Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Have Phillips, Craig, and Dean Turned Trinitarian?

On January 10, or shortly thereafter, I briefly read a post by Matt Privett at The Mattrix that the members of the singing group Phillips, Craig, and Dean had signed a statement rejecting modalism (Sabellianism).*  Attached to the post is an image of the signed statement affirming the Southern Baptist Convention’s (SBC) statement of faith.  This seemed rather odd, since the members of the trio are active pastors of Oneness Pentecostal (UPCI) congregations and have been involved with actively teaching the modalism heresy.  I also wondered why they chose the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM) to affirm rather than another faith statement.

Here is the BFM summary section on God:
II. God
There is one and only one living and true God.  He is an intelligent, spiritual, and personal Being, the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe.  God is infinite in holiness and all other perfections.  God is all powerful and all knowing; and His perfect knowledge extends to all things, past, present, and future, including the future decisions of His free creatures.  To Him we owe the highest love, reverence, and obedience.  The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being.
The section goes on to clarify the roles of the individual roles of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—all with scriptural attestation.

Everybody holding to the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as handed down through creeds and confessions could affirm this.  The problem is that so could a modalist.  This can be accomplished by adjusting the definition of the word triune from “three persons in one God” to “three manifestations in one God.”  Heretics, cults, and sects constantly use this maneuver to fool both their adherents and critics.  I do not want to fault the SBC for this: a great deal of effort went into its preparation.  They attempted to use a familiar Trinitarian term to develop this section, but in making the language accessible to their denomination, the crafters did not make this robust enough to prevent being coöpted.

If the members of Phillips, Craig, and Dean are seriously denying their previous involvement with modalism, I recommend they confess the Athanasian Creed.  After that happens, we can talk.  Until then, I remain skeptical.

*  Modalism denies the historic, catholic teaching that there are three co-equal and eternal persons in the Godhead.  Instead they affirm there is only one God, but that he manifests himself as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit as he sees fit.  This was originally propagated by Sabellius, a third century theologian, thus the attachment of his name.


Randy P said...

Interesting. I happen to love their music and have been vexed by their theological position. Their music is even seemingly Trinitarian. Let's hope they've come back to orthodoxy.

Faithbuilder said...
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