Going Deeper into the SDA Trinity Doctrine

In the most recent Proclamation I wrote an article examining the SDA Fundamental Belief about the Trinity. The space limitation of the print format required that I leave out even more information than I included. Rather than repeat that article, this post is a companion piece covering the information that I didn’t get a chance to discuss in print.

I didn’t question the SDA view of the Trinity until well after I had left Adventism. The Fundamental Beliefs say that they believe in the Trinity, and the topic simply isn’t discussed that much within Adventism. When I first heard critics say that Adventism was tri-theistic rather than truly Trinitarian, I thought that they were overreacting and splitting hairs. Now, several years later, I find that I have come to the same conclusion. I have reached this conclusion from discussions on the subject with SDA apologists across two different discussion boards.

The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity

As I discussed in the article, the term Trinity is directly related to the theology of the church. The word didn’t exist previously but was created by the church to describe their belief. Therefore the word itself isn’t subject to varying interpretations and understanding. The word was created with one, and only one, very specific meaning. It is a theological term that means three in one. The understanding is that while God exists as three distinct persons, God is still One Being. This description of both the three persons and the one being are critically important in accurately using the term. The errors on the two sides of this truth are tritheism- the idea that god is three distinct beings, and modalism- the idea that there is one person of God who has revealed himself in different modes or forms. It is technically an oversimplification to simply group these into two camps, as there are many variations of these heresies throughout history. However, to keep the discussion focused on how Adventism differs from Orthodox Christian teaching, this summary is sufficient.

Central to the doctrine of the Christian Trinity, and highly controversial at the height of the Arian heresy, is the concept that the persons of the Trinity are one in substance. The term “homoousios” was used to distinguish the one in substance from the Arian doctrines that include being similar in substance. The more familiar modern term is consubstantial which comes from the latin definition. And it is the consubstantial term and concept that is missing from the SDA definition of the Trinity.

The Seventh-day Adventist “Trinity”

Many SDAs have created a slightly different definition of Trinity. According to this view, God is not One “Being” but rather One in purpose or One in agreement. God is One in the same manner that man and wife are one. This is a very different doctrine that the Christian Trinity, and I believe rightly called tri-theism by SDA critics (regardless of what SDAs themselves say about it). Dr. Jerry Moon, a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary in Michigan, describes the Adventist understanding of  “Trinity” in this way “Unlike the multiple gods of polytheism, the three persons of the biblical Godhead are profoundly ‘one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person.’ Thus, despite their individuality, they are never divided, never in conflict, and thus constitute not three gods, but one God.” The quote within this statement is directly from Ellen White. This is not a description that I can find used outside of Adventism. As an interesting aside for those who claim that SDAs don’t use Ellen White to define doctrine, here is a clear case where she is being used to define an important doctrine.

Dr. Moon is probably the most prominent SDA theologian on the subject of the Trinity yet look closely at his definition of what being “one” is in this description of SDA belief. The SDA doctrine is essentially the same as the Mormon teaching on the subject!

Consider these Mormon teachings on the Godhead:

  • “These three beings (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) make up the Godhead.[i]
  • “Each member of the Godhead is an independent personage, separate and distinct from the other two, the three being in perfect unity and harmony with each other[ii]
  • [This one particularly stood out to me] “If by ‘the doctrine of the Trinity’ one means the New Testament teaching that there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Ghost, all three of whom are fully divine, then Latter-day Saints believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. It is as simple as that. The Latter-day  Saints’ first article of faith, written by Joseph Smith in 1842, states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost……However, if by ‘the doctrine of the Trinity’ one means the doctrine formulated by the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon and elaborated upon by subsequent theologians and councils–that God is three coequal persons in one substance or essence–then Latter-day Saints do not believe it.[iii]

 Foundations of Adventism are Arianist

 The founders and early leaders of SDAism were not Trinitarian. In fact, they outright rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. The core of Seventh-day Adventism, including all of their unique doctrinal beliefs, is based on an Arianist theological foundation.  

In 1855, J. N. Andrews, the namesake for the university that houses the SDA theological seminary, wrote, “The doctrine of the Trinity… was established in the church by the council of Nice, A. D. 325. This doctrine destroys the personality of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The infamous measures by which it was forced upon the church which appear upon the pages of ecclesiastical history might well cause every believer in that doctrine to blush.”

But even here, some defenders of Adventism have tried to whitewash this history. These anti-Trinitarian teachings are described at times as correctly rejecting the popular understanding (Dr. Moon stated, “”Since the traditional doctrine of the Trinity clearly contained unscriptural elements, they rejected it.”).

James White plainly expressed that he did not believe that Jesus was co-eternal with the Father. “”the old unscriptural trinitarian creed, viz., that Jesus is the eternal God.” The Day-Star, January 24, 1846, 25

In 1854, J. M. Stevenson wrote “If the inspired writers had wishes to convey the idea of the co-etaneous existence, and eternity of the Father and the Son, they could not possibly have used more incompatible terms.”

In 1865 Uriah Smith referred to Christ as ““the first created being”

In 1869 J. N. Andrews stated “And as to the Son of God, he would be excluded also, for he had God for his Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have a beginning of days.”

As late as the 1919 Bible Conference L. L. Caviness stated “It (Divine glory) was not something he (Jesus) had all through eternity, but the Father had some time given to him the glory of God. He is divine, but he is the divine Son. I cannot explain further than that, but I cannot believe the so called Trinitarian doctrine of the three persons always existing.

At this same conference “W. T. Knox suggested that Christ was the eternal Son in the same sense that Levi was in the loins of Abraham. He said, ‘There came a time—in a way we cannot comprehend nor the time that we cannot comprehend, when by God’s mysterious operation the Son sprung from the bosom of his Father and had a separate existence.'”

In defending the eternal nature of Christ at this same 1919 conference Prescott states “we have used terms in that accommodating sense that are not really in harmony with Scriptural teaching. We believed a long time that Christ was a created being, inspite of what the Scripture says. I say this that passing over the experience I have passed over myself in this matter—this accommodating use of terms which makes the Deity without eternity, is not my conception now of the gospel of Christ. I think it falls short of the whole idea expressed in the Scriptures, and leaves us not with the kind of Savior I believe in now, but a sort of human view—a semihuman being. As I view it, the deity involves eternity. The very expression involves it. You cannot read the Scripture and have the idea of deity without eternity.”

This plainly shows that the debate over the eternal nature of Christ was still an issue within SDA leadership as late as 1919.

Early SDA leaders also questioned the equality of Jesus with the Father. For example L. L. Caviness also stated “I cannot believe that the two persons of the Godhead are equal”

Perhaps because of these early questions, SDAs have come to conclude that the view that Christ is co-eternal with the Father and equal to the Father is Trinitarianism. While it is certainly a step forward from SDA history, it still falls short of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. See for example this less than glowing endorsement of the actual Trinity doctrine: “While the Trinity is a divine mystery, and no mortal man will ever be able to understand it fully, the Scriptural evidence clearly indicates the equality and eternal co-existence of the three persons in the Godhead.[iv]

This doctrine of Adventism that they refer to as the “Trinity” is not the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. This SDA doctrine redefines the word “Trinity”. I seriously have to question whether the SDA church can honestly refer to itself as Trinitarian.

 


[iii] Stephen Robinson (1998) Are Mormons Christians? Bookcraft. http://www.amazon.com/Are-Mormons-Christians-Stephen-Robinson/dp/1570084092

 

[iv] Gerhard Pfandl, The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Seventh-day Adventists, Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 17/1 (Spring 2006): 160–179

Rick Barker

Rick Barker

Rick Barker is a native of Southwestern Ohio and facilitates a weekly Bible study for former and transitioning SDAs in the Dayton, OH area. More information on this study group can be found at www.gracediscovery.org. Rick graduated from Andrews University in 1987 and received a Masters degree from the University of Dayton. He previously served on the staff of the Thomas Bilney Institute for Biblical Research and is an active member of his local Lutheran church. Rick was a volunteer on the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry website for 6 years and remains a participant on the discussion boards. Rick and his wife Sheryl formally left the SDA chuch in 2004. Prior to this they had been active in the Miamisburg and Wilmington Ohio churches.
Rick Barker

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39 comments

  1. Rick, thank you for an informative article. The idea of consubstantiality split the church east vs west. As the bishops in Rome moved closer politically to the Roman society they exalted themselves above other bishops. By the means of forcing other “lesser” delegation to accept consubstantiality they sought to increase their dominance. But this move away from scripture into fantasy was more than the bishops of Antioch could abide. Just because the bishops of Rome had conferred on each other gifts of enlightenment and infallibility didn’t give them the right to go outside the writings of the Apostles and other scripture. This was deemed by the church at Antioch to be unfounded. And the Seventh-day Adventist church agrees.

