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Trinity in Adventism

A belief in the divinity, personality, unity, and equality of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit does not itself make one a Trinitarian, for even non-trinitarians can accept the existence of more than one divine Person. The distinctive teaching of the doctrine of the Trinity is specific: There is one God, and this one God is a unity of three Persons.

While all Trinitarians agree on this core concept, within Trinitarianism there can be notable variation from one denomination to another or even variants within each denomination. That said, there too exists within Adventism, two main notable variations, namely the tritheistic and the orthodox variety. Learn more on the variants within Adventism HERE.

In general, there are three main categories of how trinity or triunity is understood:

1. Consubstantial trinity - The "trinity" is characterized as a single divine being, comprised of three persons, sharing one indivisible (undivided) substance. (Catholic/Orthodox trinity and many theologian class of SDA Church who are heavily influenced by evangelical authors would fall under this category )

2. Modalistic trinity - The "trinity" is comprised of three modes or roles occupied by one individual.

3. Tritheistic trinity - The "trinity" is comprised of three beings who share the same nature, purpose, etc. (Majority of Seventh-day Adventist trinitarians would fall under this variation)

Six main objections about the current SDA’s doctrine of Trinity

1. Defines one God of the Bible only as a unity of three divine Persons (Father, Son and the Holy Spirit) and thereby denying God the Father as the Only True God (John 17:3, 1Corinthians 8:6) of the Bible in an exclusive sense.

2. Denial of Christ’s pre-incarnate (ontologically) begotten Sonship and regards it as volunteerism or interchangeable role play. According to this view, Christ’s Sonship is recognized only in light of His incarnate birth or His resurrection, whereby the title, “Son of God” is attributed only in a proleptic, soteriological or metaphorical sense. This would affectively place us along side the enemy in obscuring the Sonship of Christ (Lt42-1910.3; 1 John 2:22) and would undermine the gospel narrative as a pretense.

3. Denial or obscuring Father/Son’s omnipresence by defining the Holy Spirit as an entirely separate individual rather than He/It being the Spirit of the Father and the Son, thereby denying the divinity of Christ and undermining the full scope of Christ’s mediatorial ministry and affectively makes two intercessors and two mediators.

4. All three Persons of the Godhead are considered to have independent source of life. It raises serious questions as to the source of Life. Since there are multiple source of life, whose life is it that sustains all of God’s creation? Whose life do we receive? Is it the Father’s, the Son’s or the Holy Spirit’s? Whereas, pen of Inspiration tells us,

“But turning from all lesser representations, we behold God in Jesus. Looking unto Jesus we see that it is the glory of our God to give. “I do nothing of Myself,” said Christ; “the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father.” “I seek not Mine own glory,” but the glory of Him that sent Me. John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18. In these words is set forth the GREAT PRINCIPLE WHICH IS THE LAW OF LIFE FOR THE UNIVERSE. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: THROUGH THE BELOVED SON, THE FATHER’S LIFE FLOWS OUT TO ALL; THROUGH THE SON IT RETURNS, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, TO THE GREAT SOURCE OF ALL. And thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life.” {DA 21.2}

5. The integrity of Christ’s death and resurrection is greatly compromised by postulating the idea that Christ’s divinity is independently immortal apart from His humanity. If there are three separate divine lives, each one responsible for His own divinity, it could not be the divine side of Christ that died, but only the human Christ. The original divine life therefore was untouched. In that case, none of the Three, as they originally existed, actually died. The inherent life of the Second Person of the Trinity (Jesus) was never in jeopardy. He faced no real, eternal risk to His life (contrary to Inspiration). And if Jesus had His own separate divine life, His mortal humanity would need to be detached from His own immortal divinity in order to be able to die. But this would defeat the whole purpose of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is the key to the atonement. It wasn’t just about Jesus becoming human. In the Incarnation, divinity was mysteriously blended with humanity {6MR 112.3}. It is that blending of the two natures that makes His death efficacious. A divine life in human flesh unites man with God. Only thus can atonement be made. But to divide Jesus at the cross into two separate natures negates the effect of the Incarnation.

6. Making extrabiblical propositions be made a test of fellowship. It questions the appropriateness of requiring doctrinal conclusions that are not explicitly stated in the Bible. Keep in mind that the doctrine of the Trinity is a human attempt to synthesize the teachings of the Bible on the nature of God as being composed of three co-equal, co-eternal persons or beings of the same substance. So the question we are asking is: Is it proper to impose our synthesis on our members, and discipline those who do not agree with the church’s reasoning, even though those members accept everything the Bible actually says?


