A Twisted Crown of Thorns ®

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When Will Heresies Like Sabellianism, Modalism, and Monarchianism Come Back?

Ever asked yourself about the Doctrine of the Trinity and whether it has ever come under attack?

One of the most hotly debated theological issues in the early Christian church was the doctrine of the Trinity. How do God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit relate to one another? How can there only be one God, but three Persons? All of the various early heresies resulted from individuals overemphasizing or underemphasizing various aspects of the Godhead. Ultimately, all of these false views result from attempts by finite human beings to fully understand and infinite God (Romans 11:33-36). Sabellianism, Modalism, and Monarchianism are just three of the numerous false views. Monarchianism had two primary forms, Dynamic Monarchianism and Modalistic Monarchianism. Dynamic Monarchianism is the view that Jesus was not in His nature God. It is the view that God existed in Jesus, just as God exists in all of us, but that God existed in Jesus in a particularly powerful way. Jesus was God because God inhabited Him. Modalistic Monarchianism, also known as Modalism, is the view that God variously manifested Himself as the Father (primarily in the Old Testament), other times as the Son (primarily from Jesus’ conception to His ascension), and other times as the Holy Spirit (primarily after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven). Modalistic Monarchianism / Modalism teaches the God has simply revealed Himself in three different modes, and that He is not three Persons, as the Bible asserts. Modalistic Monarchianism / Modalism is also known as Sabellianism, named after Sabellius, an influential early proponent of the view. Yet another aspect of Modalistic Monarchianism / Modalism / Sabellianism is Patripassianism, which is the view that it was God the Father who became incarnate, suffered, died, and was resurrected. Patripassianism essentially teaches that God the Father became His own Son.
With all that said, Sabellianism, Modalism, Monarchianism (dynamic and modalistic), and Patripassianism are all unbiblical understandings of the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity. It is impossible for us as finite human beings to fully understand an infinite God. The Bible presents God as one God, but then speaks of three Persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How these two truths harmonize is inconceivable to the human mind. When we attempt to define the indefinable (God), we will always fail to varying degrees. Dynamic Monarchianism fails in that it does not recognize the true deity of Jesus Christ. Modalistic Monarchianism / Modalism / Sabellianism / Patripassianism fails because it does not recognize God as three distinct Persons.

The truth is old heresies always get dressed up in new names and get re-vamped and served to unsuspecting believers.

The quote was excerpted from GotQuestions.org


2 responses to “When Will Heresies Like Sabellianism, Modalism, and Monarchianism Come Back?

  1. Andy March 31, 2011 at 12:40

    I’m not entirely convinced that these heresies ever really went away. But even if they did, they are back in full force among the denizens of TBN. TBN’s line-up is chock-full of Trinity deniers, modalists, tritheists and Sabellians. Even after reading Irenaeus’ and Hippolytus’ works against heresies, I’m not sure that any ancient heresy holds a candle to Hinn’s 9-person deity!

  2. myth buster December 12, 2015 at 00:59

    Indeed, all the heresies are just a rehash of a few basic heresies: There are Judaizers, who nullify the New Covenant, there are Arians, who deny the Eternal Trinity, there are Gnostics, who detest the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the natural world that God created, and there are Antinomians, who regard God’s grace as an excuse to sin or claim that Christians can sin with impunity.

    Of course, besides these, there are all manner of idolaters, blasphemers, and false prophets, seeking to seduce the ears of the faithful for money, power or fame. The gifts of prophecy and the working of miracles did not end with the apostolic age, but that which is freely given must be freely offered. The Holy Spirit gives these gifts to whom He wills, and whoever receives them is obligated to use them to glorify God, not to enrich himself. The prophet and the miracle worker must not solicit gifts, nor accept them for prophesying or working miracles. If the beneficiary of a miracle or a prophesy is overwhelmed with joy and wishes to give gifts in thanksgiving, let him give whatever he wishes to the poor or to the care of God’s House. Now, some prophets and miracle workers are also called to the presbyterate; if they have received the Laying of Hands, it is right that they should receive wages for their ministry, but not for their prophesying or working of miracles, for the laborer is due his wages, but what was received without cost must also be given without price. Neither is it licit to sell any blessing or office, and whoever offers money for a blessing or office in the Church must be sternly rebuked.

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