    If you want to pay homage to the Roman bishops you may, I will not.

  2. George,
    First it is great to have one of the SDA responders here affirm that SDAs reject the established doctrine of the Trinity, despite using the word in their Fundamental Beliefs.

    However, your understanding of church history is a little flawed. The council at Nicea, where “homoousios” (or consubstantiality) was affirmed as church doctrine was primarily a meeting of Bishops from the East, not Rome. The Western/Roman Church didn’t have any controversy over the Trinity, it was the generally accepted teaching. However, Arianism had a strong influence in the North Africa and the Eastern Church. So the Bishops who gathered to discuss the doctrine of Christ’s nature at Nicea were primarily ones from the regions where the controversy was heated. These Bishops affirmed the position that Christ and the Father were truly One, not just in agreement, but also in Being. What they affirmed was both Biblical and also the historical position of the church. Nevertheless, this decision did not cause Arianism to die out immediately, in fact support for Arius continued, and some conclude grew, even after the decision at Nicea.

    Your suggestion that we are following Rome by accepting the doctrine of the Trinity (including consubstantiality) is therefore blantantly false. The Roman Church had very little to do with establishing the Nicene Creed, although they accept it.

  3. I would also like to point out that Antioch was at the center of the Arian controvery. Arius studied there under Lucian of Antioch, along with a number of the other leaders of the Arian heresy. Some believe that Lucian was actually the originator of the doctrine based on the number of his students involved in spreading this heresy. Yet Lucian was well-respected and considered a martyr of the church. So it is not surprising that the birthplace or Arianism held out against the declarations condemning this false teaching.

    Early SDAism was directly Arian in its teaching, the current church has shed a few of those ideas but maintains the Arian core. It is no wonder that you would proclaim Antioch as a heroic city in this doctrinal controversy.

  4. Rick, it doesn’t surprise me to see you treating me the same way Rome treated everyone who refused to accept consubstantiality. You try and squeeze me into the corner with Arius. Consubstantiality per se is an invention of Alexandrian Gnosticism and must be rejected by anyone who claims Sola Scriptura. If you continue to insist that I am an Arian, even though I believe that Jesus Christ is eternal and equal with God the Father, and admit that I don’t comprehend how that can be compatible with Christ being begotten by the Father any more than you do, then I will have to continue insisting that you are a Papist.

    And to try to claim that Rome had little to do with Nicea is to ignore that the chairman of the whole affair, Hosius, himself was probably a representative from Rome.

    1. George,
      You can see in the details of John B’s reply below the actual historical makeup of the council. It pays to spend some time reading church history, it is really quite interesting, and quite different than the false and incomplete history presented in the Great Controversy. Unfortunately that is the closest most SDAs get to church history.

      Before we go further, let’s at least acknowledge that we agree. SDAism rejects the Trinity as presented in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. SDAism does not teach that the Father, Son, and Spirit are One in Being (consubstantiality).

      I believe that both my magazine article and additional detail in this blog have presented the SDA beliefs accurately.

      Why does the concept (I don’t care about the term) of consubstantiality matter so much? It is the difference between having a god-family and having only one God. Scripture is abundantly clear that there is only one God. Exod. 20:3-5; Deut. 4:35; 6:4; Neh. 9:6; Isa. 37:16; 45:18; 45:21; Jer. 10:10-12; 35:15; Mark 12:29. Having a god-family, with three gods who nearly always agree, violates this plain teaching of Scripture. The concept of consubstantiality is the only explanation that acknowledges Jesus and the Holy Spirit as fully and completely God (yet also being distinct from one another) while also maintaining a single God, rather than a three person god family.

      In rejecting part of its Arainist past, SDAism have moved from a directly Arian theology, where Jesus is not God, to a polytheistic theology with a 3 god family. This 3 god family (three who act as one) is not the doctrine of the Trinity (three in one). I believe that the SDA church has used the term Trinity in its beliefs and writings in order to appear more like other churches and therefore not raise alarms with these other churches when the SDA church harvests new members from them.

  5. Rick,

    I refer to comments concerning the First Council of 325CE held at Nicea, 19 June.

    This info is largely from: http://orthodoxwiki.org/First_Ecumenical_Council
    And: http://www.answers.com/topic/first-council-of-nicaea#ixzz20J1TtchJ

    First can I congratulate you and give you my total support for both your article and your responses to George Evans.
    The term: “consubstantial” (“consubstantialem” – in the Latin) is a direct translation from the Greek “homoousion” (lit. of one essence). “Edinosushchna” in the modern Russian. Alexandria had little to do with the derivation of this term. In any case, the Alexandrian delegation had already refuted Gnosticism locally and were totally Orthodox in their beliefs.

    A list of bishops at the council exists, including about 230 names, though there are indications that the signature lists are defective. St. Athanasius of Alexandria puts the number at 318, which is regarded as a mystically significant number, as in Genesis 14:14, the number of servants whom Abraham (then still named “Abram”) took with him to rescue his nephew Lot.

    The Eastern bishops formed the great majority. Of these, the first rank was held by the three patriarchs: Alexander of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, and Macarius of Jerusalem. Many of the assembled fathers—for instance, Paphnutius of Thebes, Potamon of Heraclea and Paul of Neocaesarea — had stood forth as confessors of the faith and came to the council with the marks of persecution on their faces. A number of renowned Eastern saints were also present: besides Athanasius the Great were Nicholas of Myra (the origin of the Santa Claus legend), and Spyridon of Trimythous.

    From the West: out of these three hundred and eighteen bishops, a maximum of ten were from the Latin-speaking church, with only five being undisputed (#4-8 below):

    See: Bishop:
    1 Caerlon – Adelphius (Welsh see established by St Joseph of Arimathea)
    2 London – Restitutus (see planted by Caerlon)
    3 York – Eborius (see planted by Caerlon)
    These were also at the Council of Arles in 314 and were given precedence in the Western delegation as being from the oldest Church in the West. Imperial Roman historians want to deny this, and even their presence at this Council for purely political reasons.
    4 Calabria – Marcus (see established by St Linus, nephew to St Joseph of Arimathea)
    5 Dijon – Nicasius (see established by St Mary Magdalene)
    6 Cordoba – Hosius (see established by St James, the son of Zebedee)
    7 Carthage – Caecilian (see planted from Calabria)
    8 Stridon – Domnus (on the Danube & evangelised by one of the 70)
    9 & 10 – names unclear on the list, and therefore I hesitate to name them.
    Pope Sylvester I of Rome was invited but did not attend due to controversy over his appointment by Constantine. He was represented by two of his priests who exercised little influence at the Council. Hosius was more representative of the Latin Church.

    St Athanasius the Great – present at this Council, later drew up the Athanasian Creed, which defined Orthodox Trinitarian Theology.

    The supporters of Arius included Secundus of Ptolemais, Theonus of Marmarica, Zphyrius, and Dathes, all of whom hailed from the Libyan Pentapolis. Other supporters included Eusebius of Nicomedia (who baptised Constantine in 337), Eusebius of Caesarea, Paulinus of Tyrus, Actius of Lydda, Menophantus of Ephesus, and Theognus of Nicea.

    Arius claimed Marcion as one of his sources of his Christology.

    ++++

    I trust that this puts to bed the nonsense that the Roman Pope had much influence in this Council.

    George Evans said : “The idea of consubstantiality split the church east vs west.” This is totally false! Both Eastern Orthodoxy and western Roman Catholicism to this day are totally united in this Christology of “consubstantiality”, the filioque notwithstanding. They parted company on other issues, primarily the filioque and Papal supremacy. Therefore, can George please get his facts right on the history of this Council.

    Arianism continued to plague the Church for decades, and a Second Council was held in Constantinople in 381 to finally exorcise this beast from the Church. This was successful for a while until Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople (428-431) revived it in another form and then indirectly via Mary: Nestorius called her “Christotokos” – the birth-giver to the Annointed One, only the Orthodox could go that final step and affirm her as the “Theotokos” – the birth-giver to God. This was resolved at the Third Council held in Ephesus in 431CE.

    The son from this “Christotokos” need not be Divine from before all ages, but only acquired divinity in some manner and to some degree at his baptism.

