Trinity of forms or manifestations, but not a necessary and eternal Trinity in the divine nature.
Some have interpreted Sabellius as denying that the Trinity is eternal a parte post, as well as a parte ante, and as holding that, when the purpose of these temporary manifestations is accomplished, the Triad is resolved into the Monad. This view easily merges in another, which makes the persons of the Trinity mere names for the ever-shifting phases of the divine activity.
The best statement of the Sabellian doctrine, according to the interpretation first mentioned, is that of Schleiermacher, translated with comments by Moses Stuart, in Biblical Repository, 6:1-16. The one unchanging God is differently reflected from the world on account of the world?s different receptivity. Praxeas of Rome (200) Noetus of Smyrna
(230), and Beryl of Arabia (250) advocated substantially the same views. They were called Monarchians mo>nh ajrch> , because they believed not in the Triad, but only in the Monad. They were called Patripassians, because they held that as Christ is only God in human form, and this God suffers, therefore the Father suffers. Knight, Colloquia Peripatetica, xlii, suggests a connection between Sabellianism and Emanationism. See this Compendium, on Theories, which oppose Creation.
A view, similar to that of Sabellius, was held by Horace Bushnell, in his God in Christ, 113-115, 130 sq ., 172-175, and Christ in Theology, 119, 120 ? ?Father, Son and Holy Spirit, being incidental to the revelation of God, may be and probably are from eternity to eternity, inasmuch as God may have revealed himself from eternity, and certainly will reveal himself so long as there are minds to know him. It may be, in fact, the nature of God to reveal himself, as truly as it is of the sun to shine or of living mind to think.? He does not deny the immanent Trinity, but simply says we know nothing about it. Yet a Trinity of Persons in the divine essence itself he called plain tri-theism. He prefers instrumental Trinity? to ??modal Trinity? as a designation of his doctrine. The difference between Bushnell on the one hand, and Sabellius and Schleiermacher on the other, seems then to be the following: Sabellius and Schleiermacher hold that the One becomes three in the process of revelation, and the three are only media or modes of revelation. Father, Son, and Spirit are mere names applied to these modes of the divine action, there being no internal distinctions in the divine nature. This is modalism, or a modal Trinity. Bushnell stands by the Trinity of revelation alone, and protests against any constructive reasoning with regard to the immanent Trinity. Yet in his later writings he
<- Previous Table of Contents Next ->
Was this article helpful?