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.

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.

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.

The Scholastic Scheme of the Trinity Refuted

The scholastic scheme of the Trinity is ultimately modalistic. I hope to briefly shed light on this here.

The scholastic scheme of the Trinity, following Augustine, the Fourth Lateran Council, and medieval scholastic thought, can be summed up as follows: There is one simple Supreme Being, the one God, Who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are ‘persons’ within this Supreme Being, a ‘person’ not being what is normally meant by the word ‘person’, but rather ‘a mode of subsistence’. These three modes of subsistence within the Supreme Reality are individually co-essential (sharing the same individual numerical being) but are distinguished by their causal relations, namely that the Father is unbegotten, the Son begotten from the Father, and the Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son. The ‘persons’ share one will, mind, consciousness, etc, as these are all proper to the Supreme Being Himself, rather than the ‘persons’ within (ad intra) the Supreme Being.

The problems with this view are many. Firstly, making the Supreme Being both caused and uncaused (even if that causality is ad intra, not ad extra) is to deny the first principle of natural theology, that there is one Supreme Being Who is the uncaused Cause of all else that exists. While the scholastic view maintains that the Supreme Being the is Cause of all else that exists, they are unable to confess the Supreme Being to be wholly uncaused, as the subsistences of the Son and Spirit are caused, and are only distinguished within the Supreme Being by those causal relations.

Secondly, this is ultimately pure modalism, dressed up a bit to sound trinitarian. Because the Thomistic doctrine of divine simplicity says that everything within God is identical to itself, there is no ability for true distinction with the Supreme Being. God’s love and God’s wrath, for example, due to divine simplicity, are said to be the same thing, each being coterminous with the other. While this may sound relatively innocuous when applied to attributes, logically, since it applies to all that is within the Supreme Being, it must also extend to the ‘persons’ within the Supreme Being as well. Thus, just as much as God’s attributes are not truly distinct but all one and the same thing, merely talked about under different names for our convenience, so to the ‘persons’ of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit must be individually identical to one another, and so, not truly distinct at all, only spoken of under different names. The causal relations that are supposed to distinguish the persons are incapable of doing so, because these causal relations are all ‘ad intra’, that is, internal to the Supreme Being, where all things are identical to one another according to Thomistic simplicity. Thus the causal relations must logically be identical to one another, and therefore wholly fail to distinguish the persons.

This modalism can also be seen another way: each ‘person’ is said to be coterminous with not a part of, but the entirety of, the Supreme Being. Thus, each person is individually equal to the same Supreme Being; and thus, each person must be individually equated with one another. For if the Father is the whole Being, and the Son is the same whole Being, They are equated with one another, on the logic of ‘If A=C, and B=C, then A=B’. Scholastic ‘trinitarianism’, then, is in fact not trinitarian at all, but modalism, only slightly modified from that of Sabellius and Noetus, at the end of the day.

Thirdly, the ‘essence’ shared by the ‘persons’ is actually a person, while the ‘persons’ are not. That is, the Supreme Being, in which Father, Son, and Spirit are supposed to subsist, meets the actual definition of a ‘person’, which is a rational individual being. But the Father, Son, and Spirit, being only modes of subsistences within that Supreme Being, are not individuated, and so, are not persons, according to the standard definition of the term. To put scholastic conceptions of the Trinity into 21st century language, then, would be to state a belief in ‘one person with three internal modes of being’. This is modalism.

Having shown, then, that the scholastic scheme of the doctrine of the Trinity is modalism, then, it is sufficiently refuted by that fact. It fails to live up to the name ‘trinitarianism’, and falls into all of the same damning errors as modalism. Ultimately it is all the same individual Supreme Being, the same person, according to the normal usage of ‘person’, Who created the world and died on the cross and rose from the dead. There is no Father and Son; the Supreme Being has no eternal Son, and so the existence of the Son is denied outright, and the Supreme Being, Who we would otherwise call Father, is the one who died on the cross. The thing called ‘Son’ is merely a mode within this Supreme Being, this sole person, and not in fact the Son of God, but merely a mode within God, incapable of being called ‘the Son of God’ with any truthfulness.

