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Gregory Matthews

The Trinity

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Gregory Matthews

The Biblical doctrine of the Trinity is one that is confusing to many people and considered hard to understand.  In the following, Dr. George Reid makes a brief comment on this subject.  It is not comprehensive.  It does not answer all questions.  I simply provide it as I think it is of interest:

http://www.nadadventist.org/site/1/docs/How Can God Be a Trinity.pdf

 

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Kevin H

Pretty good answer. However I like what I learned in college from John Wood and which was also presented by another of my professors, Methodist Archaeologist Jim Fleming much better, you can find it here reflected in my posts.

They start with the distinction between Greek and Hebrew though and the finite and infinite and how the New Testament teaching of the trinity (and according to Fleming second temple Judaism formed the idea) was a way to explain concepts in the Old Testament to a more Greek thinking world.

I find Dr. Reid's answer making God a bit smaller than he is and more in line with the traditional Roman Catholic view of trinity where that is all that God is like one rope with 3 strands or a 3 leaf clover.

Both Wood and Fleming start with a realm outside of time and space that we cannot comprehend and thus with a God we could not comprehend unless he presented himself to us. While Greek thought likes to describe a thing in it self  (a chair has 4 legs, a seat and a back) Hebrew thought describes things through experience  (a chair shares my burden allows my sore feet to rest and recover). and that the three members of the trinity are the 3 persons who teach us the aspects that we need to know about relating to this infinite God so that we can have some kind of understanding in our finite minds. Wood pictured someone outside of a glass of water putting 3 fingers inside the glass to communicate with life within the glass. Fleming describes a mountain that goes up into a cloud that we can not see what's above the cloud but we experience it through the three mountain ridges that we can see and experience below the cloud.

This leads to a particularly huge issue that he closed with; Subordination. Here again we see the difference between the Catholic view where Reid's ideas are leaning and the Biblical view that Wood claims to be Mrs. White's understanding and what Fleming claims to be the New Testament understanding of how the Second temple Rabbis were trying to explain Old Testament concepts to a more Greek thinking world in which both Jews and Christians believed until the church/synagogue split of 135 AD, but which some forms of Eastern Orthodox churches continue to hold on to. And I think you will see an Ellen White concept here that Reid is missing.  The law of God is self sacrificing love. No more and no less. The law of God is his character. God does not break his law. Thus with the view of trinity that I got from both Wood and Fleming, which Wood claims came from Mrs. White and Fleming claims comes from Second Temple Rabbis trying to explain Old Testament concepts to a more Greek thinking world, the members of the  trinity choose to subordinate them selves to each other. They each submit to each other. Not having any selfish motives you don't have any top dog. It is Lucifer who wanted to change from being submitting to being submitted to. Mrs. White describes three deceptions of Satan, the first is against God the Father giving to God the characteristics of Lucifer's own heart of being an exalted tyrant who everyone has to submit to while he himself does not submit.

Sadly Dr. Reid has presented a Western/Roman Catholic post 135 AD view of trinity that supports Mrs. White's description of the first deception of Satan.

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Gregory Matthews

I gave  Reid's post because I thought it would stimulate discussion as a starting point.  I do not think it comprehensive.

 

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Kevin H

Indeed and I was hoping to add to the conversation, not to be a final answer. I hope more people will jump in with comments on both posts so far, including you Greg.

 

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TrevorL

Greetings Greg,

16 hours ago, Gregory Matthews said:

The Biblical doctrine of the Trinity is one that is confusing to many people and considered hard to understand.  In the following, Dr. George Reid makes a brief comment on this subject.  It is not comprehensive.  It does not answer all questions.  I simply provide it as I think it is of interest:

http://www.nadadventist.org/site/1/docs/How Can God Be a Trinity.pdf

 

I find that the two OT quotations in the article do not support the Trinity. In Genesis 1:26 God the Father invites the Angels to create man in their image and likeness, and this is confirmed by the allusion and commentary of this in Psalm 8:5. It is claimed that Psalm 110:1 has two figures designated as “Lord” but this seems to be deliberately obscured in the article as even the KJV use LORD and Lord and represent two different Hebrew words. These clearly speak of Yahweh, the one God the Father inviting David’s Lord or Master to sit at God’s right hand. Psalm 110:1 is one of the most quoted and expounded OT passages, and the NT exposition speaks of the Son of God seated at the right hand of God. None of these references support the Trinity. There is One God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God.

