Category Archives: Godhead/Trinity (A)

A Brief Evaluation of “Heavenly Mother” of World Mission Society Church of God in Galatians 4:26


A Brief Evaluation of “Heavenly Mother” of World Mission Society Church of God in Galatians 4:26

by Jaymark Molo

World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCOG), also known as the Church of God, is a religious movement that originated in South Korea in 1964. This church does not only believe in God the Father, but also endorses God the Mother in their theology.

In our previous study, we have seen that Revelation 22:17 cannot be used to substantiate the claim of WMSCOG to their doctrine of the bride as divine.[1] However, one might still object that Galatians 4:26 still remains to attest that there is a “Heavenly Mother”. So this leads us to ask: “Does Galatians 4:26 teaches the existence of the Heavenly Mother as WMSCOG believes?” This question deserves a careful examination from the Scriptures.

WMSCOG “Heavenly Mother” Theology in Galatians 4:26

The Bride, Jerusalem and Mother. WMSCOG would argue that Heavenly Mother “is not something new…it is just that we did not know.”[2] God the Mother is believed to be the “Heavenly Jerusalem” and the “Bride of Christ.” They claim that the belief in her is necessary for salvation, stating “God grants us the promised eternal life only after we know and believe in God the mother.”[3]

To know the mother—one must see Jerusalem—to identify Jerusalem—one must be acquainted with the bride—to be familiar with the bride—one must recognize that she is God. Thus, the WMSCOG logic goes this way:

  • The Bride is God (cf. Rev. 22:17).
  • The Bride, which is God, is no other than Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21:9-10, see also: vv. 1-2).
  • Therefore, Jerusalem is God.
  • If Jerusalem is our Mother, the Mother is God.
  • Jerusalem “is our Mother” (cf. Gal. 4:26).
  • Therefore, the Mother is God or God the Mother undeniably exists!

The conclusions (3 and 6) are indeed undeniably valid if the premises are proven to be true (1, 2, 4, and 5). So, it is a must for us to discuss the truthfulness of the following premises before one can deny the conclusions.

 

A Brief Reply to the Arguments of WMSCOG in Galatians 4:26 and Some Related Arguments to it

 

Bride and God. There is no need to examine the divinity of the bride again here (premise 1) for this has been discussed elsewhere.[4] But for the sake of brevity: The bride is not God. The bride refers to the church (cf. Eph. 5:22-24 and 2 Corinthians 11:2). And if this is the case, the major premise (1) of the syllogism presented above crumbles and consequentially the minor premises associated with it shares the same fate.

Bride and Jerusalem. Looking at Revelation 21:1-2, the angel told the Apostle John that he was going to show him the bride of the Lamb, and he showed the Holy City Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. Now does this mean that an actual city is the bride? If this is so, how can the bride be the church if John construes the bride as New Jerusalem as well?

The dilemma can be solved by recognizing that the text has dual applications. The bride both refers to the church and to the Holy City Jerusalem.

In Revelation 19:7 we are admonished by Apostle John to be glad for “the wedding banquet of the Lamb and bride” has come. In verse 8, the bride is clearly identified with the “people of God”. The wedding banquet here refers to the Second Coming of Christ.[5] At the second advent of Christ, the people of God or the church will be united with the Lamb or the Bridegroom and the “wedding banquet” will take place. Thus, the everlasting union of Christ and the Church will be finally realized (cf. Rev. 19:7-9; 21:1-2).

On the other hand, the bride is also represented with Holy City Jerusalem because it incorporates all who are the bride, just as all the students of a school are sometimes called “the school.” Moreover, the actuality of the city is corroborated with the hope of Old Testament (Isa. 65:17-1; 21:10; 52:1; Dan. 9:24) and the hope of New Testament as well (John 14:1-3; Heb. 11:10; 12:22; 2 Pet. 3:13). The detailed description of John (Rev. 21) to the New Jerusalem suggests that it is literally in heaven coming down on earth (v. 2).

Thus the “the saints and the city together are the bride of Christ. Both are arrayed as the bride beautifully dressed. The church is dressed in fine linen (Rev. 19:8), and the New Jerusalem is said to be adorned with the glory radiating as gold, pearls, and precious stones (Rev. 21:18-21).”[6]

Jerusalem and Mother. The larger context of Galatians is teaching about salvation by faith. In Galatians 4, Paul uses an allegory (verse 22) to make a comparison between two Old Testament characters Hagar and Sarah. Hagar represents the covenant of works.[7] While Sarah represents the covenant of faith.[8]

Those who seek to be justified by the law who are called children of the slave woman (Hagar in 4:24-26) and those who seek to be justified by faith who are children of the free woman (4:22 and 30) or children of promise, (Sarah in 4:28).

Examining the larger and immediate context of Galatians 4:26, one can see that a text taken out of context can lead to plethora of interpretations and here are the several reasons to re-consider the interpretation suggested by WMSCOG:

Firstly, the comparison of Jerusalem being our mother is not to be taken in a literal sense. Paul emphatically said in the immediate context that “these things are being taken figuratively” (v. 24). Unfortunately, the interpretation of WMSCOG is guilty of taking this in a literal sense by inferring that the woman is literally no other than God the Mother.

Second, even if the text is taken literally, the passage would say that the mother would be both Jerusalem and Sarah (v. 22), not God the Mother nor Zhang Gil Jah. Interestingly, we cannot find a single passage that supports Sarah and Jerusalem as God nor does Scripture calls the mother as God.

Thirdly, the phrase “Jerusalem which is above” (v. 26) can only be understood in relation to “Jerusalem which now is” (v. 25).[9] The “Jerusalem which now is” (v. 25) refers to the literal Israel as a nation. But the “Jerusalem which is above” (v. 26) refers to the Christians as a church. For this is the central point of this whole figurative illustration: “that Judaism is slavery and the Christian state [is] liberty.”[10]

Lastly, Paul consistently believes that there was only one God.[11] He even explicitly made this clear by declaring in Galatians 3:20 that “God is one.” The concept of having two gods, a God the Father and God the Mother, is absolutely foreign in the book of Galatians.

Conclusion

Here are several conclusions we have reached in this study: (1) The bride is not God; (2) The bride both refers to the church and actual heavenly city of Jerusalem; (3) Jerusalem is our mother, but she is not God.

In conclusion, although WMSCOG’s gospel is quite contrary to the gospel preached by Paul (cf. Galatians 1:7-9), love for them should come first as we try to present to them the eternal gospel of God (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3).

