Sunday, December 11, 2005

Review: The Trinity

During the past year I've been exploring the doctrine of the trinity from various practical and theological perspectives. The book that has helped me the most from the theological perspective is The Trinity: Understanding God's love, His plan of salvation, and Christian relationships. I blogged about one of the discoveries I made in this book in my post "Water of Life".

The purpose of The Trinity is to defend the Adventist doctrine of the trinity from attacks from within and without. The book is the result of a collaboration of three professors at the Adventist Theological Seminary. Woodrow Whidden assesses the Biblical evidence for and against the doctrine, John Reeve covers the development on the doctrine from the second through sixteenth centuries, and Jerry Moon traces the doctrine from the reformation to American Protestantism and finally the Adventist church. The book concludes with a short section on practical implications by Whidden.

All four sections of
The Trinity make for a compelling read if you are interested in the topic, and the fact that the word "trinity" is never used in the Bible means that most Christians would do well to give this topic some serious, critical thought. I was especially impressed by the section on the Biblical evidence and by the chapter that covered the development of the doctrine in the writings of Ellen White, both of which presented plenty of primary evidence with insightful analysis. I should also say that I've never found early church history as interesting than it was in connection with the doctrine of the trinity.

My only major beef with The Trinity is that I wouldn't be able to give it to anyone who doesn't believe in the trinity. The authors (especially Whidden) use such a confrontational, apologetic tone that the defenses of any anti-Trinitarian would be raised to the place where they would have difficulty maintaining an open mind. This book seems to have been written with the questioning Adventist in mind, yet even I sometimes wondered if there wasn't some angle the authors weren't presenting because it would have been out of line with their doctrinal understanding.

Question of the trinity touches on many other aspects of Christianity (e.g. the atonement, the nature of Christ) that I believe that a solid understanding of it is important for every Christian. I would recommend The Trinity to any Adventist reader seeking a better understanding of the doctrine. The discussion of John 1:1 and of Ellen White's writings on the trinity alone make this book a recommended resource.


  1. A short review of THE TRINITY, Whidden, Moon, & Reeve
    "We will be very candid with our readers--if it is not biblical we do not want it, even if the vast majority of authorities in the religious world endorse it (including Adventist pioneers and the theologians of 'Babylon')." (The Trinity pg.11) "The only way for the pioneers in their context to effectively separate Scripture from tradition was to abandon every doctrine not clearly supported from the Bible alone. Thus they initially rejected the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, which clearly contained elements not evident in Scripture." (The Trinity pg. 202) "To whom should we direct our petitions and adoration in personal devotions and corporate worship?...But what about direct prayer to the Holy Spirit? While we have no clear example of or direct command to pray to the Spirit in Scripture, doing so does have, in principle, some implicit biblical support. If the Spirit is indeed divine and personal and He interacts in all sorts of direct personal ways (bringing conviction, healing, transforming grace, granting gifts, etc.), it only seems logical that God's people can pray directly to and worship the Holy Spirit..."In sum--if the persons of the Godhead are truly one in nature, character, and purpose, then it seems only logical and practical to address appropriate petitions and praises to any one of the heavenly Trio at any given time and situation." (The Trinity pg. 272, 273 emphasis supplied).
    I read this book with eager excitement, yet was sadly disappointed. Is it really possible to claim strict Biblical "proof" of the modern Adventist version of the Trinity doctrine, while at the same time candidly admitting there is "no example of" anyone in the bible ever praying to or worshipping the Holy Spirit? Nor, is there any "direct command" anywhere in Scripture that we should worship or pray to the Holy Spirit! In other words no one in the entire Bible ever worshiped or prayed to the Holy Spirit, but we are all told to do it anyway! For many people, praying to and worshipping the Holy Spirit "seems logical and practical." Yet, praying to Mary and worshipping dead saints seems very logical and practical for over a billion people. Now, everyone is entitled to their own belief or opinion, but why try to cram this new speculative opinion about the Trinity down our throats? The practical definition of dogmatic dogmatism is when Pastors are fired, and laypersons disfellowshipped from Adventist churches because of variant interpretations of the "Trinity" as defined by the 28 Fundamental beliefs. If Adventist's are not required to strictly adhere to only one interpretation of the Trinity doctrine, then why make it a test of fellowship in the first place? In fact, the greatest irony of all is that "The Trinity" book belittles the early Adventist pioneer's non-trinitarian views while praising the development of modern Adventist trinitarianism as the only Biblical and legitimate form of the doctrine. Did you catch that? Modern Adventism claims that all Christian trinitarian creeds contain elements of "Greek philosophy," unbiblical speculation and human tradition. Therefore, modern Adventism cannot subscribe or endorse ANY Christian Trinity creed, and by definition, would be classified as non-Trinitarian by them all. Now that's irony. Even though modern Adventism has repudiated the non-trinitarian teachings of her founding fathers and evolved its own unique "Trinitarian" perspective, the Adventist church has always been non-Trinitarian.

    1. I am most grateful for your excellent thoughts and points.

    2. Well it appears you have a few errors yourself, but for which you have not be able to see... Let me point them out;

      1) I read this book with eager excitement, yet was sadly disappointed.

      Is it really possible to claim strict Biblical "proof" of the modern Adventist version of the Trinity doctrine, while at the same time candidly admitting there is "no example of" anyone in the bible ever praying to or worshipping the Holy Spirit?

      RPM ~ Your problem here is that you have adopted a false standard, there MUST be at least one person in the Bible doing something in order for you to believe that a Christian can do that thing.