    The son of the “Theotokos”, however, WAS FULLY Divine from before all ages – and thus into eternity past. And remained fully Divine at and beyond His incarnation – and NEVER surrendered ANY of His Deity at any time. And still remains fully and inherently Divine today without change, only acquiring humanity at His incarnation.

    This term “Theotokos” was translated into Latin as “Dei Genetrix” and thence into English as “Mother of God”.

    Thus, in terms of Christology, anyone who cannot affirm Mary in English as the Mother of God – without hesitation or qualification, and include it in their official worship-texts and personal prayers, is an outright Nestorian, and thus likewise, by the descent of history, also an Arian. Interestingly, this term “Theotokos” was also a term that was used to refute Arius.

    These terms: “homoousion”, “consubstantial”, and “Theotokos” are not found in the Bible because the Bible is not a textbook of systematic theology, setting-forth, inter alia, the doctrine of the Trinity in a clear manner. These terms arose from the body of Oral Tradition held within the Orthodox Church and were in circulation unofficially before this council – including that of Theotokos.

    Christology was thrashed out in nine Ecumenical Councils:

    1 – Nicea 325
    2 – Constantinople 381
    3 – Ephesus 431
    4 – Chalcedon 451
    5 – Constantinople 553
    6 – Constantinople 680-81
    7 – Nicea 787
    8 – Constantinople 879-880
    9 – Constantinople 1341-51

    I trust that this assists.

    Regards,
    John

    1. John,
      Thanks for the assist. I am on vacation and away from my reference materials. You have done an outstanding job of documenting the history of Council of Nicea, the history of Arianism, and the real issues “that split the church.”

  6. George, you have affirmed that Adventism rejects Orthodox Christian Trinitarianism by rejecting the belief that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one in essence, substance, and being. Therefore, Adventism should cease using the term Trinity, which has an accepted Orthodox definition. To continue to use an established term, but quietly redefine it, is to be disingenuous in the extreme. One of the reasons that Proclamation exists is to help concerned evangelicals understand that Adventism is not orthodox Christianity, despite borrowing (and redefining) some of the same words. This conversation illustrates the language barrier well.

  7. Rick,

    Thanks for the support. We can unite as one on the bedrock beliefs of the Church.

    I could go into the details that caused Rome to part company with the Orthodox Church, but this would distract from the primary purpose of your article. I will restrict myself to just one issue – one that directly affects the Trinity.

    You said earlier, and correctly:

    “Your suggestion that we are following Rome by accepting the doctrine of the Trinity (including consubstantiality) is therefore blantantly false. The Roman Church had very little to do with establishing the Nicene Creed, although they accept it.”

    At Constantiople in 381, the finished Creed was delivered without alteration, addition or erasure as THE standard by which Orthodox Christianity may be judged.

    This creed in its wording was reaffirmed at all subsequent Ecumenical Councils. Technically, it is the “Nicaeo-Constantinoplian Creed” but is popularly known as the “Nicene” Creed for short.

    In 381, Rome was a minority party to this Creed. At this Council, it was more concerned about the definition of Constantinople as the “new Rome”, for this laid the foundation for its diminution of importance in the Church.

    Rome accepted and submitted to the text of this Creed as required by the Canons of these Councils until Christmas Eve 800CE. On the following day, it accepted the interpolated Creed of Toledo (third council 589CE), contrary to Church Canons, at the coronation of the Frankish Charlemagne. On that day it began its long march away from the “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”

    This interpolated Creed read (with respect to the Son)

    “I believe in Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son), . . .”
    (the words interpolated are in brackets)
    These three words in English were the translation of the one word in Latin “Filioque”, thus the “Filioque” issue. In the Greek they required three words “kai ek huios” which were conspicuously absent in the original.

    Thus commenced the Latin theological weakness in Trinitarian theology which exploded in the fringes of Protestantism from the middle of the 16th Century onward.

    Interestingly, Toledo at the time was still battling Arianism, which had never fully died out in the West.

    Trinitarian Theology may be addressed as follows:

    (1) overall relationships within and amongst the Trinity, (“three in persons, one in essence and undivided” – according to the text of the Divine Liturgy).

    (2) Patrology – that which has to do with the “Father” (technically the genderless “Arche” of Patristic Theology),
    (3) Christology – that which has to do with the Son
    (3A) Mariology subset
    (3B) Iconology subset
    (4) Pneumatology – that which has to do with the Holy Spirit.

    Finally, without wishing to make this reply overlong, may I totally endorse your:

    “One of the reasons that Proclamation exists is to help concerned evangelicals understand that Adventism is not orthodox Christianity, despite borrowing (and redefining) some of the same words”

    May I go one step further. not only is Adventism NOT Orthodox Christianity:

    on the basis of its rejected Trinitarian theology of ALL nine Ecumenical Councils , AND its rejection of the Nicene Creed in toto, AND in its rejection of the Trinitarian theology inherent in the Divine Liturgies of St Basil and St John Chrysostom, (all three as deliberately absent in any of its official statements of belief, and deliberately absent in its sanctioned worship-texts). . .

    It has no right to call itself “Christian” in any manner whatsoever, nor has it any moral right to call itself a “Church”.

    Thank you once again for your support, and on bedrock issues, I look forward to further supporting you in the future. As a postscript, do you want me to spell out in a nutshell the Trinitarian Issues addressed in all nine Ecumenical Councils?

    Blessings,
    J

  8. JC,
    First let’s deal with the question of the thread. Do you believe that the SDA church teaches the same doctrine of the Trinity as the Christian church has taught through history and continues to teach?

    As to you question about teaching the Trinity from Scripture alone, do we agree that in my earlier reply to George I provided ample Scriptural evidence that God is a singular being?

    1. I must have missed the thread question. I’m not sure where it is posted.

      Being an SDA, I actually think the emphasis is a bit different than you think. SDA leadership appears to be trying to lead the members into accepting the idea of Trinity by redefining it and waiting to “correct” the definition later. This is quite different than merely trying to look Orthodox.

      I personally believe that the leadership should be held accountable for what they are doing no matter motives. If they are trying to trick the Orthodox into joining, they are deceptive. If they are trying to trick SDAs into accepting Orthodoxy without a thorough study of Scripture, they are being deceptive and also belittling Scripture.

      Being SDA, I feel that you can be orthodox without being Orthodox as well as be Christian without accepting the Church council’s decision. Men make mistakes whereas God doesn’t.

      I believe that there is one God. Your references as well as all Scripture maintains that. What I would like to see is a Scriptural argument that God has more than one person and not more than three. Typically everyone argues from ambiguous or non-Biblical sources. I’d like to see an irrefutable “Thus saith the LORD”.

      1. There wasn’t a specific, literal thread question so much as there was an implied question in the posted topic. Nevertheless, thanks for your candid response. And I will concur with you that men make mistakes and God doesn’t. I don’t intend to suggest that we should accept the statements of a church council simply because a group of men get together a long time ago and voted on a position. However, I do think that we should start by examining those conclusions. History is a valuable teacher, and we would do well to examine that history and keep what is good, and work to avoid the same mistakes and heresies that occured in history. In the case of the orthodox view of the Trinity, I don’t believe that the view is correct because of a council. I believe that, in studying Scripture, the council made the correct decision about what beliefs were within the teaching of Scripture and what beliefs fell outside Scripture.

        We are starting with common ground that there is one God. If you are insisting on a specific Biblical statement that “God is a Trinity consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who are three distinct Persons yet still one Being” then we both know that there is no such statement in the Bible. If that is the only possible thing that would convince you, we can shake hands and agree that we view this issue differently.

        I am going to assume that you have no question about whether Scripture teaches that the Father is God, so I will not set out to demonstrate that from Scripture.
        Matthew 28:19 instructs the church to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I will agree that this doesn’t “prove” that the Son and Holy Spirit are God; however, there is some degree of awkwardness if One God and two others are mentioned together so equally. Nor does it “prove” beyond any possible doubt that there are only three persons, but again it raises the question of why mention these three together, yet no others.

        Is Jesus God? Here is where the early SDA pioneers taught something different than what is currently taught in the church, they denied Christ’s divinity. I believe that this early teaching was not Scriptural.
        Jesus declares Himself to be the “I am” (God) multiple times in Scripture, for instance see John 8:58. If I recall correctly, this is one of the verses that Blanco drastically changed in his paraphrase. When you have to drastically change a passage it makes me suspect that there is some problem in one’s theology in that part of Scripture. We should be transformed by the Word, not altering it to fit our thoughts better. Sorry for the aside, back to the study.

