The Oneness of God


I want to note that I’m not saying this is 100% perfect, or that you should follow it.  My philosophy has always been for people to read their own Bibles and work out their own salvation (with fear and trembling) – Philippians 2:12.

To summarize, I am not a Trinitarian – I am a Modalist.  The short version is this: Trinity is to Persons as Modalism is to Roles.  Instead of saying the Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I would say that God has gone by many names in the Bible (quite a few in the Old Testament), and almost all of those names are associated with an action God took, or a blessing He gave.  Instead of three being one, I believe in one being one.

To expand (with many scripture references), you can see my paper on the subject.  Please feel free to raise objections to it, as that will help me better form the document and how it is presented.  You can agree, disagree, or have any reaction you want – just respond, because that will help me better form my thoughts on the subject.

With that, I wish everyone a good night,
-Alex

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6 thoughts on “The Oneness of God

  1. As it stands, the strongest case against Modalism actually comes from the Old Testament descriptions of God. The only way to understand the Old Testament is if there are multiple persons who are attributed the name Yahweh and who act as God, yet are neither separate gods or the same person.

    First and foremost, the problem with asserting the bare numerical oneness of God in Deuteronomy 6:4: it just can’t be shown, because of the word used–אֶחָד –echad. It is repeatedly used in the OT to denote a composite unity, as in such verses as:

    Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. (Genesis 2:24)
    Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (Exodus 24:3)
    “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. (Deuteronomy 6:4)
    And he swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, “Return, both you and all your servants.” (2 Samuel 19:14)

    So it can be seen that mere numerical unity is not what the grammar denotes, but unquestionably allows for a plurality in unity. And since the majority of the case thus far rests upon Deuteronomy 6:4, most of it goes with that interpretation. But more interestingly, there is a Hebrew word that does denote simple numeric unity: yachid. Why did Moses not use that to describe God if there is no plurality in Yahweh? Maimonides himself rewrote Deuteronomy 6:4 and used yachid instead of echad because echad can be used to prove the Trinity.

    With that in mind, there are several texts in the Old Testament that simply rule out Modalism by speaking of two distinct Persons both identified as Yahweh.

    The first is Genesis 19:24: “Then the LORD rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the LORD out of the heavens.” The word Yahweh is used both times, to refer to the physical manifestation of Yahweh—the preincarnate Christ—and to refer to the Father, who provided the burning sulfur. This passage only makes sense if Yahweh is understood as being distinct Persons, not roles, because both Persons mentioned act simultaneously. Again, this refutes Modalism. But there is more.

    “Listen to me, Jacob,
    Israel, whom I have called:
    I am he;
    I am the first and I am the last.
    13 My own hand laid the foundations of the earth,
    and my right hand spread out the heavens;
    when I summon them,
    they all stand up together.
    14 “Come together, all of you, and listen:
    Which of the idols has foretold these things?
    The LORD’s chosen ally
    will carry out his purpose against Babylon;
    his arm will be against the Babylonians.[a]
    15 I, even I, have spoken;
    yes, I have called him.
    I will bring him,
    and he will succeed in his mission.
    16 “Come near me and listen to this:
    “From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret;
    at the time it happens, I am there.”
    And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me,
    endowed with his Spirit.
    Here we have Yahweh, who claims to be the first and the last, the everlasting; the creator. He emphasizes three times the great “I Am” of Exodus 3:14. Yet He speaks in verse 16 of being sent by Yahweh, and endowed with His Spirit—which only makes sense if this Yahweh was distinct from the Yahweh who sent him, and distinct from the Spirit who was sent with him. The speaker in verse 16 is Christ, the Servant.

    Isaiah 50:1-6

    This is what the LORD says:
    “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce
    with which I sent her away?
    Or to which of my creditors
    did I sell you?
    Because of your sins you were sold;
    because of your transgressions your mother was sent away.
    2 When I came, why was there no one?
    When I called, why was there no one to answer?
    Was my arm too short to deliver you?
    Do I lack the strength to rescue you?
    By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea,
    I turn rivers into a desert;
    their fish rot for lack of water
    and die of thirst.
    3 I clothe the heavens with darkness
    and make sackcloth its covering.”
    4 The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue,
    to know the word that sustains the weary.
    He wakens me morning by morning,
    wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
    5 The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears;
    I have not been rebellious,
    I have not turned away.
    6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
    my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
    I did not hide my face
    from mocking and spitting.
    This passage immediately strikes the reader as being the preincarnate Christ; but more importantly, the LORD (Yahweh) in verse 1 is still the speaker in verses 4-6. This passage, like the others, only makes sense if two distinct Persons are referred to as Yahweh—and in this case, the Son, speaking as Yahweh, refers to another Person identified as Yahweh. Of note: Jesus here claims to be the agent of Creation as well.

