Patripassionism is a Christian heresy from the time of the early church. Its adherents believe that God the Father was incarnate and suffered on the cross. This is problematic in the context of the doctrine of the Trinity because the Christian Scriptures record Jesus Christ as speaking to God the Father while he was on the cross. It is also problematic for all those who hold to the impassibility and immutability of the divine, as it implies that God the Father can suffer. Patripassionism began in the third century AD. Patripassionism is also known as Sabellianism (after its founder Sabellius) and modalistic Monarchianism. It was more popular than dynamic Monarchianism.

Sabellius, the founder, was a priest who was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Calistus I in 220 and lived in Rome. Sabellius made the belief more sophisticated. Sabellius advanced the doctrine of the “economic Trinity” and he opposed the Orthodox doctrine of the “essential Trinity”. Praxeus and Noetus were some major followers who are attributed to saying that God the Father became his own Son. Tertullian was the chief opponent of Patripassionism. Praxeus tried to reconcile the unity of persons by making distinction between Christ the Father and the Son, a mere man. Therefore the Father co-suffers with the human Jesus. Tertullian left the Catholic Church and became a follower of Montanism. He continued to fight some heresies, especially Gnosticism, after he left the church. Because he left the church he didn’t become a Saint.

Patripassionism states that there is only one person, instead of three in the Godhead. God reveals himself in three modes, the father as the creator and lawgiver, the Son as the redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the giver of grace and the regenerator. The word Patripassionism means (patri) Father (pasion) suffers. Patripassionists believe the father was born of the virgin Mary, lived, and co-suffered with the human Jesus on the cross. Patripassionism states that the Son was the Father in a different mode and that whatever happened to the Son happened to the Father. Sabelliunism denies that there is a trinity and that instead there is one essence, interchangeable as the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, each appearing at different periods of time, not existing together. Scripture used to support this position are passages like John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” and John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Today Oneness Pentecostalism shares the same beliefs as Patripassionism. Sabellianism gains attractiveness from its emphasis on there being one and only one God.

Let it not be said that the Father was so distant from Christ sufferings that he did not suffer with his Son.

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