Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Phillips, Craig & Dean: Modalism Revisted

johnMark

This probably hasn't been a hot topic lately, but there is some new (to me at least) and concrete information on Phillips, Craig and Dean's position on their position on the Trinity. If you search and read the various apologetic websites you'll find how tough it was for many to get straight answers to their position on the doctrine of the Trinity. Their website, for example, doesn't have a statement of faith.

Taking a look at their church websites doesn't make finding their beliefs too much easier. On Dan Dean's The Heartland Church I can find no statement of faith. At Shawn Craig's church South County Christian Center under "about us" you actually can read their statement of faith. It says this about God:
We believe in one God revealed as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19; John 1:14; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 1:4-6) [emphasis mine]

Lastly, at Randy Phillips' church Promise Land West under "About Us" then "Belief Statement" under the heading "The Godhead" reads:
(I John 5:7; Matthew 28:19; 1 Tim 3:16) We believe in one God who is eternal in His existence, Triune in His manifestation, being both Father, Son and Holy Ghost AND that He is Sovereign and Absolute in His authority. We believe in the Father who is God Himself, Creator of the universe. {Gen 1:1; John 1:1} We believe that Jesus is the Son of God. (Col 2:9) [emphasis mine, underline in original]

The red flags are the words "revealed as" and "manifestation" that have caused folks to question whether or not these guys are non-Trinitarian. But without coming right out and denying it it's possible though not accurate to use a play on words and skirt the issue. At least skirting the issue in so far as to satisfy someone who has not really looked into modalism or much theology. None of the above information is really new though.

Promise Land church which is pastored by Randy Phillips' father (I believe) which birthed Phillips' current church Promise Land West has finally given a definitive position. You can read their "What We Believe" page and get similar texts like the ones I mentioned above.

So here's the kicker. If you go to "Resources" then to the "Enquirer's Handbook" link at the Promise Land church site you'll find that handbook which is a 100+ page pdf file very helpful. Finally, a direct answer. Now, we can't necessarily apply these beliefs to the other two members since they are not part of that church, but it's very telling.

Let's look at some quotes from the handbook.
Since the death of John and the other eleven original apostles, many concepts and teachings have arisen that do not necessarily coincide with the "one God" teaching of the early church. In the year A.D. 180, Tertullian began using the term "trinity" from which was born the Catholic doctrine of three Gods, co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal. The Roman Emperor Constantine in the year A.D. 325 incorporated the "doctrine of the trinity" into the Catholic Church where it has remained ever since, and most Protestant churches have accepted this doctrine without thorough examination. The "trinity", however, generates confusion and is not in total harmony with the Scriptures. To say that there are three separate persons who somehow comprise "one God" is like trying to connect opposing sides of two magnets. When you add 1+1+1, it must equal three; and there cannot, under any circumstances, be more than one God.

One of the primary sources of confusion in this matter is related to the word "persons." The doctrine of the trinity states that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three "persons" who make up one God. In actuality, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three manifestations of one God. This word manifestation means "to appear", and it is quite scriptural. The Bible tells us that, "God was manifest in the flesh . . ." (I Timothy 3:16). In other words, God appeared in the flesh (as a son). [emphasis mine] Pg. 60

It also looks like there is a problem of separating Christ's natures. This must go along with the modalism so certain Scriptures can be explained.
On the other hand, it was His human nature which required Him to eat, to sleep and to pray. As a human being (flesh), Jesus Christ was basically weak. Jesus made this clear when He spoke to Peter saying: ". . . The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh [human nature] is weak" (Mark 14:38).

The flesh, as a result of its sinful tendencies, is constantly warring with and resisting the Spirit. But despite these facts, Jesus came ". . . in the likeness of sinful flesh . . ." (Romans 8:3). He did not create a super body, so to speak, that would protect Him from sin and weakness; He was human flesh just as you and I are.

It was for this reason that Jesus had to pray. If this is confusing, remember that it was the flesh (human nature) praying to the omnipresent Spirit. In one incident, Jesus had to lay His hands upon a man the second time in order for the man to be healed (Mark 8:23-25). This was due to the weakness of the flesh; otherwise, one time would have been sufficient. Without prayer and fasting, His flesh, is human nature, would never have remained sinless and pure or have been strong enough to die on Calvary (Hebrews 5:7). His need for prayer was made evident in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:44-46).

