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Modalism

MODALISM

Modalism, also sabellianism or patripassianism, is the strict form of monarchianism, a heresy that originated in an exaggerated defense of the unity (monarchia ) of God; and while verbally admitting a Trinity, it denied the real distinction between the Persons. It affirmed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are modes, aspects, or energies of one and the same divine Person, who is given different names according as He exercises different functions ad extra or outside the Trinity: creation (Father), redemption (Son), sanctification (Holy Spirit). God, one from eternity, became three in time. God's appearance on earth as the Son should logically have involved the conclusion that the Father died; hence the name Patripassianism, as the heresy was known in the West. Praxeas, the first proponent of Modalism to visit Rome, went to Carthage about 206 or 208, and tertullian refuted him in his Adversus Praxean (213), "which represents the most important contribution to the doctrine of the Trinity in the AnteNicene period" [J. Quasten, Patrology, 3 v. (Westminster, Md.) 2:285]. According to Tertullian, the identification of Father and Son was so complete in Praxeas's teaching that "the Father Himself came down into the Virgin, was Himself born of her, Himself suffered, indeed was Himself Jesus Christ" (ch. 1). In the East the heresy was known as Sabellianism, from Sabellius, who probably developed the teaching of Noetus and was excommunicated by Pope callistus i (c. 220). Sabellius's chief opponent was dionysius of alexandria.

Bibliography: g. bardy, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al., 15 v. (Paris 190350; Tables générales 1951) 10.2:21932209. e. evans, ed. and tr., Q. Septimi Florenti Tertulliani adversus Praxean, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (London 1948) 631. t. verhoeven, Vigiliae christianae (Amsterdam 1951) 4348. c. huber, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (Freiburg 195765) 7:533534. h. crouzel, ibid. 508. k. wÖlfl, Das Heilswirken Gottes durch den Sohn nach Tertullian in Analecta Gregoriana (Rome 1930) 112; 1960.

[p. j. hamell]

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