    Psalm 45:6-7
    Your throne, O God,[c] will last for ever and ever;
    a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
    You love righteousness and hate wickedness;
    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
    by anointing you with the oil of joy.

    This passage only makes sense if there is a plurality of Persons in the God head; indeed the JWs go so far as to rewrite the text to avoid the implications of this verse. Two divine Persons, distinct, at the same time in the same passage.

    The problem with the “Royal we” treatment of passages like creation to explain away the plurality is that the authors of Scripture didn’t get the memo. Did the Hebrews just not understand their own language when they insisted upon using the plural form of verbs to describe the actions of Elohim and Yahweh?

    1. Hey Rayado, thanks for your response!
      Unfortuately, as a consistent man, I’m going to have to disagree with you, aside from your first paragraph. People have this funny idea about placing New Testament ideas into the Old Testament, when it should be Old into New. That’s the order of revelation that God presented us. However, I can’t believe there are multiple persons, as that is polytheism. You can use words like substance, essence and personhood, but it’s just masking the idea of polytheism to seem like monotheism.
      echad definitely means one. You can check that out in any standard lexicon (or this online one: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/echad.html ). This does give ideas of a unity, but in most cases where that is true, it is actually in a metaphorical sense (Sorry, I hate using the metaphorical flag, so I’ll make sure I defend things other ways, too).

      With your Biblical support, we can rule Genesis 2:24 from your list, because it is speaking metaphorically, unless you believe married people become conjoined at the hip. Same with Exodus 24:3, as we know that all of Israel didn’t share one vocal cord. 2 Samuel 19:14 also has the same jist, as it’s apparent that it was many people acting as one. Now, what sets these apart from Deuteronomy is that Deuteronomy 6:4 is a direct statement about God, where the other passages are generalizing (re)actions of people.

      Even if you don’t roll with the symbolic/metaphorical meaning, this still doesn’t discount the intensive plural.

      You mentioned that Maimonides rewrote Dueteronomy 6:4 to use yachiyd – I have two problems with this. One, rewriting scripture, regardless of how well you understand it, is dangerous and has serious reprocussions. Second, Maimonides used Greek philosophy to reinterpret the Old Testament, and it’s that philosophy that Christianity adapted to justify the Trinity (person, essence and substance were Greek ideas).

      Genesis 19:24 is comparable to Genesis 1 and 2. One chapter deals with function, and the second deals with form. There are not two YHWHs – The preincarnate Christ is YHWH, there can’t be two gods. Also, your interpretation is based on your personal opinion. There is no mention of the preincarnate Christ, nor “God the Father” in the section of scripture, so you are using isogesis, or reinterpreting scripture based on your own experience. Readers of the Old Testament before Christ would not have even come close to that interpretation. The absolute number one rule of Biblical interpretation is that the Bible could not mean now what it could not have meant then. You can debate that as much as you want, but that’s just how it is. It’s dangerous to do that because you have a good chance of creating a belief that is outside the Bible, and the idea of theology is to build ideas on ideas, so it can start an unfortunate chain reaction. That’s what happened to me – I wasn’t always a Modalist. Up until about three years ago, I was a die-hard Trinitarian going to Bible College. Even with the colleges teaching on the Trinity, the Biblical message seemed to be pointing elsewhere, to a non-divided, all-powerful God.

      Your first big quote (Isaiah 48…took me a while to find it) indeed seems to show God in some sort of Trinity. My issue, however, is the interpretation. There is no way of telling if Isaiah was not speaking from himself instead of God. Moreso, we can’t say that “His Spirit” is the Holy Spirit, if it refers to an equivalent of me saying Me and my Spirit (a human’s spirit seems not to be his/her flesh). It could be refering to one of the seven spirits of God (Revelation 4:1). There isn’t enough information other than to say that the spirit in reference is under God’s possession/ownership.

      Isaiah 50:1-6 could certainly be prophesying about Christ, and I have no issue with that. Christ and YWHW are the same guy (at least in my view). So this needs to be viewed through the lens of prophesy. Does it make sense for God to open His own ears (As a Trinity, they are all united – what happens to one happens to all)? Or could God be rebellious? I am inclined to believe that there is a mixture of Isaiah’s experience and prophesy, as it is likely that Isaiah’s experiences are the prophesy. You could also use the interpretation that there was a dichotomy in Christ, that the Spirit and flesh live in parallel opposed to being fused (otherwise how could God take away His spirit on the cross when Jesus yells out, “Why have you forsaken me?”).

