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By Derrick Gillespie In 1913 (I did not say 1931) a statement of some of the points of our SDA faith was published on page 21 of the October 9 edition of the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald. The following is the section important for our study, revealing quite clearly how modernSDA anti-Trinitarians are debunked (and continue to be debunked) by our own historical records regarding what Adventist came to believe WHILE MRS WHITE WAS STILL ALIVE:
"For the benefit of those who may desire to know more particularly the cardinal features of the faith held by this denomination we shall state that Seventh-day Adventists believe 1. Inthe divine Trinity. This Trinity consists of the eternal Father, a personal, spiritual being, omnipotent, omniscient, infinite in power, wisdom, and love; of 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 one regenerating agency in the work of redemption..." This accommodated or NON-TRADITIONAL use of the controversial term dates back as far as 1891. Here's the evidence of its progressive use that is undeniable ³We [Adventists] understand the Trinity, as applied to the Godhead, to consist of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ... These supreme Beingswe cannot comprehend or measure«There is certainly nothing incongruous in the idea of the Spirit being a personal representative, hence saying that the Spirit' is the representative of the Father and Son does not deny his personality...He [the Spirit] occupies in our minds an exalted place with Deity «as a supreme Being´ - Bible Echo & Signs of the Times (Australia), Vol. 7, April 1, 1892, p112 ³Where Satan cannot lead into absolute unbelief, he will endeavor to mystify so that the belief remaining may prove ineffectual. From the confusing idea of µone God in three Gods¶[i.e. the traditional Catholic Trinity explanation, of a singular threefold organism/Being or singular tripersonal substance]«the enemy gladly leads to what appears to be a more rational, though not less erroneous idea ± that there is no trinity, and that Christ is merely a created being. But God¶s great plan is clear and logical. There is a trinity, and in it there are three personalities«We have the Father described in Dan. 7:9, 10«a personality surely«In Rev. 1:13-18 we have the Son described. He is also a personality« The Holy Spirit is spoken of throughout Scripture as a personality. These divine persons are associated in the work of God«But this union is not one in which individuality is lost«There is indeed a divine trio, but the Christ of that Trinity is not a created being as the angels- He was the ³only begotten´ of the Father«´ Robert Hare, Union Conference Record, July 19, 1909
³God is one [person]. Jesus Christ is one [i.e. another person]. The Holy Spirit is one [the third person of three]. And these three are one: there is no dissent nor division among them [the expression µamong them¶ always indicates three or more beings involved; not just two].´ -A. T. Jones, Review and Herald, January 10, 1899, 24 [In the disputes leading up to Nicea] ³There was no dispute about[notice, not about µthe opinion¶, or µthe teaching¶, but] the *FACT of there being a Trinity; it was about the nature of the Trinity. Both parties[supporting either Arius or Alexander]believed in precisely the same Trinity, but they differed upon the precise relationship which the Son bears to the Father´ -A.T. Jones, The Two Republics, 1891, pg. 333 Fancy that!! A.T. Jones now admitting in writing that earliest Christians never debated "the FACT" of whether a Trinity existed (since that was already a given); they simply debated the nature of the Trinity. NO WONDER THEN SDA PIONEERS EVENTUALLY CAME TO ASSENT TO THAT BASIC FACT BY 1913!! ³Seventh-day Adventists[not just myself]believe[now] in ... the Divine *TRINITY. This Trinity consists of the Eternal Father« the Lord Jesus Christ«[and] the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead´ -F. M. Wilcox (editor of Review and Herald), *Review and Herald, October 9, 1913 ³«the Godhead, or 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 in the work of redemption«We [Adventists] recognize the divine Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, each possessing a distinct and separate personality, but one in nature and in purpose, so welded together in this infinite union that the apostle James speaks of them as "one God." James 2:19.This divine unity is similar to the unity existing between Christ and the believer, and between the different believers in their fellowship in Christ Jesus«´ - F.M. Wilcox, Christ is Very God, Review and Herald
COMMENTARYTrinitarianism is predicated upon the principle of a belief in ³three Persons´ within the ³one Godhead´. It is Biblical to affirm ³three living [literal] personalities´ in the Godhead, and this is what ³a trinity´ is (as EVENTUALLY attested to honestly before 1915 by SDA pioneers; seen in the quotes above). Even the false trinities, triads and trios in pagan religious ± proclaim the true definition of ³trinity´.
