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

10.4.2011

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.