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The Godhead — for John

Note: The following letter was written to a student of mine who was confused on the topic of the Godhead. There is a movement that would teach Adventists that (A) our pioneers did not believe in three members of the Godhead (B) that Ellen White did not teach the existence of three members of the Godhead [until her writing were altered] (C) that the Bible shows plainly that Jesus was born in the days of eternity past and that the Spirit is not a third person, but the mind of the Father and/or the Son [as the Spirit of man is not another entity apart from man].

 

The letter below was written early in the morning while I was traveling between appointments and is lacking in documentation. Also, it relies on two letters from other brothers that I have not been able to recover. For that reason I am adding documentation and information as a preface to the letter now. Likely, that preface will exceed the letter in length. It takes more space to prove something than to state it.

Relevant Facts:

Regarding EGW’s views:

The accusation that writings have been changed is solemn. The Ten Commandments forbid false witness. The New Testament forbids (I Tim 5:19) one to receive an accusation against an Elder except in the presence of two or three witnesses. The burden of proof in accusation lies with the accuser. Anyone daring to allege that the inspired books have been altered by Froom or others must prove their accusations with photocopies of Ellen White’s original handwriting.

If the proof exists, then this can be readily done by anyone who cares to do it. The originals are available for reading and copying. But the originals bear testimony that it was EGW’s own pen that wrote “heavenly trio” and “three persons” and “three dignitaries” of heaven.

In short, making the accusation of change is an open violation of the command “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Those who have not perceived the baseness of the proposal might be helped by this realization. The “changed writings” argument is lightly disguised infidelity.

EGW’s views can be found compiled in the book Evangelism pp. 613-617. Key phrases found there and that undermine the false Godhead doctrine are:

“There are three living persons of the heavenly trio—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” [1905]

“Christ is the pre-existent, self-existent, Son of God.

“There never was a time when He was not in close fellowship with the eternal God” [1900]

“Had been with God as one brought up with Him.” [1900]

“Equal with God,” “self-existent” [1897]

“From everlasting He was the mediator of the covenant.” [1906]

“In Christ is life original, unborrowed, underived.” [1898]

“The eternal heavenly dignitaries—God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit.” [1901]

“The Holy Spirit is as much a person as God is a person.” [1899]

“The Holy Spirit is a person [and] has a personality [and} is a Devine person.” [1906]

“The third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit.” 1897

“Three highest powers in heaven—The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” [1905]

A statement from the first chapter of Patriarchs and Prophets is often used to show that Ellen White envisioned a two-person Godhead. The statement lends itself to the idea, but certainly does not say it. The Spirit is not mentioned. Christ is presented as the co-worker with the “Sovereign of the Universe” and as the “only being” that could understandably enter into God’s work of Creation. Genesis 1 makes it clear that the Spirit of God was active in the planning of the work of Creation. The Spirit, while having personality, appears to have no bodily existence. This makes the Son alone the “being” that could cooperate with God (the Father and the Spirit). The Spirit inspired the pages (PP 33-34) and we should not be surprised if the page devoted to exalting Jesus would not at the same time exalt the Divine Author of the page.

The PP 34 statement makes use of Proverbs 8 as a reference to Christ. The verses there that speak of Christ being “brought forth” are favorites of anti-trinitarians.

Dear John,

About eleven years ago I was with a group of young people at a spiritual
retreat. There I was confronted with an old acquaintance of mine. Scott
Stanley was a traveling preacher and was staying at the home of a Mr. Brown
or another man that has two daughters with very very long hair. I have
forgotten their names. This happened in North Carolina, and I bring it up
because the pages that you sent me (I received them yesterday) look so very
familiar that I can not but believe that it was written by one of them, or
by one that they had talked to. Like Dan, I know that you did not write it.

I do not know if you remember that in class I began to give the same Bible
study that you sent out, but then went on to show its falsehood. If you look
through your notes on the Arian controversy from History class, you will
find helpful material. I am so busy but am taking precious moments to write
to you and to let you know that I am praying for you.

In that retreat I was confronted with the same arguments and they were
given, not by a paper, but by a charismatic and persuasive individual. I
went home and cried (literally) and prayed for God to give me light. For
several days I fasted on fruit and studied and studied. What I share below
is what I found in that study. It was one of the clearest times in my life
that I knew that God was speaking to me.

