I thought I would not write on this subject again, but I have had many questions and comments on my last blog, and I thought I should answer them here. I do not want any error coming from my pen, for, as Ellen White said, "Error is never harmless" (CW 46.2). I wish earnestly with all my heart not to offend. When I picked up my "pen" [computer keyboard] to cover this subject, I thought this new information would please you. That is what I continue to hope for today with my present blog. Also, may I say, that I would welcome a fact checker to assure my readers that I have my facts straight. [emphasis supplied throughout]
Brothers and sisters, I am prepared to back down. Just show me that the antitrinitarian view has the weight of evidence, and I will gladly confess my error. Until then, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me." (paraphrase of Martin Luther) I am concerned about where this concept is taking us and will get to that in a moment.
Here are the questions that were raised, along with others that I thought were appropriate, and my response to them:
1. Q. An alternate translation of Elohim is "majestic," "the highest," "the greatest," etc. Is it not possible that the writer had the concept of ultimate superiority in mind when He wrote?
A. When I looked into Strong's Concordance (two versions actually) and in many others online, they all said, as the first definition, that Elohim is plural. One said derivations were occasionally used, with "majestic" given as an example. You are invited to research your own concordances and see if they shed light on this question. If you find anything other than this, please inform me.
2. Q. Doesn't the Bible says they are one? "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one" (Deut. 6:4, KJV).
A. This text is given more weight than other texts used in this discussion, and that is a perfectly acceptable approach. The original Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:4 for "one" is plural. Look it up. It is echad, the plural one. (Strong's Concordance, No. 258, to unify; No. 259, prop. united.) What it signifies is unity--the unity that exists among the heavenly Trio. That unity our Father expects of us. That unity justifies us in speaking of them as one, as monotheistic.
3. Q. Jesus is the "only-begotten" of the Father; therefore, that makes Him of the Father and justifies the appellation "Son of God."
A. For years I have read about and accepted that Jesus is the Son of God. I have no problem with it and do not need this doctrine to prompt me to accept Jesus as God's Son. Nontrinitarians have a rule of interpretation that if a concept does not "violate the laws of nature," all else being equal, that concept may be accepted as doctrine. But everything I read in Scripture about "begetting" or "begotten" pertains to birthing someone. That's all I know. When you are begotten, you are born. It requires a mother and father, and nine months later you have a brand new baby. That is "begetting." In heaven, in eternity past, if the nontrinitarian view is correct, who played the part of the mother? Well, without a mother doesn't that violate nature? Can you show me where I'm wrong?
Is it not possible that Jesus became God's Son when He was born of Mary in the manger of Bethlehem? Jesus had no other father. God's foreknowledge that this would happen justifies Him in calling Jesus His Son long ago in eternity past, for to God all things occur in the present. Scripture says that Jesus is eternal; He had no beginning. Christ's "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2, KJV). Does this agree with the concept that Jesus had a beginning? I will let you decide.
4. Q. Do you presume to disagree with the pioneers of Adventism who believed this way?
A. "We must study the truth for ourselves. No man should be relied upon to think for us. No matter who he is, or in what position he may be placed, we are not to look upon any man as a criterion for us. We are to counsel together, and to be subject one to another; but at the same time we are to exercise the ability God has given us, in order to learn what is truth. Each one of us must look to God for divine enlightenment. We must individually develop a character that will stand the test in the day of God. We must not become set in our ideas, and think that no one should interfere with our opinions." - TM 109.4
I'm not interested in what the pioneers believed, nor in what the Catholics believe, nor in what the council of Nicea believed, nor in what the Adventist church believes today. I am only interested in what the Bible says.
But I will share the history of this matter for the sake of discussion. It is uncontested that many of the early Adventists were nontrinitarians, including some of the great pioneers of Adventism. "However, it is also a historical fact that the understanding of our pioneers changed over time. For example, in 1846 James White referred to 'the old unscriptural Trinitarian creed, viz., that Jesus is the eternal God.' But in 1876 he wrote that 'S.D. Adventists hold the divinity of Christ so nearly with the Trinitarians, that we apprehend no trial here.' And a year later he declared his belief in the equality of the Son with the Father and condemned any view as erroneous that 'makes Christ inferior to the Father.'" (from http://www.macgregorministries.org/seventh_day_adventists/trinity.html)
Belief in the nontrinitarian view was never a pillar. Rather, the church's concept of the Godhead developed over time as the church grew.