Kind regards Trevor

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APL
4 hours ago, Gregory Matthews said:

Andrews University has just released a series of videos on this subject.  The following lists that 16 videos in that series and their inks:

https://www.andrews.edu/sem/sdlc/trinity/

 

It is not essential for us to be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Spirit is the Comforter, "the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father." It is plainly declared regarding the Holy Spirit that, in His work of guiding men into all truth, "He shall not speak of Himself." John 15:26; 16:13. {AA 51.3}

 

The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them. Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them, but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden. {AA 52.1}

We can make 16 videos on a topic where silence is golden?  Hm...

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JoeMo

I personally don't think of the HS as a "Person"; I think of it as a "Power".  I am definitely not a trinitarian, but I don't have a problem if others are a trinitarians.  One can make a fairly strong and coherent argument for either position.  The HS is a mystery.  Maybe it is a Person; maybe it is a "Power".  I am comfortable with simply saying the Holy Spirit "is".

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8thdaypriest

I worship God our Father.  I also worship Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, BECAUSE the Father has commanded us to worship His Son.   That's it.  There is no command (or example) to worship another divine being.  

There is no command (or example) that we should sing to, love, praise, thank, glorify, serve, bow down to, or in any other wise worship a divine being other than God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

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APL
22 hours ago, The Wanderer said:

I don't worship two gods. I worship "One." (I mean, how does one divvy it up between The Father & The Son?)  Much easier to think of it as just "one God."

And who is the one God?  The Father.

1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

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Kevin H
16 hours ago, APL said:

And who is the one God?  The Father.

1 Corinthians 8:6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

I'm sorry APL but if you pick one member of the trinity to be the one God you are in danger of an unbalanced religion. The one God is the infinite God who is too big for us to comprehend. Taking even the trinity and making it God in total is idolatry and is even more so to take one aspect and make that God in total.

We have one infinite God way to big to even begin to comprehend, as Greek thinkers we like to have an understanding of a thing. But the Hebrew is that we cannot describe the one infinite God by more than "Holy,, Holy, Holy"

We would naturally be atheists living in the situation of God being too big for us to comprehend. Therefore God has revealed three aspects of God's self that we need to know and to hold in tension: God as power, God as intimate friend, and God as working with our subjective experience. These are how we experience God. This is what we need to know.

 

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APL
3 hours ago, Kevin H said:

I'm sorry APL but if you pick one member of the trinity to be the one God you are in danger of an unbalanced religion.

You are assuming God is a trinity.  Why do you not address the scripture quoted?  Scripture tells us who the "one God" is, The Father, 1 Corinthians 8:6 .

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8thdaypriest

SDAs point to Roman Catholicism's destruction of the three Arian nations.  They speak of Roman Catholicism as an evil power of Satan.  Yet they completely REJECT ARIANISM as a doctrine and embrace the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Trinity.  The doctrine of God as THREE, was legalized by Constantine (who also changed the Sabbath).  All who taught otherwise were severely persecuted.   James White called the teaching of the Trinity a "Romish doctrine".   For the first 50 years of her ministry, Mrs White's teachings were completely in agreement with Arianism. 

I don't get it.  Why embrace one doctrine made law by Constantine, and reject another (replacing the Sabbath with Sunday sacredness). 

Here is a description of Arianism on Wikipedia.