But first I want to share with you, in a public way, your two biggest
mistakes. These are more important than the doctrinal issue, and as you
recognize them, that realization will save you much grief and trouble later.

1) You were not careful and cautious enough. You did not have enough fear of
teaching error even though we are told that teachers will have greater
condemnation (James 2:1). Reread the experience of William Miller in the
Great Controversy. It was not until he had studied the doctrines that he was
teaching earnestly for 13 years that he dared to teach them. His attitude,
recognizing the ease with which a man may be deceived, saved him from
teaching error, on one hand, and from being repelled away from truth by
powerful arguments on the other. Not hours, not a few days, but a great deal
of research might have been done by you before sending out your e-mail that
would have saved you the trouble.

2) You did not first humbly submit your startling truths to brethren of
experience to see if they had found any light in it. I am sure you are aware
of this quote so will not take the time to find it. If your e-mail was an
attempt to do that, it should have been prefaced that way. It was sent as if
you had written it yourself (which was also a mistake, credit should be
given where credit is due, and readers have a right to judge the tree by its
fruits. If the author’s name had been available, it might have saved someone
from unnecessary trouble.)

But to the doctrinal issues:

Here are a few questions that deserve answering that are brought up by the
forwarded tract.

1. What is the Omega of apostasy? What was the Alpha? How are they related?
2. Did Ellen White change her views on the nature of the Godhead?
3. Why were early writers in the church not rebuked for their views if their
views were errant on this topic?
4. What is the meaning of Proverbs 8 in relation to the Deity and
preexistence of Christ?
5. What day did the Father say to Jesus, “This day have I begotten thee?”
6. How should we arrive at scriptural truth? (This is important)
a. Relation of obscure to plain passages
b. Relation of a papal claim that their doctrine is built on the “trinity.”
c. Relation of inferences to statements
d. Relation of views on inspiration and the use of Ellen White.

I must limit myself to these for time constraints. Let me say that what Dan
has written I have read and am choosing not to present again the things that
he has presented. The other gentlemen that replied to all included an
important reference to the mystery of the Holy Spirit that would be worthy
of meditation. And one other point. John, you are treading in an area that
is spiritually hazardous. The Devil has a simple trick that goes like this
(beware of it). 1. Lead a man into an error regarding the personality of the
Holy Spirit. 2. If he becomes convinced of the truth later, remind him that
blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin. 3. Drive him to
distraction with the thought that his case is hopeless. That is the trick.
If you come to point number 2 or 3, remember that the blasphemy against the
Holy Spirit is not committed in a week or a month. You have been deceived,
but you have not hardened your heart in rebellion. Believe that the Father,
for Christ’s sake, has seen fit to help you and be thankful for the new
chance to teach the truth.

1. What is the Omega of Apostasy? What was the Alpha?

These questions are related. See the book Omega and the book Hindsight (and
call Dave Fiedler) for more information on this topic. Let me greatly
summarize by saying that the following logic is faulty. Given: The omega
will be startling. Given: The ideas presented are startling. Concluded: They
unmask the omega.

If the logic went like this, is would be less faulty, but
would be faulty still: Given: The Omega will be startling. Given: The ideas
in this paper are startling. Concluded: The ideas in this paper are the
Omega. (I do not believe that to be the case, but wrote it to show you that
at the least it was better logic. There is a grave difference between a
startling truth and a startling apostasy. Don’t confuse them.)

2. Did Ellen White change her views on the nature of the Godhead?

Here is a remarkable point that deserves attention. Ellen White did not
write false views that she held as Testimony. If she believed in error on
this point, she did not write it. When she began to write about the Godhead,
her writings were clear on the point of three Persons.

