Two Views on the Godhead: Modalism



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Early Church History: Lesson 5/6 – Trinity, Arius, The Council of Nicea



Two Views on the Godhead:

Modalism: The belief put forth by Sabellius (teacher in Rome 215) that God is a single person who appears in different modes: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. An analogy could be water. Water takes on three forms – a gas, liquid, and solid. This heresy eliminates the unity of God, supposes that Christ was created, and implies that the Father (as we know Him) suffered on the cross.

Dynamism: Paul of Samosata (Bishop of Antioch 260 – condemned in 268) taught the logos, as the divine rationality of God, descended on to the man, Jesus, thus adopting him into the Godhead. A dynamo is a power source – the dynamos of the logos gave Jesus his spiritual power. This denies the personal preexistence of the Word.



Nicea, Bythnia



Arianism
In a letter to Alexander of Alexandria (Arius’ bishop) Arius writes:

“but the Son being begotten apart from time by the Father, and being created and founded before ages, was not before His generation, but being begotten apart from time before all things, alone was made to subsist by the Father. For He is not eternal or co-eternal or co-unoriginate with the Father, nor has He His being together with the Father, as some speak of relations, introducing two ingenerate beginnings





Next Week: The Life and Theology of Augustine, the Theologian of Grace.

Arianism in brief:


  1. Son was created out of nothing

  2. Absolute uniqueness of the Father – “The Word is not true God”

  3. Begotten = Made

  4. Father and Son are not the same homoousios

-The Nicene Creed refutes these beliefs line by line.



Council of Nicea condemns Arianism, 325 AD, abridged version



That’s heresy alright. So what should we confess? Yes, Eusebius?

Homooúsios
μοούσιος

Homousios is not a term found in the Bible. It means of the same essence/substance. The orthodox understanding of the nature of Jesus is that Jesus Christ is homoousion with the Father. Jesus and the Father are of the same substance; they are consubstantial. Origen seems to be the first theologian to use homoousios in this fashion.

Alexander and Ossius decided that the word homoousios, despite not being a biblical term and having a history of being used in heresy, must be used to clearly refute the Arian claim that the Son is not the same substance as the Father.
All the bishops…knew that the test proposed was not in Scripture, that it [homousias] had a suspicious history in the Church.“
But the fathers were reminded of the previous discussions, of the futility of the Scriptural tests“

- Athanasius, Prolegomena



THERE WAS A TIME WHEN HE WAS NOT! -Arius



Here is what my church confesses. [Presents series of scripture proofs]



It’s almost perfect, but Arius can still twist these proofs.



Emperor, suggest to them to use the word… homoousios.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ , the Son of God, begotten of the Father

[the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God], Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousion)with the Father; by whom all things were made [both in heaven and on earth]; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again, ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

And in the Holy Ghost.


Good thinking, Ossius – Use the word “Homoousious”
[But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]"

The original Nicene Creed, 325AD

Christian, What do you believe?

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.



Nicene Creed, as adopted at the Council of Constantinople, 381AD

Christian, What do you believe?

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.



Nicene Creed, as adopted at the Council of Constantinople, 381AD



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