In Christianity, Arianism is a Christological[1] concept which asserts the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, is distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to the Father.[2] Arian teachings were first attributed to Arius (c. AD 256–336), a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, Egypt. The teachings of Arius and his supporters were opposed to the theological views held by Homoousian Christians, regarding the nature of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. The Arian concept of Christ is based on the belief that the Son of God did not always exist but was begotten by God the Father.[2]

There was a dispute between two interpretations (Arianism and Homoousianism) based upon the theological orthodoxy of the time, both of them attempted to solve its theological dilemmas.[2] So there were, initially, two equally orthodox interpretations which initiated a conflict in order to attract adepts and define the new orthodoxy.[2]Homoousianism was formally affirmed by the first two Ecumenical Councils. The Ecumenical First Council of Nicaea of 325 deemed Arianism to be a heresy.[3] All mainstream branches of Christianity now consider Arianism to be heterodox and heretical.[4]

According to Everett Ferguson, "The great majority of Christians had no clear views about the nature of the Trinity and they did not understand what was at stake in the issues that surrounded it."[3] At the regional First Synod of Tyre in 335, Arius was exonerated.[5]Constantine the Great was baptized by the Arian bishop Eusebius of Nicomedia.[6][7] After the deaths of both Arius and Constantine, Arius was again anathemised and pronounced a heretic again at the Ecumenical First Council of Constantinople of 381.[8] The Roman Emperors Constantius II (337–361) and Valens (364–378) were Arians or Semi-Arians, as was the first King of Italy, Odoacer (433?–493), and the Lombards were also Arians or Semi-Arians until the 7th century.

 

PERSONALLY:  I am in agreement with Arius.  I believe that God beget a Son.  This WAS "the beginning".   This was the moment when God became "the Father".  

IF "God" is and always has been 3 divine persons in one God,  then God - "our Father" did not give "His only begotten Son". 

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Gregory Matthews

Only begotten son:  Another translation of that verse presents the following idea:  my uniquely begotten son.  There is a difference between those two.  Arians typically req d it as "only begotten son."   And Trinitarians typically read it as "uniquely begotten son."

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Kevin H

8thdaypriest: You quoted James White but a younger quote. When he was older he wrote "I'm starting to find the arguments for the trinity to make more sense than the arguments against the trinity. While Constantine may have legalized the doctrine of the trinity, current evidence is that the trinity was developed by second temple rabbis to explain an event that Jews would have understood in the Old Testament with their thought process to explain to a more Greek thinking world who would not have noticed this due to the difference in their thought patterns. There was a view of trinity that was held by Jews (including Christians) until 135 AD in the Church Synagogue split. At that time many ideas that were held in common were split. Up to this time Christians tended to be Jews and gentile "God Fearers" who kept Sabbath. They would spend Sabbath at the Synagogue as was their custom but the next day would meet and discuss some of their more uniquely and specifically "Christian" ideas. It was not the Sabbath but a time to meet separate from the Jews who did not follow Jesus. But starting in 135 AD Sabbath started to decrease and that day they were meeting for their Christian ideas became more important. Some Christians latched on to a intertestamental Jewish legend that Sarah conserved Isaac on a Passover and that he was born 9 months after Passover. They also said that it was another Passover that Abraham took Isaac to sacrifice him. They were saying that Isaac was a type of Christ. That like Sarah became pregnant with Isaac on Passover, so Mary became pregnant with Jesus at Passover and that Jesus was born 9 months later (from which we eventually got December 25 after they changed the annunciation from every year at Passover to every year at March 25). And they split up the idea of the trinity with the Jews giving up the Threeness and holding to the oneness and the church focusing more on the Threeness and started years of trying to redefine the Threeness. Although Mrs. White did not start to focuses on the trinity until after the 1888 issue, you can still see how her earlier writings were going into the Threeness that lead to the Trinitarian applications.

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APL

Keven H - in your usual manner, you make a quote but do not give a reference.  Can you give a reference, or is this something your university professors said? 

