01 April 2009

Are We Functional Modalists?

The Trinity is at the core of what we as Christians believe. It separates us from the Jews and Muslims though they may not agree as we do not all worship the same God. From the Westminster Shorter Catechism we read:

Question #6
Q: How many persons are there in the Godhead?
A: There are three persons in the Godhead; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.

Hence we see that there are three persons in the Trinity and we know as Christians that each play a part in our salvation. But do we all understand the importance of this? I think that we are often guilty of modalism however unintentional it may be. Modalism can be defined as, ... a denial of the Trinity which states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes, or forms. Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son. After Jesus' ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another. Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ. Though this may not be a conscience effort on our part we often focus on one of the three.

Let's go a bit further and read from the Westminster Confession of Faith,

CHAPTER 2, Of God, and of the Holy Trinity

1. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek him; and withal, most just, and terrible in his judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.
2. God hath all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of himself; and is alone in and unto himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which he hath made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting his own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and hath most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever himself pleaseth. In his sight all things are open and manifest, his knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all his counsels, in all his works, and in all his commands. To him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience he is pleased to require of them.
3. In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.

If we agree that this is true, does our worship and daily walk comport with the above? When you last prayed, were all three persons of the Trinity included? When your Pastor prayed last Lord's Day were all three persons of the Trinity mentioned? How about at your Bible study group? Were all three mentioned in last week's sermon, at least indirectly? At the your last Bible study? I think many of us are guilty here, myself included, and should consider the high import of the Trinity in our corporate and private worship. Let this short post be a springboard for you to delve deeper into this subject and examine these issues.



Anonymous said...

Ok... I feel you here, and I personally make a point of praying sometimes to own, sometimes to another, Person of the Godhead. I don't keep count or anything, sometimes I just choose based on how I perceive my petition or prayer.

On the other hand, I think we could get carried away here. I don't know if many Christians pray directly to the Holy Spirit. They wouldn't be wrong in doing so, and I have, but I don't think they have specific Biblical examples to fall back on (I could be wrong here).

Reformed Renegade said...

I'm guilty of it as well which is what prompted the post.

I'm not suggesting praying exclusively to the Holy Spirit, just the opposite, including Him and all three Persons of the Godhead in each prayer, sermon, etc. is what I'm advocating.