Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.


  1. The Genesis of Eternal Subordinationism — Part III of Tim Keller on Sex | bWe Baptist Women for Equality's Blog
    March 11, 2016 @ 10:32 pm

    […] view include Unitarianism (directly denies that Jesus is fully God in all His fullness) and Modalism (denies personhood to the Divine Three and views each manifestation of God as separate modes — […]


  2. Mark James
    September 17, 2014 @ 11:44 pm

    I would argue that the :concurrent noumenal modalist” is the “mystical” position. Here I am thinking of individuals like Shankara that hold to concepts like the svarupa-lakshana of the Brahman, which is the Brahman in its noumenal aspect of sat, chit, and ananda (being, consciousness, and bliss), and the idea of a tatastha-lakshana, which are accidental and indirect attributes that we would “know” through a variety of God-forms. The same could also be said of the Sufi Ibn-Arabi.

    “Ibn Arabi regarded the idols worshipped by Noah’s people as divine deities. Allah condemned their deed saying: “And they (Noah’s people) said, ‘Do not abandon your gods, neither Wad, Suwa’, Yaghooth, Ya’ooq nor Nasr’. ” [71: 23] On which Ibn Arabi commented: “If they (Noah’s people) had abandoned them, they would have become ignorant of the Reality … for in every object of worship there is a reflection of Reality, whether it be recognised or not.” ”

    He states that “the Reality” is known through these ancient Arab pagan deities. I don’t think he believes that are ultimately real, they are just an indirect way for man to understand “the Real/ity”. What is noumenal would be the Real, whereas what is phenomenal would be these indirect attributes to understand the Real. I suppose Wadd was seen in the image of a man representing manly power, Suwa seen in the image of a woman indicating mutability or beauty, Yaguth in the image of a lion or bull signifying brute strength, Ya’uq in the form of a horse signifying swiftness, and Nasr in the form of a eagle, vulture, or falcon signifying sharp sight or insight. It could be that these “pagan deities” were a way to understand the phenomenal aspect of the Real, whereas the noumenal aspect still held to the concept of the Divine Unity of the Real.

    I believe there is an article titled, “The Many Gods of Hick and Mavrodes”, with a response by John Hick that articulates this position. He uses a Kantian method to articulate his position. The many gods are phenomenal, the Real is noumenal.


  3. Mike Conn
    July 26, 2014 @ 10:05 am

    Dear Fred and Dale:

    I am a Oneness Pentecostal (UPC) and am seeing the fallacy of Modalism. However, I feel there is another option other than three Persons or Trinitarianism. Please give me your opinion of my “new” theory, for in my opinion it is neither Modalism nor Trinitarianism.

    By the way, Dale your illustration in the above article are hilarious. Thank you for your thoughts on Modalism. I loved it!


