Church Education Trust

Christian Belief

ST004/5 Unscriptural Theories.


Unscriptural Theories.

(a) Sabellianism.

Sabellianism takes its name from Sabellius who was Presbyter of Ptolemais in Pentapolis (c.250-260 a.d.). He held that there were not three Persons in the Godhead, but that God merely manifested Himself in three different forms. He was Father in the Old Testament, the Son in the Incarcation and the Holy Spirit in the life and work of the Church.

This is called a modal theory of the Trinity and it can easily be soon that it is not truly a Trinity at all in being but only a Trinity of manifestations. On this basis it is hard to understand how the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, could have spoken to the Father during His earthly life.

(b) Arianism.

Arius (256-336) was a presbyter in the church at Alexandria and held an important position there. In seeking to explain the Trinity he maintained that Christ was the incarnation of the Logos or Word, who was pre-existent.

Though, however, He was pre-existent, He was not eternal; He was the first and highest creation of God and therefore was a creature and of a different essence from the Father. He was only like God. The Christian church realised that this was quite contrary to any true understanding of the Trinity and to Scripture teaching concerning Christ. The controversy went on for many years.

  • There were four main parties.

The Orthodox Party, called the Homoiousians, who said that Christ was of one substance with the Father.

The Semi- Arians, called the Homoiousians, who said that He was of like substance.

The Arians, called the Homoeanss who merely stated vaguely that Christ was like the Father.

The Ultra Arians, called the Anomoeans, who baldly said He was unlike the Father.

It was finally seen that the only possible position to take scripturally was that Christ was of the same nature and essence as the Father.

c. Concluding Remarks concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity.

We have already stated that the doctrine of the Trinity is not merely the result of philosophical reasoning, nor is it merely speculative. It is a practical doctrine forced upon us by our own spiritual experience and by the plain statements of Scripture. It goes without question that the Scriptures teach first that there is but one God; but also that to both the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are ascribed the attributes, titles and predicates that only belong to this one true God.

We must acknowledge the mystery that lies in the being of God and bow in worship before the "Unity in Trinity and Trinity in Unity", even though with our finite minds we do not fully comprehend it. Berkhof writes in this connection that the Trinity is "the incomprehensible glory of the Godhead. Just as human nature is too rich and too full to be embodied in a single individual, and comes to its adequate expression only in humanity as a whole so the divine Being unfolds itself in its fulness only in its threefold subsistence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (Syst,Thool.p.8S).

Three other quotations will form a suitable conclusions,

  • "The Trinity is a mystery, not merely in the Biblical sense that it is a truth, which was formerly hidden but is now revealed; but in the sense that man cannot comprehend it and make it intelligible. It is intelligible in some of its relations and modes of manifestation; but unintelligible in its essential nature. The many efforts that were made to explain the mystery were speculative rather than theological. They invariably resulted in the development of tritheistic or modalistic conceptions of God in the denial of either the unity of the divine essence or the reality of the personal distinctions within the essence. The real difficulty lies in the relation in which the persons in the Godhead stand to the divine essence and to one another; and this is a difficulty which the Church cannot remove, but only try to reduce to its proper proportion by a proper definition of terms. It has never tried to explain the mystery of the Trinity but only sought to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity in such a manner that the errors which enhngered it were warded off". (Borkhof,Syst.Thool.p.89).

  • "The Bible doctrine of the Trinity is one of those sublime and glorious mysteries which the mind of ran, at least while shrouded in clays cannot penetrate. We study and meditate till lost in thought, yet never can we comprehend the mode and nature of the Divine Being." (Ralston., Elements of Divinity.p.65).

  • "It is well to be familiar with the terms that express the relation of the One to the Three in One. No thoughtful student will either discard or undervalue them. The Deity is the Divine Essence or Substance of Nature; the Three are Subsistencies, Hypostases and Persons......One of the results of careful and reverent study will be the discipline that shall make every word faithful to the equal honour of each of the Adorable Persons in the unity of the other two, and in the unity of the Godhead, adoring and praying to each with this sacred reservation." (Dr. Pope, Comp.of Christ.Theol.I.p.286).

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