Once, by a Christian, ³three persons´ are affirmed in the Godhead, whether as three separate persons (beings), or personalities, but all are related and in union (which some mistakenly call tri-theism), or as three personal ³manifestations´ of the one ³existence´ or reality (being), but all related in ³substance´, then that Christian is a Trinitarian (but can either be an "orthodox" or "unorthodox" one). Some, unwittingly, are Trinitarians (unorthodox one's of course), and believe in a ³Trio´ in the Godhead, but resist and deny the label. J.H. Waggoner (a pioneer), a few years before the SDA church affirmed three persons in the Godhead, stated that trinitarianism is simply based upon the true definition of the word ³trinity´, which means ³three [distinct] persons´ who exist together by close relationship; just like ³trio´, ³triplet´, ³triad´ and ³triumvirate´ ± all coming from the prefix ³tri´ [three]. Here are his words:
³A Trinity is three persons. To recognize [admit to] a trinity [the true type], the distinction between the Father and Son must be preserved.´ -J.H. Waggoner, 1884, The Atonement, pgs. 167-169
Thus a TRUE trinity in not (supposed to be) a single person, personality, or individual, or even a three-faced singular being, as critics rightfully charge the Roman Catholics to be teaching!! But, if in Adventism, since 1892, and long before 1931, the three Persons in the Godhead, and in fact basic/economic trinitariansim through Dr. Spear¶s article (see excerpts in the e-mail below) were directly affirmed by a leading editor in the church, then as sure as trilogy, tricycle, triennial, triplicate, trident, tripod, and tripartite all relate to ³three´ distinct, but related entities, pioneering Adventism became supportive of a ³trinity´ in the Godhead (if even not by orthodoxy). In 1892 SDA pioneers were blunt about the following article they SUPPORTIVELY published:
³«The Godhead makes its appearance in the great plan for human salvation. God in this plan is brought before our thoughts under the personal titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with diversity in offices, relations, and actions toward men. These titles and their special significance, as used in the Bible, are not interchangeable. The term ³Father´ is never applied to the Son, and the term ³Son´ is never applied to the Father. Each title has its own permanent application, and its own use and sense. The distinction thus revealed in the Bible is the basis of the doctrine of the tri-personal God« The exact mode in which the revealed Trinity is « must be to us a perfect mystery, in the sense of our total ignorance on the point. We do not, in order to believe the revealed fact, need to understand this mode. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity²whether, as to its elements, taken collectively or separately ² so far from being a dry, unpractical, and useless dogmaadjusts itself to the condition and wants of men as sinners«.The truth is that God the Father in the primacy attached to Him in the Bible, and God the Son in the redeeming and saving work assigned to Him in the same Bible, and God the Holy Ghost in his office of regeneration and sanctification ± whether considered collectively as one God, or separately in the relation of each to human salvation²are really omnipresent in, and belong to, the whole texture of the revealed plan for saving sinners." - The Bible doctrine of the Trinity- Pacific Press, 1892
Rather telling isn¶t it? In fact, in 1892 and 1894 respectively here is what SDA pioneers said glowingly about the same Spear article quoted above:
³« We believe that it sets forth the Bible doctrine of the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with a devout adherence to the words of the Scripture, in the best brief way we ever saw it presented." -Signs of the Times , Vol.18, No.22, 1892.
³«It presents the Bible viewof the doctrine of the Trinity in the terms used in the Bible, and therefore avoids all philosophical discussion and foolish speculation. It is a tract worthy of reading." -Signs of the Times, Vol. 20, No. 29, 1894.