The solution to this long-standing problem is to reject scholastic ‘trinitarianism’ as the modalistic heresy it is, and believe in the Supreme Being, the one God, as scripture and natural theology would have us, as the one supreme uncaused Cause of all else that exists, as the Father alone (for He alone is uncaused); not believing that is one Supreme Being, the Father, is alone and solitary, but that He eternally has His only-begotten Son with Him, Who He begat from Himself before creation, as a distinct (really existing) individual being besides Himself, through Whom the Supreme Being created all things, rules over all things, and reconciles all things to Himself; and in one Holy Spirit, a third distinct individual being or person. We must return to and embrace a biblical (and, incidentally, patristic) doctrine of the Trinity; believing not that the Supreme Being is somehow Father, Son, and Spirit Himself, but believing, as the scriptures teach, that the Supreme Being is in truth Father to a Son, another distinct individual being besides Himself.

Why Individual (or Numerical) Unity of Substance is Damnable Heresy

In a recent dialogue with modalists, I was once again reminded how vile and blasphemous their heresy is. At once they dishonor the Father and nail Him to a cross, and at the same time deny the existence of the Son. For by making the Father and Son one and the same individual being or substance, and making the Father and Son out to each be mere consciousnesses of this one Supreme Being, they deny the true existence of the Son, and crucify the Father.

For by making the Son and Father each one and the same numerically individual being, they make the Son and Father identical. Since they will deny that the Father is one part of this Supreme Being, and the Son another, but will make each to be equal to the whole Supreme Being, it will necessarily follow that the consciousness they call ‘Father’ and the consciousness they call ‘Son’ are identically the same. For if the Father is the whole being, and the Son is the whole being, then it follows of logical necessity, that the Father must be identical with the Son, as surely as it follows that is A=C, and B=C, then A must equal B. They then believe not in Father and Son, but in the Son-Father of Sabellius.

It follows then (and I have heard them utter these blasphemies with my own ears) that since the Son is the Supreme Being, that the Supreme being died on the cross, having been united to a man and a human nature, that the Supreme Being suffered and died for our sins. And so they say that the uncaused Cause of all, the one Sovereign over all, the Almighty, died on the cross, and not His Son. For to them, ‘Son’ signifies not another Who is the Son of this one God, the Supreme Being, but the Supreme being Himself. And since the Son and Father are, in their incoherent and inconsistent view, the same person (for They cannot in any true way not be said to be one another) it follows that we might just as well say that the Father died on the cross. For the Son and Father being equated with one another, the only difference that can be found is one of name only, so that if we may use the name ‘Son’ for the Supreme Being as He suffered on the cross, we might with equal legitimacy call Him ‘Father’.

Who will not stop their ears at such insanity? This is truly no other heresy than that of Sabellius and Noetus of old, who were likewise rightly declared ‘Patripassionists’ for declaring, by necessary implication of what they taught, that the Father suffered and died on the cross as the man Jesus Christ. One would not expect to find such blasphemy tolerated by any church as being Christianity, perhaps, but I have heard them utter with my own ears, and readily affirm, while pretending to be trinitarians, that the Supreme Being died on the cross.

As as if their vile blasphemy of the Father, the one God, the Supreme Being, Who is alone without cause, source, or origin, and is Himself the Cause, Source, and Origin of all else that exists, and Himself with supreme dominion rules over all else that exists, humbled Himself to die on a cross, was not enough, they have denied the very existence of the Son as well. For they deny the real Son of God, as they make ‘Son’ just another consciousness (or in reality, only another name) for the Supreme Being Himself. In their view then the Supreme being did not atemporally beget another individual being prior to creation, Who is His Son. The Son has no real distinct existence then in their scheme; and so being reduced to nothing more than another name for the Father Himself, they like the Jews deny the very foundation of the Christian faith, that God has a Son, Who he sent for our salvation.

For anyone can plainly see that to be the son of someone requires that the one who is son be another besides the one Whose son they are. Yet these do not confess the Son to be another besides God, but the one God, the Supreme Being Himself. The truth of the matter though, as the scriptures teach, requires us to believe that the Son is not the same individual being as the Father, but another; for it says not merely that Christ is the ‘Son of the Father’, which they might explain my a sort of insanity within the Supreme Being, in which one of His consciousness merely relates to another as though it is its Son, without any ground for so doing, but rather scripture declares that Christ is really the Son of God.