        John 1:1 tells us that the Word was God. (interestingly this is a verse that JWs have to change). John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh. We know that it is Jesus who took on flesh, so the only possible conclusion from John Chapter 1 is that Jesus is God.

        Acts 20:28 tells us that the church was bought with God’s own blood. We know that the shed blood was from Jesus; therefore, once again, the only possible conclusion is that Jesus is God.

        I have provided plural witnesses from Scripture that Jesus is God. I think this plainly answers you challenge to see that God is more than one person.

        Let’s move on to the Holy Spirit. The case for the Holy Spirit is a little less direct, but is certainly convincing enough (and we have already proven more than one person which means that the consubstantial explanation is back on the table).

        Romans 8:9 calls the Spirit both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (which is also more evidence that Christ is God)

        In Acts 5:3 Annias is said to have lied to the Holy Spirit. In the following verse this is described as lying to God.

        I Cor (3:16 and 6:19) describes our body as both the temple of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit.

        When Jesus is raised from the dead, the act is described as something Jesus did (John 2:19-21; 10:17-18), something the Holy Spirit did (Rom 8:11), and as something the Father did (Acts 2:24; 5:30; Gal 1:1).

        In regards to whether there are three and no more than three I would point out that the three names are used together multiple times (Matt 28:19; I Cor 12:4-6; II Cor 13:14; I Pet 1:2). Eph 4:4-6 tells us that there is one Spirit, one Lord, and one God and Father. These three are described as God, and Scripture describes no others as God. These three are described together, and there is never a fourth. These three are described as having the characteristics of God and performing the functions of God, yet no others are described as such.

        There is strong Scriptural evidence that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. There is even stronger evidence that God is One. The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity affirms both of these as true. Every competing viewpoint I have seen denies either one or the other. In this case, the men of the council followed Scripture and affirmed the Scriptural teachings on this subject.

        1. “John 1:1 tells us that the Word was God. (interestingly this is a verse that JWs have to change). John 1:14 tells us that the Word became flesh. We know that it is Jesus who took on flesh, so the only possible conclusion from John Chapter 1 is that Jesus is God.”
          I don’t believe that is the only conclusion. Jesus is definately the Son of God, and I believe divine, but is He God? Jn.1:1 says that He ‘was God’. This being past tense. Children could be said to be once their parents but not currently their parents.

          “Acts 20:28 tells us that the church was bought with God’s own blood. We know that the shed blood was from Jesus; therefore, once again, the only possible conclusion is that Jesus is God.”

          Is not the son the father’s blood? Doesn’t God own everything? I still am not sure if your conclusion is “the only possible” one.

          “I have provided plural witnesses from Scripture that Jesus is God. I think this plainly answers you [sic] challenge to see that God is more than one person.”

          Not quite, but I’m sure this discussion could go on a bit further.

          “Let’s move on to the Holy Spirit. The case for the Holy Spirit is a little less direct, but is certainly convincing enough (and we have already proven more than one person which means that the consubstantial explanation is back on the table).”

          I’m still not sure if more than one person is proven, though I’m not saying that the Father and Son aren’t of the same substance, since He was begotten rather than created. To say that everything in the Universe is the same substance would obviously lead to pantheism or panentheism.

          “Romans 8:9 calls the Spirit both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ (which is also more evidence that Christ is God)”

          Do they not both have pneuma? Doesn’t everyone? Where I differ with you is that I think the Spirit is the power, influence, and agent of God rather than another part of the Trinity.

          “In Acts 5:3 Annias is said to have lied to the Holy Spirit. In the following verse this is described as lying to God.”

          Can Ananias have lied to them both? Oh, wait, I’m still supporting the fact that the spirit is not a person, but like the voice on the telephone for both the Father and Son.

          “I Cor (3:16 and 6:19) describes our body as both the temple of God and the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

          How does the Father dwell in us? Bodily? He can’t fully be in everyone individually without being more than one entity, though His influence can. Thus the Father is in us through his pneuma.

          “When Jesus is raised from the dead, the act is described as something Jesus did (John 2:19-21; 10:17-18), something the Holy Spirit did (Rom 8:11), and as something the Father did (Acts 2:24; 5:30; Gal 1:1).”

          This is a great one. First Rom.8:11 is obviously talking about the Father doing things through His spirit. So that removes the Spirit acting on its own. Now Jesus said He would raise Himself and Paul said the Father raised Jesus. Could not the Father have animated/raised Jesus and Jesus have gotten up, when He became alive again, thus raising from the tomb?
          I’m sorry I couldn’t reply to your other posts, but I needed to address part of this one before going forward. I’ll try to reply a bit more in the next couple days.

  9. JC

    May I address your query as follows:

    As I have said earlier, the Bible is not a textbook of systematic theology where we can find our beliefs nicely and conveniently packaged simply to take off its shelf without further ado as one would in a shop. We must “search the Scriptures, to see if those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

    In this case, Trinitarian theology is not explicitly set forth in convenient “sound-bites” as we see on TV. It is contained in Remez form (a Hebrew interpretational principle) in various places in Scripture. It is not set forth in a “sound-bite” from God like this: “We three Persons are a Trinity”. Demanding this information from God in this manner is pure, secular Hellenistic rationalism. We rather should look for this information in a Hebrew manner in a ‘God-in-action cameo’.

    In Genesis 1, we find the “Let Us Create . . .” The use of the pronoun “Us”, together with the word used about God – Elohim, describes a “community of Deity” comprised of more than two persons. Whilst not tidily set forth, it commences the idea that the One God (of Deut 6:4 – the Shema of Israel) – the One in Essence, is not a lonely monad, but is at least three in persons. This idea continues without further elaboration through OT times until we come to the NT.

    It is only in the NT that we find more concrete and delimiting information about this “community of Deity”.

    At Jesus’ Baptism, we see this “community of Deity” manifest as three, and no more than three persons.
    1. – the “voice from heaven” – the “Father”.
    2. – the descent of a form of a dove – the Spirit
    3. – Jesus (as fully God) emerging from the water.

    At Jesus’ Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, we see this “community of Deity” again manifest as three, and no more than three persons.
    1. – the “voice from heaven” – the “Father”.
    2. – the glory-cloud surrounding Jesus – the Spirit
    3. – Jesus (as fully God) standing on Mount Tabor.

    Thus, already and before the crucifixion, we have sufficient information to conclude that this “community of Deity” – present at Creation, is comprised of three and no more than three persons. And in terms of instances of ‘God-in-action’ cameos, it satisfies the criteria “in the mouths of two witnesses . . .” (Deut 19:5).

    The Bible writers simply left it at that, and did not create a one-word term to describe this “community of Deity”. It was left to the Church in a later generation to do so – to try to satisfy the intellectual demands of the rationalist Greeks.

    Yet having said this, it does not disqualify the use of the term “Trinity” – it is more succinct than to try to say “a Community of Deity comprised of three and no more than three Persons, all of which are fully Divine” every time we want to use the concept. The idea contained within these two sets of inverted commas is identical.

    Which would you rather use?

    It is identical in principle to this example:

    (A) a furry animal which walks and runs on four legs and miaows, OR
    (B) cat.

    I trust that this assists.
    J.

    1. John,
      I would contend that “Trinity” is the combination of the teachings that God is One (a singular Being) along with the teaching the God is a “community of Diety” (as you would call it) consisting of Father, Son, and Spirit. Teaching the first without the second is, essentially, Arianism. Teaching the second without the first is a form of polytheism. The Trinity doctrine is more than affirming that all three persons (Father, Son, and Spirit) are Divine, it also requires affirming that they are One (in being).

      1. Rick,

        Thanks for this. I agree 100%.

        With you, I would never teach one without the other. You quite properly point out the necessity of teaching both together in a seamless whole, and the dangers of presenting either one in isolation.

        Your last sentence summarizes it perfectly. This is precisely what the Divine Liturgy teaches: “Three in Persons, One in Essence and undivided.”

        In my response to JC, I was merely trying to address his/her request to prove it from “His words alone”, and to point out the difficulties of trying to do so. Where I failed to do so clearly, I confess my failure.

        May God be with you as you contend earnestly for the Truth.

    2. Hey John,
      My understanding of Scripture differs from yours, but I would like you to reply to my points in order for me to see their weaknesses.

