I’m living in England and the parish priest asks me to take a confirmation class. In the group of eighth graders preparing for confirmation, Jimmy was a not one of the brightest stars. He was a bit like vanilla pudding, sweet but thick. So when it came to discussion of the Holy Trinity I wasn’t too optimistic.
So I gave some illustrations about the Holy Trinity–St Patrick’s three leaved clover, water, ice and steam, in music, harmony, melody and rhythm. I then asked the group if they had any ideas.
Jimmy thought for a minute then said, “A cup of tea.”
“A cup of tea?” I asked.
“Yeh. A cup of tea.”
“Can you explain that?”
“Yeh. You take the tea bag and the hot water and the tea goes into the hot water and then you add milk. Three things in one. One in three.” Then he gives me a big grin.
So discussing this with Dr Ballard–who is a much finer theologian than I–he paused for a moment and said, “I’m sorry to inform you father, but both you and Jimmy are heretics. You’re guilty of modalism.”
Modalism is that trinitarian heresy which says that the three persons of the trinity are ‘modes’ of the one God. It’s also called (for those of you who like long words) Patripassianism or Neotianism or Sabellianism. Modalism sees the Trinity as three ‘ways of working’ or ‘three masks’ or ‘three aspects’ of the one God. Such views are heresy because orthodoxy Trinitarian Doctrine teaches that the three persons are distinct persons yet each one holds within himself the fullness of the Godhead, and the fullness of the Godhead is the unity of the three persons. You can read more on Trinitarian theology from Fr Hardon here.
Does it matter? Sure. Truth matters. Continue Reading
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