And so what we see is a GRADUAL development of Adventist thought regarding the acceptance of a ³threefold´ Godhead, and yet this development became a radical departure from traditional Trinitarian thought because the Adventist explanation of the Godhead has always maintained that in the Godhead individuality of the persons is not lost(!!). This would explain Mrs. White¶s later monumental admission (quoted below) to there being ³three holiest beings in heaven´, while speaking of them collectively as ³God´, and as being our ³Father´ collectively, who all ³pledged´ to and henceforth subsequently ³receive´ us as ³sons and daughters´ upon our baptism (a matter some, especially the modern anti-Trinitarians in Adventism, find hard to come to grips with even today): "God says,[notice after this whom she means says this] "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, . . . and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." [Now notice carefully] This is the pledge of [not just one person, but]the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit[i.e. the *pledge to receive and be a Father to you]; made to you if you will keep your baptismal vow, and touch not the unclean thing«´ -E.G. White, Signs of the Times, June 19, 1901
³You are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. You are raised up out of the water to live henceforth in newness of life--to live a new life. You are born unto God, and you stand under the sanction and the power of THE THREE HOLIEST *BEINGS IN HEAVEN, who are able to keep you from falling. . .´ -E.G. White, Manuscript Release, Vol.7, pgs. 267, 268
How very telling, in terms of how well this compares with what the Presbyterian Trinitarian minister Samuel Spear said in his Trinitarian article way back in 1889; an article which was directly affirmed by Adventist pioneers in 1892, and said to be ³a devout adherence to the words of the Scripture´ about ³the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit´. There is no escaping this reality, no matter how much some anti-Trinitarians today in Adventism would like to cover up or µescape¶ this fact!!
ADVENTISM'S FIRST ENDORSEMENT OF A TRINITY ANALYSED
HOW CAN SOMEONE LOOK AT THE FOLLOWING QUOTE FROM SPEAR'S 1889 ARTICLE (AS ENDORSED AND PUBLISHED BY ADVENTIST PIONEERS IN 1892) AND, AS YOU HAVE SADLY DONE "T.H.", COME TO THE AMAZING CONCLUSION THAT THE AUTHOR WAS NEITHER TRINITARIAN, NOR SPEAKING OF THE TRINITY DOCTRINE AS IT SHOULD BE BELIEVED?
"To the Corinthians the apostle said: ³The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.´ 2 Cor; 13:14. Who finds fault with *the Trinity of the Godhead as set forth in this benedictive prayer? To the same church he also said: ³But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we
inHim; and one Lord Jesus Christ, bywhom are all things, and we by Him.´ I Cor. 8:6. The phrase ³of whom are all things, and we in Him,´ as applied to the ³one God the Father,´ and the phrase ³by whom are all things, and we by Him,´ as applied to the ³one Lord Jesus Christ,´ differ from each other; and this difference in the preposition used implies a distinction between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Father appears in this language as the primal source, and Christ appears as the medium.So, also, the apostle said to the Ephesians ³And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ¶s sake hath forgiven you.´ Eph. 4:32. Here the forgiveness comes from God, who is one of the personalities of the Trinity, but it comes ³for Christ¶s sake,´ and through Him, who is another personality in the same Trinity. Who has any objection to the doctrine as thus appearing? Who cavils with it when he asks the Father to forgive him for Christ¶s sake? The truth is that God the Father in the primacy attached to Him in the Bible, and God the Son in the redeeming and saving work assigned to Him in the same Bible, and God the Holy Ghost in his office of regeneration and sanctification ± whether considered collectively as one God, or separately in the relation of each to human salvation² are really omnipresent in, and belong to, the whole texture of the revealed plan for saving sinners. In this plan there is nothing superfluous, and nothing that is not adapted to the felt wants of man. The simple-minded
Christian, when thinking of these wants, and contemplating the divine Trinity, as he finds it in the Bible, has no difficulty with the doctrine. It is a light to his thoughts, and a gracious power in
his experience. Content with the revealed facts, and spiritually using them, he has no trouble with them. He does not attempt metaphysically to analyze the God he worships, but rather thinks of him as revealed in His word, and can always join in the following Doxology: ³Praise God, from whom all blessings flow! Praise Him, all creatures here below! Praise Him above, ye heavenly host! Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!´ It is only when men speculate outside of the Bible and beyond it, and seek to be wiser than they can be, that difficulties arise; and then they do arise as the rebuke of their own folly. A glorious doctrine then becomes their
perplexity, and ingulfs them in a confusion of their own creation. What they need is to believe more and speculate less."
