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Unread 01-13-2005, 11:14 PM   #1
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Evangelicalism and Christology/Trinitarianism

Isaac said this in another thread:

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Because the Nestorians were arguing that the man Jesus and his Divine Nature were two seperate persons, and that Mary only bore the man Jesus, and not his Divinity. Even today, the Nestorian churches (mostly in Iraq and the Levant) up hold this doctrine by calling Mary the Mother of Jesus. It really isn't an issue in the Western Church precisely because the Church affirmed Mary as the Theotokos.
I have been thinking for quite some time that it seems modern evangelicalism doesn't really have a very good grasp of orthodox Christology and Trinitarianism, and I suppose this may be why. Because I guess the spirit of American Christianity hasn't really been one of retaining orthodox creedology, it seems like our conception has faltered in a way. I'm not saying it is heretical, but when issues like modalism come up, it doesn't seem like we have a firm grasp on orthodoxy to oppose such doctrines, and the only reason doctrines like that gain popular is because of a general lack of respect for the authority of orthodoxy.
I also gather this from the analogies and ways I have heard the trinity and Christology taught on, some of which, albeit unintentionally, have come very close to heresy.

Any thoughts?

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Unread 01-13-2005, 11:26 PM   #2
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yeah... definately agree. I almost got creamed by some mormans with their ideas of the trinity. I ended up finding ot the analogies I was using was unintentionally close if not heretical. I had to do some crazy research to get me out of the hole I dug for myself and found out the easy way of teaching it to people is pretty much wrong. It's hard to explain. :-\

Sadly, I'm slightly weary of going into another one of those debates. It's really hard to prove the Trinity because we can never fully understand the concept in the first place and it seems like it's not taught well enough or ever explained well enough. I duno... but I def agree with you.
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Unread 01-13-2005, 11:55 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JESOd
yeah... definately agree. I almost got creamed by some mormans with their ideas of the trinity. I ended up finding ot the analogies I was using was unintentionally close if not heretical. I had to do some crazy research to get me out of the hole I dug for myself and found out the easy way of teaching it to people is pretty much wrong. It's hard to explain. :-\
Can you explain what you mean by the easy way?

I am asking to make sure I haven't taught or will not in the future teach it if it is heretical.
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Unread 01-14-2005, 12:02 AM   #4
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My only real thought on this subject is that I have been accused of being a modalist before (on these boards, no less), and, therefore, I obviously must not submit to the authority of orthodoxy (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean).

My authority is Scripture and Scripture alone, and I explain / envision the Trinity (and all other Christian concepts) as they appear to me in Scripture.

*takes one more step down the road away from orthodoxy, or so it seems*

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Unread 01-14-2005, 01:36 AM   #5
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Could you explain your idea of the trinity so we can see if it is actually modalism or not?
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Unread 01-14-2005, 08:52 AM   #6
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Right now in my Master's program I am starting a course on the Trinity which traces the history of the doctrine and culminating in modern Trinitarian theories. One of the books we are reading (btw, it is known as one of the best on the Trinity), God For Us has a very interesting thesis for why people really don't seem to care much about the Trinity any more:

After Nicea, slowly, the Trinity became a metaphysical question in which people tried to figure out the intradivine relationships (i.e. Son begotten by the father, HS proceeding from Father (and Son)) for its own sake. However, in early thought, the Trinity was always discussed economically, as in the economy of salvation; If the Trinity is to be relevant for Christians today we have to develop the fact that we are save through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. After establishing the economic function of the Trinity, we can try to discuss who this God is who saves us (the intradivine relationship) but that must never become separated from the economy of salvation; economic Trinity=immanent Trinity.


As for Christology, I think that most modern day evangelicals/fundamentalists basically ignore Christ's humanity, and treat Christ like God simply veiled in flesh (rather than truly human); incidently, most liberal Christians focus solely on Christ's humanity, either ignoring, assenting to a convoluted form of, or outright rejecting his divinity.

As for analogies, I think that there is some value in them. For instance, to show someone the difference between separate and distinct (there are 3 distinct, not separate, persons of the Trinity). For instance, take a chocolate bar. It is a bar and it is chocalate; these are two distinct but separable things. However, this is a very limited analogy and basicallly only shows that something can be distinct but not separate. The problem with analogies is when someone thinks they can explain the Trinity outright and that generally leads to tritheism or modalism.
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Unread 01-14-2005, 11:04 AM   #7
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Quote:
Right now in my Master's program I am starting a course on the Trinity which traces the history of the doctrine and culminating in modern Trinitarian theories. One of the books we are reading (btw, it is known as one of the best on the Trinity), God For Us has a very interesting thesis for why people really don't seem to care much about the Trinity any more:

After Nicea, slowly, the Trinity became a metaphysical question in which people tried to figure out the intradivine relationships (i.e. Son begotten by the father, HS proceeding from Father (and Son)) for its own sake. However, in early thought, the Trinity was always discussed economically, as in the economy of salvation; If the Trinity is to be relevant for Christians today we have to develop the fact that we are save through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. After establishing the economic function of the Trinity, we can try to discuss who this God is who saves us (the intradivine relationship) but that must never become separated from the economy of salvation; economic Trinity=immanent Trinity.
In my limited experience, I agree. Ralph Smith has written some books on the subject that seem very good:

http://www.cmfnow.com/product.asp?3=10726

http://www.cmfnow.com/product.asp?3=10203



Quote:
As for Christology, I think that most modern day evangelicals/fundamentalists basically ignore Christ's humanity, and treat Christ like God simply veiled in flesh (rather than truly human); incidently, most liberal Christians focus solely on Christ's humanity, either ignoring, assenting to a convoluted form of, or outright rejecting his divinity.
In a way, yes, but I think it's more based on a sort of mild eutychanism (if I spelled that right). The whole, "Christ is 100% man and 100% God, and we can't understand how that works" is about how deep it gets in my experience, and from this we get things like Christ forsaking divine attributes in order to become human, which only makes sense if Christ has one nature that has to choose between divine or human attributes. So, I see a sort of unconscious, unintentional blending of Christ's nature, with a sort of emphasis on the importance of Him being God, and an emphasis on Him being man in that He had to give up part of His divinity to become so. Therefore, the importance of the Incarnation is lowered, and His power and divinity while on earth is partly removed.
So, I agree that they view Him, to an extent, as God veiled in flesh, but in doing so, they seem to say that this veil removes or temporarily hides part of His divinity because they don't seem to actually, practically affirm two distinct natures of Christ. At least that's the impression I get.

Quote:
As for analogies, I think that there is some value in them. For instance, to show someone the difference between separate and distinct (there are 3 distinct, not separate, persons of the Trinity). For instance, take a chocolate bar. It is a bar and it is chocalate; these are two distinct but separable things. However, this is a very limited analogy and basicallly only shows that something can be distinct but not separate. The problem with analogies is when someone thinks they can explain the Trinity outright and that generally leads to tritheism or modalism.
Agreed. They have their uses, but have to be used carefully and with many qualifications.
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Unread 01-14-2005, 12:32 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by +Donny
Could you explain your idea of the trinity so we can see if it is actually modalism or not?
Not really, seeing as I don't give much thought to it anymore after being labelled a heretic for not phrasing things properly. It really pissed me off, and I don't talk much about the nature of the Trinity anymore.
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Unread 01-14-2005, 12:38 PM   #9
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I don't feel like writing anything else out... so I went and found the post for which I was labelled a modalist. Here it is:

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Originally Posted by Nate
There is no God but God. (Isaiah 45:5, 21-22)

God is one God. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

God has three personal manifestations; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 28:19)

The Father is God. (Ephesians 5:20; and Colossians 3:17)

The Son, Jesus, is God. (John 1:1, 14; and John 5:18)

The Holy Spirit is God. (Can't think of or find any references right now... sorry)

All three manifestations are equally and fully God. The three do not have to be "put together" to make up the Godhead, nor are they distinct or seperate from one another; because each of them is identical in nature and essence to the others, because each of them is God, and because God is one.

The trinity, as it is called, is simply God and the three personal manifestations He has chosen to employ in revealing Himself to His creation.
Even though that post was nearly three years ago, all of it still makes sense to me, and I'm pretty sure that I still believe all of it. Perhaps some things are not worded in the clearest manner possible, but I really don't feel like trying to reword it.

Regardless, I'm officially to the point where I am tired of trying to explain various paradoxes within Christianity. A paradox is not supposed to be understood. That's the whole freaking point. We aren't supposed to understand how one can be three, or how three can be one. We're just supposed to accept it, damn it.

In His love,
Nate
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Unread 01-14-2005, 01:56 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate
I don't feel like writing anything else out... so I went and found the post for which I was labelled a modalist. Here it is:

Even though that post was nearly three years ago, all of it still makes sense to me, and I'm pretty sure that I still believe all of it. Perhaps some things are not worded in the clearest manner possible, but I really don't feel like trying to reword it.

Regardless, I'm officially to the point where I am tired of trying to explain various paradoxes within Christianity. A paradox is not supposed to be understood. That's the whole freaking point. We aren't supposed to understand how one can be three, or how three can be one. We're just supposed to accept it, damn it.

In His love,
Nate
The bolded portion below is what gets you labeled as a Modalist:

All three manifestations are equally and fully God. The three do not have to be "put together" to make up the Godhead, nor are they distinct or seperate from one another; because each of them is identical in nature and essence to the others, because each of them is God, and because God is one.