As to 1888, shortly after that General Conference, Waggoner wrote the follow with never a rebuke from EGW whom he traveled and preached with during that time:

The Scriptures declare that Christ is "the only begotten son of God." He is begotten, not created. As to when He was begotten, it is not for us to inquire, nor could our minds grasp it if we were told. The prophet Micah tells us all that we can know about it in these words, "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity." Micah 5:2, margin. There was a time when Christ proceeded forth and came from God, from the bosom of the Father (John 8:42 John 1:18), but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning. {1890 EJW, CHR 21.2}

 

But the point is that Christ is a begotten Son and not a created subject. He has by inheritance a more excellent name than the angels; He is "a Son over His own house." Hebrews 1:4 Hebrews 3:6. And since He is the only-begotten son of God, He is of the very substance and nature of God and possesses by birth all the attributes of God, for the Father was pleased that His Son should be the express image of His Person, the brightness of His glory, and filled with all the fullness of the Godhead. So He has "life in Himself." He possesses immortality in His own right and can confer immortality upon others. Life inheres in Him, so that it cannot be taken from Him, but having voluntarily laid it down, He can take it again. His words are these: "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." John 10:17-18. {1890 EJW, CHR 22.1}

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Kevin H

APL, the letter was read at the New York Conference Campmeeting  by Elder Gerald Wheeler, he came across it when he was researching his biography on James White.

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8thdaypriest
18 hours ago, The Wanderer said:

Well, regardless of what you believe, we are glad to have you with us here on the forum.  Wouldnt be the same without you. :D

Thanks friends.

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8thdaypriest
On 11/16/2017 at 12:02 PM, Gregory Matthews said:

Only begotten son:  Another translation of that verse presents the following idea:  my uniquely begotten son.  There is a difference between those two.  Arians typically req d it as "only begotten son."   And Trinitarians typically read it as "uniquely begotten son."

I would personally agree that the Son's begetting was BOTH "unique" and "only".  It was UNIQUE, because there was no mother figure - just God, who became a "Father."   And it was ONLY, because this begetting only happened ONCE, and will never happen again.  

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8thdaypriest
On 11/16/2017 at 1:58 PM, Kevin H said:

8thdaypriest: You quoted James White but a younger quote. When he was older he wrote "I'm starting to find the arguments for the trinity to make more sense than the arguments against the trinity. While Constantine may have legalized the doctrine of the trinity, current evidence is that the trinity was developed by second temple rabbis to explain an event that Jews would have understood in the Old Testament with their thought process to explain to a more Greek thinking world who would not have noticed this due to the difference in their thought patterns. There was a view of trinity that was held by Jews (including Christians) until 135 AD in the Church Synagogue split. At that time many ideas that were held in common were split. Up to this time Christians tended to be Jews and gentile "God Fearers" who kept Sabbath. They would spend Sabbath at the Synagogue as was their custom but the next day would meet and discuss some of their more uniquely and specifically "Christian" ideas. It was not the Sabbath but a time to meet separate from the Jews who did not follow Jesus. But starting in 135 AD Sabbath started to decrease and that day they were meeting for their Christian ideas became more important. Some Christians latched on to a intertestamental Jewish legend that Sarah conserved Isaac on a Passover and that he was born 9 months after Passover. They also said that it was another Passover that Abraham took Isaac to sacrifice him. They were saying that Isaac was a type of Christ. That like Sarah became pregnant with Isaac on Passover, so Mary became pregnant with Jesus at Passover and that Jesus was born 9 months later (from which we eventually got December 25 after they changed the annunciation from every year at Passover to every year at March 25). And they split up the idea of the trinity with the Jews giving up the Threeness and holding to the oneness and the church focusing more on the Threeness and started years of trying to redefine the Threeness. Although Mrs. White did not start to focuses on the trinity until after the 1888 issue, you can still see how her earlier writings were going into the Threeness that lead to the Trinitarian applications.

Wow.  Some much information in there.  So many thoughts, I don't know which one/s to respond to. 

