This heresy is named after Sabellius (early third century), an obscure Roman theologian. Sabellius taught that God is only one person, who acts now as Father in creating the universe, now as son in redeeming sinners, now as the Holy Spirit in sanctifying believers.

The three divine Persons he believed to be three different roles acted out by one divine Being, much as one human person might be a husband, a father and a clerk.

His view, of one way or another, was quite popular in the early church, because it offered a way of believing in the deity of Christ while preserving the oneness of God.

The Church rejected Sabellianism because, among other things, it failed to preserve the personal relationships between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, so prevalent in the New Testament. For example, it makes nonsense of the prayer-life of Jesus in the Gospels.

Sabellianism is also known as Modalism (3 different modes of the same God), and Monarchianism (one rule of God through different roles). 5/18/07