Her most Solemn Warning! Then a Prediction,
Now History! A response to the Elders Digest
Justification of the Trinity
“The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.” Selected Messages Book 1-Page 204, 205
It is at this point that I would like to address several statements and especially the above statement in detail. The trinity doctrine is one such system of philosophy where it is stated that Jesus isn’t really the Son of God but an eternal co-equal being with God. It is stated that God isn’t really the Father either. They are acting out roles and their relationship as father and son should only be viewed metaphorically. Thus when the Bible states “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3), it really doesn’t mean that the Father is the only God. There is a separate Holy Spirit God, as well. Thus Jesus didn’t really mean the only TRUE God. The trinity doctrine has the Father speaking only metaphorically when He told us that “This is my beloved son, Hear Him”. He is not really the Father, and Jesus was really not His Son. Thus this new philosophy undermines our traditional and root understanding as the Bible simply reveals it and actually is calling God a liar. We see the following philosophical views of God in the church today.
Gordon Jensen: "A plan of salvation was encompassed in the covenant made by the Three Persons of the Godhead, who possessed the attributes of Deity equally. In order to eradicate sin and rebellion from the universe and to restore harmony and peace, one of the divine Beings accepted, and entered into, the role of the Father, another the role of the Son. The remaining divine Being, the Holy Spirit, was also to participate in effecting the plan of salvation. All of this took place before sin and rebellion transpired in heaven. By accepting the roles that the plan entailed, the divine Beings lost none of the powers of Deity. With regard to their eternal existence and other attributes, they were one and equal. But with regard to the plan of salvation, there was, in a sense, a submission on the part of the Son to the Father." Adventist Review, October 31, 1996, p.12 (Week of Prayer readings)
“The Father–Son relationship in the Godhead should be understood in a metaphorical sense, not in a literal sense”. (Max Hatton, Understanding the Trinity, p. 97)
The Holy Spirit takes the place of Jesus - (Max Hatton, Understanding the Trinity, p. 104)
J. R. Spangler: To me this signifies the interchangeableness of the members of the Godhead since they are one in action and purpose." - Review & Herald, Oct. 21, 1971
Thus the final view of God and Jesus actually look nothing like the Father and Son relationship referred to over 70 times in the New Testament alone. This is done in spite of the fact that the term “trinity”, “triune” or any other type word is ever used in the scriptures. No reference to roles or metaphors used by God can be found either. Their Father & Son role is used way too much to be viewed in the prophetic sense only. The only place we see this type of philosophy is in fallen apostate Christianity and Rome.
One could put it this way. Christ was begotten before creation from the Father. He is truly the Son. The Spirit flows like a river from the Father, who is the source, through the Son, and to the people.
On the contrary the SDA Church teaches that before creation, there existed three divine beings. Unrelated, who because of the fall of man, entered into three roles - Father, Son and Holy Ghost. They plainly deny the Filial and Ontological Sonship of Christ. Here is a quote from the Bible Research Institute:
“The sonship of Jesus, however, is not ontological, but functional. In the plan of salvation each member of the trinity has accepted a particular role”. - The Trinity In Scripture by Gerhard Pfandl, Biblical Research Institute, Silver Spring, MD. June 1999.
Look at the three articles written in the fall and winter of the 2010 and spring 2011 quarterly issues of Elder’s Digest that is sent to all the Elders in the Church (at least in the North American Division). The article is called Trinity in the Bible. This is a portion of the 3rd part that deals with what we have been talking about here.
“Not one of the foundational pillars - No specific view of the Trinity and the Godhead was regarded by our pioneers as one of the foundational pillars of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That we have gained more insight from Scripture and so now hold a different view evidences that we belong to a movement but not that we have left the foundation. This conclusion is confirmed by a number of observations.
First, the topic of the Trinity was never a major point of discussion in the early Adventist movement. Today, it is possible via computer to gather what seems, when viewed in totality, an impressive amount of anti-Trinitarian quotes from the period of 1844 to 1888, and in the following decade but when read in their historical context, along with all the other issues debated by the pioneers, Trinitarian issues quickly disappear from our radar. During this period, they did not occupy a major place in the minds of our pioneers.
Second, even some of the most open critics of Trinitarian beliefs changed their own position over the years. This holds true for influential leaders like Uriah Smith and James White. Uriah Smith first believed Jesus to be created but changed his view to think that the Son was “born but not made.” James White, who in 1846 spoke harshly about “the old unscriptural trinitarian creed,”4 in 1876-77, in a comparison of our beliefs with the Seventh-day Baptists, stated that “Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the trinitarian, that we apprehend no trial [controversy] here.”5 The pioneers themselves moved.