Seventh-day Adventist 28 Fundamental Beliefs No. 2 explains Trinity as "one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" who is "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."

Seventh-day Adventist 28 Fundamental Beliefs No. 14 also states: "...This unity has its source in the oneness of the triune God, who has adopted us as HIS children."

Notice such expressions as, "He is infinite...", "His self-revelation", "His children."

The intended implication here is unmistakable; the expressions, “He” and "His" clearly denote that these three Persons are in fact a single Being. Therefore, according to what Seventh-day Adventists believe, "one God" designated by singular pronouns "He" and "His" is really composed of three Persons (Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit), and they are unified and expressed as a single divine Being as the One God of the Bible.

Statements by Seventh-day Adventist theologians further explain what the SDA Trinity doctrine really teaches.

"Therefore, we must confess that the Trinity is ONE INDIVISIBLE GOD and that the distinctions of the persons do not destroy the divine unity. This unity of God is expressed by saying that HE IS ONE SUBSTANCE. Nevertheless, in the divine unity there are three co-eternal and co-equal persons, who, though distinct, are THE ONE UNDIVIDED AND ADORABLE GOD. This is the doctrine of Scripture.” — Raoul Dederen, Reflections on the Doctrine of the Trinity, page 16, Andrews University Seminar Studies, Vol. VIII, No. 1 January, 1970

“In Scripture GOD HAS REVEALED HIS TRANSCENDENT NATURE AS TRINITY, namely three distinct divine Persons who act directly and historically in history and CONSTITUTING THE ONE DIVINE TRINITARIAN BEING.” — Dr. Fernando Canale, the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, the Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia Volume 12, page 138

“The “oneness” of God refers to THE SINGLENESS OF HIS BEING.” — Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, pg 109

“TRINITARIANISM is the orthodox belief that there is only one living, true God, or "Godhead," in a unity of three eternal divine Persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These are of one substance, power, authority, and glory. True orthodox Trinitarian dogma insists on three difference hupostaes (or ousia) IN ONE BEING- a Tri-Unity. — Ellen White and the Trinity by Pastor Jan Voerman pg. 9

“Trinitarianism is the orthodox belief that there is BUT ONE LIVING AND TRUE GOD. Nevertheless THIS ONE GOD IS A UNITY of three persons, who are of ONE SUBSTANCE, power and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” — Gerhard Pfandl, Associate Director, Seventh-day Adventist Biblical Research Institute, 'The Doctrine of the Trinity among Adventists’, 1999

“The three persons SHARE ONE INDIVISIBLE NATURE. Each person of the Godhead is BY NATURE AND ESSENCE GOD, and the fullness of the deity dwells in each of them. On the other hand, EACH PERSON OF THE GODHEAD IS INSEPARABLY CONNECTED TO THE OTHER TWO.” — Ekkehardt Mueller, Biblical Research Institute newsletter Reflections, July 2008

“The Three are obviously One, INEXTRICABLY BOUND TOGETHER IN ONE DIVINE SUBSTANCE. ” — Max Hatton, Our God is an awesome God, page 21, April 2014

"Immortal, all-powerful and all-loving, God is a relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. THE ONLY BEING worthy of our worship, God is our Creator, Redeemer and Friend.” — https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/god/trinity/

While there are other notable variants within the SDA church, the mentioned SDA theologians are in agreement with each other. They all agree that the trinity doctrine says that the three persons exist inseparably in one indivisible substance (one triune or trinitarian being) as the one God. In fact, one of these statements is from the Seventh-day Adventist Handbook of Theology (Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia, volume 12).

Seventh-day Adventist Church admits church's doctrinal harmony with the Roman Catholics.

In the year 2000, following statement was included in a document prepared by George W. Reid (director of Biblical Research Institute 1984–2001): A brief review of the history and doctrines of the SDA church. Prepared for the dialogue with representatives of the Roman Catholic Church (visiting Andrews University).

"Nature of God. A reading of the above statements will show that with respect to their doctrine of God Seventh-day Adventists are in harmony with the great creedal statements of Christendom, including the Apostles' Creed, Nicea 325), and the additional definition of faith concerning the Holy Spirit as reached in Constantinople (381)." — Seventh-day Adventists: A Brief Introduction to Their Beliefs, Biblical Research Institute; 6/19 on digital pdf

“The member churches of THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES AND SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS ARE IN AGREEMENT ON THE FUNDAMENTAL ARTICLES OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AS SET FORTH IN THE THREE ANCIENT SYMBOLS (Apostolicum, NICAENON-CONSTANTINOPOLITUM, ATHANASIUM). This agreement finds expression in UNQUALIFIED ACCEPTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY and the Two-Natures.” — So Much In Common, p. 107 (1973) Co-authored by B.B. Beach and Dr. Lukas Vischer- Faith and the Order Secretariat of the WCC.