      In the Psalm 45:6-7 reference, keep Psalms in context. They are songs, not theology.

  2. “Unfortuately, as a consistent man, I’m going to have to disagree with you, aside from your first paragraph. People have this funny idea about placing New Testament ideas into the Old Testament, when it should be Old into New.”

    Lucky me, I’m not doing what you’re accusing me of.

    “That’s the order of revelation that God presented us. However, I can’t believe there are multiple persons, as that is polytheism. You can use words like substance, essence and personhood, but it’s just masking the idea of polytheism to seem like monotheism.”

    Not really. That’s your burden of proof, if you want to say that distinct persons equals different gods–but it’s still a misunderstanding of Divine Simplicity.

    “echad definitely means one. You can check that out in any standard lexicon (or this online one: http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/echad.html ). This does give ideas of a unity, but in most cases where that is true, it is actually in a metaphorical sense (Sorry, I hate using the metaphorical flag, so I’ll make sure I defend things other ways, too).”

    The problem is that you’re trying to discount the grammatical use of echad in Deuteronomy 6:4 by appealing to something that’s totally irrelevant. The context of the grammar is irrelevant to the grammar itself; if the range of echad can include composite unities, such as the examples I listed, then that kicks the door open for a composite unity in the Godhead.

    “With your Biblical support, we can rule Genesis 2:24 from your list, because it is speaking metaphorically, unless you believe married people become conjoined at the hip.”

    Like I said, genre in one place doesn’t discount the usage of the same word in another place. Echad is precisely the best word to use in places like this, and the others I mentioned, because they express plurality in unity. Genre is just irrelevant, but more on that later.

    “Same with Exodus 24:3, as we know that all of Israel didn’t share one vocal cord. 2 Samuel 19:14 also has the same jist, as it’s apparent that it was many people acting as one.”

    See above.

    “Now, what sets these apart from Deuteronomy is that Deuteronomy 6:4 is a direct statement about God, where the other passages are generalizing (re)actions of people.”

    Then you are using an ungrammatical double-standard that reads your own beliefs into the text, rather than sound exegesis. What you advocate is a double standard designed to prop up a belief that you brought to the text.

    “Even if you don’t roll with the symbolic/metaphorical meaning, this still doesn’t discount the intensive plural.

    You mentioned that Maimonides rewrote Dueteronomy 6:4 to use yachiyd – I have two problems with this. One, rewriting scripture, regardless of how well you understand it, is dangerous and has serious reprocussions. Second, Maimonides used Greek philosophy to reinterpret the Old Testament, and it’s that philosophy that Christianity adapted to justify the Trinity (person, essence and substance were Greek ideas).”

    That problem also happens to be yours: Why did not Moses use yachid, which fits what you believe, instead of echad which certainly allows Trinitarianism? Maimonides understood the implications of his change. And to simply say that essence and substance are “Greek ideas” is simply the genetic fallacy; what you haven’t shown is that they’re false, or even contrary to anything in Scripture.

    “Genesis 19:24 is comparable to Genesis 1 and 2. One chapter deals with function, and the second deals with form. There are not two YHWHs – The preincarnate Christ is YHWH, there can’t be two gods.”

    Nor am I claiming there are two gods; I am claiming that there are two divine Persons, each identified as YHWH, who act separately but in unison at the same time. The text literally reads “YHWH rained down fire from YHWH out of heaven.” You simply cannot get any clearer that the Bible speaks of two divine Persons that are spoken of as God–nor does that imply polytheism or modalism.

    “Also, your interpretation is based on your personal opinion.”

    That old cop-out? Actually, it’s not based on my personal opinion; it’s based on 1) the historic faith passed down through the centuries, and 2) more specifically on sources like Robert Morey’s The Trinity: Evidence and Issues. You seriously need to read that book before you speak like this on the Trinity.

    “There is no mention of the preincarnate Christ, nor “God the Father” in the section of scripture, so you are using isogesis, or reinterpreting scripture based on your own experience.”

    Ha! If you want to use that argument, neither does it assert, or even use the terms, ‘roles’ or ‘modes.’ Don’t use an argument that cuts both ways.