Third, new members of the Seventh-day Adventist movement in these years came from many different denominations, most of them Trinitarian. These new members were not usually asked to make any changes in their Trinitarian beliefs, and most became members without being challenged in this area. When baptized, they were asked to confess their belief in the Second Coming and the prophecies, the sanctuary, the Sabbath and the nature of man but not to confess any specific position for or against the Trinity. Accordingly, when Ellen White at a later stage responds to the fear new ideas might overthrow the pillars or landmarks ofour beliefs, she speaks in favor of both progressive openness and healthy conservatism but she clearly does not include a specific view of the Godhead among the distinctive pillars of our faith: “The passing of the time in 1844 was a period of great events, opening to our astonished eyes the cleansing of the sanctuary transpiring in heaven, and having decided relation to God’s people upon the earth, [also] the first and second angels’ messages and the third, unfurling the banner on which was inscribed, ‘The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’ One of the landmarks under this message was the temple of God, seen by His truth-loving people in heaven, and the ark containing the law of God. The light of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment flashed its strong rays in the pathway of the transgressors of God’s law. The non-immortality of the wicked is an old landmark. I can call to mind nothing more that can come under the head of the old landmarks.” Our move toward a Trinitarian understanding is thus based on the principle of biblical authority and an openness to new light arising from the study of Scripture. Furthermore, as Trinitarian we are walking in the footsteps of our pioneers because we continue in the direction they followed in the early period of our church’s journey. This becomes evident when we look at the development of our understanding.”
As I read this document, I evaluated whether it was scriptural and whether it gave accurate details especially in light of the above Ellen White quotes. This is important because every church elder in America got this issue. The first reason to accept the trinity in spite of our pioneers beliefs was as follows. It suggests that the trinity doctrine did not occupy a major place in the minds of our founding fathers. Yet how does one account for all of them speaking on the subjects so profusely? The article argues with itself by saying it wasn’t an issue yet states that there is “an impressive amount of anti-Trinitarian quotes from the period of 1844 to 1888, and in the following decade” (so I guess it should have said 1898). The two can’t both be correct. He also states that the issue fell off the radar near the turn of the century. There are three reasons for this that we should recognize.
1. We were, by then, a well-established non-trinitarian church (see appendix one).
2. Righteousness by Faith in Jesus became the Doctrine that was being debated and rejected by many.
3. The doctrine of pantheism (attack on the nature of God and His Son) was trying to infiltrate the church.
The second reason given by Elder’s Digest for ignoring our pioneer’s stance was that the men who made these statements changed their position later in life. Yet I find that the 1905 statement of beliefs had not changed but still recognized Jesus as the Son of God. It contained no statement of the holy spirit being a third entity. There are no statements concerning a change of position offered by any of these men or by Sister White.
The final reason actually concerns me the most. They quote Ellen White to prove that the personality of Jesus and His Father was not one of the ‘Old Landmarks’. It is given to the elders as absolute proof yet where was this statement?
“Those who seek to remove the old landmarks are not holding fast; they are not remembering how they have received and heard. Those who try to bring in theories that would remove the pillars of our faith concerning the sanctuary or concerning the personality of God or of Christ, are working as blind men.They are seeking to bring in uncertainties and to set the people of God adrift without an anchor. Those who claim to be identified with the message that God has given us should have keen, clear spiritual perceptions, that they may distinguish truth from error. The word spoken by the messenger of God is "Wake up the watchmen." If men will discern the spirit of the messages given and strive to find out from what source they come, the Lord God of Israel will guard them from being led astray.“ MR 760 pg. 9-10 (written between 1905-1907)
Here EGW clearly states that the Personality of God and Christ as established by our pioneers is one of the pillars of Faith and that those who try to remove this pillar are working as blind men. Further, the watchmen of Zion are to wake up and give warning. Our elders are being told that this doctrine is based on “biblical authority and openness to new light arising from the study of Scripture” when in fact they are being led by blind men who desperately need spiritual eye salve. It may not make us popular but as watchmen we must sound the alarm. Spiritual watchmen have always been rejected by most and often persecuted. Why should it be any different now? Yet the alarm must be sounded. “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; …” (Joel 2:1-2)
Our Lord’s coming is imminent. I urge each of us to continue to look for fertile ground among our SDA brethren to sow the seeds of truth. We must work while it is yet day. The night is almost here when no man will be able to work.