Many Seventh-day Adventists know that the denomination is Trinitarian, as that was the will of the General Conference in Dallas in 1980 and was officially defined in the Fundamental Beliefs in 1981. Therefore it is assumed by most today that Ellen White and the pioneers were also Trinitarian. But is that so?
We will now put that question to the well-respected Adventist historian Jerry Moon, Ph.D. who is chairman of the church history department at the Seventh-day Adventist theological seminary at Andrews University. Alright Dr. Moon, were the pioneers Trinitarians?
Here is his answer as taken from a book titled “The Trinity” which he co-authored with fellow Ph.D.’s at Andrews University, Woodrow Whidden and John W. Reeve. This is taken from chapter 13 “Trinity and Anti-Trinitarianism in Seventh-day Adventist History, Page 190, paragraph 2,
“That most of the leading pioneers were non-Trinitarian in their theology has become accepted Adventist history.” Did you catch what this man wrote? He clearly states that the leading pioneers were non-Trinitarian and that is accepted to the church today as factual history. How could that be since the early pioneers came out of Sunday churches which embraced the doctrine of the Trinity. Could it be that God showed them something that would have caused them to take a non-Trinitarian stand? In the few years after the disappointment, God showed our pioneers many of the pillar doctrines of our faith, and he may have corrected their Trinitarian error.
Professor Moon went on to say in the same paragraph, “More recently, a further question has arisen with increasing urgency: was the pioneers’ belief about the Godhead right or wrong?” In subsequent chapters you will see their position clearly stated. Unfortunately the church holds the position today that they were wrong. But look at this additional statement of Dr. Moon in the same paragraph on page 190. “As one line of reasoning goes, either the pioneers were wrong and the present church is right, or the pioneers were right and the present Seventh-day Adventist Church has apostatized from biblical truth.” We will learn with the Bible, pioneer quotes and Spirit of Prophecy that the latter part of that statement is true.
Let us consider an important point. Since the earliest pioneers came out from Sunday-keeping Trinitarian churches, such as Ellen Gould Harmon coming out of the Methodist Church or others from the Presbyterian or the Lutheran or Episcopal, etc., let us not lose sight of the fact that something dramatic had to have occurred in order for them to suddenly become non-Trinitarians. It couldn’t have been through argument between themselves, but would have to have been shown to them by the Testimony of Jesus.
Far too many Seventh-day Adventists today who embrace the Trinity, are hard pressed to give a clear answer as to what that means. As a Seventh-day Adventist you are either a Trinitarian or a non-Trinitarian. If you are a Trinitarian Seventh-day Adventist, this is what you believe: “There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons.” Some believe in a Triune God or a Tri-theistic God. The Triune belief is much like the Roman Catholic belief where God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit equals One God. It is saying one plus one plus one = One. Tri-theism is the more accepted understanding which says God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three co-equal and co-eternal Gods. What does co-equal mean? They are separate and distinct one from another, but all three possessing Omnipotence, Omniscience and Omnipresence. Here is what else you must believe as a contemporary Seventh-day Adventist: Since they are co-eternal. Not one came before the other and likewise, not one came after the other.
Also, you can only believe that Jesus was begotten in Bethlehem and therefore that Mary was impregnated by the third role playing God, God the Holy Spirit, who would then actually be the true father of the Human Jesus.
With this last statement in mind, you must reject that there is a true Father-Son relationship. Why? Because that would reject the co-eternal belief if you were to believe otherwise. Co-eternal means the three are equal in age. Therefore you must believe they are only role playing and the relationship is purely a metaphor. It is a position that always confused me in my 56+ years as a Trinitarian Seventh-day Adventist. However I believed it, I taught it and I defended the position, in spite of my own confusion on the teaching.
In chapter 3 we will look at what the position of Non-Trinitarian Seventh-day Adventists is.
CHAPTER 3 - The Non-Trinitarian Position
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