My Modalist Nestorian Theology Teacher


#1

Modalism-A heresy that teaches that God does not have three persons, but that God is just one reality that has manifest under different masks throughout the centuries. They often believe that to say God is 3 persons is to say that there are three Gods. Modalism is often accompanied by refusing to gender God, or call God Father of Son because they are male titles.
Nestorianism- A heresy that believes that wou cannot call Jesus God, because he is not the SON of God. They reason that God is eternal and begotten NOT made so he cannot be called a son literally. He says God has manifested in the Divine Nature of CHRIST, but that CHRIST is separate from the human nature of Jesus. To test is one is a Nestorianist, ask if Mary is the Mother of God. If they say know, she was the mother of Jesus’s human nature, your speaking to a heretic.

I am in tenth grade theology class at my Catholic high school and my theology teacher is teaching both these heresies. What should I do about it? I am fired up because today he singled me out for claiming Jesus is God and said we cant say that we can only say Jesus THE CHRIST is God. SO Jesus is not God according to him. This argument led back to our argument from Friday about the Trinity he was lecturing on, saying that God is manifest as Arche, Logos, and Pnuema, but that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ONLY Human understandings of how God acts, and that God cannot really be father or son. And he claims that there is NOT three persons, because that would mean there is three different wills and intellects. I responded that somehow there is in one God, because Jesus does not know when the end is coming, only the Father knows. He said that that is because Jesus himself is not God, that was his human nature. And he actually MOCKED the hypostatic union as a fancy word Greeks used to describe something they couldnt understand. Where did I go wrong in arguing, where did he go wrong??

And how can I refute what he is saying?
Thanks!
Isaac


#2

Good for you! Many kids wouldn’t say anything. The teacher is wrong, plain and simple. And from what you’ve said, it appears that he’s not spouting heresies because he’s truly ignorant but because he thinks he knows better. So informing him of the truth won’t accomplish much. Honestly, I’d go to the priest stationed at the school.


#3

Okay, this is creative: Can you bring to class: a bottle of water, some ice cubes and a steam cleaner (or another device to make steam with – a steam iron would do the trick)? Ask how all of these things can be H2O and yet manifest in such different ways? Same exact substance chemically. Then make the analogy to God as being three in one.

Can you tape record the lecture? And play it for the parish priest? Ask him what it is that the Catholic church/ faith teaches? Have you asked the teacher where in the Catechism of the Catholic Church you can find what he is instructing? Or maybe bring in a copy of the catechism and point out the applicable passages to him?

Another consideration: this teacher may be really pissed off if he is “called out” by some young whipper snapper (that would be you). It could quickly become “an ego thing” – not to mention that "he is supposed to be the ‘expert’ " and you are just a lowly high school student. This may not be a “religion lesson” – this may be a “political correctness lesson”.

By the way, does this particular teacher have a reputation for being “vindictive”? Because it may be that you want to remain quiet, nod your head “yes” to all that he says – no matter what he says, regurgitate whatever it is that he is (wrongly) teaching for the test, and go on with your high school life. The real lesson might be “sometimes adults can be very wrong, and you need to protect yourself.”

What do your parents think/ say about all of this?


#4

Below I have listed several videos available online to help you develop your grasp of the idea and, at least, uncover where the source of your teacher’s errors are.

From Inspired Philosophy YouTube channel…

What is the Trinity?
youtu.be/1gCv-FAjgps

The Trinity Explained
youtu.be/bUy-H5MmeGU

The Trinity Explained 2
youtu.be/G1FlAC3hz5c

Series that takes up many issues surrounding the theological idea of the Trinity.

youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1mr9ZTZb3TWpnOJV09MuEAwbbQNCS6Qf

The series does include two of the first three videos linked (above) with a number of others added.


#5

I am rather at a loss by what you describe. I have taught both Trinity and Christology. The concept of a high school religion teacher mocking the hypostatic union is very disturbing to me as a theologian since so much of Christology rests on this doctrine, beautifully articulated by Chalcedon.

Firstly, the Fatherhood of the First Person and the Sonship of the Second Person are actually critical to understanding the Trinity since it is the opposition of the relations between the Divine Persons that allows us to distinguish the Divine Persons within the Unity of the Trinity.

