What is Patripassionism?


Patripassianism (meaning, "Father's suffering") is a form of Sabellianism; a third century heresy of the Eastern church. It is also referred to as Modal Monarchism. It is essentially the non-Trinitarian belief that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three different modes of the one God. Please see "What is Modalism?" below.

Patripassianism teaches that God the Father became incarnate and suffered at Calvary. In the book/movie The Shack among numerous other theological errors (personification of the Trinity; universalism; God doesn't punish sin, etc.) the heresy of Patripassianism is present; Papa, the Father God character reveals to Mack the nail prints on her wrists where she was crucified. T.D. Jakes, Oneness Pentecostals, and Unitarians still teach a form of Patripassianism today.

Patripassianism has no biblical foundation. John 1:1 states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." We note two important words here as they relate to Patripassianism: "with" and "was." The Word (the Son of God) was "with" God and the Son of God "was" God. So, the Son of God is very God of very God, he is also distinct from God. Additionally, in John 1:14 we observe that only one member of the Trinity added to their divine nature a human nature - that being the Son of God. Nowhere in Scripture are God the Father and God the Holy Spirit ever said to take upon themselves a human nature.

Despite all the heresies in the early church (among them, Adoptionism, Albigenses, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Docetism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, Kenosis, Marcionism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Patripassionism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Socinianism, Subordinationism, and Tritheism, etc.) the Word of God still abides (1 Pet 1:23). Amidst all these assaults against God and his church by numerous false religions, the church has grown stronger, not weaker. In many ways, the church should be thankful for the gift of opposition!

Related Topics:

Christological Heresies?
What is Adoptionism?
What is Albigenses?
What is Apollinarianism?
What is Arianism?
What is Docetism?
What is Ebionism?
What is Gnosticism?
What is Kenosis?
What is Marcionism?
What is Modalism?
What is Monarchianism?
What is Monophysitism?
What is Nestorianism?
What is Pelagianism?
What is Semi-Pelagianism?
What is Socinianism?
What is Subordinationism?
What is Tritheism?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).