    In the world of religious discussion a controversy has loomed for two millennia that has centered on the identity of the “Son” and the “Holy Ghost.” What did the writers of the New Testament mean when they referred to the “Son” and the “Holy Ghost?” Are they Person’s, Deities, Gods, manifestations or offices? There is no question about God the Father. He is the one and only God “from whom all blessings flow.” He is God without question. However, some have elevated the Son and Holy Ghost to the same level with the Father. The Doctrine of the Trinity was formed in order to disprove a heresy that doubted the deity of Jesus, thus it was formed to include Son and Holy Ghost in an eternal, heavenly unit of divine Persons who are thought to be coequal Persons. Yet how could the idea of plural deities be reconciled with Deuteronomy 6:4 and the Jewish monotheistic motif of the Old Testament?
    The subject of the Godhead becomes less difficult when the humanity of Jesus is given its proper place. He is supposed to be center stage, for He is the main character in the plan of redemption. Mary’s baby is the central theme of the entire Bible (John 5:39, Luke 24:27). He has been given “all power” in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18), a “name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9), and has “preeminence” over “all things” (Colossians 1:18). Yet, the humanity of the Son is one of the most neglected subjects in the bible. This means that without a clear view of the humanity of Jesus clarity goes out the window and ambiguity takes over.
    The Incarnation involved the entirety of the “man Christ Jesus” and that would include both flesh and spirit united with the Father. Therefore the office of the Son is not a separate deity but the glorified and resurrected human body of the “man Christ Jesus.” To this man was given “all power” in heaven and earth. He is the human representative of God to the entire Creation. He who was “made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4), and was the “only begotten” of the Father (John 1:14) and the “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15 NLT) who also “sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command” (Hebrews 1:3 NLT); represents us before the throne of God. As a glorified human being He sets on His Father’s throne in the heavenlies and reigns supremely over the entire Creation (Revelation 3:12). Yet, the Son is not a separate deity from the Father but derives His power and authority from God the Father. Jesus, the Son, is the glorified human body of Jesus that was eternally joined to God the Father at His birth in Bethlehem. This unity of humanity and deity in heaven is similar to when He was on earth (Hebrews 13:8). Yet now He has the colossal task of representing His followers before the Judge of all the earth, pleading for mercy and grace and making intercession for them (Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25, Revelation 2:5). This human “mediator” (I Timothy 2:5) will continue in this office until “he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power” and “all enemies” are made subject to Him (I Corinthians 15:24-28). Any speculation that the Son is a separate deity from the Father has absolutely no biblical bases. The concept of co-equality between Father and Son are canceled out by the fact that Jesus the Son was given “all power” in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:19).
    The “Holy Ghost” is the human spirit of the “man Christ Jesus” joined to the Spirit of God. The fact that His human spirit was just as much a part of the Incarnation as was His physical body is often overlooked. Yet it is evident that Jesus had a human spirit and that human spirit has just as big a part to play in our salvation, as does Jesus’ human body. Jesus was “in all things … made like unto his brethren” (Hebrews 2:17). And since every other human being has a human spirit there is no reason to doubt the reality of the wholeness of Jesus’ humanity. The Bible says He “grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40), He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He “learned obedience” by the things He suffered (Hebrews 5:8) and “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). One author said, “In every way that we humans can speak of our humanity and our relationship to God, so could Jesus, except for sin” (UPCI Manual p. 174).
    Then after submitting to His Father’s will and enduring the death of a criminal, the spirit of Jesus was given to God on the cross. One of His last utterances while on the cross was “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46). This perfected human spirit, which had already been made one with the Spirit of God, was then given at Pentecost and now dwells in all believers (Acts 2). Like a vaccine injection prevents infection and disease so the human spirit of Jesus also overcomes all spiritual disease in the believers life. Thus our salvation involves being filled with both the human spirit of Jesus and the eternal Spirit of God that are not two Spirits but one. Perhaps this is the reason the plural pronouns “we” and “our” are used in John 14:23, but it is not plural deities. The Incarnation consists of one God and one man, which have been made ONE.
    The “Holy Ghost” could not be given before Christ’s death and resurrection (John 7:39) because it involved the human ingredient of Jesus’ perfected human spirit. The post-resurrection “Holy Ghost” was somewhat different that the pre-resurrection “Holy Ghost.” Or John would have never given us that detail (John 7:39). As God waited until the “man Christ Jesus” experienced life on earth to send this experience, so God has made available a spiritual experience that would turn lost sinners into “new creatures.” This was similar to the days of Noah when the Spirit of God “waited” for the Ark to be built (I Peter 3:20). Likewise, God waited for the perfection of His Son and sent forth the “Spirit of the Son” into our hearts to help and comfort us in all the concerns of this earthly life (Galatians 4:6).

    This explains how the process of the Spirit of the Son makes intercession through us to the Father (Romans 8:26-27). Otherwise if the Holy Ghost would be the Father making intercession to the Father then we would have a major contradiction. The ingredient of the human spirit of Jesus contributes to the effectiveness of the post-resurrection Holy Ghost.
    Because of the Incarnation, God knows the sufferings of his people and how to comfort them. After the sufferings of Jesus were completed He become the universal Mediator, and that mediation is two fold. Mediation for us occurs when the “Son” intercedes to the Father in our behalf (I John 2:1, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 7:25) and when the “Spirit” divinely enables the believer to pray according to the “will of God” (Romans 8:26-27). And through the human “conscience,” the Holy Ghost is continually “bearing witness” by either “accusing or else excusing” what the believer says and does (Romans 2:15). This “accusing” and “excusing” indicates spiritual guidance that was an attribute of the Comforter (John 16:13) and is similar to our being “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14). This is why we are warned to never “grieve” the Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) or “quench the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:19), for in doing so we interrupt the mediation process.
    A good description of how mediation works was given by Job when He wished for a “daysman,” or a mediator that would “lay his hand” on “both” God and Job (Job 9:33). From this we understand that Jesus has one hand on God in heaven and the other hand on believers on earth. Yet, this in no way indicates a plurality of divinities but the remarkable works of a sovereign God and the bringing forth of a “great salvation” that is also our Comforter (John 14:16). The human Spirit of Jesus and the fleshly body of Jesus became the two arms of Jehovah that reached for a world of lost sinners. What an awesome God!

