Special Issue - 1(99)
what of the night?”
"The hour has come, the hour is
striking and striking at you,
"Our Wonderful God"
The Formulation of the Adult Lessons
An Overlooked Factor
students in the adult
In the Writings are to be found some unique statements as to God's design in the creation of man. These serve as a factor in the equation of the Godhead when understood of Christ becoming a God-man - Son of God and Son of man. Adam, a son of God, failed; Christ becoming a second Adam and a son of God, as Jesus, succeeded. In Jesus divinity united with humanity has been "highly exalted," and in Him, humanity has been carried into highest heaven to be a part of the Godhead.
is this emphasis on the Trinity doctrine leading? In the final article,
“Whither Bound?" we have explored this question inasmuch as the Creed,
which established the doctrine of the Trinity, has not only been made the basis
upon which the teachings of Romanism are reviewed in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, but it
is also being used to promote the current program of the Faith and Order
Commission to unite all churches in a visible unity. As one brings together all
the available pieces in this theological drama and ecumenical thrust, questions
surface as to what is really going on in the highest enclaves of the
Unable to review all of the material currently surfacing on this subject, we must leave the balance for a regular issue.
"Our Wonderful God"
With the Sabbath School Lessons for the Fourth Quarter of 1998 focusing on the Doctrine of God under the caption, "Our Wonderful God," the question of the Trinity again becomes a point of controversy and discussion within the community of Adventism. In any such discussion, certain facts need to be clearly stated and remembered in regard to the concept of "Trinity." This word is not used in the Scriptures, nor do we find it in the Writings. Further, this term is not found in any Statement of Beliefs expressing what Seventh-day Adventists believed until 1931. However, this is not saying that neither the Bible nor the Writings fail to express the concept of God in terms of "Three." Paul's benedictory close of his Second Corinthian letter reads - "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen" (). The Writings describe the Godhead as "the heavenly trio." (Special Testimonies, Series B, No 7, p. 62) This was written in 1905. It should be obvious that the introduction of the "Trinity" concept into Adventist thinking is of more recent origin.
What is the Trinity teaching in contrast to what the Bible says about God, and what is the difference between "Trinity" and "Heavenly Trio," a term which we shall borrow from the Writings to express the Godhead as it now is? Why is the "Trinity" concept being promoted now? These questions and others we intend to explore in this first special issue of WWN for 1999.
The Basic Doctrine of Romanism
In the Handbook for Today's Catholic, it is stated:
The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine of the Catholic Faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the Church. (p. 11; emphasis supplied)
Consider for a moment what this is saying. If the Roman teaching of the Trinity is Biblically based, then the foundation of Romanism is in truth. Further, if this premise is accepted, "all the other teachings" of Romanism are likewise based in truth. Then why are we outside of Romanism? Should not we then return to the "mother church"? Was the key lesson (Number 3) of the Fourth Quarter's Sabbath School Bible Study Guide a step in that direction?
How is this basic doctrine of Romanism stated? In the Catechism for the Parochial Schools of the United States, one section is captioned "The Blessed Trinity." Note carefully what it says and the confusion resultant from the explanation (p. 7):
Are there more Gods than one?
There is but one God.
How many persons are there in God?
There are three persons in God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Is each of these Persons true God?
Each of the three Persons is true God.
Are these three Persons only one God?
These three Persons are only one God.
What do we call three Persons in one God?
We call one God in three Persons, the Blessed Trinity.
The second question is the transitional question. We would ask rather than, "How many persons are there in God?" - the question - "How many Persons are there in the Godhead?" One needs to recognize that Romanism does not mean by "Person" what we accept as the meaning of the Word. The Sabbath School Lesson #3 - "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" - was careful to explain this difference. The editors of the lessons commented:
The word persons used in the title of today's lesson must be understood in a theological sense. If we equate human personality with God, we would say that these three persons means three individuals. But then we would have three Gods, or tritheism. But historic Christianity has given to the word person, when used of God, a special meaning: a personal self-distinction, which gives distinctiveness in the Person of the Godhead without destroying the concept of oneness. This idea is not easy to grasp - or to explain! It is a part of the mystery of the Godhead. (p. 24)
How true - "not easy to grasp - or explain!" - It is pure Romanism. Harmonize this Romish definition with "the Heavenly Trio" concept. Impossible!