I do not personally believe that Mrs White was infallible.  I believe that some of her teachings were WRONG.  Therefore her later teachings and writings which supported the view of God as "three beings of the heavenly trio"  - does not convince me. 

John wrote:  'And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:  'Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne [Being #1], AND to the Lamb [Being #2] , forever and ever?'"  (Revelation 5:13)

Jesus said He ascended to share His Father's throne.  He did not mention another being would also share this throne. 

Revelation 3:21 "To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne." (NKJ)

"GOD" is the ONE to Whom "the throne" belongs.  "GOD" "sits on the throne".  "GOD" now shares His throne, and His authority WITH His begotten Son. 

"Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne [Being #1] AND from the wrath of the Lamb! [Being #2]" (Revelation 6:16). 

 

Show me where God the Father shares authority with another being - other than His Son. 

 

Revelation 22:1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God [Being #1] AND of the Lamb [Being 2]. (NKJ)

Revelation 21:22 "But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty [Being #1] AND the Lamb [Being #2] are its temple."

Show me - anywhere from Scripture - where a THIRD BEING is worshiped, glorified, praised, thanked, prayed to, or worshiped, and I will be happy to do so. 

Thirteen times - Paul wrote - "Grace to you and peace from God our Father [Being #1] AND the Lord Jesus Christ [Being #2]. 

 

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8thdaypriest

Does Jesus have one "Father"   - or two   - or none at all ?   (Which would mean that Jesus "fathered" Himself.) 

When Jesus referred to "My Father" - was Jesus talking about one being or two beings

We know that Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit (  ). 

We also know the Father is "One". 

EXAMPLES:

Matthew 7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me,`Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."

Matthew 16:27 "For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works."

Matthew 20:23   "to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father."

Matthew 23:9 "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven."   

Matthew 26:39 "He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will."

Matthew 26:53 "Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?"

Luke 23:46  "And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father,`into Your hands I commit My spirit.'"

John 5:20 "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel."

John 5:21 "For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will."

John 5:23 "that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him."

John 5:26 "For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself, (Joh 5:26 NKJ)

John 6:39 "This is the will of the Father [Being #1] who sent Me [Being #2], that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day."

John 6:57 "As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me."

John 8:28 "Then Jesus said to them, 'When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. '"

John 8:29 "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him."

John 8:42  "Jesus said to them, 'If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me."

"He" - not "They".

 

John 8:54   "Jesus answered, 'If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God.'"

 

John 15:23 "He who hates Me hates My Father also."

 John 14:23  "Jesus answered and said to him, 'If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him."

1 John 2:24  "Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father."

1 John 1:3   "and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." 

No mention of fellowship WITH another divine being.  No mention of abiding in another divine being.  No mention of hating the Holy Spirit also. 

 

John 3:16  "God so loved the world that HE gave HIS only begotten Son," 

1 John 4:14 "And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world."

John 5:36 "But I have a greater witness than John's; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish-- the very works that I do-- bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me."

I submit that "God our Father" - the Father of Jesus Christ - the God of Jesus Christ - is ONE DIVINE BEING.  He IS "spirit" (John 4:24).

We also worship the Son of God BECAUSE God the Father declared Him equal with Himself, declared Him also God (divine), and commanded us to worship Him. 

 

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8thdaypriest

Sorry that last post was long, but I wanted readers to get the impact of all those verses where Jesus spoke of His Father, and also a couple of verses which show the impact of those teachings.   John believes that we "have fellowship" with the Father and the Son.  And we "abide in" the Father and the Son. 

So - either "the Father" is comprised of TWO divine beings, or God is not a Trinity of THREE divine beings. 

IMO - of course.

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APL
5 hours ago, The Wanderer said:

too personal. Could have just asked for the reference imho

I have asked for references before as he often does not give a reference, in his usual manner.

 

On 11/16/2017 at 7:43 PM, Kevin H said:

APL, the letter was read at the New York Conference Campmeeting  by Elder Gerald Wheeler, he came across it when he was researching his biography on James White.

So you have no definite reference????? 

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