    “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

    Obviously it would be unbiblical to say the “Holy Ghost” is entirely of human origin because it is the eternal Spirit of God. Yet, Paul said,
    “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).
    Paul also said, “he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit” (I Corinthians 6:17). Therefore if ordinary believers are “joined” to the Lord at the New Birth, then how much more was Jesus? Thus when Jesus was faced with death on the cross, He totally submitted His will to God and died. At that point He was “perfected” (Luke 13:32). He who had already been “joined unto the Lord” and “learned obedience” through suffering (Hebrews 5:8) now became part of the omnipresent Spirit of God. This new ingredient brought about a new title for the Spirit of God. Among other things the Spirit of God now became the “Comforter.” However, this “Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost” (John 14:26) could not be given until after Jesus’ resurrection (John 7:39) which indicates that it had the additional element of the perfected and obedient human spirit of Jesus enabling us to cry “Abba Father” in submission. Thus the Incarnation (the Spirit of God and the perfected human spirit of Jesus) was sent to the Church at Pentecost and fulfills Jesus statement, I dwell with you now but hereafter I “shall be in you” (John 14:17) and “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18).
    This “joining” of God’s Spirit to the humanity of Jesus would be similar to the joining God’s Spirit with other men in the Bible and then given to others. In the Old Testament there were two events where the scripture states that God took a man’s spirit and placed it on others. This happened in the lives of Moses (Numbers 11) and Elijah II Kings 2. When the 70 elders of Israel were moved upon by the “spirit” of Moses, they prophesied and when Elisha received the “spirit of Elijah” he was able to do great things. Obviously, the human spirits of both Elijah and Moses were also anointed by the Spirit of God and this anointing came upon the people who received it as well. Yet neither Moses nor Elijah became separate heavenly deities. Nor did this process indicated plural Persons.
    Even after Jesus’ perfection and the Spirit of God was miraculously joined with the human spirit of the “man Christ Jesus” it was still referred to as the “Spirit of God” (I Corinthians 3:16), but also “Holy Ghost” (John 7:39), “Holy Spirit” (Luke 11:13, Ephesians 1:13, 4:30, I Timothy 4:8), “Comforter” (John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7), “Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), “Spirit of Christ” (Romans 8:9, I Peter 1:11), “Spirit of the living God” (II Corinthians 3:3) “Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19), “Spirit of his Son” (Galatians 4:6), “spirit of glory and of God” (I Peter 4:14).
    Those people who received the Spirit at Pentecost were given a better salvation than in the Old Testament. The addition of the human “spirit of Jesus” constituted a better salvation for New Testament saints, for they were comforted with a better Comforter. New Testament salvation happens when the believer is made a member of Christ’s body and the believer is “joined” to the Lord “by one Spirit,” “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (I Corinthians 12:13). This happened on the Day of Pentecost and when the words of Peter were obeyed (Acts 2:38).
    Thus it is clear that the Son and Holy Ghost are not Divine Persons at all but manifestations or offices of the one true God. This provision of grace is part of the “great salvation” provided by the joining of God the Father with a man who had both a human body and a human spirit that was sacrificially given for the purpose of redemption.

    “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6).

    “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19).

    “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9).


  4. Dale
    May 21, 2013 @ 1:08 pm

    Hi Pat,

    Thanks for your comment.

    If I understand you, you believe in one “universal” (a set of essential characteristics – humanity) which is wholly present in every human. This theory, deriving from Plato, is held my many philosophers (although not me). So too, you hold that another universal is divinity, which is wholly present in three different beings.

    But that makes three (true) gods, though they cooperate. How you you square that the Bible’s teaching that there is one true God, and that this is the Father?


  5. pat
    May 21, 2013 @ 12:55 pm

    I’ve understood the Trinity by looking at the humans in the world. There is only one human entity, or the “thing” (substance) that makes a creature a human instead of a bear or cat, etc. This is why the Bible never goes out of style and is appropriate and applicable to all ages, nationalities, cultures, etc.

    But, there are about 7 billion people in the world, and, even though two of them may assemble widgets in a factory, one will do it efficiently with his knowledge of shortcuts, and the other may do it efficiently with his experience of having assembled widgets for 30 years. These two are identical in that one human “thing,” regardless of whatever their jobs may be in life, but they are totally different in the working of the same job. However, their purpose for performing the job in their own ways is the same, namely, to produce a product that sells and is a service for the customer.

    We know God’s characteristics involve love, peace, joy, holiness, etc. These are the things that Jesus had even while on earth. He set aside the other characteristics of omnipresence, omniscience, immensity, etc. and became a servant, as indicated in Philippians 2.

    Therefore, the Trinity to me is that there are three Persons who possess from eternity all those characteristics that make each true God, as opposed to any false god or to anything or anyone that would be called god. They operate together and individually for the purposes of God. Jesus is the unique Person, because He could have taken the authority of God back at any time, but He chose to accomplish His Father’s will for mankind (love, which contained forgiveness, joy, holiness, salvation, eternal life….all that Adam and Eve lost by their disobedience, and additonal items which Adam and Eve never were able to obtain).


