Summary Against Modern Thought: Refuting Sabellius On The Divinity Of Christ

Summary Against Modern Thought: Refuting Sabellius On The Divinity Of Christ

Previous post.

More common arguments against Jesus’s divinity and their refutation. This chapter may be of service of those in the Muslim faith.


1 Since, of course, the fixed mental conception of all who think rightly about God is this: There can be but one God—certain men, conceiving from the Scriptures that Christ is truly and naturally God and the Son of God, have confessed that the one God is Christ the Son of God and God the Father; and that God, nevertheless, is not called Son in His nature or from eternity, but that He then received the name of sonship when He was born of the Virgin Mary in the mystery of the Incarnation.

Thus, all the things which Christ bore in the flesh they used to attribute to God the Father: for example, that He was the son of the Virgin, conceived and born of her, that He suffered, died and rose again, and all else which the Scriptures say of Christ in the flesh.

2 They attempted to strengthen their position by Scriptural authorities. For it says in Exodus (i.e., Deut. 6:41): “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”; and in Deuteronomy (32:39): “I alone am and there is no other God besides Me”; and John (14:10, 9, 11): “The Father who abides in Me, He doth the works”; and again: “He that sees Me, sees the Father also… I am in the Father and the Father in Me.” From all these they used to conceive that God the Father was being called the very Son incarnate of the Virgin.

3 This was, of course, the opinion of the Sabellians, who were also called Patripassionists because they confess that the Father suffered, holding that the Father Himself was Christ.

4 Now, the latter position differs from the one just described with respect to Christ’s divinity (for the latter confesses that Christ is true and natural God which the first denied); nevertheless, with respect to generation and sonship, each of the two opinions conforms with the other: for, as the first holds that there was no sonship and generation by which Christ is said to be Son before Mary, so the latter also maintains.

Therefore, neither of these positions relates the generation and sonship to the divine nature, but to the human nature only. The second position has this special feature: that when one says “Son of God” one designates not a subsisting person but a kind of additional property of a pre-existing person, for the Father Himself, in that He assumed flesh from the Virgin, received the name of Son; it is not as though the Son is a subsisting Person distinct from the Person of the Father.

5 The authority of Scripture makes the falsity of this position quite manifest. For Scripture does not call Christ merely the Virgin’s son, but also the Son of God. We made this clear before. But it cannot be that one be his own son, for, since a son is begotten by a father, and he who begets gives being to the begotten, it would follow that he who gives is identified with him who receives being-and this is entirely impossible. Therefore, God the Father is not Himself the Son, but the Son is other than He, and the Father is other than the Son.

6 Then, too, our Lord says: “I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him that sent Me”; and: “Glorify Me, O Father with Yourself” (John 6:38; 17:5). From all, of these and similar sayings the Son is shown to be other than the Father.

7 Of course, it can be said within this position that Christ is called the Son of God the Father in His human nature only; namely, because God the Father Himself created and sanctified the human nature which He assumed. Thus, then, the same one is in His divinity called His own Father in His humanity. Thus, there is also no objection to saying that the same one in His humanity is distinct from Himself in His divinity.

But in this fashion it will follow that Christ is called a son of God as are other men, whether by reason of creation, or by reason of sanctification. It has, however, already been shown that Christ is called the Son of God for another reason than other holy men are. It cannot, therefore, be understood that the Father Himself is Christ and His very own son.

8 There is more. Where there is one subsisting supposit, it does not receive a plural predication. But Christ speaks of Himself and the Father in the plural; He says: “I and the Father are one (John 10:30). The Son, therefore, is not the Father Himself.

Note It is odd to think of God being one, while also three, the Father, Son & Holy Ghost. I was discussing these mathematical results the other day with a friend. We have 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + … = -1/12, which can be proved. We also have 1^2 + 2^2 + 3^2 + … = 9; and we have 1^3 + 2^3 + 3^3 + 4^3 + … = 1/120.

And there are many other like this. All series head off to Infinity, which we might say is where God lives, or Is, yet all have different manifestations or results. Infinity is a strange place. God is unfathomable.

9 Furthermore, if it is by the mystery of the Incarnation alone that the Son is distinguished from the Father, there was no distinction whatever before the Incarnation. In the sacred Scripture, however, the Son is found to have been distinct from the Father even before the Incarnation. For it says in John (1:1): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So, the Word who was with God had some distinction from Him. This is our usual manner of speaking: one is said “to be with” another.

In the same way in Proverbs (8:30) the Begotten says: “I was with Him forming all things.” Here, again, an association and some distinction is designated. It says also in Hosea (1:7): “I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the Lord their God,” where God the Father is speaking of saving the people in God the Son, as of a person distinct from Himself, who is held worthy of the name of God. We read, also, in Genesis (1:26): “Let us make man to our image and likeness”; and in this the plurality and distinction of those who make man is expressly designated. Yet Scripture teaches that man was made by God alone. Thus, there was a plurality and distinction of God the Father and God the Son even before the Incarnation of Christ. Therefore, the Father Himself is not called the Son by reason of the mystery of the Incarnation.

