Dear Friends, greetings in the lovely name of Jesus, the name which is above every name that is named.
Here we begin the second of my papers in defense of Modalism as the true paradigm for biblical Godhead theology. There will be a total of three papers affirming Modalism. My friend, Bishop Mike Conn, is taking the negative position on Modalism and is also writing the same number of articles. Our readers are advised that all six (6) papers should be taken as a whole. Moreover, it is important to keep in mind that both myself and Bishop Conn profess the Oneness faith.
In my first paper three positions were established:
Modalism was defined;
Modalism was shown to the the original orthodoxy of the Church;
Modalism was shown to be the proper biblical paradigm for Godhead theology. “Modes of being” is biblically justified by Hebrews 1:3 (e.g. “the impress of His subsistence”)
Since the posting of our first paper Bishop Mike Conn has posted two (2) papers in which he denied Modalism as being biblical. He did this by two basic forms:
He completely ignored our definition of Modalism and set forth a totally false definition which he proceeded to deny. This means that his denial is invalid because he is denying a bogus Modalism (that exists only in his mind) that neither I nor my compatriots believe.
He totally ignores the role of the Dual Nature of Christ and swims in category fallacy, when he postulates that Modalism has the “man Christ Jesus” as a mode of the Deity.
Bishop Conn’s False Definition of Modalism
It seems fair to permit one to define his own belief system without being told what he believes. I did just that in my first paper. (The reader is advised to consult that paper for the valid definition of Modalism.) But my friend comes along and says, “No. You do not believe that. Here is what you believe ... .” My friend’s second paper takes the term “Straw Man” to a whole new level. It seems as though he just invented a Modalism that was more to his liking - one that he could deny.
I had warned my friend earlier, in a FaceBook exchange, that if he was going to define Modalism differently, he should give evidence why. Well, he did define our faith differently from the manner in which we practice it; so, lets look at his definition, and his evidence for it.
My friend cites a Wikipedia reference (hardly a reliable authority): “... the nontrinitarian or anti-Trinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son, and Holy Spirit are three different modes or aspects of one monadic God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons within the Godhead—that there are no real or substantial differences among the three, such that there is no substantial identity for the Spirit or the Son.” ～ This is a definition that could have ONLY been written by an enemy of Modalism and could ONLY be accepted by one who is uneducated in historical and contemporary Modalistic Monarchianism.
Clear Anti-Modalist Biases:
nontrinitarian or anti-Trinitarian ～ (The layman may misunderstand my point here.) Modalism is a viable form of Trinitarianism in many quarters. Even Sabellius used the term “trinity” as a label for his modalistic paradigm. Such an eminent Trinitarian scholar as Karl Barth blatantly and forcibly spurned the term “persons” for explaining the distinctions within the Godhead in favor of the term “modes.” Barth’s Church Dogmatics has been heralded as the Triumph of Sabellianism (Moltmann, Jürgen. The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God (Systematic Theology Contributions). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1993. 139.).
Resurrected Son, ～ Modalism does not restrict the Son Mode of God to the resurrected Jesus. The mode of the Son of God began at the point of the Incarnation, i.e. Mary’s conception. (I can understand why Bishop Conn would choose this particular definition of Modalism to rebut, since he wants to allege that Modalism denies the human Christ’s existence beyond the Resurrection. But, his modalism is a false modalism that is not worthy of me capitalizing the word.)
no substantial identity for the Spirit or the Son. ～ Modalism does, in fact, identify the distinctions between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These distinctions do not constitute separate god-individuals; rather, offices/administration/modes are identified as being distinct one from the other.
Given that there are other, more favorable, definitions for Modalism in the academic reference sources, one wonders why my friend chose the one he did. All should agree that it is unwise to accept an enemies propaganda when at war. Therefore, to accept the Pluralists’ and Subordinationists’ description of Modalism, which position they hate and want to present in the worse possible light, is unwise. But to help spread the enemies’ propaganda is unconscionable.
Britannica Encyclopedia would have been one of several sources for a unbiased definition of Modalism:
Monarchianism, in Christianity, a Christological position that opposed the doctrine of an independent, personal subsistence of the Logos and affirmed the sole deity of God the Father. Thus, it represented the extreme monotheistic view. Though it regarded Jesus Christ as Redeemer, it clung to the numerical unity of the deity.
Modalistic Monarchianism took exception to the “subordinationism” of some of the Church Fathers and maintained that the names Father and Son were only different designations of the same subject, the one God, who “with reference to the relations in which He had previously stood to the world is called the Father, but in reference to his appearance in humanity is called the Son. ...”
