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Q&A

How do Modalists respond to the idea that the Trinity is necessary for the manifestation of God's love?

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I often hear an argument defending the doctrine of the Trinity that says that God is by nature loving and relational (see, for example, 1 John 4:7–8), and that he exists independent of his creation. That is, if there were only one person in the godhead, instead of three, God's love wouldn't have a way to manifest itself outside of/prior to the created order.

Modalists, whether historical Sabellians or modern day Oneness Pentecostals, presumably have an issue with this argument. How do Modalists defend their viewpoint from this argument? How do they understand God's loving nature in this context?

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David K. Bernard, the General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI), one of the largest Oneness Pentecostal groups, wrote:

"God is love" (1 John 4:8, 16). Love is the essence of God; it is His very nature....

A popular philosophical argument for the trinity is based on the fact that God is love. The basic argument is: How could God be love and show love before He created the world unless God was a plurality of persons that had love for one another? This line of reasoning is faulty for several reasons. First, even if correct it would not prove a trinity. In fact, it could lead to outright polytheism. Second, why does God need to prove to us the eternal nature of His love? Why cannot we simply accept the statement that God is love? Why do we limit God to our concept of love, contending that He could not have been in love in eternity past unless He had a then-existing object of love? Third, how does the trinitarian solution avoid polytheism and at the same time avoid saying merely that God loved Himself? Fourth, we cannot limit God to time. He could and did love us from eternity past.[1]

He further elaborated on the specific biblical passages that discuss the Father and the Son's love for one another, noting that these passages do not reference the Holy Spirit's love relationship within the Godhead.



  1. David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God (Series in Pentecostal Theology), vol. 1 (Weldon Spring, MO: Pentecostal Publishing House, 1986), 32, 185. ↩︎

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