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Appeal to Pastor Dwight Nelson

Posted Mar 24, 2012 by Adrian Ebens in Adventist Issues
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I recently wrote a letter of appeal to Pastor Dwight Nelson regarding his sermon called Trinity under Fire (See Part 6 in the series.) I have greatly appreciated the ministry of Pastor Nelson and I write these things in the spirit of love and grace with the desire that we all might rejoice in the truth together.



Thursday, 15 March 2012

Dear Pr Nelson

I just want to say how much I have enjoyed your heart felt preaching over the years. I have a fond memory of you praying for a friend of mine and I back in 1994 when you came to Sydney, Australia. I really appreciated your personal ministry. I was most blessed by your Net 98 series when I served as an associate pastor in Sydney at that time. Those messages spoke to me and many of those attending the meetings at that time.

I have just finished listening to your sermon called Trinity under Fire from March 10 this year and I wanted to ask you some things about it if I may. I ask these questions in a manner of respect and honour for you as a minister of God’s remnant church.

You quoted from 1 John 4:8 indicating the wonderful statement that “God is Love.” I understood from what you were saying that this verse is actually saying that there are three persons that lovingly serve each other. The problem I am having with this from 1 John 4:8 is the immediate context of this passage.

1 John 4:7-12  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  (8)  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.  (9)  In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.  (10)  Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  (11)  Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.  (12)  No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.

As I understand this passage, John defines the love of God in the giving of His Son to die for us. So at the end of verse 8 he defines God as love and then expands this definition into the manifestation of God sending His Son. Would not consistency of usage in this passage point to the fact that the God mentioned in verse 8 is the same God in verse 9-12? Does this not suggest that the God in verse 8 is the Father and that His love is revealed in the giving of His Son?

The second thing I would like to mention is that the Greek, as you are well aware, indicates that God is agape. My understanding from my studies is that agape is a love that invests value rather than seeks it. God giving His Son to us invests value in us and is indeed agape. Yet when I listened to what you were saying about the love expressed between the Godhead members, I heard something different. I wrote down some of the points from your sermon:

“so God is love. God needs someone else in order to be love”
“for love requires the presence of another to receive it.”
"’For if love be of the essence of God, He must always love. And being eternal’--I thought this was very helpful—‘He must have possessed an eternal object of love. Furthermore,’ keep reading, ‘perfect love is possible only between equals.’  Good point.”
“Oh, come on, God, aren't I enough?  Wouldn't you be happy with just you and me? And the answer is, "No! I need somebody like Me! To love and receive and give!”
“in order for God to be God and to be love He had to have at least one co-equal, one co-eternal person with whom He bestows love and from whom He receives love. He has to have it or He's not love”

From what you have said, I understand that the love being described here is a love that needs another to function. It also is seeking for another of equal value or status to itself. This love is a love that seeks for value and a love that needs or desires another. From my understanding of the Greek this type of love is not agape as described in 1 John 4:8 and 1 Cor 13. I found this quote to be quite helpful explaining the difference between agape and the love I sense you are possibly speaking about. I have added some thoughts in square brackets.

Agape is often contrasted with eros, which is not found in the New Testament though it is prominent in Greek philosophy. Eros can refer to a vulgar, carnal love, but in the context of Hellenic thought it takes the form of spiritual love that aspires to procure the highest good. Eros is the desire to possess and enjoy; [The need or desire for another] agape is the willingness to serve without reservations.... Eros is attracted to that which has the greatest value; [need for equal status or co-equality] agape goes out to the least worthy. Eros discovers value [seeks equal] wheras agape creates value. [makes equal] Agape is a gift love whereas eros is a need love. Eros springs from a deficiency that must be satisfied. Agape is the overflowing abundance of divine grace. (`God the Almighty': Power, Wisdom, Holiness and Love', D. Bloesch, 2006, p. 147.)

Pr Nelson, I know you are a busy man and I am guessing at this point, you might feel inclined to skim read the rest of my appeal to you. I am praying, earnestly praying that you will keep reading and listen to my heart felt appeal. I do not write to you with any sense of animosity but only a deep sense of respect for you and your ministry which has blessed me in the past. I would not dare say that you are presenting a picture of God as purely eros, but it has several elements that point in this direction. You rightly mention about the serving aspects of God’s loving nature which indeed reflect agape. Yet this combination of eros and agape is the centerpiece of the recent Encyclical of Pope Benedict called “God is love” written in 2005. Please notice what he says:

`The philosophical dimension to be noted in this biblical vision, and its importance from the standpoint of the history of religions, lies in the fact that on the one hand we find ourselves before a strictly metaphysical image of God: God is the absolute and ultimate source of all being; but this universal principle of creation—the Logos, primordial reason—is at the same time a lover with all the passion of a true love. Eros is thus supremely ennobled, yet at the same time it is so purified as to become one with agape.'

Pr Nelson, I am only bringing this to your attention for your consideration. I do not seek to condemn or point the finger. I write to you as one that is painfully aware of heading in a direction theologically that could not be supported by Scripture. I would not therefore cast stones at another. I am praying you will keep reading.

