishing a modified form of the Nicene Creed as the church’s official dogma, and deposing any dissenting bishops, including the patriarch of Constantinople himself. After making his opinions law and enacting strict anti-heretical laws, he called a small council in Constantinople, at which his decision was approved of by some 150 bishops, the dissenting bishops being barred from participating. With this, the Nicene Creed became the dogmatic standard of the churches of the Roman Empire, and had remained in force to this day, even as those churches have changed and become the Coptic, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches of the modern world.

Its interesting to consider what church history might have looked like, had Theodosius never became emperor, and instead, an emperor who was willing to maintain the status quo -the Homoian theology of the Councils of Arminium & Seleucia- had taken the throne instead, leaving Nicea’s decision as a more obscure point of history, rather than a dogmatic standard. When considering such a scenario there are four things especially worthy of consideration:

1. Political Ramifications: The first thing of interest to consider is more to do with the environment the churches found themselves in than the churches themselves. The Western Roman Empire fell, in the end, to Barbarian invasion; the nations of the Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Vandals, and other smaller groups like the Gepids and Burgundians conquered the enormous area that once belonged to the Western Roman Empire. It was not long after the decision of Theodosius to make the imperial churches Nicene that incursions began to eat away at the Empire’s borders, until its ultimate collapse in the early sixth century.

All of these Barbarian tribes shared in common the Homoian theology articulated by the councils of Arminium & Seleucia; a faith which they had for some twenty years held in common with the churches of the Roman Empire. Once the changes Theodosius made went through, relations between the Barbarians and the Romans changed, however; the Romans saw the Barbarians as Arian heretics, and the Barbarians decried the heretical ‘Roman Religion’ of Theodosius. These sharp differences and the animosity they entailed made it that much easier for both sides to freely view the other as enemies, and subject to the cruelties of war. Had the Romans retained the Homoian theology they held in common with the Goths, it is possible that this common faith and cultural exchange that accompanied it could have drastically altered the course of Roman history; wars may have been less frequent; in short, the Barbarian nations may not have conquered the Western Roman Empire, or at least, not done so nearly as soon as they in fact did, had they continued to share a common faith, and so fostered friendly relations with one another.

Since the fall of the Western Roman empire is generally seen as having ushered in the dark ages of Europe, it is possible that by maintaining Homoian theology, the cultural losses of the dark ages could have been avoided, or lessened.

2. Ecclesiastical Unity: Some historians like to speak of an era of a ‘united church’; and they place the end of that unity at different points in history. The great schism in 1054 is often cited by Roman and Orthodox historians; others note a much earlier date can be found at the council of Chalcedon (451), which resulted in the separation of the Coptic churches, or Ephesus (431), which resulted in the separation of the Assyrian churches. But in fact, the first major split among national lines occurred in 381, when Theodosius returned the imperial churches to the Nicene Creed, thereby breaking communion with the Homoian churches among the Vandal, Ostrogoth, Visigoth, and Gepid nations of Europe. Had Homoian Theology remained the imperial dogma, it is quite possible that this period of unity would have gone on much longer.

This is not only true in respect to the schism of 381, as though schism at Ephesus in 431 would still be inevitable. For the later schisms at Ephesus and Chalcedon built upon a strictly Nicene theology; had this not been dogma, such later developments in dogma would have been nearly impossible, requiring to the churches to continue using the simple rule of faith as a dogmatic standard of orthodoxy, rather than perpetually adding more and more details to the dogma of the churches, to divide over. When we look the the Homoian churches among the Barbarians, we see that for centuries they continued on simply using the Creed of Arminium, never going through the intense, highly philosophical and speculative debates that the Imperial churches went through over christology. That likely has much to do with the exegetical and biblical, rather than speculative, character of Homoian theology. By sticking to a less-strictly defined, and less speculative theology, the churches of the Empire, like the Homoian churches among the Barbarians, could have been able to avoid the intense debates that led to so much schism in the following centuries.

Its also noteworthy that had Homoian theology been retained by the Imperial churches, the growing power of the papacy, which eventually lead to both the Great Schism of 1054 and the Protestant Reformation in 1517, could have been curbed. That’s because the papacy had been strongly pro-nicene throughout the conflict; and Homoians frequently flouted the claims of the bishop of Rome to have jurisdiction over them, maintaining their offices even after having been ‘deposed’ on paper by a pope powerless to enforce his rulings. Had they continued to hold many high positions in the church throughout the end of the fourth century, rather than being deposed, this may have severely limited the influence of the bishop of Rome on future generations of Christians.

3. The Threat of Arianism: Had the Nicene Creed never been reintroduced as a dogmatic standard, and the Creed of Arminium & Seleucia remained ‘orthodoxy’ for the imperial churches, would Arianism have widely prevailed? Certainly, this is the narrative given by many pro-Nicenes; for them, the Homoians were simply Arians in disguise. Such a narrative, however, avoids the expressly stated beliefs of the Homoians, who, at their councils, condemned Arianism. Maximinus the Homoian, in his debate with Augustine, complained of such misrepresentation by pro-Nicenes, and cited a canon of the council of Arminium condemning Arians christology:

“Do you want to know how great is the wisdom of the Father? Look at the Son, and you will see the wisdom of the Father. For this reason Christ himself said, One who has seen me has also seen the Father (Jn 14:9). That is, in me he sees his wisdom; he praises his might; he glorifies the Father who, one and alone, has begotten me, one and alone, so great and so good before all ages. He did not look for material out of which to make him, nor did he take someone as an assistant. Rather, in the way he knew, he begot the Son by his power and his wisdom. We do not profess, as you say when you falsely accuse us, that, just as the rest of creation was made from nothing, so the Son was made from nothing like a creature. Listen to the authority of statement of the Synod; for our fathers in Ariminum said this among other things, ‘If anyone says that the Son is from nothing and not from God the Father, let him be anathema.'”