I will make one caveat to the idea that I care not for human opinions. I believe Ellen White spoke for heaven; therefore, I honor her statements. What did she believe about this subject? One of her best-known statements in this regard is DA 530, where she states, "In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. 'He that hath the Son hath life.' 1 John 5:12. The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life," aligning herself with Christ having full divinity.
(You will hear that upgrading Christ's position from subordinate to the Father to full deity is the work of EGW's staff, of her son, of others but I have looked this up throughout her work, and she seems to really believe and be committed to the position she sets forth in her writings. Here are the citations in which she originated this or a very similar idea: ST 4/8/1897; Ms. 2, 2/9/1886; Ms. 22, 2/22/1898. The document dated 2/9/1886 is original and can possibly be found in the archives in her own handwriting. If this was not her position, please send corroboration. For further study consult https://media1.whiteestate.org/legacy/issues/The-Trinity.pdf, Tim Poirier's, "Ellen White's Trinitarian Statements: What Did She Actually Write?")
5. Q. You cannot believe the message of God's character of love without believing in the antitrinitarian view.
A. How so? I believe in three co-equal Persons in one God, because that is the message of Scripture. It is true, our generous, considerate God leaves in Scripture "hooks to hang doubts on," but I believe the weight of evidence supports the Godhead view. I have no further comment on this, except that if you have evidence that this assertion is true--that one cannot believe the message of God's character of love while believing in the equality of the Godhead--you are invited to share your views below.
6. Q. What do you think is the "hook" that Satan has placed in the antitrinitarian view of God?
A. It makes Jesus inferior to the Father. It causes Him to have a beginning. In this case, God sent an inferior Being to this earth to redeem us. The incarnation cost the Father nothing, because the Sacrifice came into being at some time in the past and was therefore common.
Please check your logic with this syllogism:
Proposal 1. There is numerically one God.
Proposal 2. The Father is God.
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus is not God.
If proposals No. 1 and 2 are true, then the conclusion, based on the proposals, must be true as well. If you insist that the nontrinitarian view of God is correct, then the conclusion is the reality you have to live with. I cannot do that. This is where this doctrine is taking us. I can see it in neon. What might Jesus say to this proposal? Might He say, "Before Abraham was, I Am" (John 8:34)? He is Jehovah, the self-existent one.
After lunch a few Sabbaths ago our group fell into discussing the Godhead, which is a hot topic in our church today. I understand that the motivation behind this controversy is to magnify the Father, and while I agree with the motivation, I also believe that nothing magnifies the Father like the truth of the word. My purpose in highlighting this issue is not to offend, either my brothers and sisters--with whom I might not be in total agreement at this moment--, or my gracious and wonderful heavenly Father who has often been hurt by our failure to tell the world the truth. I fully believe that the truth of the word is sufficient for both my brethren and my heavenly Father.
I will divide this document into two basic sections: 1) What the Bible says about God, and 2) The plural one. [Emphasis provided throughout.]
First, how many Persons make up the Godhead? Genesis 1:1 says, "In the beginning Gods created the heaven and the earth."1 The word Elohim means multiple or plural Gods. On that all agree. Where we use an "s" or "es" to render nouns plural, the Hebrew language uses "im" to do the same. Although the traditional practice of seeing God as singular has made us think of Elohim as singular and translate it as such, there is no disputing that it is plural. What if when we see the word Elohim in Scripture it conjures up in our minds multiple Persons? Would we be wrong?
Genesis 1:26 supports this fact. "And God said, 'Let us make man in our image.'" Again, the name Elohim is translated "God," singular, yet in reality it should be plural. Notice the plural form of the pronouns used, us and our. Supposing we could go through the entire Bible and where we find the word Elohim, change the translation to plural. How would that look? What would that say to us?
I am not attacking that our God is monotheistic. He is. And that contrasts sharply with the pagan gods proliferating in the ancient world. But in what way is He monotheistic? How are we justified in referring to Him in the singular?
John 1:1 supports the idea that there are at least two persons in the Godhead. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Again, we see multiple Persons together at the creation of the world. We cannot ignore this or any text relating to this subject as we are seeking the golden weight of evidence for our conclusion.