  6. Orthodox modalism (Dale) » trinities
    August 1, 2012 @ 5:42 am

    […] Jakes, God just is a certain great self, who eternally lives in three ways. It seems he is a noumenal, eternally concurrent FSH […]


  7. “Sabellianism Reconsidered” Considered – Part 2 (Dale) » trinities
    April 5, 2012 @ 6:40 am

    […] “Sabellianism”, according to Baber? It is what I’ve called serial, non-essential FSH noumenal modalism – each “person” of the Trinty is a mode of God, a way God is during a period of time. […]


  8. Is the Pope a Modalist? (Dale) » trinities
    December 31, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    […] First, a few clarifications. By “modalist” I do not mean “Sabellian” or “monarchian.” (Those ancient catholics probably did hold to various forms of modalism, but the term is not a historical one, and can refer to other views which probably no ancient person held.) Nor do I mean modalism by definition to be heretical relative to orthodox/catholic creeds. What I mean is that at least one of these – Father, Son, Spirit – is a mode of the one God, in some sense a way that God is. That last phrase is deliberately ambiguous. […]


  9. Andrea
    June 17, 2011 @ 9:59 am

    Scripture says that there are two gods. The first is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The other is the god of this world, the devil. God via the scriptures tells us to have no other gods, before him. Hence there are other gods, but only one true God. One.
    Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten son, perfect sperm created by God who, with permission, impregnated a human egg in Mary. Jesus has pure blood uncontaminated blood that coursed through a human body, a body that felt pain, experienced anguish and joy. Jesus Christ was a man, the second Adam who also was a man, so says the scripture. Both had freewill to choose to walk in righteousness with God, or not to. Jesus had freewill to do the will of his Father. Freewill cannot be left out of conversation. Lastly, I will ask the same question that my 5 year old nephew asked my mother who is a devote Catholic. Who killed God. Hum who kileed the Creator of all things, who killed the one who formed, made, and created everything? My mom was silent. Any takers on answering that question? Gretchen, perhaps? Let’s see, the mode died so that part of God was dead…


  10. trinities - Linkage: Trinity discussions @ Theologica (Dale)
    March 5, 2010 @ 5:57 am

    […] Events involving him? Parts of the one god? You’ll never know. But it looks like some form of eternally concurrent FSH modalism. Nothing unusual here – this is the norm in evangelical circles. If you’re a real […]


  11. Dale
    November 12, 2008 @ 9:43 am

    Paul – I hope, a lot of folk! Including Jesus.


  12. paul castaneda
    November 12, 2008 @ 2:26 am

    I have only one question to you trinities. Who will you see when you get to heaven?


  13. trinities - Linkage: Baptism in the NAME (Dale)
    May 15, 2008 @ 1:57 pm

    […] that the three modes are not held to be “intrinsic to God’s nature”. On that, see here, here, and here. Again, they complain that the new PC formulas employ “words of […]


  14. In Response… « Wise Serpents/Innocent Doves
    April 26, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

    […] Mr. Whitt is treating Trinitarians as abecedarians by stating “its very simple”, and associating the Trinity to an Abbot and Costtello, or musical chair caricature. The Trinity has been debated since the beginning of the church, so his point is not as simple as Eph 4:4-7 proving the Trinity inferior. I want to point out that the Oneness position has had its troubles defining itself through the course of church history. It is not a homogeneous movement in its view historically, nor theoretically (trinties.org). […]


  15. trinities - Reader Question About Modalism (Dale)
    January 11, 2008 @ 2:41 pm

    […] “modalism” isn’t some one theory, but it is rather a whole family of theories. We have to say what is a mode of what, and also what we mean by “mode”. So I talk […]


  16. Cliff
    November 26, 2007 @ 5:32 pm

    Here is what I used to believe:

    I used to believe there was one God. He sometimes is called Father, sometimes called Jesus, and sometimes called the Holy Spirit. And sometimes called all at the same time. In addition to existing outside of space / time he entered our world in physical form into a specific time as Jesus. In addition to his physical form he is simultaneously in all things in our time / reality while also being beyond time. I used to think the Trinity meant God manifesting himself simultaneously as God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit. I largely understood Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at Titles (as opposed to names). I also understood everything in terms of manifestations (Like Ice, Liquid Water, and Steam are all manifestations of H2O) I have never before had a problem with thinking God could manifest himself in all three forms at the same time. (In fact, I often wondered whether there are other forms we will never know about).

    To summarize: To me it’s been Titles (instead of Names) and Forms (instead of Modes). There is a prophecy in Isaiah about Jesus with a whole bunch of additional names (Redeemer, Father, etc).

    That’s what I used to believe until in discussion with someone I realized that’s not what the Trinity is supposed to be.

    So – what was it I was believing?

    As to what I believe now — I don’t honestly know.


  17. Dale
    November 7, 2007 @ 4:05 pm

    Hi Gretchen – thanks for your comments. Despite your apple analogy at the end (which I assume you’ll admit isn’t a very good analogy, as the mainstream tradition denies that the Persons are parts of God), I take it that you’re a FSH modalist – for you, each “person” of the Trinity is no more or less than a way in which God lives, or maybe a way in which he interacts. Is this right? If so, what do think of my theological objections to modalism about the Son, here?