The Biblical Perspective
Faced with this "historic Christianity" mystery many jettison the concept of a "Heavenly Trio" without carefully noting the Bible perspective of the Godhead. Even our Adventist pioneers were guilty of this, going to the extent that one of the most respected pioneer theologians, Uriah Smith, wrote of Christ as "the first created being" in his 1867 edition of Thoughts on Revelation (p. 59). To emphasize the "pioneer" position as the basis of truth on the doctrine of God presents grave difficulties, for one must ask - "Which pioneers?" Such selectivity, which is deceptive, can be avoided by simply seeking the Biblical revelation.
One of the last books of the Bible, if not the last, to be written was the Gospel of John. The prologue - John 1:1-18 –
contains some of the most profound statements in regard to God of any Biblical revelation. Before considering these, it would be well to consider some other aspects of John's gospel.
The Gospel of John is considered didactic in contrast to the other three which are known as the synoptic gospels. This means that the emphasis in John is on the teachings of Jesus rather than specific experiences in the life of Jesus. In setting forth these teachings, John contains long direct quotes of what Jesus said. Note the discussion in John 6:27-63 as well as the intercessory prayer of John 17 as examples. Then consider the fact that these words were written some sixty years after they were spoken. Critics of the Gospel of John - faced with this fact - assert that John invented these dialogues of Jesus and thus the gospel has very little historical value. The answer from a fundamentalist view is that, since we cannot assert that John had a "computer-like" mind with a sixty plus years retention memory, this Gospel was verbally inspired in contrast to "thought" inspiration for the other gospels and New Testament books. Even John's experience in penning the Revelation approaches verbal inspiration.
This leaves us with the premise that the Gospel of John states the doctrine of God as Self-revealed as God would have us know it. This eliminates in one stroke all of the extant theories being promoted either as "new light", or the authoritative "voice" of Adventist pioneers.
God's Self Revelation in the Gospel of John
God's introduction of Himself reads:
In the beginning was (ην) the Word, and the Word was (ην) with God, and the Word was (ην) God. The same was (ην) in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was (ην) life and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
The first self evident fact is that there are Two distinct Beings - the Word (λογοζ) and God (θεον). John did not write that the Word was "in" God, but that the Word was with (προζ) God "in beginning." "Though existing eternally with God the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Pros with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other." (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V, p. 4) In his first Epistle, John wrote that this Word was "that eternal life, which (ητιζ) was (ην) with (προζ) the Father" and had been manifested unto them (I John 1:2). Again this "Eternal Life" was not "in" the eternal God, but was "with God."
Two things emerge: John here uses correct Greek grammar. A relative pronoun must agree with its antecedent in gender and number. In the Greek language, "life" is considered feminine in gender, thus "which" (η) is a feminine relative pronoun, but combined with τιζ, an indefinite pronoun, conveys the added concept of "somebody in particular." (See Robertson's A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, p. 291) This "Somebody in particular" is "the Word (λογοζ) of life," (v. 1) or "that Eternal Life" which was with the Father."
This is the same concept as set forth in the prologue of John's Gospel. In "Him" (the Logos) was "life" (John 1:4) The same as the Word was God, the same as He was in the beginning with God, so likewise there was in Him - life - eternal life, original, unborrowed, underived. The verb, ην, is the Greek imperfect tense conveying continuous action in past time. The Word was the I AM, not only the ever-existent One, but also the self-existent One.