3. Why were early writers in the church not rebuked for their views if their
views were errant on this topic?

The argument drawn from silence is weak. Early pioneers were not rebuked for
their pork eating either. There is a line of wisdom that we should realize.
If God, through his prophet, had presented truth that was obnoxious to the
early pioneers in the first days of the message, they likely would have
rejected White rather than accept the truth. And if they had accepted the
truth at THAT time, it would have been a startling truth and would have
drawn the attention away from the three steps that your early quote
mentions, the three angel’s messages. The truth about the Godhead was
brought to the body when the church was ready for it, and in such a way as
to not draw the attention away from the truths that were to be our message.
For an interesting study on the nature of new truth entering the body, see
Ellen White’s counsel to Haskel regarding the use of pork in the first
volume of the Testimonies. (all references in this document are from my head
and are accordingly very fallible).

4. What is the meaning of Proverbs 8 in relation to the Deity and
preexistence of Christ?

Dan has shown some interesting things regarding “chuyl.” Here are a few
more. The first instance of the Hebrew word is in Gen. 8:10, “And he stayed
yet other seven days.” The word “stayed” is chuyl. One of its meanings
includes “to wait” or “to be waiting.” Its use in reference to birth is
derived from the fact that it has a meaning of “writhing in pain.” Such a
reference would be a poor one to describe a Birth taking place before the
curse that made birthing painful.

5. What day did the Father say to Jesus, “This day have I begotten thee?”

I am sure that you remember this. While the author of your paper indicates
that it was ages ago, and while Hebrews one indicates the timing of the
decree “Let all the angels worship Him,” it is Acts 13:33-34 that tells us
when the Father said “This day have I begotten Thee.” It was at the
resurrection. This is why Jesus is referred to not only as the Only
Begotten, but as the First Begotten from the Dead. Isaac was also called
the only begotten, and Lazarus among others was begotten from the dead
before Christ in point of time. But our Savior’s resurrection was the
condition of the salvation of all other resurrected saints. Their
resurrections would have been void without His. The resurrection of Jesus
was different than that of any other Being in that he alone had life in
Himself to rise from the dead.

6. How should we arrive at scriptural truth? (This is important)

More important than answering each of the objections in the paper is this
section. Study it well.

a. Relation of obscure to plain passages

A common trick of the Devil is to take obscure passages and use them to
explain away plain passages. In this context he does it often. So when Jesus
said “There is none good but one, and that is God” was he saying “you have
called me God” or was he saying “You should not call me God?” It is not very
clear from the context. But Jesus received similar worship from Thomas (“My
Lord and My God!” Jn. 20:28-29). If Jesus was consistent, then Jesus was
(see DA) drawing from the man a fuller statement of his confidence in Jesus
as the Messiah. That is the very opposite meaning assigned to the verse in
the study. Satan always attacks plain passages with obscure ones. That is
how he can get pride and self into the argument, and that works on his side,
When a difficult passage is used, a man must take a stand on it before he
can use it. And once he takes a stand on it, his pride and selfishness are
ready to defend the stand.

b. Relation of a papal claim that their doctrine is built on the “trinity.”

There have been a lot of papal writers in the last two thousand years. Some
would say that the church doctrine rests on the mystery of the Eucharist.
Others would say that it rest on the teaching of Jesus himself. Others on
the plethora of wisdom as represented in the Apostle’s creed. The claims of
the papal church are no evidence either for or against any point of
doctrine. The only exception would be a point of doctrine about what the
Roman church teaches. On that point Roman dignitaries might teach with
authority.

But it is nonsense that the Roman doctrine is built upon the mystery of the
Trinity. The Roman church was constructed in doctrine through the ages
while the very nature of God was a continuing argument. The idea that the
SDA church is doubtfully the Remnant based on the arguments drawn from
Johnson and the Romish document is a serious claim to place on such a sandy
foundation.

c. Relation of inferences to statements

“There are three that bear witness in heaven.” 1 Jn. 5:7 (higher criticism
has manhandled this passage.)

“With my Father on his throne.” Rev. 3:21

“Whose going forth has been from everlasting.” Mic. 5:2

“Only begotten.” (many places)

Compare these. The first and third are statements regarding Jesus and the
Godhead. They say that there are three members, and that Jesus has existed
from eternity. The second and forth are statements on other topics that seem
to have a bearing on the truth about the Godhead. The Spirit is not
mentioned in Rev. 3:21, so we infer that there is no third person. There is
the problem. Inference is just another way of adding human reason and
tradition to our method of finding truth. What we infer is based on what we
think. Acts 13:2 speaks plainly about the Holy Spirit as a person. When we
form a doctrine we should make a wide distinction between arguments drawn
from statements on the topic under discussion, and arguments drawn from
inference.

d. Relation of views on inspiration and the use of Ellen White.

