But there was another type of this Monarchianistic thinking which became more and more inf luential because it was much more in the line of the basic feeling of the masses of the Christians. This is modalistic Monarchianism. Modalism means God Himself appears in different modes, different ways. It was also called patripassionism a word you must learn – the Father Himself has suffered. It was also called Sabellianism, from its main representative Sabellius. This was a very widespread movement in the East as well as in the West. It was a real danger for the Logos Christology.
The fight between these two types was going on in the East and West In the West there was a man, Praxeas, with whom Tertullian was fighting. The idea was that God the Father Himself was born through the Virgin Mary; that God the Father Himself, who is the only God, has suffered and died. To be God means to be the universal Father of everything. If we say that God was in Jesus, this means the Father was in him. Therefore these people attacked the so-called ditheoi ,those who believed in two Gods, and the tritheoi , those who believed in three Gods, and they fought for the monarchy of God and or the full Divinity of Christ in whom God the Father Himself has appeared. Both ideas had very large popular support because what the popular mind wanted – and what the popular mind perhaps still wants today – was to have God Himself present on earth, a walking God, a God who is with us, who participates in our fate, whom we can see and hear when we see and hear Jesus.
The main representative of this whole development. was Sabellius. This name plays a tremendous role in all Christian theology, and I know of Christian theologians who even today accuse other Christian theologians of Sabellianism. So you see this is not a dated issue but is something very important.