  18. Gretchen
    November 7, 2007 @ 6:38 am

    Why is it so difficult for you to accept that God is one God existing in three separate persons, called THE GODHEAD? Even Jesus Himself was explaining the Godhead, when He gave His last Commandment to His Disciples in Matthew 28. There are so many examples in the Scriptures where it talks about the Godhead as being three separate beings that can have interaction with others, and each have a distinct job to do. Such as at Jesus’ Baptism, where we hear the voice of God the Father speaking to God, the Son, and we can see part of the personality of God the Spirit in the form of a dove. Again, when Jesus, the Son was in the garden praying, He was NOT praying to Himself, but to His Father, when He asks His Father (God) to please let the cup pass by Him. Or when Jesus Himself is on the cross cries out to His Father and ask the Father why has he Forsaken Him? If God existed in only modes of one person, how then can there be more than one mode being expressed at one time? There cannot be…. therefore.. the only explaination of the Godhead is as Tertullian called it THE Trinity or Tri-Unity or the Latin word for Trinitas as Three Persons in one essence… God! This is definitely a Monotheistic belief, if it were not it would be called Tritheism. However; Christians all over the world would deny that in the Godhead exists three separate Gods. But they would say there are three separate beings in one essence.. God. And all three beings exist at one time and are No Less God than any of the others. I like to give the example of an apple. Three parts, but one, Apple!!


  19. trinities - Trinity Monotheism part 2: their set-up, part 1
    June 9, 2007 @ 2:52 am

    […] seems to reduce to classical modalism.” (587) Well no, gents, not Sabellianism, but rather another kind of modalism, where the persons are eternal, intrinsic properties or aspects of […]


  20. yet more on Modes and Modalism: Barth and Letham at trinities
    February 1, 2007 @ 9:50 pm

    […] This definition / mini-lecture is unhelpfully metaphorical (”blurring or erasing”). Worse, it treats it as a matter of degree – as if “modalism” were not a claim or set of claims, but was rather some quality to some degree or other had by various writings. Worse, it seems to embody the error, common in theology, of thinking of modalism as simply phenomenal and/or serial modalism. This is confirmed, when he sort of defends Barth against the charge: In fact, [for Barth] God is eternally the Father, eternally the Son, and eternally the Spirit… Barth certainly does not consider himself to be a modalist. This is clear again when he firmly opposes any refusal to see that God’s self-revelation grants us access to God himself. (289) […]


  21. Islam-Inspired Modalism - Part 3 at trinities
    November 8, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

    […] Some statements which seem to imply something like eternally concurrent noumenal S- or FSH modalism. “To say ‘Jesus is Lord’ is the New Testament way of declaring the deity of Jesus Christ – of affirming his essential oneness with the Father.” (62) “…Jesus our Redeemer – is of the same essence as the Father. We are not talking about two different gods. We are talking about only one God, but this one God has forever known himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (65, italics are original emphasis) […]


  22. Islam-Inspired Modalism - Part 2 at trinities
    November 2, 2006 @ 9:09 pm

    […] Last time we looked at an exchange between Christian and Muslim apologists in the early 14th century, in which the Christian side, under pressure from longstanding Muslim accusations of polytheism, spells out the doctrine of the Trinity in a plainly modalistic way. This practice is ongoing, as we’ll see. […]


  23. Islam-Inspired Modalism - Part I at trinities
    October 27, 2006 @ 2:13 pm

    […] Wow. That’s straight up modalism, presumably noumenal, concurrent FSH modalism. To be most specific, each divine “person” is identified with a (timeless?) event, with God’s having a certain property – being a real thing (Father), being articulate (Son), and being alive (Spirit). The classic Muslim objection to trinitarianism is that it is simply a kind of polytheism. Note how neatly this move beats that objection! There’s only one God, only one divine Person here, who has three properties. This “victory” comes, though, at a heavy price. A couple of comments. First, I haven’t traced this modalistic move to its earliest known source in Christian-Muslim interaction, but I strongly suspect that it didn’t start with Paul of Antioch. I believe it may go back as early as some time in the 800s. Maybe I’ll post on that when I find it. Could it be that for hundreds of years, this is the best that many Christian apologists could come up with? I’m assuming that this was how they really understood the doctrine, and was not merely a convenient, temporary “spin” on it, adopted for polemical purposes. (Could be wrong, but this seems the safest course in the absence of contrary information.) Second, to my knowledge, this spin on the Trinity doctrine was never decried as heresy, in either Western or Eastern Christianity. Actually, it seems very close to, though genuinely different than, mainstream thinking. Surely, Augustine’s many analogies in his On the Trinity had some influence here. Third, Christians still jump to, or expose their allegiance to, various forms of modalism when interacting with Muslims. My next post will be on a contemporary example of this. […]