    Rather, it is an interpretation that consistently recognizes the Persons of the Trinity when they act or speak in Scripture. It is not an error to read the Old Testament in light of the New, or to even read it in light of other OT verses that speak of the persons acting and speaking, sometimes of each other. Saying that there is no mention of the preincarnate Christ in the rest of the OT theophanies surely does not discount his presence there any more than it does here, where it is quite evident from the context of Genesis 18-19 that it is the preincarnate Christ, though they did not know him by that name at the time.

    “Readers of the Old Testament before Christ would not have even come close to that interpretation.”

    Ever heard of Philo, or Metatron?

    “The absolute number one rule of Biblical interpretation is that the Bible could not mean now what it could not have meant then.”

    That’s your burden of proof, and you’ve failed to support it, even now, against a defense of the Trinity you clearly were not prepared for. You’ve tried to totally ignore the grammar. I am very much asserting that the OT writers and OT Judaism had an idea of YHWH that allowed for a plurality of persons, but not gods, and so are writers like Morey and the Hebrew experts that he and others cite.

    “You can debate that as much as you want, but that’s just how it is. It’s dangerous to do that because you have a good chance of creating a belief that is outside the Bible, and the idea of theology is to build ideas on ideas, so it can start an unfortunate chain reaction. That’s what happened to me – I wasn’t always a Modalist. Up until about three years ago, I was a die-hard Trinitarian going to Bible College. Even with the colleges teaching on the Trinity, the Biblical message seemed to be pointing elsewhere, to a non-divided, all-powerful God.”

    As a Trinitarian I affirm a non-divided, all-powerful God (via Divine Simplicity) but I understand that it is more sophisticated than that. I just don’t think you’ve done the legwork to understand what you’re denying. You’ve yet to actually show a logical contradiction between one God and three Persons of the same essence (and you have yet to show that that idea is unbiblical or false, for that matter).

    However, there is a little problem with a nominally Unitarian understanding of the OT: it ignores the enormous pile of times that God is described as a plurality, or spoken of as Creators, or Husbands, or plural nouns or verbs used to describe God. That’s a very big problem for modalism and Unitarianism.

    “Your first big quote (Isaiah 48…took me a while to find it) indeed seems to show God in some sort of Trinity. My issue, however, is the interpretation. There is no way of telling if Isaiah was not speaking from himself instead of God.”

    Really? What in the entirety of Isaiah 48 makes it unclear that it’s both YHWH that is speaking, and is also being sent by YHWH, and sent with the Spirit, no less? Does not Isaiah 61:1-2 make it clear that this passage and that are spoken entirely by the same speaker?

    “Moreso, we can’t say that “His Spirit” is the Holy Spirit, if it refers to an equivalent of me saying Me and my Spirit (a human’s spirit seems not to be his/her flesh). It could be refering to one of the seven spirits of God (Revelation 4:1).”

    Excuse me, didn’t you just lecture me about not reading the OT in light of the New? Considering that the spirits in Revelation are symbolic of the churches, that just makes no sense. And the OT repeatedly speaks of the Spirit of God in no uncertain terms.

    Oh, and equivalence? Rubbish. Read the text:

    “And now the Sovereign LORD has sent me,
    endowed with his Spirit.”

    His spirit. Not “my Spirit.” What was that about eisegesis?

    “There isn’t enough information other than to say that the spirit in reference is under God’s possession/ownership.”

    And? That’s not inconsistent with the doctrine of the Trinity; functionally, the Son and Spirit are subordinate to the will of the Father. Yet all through the Old Testament, the Spirit is spoken of as equal to YHWH, yet doing the will of YHWH.

    “Isaiah 50:1-6 could certainly be prophesying about Christ, and I have no issue with that. Christ and YWHW are the same guy (at least in my view). So this needs to be viewed through the lens of prophesy. Does it make sense for God to open His own ears (As a Trinity, they are all united – what happens to one happens to all)? Or could God be rebellious? I am inclined to believe that there is a mixture of Isaiah’s experience and prophesy, as it is likely that Isaiah’s experiences are the prophesy. You could also use the interpretation that there was a dichotomy in Christ, that the Spirit and flesh live in parallel opposed to being fused (otherwise how could God take away His spirit on the cross when Jesus yells out, “Why have you forsaken me?”).”

    In terms of the obedience of the Son, yes, it makes sense for the Father to hear the Son.