“…THE CATHOLIC SIDE RECOGNIZES in the document the Christocentric character of our beliefs, AND ESPECIALLY OUR BELIEF IN THE TRINITY, as well as ecclesiological identity of the Church, a status affirmed by an act of the Polish Parliament. On our part, we spoke of a need to change attitudes toward our denomination and recognized the openness of the Catholic Church, especially in recent times, toward the Bible, Lyko explained.” — “Adventist Chruch Cannot be Treated as a Sect,” Say Adventists and Catholics in Poland, Feb, 14, 2000

Disagreements within the church-SDA trinity not in harmony with Catholic trinity:

"Secondly, as several of the gentlemen have pointed out, THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY THAT WE TEACH IS NOT IDENTICAL TO THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY AS DEVELOPED BY THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH... " — A panel participant at the Q&A Session at the end of the Adventist Theological Society’s 2006 "Trinity Symposium,"

"It is true that the Council of NICAEA and the Council of CONSTANTINOPLE did make declarations THAT WE MUST NOW REJECT BECAUSE THEY DISAGREE WITH SCRIPTURE.” — The Trinity by Whidden, Moon and Reeve pg 150

As you can see, the Bible scholars of Seventh-day Adventists are not in agreement as to whether or not the church's trinitarian position is in agreement with the Catholics.

Question: Can you find anything in the Bible or even the Spirit of Prophecy that indicates that the 3 Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are an "only being" or "one Divine trinitarian being" and that They are "indivisible" and "one substance" or, again, have "one indivisible nature" and are "inseparably connected" to each Other or, yet again, are all "inextricably bound together in one Divine substance"? The answer is you will not find such statements anywhere. Could it be that these traditional views have no basis in inspiration?

Trinity doctrine actually claims that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three co-equal, co-eternal persons/gods that are not three separate beings but rather a single being. 

Unfortunately, many unsuspecting Seventh-day Adventists do not even realize what their own church teach. They do not realize that the Trinity doctrine actually claims that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three co-equal, co-eternal persons/gods with 3 distinct personalities and yet they are not three separate beings but rather a single being (at least this is how it is officially articulated). Most Adventist members, however, insist that they believe something different than what the church doctrine actually teach. Most believe that there are three Almighty Beings with distinct personalities who all have exactly the same authority and power and that they have all lived for all eternity.  All three are said to be one God, because they are in agreement in everything they do — not that they make up a single being. According to this belief (also contrary to Scripture and should be construed as some form of Tri-Theism rather than Trinity), these three divine Beings (Gods) decided long, long ago (for the purpose of saving mankind) to act in three different roles. One would enter into a roll as the Father, one as the Son and one would work as the Holy Spirit, etc.

Assumed As Facts — Admittance by the Church

Where though in Scripture can be found such an idea? The answer is, it cannot be found. This is because it is not there. It is purely supposition (philosophical speculation). This is why the trinity doctrine is only an assumed doctrine. This is even duly recognized in our own denominational handbook of theology: 

“The concept of the Trinity, namely the IDEA THAT THE THREE ARE ONE, IS NOT EXPLICITLY STATED BUT ONLY ASSUMED.” — Fernando L. Canale, The Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopaedia, Volume 12, page 138, ‘Doctrine of God’

“The Bible's clear ALLUSIONS [not plainly stated] to the Trinity are enough for Adventists.” — https://www.adventist.org/…/trini…/article/go/-/the-trinity/

"The role of the trinity in a doctrine of God always raises questions. One reason is that the word itself does not appear in the Bible, NOR IS THERE ANY CLEAR STATEMENT OF THE IDEA. But the Bible does set the stage for its formulation, and the concept represents a development of biblical claims and concepts. SO EVEN THOUGH THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IS NOT PART OF WHAT THE BIBLE ITSELF SAYS ABOUT GOD, IT IS PART OF WHAT THE CHURCH MUST SAY to safeguard the biblical view of God." — Richard Rice, The Reign of God, An Introduction to Christian Theology from a Seventh-day Adventist Perspective’, page 89, 'A constructive proposal', 1985

 "In contrast to the heathen of surrounding nations, ISRAEL BELIEVED THERE WAS ONLY ONE GOD (Deut.4:35;6:4; Isa.45:5; Zech14:9). The New Testament makes the same emphasis on the unity of God . . . This monotheistic emphasis does not contradict the Christian concept of the triune God or Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit; rather it affirms that there is no pantheon of various deities. Although the Old Testament DOES NOT EXPLICITLY TEACH THAT GOD IS TRIUNE, IT ALLUDES TO A PLURALITY WITHIN THE GODHEAD . . . While the Godhead is not one in person, God is one in purpose, mind and character. This oneness does not obliterate the distinct personalities of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Nor does the separateness of personalities within the Deity destroy the monotheistic thrust of Scripture, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God." Seventh-day Adventists Believe . . . A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrine, 1988. R & H, pp 22-23.