Secondly, the definition of person used in theology is entirely distinct from the definition of person in modern psychology, which is apparently the definition he is using. I do not understand the canard of his evoking a multiplicity of wills and intellects. It is only a modern definition that would focus on the person as a center of consciousness and that is what could present the sort of problems he cites. This is unknown, however, in the definition of person of Boethius and in the usage of the term by the Church Fathers and by the first ecumenical councils which resolved the Trinitarian heresies as well as the Christological controversies – and that is the only definition of person he should be relying upon. He should know all of that thoroughly. And he should be teaching you from the primary source material emerging from the councils and using the articulations of the Church Fathers and the summations of the Scholastics.

If it is as you relate, these are such fundamental errors that, frankly, the matter should be referred to the office of the Bishop of your diocese since your teacher would be in error on the most fundamental aspects of Christology and Trinitarian theology.

I do not, however, think it is fair or prudent to expect you, as a tenth grade student, to have to refute his errors since that would be problematic for you as well as for him. Refuting an error in this circumstance needs to be done by a peer or one superior to him, just as it would need to be if one had an English teacher who had no knowledge or an erroneous knowledge of fundamental grammar or Shakespeare, for example.

Beyond refuting error, a teacher who would deny the doctrine of the Trinity or that Christ is a Divine Person with a divine nature as well as an assumed human nature that are both “complete, unmixed, and unconfused but perfectly united at the level of the Person” (the hypostatic union) needs a theologian to guide him from his present positions to the solid teaching that the Church has carefully crafted and enunciated. The dogmatic definitions on these points are really quite clear.

Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott, is a wonderful one volume reference book I always recommended to my own students. That along with A Tour of the Summa, by Msgr. Paul Glenn, are two books worthy of everyone’s library/book collection. Given your interest in theology, I think you would enjoy both of them. The second book in particular would help you to begin to know well the writings and thought of St. Thomas Aquinas. God bless you.


#6

If it was me I would be more concerned about the fact that he is teaching this garbage to students in a Catholic school than trying to refute him. I would be talking to your priest or principal about it. I would be concerned that as a teacher he would be leading students astray from true Catholic teaching into error. The problem is that he is your teacher, and therefore has some power over you. Thus, I would not be trying to take him on, but rather I would go to someone in authority over him and let them know of the situation. Because there is more than just a theological debate between you and him happening here. He is teaching students his own incorrect theology instead of true Catholicism to students in a Catholic school. And, potentially leading them astray. He may already know quite about about the Trinity and it is unlikely you would convince him anyways. It would be better if he talked to someone knowledgeable about it, in a position of authority, like a priest for instance. You could also give him a book on the Trinity. (Or just read it yourself) I recommend, “Theology and Sanity”, by Frank Sheed.


#7

Thanks for all the responses! The apolegetics material is very helpful!

Now, I will talk to the school priest this morning, but the teacher seemed pretty confident that he would agree with him-he even directed me to talk to him before I posted this.
I have talked to the principal last year when this same teacher said scriptures were not infallible about every topic and that the gospels were only deeper theological messages and not to be taken literally, and that if science could prove homosexuality to be natural, the Bible would be proven wrong about that too. BUUUT the principal didn’t care. He agreed. Also last year I asked my principal if we could have confession and adoration but he said confession brings too much scrupulosity and adoration offends nonCatholics(AND he took that opportunity to remind me to stop kneeling at our school Mass…:P).

So I will talk to the school chaplain…maybe that will help. Maybe. If not…I will go to the Bishop. And if that does not work, I will fight this out. I know maybe it is smarter to lay low, pray about it, and not fight with the teacher. But he has humiliated me in front of the whole class, and taught heresy. Not cool. Now the whole class is upset with me too, for disrupting class. Well, it is necessary. It is NOT about school politics or ego or whatever, it is about truth. And he keeps humiliating me for believing the truth. SO I am going to make sure he knows what the Church teaches.


#8

A Catholic school that doesn’t teach Catholicism is committing false advertising, as well as heresy and so forth.

It’s like going to a science and engineering high school, and being taught that space is full of the ether, and the solar system is made up of crystal spheres and Pythagorean solids, and that eating beans and letting off wind makes you more spiritual.


#9

If you end up going to the Bishop, you may or may not receive a favorable response (or any response whatsoever). I had an issue that I took to the Bishop of my archdiocese, and the response was no response. No acknowledgement, no return letter, no return phone call – nothing whatsoever. Ironically, another issue (similar in nature) found its way into a high profile, very embarrassing, viral video type of scenario. The message: a lesson not learned at a lower level repeats itself in increasing strength until that lesson is learned. But even from the high profile situation, I do not think the lesson has yet to be learned.


#10

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