The negative, further, launched a tirade against Sequential Modalism. Never mind that our first paper expended considerable word capital in denying that Modalism has ever taught such a position. Pluralists and Subordinationists are fond of bringing this accusation against Modalism. It is unfounded, as far as this writer can tell. We have challenged Bishop Conn for over three years now to produce evidence from historical or contemporary writings where Sequential Modalism has been, or is now being, taught. He has yet, in spite of all this time, to produce one word of evidence from a verifiable source for Sequential Modalism. Like the fables of the Yeti and Sasquatch, there is a lot of hype but the evidence is still out there somewhere waiting to be found - maybe.
The negative’s attempt at evidence for Sequential Modalism consists of a few anecdotal narratives. First, how is this evidence? We asked for evidence and are given unverifiable personal testimony. Sorry, but anecdotal stories are not the type of evidence that will carry an argument.
(of an account) not necessarily true or reliable, because based on personal accounts rather than facts or research: while there was much anecdotal evidence there was little hard fact | these claims were purely anecdotal.
Bishop Conn’s Category Fallacy
If any Oneness believer would take the time to read Bishop Mike Conn’s second paper, the Bishop’s problem would be glaring. The Bishop’s trip-stick is a lacking in his understanding of the Dual Nature of Jesus.
When he chides the Modalist for having one mode of God talking to another mode of God, it is the human Christ addressing the Father that my friend has in view. But he is mistaken concerning the teaching of Modalism.
Modalism recognizes the Dual Nature of Jesus. What Oneness believer was not taught is Sunday School that: Jesus was just as much God as though He were not man, and just as much man as though He were not God? (Truly, I was taught this by my junior class Sunday School teacher, Sister Sue Reeves. And, further, it was drilled into my brain in Wednesday night Bible class by my pastor, O. T. Cottrell.) So, then, when Jesus addresses the Father, He does so as the Son of Man, the human Christ, and not as Deity. Nowhere in Scripture do we find one mode of God speaking to another mode of God. This would require two minds in God. This the Bible does not give us. Bishop Conn has confused two categories: Deity and humanity. So, his error is a category fallacy.
Solution to My Friend’s Dilemma
The solution to Bishop Conn’s dilemma is to embrace the doctrine of the Dual Nature of Jesus. Most Oneness teachers confess to believe in the Dual Nature, but may not have a full understanding of its function. The Dual Nature teaching helps the Bible student sort out when Jesus is functioning as God and when He is functioning as a man. Because Jesus is both God and man, He has existence on these two planes simultaneously. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is a unique Being, produced by the Incarnation. We may know only the propositions of holy Scripture about Him; beyond that we must bow to the mystery that is the Incarnation. My friend Pastor Steve Epley wrote: “It is fine tweed linen and the separating of its threads is beyond my pay grade.” I might say the same.
The conception of Mary’s baby was unique. (Mary did experience a real and true conception. I am not sure that my friend understands or even believes this. I say this because he wrote in his second paper: “He was incubated in the womb of virgin Mary for nine months, ...” To be incubated is not the same as conceived. Is my friend attempting to say that Jesus was implanted into the womb of Mary? If so, Modalism objects in the strongest terms possible.)
The conception that Mary experienced was on this wise: Luke 1:35 states: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” ～ Jesus is called the “Son of God” by virtue of His conception in Mary’s womb. This conception, however, was like no other before it, or since. Commingled in the womb with the humanity from Mary was the God of the universe. When we speak of the preexistence of Jesus, we acknowledge that it is as God that He experienced that preexistence. The humanity contributed by Mary had existence only from the moment of conception. The unique individual produced by the miracle of the Incarnation possessed two totally separate and distinct ousie (essences, natures), in one hypostasis (person). The Son of God is the incarnated Deity (i.e. the Father) enfleshed and commingled with humanity. Paul wrote of it on this wise: “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; 4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, ...” (Romans 1:3-4). The conception of Jesus took place on two planes: according to the flesh, and according to the Spirit. Thus we know Him in His duality as 1. The Son of God when we speak of the divine origin, and also as 2. the Son of Man when we speak of his human origin. (We observe that the term “Son of God” may also reference Jesus in His complete person as the God-man. Only the context determines how to understand the appellation of “Son of God.”)
