Contrasting statements on the “unity” of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Posted Oct 09, 2012 by desmond in General Hits: 2,806

Allow me to share where the adopting of a philosophical approach to the “unity” as pertaining to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit has led Seventh Day Adventist theology.  Quoting on a respected theologian in the SDA circle (my words in italics and in closed-open parenthesis):


She (Ellen G. White) described the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in relational RATHER THAN (in contrast with) ontological terms. While the traditional doctrine (traditional Catholic and Protestant interpretation – at least according to the author) defined the divine unity in terms of “being” or “substance,” (ontological) she focused on the volitional (decision making) and relational dimensions of Their unity, a unity of “purpose, mind, and character.”

Ellen White’s emphasis (the focus on volitional and relational), HOWEVER (an introduction of neutral – to - contrasting statement from the author), on the relational unity of God does not preclude (prevent or to make impossible) an  ontological unity (of “being” and “substance”) as well, but recognizes that the evidence for ontological unity “transcends (to go beyond) the limits of our human reason.” Both Canale and Fritz Guy have warned against the danger of tritheism if the relational unity is overemphasized to the exclusion of the ontological unity. – Jerry Moon - The Quest for a Biblical Trinity: Ellen White’s “Heavenly Trio”Compared to the Traditional Doctrine


If I am allowed to give my personal comments on these statements, I would say, it is contrasting itself, it is standing on two opposite grounds. Allow me to explain:  First, the author tells us that sister Ellen G. White describes the unity in relational rather than or in contrast with ontological terms.  This, as it was conveyed to me by the document, is the MAIN DIFFERENCE between the TRADITIONAL TRINITARIANISM and CLAIMED ELLEN G. WHITE TRINITARIANISM.  Allow me to emphasize it like this:


·   Traditional Trinitarianism – ontological unity more so the unity in substance.  

·      Claimed EGW Trinitrianism – relational / volitional unity rather than or instead of ontological unity.


Then comes the author’s reference to fellow theologians as a means of introducing a neutral – to - contrasting statement to his first premise; that the relational/volitional view “does not” preclude / prevent the ontological unity or the unity of substance.  He said, but (Ellen G. White) recognizes that the evidence for “ontological unity ” transcends or is beyond human reason. This is the “neutral statement”.  It tells us, that although sister Ellen G. White describes the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in relational / volitional terms, she “does not know” whether this unity is also valid in ontological (one substance/being) terms.

In terms of the two kinds of trinity understanding, the author is telling us, “that although sister Ellen G. White describes Trinitarianism in a different and contrasting way compared to the traditional view, her contrasting view does not come from a rejection of the Traditional Trinitarianism but because the unity in substance as viewed in the traditional is “beyond human understanding”; in short she has nothing to say about that.

Then comes the “contrasting statement” to the first premise.  It says that “overemphasizing the unity in relational terms” to the EXCLUSION of ontological terms will lead to tritheism.  Did not sister Ellen G. White said at least according to this document that the “unity of substance reasoning” is “beyond” human reasoning? Why then our theologians say that to “exclude” that reasoning will lead us to tritheism?  In short, they are saying “we have to adopt” that theology as well.  Note that even in the article, sister Ellen G. White has no go signal for us to “adopt the unity of substance”.  Yet it has been moved by respected theologians anyway.

In terms of the two kinds of trinity, we see that the final statement in this article is, “Let us adopt BOTH the Traditional Trinitarianism and the Ellen G. White (alleged) Trinitarianism; an obvious negation on the premise that Seventh Day Adventist Trinitarianism is “totally different” from Traditional “Catholic / Protestant” Trinitarianism and an obvious going beyond human reasoning in the context of EGW point as stated by Dr. Jerry Moon.

As a result, we have here a statement from a former Sabbath school lesson: 

In John 10:30, for example, He declared: "I and the Father are one" (NIV)The neuter form of the Greek used here for "one" implies a union as close as our minds can conceive. Jesus and the Father are of ONE SUBSTANCE, one nature, yet not one and the same Person (in which case He would have used the masculine gender). IF YOU HAVE TROUBLE PLUMBING THE DEPTHS OF ALL THIS, YOU HAVE LOTS OF COMPANY. THE DEEPER YOU PROBE THE SUBJECT, THE MORE KEENLY YOU UNDERSTAND THE DEPTHS OF YOUR IGNORANCE – Sabbath School Lesson April 10, 2008

 I personally see that the word “one substance” is different from “same substance”.  One denoting the traditional Trinitarian “consubstantial” and the other denoting “same quality” of existence. From the previous statements, we see that this is the issue that has been involved in mystery yet accepted in the Seventh Day Adventist theology. As was seen in the explanation, the theology of SDA trinitarianism espoused BOTH the traditional and alleged Ellen G. White Trinitarianism. 

I personally feel sad at this, I personally feel that these things are among the results of too much philosophy and spiritualism in our theology. As for me, this has been resolved by a clear statement from the Spirit of prophecy: 

“The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate--a co-worker who could appreciate His purposes, and could share His joy in giving happiness to created beings. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." John 1:1, 2. Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was ONE WITH THE ETERNAL FATHER--ONE IN NATURE, IN CHARACTER, IN PURPOSE--THE ONLY BEING that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God – Patriarchs and Prophets page 34” 

We ask, where is the Trinitarian “one substance”? We cannot see it here, simply because Ellen G. White is not Trinitarian. Blessings.