The author of the paper quotes Ellen White. Scott Stanley did also. But he
did not have faith in her writings. He picked the things that he believed
in, and found evidence that the rest was “influenced” or was outdated light.
If a man quotes EGW as an authority, but does not accept her authority, his
quoting of her is itself dishonesty. Think about that.

John, put together, yourself, and in your own words, the Biblical arguments
against the Three-person Godhead that seem unanswerable, and send them to me, and I
will find time to deal with them one by one. I did read the whole paper, and
every paragraph creates a burning in me to write so much. But it takes much
truth to extinguish a little error, so I have written this to show the
underlying principles that may save you from similar bouts with error in the
future.

Let me know what you think.

Pray and study, study and pray.

Your servant in Christ,

Eugene

PS Don’t “run” with anything before serious study and counsel and prayer and
time.

For the Word Document, click here

(9) Comments

  1. I recently had a very dear friend of mine invite me to a meeting where they believe what you have described as above re: Holy Spirit not being part of the Godhead. (I did not end up going) This was the first I heard of this teaching. So I came to your website and read the above article. They also keep some feasts. My friend has sent me a website to check out with more information and a few videos and kindly asked me to study it out for myself before I make up my mind. I am fully convinced that the Holy Spirit is part of the trinity. I need no more studying in that regard and feel it dangerous to look into that material she sent (and it isn’t high on my priority list, hence time consuming). One main reason I don’t want to explore further is that this group has separated from the SDA church and their tithes go to this group and not to the conference. Is it reasonable to not explore any teachings that also teach separation from the church? Can you lead me to some counsel on this? Thank you in advance!

    • To limit your time studying side issues is commendable. Hebrews 13 says we should not be carried about with strange doctrines. When you find simple and direct evidence that exposes an error, you are under no obligation to search further. Romans 16:17-18.

  2. You keep boldly declaring this person in error. What if you’re in error?
    John 9:41 Jesus said unto them, If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.

    [Chadwick wrote quite a little note in defense of John. But it was too late for John who gladly accepted this letter when it was written years ago. I erased Chadwick’s note to avoid confusion here. But he brought up a good point. In the article I mention Ellen White using the word “triune” when I should have written “trio.” Am glad he pointed this out.]

  3. Hallo Eugene, am a Seventh Day Adventist from Nairobi Kenya. Sometime last year i came to profess the non-trinitarian understanding of God after almost three years of God leading me. As i discussed with a group of friends, one sent me a link to this your letter to one of your students. I esteem highly your sermons and your stand for historic adventism, both of which have played a great part in my formative days as a Christian and am grateful to God for using you in shedding light into my heart. The letter was too long and i couldn’t discuss every particular with him on social media so i thought to write a response on my blog.

    I believe that God has appointed men of experience to guide the flock, and whether i agree with them or not on certain particulars, i respect them for their age and their position. I have even written to my pastor explaining my position on this topic and seeking his advice as much as Scripture give him authority, we are currently in a cordial discussion and have proved to be closer friends than before.

    In light of all that, Scripture had also promised that “they shall all be taught of God” under the new covenant and so discovering the truth about God made me esteem highly the moments i seat behind my Bible. I wrote this early this year (2015) and i hesitated sending it to you. If there may be any rough edges i ask your forgiveness for i was terribly unpolished back then with everyone ganging up on me.

    I pray God will speak to you as i believe He spoke to me, and that you shall impartially review the history of this topic both in the SDA church and also in the orthodox churches. I believe in all honesty and sincerity you will come to view matters in the same light as i have.

    • John, I removed the link as I do not want persons using my page to find in it access to ideas I do not believe. But if you email me at adventexpositor@gmail.com and send me the document as a Word doc, I will see if I can find some time to respond.