______________________

[1] Jaymark Molo, “A Brief Evaluation of ‘the Bride’ of World Mission Society Church of God in Revelation 22:17”, posted on August 10, 2016 (http://www.backtothescriptures.org/#!A-Brief-Evaluation-of-%E2%80%9Cthe-Bride%E2%80%9D-of-World-Mission-Society-Church-of-God-in-Revelation-2217/capg7/57aaa2560cf25744c580817d). Accessed on August 16, 2016.

[2] “God the Mother…Is It Really in the Bible?” (https://www.thetruewmscog.com/god-the-mother-is-it-really-in-the-bible/). Accessed on August 16, 2016.

[3] https://www.wmschurchofgod.org/heavenly-mother/god-the-mother/.  Accessed on August 10, 2016.

[4] See, Jaymark Molo, “A Brief Evaluation of ‘the Bride’ of World Mission Society Church of God in Revelation 22:17”, Ibid.

[5] WMSCOG believes in similar vein: “The book of Revelation was written after Jesus had ascended, and it prophesied about the things that were to happen in the last days. Thus, ‘the Lamb’ mentioned in the above verse indicates the Second Coming Jesus,” unfortunately, they believe that the Lamb is “Ahnsahnghong”. Heavenly Mother (http://english.watv.org/truth/truth_life/content_mother.asp). Accessed on August 22, 2016.

[6] Ranko Stefanovic, Revelation of Jesus Christ: Commentary on the Book of Revelation (Berrien SpringsMI: Andrews University Press, 2009), 588, 589.

[7] Francis D. Nichol, Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), 971.

[8] H.L. Willmington further explains: “Paul presented Hagar and Sarah, with their sons Ishmael and Isaac, as types of the contrast between the bondage of legalism and the liberty of grace. Hagar, like those who depend on the law, was a slave; and her son, who was naturally born, was also a slave. Sarah, like those who depend on grace, was free; and her son, whose birth was miraculous, was Abraham’s heir (4:21–27; see Gen. 16:1–18:15; 21:1–21).” Willmington’s Bible Handbook (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997), 701.

[9] Others believe that this phrase is a “reference to God’s abode in the heavenly city that will one day appear on earth (Rev. 21:2).” Robert B. Hughes and Carl J. Laney, Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary (Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001), 584.

[10] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, The Pulpit Commentary: Galatians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004), 203.

[11] 1 Cor. 8:4-6, Rom. 3:29-30, etc.

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A Brief Evaluation of Iglesia ni Kristo’s Soteriology in Ephesians 5:23


An Excerpt to the Critical Examination to the Critical Arguments of Iglesia ni Kristo Against Justification by Faith Alone (Chapter 4)

The soteriology of INK confuses between “Christ as the Savior of the Church” and “Christ as the Savior of the sinners” (Eph. 5:23).

Perhaps, the most favored argument of INK for the notion of salvation by membership can be concisely put down into this statement: “Since it is theinc AND THE bIBLE church that will be saved by the Savior, one must then be in the Church to be saved.”[47] Ephesians 5:23 becomes now pivotal for this assertion.[48] This calls us again to carefully investigate this text in its proper context.

First, this verse simply informs us “who the Savior is” and not “how to become saved by the Savior”. Neither the immediate context nor the larger context support the interpretation offered by INK. To argue on the methodology of salvation here is a wishful exegesis on the INK part.

Second, even though the notion of salvation by membership does not necessarily excluded here on this text—it does not also necessarily included. Thus, their assertion would become argument from silence at its best.

Third, it is unfortunate for the side of INK to see them confusing the motif between “Christ as the Savior of the Church” and “Christ as the Savior of the sinners.” As we have pointed out earlier, the biblical writers have no intention of limiting the efficacy of salvation solely into the church when they referred Christ as its Savior. Thus, if the biblical writers wanted to convey a significant doctrine such as salvation by membership in Christ as Savior of the church motif, they could have developed this concept more in their soteriology as they did in justification by faith in Christ as the Savior of the sinner motif. Unfortunately, one could hardly find a single text to support such teaching in the Scripture.[49] Instead, we can find a sharp opposite in 1 Timothy 4:10, we read, “Because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe.”[50]

______________

[47] Ruben D. Aromin, No other way, Pasugo 54 December 2002, 7.

[48] Although, this is not only the text which was commonly used to prove this assertion, it is the writer’s opinion that Eph 5:23 can be most explicit text to support this view, therefore, this text will be the main focus of this section (see also argument no. 4 and no. 5).

[49] Except maybe with John 10:9 as INK would likely to argue (see argument no. 4 for response).

[50] NIV, emphasis mine.

A Brief Evaluation of “God’s Two Images” of World Mission Society Church of God in Genesis 1:26, 27


A Brief Evaluation of “God’s Two Images” of World Mission Society Church of God in Genesis 1:26, 27

Jaymark John D. Molo

Ahn Sahng-hong, the founder of WMSCG

World Mission Society Church of God (WMSCG or also known as Church of God) is a church that originated in South Korea. The church was established by Ahn Sahng-hong in 1964.[1] Interestingly, this church does not only believe in God the Father but also adheres to God the Mother. Among the verses they frequently use to prove this case can be found in Genesis 1:26, 27. This will be the sole interest of this paper.

God the Mother in Genesis 1:26, 27

This text is pivotal in WMSCG’s belief of God the Mother. They argue that the above verses states that God has “two images”—a male image and female image. Thus, according to them there are two Gods here, one namely God the Father, second namely God the Mother.[2] Their line of reasoning goes like this.

First, they note “the word ‘us’ is a plural term”.[3] Since it is in plural term—it can fairly accommodate the plurality of Gods. This is important to them because they cannot establish their ‘God the Mother’ theology without establishing first the  plurality of Gods.

Second, they argue that the word Elohim can be directly translated as “Gods”.[4] This is again an argument for polytheism.

Thirdly, they will argue that there are only two types of God because there are only two types of people: “men and women.”[5] Therefore, according to them, “the ‘God’s’ mentioned in Genesis 1:26 are the male image of God and female image of God—God the Father and God the Mother.”

A Brief Reply to the Arguments of WMSCG in Genesis 1:26, 27

First, although the plurality of God in Genesis 1:26 does not necessarily argue with the two images of God, it does entertain the plurality of God. But what plurality are we talking here?

WMSCG  fails to recognize the plurality of God refers not to His being, but to His person.[6] If WMSCG will insist plurality of God’s being is true, then it is a clear contradiction with the strict monotheistic tradition of the Bible.[7] There is no simply room for progressive thinking from polytheism to monotheism or monotheism to polytheism. If one will claim that the God the Mother has come in the 21st century believers—she should be subjected under the scrutiny of the Scripture (cf. Isa. 8:20)!