      1. God is one.
      2. Husband and Wife are one flesh.
      3. Jesus said that we could be sons of God.
      4a. Jesus was the only begotten Son of God.
      4b. Adam was a created son of God.
      4c. There are other created sons of God.
      4d. We too can be sons of God.
      5. Jesus prayed that we would be one with the Father as He is one with the Father.
      6. Jesus only prayed to the Father, not the Spirit.
      7. Jesus taught us to pray to His Father, not Him or the Spirit.
      8. If we pray in Jesus name, He will give it.
      9. Jesus had no power except through the Father until the Father gave all power to the son.
      10. Jesus did not know the Father’s plans.
      11. Jesus did not have the power to place people at his right hand.
      12. God is a spirit.
      13. There are only two thrones in Heaven.
      14. Jesus actually died, in every sense.
      15. Jesus was raised by the Father.
      16. Jesus would be called the Father and God.
      17. The Spirit came upon people in the OT, empowering them.
      18. An angel was given to Israel, which they were not to sin against, it would not forgive them because God’s name was in it.
      19. In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth.
      20. In the beginning was the Word.
      21. The Word was God in the beginning.
      22. Through Him was everything made that was made.
      23. There are more than one spirit.
      24. Through one man sin entered the world.
      25. Through one man was salvation brought.

      Are these all correct? I’m just going off the top of my head, so some of the wording may be wrong.

      1. JC,

        Thank you for your sincerely-asked questions.

        I will let this one go through to the Author of the article, Rick. While we are in different Church Traditions, both he and I share sufficient bedrock beliefs for him to answer this one sufficiently satisfactorily for me.

        I suspect, however that in doing so to your satisfaction, it will require more that a trite, one line answer to each of your 25 dot points. Who knows, it may lead to Rick doing a fresh article dedicated to these answers, only time will tell.

        Over to you Rick, and God bless.

        1. John,
          You are correct that nearly every one of these points could generate its own article. I have tried to provide a quick response to each one in hopes of generating discussion one by one, if there is a true interest in a detailed discussion. I have learned long ago that giving detailed answers to dot points can leave one person doing all of the effort in the conversation.

          1. Thanks for this Rick,

            You are better equipped to handle this one. As you may have gathered from my recent posts, my thinking is mainstream Church. And has been for many years now.

            And JC is asking questions from within the Adventist ghetto . . . I am unable to “think-Adventist” or even know how to “think-Adventist”. Thus, JC is your territory, not mine.

            Adventist thinking baffles me. And from where I am at now, and given the distance that I have traveled, I am simply bemused as how someone could think like that and still claim to be an Orthodox Christian.

            Keep up the good work, and there is awaiting for you that heavenly crown reserved for the Master’s children. And not only for you but to all of His children who await His glorious return.

            Blessings,
            J

          2. Hey John,
            I’m sorry about how brief my post was. I was in a hurry and couldn’t flesh out my points.

          3. John,
            I’ve never claimed to be an Orthodox Christian. I’m actually part of the Correct Christian denomination. 🙂 j/k! In all seriousness, I have not come to all truth and thus I cannot claim to be orthodox, I’m simply striving toward orthodoxy. Also, just because someone says they are Orthodox or orthodox doesn’t mean they truly are, that is for God to decide. It’s like how Catholics claim to be the Universal Church.

      2. Points 1 & 2 God isn’t flesh. The one flesh that a married couple enjoys is a fleshy oneness.

        Points 3 & 4. I think you miss the important distinction between sons who are begotten, created, and adopted. That answer points 3 & 4.

        Point 5 is the only semi-valid point that I see in this list. I believe that it is resolved by understanding that God dwells in us through His Holy Spirit when we are born again. Yet, admittedly this is still a different oneness than what is between Christ and the Father.

        Point 6. This only helps to illustrate that the 3 persons of the Trinity are distinct and that they have different functions.
        Points 7 & 8 Romans 8:26-27

        Points #9, 10, and 11 fail to take into account that before Jesus became lower than the angels in taking human flesh, He eternally has all the power of God. Besides, Jesus casts out demons in His own name and promises to raise Himself from the dead.

        Point 12, YES! This is another common error of SDAism, since their foundation they have denied that God is spirt and insist on giving Him a corporeal body. It was only in taking on flesh that God, in Christ, was ever anything more than spirit.

        Point 13. Incorrect. I find more thrones than that. Perhaps you need to study that subject further.

        Point 14. Because SDAs deny the distinction between body and spirit they can not comprehend the reality that Jesus’ death was just like ours will be, a death of the physical body, not a death of the spirit.

        Point 15. The Bible tells us that Jesus raised Himself; that the Holy Spirit raised Jesus, and that the Father raised Him (see my post above for the references)

        Point 16. Relevance?

        Point 18. Are you claming that the Holy One of Israael was an angel? on what basis?

        Points 19-22 are incomplete without acknowledging that the Word became flesh.

        Point 23, Eph 4:4 says there is one Spirit.

        Point 24 and 25. There is no question that the fully Divine and eternal Word became flesh. Jesus was fully man. But that doesn’t negate that He was, is,and will always be, fully God.

        1. Rick,
          Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I just printed it out and will try to write out an adiquate reply. My internet is a bit sketchy and I’m doing this around other stuff so I’ll try to have a reply by tonight or Wednesday.

        2. 1&2-Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us.
          3&4-While it is true that humans may never become the begotten of God, that doesn’t make invalid that Jesus is the Son of God. “…I came forth from the Father…”(Jn.16:27-28) “And this is live eternal, that they might know the the only true God, and Jesus Christ [anointed], whom thou has sent.”
          5-I don’t see how Jesus has another oneness with the Father than how He describes it here (other than being divine and His begotten Son):”That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that they world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” (Jn. 17:21-23)
          7-In Romans 8:26-27 and 34, Paul says that both the Spirit and Jesus have the same function of interceding on our behalf. Nowhere does it say for us to pray to the Spirit.
          8-
          9-11-See #24&25
          12-I recall Jesus having a corporeal body in the OT. (Ex. 33:22-23 and Gen. 18:1-2) The first could be said to be non-corporeal, but the second? Also, man was made in God’s image and likeness. (Gen. 1:26)
          13-I’ll agree that there were more thrones (for the judges and seats for the elders) but how many did God and the Lamb inhabit?
          14-This is the most important difference of opinion we have. I wouldn’t have expected it, but I believe it is one of the basic reasons why we differ in our opinion on the Trinity. You believe in an eternal “soul”, whereas I believe that your awareness ceases with all other functions when you die. Most SDA’s believe that the body and breath of live (spirit or ruach) makes a living soul. There was no point in Jesus promising us eternal life if our souls could not die or be destroyed. He would have promised eternal avoidance of suffering instead. This is also important in seeing what kind of sacrifice Jesus offered. (see 24&25)
          15-You say that all three were involved with the rise of Jesus. Rom. 8:11 seems to point to the Father and His spirit. If God is a Spirit, how come another was needed? If both Father and Son had spirits, it seems to suggest that this was akin to the other spirits (ruach and pneuma) that man has as well as exist. (see point 23)
          16-You ask how it is relevant that Jesus was prophesied to be called the Father.(Is.9:6) Simple, was He the Father? Maybe, if He was literally the begotten of the Father. (Jn. 1) Is He the Father? If so, you have Modalism. If not, then Jesus would be called the Father, but as a misunderstanding.
          17-What/Who was the Spirit in the OT? What was its/His purpose?
          18-I’m saying that God gave an Angel to Israel that would not forgive them and was to lead them. (Ex. 23:20-23) This seems a lot like the Holy Spirit in the NT.
          19-22-Maybe, but they give a good idea of what things were like before He became flesh, whenever that was.
          23-That may be true, but there are more than one spirit. It’s like saying there is one cup. Obviously there is the cup and a cup. PNEUMA is a very broad word. It is assumed that it is the Holy Spirit (as a Person of the Godhead or Trinity) unless obviously something else. I’m not sure if all these references actually refer to the HS or if some actually refer to other things, like God’s breath, inspiration, or power exerted. There are unclean spirits (Mt.12:43), the will or mind (Mt.26:41), seven spirits (Rev. 4:5), the quality (2Tim 1:7), breath life or soul, etc.
          24-25-This seems to disagree with the witness of Jesus Himself. If He was fully God (while on Earth at least):
          1. Why couldn’t He determine who would sit on His right and left side in the kingdom?
          2. Why didn’t He know when He was coming again?
          3. Why did He do everything the Father told Him, used the Father’s power, and finally was given all power?
          Also, it appears that according to you, the sacrifice was limited to a corpse. God never died because Jesus’ spirit never died. He couldn’t. It was merely a human sacrifice, because God’s son couldn’t really die, just His fleshly husk. The mind could just skip away to its glorious incorporeal body for a bit before reanimating the corpse that was “killed”.