The dual nature of Jesus is puzzling to some because they view the two natures as two persons. As a man, Jesus was the Son of God; He was flesh. But as God Almighty, Jesus was Spirit robed in flesh and existing everywhere else at once. There are two natures and not two persons. For example, you possess a human nature (your body) and a spiritual nature (your spirit). Whether your flesh and spirit remain intact or are separated, you are still only one person. The same is true of God. Pg. 63

I just pulled a few quotes out, but there are more in the book. I'm actually glad that the issues are finally spelled out so clearly. I wonder if the rest of the band agrees?

Mark

12 comments:

EgoMakarios said...

Aside from the influence of Satan, I think a lot of the confusion about the Trinity is brought on by a misunderstanding of what co-equal means, or perhaps a misuse of the word by certain groups. When it is said (for example in the Athanasian creed) that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are co-equal, it is not meant that they are co-equal in authority, but in eternality, in nature or essence, and in deserving worship. If they were co-equal in authority, Jesus would not have said "my father is greater than me" nor again "all authority is given to me" as if it had to be given when it did not have to be given. This misunderstanding is apparent as at least one of the roots of the problem in the quote you gave:

"Since the death of John and the other eleven original apostles, many concepts and teachings have arisen that do not necessarily coincide with the 'one God' teaching of the early church. In the year A.D. 180, Tertullian began using the term 'trinity' from which was born the Catholic doctrine of three Gods, co-equal, co-existent and co-eternal."

The mistake of viewing the Trinity as three Gods arises from thinking that co-equal means that Jesus was not given authority by the father but always possessed equal authority, but any quick perusal of the Athanasian creed will show that authority is not the issue of co-equal. Three co-equal and co-existent being being one God makes perfect sense so long as you do not misconstrue co-equal as meaning equal in authority, for then you of necessity will assume them to be either distinct or separate Gods. In other words, you really can't believe in the Trinity at all unless you believe that the Son and Holy Ghost are submissive to the Father and that all authority is ultimately his.

Lvka said...

I wonder what possible meaning the words "God [Elohim, a plural] made man [adam, a plural] in His Image: male [ish: Adam] and female [isha: Eve] created he them [another plural]", or "and they BOTH shall be ONE flesh", might have to these people ...

adam = Adam + Eve = ONE flesh. (Genesis).

"I and the Father are One". (The Gospel).

"Father and Son are ONE Being". (The Creed).

What is more SANE to believe? That these THREE statements contradict eachother, or that they have but ONE meaning?

Every SINGLE Jewish words is based on a tri-consonantic root, and even their Bible is tri-partite (Ta-Na-Kh), not to mention that Judaism is primarily a religion of the family (NOT of the individual --> that's why the thousands of *men* to whom Peter spoke (Acts 2:14, 22, 29, 37) took their *wives* and *children* along when they were invited to be baptized: Acts 2:39), ... and these people want to know FROM WHERE did we get such a LOONEY ideea as the Trinity !??

GeneMBridges said...

I'd point out that in Greek, "I and the Father are one" is more literally render, "I and the Father, we are one." So, the modal way of looking @ the text is thereby defeated.

I'd also point out that part of the problem isn't simply a miscontrual of "coequal" but a misconstrual of the word for "person" in the Chalcedonian Creed. "Person" means "subsistence" not "being" in that parlance. Later theologians debated the meaning of that word rather vigorously and the anti-Trinitarians seized on later definitions equating it with "being" such that three persons are three beings.

John Mark, you should download that entire .pdf file for reference. It is VERY hard to come by, and I would not be surprised, given some of the behavior of PCD and the Oneness crowd, if they twig that somebody is discussing it openly, they may withdraw it from view.

Lvka said...

equating person with "being" such that three persons are three beings.

In order for a person to truly "be" (John 10:10), in order for it to truly exist, and not just merely subsist, it has to reach out of itself, to form ties and relations based on selfless, self-giving and self-offering love with other persons (even if this love may go unrequited). A being is truly a pluri-personal reality; and it cannot be otherwise.

Who wants to truly live shall offer his life for others (John 15:13); who wants to have abundance shall sell everything and give it to the poor (Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21). This is the Christian message. This is the faith that is capable of redeeming man from the snares of death. This is the Life of the Trinity living in us.

Machaira said...

When you add 1+1+1, it must equal three; and there cannot, under any circumstances, be more than one God

I've seen this kind of "reasoning" many many times in debates on the Trinity. It's a clear case of exalting man's reason over God's revelation.

Dozie said...

"The Roman Emperor Constantine in the year A.D. 325 incorporated the "doctrine of the trinity" into the Catholic Church where it has remained ever since, and most Protestant churches have accepted this doctrine without thorough examination".