Second, there is merit in the argument of WMSCG that Elohim can be translated as Gods in some cases; however, it can never be applied with Genesis 1:26. The grammatical analysis of the text would reveal that it should still be translated as God (singular). For example, “In the beginning God [plural] created [singular] the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). We can notice that Elohim is used with a verb in the singular form. The same is true about the ten expressions of vayomer Elohim meaning “and God [plural] said [singular]” in the first Creation account. Thus, the translation should be God not gods. This clearly disqualifies the interpretation of WMSCG.

Third, now that we have eliminated the notion of having two Gods in Genesis 1:26, 27; we can logically conclude that two images here cannot be equated as God the Father and God the Mother. One should established first the plurality of Gods as biblically grounded before entertaining the two images of God as male and female.

Meanwhile, the phrase “image of God” is found four times in the OT–Genesis 1:26, 27 and 9:6. In the Pentateuch the Hebrew term “image” occurs also in Genesis 5:3 and in Numbers 33:22. The question is, if we cannot entertain the interpretation of WMSCG as two images, what does the image stands for? The immediate context would suggest that the term “image” likely refers to man as God’s representative (cf. 1:28 and 2:2-3) on earth.

Conclusion

Several reasons have been raised to reject the theology of God the Mother of WMSCG: (1) The failure to recognize the plurality of God refers not to His being, but to His person; (2) The failure to see the grammatical relationship of plural subject to singular verb; (3) The failure to establish the plurality of God as the entrance of two images of God as male and female. May we ask Christ to find the balance of being straight and being gentle as we present this truth to them.

 ________________

[1] http://english.watv.org/mission/worldwide.asp

[2] http://english.watv.org/truth/truth_life/content_mother.asp

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] They could not resort to interpret the plurality of God to persons because one could have difficulty finding the unity between the members of Trinity and God the Mother.

[7] Exo. 8:20; Deut 4:35, 39; 6:4; 32:39, etc.

YHWH: The Lost Pronunciation


YHWH: The Lost Pronunciation

By Jaymark Molo

It is the writer’s joy to report you that the debate ended in a peaceful manner,[1] but there are some points thattetragrammaton are worthy to be examined and emphasized. Consequently, the following arguments were advance to make healthy responses to the notable claims of the Congregation (Assembly) of Yahweh. Consequently, this paper is just a mere reflection to the arguments presented on yesterday’s debate on the topic of true pronunciation of YHWH as Yahweh, the Tetragrammaton. Thus, the writer believes that the affirmative side arguments can only become successful if the latter conditions can be met first biblically and historically as sound. These are the following loopholes that needed reasonable substantiations and careful considerations:

I. Before going to the verses[2] that talks about the name of God as necessity to the requirements of salvation; they must prove to us first that these texts contextually pertains to YHWH and try to provide evidences that proves that correct pronunciation of YHWH is Yahweh alone.[3]

The affirmative side simply begs the question by using numerous verses that mentions the name of God without proving to us first that these texts pertain to YHWH and have something to do with correct pronunciation of YHWH as Yahweh.[4] Like for instance, they employed Romans 10:13 to support their belief that if you mispronounce the name of the Lord you will not be saved, however, Paul did not say in 10:13 that “for everyone who mispronounces the name of the Lord will not be saved” nor “for everyone who got the correct pronunciation of the Lord will be saved” but simply “for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” that is to say, “if you confess with your mouth that ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raise Him from the dead, you will be saved” (v. 9). Surely, the immediate context has nothing to do with mispronouncing the name of the Lord as a result of loss of salvation.[5]

II. Before jumping into conclusion that we are profaning the name of the Lord through mispronouncing it; they must prove to us first that the issue of profaning the name of the Lord in the Scriptures is actually through mispronouncing it.

The affirmative side loves to assert that we are profaning the name of the Lord if we happen to mispronounce it. They validated their view through the use of human analogy; their analogy goes this way, “ let us say that your original name is “Melvin” and I mispronounce your name as “Milven”—will you be happy if I did?” Their resounding answer is No! This can also be applied to the mispronunciation that is happening to the name of God (YHWH), they argued. “God is not happy if His people are mispronouncing His holy name: YHWH.” Unfortunately, this argument can become triumphant only in the horizontal (human) plane, at least. However, if one will look at the biblical grounds of this argument—it will be found lacking. The issue of misusing the name of the LORD in Exodus 20:7 is primarily related in the word “in vain” it can be translated as “iniquity,” “falsehood,” “vanity,” “emptiness.”[6] In the Old Testament, bringing dishonour on God’s name was done by failing to perform an oath or vow taken in His name (Lev. 19:12);[7] (2) They were also to be careful not to use his name irreverently, such as when cursing in anger (cf. Lev 24:16).[8] Thus, “to inculcate reverence is the chief purpose of the third commandment (see Ps. 111:9; Eccl. 5:1, 2).”[9] To make an illustration outside in the scope of the Scripture is not safe for we might use the name of the Lord in vain by using vain-human illustrations.

III. Before claiming that the Old Testament allusions to New Testament were wrong on translating YHWH into KURIOUS[10] (on some cases THEOS); they must attest to us first the reasonableness of primacy of Aramaic of Peshitta.

The affirmative side advocates the “Primacy of Aramaic Peshitta”, or the view that the Christian New Testament and/or its sources were originally written in the Aramaic language. However, their side hastily labelled the translation from YHWH into KURIOUS as erroneous without proving to us first the primacy of Aramaic of Peshitta and disproving that Greek Text has primacy over Aramaic of Peshitta.[11] Thus, scholars today have general consensus that “the New Testament was written in Koine Greek, the Greek of daily conversation. The fact that from the first all the New Testament writings were written in Greek is conclusively demonstrated by their citations from the Old Testament.”[12]

IV. Before claiming to us that Greek New Testament writers were guilty of employing some pagan words (i.e., Theos, Heaven); they should demonstrate to us first the consistency of denunciation with the usages of Hebrew Old Testament pagan associated words (i.e., Elohim,[13] Baal,[14] etc).

Let me put my arguments in a systematic way:

Statement A: The Greek New Testament writers used pagan words and associated it to God (i.e., Theos, etc).

Statement B: The Hebrew Old Testament writers employed some pagan words and associate it to God (Elohim, Baal, etc).

Statement C (Consistency): If will denounce statement A, then it is also reasonable to reject statement B in practice.

 Statement D (Inconsistency): I will only denounce statement A, but not statement B in practice.

