Trinity vs. Modalism & Tri-theism
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Saturday, September 5, 2009 at 2:17pm
TOM LAWSON (0/9/09) to Jack Cottrell
I think classic modalism is fraught with heretical issues – central being the denial is the distinct existence of God as Father, Son, and Spirit as deity at the same time(s) and for all time.
But popular (not theologically well understood) Trinitarianism has produced a number of serious and heretical perspectives. Many do come close to (if not embrace) the kind of Tri-theism we are accused of holding by Muslims and Arians. When I mention, in theology of worship, that the early Christians gave no evidence of even desiring to directly worship or pray to or make direct requests of the Holy Spirit, a number of students are more than surprised, they are convinced that He, the Spirit, would be hurt or offended if left out of the third verse of a praise song. This reflects a view closer to Tri-theism than Trinity.
Although symbols are not necessary, it is disturbing to see the dove replace the cross as the central symbol presented before a worship gathering or on a church sign. Being encouraging to pray, “Good morning, Holy Spirit . . . ” is more than a harmless blurring of roles, it is part of a broader displacement of the Christ-Cross-Resurrection as the central event in our redemption and sanctification. And, I believe, it reflects an fundamental flaw in how people think of God.
I have become persuaded that many evangelicals today need to be re-educated on the essential doctrine of monotheism and to subordinate whatever understanding they have of the Trinity within that “no God but me, none made before and none made after” affirmation.
I am sympathetic with some of the motives behind both modalism and Arianism, but I believe both efforts to preserve monotheism introduce biblically unsupportable and heretical assertions about the nature of the Father-Son-Spirit. But I do wish, Jack, we could better clarify that we worship one and only one God, not three. Your work on this is solid, but remains unknown by many laypeople.
I believe this is a pretty major issue. Tom
JACK COTTRELL (9/5/09) to Tom Lawson:
Hi Tom — I agree with what you are saying here. As you know, I believe even Jesus (and maybe especially Jesus) is singled out and elevated above the Father and Spirit (e.g., in what I call the Christological fallacy). In my book on God the Creator, in the chapter on “Implications of Creation,” I have a long section on the PRIMACY of CREATION, as opposed to the primacy of redemption. I.e., redemption serves the purposes of creation, not vice versa. It is surprising how many take the latter view. For the cause of God and truth — your brother, Jack C.