Modalism Debunked Philosophically

Does It Have Any Merit?

The constant accusation toward the doctrine of the Trinity is the false equivocation of 3 persons to 3 gods. It is due to a misunderstanding on the definition of God, and a prejudicial attitude towards a difficult concept. The Modalistic interpretation attempts to adjust the trinity into modes or manifestations of God. They attempt to argue philosophically that God wouldn’t be self-sufficient if He were to depend on the Son or Spirit, but this is based on another misunderstanding of the Trinity. Though they have distinct minds, they still share the same divine ontology. It’s humorous that they cannot conceive God as three persons within a single entity, yet they can embrace the Church as a single entity comprised of multiple minds. The Modalistic interpretation for God isn’t philosophically coherent, and it fails to explain the logical application of the apostolic scriptures.

The Definition of God

The false comparison is the assertion that 3 divine persons are 3 separate gods, yet this is due to a failed comprehension of the Trinity. Also, we shouldn’t define God to be merely a person, but as an energetic quality, force, or nature. God isn’t merely some ethereal mind, but a being of impersonal qualities that exist. The same logic applies to the human person; the person-hood of our souls are also based on impersonal qualites (e.g. volition, reason, emotions, etc.). So, God isn’t merely multi-personal but also impersonal concerning ontology. We aren’t merely personal but also impersonal concerning nature. A mind depends on impersonal qualities to be actualized into a functional and legitimate person. Now, God is not merely three persons, but also one in substance. This definition cannot conclude 3 separate gods; however, if anyone asserts that God is three distinct persons with three distinct natures, then this would surely lead to three gods instead one. At least the proponents of the Trinity do not make such vain assertions. If God has three persons while retaining one impersonal ontology, then it would still conclude one God. The mere distinction would simply be on the definition of God. Is God merely a personal entity, or is He merely an impersonal force? Or does God retain a multi-personal entity with a singular impersonal nature? Or is God simply pantheistic? Again, there is nothing conflicting in embracing a deity that has a singular impersonal nature, but consisting three distinct minds. Although, the question might be on why God has three persons, yet the question against Modalism would be on why God has three separate modes of existence? Defining God is a tricky matter, because He is somewhat beyond human reason and imagination and earthly reference. If God has three persons as a single ontology, then we shouldn’t be surprised since He is beyond human conception and definition. We shouldn’t assume that we can perfectly describe God with analogies or examples that satisfy human inquiry. If we boldly attempt to describe God, we will end up settling for a lesser image of Him, or stumble into disappointment and frustration.

Modalism Cannot Be Identified By Scriptural Means

The grand flaw within Modalism is its attempt to apply itself to the apostolic writings. Modalism cannot explain the Father and Son analogy; otherwise, the analogy is meaningless. It cannot explain what these three modes of existence identify as, or explain why God would express Himself as three personas. If Modalism is true, then God should’ve identified Himself as three impersonal natures, instead of personifying them. If He wanted us to understand Himself as three modes or natures, then He could’ve called His modes as Wisdom, Logic, and Revelation. If the scriptures held God as three impersonal titles, then Modalism would have some merit, yet this isn’t the case. Even if God had three personas, this would simply be God pretending to be in a relationship, which would appear to us as strange and unlike actualized communion. So far, the consistent distinction of God are personal names or titles, not impersonal labels as I suggested for Modalism (e.g. Wisdom, Logic, Revelation). A person (especially of divinity) has more relevance in being mentioned than a mere mode, role, or manifestation. Again, Modalism offers no alternative solution to the Trinity and offers no explanation for the lack of impersonal mentions.

Love Only Exists In Relationships

Modalists often try to attack the Trinity, especially the deductions for it. Proponents of the Trinity affirm that love cannot exist apart from relationships which answers for the Trinity, but Modalists claim that we can have a relationship with ourselves. However, relationships are defined as a connection and exchange of communion between two or more personal agents. To have a relationship with yourself is like saying you can marry yourself. So far, Modalists attempt to redefine relationships to adjust their worldview, but it fails miserably. They cite Jesus who says, “Love others as you love yourself” (Mark 12:31). Modalists cite this verse to prove that love can exist within one person apart from relationships; however, this is an illogical assumption. Notice how Jesus said we are to love ourselves as we love others, which reveals that self-love must have an altruistic purpose in order for it to be morally legitimate. Self-love cannot exist and is meaningless in a lone universe if there is no altruistic purpose for it. If any human lived in a lone universe, they would have no actual conception of what is moral and what’s not. Sure, you could argue that his actions could prove detrimental or beneficial to himself, except his decisions are meaningless since they serve no altruistic purpose. It would be of no moral consequence for him to either live for himself, or die due to neglect. But even selfish individuals live for themselves, so how would morality be discerned in a lone universe? Someone could argue that in taking care of himself, he would be loving his soul, yet what if this person takes care of himself but neglects the needs of others? Would you still consider his self-care to be self-love or to be morally justified? Of course not! You cannot love yourself apart from another person’s existence, because there would be no altruistic purpose. Jesus said, “love others as yourself,” not only yourself. A person in a lone universe cannot learn to love in like manner to a blind person learning to see. Morality cannot be measured in a lone universe; likewise, intelligence cannot be measured without a rational faculty (i.e. the reasoning part of the mind). The Modalist philosophy fails to defend its position on the Godhead, especially by its false definition of relationships. It’s like trying to defend the existence of morality in an absolute and naturalistic universe since morality is an immaterial reality.