Remarkably the affirmative side agree to statements A, B and D. Therefore, their arguments on pagan association can be found incurably inconsistent.[15]

 V. Before giving us the certainty that the correct pronunciation of YHWH is Yahweh; they must face first the historical fact that post-exilic Jews ceased to use the name YHWH that eventually lead them to forget the true pronunciation of YHWH.

This is a well established fact,[16] but in the debate this fact was well ignored. This is the historical fact that they need to face: “The Jews considered the name YHWH so sacred that they would not pronounce it even when reading the Scriptures, lest they inadvertently profane the name of the Lord. Instead of Yahweh, they read ’Ad̃nay. Thus the true pronunciation of YHWH had been lost centuries before the time of the Masoretes.[17]

VI. Before using some other references except the Scripture; they should re-check their resources if their extra-biblical references contextually agree to them.

Most of the affirmative side’s resources can be found misquoted, therefore, misused. Like for instance, they find irresistible to quote the SDA Bible Commentary on this matter, quoting: “And the name above all others that was looked upon as the name, the personal name of God, was Yahweh.”[18] While we certainly agree with this, however, we will find that this is a conjectural reading; a closer look at the context will inform us “that Jews considered the title YHWH so sacred that they would not pronounce it even when reading the Scriptures… Consequently, the true pronunciation of YHWH, not thought to have been Yahweh, was lost.”[19] This conjectural attempt of the affirmative side will be lost if they will not see that the true pronunciation of YHWH was lost in this context.

VII. Lastly, before explaining to the 21st century believers today that it is a sin to mispronounce the name of the LORD (YHWH); they should be able to explain to us first the eloquence of silence of Jesus’ disciples (including Jesus Himself) to the issue of the replacement that happened.

Frank Holbrook emphatically concludes the matter:

If it is wrong to refer to the Saviour as Jesus, then all the apostolic writers of the New Testament stand indicted. None of them ever use Yeshûa’ (or Yahshûa’ as some choose to spell the name). On the contrary, they preached and wrote in the name of the Lord Jesus (Kurios Iēsous) or some variation of that expression (see Acts 16:31; 1 Thess.1:1;Phil. 3:8).[20]

Thus, it is the writer’s hope to contend the views presented on the debate by asking the affirmative side to meet all these conditions before their argument can have a real bearing. If and only if  the conditions (see, above) can be satisfied, then we say that their arguments really have merits, but if not, then, let the truth remain truth to educate and let the Holy Spirit become Holy Spirit to convict.


[1] The friendly debate was held at Tagaytay, Mendez Seventh-day Adventist Church happened in December 21, 2013 between two respected debaters, namely, LJ Niones (in the side of Seventh-day Adventist) and Fretz Alcade (in the side of Assembly of Yahweh) with the topic of lost pronunciation of YHWH. The url link of the video debate will be given as soon as the video has been posted.

[2] Romans 10:13, Acts 4:12, etc.

[3] Some state dogmatically that the Hebrew tetragrammaton YHWH was originally pronounced “Yahweh.” See, J. Barton Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publ. House, 1962), p. 147. See also, Julian Obermann, “The Divine Name YHWH in the Light of Recent Discoveries,” Journal of Biblical Literature 68 (1949): 301–23; B. Alfrink, Theologische Zeitschrift 5 (1949), pp. 72ff; B. Alfrink, B. D. Eerdmans and G. J. Thierry, Oudtestamentische Studien 5 (1948): 1–62; W. Zimmerli, I Am Yahweh (1982). Some would still use Yahweh but reveals uncertainty with the origin, see:     Others say that it should be rendered ‘Iabe or ‘Iao or Jaho. See, Gustave F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publ. House, n.d.), pp. 92-93. Paul J. Achtemeier reasonably states: “The origin of the name Yahweh (usually translated ‘Lord’ in English Bibles) remains uncertain.” [Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1985), p. 685.]

[4] Here are the list: Yahueh (ya-hu-eh); Iahueh (i-a-hu-eh); Yahuah (ya-hu-ah); Iahuah (ia-hu-ah); Yahevahe (yah-e-va-he); Iahevahe (ia-he-va-he); Yohwah (yoh-wah); Iohwah (i-oh-wah); Yohweh (yoh-weh); Iohweh (i-oh-weh); Yahwah (yah-wah); Iahwah (i-ah-wah); Yehwah (yeh-wah); Iehwah (i-eh-wah); Yehweh (yeh-weh); Iehweh (i-eh-weh); Yahweh (yah-weh); Iahweh (i-ah-weh); Yahwe (yah-we); Iahwe (i-ah-we); Yahohewah (yah-o-he-wah); Iahohewah (i-a-ho-he-wah); Yahuwah (ya-hu-wah); Iahuwah (i-a-hu-wah); Yahveh (yah-veh); Yehveh (yeh-veh); Yahohevah (yah-o-he-vah); Jove (ho-ve); Jehovah (je-ho-vah); Iehovah (i-eh-ho-vah).

[5] However, the affirmative side might still press the question: “How can you confess and call in the name of the Lord if you do not know the correct pronunciation of His name?” The writer can plainly reply: “That is not the concern of the text. Even Paul did not use YHWH (יְהוָ֖ה) to designate as the name of the LORD, but he used KYRIOU (Κυρίου) instead. Interestingly, he could have retained the rendering of YHWH in Joel 2:32, but he simply did not.”

[6] Francis D. Nichol, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 1 (Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1978), p. 603.

[7] Brevard S. Childs, The Book of Exodus: A Critical, Theological Commentary (Louisville: Westminster, 1974), p. 410. Douglas K Stuart reasonably comments: “the primary meaning of ‘misuse the name of the Lord’ (nāśāh šēm yahweh, lit., “raise up Yahweh’s name for no good”) would appear to be invoking his name as guarantor of one’s words.” (Exodus The New American Commentary 2 [Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2007], p. 455)

[8] Donald C. Fleming, Concise Bible Commentary (Chattanooga, Tenn: AMG Publishers, 1994), p. 38.

[9] Francis D Nichol, p. 603.

[10] Compare Psalms 117:1 (“O praise the Lord [YHWH], all ye nations”) and Romans 15:11( “Praise the Lord [Kurios], all ye Gentiles”).

[11] See the following works that defends the Greek Primacy, Bruce M. Metzger and Bart D. Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Madion Avenue, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). See also, Archibald Macbride Hunter, Introducing the New Testament (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Westminster Press, 1972); Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Daniel B. Wallace Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1997) page not known.

[12] Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1995), p. 52.

[13] Sam 5:7; 1 Kgs 11:33; 18:24; 1 Kgs 11:5.