Mary had a true conception. It was not an implantation. Gabriel announced to Mary, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, ...” (Luke 1:31). Likewise, the Angel instructed Joseph: “fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” One cannot biblically deny that Mary had a true conception. That being true, there are some particulars about a conception that must have impacted on Mary’s case. For instance, at conception, typically, 23 chromosomes from the female combine with 23 chromosomes from the male to make a complete cell of 46 chromosomes. The commingling of these 46 chromosomes is called conception. From this one cell, the entire individual is made. Galatians 4:4 is an enlightening text at this point, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,” [“γενόμενον ἐκ γυναικός,”]. The Son of God was a product of Mary’s unique conception. No part of the product of Mary’s womb can be denied humanity, and no part can be denied deity, as a result of that unique conception. And yet the two ousie remained distinct, though bonded completely as one person. Since this writer is a traducianist, he understands that the human soul was provided by Mary in the conception. The human spirit possessed by Christ was provided by God, as is every human spirit to every human person. The human spirit is that God-nature (God-spark) in every man that lies dormant until he is born again. (When the Spirit of Yahweh commingled with the human spirit, to which it was kin, they two became one Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17); and it is that Spirit [of the Son] with which believers are indwelt—Galatians 4:6 ). Thusly, the humanity is complete: with a reasonable soul and spirit.
According to this text, God’s Son was MADE (the Greek word is gennomai, i.e. wrought; Strong’s #G1096) of a woman. Therefore, it was the enfleshing of Almighty God in the virgin’s womb: the mingling of the Deity with the humanness of a human body, soul and spirit. This text (Galatians 4:4) is important in that it identifies the Son of God as referencing the complete God-man as he is: both deity and humanity. Since the Incarnation (enfleshing) took place in the virgin womb of Mary, it is an honest observation to make that the Son of God was, in fact, “wrought” (gennomai) of a woman.
Moreover, John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” When this text is compared to John 1:18 (i.e. “the only begotten God” NASB), it is clear that the entire Son, divine and human, was given for the sins of the world. Before one objects to the idea of God offering Himself, it must be pointed out that Calvary was the cutting of a very real blood covenant; a legitimate blood covenant requires the blood of all contracting parties. Since the sacrifice of the Son of God on the cross did, in fact, facilitate the required covenant, the sacrifice, Himself, had to be the federal head of both contracting parties: namely, God and Man. The wonder of wonders, and the love of all loves: The Creator-God of the universe (the ONE who reached into His tunic and from His bosom flung stars and their solar systems into space) condescended to the human plane and subjected Himself to generation in a virgin’s womb, so that the blood shed on the brow of Golgotha would be the blood of God, as well as the blood of Mankind (Acts 20:28).
The earthly ministry of Jesus was, mostly, lived out in His humanity—on the human plane. However, there are times in holy Scripture when the curtain (so to speak) is drawn back, and we are permitted to view His deity. In the Gospels, at times Jesus acted and spoke as God: e.g. walking on the water, raising the dead, forgiving sins, proclaiming Himself to be the “I Am;” Jesus self identifies as the “First and the Last,” and the “Alpha and Omega,” and raised Himself from the dead, etc.; most of the time, however, Jesus acted and spoke as a man.
The following is a sampling of biblical propositions concerning Jesus. These are not contradictions, but demonstrations of His two planes of existence.
Jesus is Omniscient (knows all): In His God Nature it is true (John 21:17; Jude 25); but in His Man Nature it is untrue (Mark 13:32; Rev 1:1).
Jesus is Omnipotent (all powerful): In His God Nature it is true (Heb 1:3); but in His Man Nature it is untrue (John 14:28).
Jesus is Omnipresent (everywhere at once): In His God Nature it is true (Matt 18:20; Jer 23:23); but in His Man Nature it is untrue (Matt 3:16; John 11:1-21).
Jesus has All Authority: In His God Nature it is true (Col 2:10); but in His Man Nature it is untrue (1 Cor 11:3).
Jesus is Lord of All: In His God Nature it is true (Acts 10:36); but in His Man Nature it is untrue (1 Cor 15:28).
Jesus Resurrected Himself: In His God Nature it is true (John 2:19-21); but in His Man Nature it is untrue (Gal 1:1).
The conclusion of this, then, is that Jesus of Nazareth is both Almighty God and Man in one person, having existence on two planes at once: although the deity and humanity planes remain separate and distinct, the one from the other.
My negative opponent did a masterful job in his first paper in establishing the need for a mediator between a righteous and holy God and sinful man. My friend, further, was correct is demonstrating that one mode of God could not mediate to another mode of God, for it would be God mediating to Himself. His error comes, however, into our discussion when he postulates that Modalism has just such a dilemma. There is no such confusion within Modalism because Modalism teaches that the Mediator for the fallen race is the “Man” Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5). Therefore, it is the human nature of Jesus (which acts independently from the God nature) that is the world’s mediator. Moreover, the Dual Nature of Jesus did not terminate with His resurrection, but continues to intercede at the throne with blood that speaks better things than that of Able’s (Hebrews 12:24).
☩ David Ignatius