Fall 2016: Winds of Doctrine Part 1
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It would be naïve to say that we don’t face a challenging future as a church. It would only come from a lack of Biblical understanding to think that God’s end-time organized people are going to go through the events leading up to the Mark of the Beast and the end of probation without Satan attacking the very fiber of the Church. The Apostle Paul warns concerning this in Acts 20:29-30 “For I know this; that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” And again in 1 Timothy 4:1 “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;” So we should be prepared to defend the doctrine of the Bible in any case against any false teaching. This is the reason that I am writing this series, to give us all the chance to learn and know what the Bible says and does not say about some very, shall we say ‘popular’ topics. To be honest with you, I have no idea how long of a study this may become, but I would invite you to read along as we search the Bible for answers for our faith.

DE F I N I N G GOD? There is great debate, and conflict that has arisen again over the issue of the Godhead, or as some have named it the Trinity. Is Jesus God? Is Jesus self-existent from eternity, with no beginning and no end or did the Saviour of mankind have a beginning? Is He not eternal? Is Jesus lower than God the Father? Is the Holy Spirit an individual person of the Godhead or is the Holy Spirit just the mind of God or the force of God? These are the points of contention in the discussion of the Trinity, or the Godhead. Oh yes, there is one more. The accusation that the Seventh-Day Adventist Church holds the same doctrinal view concerning the Godhead as the Catholic Church. This has been spurred on by the unwise decision to use the term of ‘trinity’ to title the Godhead in our 28 fundamental beliefs. So Let us address this error first and then go on to the Bible.

As stated in our beliefs: “There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 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. God, who is love, is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation.” We do believe this, as this is what the Scriptures give evidence to. According to the International Catholic University in its study of the Trinity Doctrine, the Catholic Doctrine is that yes there are three co-eternal persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. But it is in the manner of the explanation of these three that we see the doctrine. From their course study online it states:

“The Catholic Creeds teach us that there are two internal divine processions: the generation of the Son and the procession of the Holy Spirit (which, we shall see, is called "spiration") . . . What does this mean? It means that from all eternity the Father generates the Son, and the Father along with the Son "breathes forth" the Holy Spirit. Thus there are two internal divine processions which give rise to three divine Persons.”

“It is a dogma of the Catholic faith that the second divine Person proceeds from the first divine Person by an act of generation and therefore is related to him as Son to Father. The Nicene Creed says that Jesus Christ is "the only- begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all time." The Athanasian Creed of the fifth-sixth century says:

"The Son is not made or created, but he is generated by the Father alone."

The most extensive declaration of the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on the Trinity was made at the Eleventh Synod of Toledo in Spain (675 AD). A portion of that statement may be helpful as well in understanding their definition of God.

“We confess and we believe that the holy and indescribable Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one only God in His nature, a single substance, a single nature, a single majesty and power.”

Notice that they are of the “same substance” and that Jesus only has life because the father “generated” Him and the Holy Spirit’s existence is wholly dependent on the Father and the Son, as we read here:

“Since the Holy Spirit proceeds by an act of will of the Father and the Son, it should be clear that he does not proceed as a perfect image through generation. So the Holy Spirit is not a Son of God; only the second Person of the Trinity can be called "Son," as we have already explained. For St. John calls him "the only-begotten Son" of the Father. Qppropriately, then, the fifth century Athanasian Creed says: "The Holy Spirit is not made nor created nor generated, but proceeds from the Father and the Son."

Theologians have given a name to that type of proceeding, calling it "spiration," from the noun "spirit" which, of course, means "breath." . . .

“The term "spiration" designates the loving activity between the Father and the Son which results in the term of their love, namely, the Holy Spirit. So they say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son through spiration. There are three distinct Persons but only one God. So there is only one divine nature or essence which is common to all three. They are co-equal in power, majesty, wisdom and everything else. The distinction between them is to be found in their origin. The Father has no origin. The Son proceeds from the Father by intellectual generation. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle because of their intense mutual love. The Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father so intensely that their mutual love terminates in the third Person of the Blessed Trinity. Accordingly, we are justified in referring to him as the love of God, the power of God, the Spirit of truth, a river of living water and the kiss of the Father and the Son.