Adventist Review 7-30-1981 Special Issue on Bible Doctrines — The Trinity was explained one year after it was voted as an official doctrine of the church (which was in 1980; initially composed of 27 fundamental beliefs). It states,

"While no single scriptural passage states formally the doctrine of the Trinity, it is assumed as a fact by Bible writers... Only by faith can we accept the existence of the Trinity." (p. 4)

Adventist Review 7-30-1981

Adventist Review 7-30-1981

Strongest clues?

The Trinity, by Moon, Whidden & Reese, Andrews University.

“Probably the strongest clues to such a divine triunity occur in the famous gospel commission that Jesus gave the church in its baptismal formula: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:19).” — The Trinity, by Jerry Moon, Woodrow Whidden, & John W. Reese, published by R & H 2002, p.32. (Chapter entitled “The Strongest Biblical Evidence for the Trinity”) (emphasis supplied)

While scholars admit that trinity doctrine is an assumed doctrine, We are now told by our three well respected Adventist academics that Matthew 28:19 is the “strongest clue” that we have to prove the trinity, when it is not even a text laying out a doctrinal position on the nature of God! Christ is making a statement on Baptism, and we do not find the early church using it in these words anywhere in Scripture. But, it is “strongest clue” we have. Is that the best that God has revealed for us, His remnant people, as the foundation of our faith, in regard to the God whom we worship? Let us look further at some other well known authors.

Disagreements within the Church

“The New Testament does not have any explicit statement on the Trinity—apart from 1 John 5:7, which has been rejected as a medieval addition to the text—but the Trinitarian evidence is overwhelming.” — Dennis Fortin http://www.perspectivedigest.org/article/17/archives/15-4/god-the-trinity-and-adventism)

“Explicit in the New Testament, implied in the Old, the doctrine of the Trinity is fundamental to Adventist faith.” — R. Allan Anderson, Review and Herald, September 8th 1983, ‘Adventists and the trinity’

"Internal evidence provided below, however, indicates that the Trinity can rise to the level of being explicit in the Old Testament." — Systematic Theology God as Trinity, Norman Gulley pg. 26

Implications of the Trinity as taught by Seventh-day Adventists

It teaches that the Father and Christ are merely playing a role, that Jesus is merely a metaphorical Son and not the real Son of God. Furthermore, the role of each member can be interchangeable and is a matter of mere choosing:

“We are dealing with a metaphorical use of the word “son.”.... There is no biblical support for the eternal generation of the Son from the Father. The Son came from God but was not generated by Him. [T]he [human] father-son image cannot be literally applied to the divine Father-Son relationship within the Godhead. The Son is NOT the natural, literal Son of the Father. A natural child has a beginning, while within the Godhead the Son is eternal. THE TERM "SON" IS USED METAPHORICALLY when applied to the Godhead. It conveys the ideas of distinction of persons within the Godhead and the equality of nature in the context of an eternal, loving relationship.” — Angel Manuel Rodriguez (Seventh-day Adventist theologian and “director” of the Adventist Biblical Research Institute), Adventist World November 2015, p. 42. 

“The sonship of Jesus, however, is NOT ONTOLOGICAL, BUT FUNCTIONAL. In the plan of salvation each member of the trinity has ACCEPTED A PARTICULAR ROLE.” — The Trinity In Scripture by Gerhard Pfandl, Biblical Research Institute, Silver Spring, MD. June 1999.

"Imagine a situation in which the Being we have come to know as God the Father came to die for us, and the One we have come to know as Jesus stayed back in heaven... NOTHING WOULD HAVE CHANGED except that we would have been calling Each by the name we now use for the Other." — Roy Adams, Adventist Review associate editor, Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, Lesson for April 10, 2008.