[14]  Isaiah 54:5; Joel 1:8.

[15] If they really want to become consistent, they should also refrain from using Yahweh or Yah for this name has been associated to pagan: “”A letter found in a mound northwest of the modern town of Ta’annek written in the fifth century B.C. proves that ‘Yah’ was a deity of the Canaanites. Yah is associated with the Canaanitish Mother-goddess, Ashtart-Anat as seen by the Father-Mother titles of the deity of the Jews at Elephantine. There, the title of Anat-Yaw is seen as well as Ashim-Bethel and Afat-Bethel where the titles of Astarte are combined with the Sun-god, Bethel. At Gaza, Yah appears as a Sun-god on a coin and coins were frequently inscribed with the figure of Ashtart-Yaw, Anat-Yaw, and Anat-Bethel, which corresponds to the Phoenician Melk-Ashtart and Eshmun-Ashtart.” George Foot Moore, Louis Herbert Gray, John Arnott MacCulloch, The Mythology Of All Races, Vol. 5 (Charleston, South Carolina: Nabu Press), p. 44. “Yahweh appears to have been originally a sky god – a god of thunder and lightning. He was associated with mountains and was called by the enemies of Israel ‘a god of the hills’. His manifestation was often as fire, as at Mount Sinai and in the burning bush.” Bruce Metzger, Great Events of Bible Times: New Perspectives on the People, Places, and History of the Biblical World (New York: Doubleday, 1987),

[16] “The correct pronunciation of the tetragrammaton was gradually lost.”Toorn K. van der ; Bob Becking, Bob ; Horst, Pieter Willem van der: Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible Leiden; Boston; Grand Rapids, Mich. : Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), p.  910. David Noel Freedman said it right, when he argued that “the pronunciation of yhwh as Yahweh is a scholarly guess. Hebrew biblical mss were principally consonantal in spelling until well into the current era. The pronunciation of words was transmitted in a separate oral tradition.”[David Noel Freedman: The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 1012, emphasis mine]

[17] Don F. Neufeld, Yahweh, Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia (Hagerstown, MD : Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1995).

[18] Francis Nichol, p. 172.

[19] Ibid.

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Notes on the Development of the Doctrine of the Trinity Among Seventh-day Adventists


Notes on the Development of the Doctrine of the Trinity Among Seventh-day Adventists

by Jaymark Molo

Discussion About the Trinity in Church History

Athenagoras (c. 177) stressed the divinity of the Logos and the triadic nature of God. He defended the doctrine as an essential part of church faith.

Irenaeus (flourished c. 175-195) spoke of the “economy of salvation” in which each member of the Godhead has a distinct yet related role.

Tertullian (c. 160/170-215/220) is largely responsible for the method and vocabulary about the Trinity which Western tradition now uses. He argued that there was one God, in whom could be found three persons. One “substance” but three “persons.” This is what distinguishes the members of the Godhead. “The three persons of the Trinity distinct, yet not divided, different yet not separate or independent of each other,” etc.

The Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 rejected Arius’ subordinationist view of Christ.

The Niceo-Constantinopolitan creed from A.D. 381 affirms the unity of God, proclaims that Christ was “begotten from the Father before all time,” and declares that Christ is “of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father.” Thus the Son is God in every respect. The Creed also upheld the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, … We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. … We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.”

Augustin (354-430) grounded his theology of the Trinity on the concept of relationship and on the bond of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He rejected any form of subordinationism that treated the Son and the Holy Spirit as inferior to the Father within the Godhead.

The three Eastern Cappadocian Fathers (Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa) expanded on the thoughts that there is one God in three persons. They spoke about one “substance” (ousia) in three “persons” (hypostases).

NOTE: We must remember that Seventh-day Adventist Church did no grow in a vacuum. Situation in the North America in the 19th century was diverse. We are children of its time! Our pioneers came out from different churches and denominations. We were strongly marked by this development from the very birth of our existence.

For example: (1) James White and Joseph Bates came from the Christian Connection Church. (2) Ellen Gould White was a member of the Methodist Church. (3) William Miller was a deist.

Anti-Creed Feelings and Convictions

“The Bible is our Creed. We reject everything in the form of a human creed” (James White, Review and Herald, Oct 8, 1861, 148).

Photograph of John Loughborough

Photograph of John Loughborough (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Loughborough claimed: “The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second 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.” (RH, Oct 8, 1861, 148.)

NOTE: Our pioneers had an overwhelming fear of accepting a creed, because they thought that in this way doctrine would be fixed, put in stone, and over time become very sterile, and finally no one would be able to change it!

The Basic PrerequisiteReformation Principle

What do you (we) build your (our) faith and doctrines on?

  • Ecclesia reformata et semper reformanda (church reformed and always reforming!)
  • How?
  • Reformed by the Word of God, by the Holy Scriptures!
  • Our faith cannot stand on the faith of our fathers, pioneers, church tradition, or church statements, creeds, or dogmas, but only upon the firm biblical foundation! The Bible must have the final authority. One can accept all that is in harmony with the biblical understanding of Truth. A true doctrine cannot contradict the Bible!
  • We need to take the faith of our forefathers seriously, but it must have only INFORMATIVE, and not FORMATIVE character. Only the faith of Jesus Christ (together with prophets and apostles) must have the DECISIVE and FINAL word!
  • This is why it is necessary to redefine and state over and over again what we believe (Revelation 14:12).

Reformation Principle Applied

The Preamble to “The Seventh-day Adventist 28 Fundamental Beliefs” states clearly this principle: “Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures. These beliefs, as set forth here, constitute the church’s understanding and expression of the teaching of Scripture. Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teaching of God’s Holy Word.”

NOTE: A “fertile” space for “historical” Adventists, for many opponents and critics… No wonder that some “teachers” used that situation and tried to disturb people, rationalize, accuse, conspire, etc.… (like Smyrna Ministry; “Midnight Cry” from Kaliningrad, Russia; etc.) The whole package of 1888: Justification by faith (perfect Gospel!) which often includes together with it the following: Jesus is not God in a full sense, and a sinful nature of Christ. This was especially J. H. Waggoner’s view.

Chronology in Stages

1. Up to 1888  — Anti-Trinitarian period

2. 1888–1900  — Emergence and Formation of the Trinitarian Thinking/Sentiment

3. 1900–1931 (the SDA Yearbook statement of Faith) — Transition and Conflict

4. 1931–1957 (the publication of Questions on Doctrine) — Acceptance of the Trinitarian View

5. 1957–today — Settling of the IssueConsensus: (1) The 1980 Dallas Statement of Fundamental Beliefs; renewed questions of historic Adventism

 The First Stage

 Approximately up to 1888 — Anti-Trinitarian Period (formative phase)

James WhiteJoseph Bates, and Joshua V. Himes had their roots in the Christian Connection church, i.e., in the denomination which stood against the Trinitarian Doctrine. This had a strong influence on our leaders. James White was an ordained minister of that church.