    “In the Psalm 45:6-7 reference, keep Psalms in context. They are songs, not theology.” That begs one very simple question: what genre constitutes theology? You cannot simply dodge the conclusion of the Psalm’s theology because it seems ‘out of place.’ That’s no defense against the Trinitarian implications. This is why I say that you really need to read up more on what the Trinity really teaches. Again, I highly recommend Robert Morey’s The Trinity: Evidence and Issues.

  3. Hi again,

    Before I address some of your points, I want to point something out, and you can do whatever you want with this information. In attending Bible college (not that this makes a difference, I’m not boasting), most of my profs have noted that the Trinity was merely a response to differentiating Christianity from other religions and helping define what makes an orthodox (read as “normal”) Christian group and what makes a cult Christian group. So the Trinity was good for the first few centuries, but if all it was to be was a response, then shouldn’t our understanding of God be updated to the sort of context and arguments we are facing today, while still remaining true to scripture? You can look things up in any Christian oriented history book; the Trinity wasn’t really even discussed until about 100 years after Christ (and after all the Biblical texts began circulating). I can put you in contact with my church history prof, if you want to discuss that more (no, he doesn’t agree with me on my stance in the oneness of GOd, so I’m not just setting up confirmation bias).

    Anywho, to address some of the issues you’re bringing up:

    1. “The context of the grammar is irrelevant to the grammar itself”

    Grammar is all apart of how we understand a sentence, and context is very important. If I were to tell you, “That was sick! Do it again!” It wouldn’t make sense to read it as both sick (as in ill) and the slang term of sick (as in awesome). Likewise, the Biblical writers inescapably used the common language of the day, including their historical/contextual slang and exaggerations. Then it’s an issue of interpretation.

    2. “Then you are using an ungrammatical double-standard that reads your own beliefs into the text, rather than sound exegesis. What you advocate is a double standard designed to prop up a belief that you brought to the text.”

    Then we have to decide if `echad means one in direction/purpose, or one merged unit. The truth is that in some cases it is one in direction/purpose and in other cases it’s a merged unit. Discerning these is difficult for anyone, but because one chooses one over another doesn’t mean directly mean there is a black and white side. In fact, maybe we’re both a little right. Maybe there is a Trinity. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe God works in modes/roles, maybe He doesn’t. As I’ve demonstrated, I can back up my beliefs with other scriptures that align well with my beliefs, and can even rationalize others that seemingly conflicting. I’d assume you are capable of the same (for lack of knowing who you are outside of posting on my article).
    Even theopedia agrees, http://www.theopedia.com/Trinity#A_brief_history .
    In that, I realize that my beliefs may sound very similar to Arianism, but I remain in my beliefs that Jesus is the fullness of God, and in fact, the latest revelation we have on who God is. I assert that Jesus was both 100% human and 100% divine.

    3. ‘”Readers of the Old Testament before Christ would not have even come close to that interpretation.”
    Ever heard of Philo, or Metatron?’

    As I’ve been pointing out, Philo was using Greek philosophy. In fact, Philo was influenced by Stoicism, which is classified as pagan and in some cases, heresy by Christians. Check it out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoicism#Stoicism_and_Christianity
    I had never heard of Metatron before, but that seems to be referencing some sort of angel (a heavenly Scribe, as mentioned in the wikipedia article) is some Jewish literature. In that, an angel is not God, therefore not a reference to a second member in the Trinity. It also seems to reference that Enoch somehow became this angelic being (3 Enoch, in Jewish extra-biblical sources). Some rabbis claim that this angel is a second power in heaven, making a “binity” (for lack of a better term), which still doesn’t include the Trinity construct.

    4. “Excuse me, didn’t you just lecture me about not reading the OT in light of the New?”

    I wasn’t saying this is what I believe, but just saying that are multiple ways of interpreting who God’s spirit is in Isaiah 48.

    5. “That begs one very simple question: what genre constitutes theology? You cannot simply dodge the conclusion of the Psalm’s theology because it seems ‘out of place.’ That’s no defense against the Trinitarian implications. This is why I say that you really need to read up more on what the Trinity really teaches. Again, I highly recommend Robert Morey’s The Trinity: Evidence and Issues.”

    Theology is merely the study of God from the text we have. But, likewise, there are many modern Christian songs that teach things that aren’t Biblical (I don’t have any examples, which is unfortunate to the argument, but I listen to very little Christian music). This doesn’t mean that the artists aren’t Christian or anything, but sometimes it’s easier to find something that rhymes rather than something that is absolutely correct.

    I highly recommend the book “Discovering the Deity of Jesus” by Rob Vanya.

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