10 Furthermore, true sonship relates to the supposit of the one called son, for it is not a man’s hand or foot which receives the name of sonship properly speaking, but the man himself whose parts they are. But the names of “paternity” and of “sonship” require a distinction in those to whom they are applied, just as “begetting” and “begotten” do. Necessarily, then, if one is truly called son he must be distinguished in supposit from his father. But Christ is truly the Son of God, for we read in 1 John (5:20): “That we may be in His true Son, Jesus Christ.” Necessarily, then, Christ is distinct in supposit from the Father.

Therefore, the Father Himself is not the Son. Furthermore, after the mystery of the Incarnation the Father proclaims of the Son: “This is My beloved Son” (Mat. 3:17). Such a designation is a reference to a supposit. Christ is, therefore, as a supposit other than the Father.

11 The points by which Sabellius attempts to strengthen his position do not prove what he intends to prove. We will make this clear more fully later on. For, by reason of the truth that “God is one,” or that “the Father is in the Son and the Son in the Father,” one does not bold that the Father and the Son are one in supposit; there can be a unity of two who are distinct in supposit.


  1. C-Marie

    Lovely!! Only God is Triune.

    If Humankind would come up with something triune, it would probably be: Well, there are three in God, but one is higher or more important than the others. As We are always scrappling to be the most of whatever, until we learn genuine humility. But then, humankind, Islam, did come up with a god, but he is not triune.

    Just think about this. God gave His only begotten Son, Who was begotten from Eternity, to take on human nature, to live a life of teaching God to us, to suffer and die horribly so as to pay in entirety the punishment for our sins, and to arise from the dead whole and entire, and to prove so to many by appearances to many, and for the rest of us to believe in faith in Him.

    God bless, C-Marie

  2. God is not mysterious to you because you don’t know how to sum infinite series (all your examples are wrong, despite the viral nonsense you seem to have credulously slurped from the web).

    God is mysterious to you because your thoughts about God, as your thoughts about mathematics, are incoherent.

  3. Joy

    Lee I think you meant incredulously slurped?
    God is not coherent to anybody except the one who contemplates him and from that perspective only does he really make complete sense…even then.

    Only a con man pretends to have proven the existence of God and one wonders about such an audience who would believe that or defend it.

  4. C-Marie

    God makes Himself known to those, who in truth, desire to know Him.
    God bless, C-Marie

  5. John B()

    “I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.

    After that I liked jazz music.

    Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.

    I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. …”

    ? Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

    It’s kinda what happened to me about 20 years ago. Not the Jazz part … necessarily

  6. C-Marie

    Another, Hilaire Belloc, writes on the Divinity of Jesus Christ.

    From the link”:
    “But a mystery is necessarily, because it is a mystery, incomprehensible; therefore man, being a reasonable being, is perpetually attempting to rationalize it. So it was with this mystery. One set would say Christ was only a man, though a man endowed with special powers. Another set, at the opposite extreme, would say He was a manifestation of the Divine. His human nature was a thing of illusion. They played the changes between those two extremes indefinitely.”

    Thank you, Matt, for all on Aquinas and all, as I would not be reading Hilaire Belloc but for someone’s comment a while back suggestiong Hilaire Belloc and his The Free Press, at which time I also came upon Mr. Belloc’s The Great Heresies.

    God bless, C-Marie

  7. Joy:

    You think wrong. I meant what I wrote. Your suggestion makes no sense.

  8. John B()


    I believe Joy is coming from an observational standpoint
    That YOU find it incredulous that Briggs has slurped credulously

    (Is “TO HAVE credulously SLURPED” like splitting infinitives?)

    If “TO HAVE credulously SLURPED” IS splitting infinitives then what you have done i snot proper
    “TO HAVE SLURPED credulously” is correct

    But without framing the Infinite Series to equal -1/12 in the sense of analytic continuation is not proper

    Need a ruling on the split infinitive question

  9. The incorrect belief that splitting an infinitive is somehow wrong is one one of those folk-grammar beliefs held by the semi-educated. There is no such prohibition in English. Another example is the nonsense about not ending a sentence with a preposition. There are many of these grammar superstitions that just won’t go away.

  10. In other words, take your cue from Capt. Kirk, not the misinformed grammar busybodies.

  11. John B()

    The rule I couldn’t understand was something about ending with a participle?

    Actually! Douglas Adams said “to bolding split infinitives where no infinitives have been split before!”