If we read and quote great, great men that have studied upon the foundations of the Nicaean and Athanasian creeds are we not in danger of being drawn into that system of thought? Are we not in danger of switching our allegiance to a god not found in the Scriptures?

I was encouraged when you began to read from John 17 and also encouraged that you asked people to read John 17 at the end of your sermon. I was hoping you would explain the meaning of verse 3. As an Adventist minister I had read this verse for years and quoted it often as one of my most important texts and I never saw one of the key parts of what it was saying to me.

John 17:3  And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

Why does Jesus call His Father “The only true God?” Why did He say this? What did He mean by this? Have you read  1 Cor 8:6?

But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Why does Paul refer to the Father as the One God and Jesus as the One Lord when we both know that Jesus is God? Have you read John 5:26 with this in mind? I notice you read other parts of John 5 referring to the Son in the beginning, is this verse from then as well?

John 5:26  For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

If God gave His Son to have Life in Himself then is this not an expression of agape? God the Father invests value in His Son and makes Him equal? Is this not what 1 John 4:8 hints at? Is this not what Ellen White indicates?

“God is the Father of Christ; Christ is the Son of God. To Christ has been given an exalted position. He has been made equal with the Father. All the counsels of God are opened to His Son.”  {8T 268.3}

I pray you are still reading Pr Nelson, How I pray so.

But the question that immediately comes to mind and it certainly came to me was if Jesus was begotten in eternity then there would be a time He did not exist and therefore how could He be God? I submit to you Pr Nelson that this question only occurs in the domain of eros who seeks value rather than invests value. Eros demands equality of status in all areas yet agape does not. The Bible clearly states in Micah 5:2:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,  are only a small village among all the people of Judah.  Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.(New Living Translation)

And again,

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.  (23)  I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.  Prov 8:22-23

And before we would discard this as the personification of wisdom, I would appeal to you to consider this.

And the Son of God declares concerning Himself: "The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting. PP 34

There is no difficulty in seeing Jesus as fully God for we know that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him (Col 2:9). We know that by inheritance He obtained a more excellent name. (Heb 1:4). It is the world view of eros that denies Godhood by inheritance, not agape.

Agape invests value and makes equal. Eros seeks value and demands equal.

I know that my Lord Jesus Christ inherited all that the Father has and is fully divine through that inheritance and in that inheritance I am able to hear the loving words of a real Father who spoke to His Son. The words Father and Son only find meaning through inheritance which agape allows and eros denies.

In these precious words of the Father to His only begotten Son, I find my assurance of sonship. The agape of God flows through His Son and speaks to me.

Matt 3:17  And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
And the word that was spoken to Jesus at the Jordan, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," embraces humanity. God spoke to Jesus as our representative. With all our sins and weaknesses, we are not cast aside as worthless. "He hath made us accepted in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:6. The glory that rested upon Christ is a pledge of the love of God for us. It tells us of the power of prayer,--how the human voice may reach the ear of God, and our petitions find acceptance in the courts of heaven. By sin, earth was cut off from heaven, and alienated from its communion; but Jesus has connected it again with the sphere of glory. His love has encircled man, and reached the highest heaven. The light which fell from the open portals upon the head of our Saviour will fall upon us as we pray for help to resist temptation. The voice which spoke to Jesus says to every believing soul, This is My beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.     "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is." 1 John 3:2. DA 113

Through the agape of 1 John 4:8 I can take hold of these words because agape invests value in me and allows me to believe that I am His son through Christ. Eros condemns me because it seeks value for which I have none. But agape allows me to take hold of these words

John 20:17 …but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.

The Father of Jesus is my Father and the God of Jesus is my God and all this I possess through Christ the unique Son of God who is the greatest demonstration of agape the universe can ever behold. This is why the Father exalts His Son and gives Him a name above all names for Christ Jesus is the highest revelation of God’s agape love.

Pr Nelson, I write these things to you with a heart full of love and appreciation for you as an elder brother in the Adventist faith. I know that millions of the Adventist family have been blessed by your passion for Christ. I am appealing to you to consider your family, friends and the many multitudes who have confidence in you as a man of God. Will you pray about what I have shared with you? Will you at least ponder these things? I weep as I write because so many others have said no and are not willing to consider the implications of such a decision to investigate.

Pr Nelson, I write to you as a follower and lover of the Begotten Son of the Father. I write to you as one that believes that God laid a solid foundation for the Adventist faith that could expand into the 1888 message of the righteousness of Christ. I have found this Begotten Son to be the delight of my soul and the joy of my life. I have found the He can indeed carry me into the Most Holy Place experience. This is my testimony through the blood of the lamb.  I pray that you will ponder and pray about what I have shared.

I write this not only for myself but on behalf of all those who love the Father and His Son and who love God’s remnant Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

In joy, hope and love for the Begotten Son of the Father

Adrian Ebens