Into this picture of God and the Word with God, as much God as God is God, came a mysterious change. Simply stated, the revelation reads - "The Word was made flesh, and tabernacled among us" (, Gr). It was the same Word in another form. He had been "Spirit" for "God is spirit" [πνευμα ο θεοζ] (John ). Now He tabernacles in flesh. Here is the great divide in time and eternity. We have been advised that "when we want a deep problem to study" we need to "fix our minds on the most marvellous thing that ever took place in earth or heaven - the incarnation of the Son of God" (Ms. 76, 1903). Unless we do get this problem solved as far as mortals can, we will never be able to rightly reconcile this foreword in John's gospel with the concept of a "Heavenly Trio" which emerges as the result of the Incarnation.
At this point there are some implications to be drawn from the fact that God is spirit. He is of the order of "Spirit" while we, children of dust, are of the order of "flesh." Thus God Himself, whom we call "our Father" could be designated as an "Holy Spirit." In the vision given to Isaiah, he sees "the Lord sitting upon a throne," and he hears the angelic attendants crying - "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts" (6:1, 3) Even Jesus when tabernacling in the flesh was recognized by the demonic world as "the holy One of God" (Mark ). He had not ceased to be what He was. This designation lends credence to the fact that the supplied word, "thing" in Luke 1:35 should have been rather the word, "spirit." In this, the Writings concur stating that "a divine spirit dwelt in a temple of flesh" (4BC:147)
Further, the declaration of Jesus that "God is Spirit" was not stated in John's hearing, nor is there a record that Jesus ever gave the disciples this concept. It was spoken to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well, while the disciples were away buying food. (See John 4:8, 24, 27) The context of this declaration is an added factor to the premise that the gospel of John is a verbally inspired book of divine revelation and that revelation sets forth the eternal divinity of Jesus Christ.
Perhaps at this point of the analysis, we need to consider
the KJV translation of "only begotten" for the Greek word, μονογενὴς in both verses 14 and 18 of John 1. This translation, "only begotten" is used to sustain the theory that somewhere in the vast recesses of eternity, the Logos was begotten, that He was not "that Eternal Life" who with God brought all things into existence. Arias, who was to assert that Christ was "begotten of God before all ages," at least used the correct Greek word - γεγεννεμενον - to define such a position. The idea that Christ was "begotten" by the Father at some time in the eternity past is altogether foreign to the Scriptures. The Greek word, μονογενηζ, means "unique," "only (μονο) [one] of a kind (γενηζ). This Jesus indeed was. Actually some of the early New Testament manuscripts read verse 18 as, μονογενηζ θεοζ - the unique, one of a kind, God. This is exactly what the Logos, in contrast to the Theos, came to be at the Incarnation as a God-man.
The translation of μονογενηζ as "only begotten" in the gospel of John and in his first Epistle originated with the fathers of the Roman Catholic church. It entered early English translations of the Bible through the influence of the Latin Vulgate, the official Bible of the Roman church. Various Old Latin manuscripts which preceded the Vulgate simply read, "only" rather than "only begotten." The idea that Christ "was born of the Father before all creation" appears first in the writings of Origen, about A. D. 230.
The Holy Spirit Introduced in John's Gospel
from the parenthetical insertion in John 7 (v. 39), the introduction of the
Spirit in its relationship to the Logos is found in the discussions of Jesus
with the Eleven in the upper room and enroute to
Jesus could have used the other Greek word for "another" - ετεροζ. This would have raised the question of "kind" with regard to the παρακητοι. Was one different from the other? This distinction and use of these two words is found in Paul's letter to the Galatians. He wrote -"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him which called you into the gospel of Christ unto another (ετερον) gospel, which is not another (αλλον); but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ" (1:6-7).
The Judaizers did bring another (ετερον) gospel to the Galatians believers, but it was a perverted gospel thus it could not be another (αλλο) true proclamation of the gospel as Paul had given them. Jesus by using the word, αλλον, was telling the Eleven that the coming Comforter, though distinct from Him would be the same as He. In fact, almost in the next breath, He tells them, "will not leave you orphans, I will come to you" (v. 18. Gr.)