If that is the case, then God can (and might) appear to us in a different 'mode'. He may decide to be an elephant this time or a bird. The great mystery is really how God can be separate and distinct and yet still one. What you describe is more of a sort of bag of tricks God where He can shapeshift.

BTW, everything else you said was great in my mind. A lot closer to historical orthodoxy than many other veins.
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Unread 01-14-2005, 02:18 PM   #11
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If that is the case, then God can (and might) appear to us in a different 'mode'. He may decide to be an elephant this time or a bird.
Why not, I ask? Simply because God has revealed Himself to us as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not necessitate that that revelation exhausts His nature / character, does it? Even in the Bible, there are times when the "Angel of the Lord" appears not to be an angel at all, but a sort of pre-incarnation of Jesus Christ. Is this figure Christ or not? If it is God (as many scholars believe), then you've got to pin it down as either the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, but it doesn't really seem to fit any of the three.

I understand the terrible pitfalls that such thinking could find one in (i.e. thinking that God actually had appeared as an elephant or a bird, when it was fairly clear that He had not; throwing around crazy new age nonsense about everything being a revelation of God; etc)... but I don't see how the thinking, in and of itself, is heretical or anti-Scriptural. There is no clear Scriptural mandate that the Trinity is "the only way it is." In Genesis, God simply says "let us," and we're left to fill in the blanks.

The whole distinction / separation issue is another interesting one to me. Obviously, Jesus n the Gospels seems to draw a distinction between Himself and the Father... but then, just as He ascends into heaven, He tells His disciples that He will be "with them always." How are we to take this? He's already mentioned that the Comforter (whom we know as the Holy Spirit) would come, but then He says that He will remain and be with them. How is this, unless the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are somehow one and the same? Doesn't this defeat what someone quoted Luke as saying? Namely, "The Son is not the Holy Spirit," or something to that effect. How is Jesus with us if not through the Holy Spirit?

Oh well... consider me anathema, I guess. But I'd rather be a modalist than a polytheist.

In His love,
Nate
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Unread 01-14-2005, 02:42 PM   #12
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Are these three "manifestations" all present at the same time?
Is the Father the Son? Is the Son the Spirit? Is the Father the Spirit?
Is there an authority structure among the members of the trinity (namely, the Spirit->Christ->the Father)?

It is possible that you just worded it in a crappy way and you aren't actually advocating anything heretical.

Also, do you agree with this:

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 his 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 Ghost 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 sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both 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 proceedeth from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe 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.
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Unread 01-14-2005, 02:55 PM   #13
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Quote:
How is Jesus with us if not through the Holy Spirit?
Jesus being with us through the Spirit is different than Jesus being the Spirit.
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Unread 01-14-2005, 03:57 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate
Why not, I ask? Simply because God has revealed Himself to us as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not necessitate that that revelation exhausts His nature / character, does it? Even in the Bible, there are times when the "Angel of the Lord" appears not to be an angel at all, but a sort of pre-incarnation of Jesus Christ. Is this figure Christ or not? If it is God (as many scholars believe), then you've got to pin it down as either the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, but it doesn't really seem to fit any of the three.

I understand the terrible pitfalls that such thinking could find one in (i.e. thinking that God actually had appeared as an elephant or a bird, when it was fairly clear that He had not; throwing around crazy new age nonsense about everything being a revelation of God; etc)... but I don't see how the thinking, in and of itself, is heretical or anti-Scriptural. There is no clear Scriptural mandate that the Trinity is "the only way it is." In Genesis, God simply says "let us," and we're left to fill in the blanks.

The whole distinction / separation issue is another interesting one to me. Obviously, Jesus n the Gospels seems to draw a distinction between Himself and the Father... but then, just as He ascends into heaven, He tells His disciples that He will be "with them always." How are we to take this? He's already mentioned that the Comforter (whom we know as the Holy Spirit) would come, but then He says that He will remain and be with them. How is this, unless the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are somehow one and the same? Doesn't this defeat what someone quoted Luke as saying? Namely, "The Son is not the Holy Spirit," or something to that effect. How is Jesus with us if not through the Holy Spirit?

Oh well... consider me anathema, I guess. But I'd rather be a modalist than a polytheist.

In His love,
Nate
Simple question: Who was Christ praying to if he and the Father were not separate and distinct?
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Unread 01-14-2005, 04:39 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nate
My only real thought on this subject is that I have been accused of being a modalist before (on these boards, no less), and, therefore, I obviously must not submit to the authority of orthodoxy (whatever the hell that's supposed to mean).

My authority is Scripture and Scripture alone, and I explain / envision the Trinity (and all other Christian concepts) as they appear to me in Scripture.

*takes one more step down the road away from orthodoxy, or so it seems*

In His love,
Nate
So you're not operating under the definition of Sola Scriptura as the Reformers taught it, then? What you're espousing sounds more like Solo Scriptura
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