“Entirely through Their own initiative, THE GODHEAD ARRANGED FOR ONE AMONG THEM TO BECOME A HUMAN BEING. They did so in order to (1) provide us with our Substitute and Surety, (2) make God's ways plain, (3) restore us to our pre-sin perfection, and (4) settle the debate about God's Justice. At precisely the right time and in the right way, the three Members of the Godhead put into operation a plan They had devised before the world was created. They surrendered a portion of Themselves—the Divine Son—to become the Saviour of the world.” — Our Wonderful God, Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, 4th Quarter 1998, Principal Contributor: Edwin R. Thiele.

“The gospel commission commands surrendered souls to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The apostolic benediction lists the Three and names Christ first. Paul usually places God the Father first but here it is reversed. To me THIS SIGNIFIED THE INTERCHANGEABLENESS OF THE MEMBERS OF THE GODHEAD since they are on in action and purpose." — J.R. Spangler Review & Herald, Oct. 21, 1971, “I BELIEVE in the Triune God.”

“In God’s foreknowledge and great love, such a provision had already been made. A plan of salvation was encompassed in the covenant made by the Three Persons of the Godhead, who possessed the attributes of Deity equally. In order to eradicate sin and rebellion from the universe and to restore harmony and peace, one of the divine beings accepted, and ENTERED INTO THE ROLE OF THE FATHER, another the ROLE OF THE SON. The remaining divine Being, the Holy Spirit, was also to participate in effecting the plan of salvation. All of this took place before sin and rebellion transpired in heaven.” — Gordon Jenson (President of Spicer Memorial College, Pune, India, "Jesus, the Heavenly Intercessor", Adventist Review, Oct. 31, 1996. 12/32 on digital pdf)

Seventh-day Adventist trinitarians overtly teach unbegottenism. That is, they say that the pre-incarnate Son of God was not begotten. In fact some even say that He was not a Son in His pre-incarnate existence but held a title of a Son only in a proleptic, salvific sense — an anticipation of the future fulfillment. Sadly, this is out of harmony with inspiration and it has brought several problems into the fold. The driving idea undergirding this theology comes from the thought that a divine being must exist without beginning and therefore according to this view, any compromise on the Son’s eternal existence denigrates the integrity of Christ divinity, etc. This however is a great irony, for biblical affirmation of Christ’s divinity is established by the very fact that Christ was begotten of His Father — Christ is divine like His Father because He is the Son of God!

Trinitarians of other persuasions (i.e. Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbytarian) also invalidate His begetting but not so overtly. They say that the pre-incarante Son of God's experience was and still is one of eternal generation. However, due to the presupposition that the 3 persons of the Godhead are one inseperably unified God Being, they make this meaningless because, in order to maintain this one triune God Being, they make Him formless. Thus it is all mysticism or spiritualism as the early SDA pioneers would dub it and thereby destroys the integrity of the corporeal personality of the Father and the Son. 

Variants within the church

It is worth mentioning here that not all current SDA scholars on the doctrine of the trinity agrees on the subject and that there are notable variants within the church; below are a list of 9 significant variants.

1) Current SDA scholars are not agreed as to whether the doctrine of the trinity is explicit in the Bible.

2) Current SDA trinitarianism is not agreed as to how many Divine Beings there — 3 Beings or 1 Being?

3) In harmony with Catholic trinity or out of harmony?

4) Interchangeable Roles or Not?

5) God has a body or is God formless?

6) God the Father is Head vs. there is no Headship when it comes to the Godhead

7) The Son of God?

8) Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and Spirit or Christ vs. Holy Spirit is not the Spirit of God or Spirit of Christ.

9) Separable and thus capable of dying forever or Inseparable and thus incapable of dying?

Who Is Right?

The well-known Adventist Trinitarian Jerry Moon who was a co-author of the book The Trinity wrote: “That most of the leading SDA pioneers were non-Trinitarian in their theology has become accepted Adventist history.”

He then goes on to say, “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.” — Jerry Moon, The Trinity, Chapter, Trinity and antitrinitarianism in Seventh-day Adventist history, p. 190

Ellen White says, “No outward shrines may be visible, there may be no image for the eye to rest upon, YET WE MAY BE PRACTICING IDOLATRY . . . Thousands have a false conception of God and His attributes. They are as verily serving a false god as were the servants of Baal. Are we worshipping the true God as He is revealed in His word, in Christ, in nature, or ARE WE ADORING SOME PHILOSOPHICAL IDOL ENSHRINED IN HIS PLACE?” — Testimonies for the Church vol. 5, p. 173-174.

Related articles:

What is the Doctrine of Trinity? Part 1

What is the Doctrine of Trinity? Part 2 -Variants Among Seventh-day Adventist Trinitarians