Protestants really have no intelligent answer for why they accept the doctrine of the Trinity. They are just moving along, ignoring at this juncture, the foolishness of "bible alone". They must go back to the drawing table, do the hard thinking (examination) and come up with their idea of God. Protestants should attempt calling a Protestant Council to do some of the necessary thinking they need to do. Again, Protestants love the easy road. They reject the Catholic canon. It is much easier for them to throw away books of the bible than it is for them to come up with sensible explanation of why they retain the ones they retain. Bottom line, they must stop feeding on Catholicism why at the same time rejecting Catholicism.

About oneness Pentecostalism, one might ask: What is the consequence of not believing in the Trinity? What does it matter? What is the difference, for Protestants, between not believing in the Trinity and not believing in infant baptism? After all, to be saved in the Protestant culture all that one needs is faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing else, they tell us, is required. Well, the Oneness people also profess faith in Christ. So, what’s the problem?

Protestants cannot say that the Oneness people do not believe in the right Jesus. In reality, there is only one Jesus to be believed in. Whoever believes in Jesus believes in the one Jesus that can possibly be believed. It is the duty of those who claim there are the right and wrong Jesus to produce the other jesus.

Machaira said...

After all, to be saved in the Protestant culture all that one needs is faith in Jesus Christ. Nothing else, they tell us, is required.

Dozie,

I said before I had a bit of respect for you. I just lost it.

This ridiculous notion of yours has already been answered in response to Egomakarios a few weeks ago. I invite you to look and be enlightened. Please see my entries "Sanctification" part 1 & 2.

http://jude3.wordpress.com

GeneMBridges said...

Protestants really have no intelligent answer for why they accept the doctrine of the Trinity.

Actually, we give the same answers that Athanasius gave. If you think his reasons weren't intelligent, let's see the supporting argument.

I'd add that it's the Romanist who states that the Councils were merely reporters of tradition, yet they then say we can't have a reason for believing the Trinity without a Council. So then, those who lived before Nicea had no intelligent reason for believing in the Trinity?

They are just moving along, ignoring at this juncture, the foolishness of "bible alone".

Of course, we don't believe that Scripture only is our rule of faith. Rather it is the sole infallible rule of faith for the church in it's normative state. We affirm the usefulness of councils and creeds. We just don't believe they are infallible. Dr. Robert Reymond states very candidly in his New Systematic Theology that the creed of Chalcedon is the greatest one ever written. Is there something about Romanists that leads them to constantly misrepresent what we affirm.

They must go back to the drawing table, do the hard thinking (examination) and come up with their idea of God

Just like all those Roman Catholics who went about that very task from the time of the Ancient Creeds to the Reformation, men like Richard of St. Victor, Gilbert, Boethius, the 4th Lateran Council...we could go on and on about the questions that arose over the meaning of a simple concept like "person" during those centuries...all of which I'm sure you would like to avoid.

Protestants should attempt calling a Protestant Council to do some of the necessary thinking they need to do.

Like what? Protestants have called many "councils" since the Reformation.

They reject the Catholic canon. With good reason.

It is much easier for them to throw away books of the bible than it is for them to come up with sensible explanation of why they retain the ones they retain.

It is easier for Romanists to add books to the Bible and then check their minds at the door on the basis of what the councils have determined than to come up with sensible explanations for why those books are canonical. Protestants have written far and wide on their reasons for accepting the books they accept. Roman Catholics simply rely on what the Most Holy Apostolic One True Church accepts. Of course, this only moves the question back one step. However, we Protestants find this useful, for we find it a source of constant entertainment to watch the Romans, Orthodox, Abyssinians, Copts, Armenians,and others discuss who is the true church...

Bottom line, they must stop feeding on Catholicism why at the same time rejecting Catholicism. We're not feeding on "Catholicism" we are "feeding" on catholicism while rejecting Catholicism.

What is the consequence of not believing in the Trinity?

Answered in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. Perhaps before asking such questions, you should check to see if we've answered them.

What is the difference, for Protestants, between not believing in the Trinity and not believing in infant baptism?

This is a pseudoproblem, one for you,not for us.

After all, to be saved in the Protestant culture all that one needs is faith in Jesus Christ.

Sola Fide is not intellectual assent.

Well, the Oneness people also profess faith in Christ. So, what’s the problem?