The next three contexts where παρακλητοζ is used by Jesus to refer to the work of the Holy Spirit, another Greek word is introduced - εκεινοζ - a demonstrative pronoun, translated, "he," not "it” as some impersonal Force, such as an influence. In each of these references (; ; 16:8), the "he" (εκεινοζ) refers back to the "Comforter" (παρακλητοζ). However, another use of εκεινοζ in John and translated, "he," when grammatically, it should have been, εκεινο, and translated "it," brings to the fore, the issue regarding the Holy Spirit. It has been clearly shown that John in his first Epistle demonstrated his knowledge of proper Greek grammar. (See above on I John 1:2). Further, in each instance of the use of παρακλητοζ as noted in this paragraph, εκεινοζ agrees in gender with its antecedent as required grammatically. Now in , the subject is "the Spirit of truth." In the Greek, the word "Spirit" is neuter gender, and the pronoun should be the neuter, εκεινο rather than the masculine, εκεινοζ. This brings us to an alternative. Either John is making εκεινοζ, "he" refer back to the use of the word in verse 8, or to verse 7 where "Comforter" is used. The other alternative is that the verbally inspired directive was to recognize "the Spirit of truth" not as an "it," but as a "he." Commenting on this verse, A. T. Robertson wrote - "It is more evident therefore in this passage that John is insisting on the personality of the Holy Spirit, when the grammatical gender so easily called for εκεινο." (Robertson, op.cit., p. 709) Or we might say that the Holy Spirit dictating to John the words of Jesus that night insisted on His rightful acknowledgement as One of the "Heavenly Trio." How perilous is it then to "do despite unto the Spirit of grace"? (Heb. 10: 29)
The Gospel of John gives us the Godhead that was prior to Bethlehem; the story of redemption in the glorious revelation of the God-man full of grace and truth, the manifestation of the Logos as the unique Son of God and Son of man; and finally the composition of the "Heavenly Trio" as it now is. To say that this answers all the questions would be presumptuous, but it does give all that we need to know to avoid the errors of so called "new light" on the one hand, and the deceptive teaching of the Roman "trinity" on the other hand.
The same close relationship which makes both Jesus and the Holy Spirit a Paraclete is symbolized in the Revelation given to John on the Isle of Patmos. John sees Jesus "in the midst of the throne" as "a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes." The "horns" and
"eyes" are defined as "the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth" (Rev. 5:6). This symbolism can only be understood when reflected against the facts that Jesus came into this world conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit (Matt. ), and offered Himself without spot "through the eternal Spirit” (Heb. ), as "the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world" (John ).
word in regard to the expression, "the Heavenly Trio" is in order.
When teaching at
The Formulation of the Adult Lessons
After the listing of the Adult Lessons for the 4th Quarter, 1998, the student of the Bible Study Guide is asked to "Meet the Principal Contributor of this Quarter's Lessons." A brief resume of the late Dr. Edwin R. Thiele is given. Thiele gained recognition as a Biblical chronologist. "His book, Mysterious Numbers of the Hebrew Kings, remains the foremost authority on Bible chronology in print today." (p. 2; Teacher's Edition, p. 3) However, Dr. Thiele also wrote another book, Knowing God, released in 1979 by the Southern Publishing Association. It conveniently contained 13 chapters which fitted the Sabbath schedule for the 4th quarter. But the book was not reprinted as "Helps" for the study of these lessons. In fact, Thiele's book is not even mentioned as the source of his contribution. A good reason appears as to why not. The controversial third lesson, "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" did not teach what the "principal contributor" taught in his chapter 3, "The Triune God."