  24. The Orthodox Formulas 2: The Council of Constantinople (381) at trinities
    September 4, 2006 @ 2:23 pm

    […] What, precisely, is the objection to Sabellius’ “diseased theory”? (i.e. Serial FSH modalism.) Is it this?  […]


  25. Lash: “modes” or “ways”, not “persons” at trinities
    August 17, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

    […] Note Lash’s all-too-common move – it’s OK, because it ain’t Sabellianism (aka sequential modalism). […]


  26. Lash: modes or ways, not persons at trinities
    August 17, 2006 @ 3:42 pm

    […] Note Lash’s all-too-common move – it’s OK, because it ain’t Sabellianism. (What I call sequential modalism.) His motivation is also interesting; the idea is that we either go for (non-Sabellian) modalism, or we’re stuck with tritheism. […]


  27. Kathryn Tanner’s non-Sabellian modalism at trinities
    August 17, 2006 @ 12:35 am

    […] Is she a modalist? Yes, pretty clearly so, specifically, an eternally concurrent noumenal FSH modalist. To her credit, she stands up and says pretty clearly and concisely what others only think, or assert and then withdraw. In her own words, Unity of essence or substance means that the three Persons of the Trinity are the very same thing or concrete substance in three modes or forms of presentation. They are like three distinct appearances of the same thing from different angles, although here such appearances are objective and lasting, unlike the transient effects of perspective, and although here the whole is presented differently and not just one side or part becoming visible from a particular point of view. The very same thing is therefore found repeated in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, although none of these Persons is to be identified with any other: the Father is all that the Son is except the Son is not the Father, etc.    The three therefore co-inhere, they are in one another, in virtue of this same essence or substance reappearing in them in different modes of existence. (pp. 38-9) […]


  28. “Is Karl Rahner a Modalist?” at trinities
    August 8, 2006 @ 1:21 pm

    […] Basically, Pugliese argues “no, he isn’t” if we understand “modalism” to mean “Sabellianism”, as historically denounced by the Catholic church. What’s supposed to get Rahner off the hook, basically, is that he isn’t what I call a phenomenal modalist; he instead holds that the three “persons” are so many ways that God eternally lives, or in Rahner’s jargon, three “distinct manners of [God’s] subsisting”. (quote on p. 239) God is one person “in the modern sense”, that is, a one thinking thing/substance, but God contains three persons in the ancient sense, as Pugliese says, “more [the idea of] a role acted, or mask used, in a play.” (p. 239) In Rahner’s words, “the Father, Son, and Spirit are the one God each in a different manner of subsisting…” (quoted on p. 243) Yeah, that sounds like modalism, just not the Sabellian kind – neither serial nor phenomenal, but rather noumenal, maxmimally overlapping FSH modalism – type 4 on my chart here. And he also holds that each of the modes is essential to God. […]


  29. modalism and “modalism” at trinities
    August 7, 2006 @ 1:41 pm

    […] The polemical label slapdown is more than lazy, though. It’s way of lumping your opponents together so you can heap scorn on them whilst ignoring important differences between them. It’s sort of like Rush Limbaugh calling Hilary Clinton, Chairman Mao, and Michael Moore “communists”. As I’ve pointed out, a lot of different views go by the name “Sabellian” or “Monarchian” or “modalism” (used in the traditional heresy-labelling way). Same thing with the term “Arian”; often, the term is slapped on any theology that posits any sort of priority or difference among members of the Trinity. This is simply confused and confusing. I also think there’s also something inherently disrespectful about it. […]


  30. Modalism: the solution to your all of your church’s problems at trinities
    July 24, 2006 @ 6:07 pm

    […] Schwarz is saying, then, that God is (numerically identical to) one divine, personal being. And this one being appears in three ways. We have direct access only to to these appearances, and not to how God is in himself. (cf. p. 10) The terms “Father”, “Son”, and “Holy Spirit” refer to the three ways God relates to us (pp. 8, 9, 12), and through these appearances, God reveals “his own nature.” (p. 8 ) In short, he holds to some form of what I call FSH-modalism. (He doesn’t say enough to get more specific than that.) […]


  31. Fred Sanders on Oneness Pentecostalism, Part 1 at trinities
    July 16, 2006 @ 11:07 am

    […] Get it? The phrase “in the name of” just means “in the authority of” or “on behalf of”. If you ask what that name is, that just shows that you don’t understand the sentence. Why isn’t this more widely acknowledged? My guess is that some want to mine the passage for a trinitarian argument – i.e. since it says “name” and not “names”, this shows that the three “are” the one God. But that argument also misreads the passage, and is thus worthless. The passage is neutral about whether or not the three are in various senses “one”. In this piece Sanders uses the term “modalism” for the UPC doctrine, by which he means what I would call either partially overlapping FS modalism – the idea is that God exists as Father, and at the Incarnation, he starts also existing as Son – or just non-eternal S modalism, if they want to simply identify God and the Father, rather than saying that the Father is a mode of God. I’m not to clear about which the (most clear headed) UPC theologians want to say, but I’m guessing the former. Sanders says, “The Son of God,” for Oneness Pentecostalism, is the new mode of existence that the one God entered into in the incarnation. This brings up the most obvious question that trinitarians want to ask Oneness Pentecostals: […]