It is a defined dogma of the Catholic Church that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son as from a single principle through a single spiration. You will find this in Lateran IV (D 428), Lyons II (D 460, 463), and Florence (D 691, 703, 704).”

Alright then, what is the summation of the Roman Catholic Doctrine? They do claim three persons of the Trinity but the manner of their nature is completely distinct from Adventist theology. We have no such belief in regards to the ‘origins’ of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Here are the statements from the 28 Fundamental Beliefs:

“God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also those of the Father.”

“God the eternal Son became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Through Him all things were created, the character of God is revealed, the salvation of humanity is accomplished, and the world is judged. Forever truly God, He became also truly human, Jesus the Christ. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived and experienced temptation as a human being, but perfectly exemplified the righteousness and love of God. By His miracles He manifested God’s power and was attested as God’s promised Messiah. He suffered and died voluntarily on the cross for our sins and in our place, was raised from the dead, and ascended to heaven to minister in the heavenly sanctuary in our behalf. He will come again in glory for the final deliverance of His people and the restoration of all things.”

“God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He is as much a person as are the Father and the Son. He inspired the writers of Scripture. He filled Christ’s life with power. He draws and convicts human beings; and those who respond He renews and transforms into the image of God. Sent by the Father and the Son to be always with His children, He extends spiritual gifts to the church, empowers it to bear witness to Christ, and in harmony with the Scriptures leads it into all truth.”

It should be clear by just the reading of the Seventh Day Adventist doctrine that these two doctrines, that of the Roman Catholic Church and that of the Seventh Day Adventist Church are not the same. Indeed they are dramatically different, especially in regards to the eternal and self-existent qualities of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. To claim that these two are the same disregards all evidence to the contrary.

So what is the Biblical evidence for our faith? First let us look at the name. You know, the name we are commissioned to baptize in found in Matthew 28:19-20.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen.”

What is that name? Notice that it is a singular ‘name’ yet the Bible lists the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost thereby indicating that the one ‘name’ includes all three persons of the Godhead. This is alluded to as well from the very beginning of Scripture as seen in Genesis 1:1 where it states “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The word used for God here as in most of the Old Testament is the Hebrew word “elohiym” which is in the plural. This plurality was never understood by the Hebrew scholars, to this day in fact. Could it be that it is because they have rejected the teachings and the revelation received in the New Testament, where the Son of God and the Holy Ghost are manifest to us? Whatever the reason for their inability to explain the plural nature of the Godhead, we have the entirety of Scripture to help us understand to the best of our ability. Which, it must be stated, is far short of a complete and total understanding or defining of God.

Here I would like us to take note of a very important rule of understanding Scripture. It is this, that there are ‘clear’ texts of scripture and there are ‘not so clear’ texts of Scripture. But those texts that are not so clear do not erase the clear lines of understanding of the clear texts. For example, 1 John 4:8,16 tell us that God IS love, so whatever we understand about God’s character must fall within the boundary of Love. Even ‘not so clear’ texts like Romans 9:13 “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” Which would seem to indicate some contradiction to the fact the God is Love, must still be understood to fall within the boundary of the clear fact that God is love. We may need to understand much more of Scripture to know how and where it falls within the realm of love, and it may take us some time and study to know where it fits but it does not erase the definite truth that God is love.

In the following article we will take a longer and more complete look at the name, and indeed the names, Scripture uses to indicate the Father, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. We will find a clearly defined boundary that we cannot deviate from. We may not have all of our questions about the Godhead answered, but that is not goal, frankly that is not possible, for God in all of His glory is beyond our understanding. We may understand that which He has revealed to us, particularly and most importantly His Character, but to be able to ‘define’ God in terms of the nature of His being is not for us here to know. God is God, if we could define Him, He would cease to be God.

… to be continued in Part Two

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