SDA Trinity Defined
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.
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 the 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 referred here 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 ADVENTSISTS 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?
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.
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 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)
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)
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, Normal 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 BRI—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)
Disagreements 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. Click HERE to learn more.
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.
Click HERE for further Reading