In the previous post we saw how two important church fathers attacked the “modalist” view of the relationship between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit, which claimed they were *one* person who relates to creation and humans in three different ways, with three modes of existence.  God is both the Father of the Son and the Son of the Father.

Depending on how old you are, you may remember the song, “I’m My Own Grandpa.”  (If not, look it up; it’s a scream.)  As in the song, it gets confusing.

This modalist view came to be rejected by the likes of Hippolytus of Rome and Tertullian of Carthage.  But what did they put in its place?  How did *they* understand the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit, if they wanted to insist that all three were God but there was only one God?

Enter the doctrine of the Trinity.  These relatively early thinkers did not have the fully developed view of the Trinity that came later, as we will see.  But they got the ball rolling and had the view in a nutshell.  Later thinkers would consider these earlier attempts to express the “truth” hopelessly simple (though they weren’t), naïve, and even heretical.  But they were the first known attempts to express a solution that allowed there to be three distinct persons but ultimately only one God.  Here is how I explain the situation it in my book How Jesus Became God.


Even though Hippolytus and Tertullian vigorously attacked the modalist position, they did want to hold on to the theological affirmations that created it in the first place.  They, like their modalist opponents, agreed that Christ was God, and that God the Father was God, but that there was only one God.  In order to retain this view while rejecting the modalist option, Hippolytus and Tertullian developed the idea of the divine “economy.”  Economy in this usage does not refer to a monetary system, but to…

These early theologians understood the Trinity pretty much like most Christians today do, even if they used more complicated language.  But ironically, their view was later deemed a heresy.  Hey, are you too a heretic?  Joing the blog to read the post and see! Click here for membership options