The First Phase 

James White, consider carefully his statements from the following years:

1846: He dismissed the traditional doctrine of the Trinity as “the old unscriptural Trinitarian creed” and pointed to the danger of spiritualizing God. He made a difference between the Father and the Son, and clearly states that they are “two distinct, literal, tangible persons.” (The DayStar, January 24, 1846, 25).

English: James and Ellen White, taken from htt...

1849: He compiled the first hymnbook, which contains the Doxology, “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” (Hymns for God’s Peculiar People, That Keep the Commandments of God, and the Faith of Jesus [Oswego, NY: Richard Oliphant, 1849], 47).

1852: He labeled the Doctrine of the Trinity as “the old trinitarian absurdity,” by which he meant that “Jesus Christ is the very and Eternal God,” thus wrongly assuming that according to the Trinitarian teaching, Jesus is identical as a person with the Father  (RH, August 5, 1852, 52).

Consider carefully his statements from the following years:

1855: In reference to “fables” of 2 Tim 4:4 that people will “turn their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables,” he wrote: “Here we might mention the Trinity, which does away [with] the personality of God and His Son Jesus Christ” (RH, December 11, 1855, 85).

NOTE: It is noteworthy to stress that James White here confuses modalism or sabelianism with the Trinitarian teaching.

1876: He wrote that “S. D. Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the Trinitarians, that we apprehend no trial [conflict] here” (RH, October 12, 1876, 116).

1877: The inexplicable trinity that makes the godhead three in one and one in three, is bad enough; but the ultra Unitarianism that makes Christ inferior to the Father is worse” (RH, November 29, 1877, 72).

NOTE: James White believed that “Christ was equal with God” (ibid.), the Father and stood against the opinion that He was “inferior” to the Father.

Joseph Bates

In 1868 wrote: “Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was impossible for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being” (The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates [Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press of Seventh-day Adventist Publication Association, 1868], 205).  Bates then supposed as James White that the belief in the Trinity takes away the distinction between the divine persons, namely, that the Father and the Son are only one and the same being. This modalistic understanding of the Trinity he correctly rejected.

Joseph Bates, vegetarian and one of the founde...

Joseph Bates, vegetarian and one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

NOTE: It is not enough to know that our pioneers condemned the Trinitarian doctrine. It is of utmost importance to understand why they were doing it. It is crucial to recognize that James White and Joseph Bates were against the speculative philosophical teaching on the Trinity. Their explanations and remarks reveal that they opposed the so-called modalism of the Trinitarian doctrine, and they were not expressing any dismissal of formulations which are in harmony with biblical teaching!

D. M. Canright: “How the doctrine of the trinity of three Gods, can be reconciled with these positive statements [1 Tim 2:15; Deut 6:4] I do not know”).— RH, August 29, 1878, 218

NOTE: D. M. Canright even thought that the Trinitarian doctrine speaks about the existence of three Gods!

J. N. Loughborough had the same understanding: “If Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are each God, it would be three Gods; for three times one is not one, but three. There is a sense in which they are one. But not one person, as claimed by Trinitarians” (J. N. Loughborough, “Questions to Bro. Loughborough,” RH, November 5, 1861, 184).

Uriah Smith

In the 60th years of the 19th century (1860s) he claimed that Christ was the first created being, dating his existence far back before any other created being or thing, next to the self-existent and eternal God“ (Thoughts, Critical and Practical, on the Book of Revelation [Battle Creek, MI: Seventh-day Adventist Publishing, 1865], p. 59).

In 1881 he softened his formulation. Jesus was “begotten” but not “created” being (ibid., 1881 Edition, p. 74). Five years before his death he explained it in the book Looking unto Jesus or Christ in Type and Antitype (Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald Publishing Company, 1898) on the page 10 in the following way: God alone is without beginning. At the earliest epoch when a beginning could be, — a period so remote that to finite minds it is essentially eternity, – appeared the Word.”

Seventh-day Adventist Church Pioneers

Seventh-day Adventist Church Pioneers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Uriah Smith never denounced his semi-Arian views. This non-biblical opinion was taken out from the new edition of his book The Prophecies of Daniel and the Revelation (published after his death) in the year 1944 (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing, p. 391).

E. J. Wagoner interpreted similarly Jesus’ beginning in Christ and His Righteousness published in 1890 (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press, pp. 21-22).

Also J. N.  Andrews thought that Jesus Christ was born in some point in eternity. He wrote: “And as to the Son of God, he would be excluded also [in reference to the phrase ‘having neither beginning of days’ of Hebrews 7:3], for he had God for his Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have a beginning of days” (RH, September 7, 1869, p. 84).

Other pioneers also expressed their anti-Trinitarian standpoints: J. B. Frisbie (1854); J. N. Loughbourgh (1861); R. F. Cottrell (1869); J. N. Andrews (1869); D. M. Canright (1878); a J. H. Waggoner (1884; 1890).

W. A. Spicer at one point told A. W. Spalding that his father, after becoming a Seventh-day Adventist (he was formerly a Seventh-day Baptist minister), “grew so offended at the anti-Trinitarian atmosphere in Battle Creek that he ceased preaching” (A. W. Spalding to H. C. Lacey, June 2, 1947).

J. N. Loughbourgh wrote that there are many objections against the Doctrine of the Trinity. He limited his arguments to the three reasons: 1. It is contrary to common sense. 2. It is contrary to scripture. 3. Its origin is Pagan and fabulous (RH, November 5, 1861, p. 184).

R. F. Cottrell in an article on the Trinity stated: “To hold the doctrine of the Trinity is not so much an evidence of evil intention as of intoxication from that wine of which all the nations have drunk. The fact that this was one of the leading doctrines, if not the very chief, upon which the bishop of Rome was exalted to the popedom, does not say much in its favor“ (RH, July 6, 1869, p. 11).

Our Pioneers on the Holy Spirit

D. M. Canright wrote in 1878: “The Holy Spirit is not a person… [He is] a divine influence proceeding from the Father and also from the Son, as their power, energy, etc.” (“The Holy Spirit Not a Person, but an Influence Proceeding from God,” The Signs of the Times, July 25, 1878, p. 218).