1 John 5:7 says, "For there are three that bear record [testify] in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." This text, which speaks in the most emphatic voice, has an interesting history. Some say it does not belong in Scripture because it is not found in most early manuscripts. However, between 476 A.D. when Rome fell and 538 A.D., when popes began to reign, a struggle took place between the Catholic church and three kingdoms for dominion over the West. These three kingdoms were Arian who believed in the "One God" theory. Listen to what the reformers John Wesley and John Calvin have to say about this text:
"JOHN WESLEY commented on 1 John 5:7 saying: 'I would insist only on the direct words, unexplained, just as they lie in the text: 'There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: And these three are one.'
"'As they lie in the text :' --but here arises a question: Is that text genuine? Was it originally written by the Apostle, or inserted in later ages? Many have doubted of this; and, in particular, the great light of the Christian church, lately removed to the Church above, Bengelius, --the most pious, the most judicious, and the most laborious, of all the modern Commentators on the New Testament. For some time he stood in doubt of its authenticity, because it is wanting in many of the ancient copies. But his doubts were removed by three considerations: (1.) That though it is wanting in many copies, yet it is found in more; and those copies of the greatest authority: -- ( 2.) That it is cited by a whole gain of ancient writers, from the time of St. John to that of Constantine. This argument is conclusive: For they could not have cited it, had it not been in the sacred canon: -- (3.) That we can easily account for its being, after that time, wanting in many copies, when we remember that Constantine's successor was a zealous Arian, who used every means to promote his bad cause, to spread Arianism throughout the empire; in particular the erasing this text out of as many copies as fell into his hands. And he so far prevailed, that the age in which he lived is commonly styled, Seculum Aranium, -- 'the Arian age;' there being then only one eminent man who opposed him at the peril of his life. So that it was a proverb, Athanasius contra mundum: 'Athanasius against the world.'
"To read their entire quotes in context, see this site: http://turretinfan.blogspot.com/2007_04_22_archive.html
"JOHN CALVIN -- 'However, the passage flows better when this clause is added, and as I see that IT IS FOUND IN THE BEST AND MOST APPROVED COPIES [capitalization in the original], I am inclined to receive it as the true reading.'"2
[The history of this text cautions us to be careful. When we read a text that doesn't agree with our ideas, we should let the text inform us-- not excise it from its Scriptural base. Our ideas and opinions are to be shaped by the word, not the word shaped by our ideas and opinions.]
Many other texts could be cited here to support that there is more than a single Being in the Godhead, but we won't cite them, since this is not a book but a blog. I will move on to the plural one.
The plural one solves the mystery of how multiple Beings can be, collectively, one and thus maintain the truth that the Godhead is one. How can multiple Beings be one? Both the Old Testament and New contain evidence of multiple Beings in one. Here are some examples:
And God wants that same unity to exist among us His children. Tracing this theme through the Scriptures gives us:
Three times in one chapter Jesus prays to His Father that His children might be united just as He is united with the Father. Do you think He intends that they morph into a bizarre numerically single entity? Or does He intend that they shall be united? Whatever conclusion you reach, please know that Father and Son are united in exactly that same way.
Is this concept Scriptural? Yes. Is it reasonable and objective? Of course. Does it magnify the Father, Son and Holy Ghost? Yes, certainly.
Hierarchy or Equality?
Scripture says that the Gods (or Beings in the Godhead) are equal. (Philippians 2:6). It's a beautiful thing to see how they each give glory to the other. The Father says, "[L]et all the angels of God worship him [Jesus]" (Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 19:10). Jesus says, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). The Holy Spirit "shall not speak of himself" (John 16:13) but happily represents Jesus in the life of the Christian. While each has His own role to play, none of the Deity seeks glory for Himself. None of them is better than the other.
To recap, we have looked at the manner in which the Bible presents the heavenly Trio. There are three equal Beings in the Godhead, not just one. Their "oneness" is in their unity, not in their number, a condition we are called to replicate. We must never forget that while we lift up the Father above all else, we cannot avoid pushing Jesus down. Thus we put Jesus in a secondary, nonequal role, falling into Satan's trap. Perhaps he brought this concept up as a vehicle to push our Savior down. He constantly desires to do this.
Notice I have not used the word "trinity," because some object to its close association with Catholicism. There is no need to use this word, because the Bible supplies one better--"Godhead." (See Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, Colossians 2:9).
Finally, we are made in God's image. Just as we cannot contract ourselves into one bizarre and indescribable entity, neither can God. Why should He want to? But if you believe my assessment of the situation is not correct, you are welcome to place your correction below this post.
1Elohim. Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Elohim.