The Oneness People reject Sola Fide. In fact,their soteriology is remarkably Roman Catholic in some respects. Indeed, they flatly reject justification by faith alone. They affirm a form of baptismal regeneration,insofar as one must be baptized by a particular person (an ordained Oneness minister) with a particular (non-Trinitarian) formula, and one must also speak in tongues.

Dozie said...

"Answered in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. Perhaps before asking such questions, you should check to see if we've answered them."

Your responses, as examplified by the above are simply lamentable. Are you suggesting by the above that the said Wayne Grudem is the sum of Protestantism? Could he not be contradicted by other Protestants? Elsewhere on this site I have pointed out that Protestantism is a textbook religion, the latest book, that is; I have neither the time nor the interest to chase this or that theologian around. I am asking about what Protestantism teaches on the question of salvation. The question is beyond what a particular theogian cares to suggest. Yes, it is a suggestion since your author cannot claim certainty for his ruminations.

Your managed to steer clear from the heart of my assertion - Protestantism has no leg to stand on, hence the 3,000 or 30,000 fractures we hear about.

Protestantism is a cheap religion, it has neither rigor nor depth.
As one of your better theologians has aptly recognized, the scandal of your religion is your collective mind.

Howard Fisher said...

Dozie said, "Your responses, as examplified by the above are simply lamentable. Are you suggesting by the above that the said Wayne Grudem is the sum of Protestantism?"

Gene had already said, "Is there something about Romanists that leads them to constantly misrepresent what we affirm."

I agree with Gene. Dozie refuses to read what Protestants have written and instead goes after the worst she has to offer. That would be like me quoting RCs who disagree with one another instead of going to original sources.

Dozie, please read the confessions. We do consider them authoritative as Gene explained. Wayne Grudem's Systematic may not be agreed upon at every point, but on the main issues he is very representative of historic Protestant theology.

"Yes, it is a suggestion since your author cannot claim certainty for his ruminations. "

Is this claim certain? How do you know? How do you know? Have you interpreted your Traditions correctly? Why should I believe you? Your argument is now thrown back at you and by your own standard, you have no leg to stand on.

As for the 3,000 or 30,000 denoms, if I can find 2 Catholic interpretations or churches that are separated and consider themselves the true church, then your position is just as bad. In the same source that provides this information there are far more than 2! And their disagreements are far wider than Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians!

Some RCs are not even able to know if the Canon is closed. I would think this be slightly important.

Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument.

God Bless

Dozie said...

“That would be like me quoting RCs who disagree with one another instead of going to original sources.”

You will not find two Catholics disagreeing that one is not saved by faith alone. The Protestant idea that one is saved purely by his or her imagination is plain phony. You will of course protest the “imagination” characterization but what else is it when Protestant faith resides entirely in the Protestant mind. If this is not Protestantism, I guess Matt Slick and the guys at Issues ETC are not Protestants.


“Please read the confessions.”

Which ones? And, thanks for the offer but it would be a waste of my time.


“Wayne Grudem's Systematic may not be agreed upon at every point, but on the main issues he is very representative of historic Protestant theology. “

Historic Protestant theology includes who and who? When did this history begin and when did it end? And, who else is supporting your assertion?


Dozie -"Yes, it is a suggestion since your author cannot claim certainty for his ruminations."

You – “Is this claim certain? How do you know? How do you know? Have you interpreted your Traditions correctly? Why should I believe you?”

I know because your author is one individual and he is objectively not any more authoritative than the next Protestant.


“Your argument is now thrown back at you and by your own standard, you have no leg to stand on.”

I have the Church to stand on; she is the pillar and the foundation of the truth. The buck stops somewhere. You will say, “I stand on the bible”. The problem is, the bible has been abused and maligned and assaulted a thousand times but has no way of responding or clarifying one iota of doctrine. It requires human voice. However Protestants have already confessed they are not infallible and therefore are not reliable voices for the bible.


“As for the 3,000 or 30,000 denoms, if I can find 2 Catholic interpretations or churches that are separated and consider themselves the true church, then your position is just as bad.”

Whoever you find will consider itself the true church as much as Lutherans consider themselves as true church. FYI, if anyone says he is Catholic, he or she must respect Catholic teachings. It is not a new teaching that anyone who wishes to be Catholic must be united with the Bishop of Rome. If one claims to be Christian and is not in union with the pope, he has something to protest against – he is Protestant, the Orthodox not withstanding.

EgoMakarios said...

"Protestants really have no intelligent answer for why they accept the doctrine of the Trinity."

Those who follow the papacy into the heresy of rejecting the validity of 1 John 5:7 don't. But those who accept the comma do.