Monotheism and Modalism
Now here’s an exciting title (sarcasm intended), but bear with me. The topics of Monotheism and Modalism are key arguments put forward by groups who are unitarian to dispute the Trinity. I should say, the argument to Monotheism and the lack of understanding around Modalism are the key discussion points.
The Monotheism and Modalism Argument
So let’s work through this.
The doctrine of the Trinity that we have been working through in blog posts for some time now, is a complex and very important doctrine. We need to get this right. The doctrine states that there is one God who exists in three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
It is monotheistic. There is only one God. God is unique and unlike anything else. The Trinity asserts that there are three distinct persons in that one God.
One way that this was understood at one point was to teach that the three persons of the Trinity are different modes of the one God. In other words that there is not really three separate beings, but rather three different ways in which the one God relates to the world. As Father, Son and Spirit.
This view of the Trinity is known as Modalism. Reconciling the Trinity with Monotheism and Modalism has been around since the early centuries of Christianity and it was once a popular view. It has since been rejected by the church.
The problem of Modalism
The first and very important issue is that Modalism does not fit Scripture. It denies the clear distinction between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If God operates in different modes, then the logic falls down. God/Jesus prays to God/Father and God/Father gave the revelation to God/Jesus and so on.
Modalism also seems to undermine the principles of salvation. Salvation is achieved through the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit working uniquely and separately in the believers. If these are all different aspects of the One God, then it is difficult to see how each play a unique role in our salvation.
The Father sent His son to die for our sins. The Son died for our sins. The Holy Spirit applies the benefits of salvation to our lives. These are three distinct roles that cannot be played by the same person.
The Roles of the Trinity in our Salvation
The Father is the initiator of salvation. He sent Jesus Christ to die for our sins (John 3:16). He justifies us through faith in Jesus (Rom 8:33). The Father will glorify us at the end of time (1 Thess 5:9).
Modalism is not Trinitarian
The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the three persons of the Trinity are distinct persons who are one in essence. The three persons of the Trinity are therefore each fully God but also distinct persons. On the other hand, modalism teaches that the three persons of the Trinity are not distinct persons. This is not the established doctrine of the Trinity.
Modalism is a view of the Trinity that has been rejected for very good reasons. Modalism attempts to reconcile monotheism with the Trinity unnecessarily.
The Triune God is three separate persons who are one in essence. It is monotheistic in the very unique nature of God.