Uriah Smith stated in 1890: “The Bible uses expressions which cannot be harmonized with the idea that it is a person like the Father and the Son. Rather it is shown to be a divine influence from them both, the medium which represents their presence and by which they have knowledge and power through all the universe, when not personally present” (RH, October 28, 1890, p. 664).

NOTE: In this time period there is only one notable exception — Ellen G. White (we know nothing about others, because they did not publish their views; they were intimidated).

For example, she wrote already in the year 1869 that Jesus Christ in His preexistence was “equal with God” (2T 200); in the year 1878 designated Christ as “eternal Son of God” (RH, August 8, p. 49-50); and in the year 1888 stressed Christ’s divinity (GC 524).

NOTE: General Conference in Minneapolis in the year 1888 reshaped the understanding of key themes: (1) Justification Through Faith; (2) Salvation Only in Christ; (3) Plan of Salvation. This triggered a new discussion about Christ, namely His full divinity, His equality with the Father, and His role in salvation. Thus the way was opened for the formation and acceptance of the Trinitarian Doctrine.

The Second Stage (THE PARADIGM SHIFT)

1888–1900 — Emergence and Formation of the Trinitarian sentiment/thinking:

In Minneapolis soteriological questions were discussed.

Result: Christ is our Savor! If it is so, then it leads to the logical conclusions: Jesus Christ must be God, because it is not possible to worship a created being. If He is God, then He had to exist from eternity, etc.

Samuel Spear: The first positive reference to the Trinity in Adventist literature appeared in the Bible Student’s Library (Series No. 90, entitled “The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity,”1892; reprint from New York Independent, Nov 14, 1889) where he argued that there is one God in three persons. However, he also taught the eternal subordination of Christ (EGW already in 1869 otherwise!).

NOTE: Spear was not a Seventh-day Adventist.

A. T. Jones: He taught that Jesus was eternal on the basis of Col 2:9 (see, General Conference Bulletin, Feb 25, 1895, 332, and Feb 27, 1895, 382).

In 1899 he wrote a nearly Trinitarian statement: “God is one. Jesus Christ is one. The Holy Spirit is one. And these three are one: there is no dissent nor division among them” (A.T. Jones, editorial, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, Jan 10, 1899, 24 ).

Key role of Ellen G. White (not sporadic but systematic explanation!)

1897: “In Him was life, original, unborrowed, underived” (ST, April 8, 1897, 6–7).  “He [Christ] was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent.… He is the eternal, self-existent Son” (“The True High Priest,” Manuscript 101, 9).

1898: “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived” (DA 530). “He announced Himself to be the self-existent One” (DA 470). “[Holy Spirit is] the Third Person of the Godhead” (DA 671). 

NOTE: It was so radical that M. L. Andreasen needed to see the original to be sure that it was written by her own hand and not by her literary helper, secretary, or editor! During 1909 he spent three months at Elmshaven, CA, where Ellen White lived at that time, and confirmed the originality of these key sentences.

Here is his testimony in his own words: “In her own handwriting I saw the statements which I was sure she had not written—could not have written. Especially was I struck with the now familiar quotation in Desire of Ages, page 530: ‘In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.’ This statement at that time was revolutionary and compelled a complete revision of my former view—and that of the denomination—on the deity of Christ” (Testimony of M. L. Andreasen, October 15, 1953, White Estate Document File 961).

1900: “There never was a time when He [Christ] was not in close fellowship with the eternal God” (ST, August 29, 2–3).

1905: “There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; … three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (Special Testimonies, Series B, no. 7, 63; published in Evangelism 615).

1905: “From all eternity Christ was united with the Father” (ST, Aug 2, 1905; reprinted in 1 SM 228).

1906: “Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was God from all eternity…” (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, April 5, 1906, 8; reprinted in 1 SM 247).

NOTE: These clear statements prove her belief in the Trinity, even though she never used the term “Trinity.” She presents God in unity, yet in the plurality of eternally, co-existing three persons. Three different Persons are one in their nature, character, and purpose. See Ministry of Healing, 421–422.

The Third Stage

1900–1931 (the SDA Yearbook statement of Faith):

Transition and Conflict (Debate)

W. W. Prescott, editor of the Review and Herald in 1902wrote three articles on the equality and eternal nature of God the Father and God the Son (Sept–Dec) in which he promoted the equality, personhood, and eternal nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

He had thus changed his position regarding the beginning of Jesus from what he had held in 1896: “As Christ was twice born, once in eternity, the only begotten of the Father, and again in the flesh, thus uniting the divine with the human in that second birth, so we, who have been born once already in the flesh, are to have the second birth, being born again in the Spirit” (see RH, April 14, 1896, 232).

1919, July 1–19: Bible Conference in Tacoma Park, Washington, DC.

Prescott asked: “Can we believe in the Deity of Christ without believing in the eternity of Christ?” (Report of the 1919 Bible Conference, July 6, 1919, 57).

He plainly stated: “You cannot read the Scripture and have the idea of deity without eternity” (Report of the 1919 Bible Conference, July 6, 1919, 62).

Impulse from Africa

The strong impulse for it (a statement of belief) came from African missionaries who needed to define pragmatically for believers and church members what we as the church believed.

In response to an appeal from church leaders in Africa for “a statement [that] would help government officials and others to a better understanding of our work,” a committee of four, including the president of the General Conference, prepared a statement encompassing “the principle features” of belief as they “may be summarized.”

1931: “Unofficial” statement of “Fundamental Beliefs” was included in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook.

One of the 22 statements speaks about the Trinity.

F. M. Wilcox, the editor of the Review, was principally responsible for the statement (a committee of four worked on the document —M. E. Kern, E. R. Palmer, C. H. Watson, F. M. Wilcox).

1931 (1946) Statement

“That the Godhead, or the Trinity, consists of the Eternal Father, a personal, spiritual Being, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite in wisdom and love; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, through whom all things were created and through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power of redemption. Matt 28:19.

“That Jesus Christ is very Godbeing of the same nature and essence as the Eternal FatherWhile retaining His divine nature He took upon Himself the nature of the human family, lived on the earth as a man, exemplified in His life as our Example the principles of righteousness, attested His relationship to God by many mighty miracles, died for our sins on the cross, was raised from the dead, and ascended to the Father where He ever lives to make intercession for us. John 1:1, 14; Heb 2:9–18; 8:1, 2; 4:14–16; 7:25.” From the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1931, 377).

The Fourth Stage

1931–1957: The publication Questions on Doctrine culminated this period of the acceptance of the Trinitarian view.

F. M. Wilcox and L. E. Froom were central figures in this phase of development.

1946: 1931 Statement was accepted as the first official position of the church.

