I received the following question:
I had a chat with a guy out here that told me my belief of how I’ve described my thoughts of the trinity sounds like Sabellianism. I don’t really understand what that is, even after reading the wikipedia definition. He said based on my choice of words to describe it sounds like that. I know I’m not the best with words or explaining sometimes. Can you help me on this thought/idea of what Sabellianism is and the difference between that and the Trinitarian belief? Thank you.
It is interesting that you bring this up, because at the Word of Truth Conference in California in 2013, Louis Tonetti mentioned that the teacher of a Greek class he was taking accused him of being a Sabellian when he expressed his views on the trinity, so it is certainly not just you. If you received our CD of the conference and listened to it, you probably heard that already.
The idea of Sabellianism sounds like it is that God is One God Who manifests Himself in different ways, rather than that God is three distinct Persons in unity. It still holds that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God, but denies that they are distinct Persons within the Godhead, stating that they are simply different manifestations of the same Person.
It does sound a lot like what we believe and teach about God, so I don’t think it’s just you struggling with words and explaining yourself. However, I would not suggest that you start going around and describing yourself as a Sabellian. For one thing, the only way we know what Sabellius taught is through the vociferous criticism of those who disagreed with him. It is fairly questionable to attach yourself to a name when no one actually knows what that person really taught. Secondly, I prefer not to describe myself in any manner that would be a person’s name. For example, many would call us Bullingerites and what we believe Bullingerism. I am a “fan” of Bullinger, believe he was a real Bible student, and ascribe to much that he taught and said. However, I believe these things because I find them aligning with the Bible, not because Bullinger taught them. There is also much that Bullinger taught that I don’t agree with. As much as I like Bullinger, I would rather attach myself to the Word of God than to his name. I agree even more with Mr. Sellers, but I do not want to be known as a Sellersite either. I will listen to men and consider what they say, and adopt it if I find it to align with the truth. However, I am no man’s disciple. If God sends me an inspired apostle, prophet, or teacher, then I will become a disciple. Until then, my first loyalty will always be to the Word of God.
You will often find that people will want to take what you say and label it with the name of some heretical or unorthodox teacher. This allows them to categorize you and dismiss what you say, rather than having to deal with it on a Biblical basis. If that teacher also taught a bunch of bad things that you would not agree with, so much the better. I would just shrug it off and return to the issue at hand, if you can. If not, you just have to let people go. You cannot stop people from dismissing you, if they really want to.
Thanks for writing.