This raises questions: Was Thiele’s book used as a facade to place before the Sabbath Schools of the Church, the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Trinity? Is this telling us that the Statement in the 1980 Dallas Statement of Beliefs - "There is one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons" - is in reality expressing the Roman teaching on God? Or is there another factor in the background of a growing ecurnenism within the Church?
Before seeking to find answers to the questions asked, it will be enlightening to know what Thiele wrote. He first stated that among the worshipers of the God of the Bible there is a "considerable difference of opinion as to what monotheism actually is" (p. 25). He devotes a number of paragraphs to the revelation of God in Isaiah: "The one God of Isaiah was the Creator of heaven and earth." Noting what Isaiah wrote and what John and Paul stated in the New Testament, he concludes the paragraph - "God the Father and Christ the Son were united in Creation" (p. 27).
Then, he continues - "The God of Isaiah was not only the Creator, but He was also man's Saviour and Redeemer." Citing both what Isaiah wrote and the testimony of the New Testament, Thiele again concludes - "God the Father and Christ the Son were associated in saving man" (ibid.). What then is Dr. Thiele's summation:
From the first chapter of Genesis to the last chapter of Revelation the Bible hints that the Godhead consists of more persons than one. In the opening words of the Bible, "in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," the Hebrew word here translated "God" is Elohim, which is a masculine plural. In the last chapter of Revelation John pictures "the throne [singular] of God and of the Lamb." Jesus the Son rules with God the Father.
The picture we have of God in the Bible is not of divine aloneness but of fellowship, of their doing things together, planning together, talking with one another, a co-partnership, a mutual concurrence and co-operation. (ibid.)
Amplifying the concept of "fellowship," Thiele cites Biblical examples of "God conferring with God" and concludes: "The Biblical picture of God is not a single supreme being alone by Himself, unsocial, lonely, and retiring. God is love, and love craves companionship. Certainly God could talk with men or angels, but even God needed fellowship and association with an equal who could think like Him. And so God communed with God, undertaking and carrying out plans through together. They reached united decisions and put forth united effort to carry them out" (p. 28).
Entering the New Testament revelation of God, the Holy Spirit is discussed, and concluding with texts from Revelation, Thiele wrote - "So the last chapter of the Bible refers to all Three Members of the Heavenly Triad" (p. 31). This expression, or "the Three Personages of the Holy Triad" (p. 34) is Thiele's definitive interpretation of "the Heavenly Trio."
The Sabbath school lesson stated - "If we equate human personality [and Thiele did] with God, we would say that three persons means three individuals. But then we would have three Gods, or tritheism" (p. 24) In the current controversy in the community of Adventism on this vital point, Thiele's contribution to the Lessons was set aside by some unknown author. Who? We are not informed. Why? The way it has been done is deceptive. By using the name of a well respected theologian, to forward an agenda which seeks to mold the thinking of the members of the Church toward the cardinal doctrine of Romanism
evidences "jesuitical" fingerprints.
controversy over the doctrine of the Trinity is a growing issue in Adventism
with advocates of non-Trinitarian views propagating their various theologies on
several continents. There is no question that the Roman doctrine of the Trinity
is gross error, but then are the various theologies being set forth as truth
any less error? To denigrate in any way the Deityship
of Jesus Christ; to do despite to the Spirit of truth is merely substituting
one error for another. The Gospel of John sets for God: In the Prologue, God
overall picture, though not so stated, is implicitly the two
All of this present controversy obliterates the plan of redemption, and the price paid "to regain possession of the one pearl of great price" (op. cit., 1895) These various anti-Trinitarian theologies of the Godhead fail to take into account the mystery of the Incarnation, though unexplainable, nevertheless the fact of what happened can be accepted by simple faith from the revelation of the Scriptures. It is the Incarnation alone that can bridge the gap between the revelation of God as set forth in John 1:1-2, and "the Heavenly Trio" as defined in the Writings.