    So I got my English lesson from him! He was English! As is Joy … I’ll wait for her ruling
    (She was the one who didn’t understand your sentence in the first place – I grokked [Heinlein] it)

    So yes – good or bad – my English has been formed or reinforced by Science Fiction

    Cheers, Lee

  12. Joy

    For goodness sake people…

    You misread what I said and so the phoney pretentious American English lesson.
    What I said makes perfect sense and I wasn’t getting at you! Brigs knows I was getting at him, presumably, and could give a shiny shoe!

    I believe the word in your sentence which I ignored was the word “seem” I see what you were saying about Briggs writing no need for clarification; thee were two potential ways to take the comment.

    My second point was not even for you alone but a general comment.
    Comments are often misconstrued negatively,, more often than not in fact.

    Perhaps a demarkation line, which always sees petty, is necessary for clarity after all.

    Regarding English language and your previous Oxford c comma remark: I checked with an English master friend. ie the real English, not the one taught in America.

    He tells me I’m right in my use of the comma but I’m always tempted to alter it so that the American audience can better understand, have done so in some comments.

    …Never put a comma after “and”,,,,, Briggs does it all the time and I’m triggered each time.
    So it happens to us all.

    My comment about God is something that only a dogmatist whether they be Catholic or atheist would have a problem with, finding reason to “correct” (erroneously).

    So in short, although you think what I write makes no sense, it clearly does, without bringing mathS into it.

  13. Joy

    Meant before an and, sorry, after a noun is also wrong in most instances.

    In fact, what matters is how you want to convey the meaning as well as the meaning itself.

  14. Joy

    “proper noun”! not ordinary bog standard one.

  15. John B()


    By the way, I could be wrong, but I think I got the Star Trek split infinitive comment from Roddenberry himself in Stephen Whitfield’s 1968 book The Making of Star Trek (which I read sometime in the early 70s)

    Roddenberry preferred how “to boldly go” sounded. He was, of course, correct.

    Here’s a humorous piece (almost like how the split infinitive met cancel culture of its day)

    I told you how Joy read your comment

  16. If you say so. I can’t understand even what Joy is talking about. But in my original comment “credulously” modifies “slurped”, and Briggs is the one who did the slurping. The grammar is clear and simple.

  17. John B()


    Yeah – Joy is a treasure –
    Please don’t take this wrong, Joy

    I can’t help but compare Joy’s grammatical parsing style to the German (maybe worse)
    where they say “Throw the cow over the fence some hay”
    Her grammar creates all kinds of confusion and problems [for and from] the SSgt Briggs Brigade (to coin a phrase)

    It’s all about the “subject” of the participle
    I thought you were clear BUT I understood where she went

    My wife learned a long time ago to SPEAK to me in short sentences
    (Still doesn’t work)

  18. Joy

    John B (),
    How do you think your comment could be taken any other way than as an insult? Sees you don’t think you have to think much when responding to me. I’m happy to be ignored rather than insulted.

    If I were writing your cartoon sentence, I would write it as follows: (although I realise not as you would prefer, presumably).

    “Throw some hay over the fence FOR the horse”.

    In English English, the comma is used to bracket a phrase or an aside, instead of the more clumsy and loud bracket (which also have another name in American, mathematical style, English)
    It’s about the rhythm and the music of the sentence not JUST plain meaning. Maths will do for that.

    Try touch typing with profound eyesight loss OR functioning speech software, courtesy of apple inc, who don’t write properly functioning speech software that’s fit for text editing.

    You always said I was playing the troll, that I am “deluded”; what’s offensive about that?

    It seems to me it’s an excuse most of the time to dodge the point in hand, very often. Another deflection against real discussion or freedom to comment where commentary is invited.

  19. John B()


    My profound apologies – my daughter has RP (along with other issues)
    (Do I have to tell you RP is retinitis pigmentosa – commonly and mistakenly referred to as tunnel vision)

    One of the smartest people I know is terribly dyslexic

    I used to help him write business letters when I lived in his area

    He has tried speech writing as well but doesn’t speak well enough either
    (He also needs feedback as he makes his points)

    There was a young woman who helped him run his business and write letters

    He recently lost her to an Overdose – it shattered him

    I’ve never said that you were “deluded”

    If I said you were playing the troll, I said it in the sense that I MYSELF “play” the troll

    Peace, Joy
    I said you were a treasure and I meant that

  20. Joy

    Sorry John B,
    I know you don’t intend to be insulting which is irony

    Yes RP is very cruel. She has you for a Dad though.

    I’m not dyslexic, Have rarely had problems making myself understood anywhere else as it seems, a matter of course, except here. That is curious to me. Aside from where there are obvious errors. I’ve often been flippant and deliberately cheeky. Maybe that is playing the troll.

    Your friend has my sympathy he effectively lost function as well as the girl in question

    …and parsing is something they only do in America. We don’t Parce or parse over here.

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