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Re: Lesson #3 – A Question to Ask At Sabbath School

Posted Jan 20, 2012 by Colin Nicolson in Sabbath School
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The title for Lesson #3, “God as Redeemer”, opens a can of worms for Seventh-day Adventism. The conundrum is this:

Fundamental Belief #2, taken from the official church website, states (emphasis mine):

There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation.

This tells us that God, that is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is immortal and therefore cannot die. Further insight into this doctrine is provided on the Biblical Research Institute web site in the paper titled “Reflections on the Doctrine of the Trinity” by Raoul Dederen where we read this statement (emphasis mine):

Therefore, we must confess that the Trinity is one indivisible God and that the distinctions of the Persons do not destroy the divine unity.

So, the triune God is immortal and indivisible. More enlightenment is found in this statement by Ekkehardt Mueller (I took this quote from Terry Hill’s excellent article Current Seventh-day Adventist Reasoning on this site):

“The three persons share one indivisible nature. Each person of the Godhead is by nature and essence God, and the fullness of the deity dwells in each of them. On the other hand, each person of the Godhead is inseparably connected to the other two.” (Ekkehardt Mueller, Biblical Research Institute, Reflections newsletter, July 2008, Page 9, ‘Scripture Applied, - A Bible Study’)

So to summarise, based on official Seventh-day Adventist publications, we have one indivisible God who is immortal, and is three persons who share one indivisible nature and each is inseparably connected to the other two.

Here is the question. If the triune God is immortal, indivisible and inseparable, what happened at the cross? There are only two options. Either Jesus literally died and would still be in His grave if His Father had not raised Him or only His humanity died and not His divinity. The first option gives us a divine sacrifice for our redemption and the other gives us a human sacrifice (albeit a perfect one) for our redemption.

It is clear from the description of the three-in-one God that it is not possible for Him/Them to provide a divine sacrifice at the cross. The triune God is immortal, indivisible and inseparable so, by definition, one of the persons could not separate out and die. The understanding in the doctrine forbids it. The only thing that could have happened at the cross under the triune God doctrine is that only the humanity of Jesus died and not His divinity. Ellen White clarifies that the divine Son of God died when she said in 1893:

To fallen man was revealed the plan of infinite sacrifice through which salvation was to be provided. Nothing but the death of God's dear Son could expiate man's sin, and Adam marveled at the goodness of God in providing such a ransom for the sinner. Through the love of God, a star of hope illumined the terrible future that spreads before the transgressor. Through the institution of the typical system of sacrifice and offering, the death of Christ was ever to be kept before guilty man, that he might better comprehend the nature of sin, the results of transgression, and the merit of the divine offering. Had there been no sin, man would never have known death. But in the innocent offering slain by his own hand, he beheld the fruits of sin,--the death of the Son of God in his behalf. {ST, February 20, 1893 par. 2}

I suspect that most of our dear brothers and sisters in the church have not yet connected the dots. I think most believe that Jesus completely died on the cross providing a divine sacrifice for our redemption which is our historic SDA belief. However, I do not think they realise that this belief was developed by our pioneers based on their belief in a literal Father and a literal Son from the days of eternity. The Son of God was able to become the Son of man and give His life as a divine sacrifice under this doctrine. But the pioneers’ doctrine of God has been rejected and replaced with the Trinity doctrine. However, the attendant beliefs that Jesus could have sinned and been eternally lost and that the divine Son of God died in His humanity on the cross remain behind like lost orphans and, tragically, so few people have woken up to it.

This Sabbath provides an opportunity to ask the question in our Sabbath Schools: “We are told the triune God is immortal - i.e. can never die, and is indivisible - i.e. cannot be split apart. So what really happened at the cross?

I pray the seed will fall on fertile ground for anyone who is given the opportunity to sow.