          1. JC,
            I appreciate your replies, they allow for meaningful dialogue on the subject. I hope our comments back and forth are causing some people to pull out their Bibles and look further into these issues themselves. Did you miss my reply above about the Biblical evidence for Jesus and the Holy Spirit being divine?

            I don’t know if I have time to address all of your responses tonight, I have a very early flight in the morning. But I would like to address at least a few

            1-2 Jesus had to become flesh, indicating that before this time He wasn’t flesh.

            3-4 no it doesn’t make it invalid that Jesus is the Son of God, the ONLY begotten Son of God. He was with God from the beginning, and He was God from the beginning.

            5 please see my earlier Biblical discussion of “One God” above in this thread.

            7 the passages in Romans say that our spirits communicate directly with the Holy Spirit. However, since you deny that we have spirits that can communicate, you likely struggle to incorporate this passage into your theology.

            More to follow tomorrow.

          2. 12- You make the point that Jesus had a corporeal body in the OT (Ex. 33:22-23 and Gen. 18:1-2), with a particular emphasis that Gen 18 had to be corporeal. First, on what basis are you certain this was Jesus and not the Father? If it was Jesus, why did He appear as 3 men? Does the fact that God appeared to man in a form we could interact with negate the fact that God is spirit?
            You also mentioned that man was made in God’s image and likeness. (Gen. 1:26)
            In what way is man made in God’s image? Is it the physical body? Is it the creative mind? Please provide your specific rationale for insisting that this is discussing a physical likeness and image.
            13-So what are you suggesting the number of thrones indicates? Historically (as seen in Matt 20:21-23), a king would have one person seated on both his left and right in positions of honor. We know that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father, we don’t know anything about the left hand of the Father.

            14-Yes, our difference in understanding of spirit will play a large role in our difference in understanding. If you believe that spirit is only breath, how do you understand God being spirit?
            If spirit is only breath, how does the Holy Spirit communicate with our spirit (Rom 8:16a “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit”)
            Does the SDA idea of body and breath really make sense in light of Christ’s words ” And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
            You make the routine argument about the questionable value of a promise of eternal life if even the wicked remain forever in punishment. Yet Jesus uses the same word to describe both the length of a believer’s life and the length of an unbeliever’s suffering, “eternal” Matt 25:46: “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life”. The opposite of life, in Scriptural terms, is not the absence of life, but rather suffering and punishment.
            15-I’m not the one who says that all three were involved with raising Jesus from the dead, it is Scripture that list all three. As I previously pointed out, when Jesus is raised from the dead, the act is described as something Jesus did (John 2:19-21; 10:17-18), something the Holy Spirit did (Rom 8:11), and as something the Father did (Acts 2:24; 5:30; Gal 1:1).
            16-CARM, where I was an active volunteer for some time, provides a more succinct explanation of Isa 9:6 than I could write. “When Isaiah 9:6 says that Jesus’ name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, etc., it is not saying that Jesus is the eternal Father, but that he has the characteristics of God. In other words, Jesus has all the attributes of God, including eternality”
            17 & 18-Do you have any reason to believe that the Spirit was a different person in the OT than in the NT? My understanding is one of a difference of functions in the different covenants. In the Old Covenant (and thus the OT writings) the Spirit came upon a person for a particular period of time or activity. In the New Covenant (and in the NT writings from Pentecost onward), the Holy Spirit is poured out upon the believer and in facts dwells in the person.
            19-22 So what was Jesus before He became flesh, in your opinion?
            23- Mt.12:43, unclean spirits do not come from God. Because there are unclean spirits has no bearing on whether there are more than one Spirit of God. It is an assumption on your part, because you deny a living spirit in the person, that Matt 26:41 refers to the mind rather than to exactly what it says, our spirit. Greek has words for both the mind and the will, but Jesus doesn’t choose to use those words. I believe that Jesus is accurate in the words He uses. 2 Tim 1:7 is viewed much the same way.
            24-25 You make a false assumption In your argument that I am teaching “the sacrifice was limited to a corpse. God never died because Jesus’ spirit never died. He couldn’t. It was merely a human sacrifice, because God’s son couldn’t really die, just His fleshly husk.” Neither I, nor orthodox Christianity teach that Jesus body was the human part and His spirit was the divine part. By being both fully human and fully divine, His flesh was also fully divine and His spirit was also fully human. And His death was just like our death, the body dies, but the spirit remains. If Jesus ceased to exist, except as a hunk of flesh already starting to decompose, then how could He possibly have made the promise that He would raise Himself (John 2:19 ” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”)

  10. The significant thing about this conversation, that I really hope concerned evangelicals note and remember, is that SDAs clearly do *NOT* accept the Church’s historic, orthodox teaching on the Trinity. The term “trinity” in Adventism clearly means something different than in historic, orthodox, Christianity. There is a significant language barrier to scale in witnessing to Seventh-day Adventists. While their language may sound Christian, in fact, it is not. If you simply ask an Adventist, “Do you believe in the Trinity?” and then accept the answer at face value, you have not gone deeply enough in your conversation. Similar things could be said about asking questions like, “Do you believe in salvation by grace alone?”. You will receive an affirmative answer, but that answer means something completely different from what evangelicals believe and the Bible teaches.

    1. Chris,

      Thank you for your input. I support you 100%+

      Rick,

      Keep up the good work – you are doing splendidly.
      I will defer to you completely on this one because I cannot “think Adventist” to know where JC is coming from so as to answer JC relevantly.

      Both:

      Can I suggest something that might just short-circuit all this back and forth? (Which threatens to go on interminably).

      +++

      [Please note, we all must start at #1 in order to have a genuine conversation.]

      (1) We ALL need to first acknowledge that the Bible is NOT a textbook of systematic theology as one would find in the Confessions or Academic Theology of (especially) the Protestant churches.

      The idea that it is (or at least could or SHOULD be) is alien to the entire Church – both East (Holy Orthodoxy) and West (Romanism) alike until the Western Thomas Aquinas.

      This methodology (of sola scriptura ‘systematic theology’ remains alien to Eastern Orthodoxy to this day. The nearest Eastern Orthodoxy got to this Western eccentricity was with the “confession” of Peter Moghila at the Synod of Jassy (Moldova) in 1642.

      Both the Roman Church and the Protestants, each in their own way, developed their respective “systematic theologies” ever since the time of Desiderius Erasmus – Rome via the Councils of Trent and following, and Protestantism with the various respective 16th C “magesterial” Protestant Confessions, and following.

      And until Aquinas, no Patristic source – Greek, Latin or Syriac, ever approached the Bible in either or both a Thomist or an Erasmian manner. This development is merely a Latin, Western eccentricity flowing from a Latin mindset.

      +++

      And so, JC, in order to move forward . . .

      (2) have you studied enough of either or both Church history or Orthodox Church theology to refute or verify these observations by either or both Rick or Chris? [Or even myself for that matter?]

      (2A) If not, there is no point in continuing the conversation as you will not have enough shared historical or theological information on board to intelligently or relevantly interact with Rick, or Chris (or, for that matter, any Orthodox Christian). We will simply be playing an “Alice-in-Wonderland” game where we get to choose the definitions of our own words, and then expect others to understand what we are saying.

      (2B) If so, we may move to (3).

      (3) Have you studied ANY of the Trinitarian Theology of ANY of the Nine Ecumenical Councils?

      [I have conveniently provided them for you in an earlier post, as likewise I have given you the accepted parameters of Trinitarian Theology.]

      (3A) If not – refer to (2A) above.

      (3B) If so, we may move to (4)

      (4) Have you studied ALL of the Trinitarian Theology of ALL of the Nine Ecumenical Councils?

      (4A) If not – refer to (2A) above.

      (4B) If so, we may move to (5)

      (5) On the basis of the Trinitarian Theology of ALL of the Nine Ecumenical Councils, and NOT of or from the SDA Church, what can you say of Rick’s patient and well-considered replies?

      +++

      I could go on, but this would spin this post into an article longer that Rick’s original article. I trust that this will do for now.

      In closing, Rick, keep up the good work. I am holding all of you in my prayers.

      In Christ,
      J.

      1. John,
        It is interesting that coming from very different approaches and traditions, we still come to many similar conclusions.

        Personally, I would trace systematic theology to Augustine and Athanasius, although I acknowledge that this was more a consistent hermeneutic theology than the idea of “systematic theology” that provides the framework for explaning everything, as one sees in Calvin’s systematic theology for instance.

