Unity and Diversity of Trinitarian perspectives within Adventism 3

Posted May 19, 2010 by Bobby B in Trinity Hits: 5,199

In the previous article we took a close look at Statement number two of the 28 fundamental beliefs.  We directly compared two polar opposite interpretations.  Then wondered, "how can two extremely different Trinity interpretations be supported from the same statement?"  Good question.  My opinion is that the "Trinity" statement was designed, and in reality endorses Tri-theism (three co-equal, co-eternal, co-supreme God Beings).  Having said that, it is written with enough ambiguity that a Modalist or classic Trinitarian could subscribe as well.  Yet, if the whole purpose of a creedal statement of faith is to "define and profess the truth," why allow so many variant forms of Trinitarianism?  That, my friend is the underlying false assumption; the false premise that leads to false conclusions.  Pro-Trinitarianism within Adventism was NEVER intended as a profession of "truth," but rather the definition and denunciation of ERROR or heresy.  (see, "a creed as a denial of heresies" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creed)

Who were the heretics?  All the Adventist pioneers.  What was their heresy?  Non-Trinitarianism; 1)  That the Biblical definition of "one God" is the Father, 2)  That the Son was begotten or derived from the Father in eternity, 3)  That the Holy Spirit is the inner nature (omnipresence) of the Father in contradistinction to His tangible form, which is also shared by His Son.  The initial push towards Trinitarianism (1931 statement), along with its final form (1980 statement) always involved an apologetic denial of the three above points.  It was the denial and repudiation of these three points that resulted in the specific wording of the 1980 statements #2-5 regarding the Trinity.  It is readily admitted by church scholars and historians that:  "the only way for the pioneers in their context to effectively separate scripture from tradition was to abandon every doctrine not clearly supported from the Bible alone.  Thus they initially rejected the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, which clearly contained elements not evident in Scripture." (The Trinity, pg. 202)  We examined the 1872 Statement of beliefs in the previous article and found it to be distinctly non-trinitarian.  The pioneers denied and rejected the early creeds (along with Catholic and Protestant), regarding the Trinity.  Modern Adventism has developed its current understanding of the Trinity based on its repudiation of early Adventist beliefs and not upon the early creeds of Christendom or Scripture itself.  How can this be proven?  The creeds were hammered out and debated for HUNDREDS of years.  The heresy of Modalism as well as Tri-theism have been well observed and documented over the centuries.  The creeds themselves contain several "safeguards" specifically against Tri-theism (i.e. Consubstantiality http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consubstantialeternal generation ; Eternal generation and procession http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity#Eternal_generation_and_procession ;The filioque clause http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Filioque http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/filioque.pdf) The fact that the 1980 statement contains non of these or similar expressions (which would deny Tri-theism) is proof the authors built neo-Adventism's "Trinity" upon a repudiation of the pioneers alone.

At this point someone would argue, "what a minute, our current Trinity statement is not based on other church creeds, it's not built upon repudiation and denial of the pioneers non-trinitarianism; it's based on the bible and the bible alone!"  Really?  I would then suggest not only a close comparison between the Trinity statement and scripture itself, but also a close examination of Leroy Froom's major premise in "Movement of Destiny (1971)."  http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/MOD/MOD1971__B.pdf#view=fit

If you don't have time to read it I'll give you a short summery:  God raised up the second advent movement in 1844 and over time entrusted them with precious truths to be given to the world.  These special truths were distorted because "some" Adventists denied the Trinity doctrine ("eternal verities").  In 1888 God sent Jones and Waggoner to proclaim righteousness by faith within the Trinitarian context.  Ellen White was happy to promote their newly found Trinitarian faith with prophetic endorsements.  Some Adventists like Uriah Smith had difficulty accepting the 1888 message because he was strongly non-trinitarian.  Most Adventists accepted the 1888 message about the Trinity when Ellen White wrote "The Desire of Ages" in 1898.  Yet, Adventists still were not prepared to receive the "latter rain" and give the "loud cry" of the fourth angel to the world because we didn't have a statement of belief that reflected Trinitarinan theology.  Happily all this changed in 1931 when F.M. Wilcox drafted a new statement of beliefs and included the term Trinity.  Even though no one voted on the statement it was still "official" because over many decades most came to accept it.  Then we have to revise the baptismal vow to include the Trinity (1941).  Now, we have to edit out all non-trinitarian statements from our published books (1945).  Then we have to compile a bunch of Ellen White quotes that appear sympathetic to the Trinity (1946).   These quotes will "force" all Adventists who are still rejecting the 1888 Trinity message to either accept the Trinity, or reject Ellen White as a true prophet.  Now we have to have private meetings with high level evangelical leaders and convince them we have repudiated the non-trinitarian teaching of our pioneers (1955).  Then we have to write a book that publicly repudiates the non-trinitarian belief of the pioneers while claiming to be in full harmony with all protestants (and creeds) regarding the Trinity (1957).  Now we are ready for the Latter rain and can preach our distinctive Advent message to the whole world with power!  (summery in Froom's words: MOD pg 75.  Review Of MOD when it was first published: http://www.adventistarchives.org/docs/AUSS/AUSS19720101-V10-01__B.pdf#view=fit http://spectrummagazine.org/files/archive/archive01-05/3-4linden.pdf )

Eventually, much of Froom's "history" will be relegated to the level of biased, wishful, mythology.  Froom's influence has been so powerfull, his fictional spin of historic events have left few not caught its web.  Not only do church historians and scholars continue to promote his unfounded myths, others who have spent entire lifetimes studying the 1888 message still believe Jones & Waggoner were promoting Trinitarianism.

Froom's primary point is crystal clear:  Adventism, of necessity, repudiated all non-trinitarianism within its ranks and become fully Trinitarian in order to "fulfill" its Divine commission.  This admission alone is proof that the specific wording of the 1980 statements #2-5 regarding the Trinity, result from a denial and repudiation of pioneer non-trinitarianism.  Now you know why so much latitude is given with variant Trinitarian interpretations.  We don't care what you believe as long as the 28 fundamentals superficially support it.  It's not about which version of the "Trinity" is correct, it's about the "heresy" we don't want to be identified or associated with:  anything that could be labeled "non-trinitarian."

"The first step of apostasy is to set up a creed, telling us what we shall believe.  The second step is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed.  The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And, fifth, to commence persecution against such." (Loughborough, Review and Herald, October 8, 1861, pg 148)