Doctrine of the Trinity: Introduction

I plan to begin a series of articles on the topic of the doctrine of the Trinity. They are based on notes adapted from a presentation I made at the London (Ontario) Seventh-day Adventist church on December 6, 2014.

My Perspective

As a young person I attended an Adventist church; it was where I first learned about the Bible.

Modern Seventh-day Adventists generally accept the trinity, however, the doctrine was rejected among the early Adventists in the mid-1800s. Those who rejected it included James White, Uriah Smith, J.H. Waggoner, and Joseph Bates. Some feel Ellen White (the prophetess of Seventh-day Adventism) should be included as well, at least in her earlier years, where there seems to be an Arian slant to her treatment of the relationships between the Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Satan, and angels/demons.

As a young person this caused a lot of confusion for me, as I considered these people to be my spiritual forebears. Combined with the misrepresentation of the orthodox trinitarian doctrine that I was taught, I adopted a non-trinitarian position. (I should add that I always held that Jesus was divine with the Father from the beginning as per John 1:1, though not without some confusion.) Looking back, I realize I lacked teachers and environment to equip me to properly approach this issue.

A number of my close friends and family still still consider the trinitarian position to be an incorrect and erroneous view of God. Some of these are members of the Seventh-day Adventist church. I and my family are active members of a baptist church.

I am personally acquainted with leaders and adherents of historic Adventist anti-trinitarianism from around the world. My experiences there, combined with a knowledge of Christian history, have convinced me that if we attempt to undermine the deity of the Son of God, and especially if that becomes our primary passion, we will create a platform from where a solid spiritual structure can not be successfully built. What we do with Christ will affect every part of our lives, our fellowship with God, and our relationships to each other in our families and churches.

I have observed as those who have rejected the trinity have been open to embrace Judaism, had their faith in the inspiration of the New Testament weakened, or misunderstand the atoning work of Christ. An American pioneer in this movement, who I know well, has rejected Christ entirely, believing that Christianity is neo-paganism.

We need solid teaching in our churches so that we are able to kindly but clearly answer objections and provide a cohesive view of biblical doctrine, with the aim of proclaiming the truth of the beauty of the Person of Jesus and salvation through him alone to the people around us.

Part one coming soon …

4 responses to “Doctrine of the Trinity: Introduction

  1. The Apostle Paul believed in in one God the Father, not in one God the Trinity.

    “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. But not everyone knows this.” 1 Corinthians 8:6-7.

    • Paul also writes about Jesus, that “in him dwells all the fulness of deity bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

      I think that non-trinitarians misunderstand the intent of the Trinity doctrine. It is not to prove that Jesus is his own Father, but rather, that he is equal in his divine nature with the Father.

      The most orthodox historic formulations of the Trinity, from the Nicene Creed through the Westminster Confession, ascribe the highest level of essential deity to the Son, while recognizing the biblical truth that the Father is the head of the Son (1 Cor. 11:3), and that the Son is eternally functionally subordinate to his Father. The Father creates through the Son, and sends the Son into the world to save mankind. It is the Son’s pleasure to do the will of the Father. The Son does not create through the Father, or send the Father into the world.

      To a trinitarian familiar with the historic doctrine (and not a modern egalitarian counterfeit), no contradiction exists between 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Colossians 2:9.

      As a matter of fact, true, historic Trinitarians understand the beauty of the relationship between the Father and Son, and that it forms the basis for our relationship with God and with each other. Here are a couple links that demonstrate this:

      I invite you to read Michael Reeves book, Delighting in the Trinity. If you are interested, I would be willing to send you a free copy. It was responsible for freeing me from the unfair and inaccurate trinitarian misrepresentations I had received from leaders in the historic Adventist “Godhead movement”.

      I used to be an Adventist non-trinitarian, by the way. We are probably acquainted with some of the same people in this movement.

      • “Jesus is … equal in his divine nature with the Father.” That is true and it’s also true of the Holy Spirit but the Trinity doctrine doesn’t follow from it.

  2. Thanks for your comment.

    Actually, the Trinity doctrine does follow from the Son being equal in his divine nature. Father, Son and Spirit share of one divine essence, but are three persons. This statement protects the deity of each, their personhood, and Christian monotheism.

    That’s really what the Trinity is about – it’s not meant to describe God in all his particulars. Perhaps in some traditions or explanations it has become more than that.

    Veering from it will lead to heresy in some form (a God/demigod Godhead, modalism, or tritheism/polytheism).

    I would like to know what issue you have with the ancient Nicene creed. I find it to be the clearest of all the Church’s statements on the Godhead.

Please let me know what you think! I learn from your comments.

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