-Rev. Samuel T. Spear, 1889
PROOFS THAT THE AUTHOR WAS TRINITARIAN:
1. Firstly, it must be observed that the author of the above quote was the famous writer Rev. Samuel T. Spear, who was a bona fide ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church in America for very many years. The Presbyterian Church was and has remained a Trinitarian Church. Spear never had any internal wrangling with his Church over an acceptance of what he terms "the divine" Trinity until the day he died. This is the first clue that the above quote is about nothing less than, according to the author, basic and unexplainedTrinitarianism as it appears in the Bible; not according to the explained ontological Trinity of the Papacy. This is why this article was adopted by SD Adventism as THEN representative of what Adventism had come to believe in 1892 (despite it's staunch antiTrinitarianism of the past), and hence Adventism even re-titled the article as "The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity". Rather telling isn't it? Thus the reason why 21 years after this event in Adventism the chief editor of Adventism's Review and Herald declared in no uncertain terms that: "Seventh-day Adventists [now] believe in the divine Trinity..." - F.M. Wilcox, Oct. 1913 2. Spear, the author in the above quote, even supportively quotes the words of a traditional Trinitarian song, which no TRUE anti-Trinitarian church would ever allow to be sung in it's worship services. "Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below" is what the song announces. But who is this "God" that the "Him" is in reference to, that Spear has no problem praising by way of this song? "Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost" is the answer in the same song!!
Only Trinitarianism regards "God" as "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" together and proceeds to call all three "Him", and not "them"; just like how Man is generically and collectively called "him" despite distinct persons are involved (compare Psalm 8:4-8 with Gen. 3:22-24 and Gen. 5:1,2). Spear then goes on to freely use the traditional Trinitarian expressions "God, the Son", and "God, the Holy Ghost" as further proof he is a Trinitarian plain and simple (if even he prefers to not speculate about matters not revealed). Spear then capsules his FULL COMFORT with the "Trinity of the Godhead" considered as the "one God" when he said:
"The truth is that God the Father in the primacy attached to Him in the Bible, and God the Son in the redeeming and saving work assigned to Him in the same Bible, and God the Holy Ghost in his office of regeneration and sanctification ± whether considered collectively as one God, or separately in the relation of each to human salvation²are really omnipresent in, and belong to, the whole texture of the revealed plan for saving sinners. In this plan there is nothing superfluous, and nothing that is not adapted to the felt wants of man."
This is Trinitarianism plain and simple. Need I say more? But I will. 3. 2 Cor. 13:14 has always been one of the prime 'proof text's used by Trinitarians to establish "a Trinity of the Godhead", and Samuel Spear asks who would ever object to this being a Trinitarian text? Obviously only one who does not believe it does indicate three persons in the one Godhead, or someone who is an anti-Trinitarian would object to its use this way. This is further proof that the author is IRREFUTABLY a Trinitarian who has no issue with the basic Biblical data that could be appealed to in order to establish "a Trinity of the Godhead" (as Spear puts it). 4. The author then shows his full comfort in the fact that Jesus is subordinate to (i.e. led by and answerable to) the Father who holds a certain "primacy", with him being the "medium" of all the blessings coming from the Father as "Head".Trinitarianism, probably more than any other doctrine, has been attacked for preaching what is called subordinationism. Historical Trinitarians have always seen a certain "primacy" in the Father, despite equally accepting that Jesus is equal in
nature to Him. No one who has properly studied historical documents on Trinitarianism would ever deny this. This is further proof that the author has no problems with the basic tenets of Trinitarianism. 5. Finally, the author shows that his only objections to any teaching on what he deems the Biblical Trinity is to "METAPHYSICALLY speculate beyond what the Bible speaks about directly. This shows that Spear clearly believed that one can be a Trinitarian without of necessity accepting how the Papacy painstakingly explains the oneness of the Godhead, for instance.This does not in any way denies that the author accepts what he still calls "a Trinity of the Godhead".
And remember, the leading above quote was just a very small portion of the whole article which wreaks all over with Trinitarian language and Trinitarian undertones. Was Samuel Spear a Trinitarian? You bet!! Only someone who dabbles in sophistry, or has painful issues he cannot bring himself to accept about Adventism's history of accepting basic Trinitarainism before 1915, would deny the MORE THAN OBVIOUS!! Like the Sabbath doctrine, Adventism initially used the writings of an outsider to be the starting point to help in establishing the Trinitarian teaching among it's ranks. That is the truth plain and simple. None can hold the truth captive to their puny surmisings for too long. And I will allow none to insult my intelligence and literacy to lead me to believe otherwise than the above conclusion borne out here by the MORE THAN ABUNDANT EVIDENCE!!
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