  32. An argument against Son-modalism at trinities
    July 15, 2006 @ 1:41 am

    […] Here’s an argument against any form of modalism about the Son, which says that the Son just is, or is a mode of God, or of the Father. The following objection would apply, then, to any form of modalism which affirms one of these claims. So it would apply to a modalism which says that only the Son is a mode of God, or to (as I understand it) historical Sabellianism, and to any form of what I called FSH-modalism in a previous post. I’ll put the objection in terms of the Son being a mode of God, but I think the argument works the same way if you substitute “Father” for “God”. […]


  33. Dale
    July 11, 2006 @ 2:09 pm

    Hi Objectivist,

    I don’t see how split brain cases are relevant to God, except to motivate the idea that “centers of consciousness” are good enough for the separateness of the three – i.e. that quasi-persons and not persons are all that’s required.

    I affirm 1 (Leibniz’s Law), and deny 2. In my view, if 2 were true, then 1 would have to be false. I think this topic deserves a fuller treatment, so I’ll have to give a raincheck, untill we get into the NT basis for the doctrine, and into the issue of polytheism, which isn’t quite as cut and dried as philosophers tend to assume.


  34. What is “modalism”? - Part 2 at trinities
    July 10, 2006 @ 6:12 pm

    […] In my last post, I tried to answer the quesion “What is modalism about the Trinity?” The basic idea is that there are things, and there are modes of things, or ways those things are. The upshot was that there are many possible kinds of modalism. The main questions any modalist has to answer, in order to disambiguate her position, are: […]


  35. Objectivist
    July 10, 2006 @ 5:27 pm

    Dear Dale:

    I agree that persons are concrete particulars and not events. However, I still don’t see how this solves the split brain case as we’ve now split one concrete particular into two. Let us assume we take one half and transplant it in a body located in Australia and another is located in Nebraska (the former is luckier). Now assuming the two brains or minds act independently, it looks to me like we have two where previously we had one mind we now have two. I suspect you agree with me here (let us leave aside whether the two are new or whether one persisted).

    It may be that split-brain theories don’t apply to God (I have my doubts whether a concrete particular can occur outside of space – but I probably need to think about it more). I would argue that any concrete particular that exists in space can be split.

    I take it you hold the following conclusions. I might be misreading you. If so, I apologize.
    (1) Jesus is not the same person as the Father
    (2) Jesus is the same God as the Father.

    How is this possible?

    Anyway, your site is excellent. I sent the address to my brother so we can discuss it.


  36. Dale
    July 10, 2006 @ 4:14 pm

    Hi Objectivist!

    I’ll give a more serious answer to this one. It is quite metaphysically loaded, but it will explain one reason why I don’t think split brain cases are of help in theorizing about the Trinity.

    I think it is a category mistake to think of a “person” as a personality, or as any series of events. Persons or selves are (by the meaning of the term) entities or substances, things which can last through time. Thus, when I read of a split brain experiment, I’m not tempted to think of each “center of consciousness” as a person. I’d want to say that what he have is a single malfunctioning person, one which can think in several manners or ways, and in so doing now fails to be aware of other things it is doing and thinking.

    Still, suppose that split brain experiments do result in multiple persons. Maybe, there were already multiple persons acting in a coordinated way, and the surgery merely frees them to act independently. Or maybe, the surgery annihilates the original person, and creates three new ones. Or maybe, the original person remains, but now the surgery has brought into existence two other, newly-minted persons. I don’t see how any of this could help trinitarian theorizing…

    But maybe your thought was this: split brain experiements show that FSH-modalism ain’t so bad.

    Suppose Ann Coulter has her brain split, and as a result she now sports three “centers of consciousness” – call ’em Rush Limbaugh, Satan, and Church Lady. She remains one substance/entity, and if a “person” is a type of entity, then she remains one person as well. Now, though, there are three things within her which are quasi-persons – they can be different from one another, act independently, and be morally responsible, say, for calling Ted Kennedy a pinhead.

    Now God, like the tin man, doesn’t have a brain, and unlike the tin man, doesn’t need one. So he can’t get his brain split. But, so this line of thinking goes, he, like Split-Ann sports three “centers of consciousness”, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is plainly a kind of modalism, but is it not also orthodox and even plausible trinitarianism as well?