Let us consider this phrase ‘Son of God’ carefully. If one will say it is equivalent to Son of the Father, then it will follow from that, that not only is the Father God, but God is the Father; and so, the point will be proved, that the Supreme Being, the one God, is the Father in particular, and the Father the Supreme Being, their exact identity being confirmed. But if one be inclined to resist this conclusion, then of what God is Christ the Son? Of a false God? Or of the only true God? For this will show that the Son is not the only true God, but another, Who relates to Him as Son. And so it is demonstrated, that to believe that Christ is the Son of God, as the scriptures say and teach, at the most basic of levels requires that we believe that He is not Himself the Supreme Being, the one God (Who is His Father), but another individual being besides the one God, Who is genuinely His Son, not in name only, as a mere mode or consciousness of the Supreme Being, but in real existence as a distinct individual being.

Let it be seen then, as plainly as possible, that the doctrine that the Father and Son are one and the same individual being is soul-damning heresy, the vilest blasphemy, and a total denial of the Christian faith, to be resisted by every true Christian. Such is taught by the wretched scholastics, and worse still, if worse can be imagined, by the Van Tillians; children of Sabellius all of them.

“For neither do we hold a Son-Father, as do the Sabellians, calling Him of one but not of the same essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son.” Athanasius, Statement of Faith.

On the Trinity as a Divine Mystery

A common view among professing Christians today is that the doctrine of the Trinity is a divine mystery to be accepted blindly on faith, rather than understood. Thus attempts to define the doctrine carefully, and discuss the merits of differing articulations of the doctrine, are vain, dangerous, and perhaps even sinful, in this view. In this article I want to briefly answer this argument that is often leveled against explanations of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.

Argument: The doctrine of the Trinity, of one God in three persons, is a divine mystery, to be accepted on faith without full understanding. As a divine mystery beyond human reason, it is dangerous to try to fully understand the doctrine of the Trinity. We must humbly accept the doctrine without question.

Answer: That there is such a thing as divine mysteries, worthy of blind faith, is a true point. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut 29:29 KJV). These mysteries are such things as scripture does not leave wholly explained. Sometimes this may take the form of scripture telling us two things that appear contradictory, or which we cannot fathom how they fit together. Surely in such an instance, we must accept what scripture says, even when we fail to understand how the two seemingly contradictory things fit together. We must take on faith that both are true, despite our lack of understanding and rational comprehension, because we know God is trustworthy, and His word to us in the scriptures is true and infallible.

We must then give unwavering trust to actual divine mysteries; however, we must at the same time be careful to distinguish between those things which are truly divine mysteries, and those doctrines which are such in name only. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:6 KJV). True divine mysteries will be known to be such from divine revelation; they are divine mysteries, because they are revealed to us by God. Human doctrines and conjecture stand in contradistinction to this; and to pass off mere human theories, and doctrines not found in the scriptures, as a divine mystery, is to add to the word of God, a lie against the truth.

The notion that there is one God in three persons, were it found in the scriptures, would be worthy of absolute credence, although it appears wholly nonsensical; however, it is not found anywhere in any book of the Bible. Nowhere does scripture give us such statements as ‘one God in three persons’ or ‘one God who is Father, Son, and Spirit, or a ‘tri-personal’ or ‘triune’ God. All doctrines and theories pertaining to these matters, then, having no basis in divine revelation, cannot be divine mysteries, as they have not been so revealed by God, and in truth, rather stand in opposition to what He has revealed in the scriptures. Since all such doctrines of triunity of the Supreme Being come not directly from scripture, but have come about by way of inference and interpretation of the scriptures, these doctrines cannot be given the same credence and faith as something taught directly by the scriptures themselves; rather, these systems of interpretations and inferences must be tested, and subject to scrutiny. “Test all things; hold fast what is good.” (1 Thess 5:21 NKJV). Scripture is infallible; the interpretations and inferences of men are not, and therefore to give the same innate faith and credence to such interpretations and inferences as we give to the word of God, is most irrational and dangerous.

We cannot safely then regard the doctrine of ‘one God in three persons’ as a divine mystery, to be taken on faith; for this is to give the same faith we give to God and the holy scriptures, to something we have received from neither. Rather, we must reason carefully from the scriptures, making use of the best helps available to us, to understand them accurately and truly, and to test all human doctrines and interpretations by them, including the various doctrines of the Trinity that are presented to us. Such doctrines, even more so than others, are of the highest importance to test, and only accept that which we see demonstrated to be true from the scriptures, as they pertain to the highest and most foundational subjects, namely, the very identity and character of God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ His Son.