        The value that I find in reading the historical development of the church’s doctrines is that shows what things were considered, what teachings were rejected and helps to explain why. Doctrinal explanations developed and gained clarity over time (centuries not weeks). Our understanding builds and grows from those who came before us. I don’t believe that the creeds of history have authority because they were historical creeds of the church and are handed down to us from the Church Fathers. Nonetheless, I have found these creeds to be faithful and accurate descriptions of the content of God’s Word. And, for me, that is where their “authority” lies. I would concur with Luther’s statement “Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other, my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”

        BTW, I consider myself Lutheran because I agree with much of the theology and with statements like these. Rather than bringing up the quote because I am Lutheran.

        I appreciate the encouragement and the historical grounding you bring to this discussion.

  11. JC,
    I moved this discussion to the bottom of the thread where it would be easier to find and follow. I hope you don’t mind.

    I think that it is also important to point out to anyone else reading along that the views you are expressing within this thread do not represent current “mainstream” SDA teaching, but are aligned with the historic SDA doctrine on the subject and follow EGWs writing more consistently than the current SDA teachings do. Yet I doubt that you would ever be reprimanded by an SDA church for expressing or teaching your views because the SDA church accepts a very wide range of viewpoints on the doctrine of the godhead. Please correct anything in that disclaimer that you don’t believe is accurate.

    There are a couple of clear examples within your reply that demonstrate the difference in how SDAs and Evangelical Christians approach Scripture. Evangelicals emphasize that Scripture can best be understood accepting the plain and simple reading of the passage. Therefore the most straightforward reading of a passage is most likely to be the accurate reading of the passage. One of the foundational principles of understanding that contributed to the Protestant Reformation was the concept that the simplest explanation was likely to be the true explanation. From these principles flows the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. Exegesis starts with what is written and looks to draw out the meaning of the passage based on only what is written in that passage. Eisegesis approaches a passage looking to see if, or how, that passage could be understood to support an idea or position.

    Returning to the examples from our discussion:

    In regards to John 1:1, we both agree that the “Word” is talking about Jesus, but we came to very different conclusions about what the verse means. Let me start by quoting the verse and then examining our conclusions from this verse.

    ESV “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    My conclusion from this is that Jesus was God from the beginning, that is, Jesus is eternally God.

    You replied, “I don’t believe that is the only conclusion. Jesus is definately(sic) the Son of God, and I believe divine, but is He God? Jn.1:1 says that He ‘was God’. This being past tense. Children could be said to be once their parents but not currently their parents.”

    First I would like to address the past tense issue. The past tense is being told in a chronological story, He was with God from the beginning (and was God from the beginning), He became flesh (v. 14-still past tense) and now sits at the right hand of God (v. 18 – present tense). This would be straightforward reading in any account of events, there is nothing out of the ordinary that would suggest one needed an alternative understanding.

    Which leads us to the speculation: “Children could be said to be once their parents but not currently their parents.” Is that a common understanding? Is that an understanding that we find repeatedly in Scripture? Would there be any reason to come to this understanding based only on reading the passage, or is this understanding of the passage based on having an idea about Jesus Christ already in mind and trying to find a way to fit that understanding into the passage?

    In regards to Acts 20:28, we came to very different conclusions about every aspect of this verse. Again, let’s start with the verse itself:

    ESV “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

    My conclusion from this was that we know it is Jesus’ shed blood and since the passage describes the blood as “God’s own blood” we must conclude that Jesus is God.

    You replied “Is not the son the father’s blood? Doesn’t God own everything? I still am not sure if your conclusion is “the only possible” one.” Scripture says it was God’s OWN blood. We could chase down another trail and examine what blood a spirit has. Under normal circumstances a son’s blood is not their father’s blood, granting that the relationship between the Father and Son is not the same relationship that we have with our fathers. There is no situation, other than the Father and Son being One Being, in which the claim that the son’s blood is the father’s blood would make any sense.

    The second claim in your reply shows an even more desperate attempt to explain away the obvious, straightforward reading of the passage. Yes, God owns everything. Yet I don’t think you would conclude that the blood of goats and bulls is God’s own blood just because God owns everything. Yet consistency would require you to make that same interpretation.

    The third case in which we approach a Scriptural passage very differently regards Jesus promises to raise Himself from the dead found in John 2:19-21; 10:17-18. Again let’s start with Scripture:

    ESV Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
    For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

    My contention was that these verses teach the Jesus raised Himself. He proclaimed that they would destroy His body and that He would raise it up. He also declared that He had the authority to lay down His life and to take up His life again.

    You provided this explanation, “Could not the Father have animated/raised Jesus and Jesus have gotten up, when He became alive again, thus raising from the tomb?” Let’s look at the contrasts within the passages again, John 2 contrasts destroying and raising up. Does raising up in this context suggest rebuilding what was destroyed? I contend that it clearly does, based on the content of the passage. Which explanation best fits the idea of rebuilding what was destroyed, bringing life back to Jesus’ dead body or standing up to walk out of the tomb? John 10 discusses laying down and taking up His life. Which explanation best fits the idea of taking up what was laid down, bringing life back to Jesus’ dead body or standing up to walk out of the tomb?

    Which is a better way to approach Scripture, allow Scripture to challenge your idea that Jesus had no conscious existence between His death and resurrection by accepting a straightforward reading of the passages or to insist on explanations that, while vaguely plausible, require that Scripture doesn’t mean what it appears to plainly state?

    Our very different outlooks on reading Scripture will continue to be a challenge in discussing this subject. Yet I hope there is room to continue discussing and exploring this issue.

    1. Rick,
      Yeah, I’d agree with you that my position is not the “Mainstream” Adventist position. I would disagree that my position is accepted or ignored. In reality many feel it is a threat to accepted beliefs and that I’m heretical.
      One thing I’d like to point out is that I’m reacting to verses that were presented to me. I’m probably going to post a list of verses that strongly disagree with the trinity next time, since I’m away from my place at the moment.
      If you go through Paul’s writings he is always describing God as the Father and Jesus as the Lord. This is repeated in pretty much every greeting and also multiple times in each book. So far, I’ve never seen anywhere that Paul says that Jesus is God. That is except for indirect descriptions like the blood of God.
      If you go through Jesus’ own sayings, you will never read Him saying that He is God. He says He’s the Son of God, that He was around before the world was created, etc. but never that He is God.
      Many seem to suggest that John knew Jesus better than the others and that is why he writes many things that others ignore. If you look at Jn.17, you get a very different picture of Jesus. He talks about the Father being the “only true God”. He says that everything He had was given to Him by the Father. That those given to Him by the Father would be one with Him as He is with the Father.
      Really I believe I’m not stretching as far as Trinitarians that have to try to make three people into one person. You say that it took Christians a bit to just get together to describe God. Why? Don’t you say that it is basic and easy to come to your conclusion from a exegetical use of Scripture? There were trinities in paganism (Anu, Enlil, and Enki from Sumeria; Ra, Amun, and Ptah of Egypt; Tinia, Uni, Menerva of the Etruscans; Isis, Serapis, and Cybele of the Greeks), why couldn’t early Christians understand such an easy concept until a council told them how?
      I’m sure God or Jesus could have easily said, that they were a trinity and kept us all from arguing over it. Every concept Jesus taught was already taught in the OT. Why didn’t He clarify the trinity when He was here?
      Nowhere in the Bible does it use the word “trinity” or even “triune”. It would be a lousy argument to say that this excludes the possibility of one existing under another name or description. But where can you even find the term “God the Son”? The term “Son of God” is completely different.
      But I’m glad we’re discussing this topic, because you have brought much more scripture to bear compared to most I talk with. One question I don’t think you’ve answered is why is it so important to accept the trinity (for our salvation) that people were killed and currently are not considered Christian if they don’t accept it? The most militant “Christians” I’ve met were Trinitarians defending their ideas. You and John have been the most patient Trinitarians I’ve come across. Every other one is talking disfellowship and church discipline as soon as I disagree with them? Where is the love that defines Christianity?

      1. I’m actually a little surprised by strong negative reactions to your position among SDAs. In my experience, SDAs tended to be very accepting of a variety of views on the Trinity and on the nature of Christ. Unless someone was overly dogmatic about having the only possible way of seeing it (although you haven’t come across that way to me). But there is certainly variation among SDA communities.

        You mentioned that, “So far, I’ve never seen anywhere that Paul says that Jesus is God. That is except for indirect descriptions like the blood of God.” Before I can address that adequately I have a couple questions:
        Do you believe that the name “Yahweh” in the OT refers to God?
        Do you believe that anyone besides God can receive the prayers and hymns of believers?