      Look at the LORD's Prayer. . . "Our Father which art in Heaven hollowed be Thy name. . ." Now who in all of the New Testament is ever found praying the LORD's Prayer? Nobody. So according to you nobody should ever pray that prayer? We don't have one example!

      Was there a "command" to pray the LORD's Prayer? No.

      So you're going to tell people that it is unBiblical to pray the LORD's Prayer?

      So in order for you to do something you HAVE TO HAVE a commandment?

      So you're not going to pray the LORD's Prayer until you can find that it is commanded to do you?

      Something going askew here.

      The false standard that we should not do anything that we don't see people in the Bible doing or that we are not COMMANDED to do would have a drastic effect on people today. . .Can't use a cell phone, can't drive a car, mail letters, brush you teeth with an electric toot-brush, etc.

      The practical Bible truth is that if anything involves sin, then we, should not do it, but if it is sinless we are at liberty to do it even if we are not COMMANDED to not have an EXAMPLE of someone in the Bible doing it.

      By adopting this false standard you unnecessarily become overbearing and restrictive in your practice of the Christian faith, in fact it's not Christian faith in it's practical application.

    3. Read Romans 12:1-2 where we are commanded to present our bodies as a living sacrifice FIRST before we can "prove what is that good and perfect and acceptable WILL of God."

      Now, our bodies are to be offered to God as living sacrifices, in the best condition possible...

      1 Corinthians 3:16-17 & 6:19-20 are clear that our bodies are the TEMPLE OF GOD, the TEMPLE OF the HOLY SPIRIT Who is GOD.

      Now, does the Holy Spirit come into the TEMPLE of God to join us in worship of GOD?


      Does He come in to the TEMPLE OF GOD to be the object OF worship?

      Whoever SITS IN THE TEMPLE OF GOD is the one who is WORSHIPPED "AS GOD, showing himself that He is GOD" 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4.

      Only GOD is to occupy our body TEMPLE and be WORSHIPPED as GOD, and that BODY TEMPLE is The TEMPLE OF the HOLY SPIRIT...

      Now are you still going to insist that it is somehow WRONG to WORSHIP the Holy Spirit who's BODY TEMPLE we are?

      You continue arguing against the WORSHIP of the Holy Spirit...

      "For many people, praying to and worshipping the Holy Spirit "seems logical and practical." Yet, praying to Mary and worshipping dead saints seems very logical and practical for over a billion people."

      RPM ~ You whole argument here unravels because the Holy Spirit is the GOD Whom the TEMPLE OF GOD was designed for, to occupy as the object OF worship! If the Holy Spirit is God, then it CANNOT be WRONG to WORSHIP and PRAY to GOD.

      You implication by your refusal to allow for the sinless praying to and worshipping of the Holy Spirit is that the Holy Spirit is NOT really GOD at all. But He is God and the THIRD PERSON of the Godhead, whom we are all to WORSHIP as the GOD of our lives, Each One as FULLY EQUALLY as the Other.

      You conclude by asserting...

      "Now, everyone is entitled to their own belief or opinion, but why try to cram this new speculative opinion about the Trinity down our throats?"

      RPM ~ My dear brother, you've got it all wrong...

      The book was not trying to "cram this new speculative opinion about the Trinity down our throats" but only to show the Biblical justification for the TRINITY TRUTH as being the No.2 Fundamental Belief of the Remnant Church of Bible Prophecy.

      It's a Biblically SOUND Doctrine found in the pages of the Holy Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.

  2. May I ask, David, how knowledgeable you are regarding the Trinity doctrine as believed by other denominations and would you say SDAs hold to all those points?

    1. I have not extensively studied the doctrines of the trinity held by other denominations, however I do not know some that Adventists would not hold to. For example, the Catholic doctrine of the eternal procession of the son is not a part of Adventist teaching. We would not get into discussion about procession, such as does the Spirit proceed from the Son or the Father or both, in general. Protestant denominations have taken positions on these issues.

      The Adventist doctrine of the trinity is probably most similar to American evangelicals, who are also content to say something along the lines of three persons, one in being a purpose; and leave it at that.

  3. Hi David. Was reading this with interest; I have had several contacts with some within the Advent community that are very vocal and quite staunch with regards their rejection of the Trinity. I was pondering the various thoughts above, and asking myself why the Bible seems to be so silent on the subject of any direct relationship between ourselves and the Holy Spirit. I have come to the conclusion that the Holy Spirit, who after all was the inspiration behind the written word, has no desire to receive prayer or worship. It seems to me that He has a role to play, a task to perform, and He is entirely focused and committed to that role. That is to bring people to Christ. Making Himself of no reputation etc, being of the same mind as the other members of the Godhead....the Holy Spirit desires nothing but to bring all to the one and only Mediator, to direct all worship, prayer, adoration, to Jesus, and through Jesus, to the Father.
    Perhaps the salvation of man is a far greater priority for all the members of the Godhead than is the desire for, ummm for want of a better phrase, without wanting to be disrespectful, personal recognition?

    1. You are right on target; the Holy Spirit does not seek to be worshipped, neither does Jesus seek the WORSHIP of people. Jesus focuses worship to the Father (John 4:20-28) but the Father focuses worship to the Son and Himself.

      The Holy Spirit is the active agent in the worship of God. but no doubt HE is God and the possessor of the temple of God, which is our bodies. He's not there to participate in worship of God but to be worshipped as God, even though we commonly don't think of it like this it's still can't be wrong to worship God the Holy Spirit or pray to Him, He prays for us, He "intercedes for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." Romans 8 verses 26 through 28

  4. The symbol on the book is the symbol of a pagan false God of the sun.