The idea, then, that Homoians, on the whole, were Arian has no good basis in historical fact. Two issues remain to examine, here though; firstly, those Homoians who, according to the testimony of pro-Nicenes, were in fact Arian; and secondly, the tendency among Homoians to, while condemning Arianism, use the language of ‘creature’ for the Son (a hallmark of Arianism). Concerning the first point, it is indeed possible that such Arians existed; if, however, an Arian were willing to lie about his beliefs, and anathematize his own theology by subscribing to the decision of Arminium, why would he be any less likely to lie and hide his beliefs when the Nicene Creed replaced that of Arminium? It is difficult to see how changing the dogmatic standard of the church from Homoian to Nicene theology could have helped such an issue. As for the Eunomians, who said that the Son was unlike the Father, these were roundly condemned by the Homoians in 360 at Constantinople; and so any Eunomians, like the Arians, would have needed to lie in order to find acceptance under such dogmatic standards; and so, they could have done the same with the Nicene Creed.

Concerning the second point, it is noteworthy that while calling the Son a “creature” is very objectionable, as simply being an inaccurate term to use for Him, this language is not distinctly Arian. Inaccurate or otherwise, it had a long precedent in the ante-nicene church, such language being used in respect to the Son by notable theologians in the second and third century, such as Tertuallian and Origen. Such language may more often signify a failure to accurately distinguish between different terms for varying modes of causality, than any actual unorthodoxy in the concepts behind such language.

Finally it remains to frankly be said that a Homoian dogma would constitute a more friendly environment for Arianism than Nicene dogma; this is mostly due to how Nicene dogma developed int he following era, however, than what it meant when first championed by men like Athanasius. Since Nicene dogma quickly devolved into modalism, and modalism is even farther from Arianism than biblical trinitarianism, it is clear that it would be harder for people to make the leap from modalism to Arianism, than from Homoianism to Arianism. That does not, however, make Homoian theology less desirable; for going to the opposite heretical extreme of Arianism in order to avoid it, is no better than to fall into Arianism itself. Ultimately, while Homoian dogma would have been more favorable to Arianism than Nicene dogma, neither one was favorable to Arianism, and as far as anyone can tell, Arianism would have remained a small and strongly rejected heresy, regardless of whether the churchse’ dogma had been Nicene, or Homoian.

4. The Threat of Modalism: Finally we consider the threat modalism faced to the churches; this is one area where the difference in history would be very stark, in the opinion of this author. Many bishops warned, during the Nicene era, that the Nicene language of ‘same being’ was susceptible to a modalistic interpretation, and dangerous, as allowing such a reading, by taking the term in reference to the same *individual being*, rather than the same *generic being*. Once Nicene theology became again the dogma of the imperial churches in 381, the Homoian Vandals and Goths soon criticized the Roman churches for being modalistic in their theology; and indeed, we can see that they quickly embraced a form of modalism, with influential men like Augustine of Hippo paving the way for future generations to believe in a Trinity of persons united not by one generic nature, but by being one individual being.

The fact is, that without the Nicene terminology of ‘same being’ (homoousias) as a dogmatic standard for the churches, it is very unlikely that such modalism could have taken root in the churches. Such language had been banned from dogma by the councils of Arminium & Seleucia; and one of the greatest concerns of many Homoians seems to have been to avoid the modalist heresy. Had this remained the theology of the imperial churches, modalism would have remained the by-word it was in the ante-nicene era, rather than becoming the dominant ecclesiastical theology of the West, and much of the East as well at times. Modalism succeeded, fundamentally, thanks to the terminology of Nicea; and had this remained banned, Christian, rather than modalistic theology, would likely have remained the dominant position of the imperial churches. The creed of “one being” which is Father, Son, and Spirit became the life-blood of modalism through the middle ages and the Reformation; having allowed it to remain cut off from 359 onward would have deprived modalism of one of its greatest advantages in gaining ascendency in the ecclesiastical hierarchies.

It remains then, an interesting exercise, to imagine what might have been; a medieval  Europe built upon an enduring Western Roman Empire, with Barbarian allies to the North, united by a common Christian Creed; and a church characterized by the lack of an emperor-like Pope, the ecclesiastical schisms of later church history, and the modalistic theology of scholasticism. Such things, however, while interesting to imagine, remain mere fiction; and we must steel ourselves to bring about change in our own time, if we will see the errors of the past rectified. The tools we need to know the truth, and to publish it widely, lie at our fingertips, if only we are willing to make the effort to use them: firstly to fix firmly in our own minds a true knowledge of God, and His Son, and His Spirit; and then to make that knowledge known to our neighbor, for God’s glory, and the good of His church.