The JWs’ Modalism Mistake.

Trinitarians reject Modalism

As I read more and more documents, Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic, about what these Christians believed about the nature of God, the more I realized how mistaken JWs are when they try to characterize what it is Protestant, Orthodox and Catholic Christians believe about the nature of God.  For example in the Watchtower publication known as Reasoning from the Scriptures on page 405 it says the following about how Christians explain the Trinity doctrine:

“According to the Athanasian Creed, there are three divine Persons (the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost), each said to be eternal, each said to be almighty, none greater or less than another, each said to be God, and yet together being but one God. Other statements of the dogma emphasize that these three “Persons” are not separate and distinct individuals but are three modes in which the divine essence exists.”

The latter part of the quote above which says that some Trinitarians believe that the “Persons” of the Blessed Trinity are not ‘separate and distinct individuals but are three modes in which the divine essence exists’, is not an accurate representation of the Trinity doctrine but it is an accurate description of another doctrine regarding the nature of God known as Modalism.

Modalism is described as a heresy by the Protestant Theologian Dr. Robert Morey in his book The Trinity-Evidence and Issues.  He describes what Modalism is on page 507:

“From the beginning, Modalism was based on the Platonic doctrine that God was an indivisible Monad and could not be divided into three separate Persons.  Thus, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not to be viewed as three distinct Persons, but as three different manifestations, modes, administrations, disguises, roles, or offices of one and the same Person.”

Also, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says the following in paragraph 254:

“The divine persons are really distinct from one another.  God is one but not solitary. “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: “He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.” They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: “It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.” The divine Unity is Triune.”

So, in reality then, neither mainstream Protestant, Orthodox, nor Catholic scholars believe that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are the same person.  This means that much of the arguments that the JWs believe they are making against the Trinity doctrine are really arguments being made against the heresy of Modalism.  For example, in the book You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth on page 39 under the subheading IS GOD JESUS OR A TRINITY? it says:

“Further, on one occasion Jesus prayed to God, saying: “Let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) If Jesus were the Almighty God, he would not have prayed to himself, would he?”

This question may cause a problem for a person who believes in Modalism and but it does not for a Trinitarian.  For the Trinitarian, Jesus is praying to God the Father who is a separate person from the Son.  However, Trinitarians do believe that Jesus, as God’s Son, has all of the qualities and attributes of God the Father and is, Almighty God by nature in a similar manner as a human child has all of the qualities of his human parents and is human by nature.

One of the many problems that I began to discover when accepting the JWs’ view of the nature of God is that I started seeing some serious contradictions between the Old and New Testaments when it came to dealing with the revelation about God’s nature.  I will explore this next.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by fisherofmen on October 18, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Jeff,
    Very succinctly put. The JW explanation of TRINITY serves to cloud the Catholic teaching. It is very difficult to call the deception anything less than deliberate.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Nicholas on October 19, 2010 at 1:18 am

    I have very minor quibble with, “similar manner as a human child has all of the qualities of his human parents and is human by nature.” I know its a common argument but it isn’t quite right since it leads to the other heresy, polytheism. I’m fond of the rock argument myself:
    * We must not dispute that there are 0 to many personalities associated with one essence
    * A rock has no personality
    * A rock has one essence
    * A human has one personality and one essence
    * It is reasonable that some essences may have more

    This avoids, to some extent, the multi-headed monster counter argument.

    Reply

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