The Eternalness within the Moral Aseity of God

Christian Modalists attempt to argue against the eternalness of the moral aseity of God. We claim that God cannot be love without existing relationships, but they claim that God cannot be just and merciful if He’s not applying these moral facets to humans according to our deduction. However, God can still be eternally merciful and just without humans. It depends how we define mercy and justice. Mercy can be defined as compassion but alternatively defined as kindness. But these aren’t fundamental definitions of mercy; mercy doesn’t depend on compassion to manifest. We could argue that God is kind within His own persons, or we could define the function of mercy as an action that seeks to attract us to positive qualities. We could also define the function of justice to hinder or separate us from negative qualities. Within the Godhead, the Father is accompanying the Son and Spirit intimately which is merciful, and the Father is keeping the Son and Spirit from eternal loneliness which is just. However, the Modalist objection is that 2 persons of God should suffice this reasoning instead of 3 persons. Although I agree that 2 persons would be sufficient for such a deduction, the addition of more persons (i.e. 3 agents) doesn’t refute it since they still convey that love is relational. They would argue that since the Trinity cannot be deduced successively, it then should be rendered as false. On the contrary, just because the trinity is a non-deducible concept, doesn’t mean it is philosophical nonsense. The resurrection of Jesus and the good news, for example, are non-deducible concepts to the lost (i.e. those who have never heard of the gospel). If something (i.e. Trinity) is non-deducible yet judged as nonsensical (e.g. by Modalists), then the gospel of the resurrection, according to them, should be rendered as absurd and false since humans cannot deduce that God would manifest as a mortal man. The personal pluralism of God can be successively deduced by philosophy, but maybe not the exact numbering of such. Philosophy has its limits in discovering new information, but this is why we require revelation. This is why Paul said, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1st Corinthians 2:14). He cannot know them because such knowledge is beyond mere deduction, and he cannot embrace them because such knowledge counters his proud intuition. Though, the Trinity could be a full representation of how love should flow in the universe; for example, the Father represents self-love, the Son represents mutual love, and the Spirit represents universal love. Love cannot be altruistic if limited to self-love, so mutual love exists. And love cannot fully eradicate evil if limited to mutual love, so universal love should exist. The Trinity could also represent the three coherent forms of purification such as: humility, charity, and prayer (as a dialogue). Yet they all serve an altruistic purpose which is Love. These ideas may or may not prove the Trinity philosophically, but as I said prior, the Trinity could be a partial and non-deducible concept. The exact numbering is a mystery, but not the personal pluralism of God. As long as I have debunked the self-love of the Modalist’s God objection, the Trinity is a more feasible possibility than Modalism.

Some Modalists perhaps could argue that God loved Himself by creating human agents in creation, yet this argument poses issues. Firstly, if God first loved Himself by the creation of humans, then His love would prove to be temporal and not eternal since creation of humans imply a beginning. Secondly, love or morality as an attribute would become an acquired quality for God, instead of love being His innate nature. So this objection is weak and leads to the rejection of the true theos concept. Another proposed argument would be that since the Father depends on the Son to be loving, God would not be rendered as self-sufficient. However, this argument fails to be substantial and effective. Noted, God depends on His omnipotence to create agents or universes. Would God be rendered as not self-sufficient if He couldn’t create a universe apart from His omnipotence? No, because logically to create something would imply the need for power. God would only be not self-sufficient if He depended on creation to be moral or loving, but because He depends on His own persons, He would still be self-sufficient. The Father and Son aren’t distinct but of similar nature, so technically They would still be self-sufficient since the Father depends on an un-created and eternal entity, not a created and temporal entity. The Father depending on the Son as an un-created entity is no different from God depending on His own ontology as an un-created entity. A human soul depends on a human body and vice versa, but the person himself would still be self-sufficient since he is of both entities. And likewise, the Father as well as the Son and Spirit would still be self-sufficient since they are of the same ontology. Again, the objection favoring Modalism fails entirely. Morality cannot be a temporal and created reality lest it occur as a subjective force, which can easily be manipulated like space-time or matter. Conclusively, there seems to be no accurate objection against the Trinity, but only plausible reasons for it. Even some of the early Jews believed in Binitarianism, which is a close revelation to the trinitarian God. The knowledge of the Trinity essentially proves that God is partially transcendent to human reason, yet still coherent to His logical order. The knowledge of Binitarianism and Modalism only proves that God isn’t partially transcendent to human reason, yet Binitarianism proves that love exists in a relational entity instead of Modalism. Love cannot be non-altruistic or exist as a non-relational entity, so the same logical principle applies to God. God cannot be Love without a communal existence, or without being a multi-personal entity. Again, self-love cannot exist without an altruistic purpose in a lone universe! And an altruistic purpose cannot manifest within a lone universe unless the creation of other personal agents, which would render love to be temporal, not eternal. Even if God could love Himself in preparation for humans, this would be logically unnecessary since the creation of humans would also be an expression of His love for them and for Himself. Love cannot be fully or perfectly expressed within a single personal entity; the oneness god could express more love potentially in creating humans than merely loving himself as a single personal entity. Love cannot be only limited to the expression or potential of self; therefore, the personal pluralism of God should be logically concluded as truth. So then, Modalism blindly asserts that God became love as an earned quality instead of being love as His eternal and innate nature. End of discourse.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
George M. Garcia

George M. Garcia

A writer interested in theology and the supernatural. A Christian with divine experiences and a vast understanding of Scripture.