  4. thanks bro Eugene for the good work. and as we near the coming of Christ various issues are coming in into God’s church and blowing honest children of God away from truth. especially has the devil brought in a wave of confusion in the ‘present truth circles’. keep on keeping in bro.. be blessed

  5. I apologize if I gave the impression that my motive was just to defend one individual. I meant to reprove overconfidence, because when Satan has the whole world deceived, overconfidence is death, yet it’s our final challenge, saith the Strait Testimony. “knowledge puffeth up”, 1 Cor 8:1. We’re to be afflicting our souls and cultivating self-distrust. Also, we are told to “.. give the objections their weight..” {EW 102.1}

    “We Shall Have to Meet Erroneous Teaching.– Again and again we shall be called to meet the influence of men who are studying sciences of satanic origin, through which Satan is working to make a nonentity of God and of Christ. The Father and the Son each have a PERSONALITY. Christ declared, “I and My Father are one.” Yet it was the Son of God who came to the world in human form. Laying aside His royal robe and kingly crown, He clothed His divinity with humanity, that humanity through His infinite sacrifice might become partakers of the divine nature, and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.”–Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 68. (1909) {Ev 613.3}

    “The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not DESTROY THE PERSONALITY of either. They are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person. It is thus that God and Christ are one. {MH 422.1}

    “Christ is one with the Father, but Christ and God are two distinct personages. Read the prayer of Christ in the seventeenth chapter of John, and you will find this point clearly brought out. How earnestly the Saviour prayed that his disciples might be one with him as he is one with the Father. But the unity that is to exist between Christ and his followers does not DESTROY THE PERSONALITY of either. {RH, June 1, 1905 par. 14}

    You’ll notice the “destroy personality” argument used by J N Andrews. On the “Wine of Babylon”, he states:

    “This harlot, in consequence of her unlawful union with the powers of earth, has corrupted the pure truths of the Bible, and with the wine of her false doctrine, has intoxicated the nations. A few instances of her corruption of the truths of the Bible must suffice: {1855 JNA, TAR 54.1}
    “2. The doctrine of the Trinity which was established in the church by the council of Nice, a. d. 325. This doctrine DESTROYS THE PERSONALITY of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The infamous measures by which it was forced upon the church, which appear upon the pages of ecclesiastical history might well cause every believer in that doctrine to blush. {1855 JNA, TAR 54.3}

    He lists 9 points, like Immortal Soul, Sunday vs Sabbath, infant baptism, etc. I only posted #2.

    EGW and the bible agree that the “one God” is the Father, not the trinity.

    1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

    Romans 15:6 That ye may with one mind [and] one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    I also agree the Holy Ghost is a person and has all the fullness of the Godhead, as EGW says. But, I do not agree that all 3 persons of the Godhead are one person or one God, as it says in the 28 fundamentals and in the Catechism:

    2. The Trinity
    There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal
    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. (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14;
    Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 14:7.)

    “.. there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity.”,Catechism, p. 42.

    “I have not even begun to think of unity when the Trinity bathes me in its splendor. I have not even begun to think of the Trinity when unity grasps me…” p. 46
    “O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!” p. 46
    “O my God, Trinity whom I adore…” p. 47

    See, the language is the same as in the Catechism. “The Trinity” is called “God”, or “He”, or “It”. Not “They”. This is one reason some believe our church has been invaded by Jesuits. Could be. Or, they were just pressured by the Evangelicals. Apostasy is often the result of external pressure.

    God bless anyone willing to learn strait from the Word of God, in spite of pressure to conform to a human creed. God has allowed this test for a reason, and has allowed us all to be deceived, as it says in the Strait Testimony, to open the way for us to humble ourselves and to stand for truth against opposition. I am very sorry for those who have exalted themselves in this error. Their abasement will be extremely difficult, but they knew what they were signing up for. This is the remnant church. It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    I am a baptized member of the SDA church, and no one has ever had the power to take away my membership for disagreeing with these tragic statements. Everyone who has tried is either dead, or has disfellowshipped themselves in disgrace. Fear not their threats. Pray for them, and entreat them like fathers, and thank God for trials. But, don’t agree with error for fear of consequence, or you’ll be locked into bigotry, overconfidence and trusting your works, and locked out of the sealing and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

    1 Cor. 11:19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

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