In attempting to develop a full understanding of Modalistic Theology of the Godhead, I am constantly directed towards Michael Servetus. Unfortunately, I have not yet had to time to devote to him, however, in piecemeal fashion that is common to ‘bi-vocational Theologians’ I am attempted to answer a few of Servetus’ collected thoughts.
Errors of the Trinity –
“Not even a single word is found in the whole Scripture about the Trinity, nor about the persons, nor about the essence, nor about the substance’s unity, nor the nature of the various divine beings.” (32a)
Servetus is correct – no single word about the Trinity can be found in Scripture, however, ‘person’, although it might be argued that hupostasis in Hebrews 1.3 does not carry the same weight as the Nicene person, yet, if we read this verse we find,
ος ων απαυγασμα της δοξης και χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως αυτου φερων τε τα παντα τω ρηματι της δυναμεως αυτου δι εαυτου καθαρισμον ποιησαμενος των αμαρτιων ημων εκαθισεν εν δεξια της μεγαλωσυνης εν υψηλοις
Granted, we find here only the simple thoughts of emanation, person, and substance. Here, though they are united.
“I do not separate Christ from God more than a voice from the speaker or a beam from the sun. Christ is the voice of the speaker. He and the Father are the same thing, as the beam and the light, are the same light. There is therefore a tremendous mystery in the fact that God may be united with man and the man with God. It is a surprising wonder that God has taken for himself the body of Christ in order to make his special dwelling.” (59b)
Servetus speaks too much like the Traditions of the East and the West in their reliance upon ‘mystery’ to explain unexplainable things. I agree with him in that Christ, as the Word of God, is the inseparable emanation of God. Wisdom says,
For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, the unspotted mirror of the power of God, and the image of his goodness. (Wis 7:26 KJVA)
What does bother me is his last words here, that God took the body of Christ for himself. Although this may be a semantics issue, Theology Proper does well to remain in a language and nuances that is known and recognized by all. It is not an adoption that God made when He took a body, but an incarnation, in that He made Himself a body which was born Christ the Lord and then named Jesus.
“One thousand times the Kingdom of Christ is called eternal, but in the consummation of the times, it will be delivered to God. This does not mean that the glory of Christ will be reduced for that reason as it is its greatest glory to have managed everything until the end and to have submitted everything to the Father as it was his will. He will deliver the Kingdom of God, as the superior general hands in to the emperor the palm of the victory; in the same manner, since all the reason to govern will terminate by that time, powers will be abolished, the authorities and the administration of the Holy Spirit will cease, since we will not need attorneys or mediators, as God will be All-in-All. And then the Trinity of dispensations will be over.” (81b-82a)
I know a Oneness Pentecostal that is a Preterist as well who subscribes to much the same language as Servetus here, that at the consummation of all things, Christ will return fully to the Father, and God will be All-in-All. Of course, for him the destruction of the Temple in 70ad was the consummation of all things.
In the “Christianismi Restitutio”, Servetus wrote:
God confers the being, essence, particularitity to everything what exists, and sustains to all the beings. Nothing can be without Him. God fills everything, even the Hell itself.” (“Christianismi Restitutio”, p. 240).
“Since it contains itself the essences of all the things, he appears in front of us like fire, stone and electricity, a rod, a flower, or any other thing. He does not perturb because a stone is seen in God. Is it a true stone? Clearly yes: God is wood in the wood, stone in the stone, since he has in himself the being of the stone, the form of the stone, the substance of the stone.” (“Christianismi Restitutio”, p. 589)
This seems to relate to pantheism; however, panetheism is Servetus’ system here, which basically states that all is in God (versus God in all). This system of belief seems to go back to Hereclitus and his doctrine of the Logos that so enveloped the early Apologists. The view of Servetus here is humanistic and unbiblical. Although God is ‘bigger than the universe’ the universe is not contained within Him.
“In the Bible there are no mentions to the Trinity, neither hypostases, nor essence, nor persons, which were made up by the Scholastics for the sake of confussion . We know God not through our proud philosophical conceptions, but through Christ who manifest himself in Him, and only through the faith in him can we know God. Christ is a visible being and not a mere hypostasis. God does not take corporal form but in Christ. Our inner man is but Christ itself. This does not mean that we are just like Christ, because nobody is just like another person. But Christ communicates his glory to us: “The glory that you you gave me, I have given it to them, so that I am in them like you are in me” . Christ is called our inner man, because he communicates his spirit to us and renews us every day. The more Christ renews our spirit by the fire of his spirit, the more it penetrates in our body, the more grows in Christ our inner man: while He materializes in us, the outer man declines.
Okay, not much to differ here. I cringe at the ‘our inner man is but Christ itself’. We can interpret this to mean that the indwelling is Christ, and that I can agree with, but if he alludes to the fact that we each are divine in someway, then I see an error.
Our inner man consists of the divine element of Christ, and the human element of our nature, in such a way that we are properly called participants of the divine nature and it is said that our life is hidden in Christ. Oh incomparable glory! will not be in us the Kingdom of God, if Christ who is in Heaven is in us, doing to us what He is? Our inner man is really celestial. He has come from Heaven, from God’s substance, from the the flesh’s will, from God itself. Our inner man is God, as Christ is God.
This must need more investigation. Does Servetus call each of us, our spirit, God, or a part of God. If he does, can we blame the Unitarian Universalists for claiming Servetus as their first martyr? If we rather choose to interpret the ‘inner man’ as the Indwelling, then we understand Servetus to say that the Spirit that indwells is Christ and since Christ is God, the Spirit is then God. (Romans 8.9)
Our inner man is God, as Christ is God and the Holy Spirit is God. As anticipating this truth Salmist said: “I said it, you are Gods”. And as one God makes many gods, therefore only one Christ makes many gods.” (“Christianismi Restitutio”, pp. 557-59).
We can offer no excuse for Servetus here, as we hoped that the ‘inner man’ was the Indwelling Spirit. Servetus plainly declares three – Christ who is God, Holy Spirit who is God – while singling out the ‘inner man’ as a fourth. Does his panetheism confuse him?