Q&A 5: What is Modalism and How Should Christians Respond To It?


Question: Define “modalism” as it relates to the doctrine of the Trinity. Is it a false, heretical teaching? What, if any, major denominations or churches or pastors/teachers hold to this concept? And, if it is a false, heretical teaching, how should we as evangelicals respond to the teachers of said heresy? Thank you and I look forward to your response.

Reply: Heath, according to your question you are a 1996 graduate of SEBTS. The odds then are rather significant that you had me for theology! In that context, I would expect that you know quite clearly what modalism is?! J However, for those who may read our blog, modalism is an early church heresy that denies the distinctive persons within the Trinity. In other words, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are simply designations or names of the God who is one in person. You should be familiar with the fact that Oneness Pentecostalism teaches this doctrine. One rather famous pastor who is a part of this movement is T. D. Jakes. I am sure that does not come as a surprise to you. In terms of our response, of course we should love them and seek to guide them into the truth of Scripture. That is the Bible teaches that there is one God and yet this God exists in three distinct Persons, those persons being the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. However, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father. Therefore, we should identify modalism for the false teaching that it is and we should seek to persuade and challenge those who affirm this false doctrine to embrace the full, complete and true teachings of Scripture.

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  1. Heath Lloyd   •  

    Thank you Dr Akin. You did teach me systematic, and quite well I might add. I asked the question to get you to respond becasue there has been discussion lately about this heresy in some circles, and I wanted the readers of this blog to hear from you.
    Plus, as a busy pastor I might have needed a little refresher. My poor memory to blame, not your fine teaching, I am quite sure.
    Heath Lloyd

  2. Danny Akin   •  

    Heath, thanks and know I was glad to answer the question and was just having some fun with you. Blessings my brother. Danny

  3. Dwight McKissic   •  

    Dr. Akin,

    Based on your definition of the word “Christian”, and your understanding of T. D. Jakes beliefs(which I believe that you have misrepresented) do you believe that T. D. Jakes is a Christian? Another way to phrase the question is, do you believe a person can be a modalist and also be a Christian?

    I have a pastor friend who heard the gospel clearly, he says in a oneness Pentecostal church and was saved. Later, he began to question their view of the trinity and made his way to a Baptist church and embraced an orthodox view of the trinity. He now pastors a Baptist church in southern California. Was his salvation experience in the oneness pentecostal setting, legitimate?

    BTW, there is not a leader in SBC life that I respect and appreciate any more than you.I listened to your sermon preached last year at chapel concerning the first American missionary. Great sermon.



  4. Danny Akin   •  

    Dwight, thank you for writing my brother. I love and appreciate you and your passion for our Lord. A friend wrote me privately saying he believes pastor Jakes no longer affirms classic modalism. That encourages me and perhaps the “Elephant Room” conversation will allow him to clarify this once and for all. And, is it possible to be a Christian and be a modalism? I believe the answer is yes though to do so is theologically erroneous and inconsistent. In fact it is spiritually dangerous. However, Scripture does not say believe in the Trinity and you will be saved. I was saved as a boy and had very little understanding of the Trinity. However, as I grew in my understanding of biblical truth I naturally came to embrace what is clearly the plain teaching of the Bible. Ultimately, the doctrine of the Trinity is deeply embedded in Christology, something the early church understood. And a text like Isaiah 53 and all the “sending” language of the gospel of John makes little sense without a trinitarian framework. There is so much more we could say about this but I hope this is helpful.

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  7. Philip   •  

    1.It is very hard for me to assume that someone can be saved and accept them as my brothers and sisters if they have believed in modalism for a long long time (5 years
    plus? ). Although in your early reply, you said that you believe people can be save if their believe is because of theologically erroneous and inconsistent. It is very hard for me to believe that after years and years, the Holy Spirit never teaches them the truth, not when they are reading the Bible; never guides them when they are praying to “Jesus Father”; never rebukes them and convicts their sin, when they are telling the false “Jesus Daddy version” gospel to unbelievers; never troubles their hearts when they are poisoning other immature believers; not leads other believer to tell them the truth. I just cannot accept the theologically erroneous and inconsistent excuse.
    Basically I cannot see that God is working in their lives( Not with them). The case becomes even more clear when someone believe in modalism and have been pastors and missionaries for a long time.
    Am I over critical?

    2.What if there is a leader in my church teaches modalism and reluctantly to repent. And the pastor of my church refuse to do anything. I assume that I have the right to “flee” from this church or even bring people out of that. Am I right? I might be wrong.

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