    I don’t think so. Go back to Ann. Church Lady and Satan do not like each other. They fight all the time. Rush and the Church Lady, though, get on all right. But what are we to make of these “relationships”? This is a sad specter of a single malfunctioning person, right? If Rush and the Church Lady “fell it love”, we wouldn’t be happy for them – we’d just fell sorry for Ann.

    Back to God. It’s hard to see how the suggested model would give us a believable or attractive conception of the personal relationship between the Father and the Son that is portrayed in the New Testament. “God is like a brain trauma victim!” – just doesn’t do it for me, as it seems that the Father-Son friendship would be a sham relationship, and not a real one.

    We’ll have to return to this, of course, when I get around to reviewing Trenton Merricks’ interesting paper on this theme.



  37. Dale
    July 10, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

    Is Christianity polytheistic? There will be later postings (probably a number of them) devoted to this, so I’ll just give the cheapo, off-the-shelf answer. 🙂

    No, it isn’t supposed to be. Jesus isn’t the same person as his Father, but he is the same God as his Father.

    Don’t like that answer? Stay tuned…



  38. Objectivist
    July 7, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

    I have another question, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to this section, but I’ll ask it anyway. If Jesus is divine and distinct from God, why isn’t Christianity a polytheistic religion?


  39. Objectivist
    July 7, 2006 @ 4:04 pm

    I have a question that is related to modes. I wonder if one individual can have different flows of consciousness. I’m not sure how to put this in terms of different subjects of consciousness, because I’m not sure whether it’s possible to have one subject but different flows within that subject, only one of which can be accessed at the time or whether two flows of consciousness entail two subjects of consciousness.

    I wouldn’t think this is possible but the split-brain cases involve different processing channels (e.g., the left hemisphere can communicate via external motion to the right hemisphere). In addition, some of the reports of multiple personalities sound like there are different flows of consciousness, although I’m not sure what to make of these reports.

    My background idea is this. I’m told God and Jesus have conversations and have different thoughts. This suggests that they have different flows of consciousness. I wonder if this is enough to show that they are different individuals. The tie-in here is that a flow of consciousness seems to be mode-like attribute.


  40. Dale
    July 6, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

    Hi Tanasije,

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    My thought behind the phenomenal / noumenal distinction was that some modalism is metaphysically “shallow”, only making claims about how God appears. Other modalists, though, are making metaphysically “deep” claims – God really does act/live in those ways.

    So by phenomenal, I perhaps should have said “merely phenomenal”. You’re of course right that not all perception is illusory. If a thing appears to me to be 8 meters long, that may be because my faculties are properly functioning, and it really is 8 meters long.

    You’re also right to think that it makes sense to attribute dispositional properties to an object. Perhaps there’s a single property of the pear, because of which it appears green to you and I, and orange to visiting space aliens (who have different eyes).

    One could take God’s modes to be dispositions to appear as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then, those modes could be everlasting, even though creatures are not. I think some trinitarians think of them as ways God relates primarily to himself…

    I also have to agree – we’d never have grounds for attributing three modes to God unless God appeared in three different ways to various folks among us.

    So both kinds – phenomenal and noumenal modalists – will believe that God has appeared in various ways. But only the noumenal modalists will hold that by knowing of these appearances, we know something about how God is (as Kant would say) “in himself”.

    There’s an interesting tension here. If one sticks to the phenomena, one will be accused of heresy. However, if one takes the phenomena to reveal how God really is, then one will be accused of heresy, in some circles, on the grounds that no human can grasp how God is, but only, that he is.



  41. Tanasije Gjorgoski
    July 3, 2006 @ 2:42 pm

    First, let me thank you for this ongoing introduction/analysis of the issues and possible accounts of the Trinity.

    I want to express my doubt about the noumenal/phenomenal distinction, or my problems with it.

    First about this sentence: “The second kind of modalism could be phenomenal only if eternally or omnitemporally, there were creatures to be the subjects of these illusory misperceptions of God.”
    Why would appearing in specific way be illusion? We can imagine three people.. one able to touch a pear, one able to see a pear, and one able to taste a pear. It seems to me that none of those would be misperception.
    One option is to say that it is not misperception because it is the property of the pear to feel to touch the way it feels to the first person, the pear really looks the way it looks to the second person, and the pear really tastes the way it tastes to the third person, and say it is not a misperception in this case as we the modalities are noumenal and not phenomenal.

    But what does “feels to touch” means if there is no being who can touch it, what does it mean to “look some way” if there is no being with possibility to look/observe, and what does it mean that “it tastes some way” unconnected to the being with possibility to taste?
    Even appearing in general, seems to me, fails into meaninglessness if we try to remove implicated relation in the term “appear” – that there is other to which the thing appears, and which is as important in the relation of appearance, as the thing which appears.

    We can similarly take the noumenal modalism (in the case of maximally overlapping modalism), and ask if there are three modes of/in the thing itself, how do we know about those three, if they didn’t appear to us as different, hence connect to the phenomenal modalism.


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