the beginning of this issue, we noted that "the mystery of the Trinity is
the central doctrine of the Catholic faith" (See, p.2). The new Catechism of the Catholic Church sets
the formulation of its body of teachings in this doctrine. The Catechism
distinguishes between, "I believe," and "We believe." The
"I believe" is the Apostles Creed, while the corporate, "We
believe" is the Niceno-Constantinopolitan
Creed. (par. 167)
It is this later Creed which is summarized in "one God: Father, Son and
Holy Spirit," - the Trinity doctrine. Based on this "we
believe," the Catechism moves to a summary point – “'Believing'
is an ecclesial act. The Church's faith ["We believe"] precedes,
engenders, supports, and nourishes our faith ["I believe"]. The
Church is the mother of all believers. 'No one can have God as Father who does
not have the Church as Mother ' (St. Cyprian, De unit.)" (Par. 181). The steps back to
carefully some history. The Faith and Order Commission (FOC), the theological
arm of the World Council of Churches (
To promote this unity of one faith, a Faith and Order study is seeking "to discover whether Christians today can confess their faith together ecumenically." They "will not write out a new ecumenical confession of faith. Rather, it asks whether churches today can witness to, confess, live out and celebrate in common. ... the same apostolic faith that was expressed in Holy Scriptures and summarized in the creeds of the early church. For this study, the Faith and Order Commission has chosen the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed of A.D. 381 - already recognized by many churches - as a summary of the apostolic faith." (One World, #132, p.15)
To aid in an understanding of this Creed, the FOC prepared a study document - Confessing the One Faith. In its preface, Jean-Marie Tillard OP, Moderator of the Apostolic Faith Steering Group, wrote:
The coming together of all Christians in an authentic communion of faith, evangelical life and mission requires the common confession of the apostolic faith. ... The
document Confessing the One Faith is an instrument to draw the churches to a common understanding of this faith, which has to be confessed, especially in the celebration of baptism and eucharist, and proclaimed through missionary work for all Christian communities. (p. viii)
In the "document" itself, the Creed is given in both Greek and English. Then the "Explication" - the act of explaining its meaning - begins. We shall quote one paragraph. Note the same emphasis on the wording as is emphasized in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Nicene Creed
as a confession of faith belongs to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic
Church. In the Nicene Creed the individual joins all the baptized together in
each and every place, now and throughout the ages, in the Church's proclamation
of faith: "we believe in." The confession "we believe in"
articulates not only the trust of individuals in God's grace, but it also
affirms the trust of the whole
1993 a world conference on Faith and Order convened in
the last day of the conference, Jean-Marie Tillard,
the vice-moderator, suggested "that consideration be given to 'a gathering
of all the major leaders in the churches - perhaps in Jerusalem - simply to
sing the creed together."' Without specifying a date, he said that such an
act "would be a wonderful expression of the degree of unity already
present and of its origin." (ibid.) With the Pope desirous of being in
a bit. A new Roman Catechism seeking to place the Church's teachings in the
frame work of the Apostolic Creeds, and using the Nicene Creed to express its
basic teaching; the Faith and Order Commission of the
this whole picture, there are some facts which every member of the Adventist
Community must consider: The Church in General Session at
The doctrine of the Trinity, then, is a safeguard against unbiblical ideas. Historically, every great revival has adhered to complete Trinitarianism. It is not too much to say that the Trinity is the point on which all Christian ideas and interest focus, at once the beginning and the end of all true insight into Christianity. (Teacher's Edition, p.37)
Is not this the declared position of Romansim? Note again - "The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine of the Catholic Faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the Church." Is there not then just one answer to the question - Where did the Sabbath School Lesson #3 for the 4th Quarter seek to lead the members of the Church? And the answer, "in the track of Romanism!" Dare one stay in that track? #
Note: There are other aspects of this subject which lack of space prohibited our discussing. These we shall discuss in a future regular issue.
An American architect and engineer, R. Buckminster Fuller wrote - "God is a verb [I AM], not a noun." Something to think about.