        You also stated that, “If you go through Jesus’ own sayings, you will never read Him saying that He is God.” When Jesus said “before Abraham was, I am” what is the “I am” referencing?

        You commented, “Really I believe I’m not stretching as far as Trinitarians that have to try to make three people into one person.” You are almost right in describing this doctrine, it is three person who are one being. I wish more SDAs understood that this was at the core of Trinitarianism. I will credit you with have a better understanding of the view you disagree with than many of your churchmates who claim the view.

        You go on to state, “You say that it took Christians a bit to just get together to describe God. Why?” I believe that they didn’t need to formalize a description until there was a controversy about the teaching. Besides, when you are busy trying to avoid or at least survive persecution, the first thing on your agenda isn’t getting a group together to hash out a list of beliefs that you all seem to agree upon anyhow.

        You claim that “There were trinities in paganism”. It is true that pagan religions had three god systems, but how many of these pagan religions taught that the three gods were truly one Being? The Christian Trinity is nothing like the polytheism of paganism except for the number 3(although I can get where you might be confused since the SDA “Trinity” is really a case of polytheism where the three gods always work together for the same purpose-except perhaps at the establishment of the plan of salvation but that is an entirely different subject).

        The term “Trinity” isn’t particularly important. The belief that it conveys is critical. The term is a theological shorthand use to describe a doctrine. Are you ready to suggest that the “investigative judgment”, “great controversy” and “close of probation” are all false teachings because those exact phrases don’t exist in Scripture (of course I think they are false, but not because of that reason).

        I would like to address a logical fallacy that you presented, the Guilt by Association fallacy. You stated, “One question I don’t think you’ve answered is why is it so important to accept the trinity (for our salvation) that people were killed and currently are not considered Christian if they don’t accept it.” Has anything in my doctrinal statements or discussions led you to believe that I think people should be killed for disagreeing with me? Are you aware that Arians used the power of a friendly emporer, Constantius, to persecute Trinitarians? I’m not defending the practice, but during the time of the early church people killed over theology. Makes even the heated internet debates seem tame, doesn’t it?

        As for not being considered “Christian” if you don’t believe in the Trinity, I can see some basis for applying that to churches, ministries or teaching. for instance, I would far more willing conclude that a Church that teaches abject heresies about God isn’t a Christian church than I am to say that a person is not a Christian. Despite having Christian in the name, I do not believe that Christian Science is a “Christian” organization. The boundaries of what falls within and what falls outside of Christianity are something to reasonably examine.

        I’ve run across some pretty militant Adventists defending EGW and the Sabbath. Not sure how they have compared to your Trinitarian opponents. Seriously though, I appreciate your comments about patience and the amount of Scripture used in the discussion. Respectful dialogue requires two parties who are both willing to act in that manner towards one another, despite their different views. Regardless of whether we reach a theological agreement, I hope that we both can grow in our understanding of the Word as a result of this discussion. I know that I have already dug deeper into some passages than I have previously.

        1. Rick,
          Where they get dogmatic, about people questioning them, is if someone questions if: there are actually three, they are equal (not hierarchical), they all were around for eternity, and if they are all one in more than unity of ideals and goals.
          Because I’ve not really thought the nature of God was really important for salvation, I have only been studying the different names for God for a year or two in a sporadic manner. I believe Jesus was interacting with Israel and says quite a bit in the OT, but I’m not sure by what name He goes.
          I’m actually going through my Bible, from time to time, and looking up the Hebrew for God, Lord, LORD, GOD, etc. I was told that you could tell which words were used in Hebrew by the caps used in English. This isn’t always correct.
          Also, elohim and el tend to be used for people at times. I believe that YHWH refers to God, but I haven’t come to any hard and fast conclusions yet.
          By the way, I found some very good verses in Hebrews 1 that suggests that Jesus is God. I’m not sure why the LXX has a verse that I can’t find in the English, but whatever, I’ll do more research later.
          I do believe that Jesus, being the Son of God and our Lord, can receive worship even though He tends to teach to worship the Father. Michael also received worship…I’m not sure if you believe Michael is Jesus or not. Of course the spirits of God and Jesus can also receive worship…because they are they power, agent, mind, influence of their respective owners.
          I never said I didn’t think that the spirit was only breath. The whole thing about having a willing spirit but weak flesh suggests more of a willing mind. This is how I see the verse about the spirit crying out.
          In answer to the I AM question, I’d like to point out that ego eime, is used in various places that don’t suggest the I AM of the OT. Jesus used the phrase multiple times before He was threatened in that specific conversation. That is why I think the main reason they snapped was that He said that He was before Abraham. According to the Jews, that was tantamount to saying He was God. Who else was before Abraham? Moses and Elijah…and Wisdom. Maybe it was because He said it in Hebrew or Aramaic, but the Greek doesn’t seem to suggest a special meaning without the added punctuation.
          I accidently wrote my statement wrong. I meant to say “three people into one being”.
          Typically I think of persons and beings as being almost the same.
          I believe many of the trinities in paganism allowed that the three persons were the same substance, deity.
          I’m not too worried about the terms used, unless they lead to misunderstandings (eg equating Passover, Communion, and Eucharist).
          I would not say that I used a Guilt by Association fallacy in my question about the trinitarians. I asked why it was considered so important a doctrine. I think the Gospel is much simpler. I also recognize that each doctrine has impact on other doctrines and thus I’m wondering what the underlying doctrines and effects of the trinity doctrine are. What happens if you leave it open and say that Jesus’ death was enough for our salvation and that we are to worship God, and He would empower us? I brought up the bad actions of trinitarians because I was showing how much this little nuance was stressed and considered important.
          I visited an Orthodox church a month ago. They were talking about the Nicene Creed and how that peace had to be acquired at the expense of those that disagreed. There was no apology for un-Christlike actions. It sounded like they would do it all over again if they were in power. This attitude scares me, even if I were convinced of the Trinity.
          Maybe I’m just a bit more generous with the term “Christian”. I still consider Catholics Christian, even though they are more Marian and have many doctrines that aren’t Biblical. So, yeah, I guess it is more about the organization than the people.
          You bring up those that defend EGW and the Sabbath in a militant manner. I agree that their actions are not appropriate. I keep telling such people to be more understanding and loving, but then they question my loyalty. 🙂 Yeah, people tend to stress the less important points, and are easily offended, when they don’t have a real close relationship with Jesus.
          As I’ve said earlier, I’ve never really considered the nature of God as pivital to salvation. I read Scripture all the time and have come to certain conclusions not from a direct study of that topic, but from my general understanding of scripture. Thus, when militant trinitarians (and tritheists) began pushing their weight around in my churches, I began to study the issue a bit more. I don’t believe that one really can claim a doctrine unless they’ve studied it themselves.
          My views of EGW and the Sabbath also changed quite drastically with more study. Most people will find doubt and join the opposition wholesale without a full study of all the doctrines they accept. I’d rather study every doctrine and accept only that which I find to be true.
          It’s been fun and informative. I do hope that we’ll move toward truth. I’m trying to not let pride make me ignore verses that bring my current views into doubt. I’ve been accused of eisegesis. 🙂 I’m trying not to be eisegetical. Some only allow exegesis on a text by text level. I’m trying to see what the Bible writer (or translator or scribe) was trying to convey, then compare between different authors/witnesses. I’m nowhere near being infallible, I don’t wear a fish hat. 🙂 Please feel free to continue to point out where you believe I’m making eisegetical conclusions, logical fallacies, etc. I’ll try not to reply harshly; my main goal is to learn truth.

    1. The photo is from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. It is a reproduction of a work that is the public domain by Fridolin Leiber. I selected it because visually it seems representative of an unorthodox view of God, tritheism.

    1. Yes, these is considerable evidence to support that the SDA church teaches God the Father has a physical body.
      We can start with the SDA refusal to acknowledge the Triune God as being consubstantial. SDAs will embrace 2 of the 3 characteristics of the Trinity, co-equal and co-eternal, but deny the third (consubstantial).
      SDA writings routinely speak of Adam and Eve being made in the physical image of God.
      SDAs are “stuck” with this view because to change this view would be to directly deny a vision of Ellen White’s. For an SDA to conclude that God the Father does not have a body requires accepting that Ellen White’s visions are erroneous.

      From EW page 54-
      “I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus’ countenance and admired His lovely person. The Father’s person I could not behold, for a cloud of glorious light covered Him. I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself. He said He had, but I could not behold it, for said He, “If you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist.

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