1949: L. E. Froom published important book on the Holy Spirit: The Coming of the Comforter (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1949).

1957: Questions on Doctrine was published (editors: L. E. Froom, W. E. Read, and R. A. Anderson).

The Fifth Stage

1957 till today — Settling of the issue (consensus):

The 1980 Dallas Statement of Fundamental Beliefs; renewed questions of historic Adventism (only lay activity—like Smyrna Gospel Ministry, Bruno Fisher, David Klejton, Wolfgang Schneider, etc., who speak about the Omega apostasy of the church, because we have accepted the Trinitarian teaching).

1970: Raoul Dederen published his article in “Reflections on the Doctrine of the Trinity,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 8, no. 1 (January 1970): 1–22.

1971: LeRoy Edwin Froom, Movement of Destiny (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1971).

1980: The Fundamental Beliefs were officially voted in Dallas (the second official Doctrinal Statement of the Church) which contained the Trinitarian formulation.

2000: Fernando Canale wrote an article on the “Doctrine of God” in The Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000).

2002: Woodrow Whidden, Jerry Moon, and John W. Reeve, eds., The Trinity: Understanding God’s Love, His Plan of Salvation, and Christian Relationships (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2002). The first Adventist publication dedicated to the topic of the Trinity!

2006: Bible Conference was organized and sponsored by the Adventist Theological Society at Southern Adventist University with around 30 Bible scholars and theologians who presented different aspects on the Doctrine of the Trinity.

One whole issue of the Journal of Adventist Theological Society (17, no. 1 [Spring 2006]) was devoted to the Trinitarian questions.

1980 Dallas Statement

  • “27 Fundamental Beliefs” were officially voted by the church at the General Conference in Dallas, Texas.
  • In 2005 one article of faith was added to the 27 statements at the General Conference meetings in St. Louis, Missouri. Thus, we have now “28 Fundamental Beliefs.”

The second statement of faith entitled “The Godhead” states:

“God is one: 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.

The third article of faith under the title “God the Father” proclaims:

“God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father.

The fourth faith statement entitled “God the Son” reads:

“God the Eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly man, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God’s power and was attested as God’s promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to minister in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and restoration of all things.”

The fifth article of faith entitled “God the Holy Spirit” declares:

“God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ’s life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Send by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth.”

Excursus: History of the SDA “Fundamental Beliefs”

First was the refusal to accept any Creed—“The (whole) Bible is our Creed”—desire not to fall into the trap of our Protestant brothers.

1. 1872: Uriah Smith authored and the Adventist press at battle Creek, MI, published A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists (first unofficial expression of church synopses of faith in 25 propositions. It does not contain any paragraph on the Trinity doctrine; there is no reference to the term Trinity there. On the other hand, it does not contain any anti-Trinitarian element. There is no polemic there against a Trinitarian position.

2. 1889: Uriah Smith rewrote, slightly revised, and expanded the faith synopses to 28 sections of “Fundamental Principles” that the church unanimously believed. Also in this declaration there is no statement about the Trinity. It was inserted in the Yearbook in 1905 and continued to appear through 1914.

3. 1931: Wilcox and three others expressed 22 doctrinal statements. One of them presents faith in the Trinity.

4. 1946: The first officially voted document on the Church’s doctrines and beliefs (formulated in 1931).

5. 1980: The second official statement of faith voted at the General Conference in Dallas, TX—“27 Fundamental Beliefs.” Articles 2–5 explain faith in the Triune God:  the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

6. 2005: A new article was added about “Growing in Christ” at the General Conference session in St. Louis, Missouri, now making “28 Fundamental Beliefs.”  No faith statements were changed including the statement on the Trinity.

Summary: (1) We must acknowledge that the development of Adventist Biblical theology has been progressive and corrective. (2) The gift of prophecy (Ellen G. White’s writings) played the key role in this unprecedented (incredible, exceptional, unparalleled, and extraordinary) doctrinal change in our church. (3) The Trinity Doctrine in our SDA Church, that one God is manifested in three persons, is indeed found in Scripture; i.e., it is a biblical doctrine, therefore one can accept it and believe it. We believe in the Trinity doctrine, because it is built on the solid biblical material. It was the Bible that led Seventh-day Adventists to accept their position on the Godhead. It was the firm foundation of the Bible which led Seventh-day Adventists to accept the doctrine of the Triune God. This doctrine is rooted in the faith of Jesus Christ, prophets, and apostles (Eph 2:20; 1 Cor 3:11; 1 Pet 2:4–8). (4) Faith cannot be built on the faith, convictions, opinions of our pioneers or church tradition. (5) The Trinity doctrine is a tool given to us so that we can cultivate a meaningful relationship with God and with each other. Our God is We, He is the Fellowship, the Community. We were created to His image, therefore we need also to cultivate multidimensional relationships, first vertical and then horizontal ones.

Conclusion: The Trinity is a mystery, and no mortal person will ever be able to understand it fully.  The Scriptural evidence clearly indicates the equality and eternal co-existence of the three persons in the Godhead. While human reason may not understand it, by faith we can believe it. Let’s bow down before our wonderful God, before this Miracle.

References:

  • Burt, Merlin D.  “History of the Seventh-day Adventist View on the Trinity.” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 17, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 125–139.
  • Damsteedt, P. Gerard.  Foundations of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission.  Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 1977.
  • Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 17, no. 1 (Spring 2006).
  • Knight, George R.  A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000.
  • Moon, Jerry.  “The Adventist Trinity Debate, Part 1: Historical Overview.”  Andrews University Seminary Studies 41, no. 1 (Spring 2003): 113–129.
  • Moon, Jerry. “The Adventist Trinity Debate, Part 2: The Role of Ellen G. White.” Andrews University Seminary Studies, vol. 41, no. 2 (Autumn 2003): 275–292.
  • Moon, Jerry. “The Quest for a Biblical Trinity: Ellen White’s ‘Heavenly Trio’ Compared to the Traditional Doctrine.”  Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 17, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 140–159.
  • Pfandl, Gerhard.  “The Doctrine of the Trinity among Seventh-day Adventists.” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 17, no. 1 (Spring 2006): 160–179.
  • Pöhler, Rolf J.  “Change in Seventh-day Adventist Theology: A Study of the Problem of Doctrinal Development.”  Ph.D. diss., Andrews University, 1995.
  • Whidden, Woodrow, Jerry Moon, John W. Reeve, eds.  The Trinity: Understanding God’s Love, His Plan of Salvation, and Christian Relationships.  Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2002.
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