Transcript of the SDA Trinity Audio Exposé

The following is a complete written transcript of the audio clips used in the sdatrinity.mp3 file:

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Dr. Frank Gonzalez: "God is Adventist."

Steve Pickett/Jeff Miller: "In Genesis 1:1, the first verse of the Bible, it says: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.' And that word for 'God' is 'elohiym,' which is a plural word for 'gods.' And think about it. If love is other-centered, can you have love if there's only one?"

Dr. Norman R. Gulley: "We noted that there are several Old Testament texts indicating plurality in God, as one God addresses another God."

Dr. Richard M. Davidson: "I suggest that according to Proverbs 8, at the beginning of creation, we find a situation of equal members of the Godhead as Co-creators."

Dr. Norman R. Gulley: "The thesis: The Old Testament Shema doesn't deny that God is more than one."

Dr. Ron E.M. Clouzet: "The Christian God--three in one--is completely different from the gods in the Olympic pantheon or the Nordic tales. The gods with 'the small g' engaged in constant warfare one with another. They each had an individual will and plan and clearly were not of one purpose."

Steve Pickett/Jeff Miller: "It sets Christianity apart--this Godhead. The Jews never really believed in a Godhead, they believed in a single God. The Muslims believe in a single God. And then, the other religions believe in multiple gods. But the difference between the Godhead, as being three, and the multiple gods of the other religions, is that in the other religions there was rivalry. The gods weren't always the same. [...] And so you've got this rivalry going on. But this is not the case in the GodHEAD. In the GodHEAD, they've all existed from eternity, and we'll see that a little more as we go on. But they're all of the same mind, they've had the same experiences, and they have the same attitudes, as it says in John 10:30 there, Jesus said, 'I and My Father are one.'"

Dr. Jerry Moon: "The purpose of my presentation today is to clarify more fully the similarities and differences between Ellen White's view of the 'heavenly trio' and the traditional doctrine of the Trinity in order to discover her position in relation to the current debate among Adventists. So, two different concepts of the Trinity. The conceptual key that unlocks the puzzle of Ellen White's developmental process regarding the Godhead is the discovery that her writings describe two distinct varieties of trinitarian belief, one based on Scripture alone, one based on a combination of Scripture interpreted through Greek philosophical presuppositions—the same hermeneutic that gave the church the doctrine of the immortality of the soul. The concept of God that’s explicit in her later writings portrays the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three eternal Persons of intellect, will, and emotions who are united in character, purpose, and love. There is no conflict among them, no disagreement, no working at cross-purposes. Thus, they are not three gods (polytheism or tritheism), but one God. Furthermore, their unity is not a mere mathematical paradox, but a relational unity, analogous to the unity which is the goal of marriage, where husband and wife are united in an ever-growing oneness, that does not at all negate their individuality."

Dr. Norman R. Gulley: "The problem: 'Hear, O Israel: The LORD our one.'"

Dr. Paul Petersen: "And, we have already seen, for instance, with the presentations by Merlin and Jerry, that the word 'Trinity' can have many connotations. So that just because some of our pioneers were against some kind of Trinitarian teaching, does not necessarily mean that they would be against any. [...] But we need to go behind the words. Sometimes words change meaning because we speak them in a new context. And words, concepts, like those we use, our summary statements, like the Trinity, we of course have to say, 'What do we mean from the Bible when we use such a term?'--just as when we speak about the Investigative Judgment."

Doug Batchelor: "And the word Trinity, it’s simply talking about deity, and triune--it's a combination, 'tri-inity'--and it's talking about the three entities that make up the God, the one God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob."

Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "The three-fold repetition of apo with kai is clear indication that the three are separate entities or persons but are placed on an equal ground ontologically."

Dr. Woodrow W. Whidden: "The only beings in the universe are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost who are eternal love, [...]"

Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "There should be no doubt from a close study of the book of Revelation that God is a single, united family, working as a team for the administration of the universe and the salvation of this fallen race."

Dr. Jiri Moskala: "'The LORD is one' means first, the Lord is 'unique'--He's holy. He's utterly unique, and He's utterly holy. He's the other One. It is not a numerical value here--how many there are--how that is one. No, it's, first of all, description of the quality--is very unique."

Dr. Jack Blanco: "The second aspect of subservience modeled for us by the Holy Spirit is a willingness to speak, to speak, what He has been told. In this sense, His authority comes from outside Himself. He has emptied Himself. Authority comes from outside Himself."

Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "In this divine economy, the separation of functions makes for a more effective administration of the government of the universe, and each of the members of the Godhead makes His own unique contribution. The Father is the figurehead Administrator, the Sovereign, Almighty God, who remains on the throne directing the affairs of the universe while the other Two are engaged in other activities, especially those connected with the salvation of humanity."

Dr. Richard M. Davidson: "I don't think that Proverbs 8 gives us a definitive answer to that. It does not give us a full blown doctrine of the Trinity here. It does describe two Co-creators, at least two, it doesn't mention that these are the only ones."

Doug Batchelor: "So God is more than one person obviously."
Caller: "So that's why Jesus said, 'I and my Father are one'?"
Doug Batchelor: "Exactly. They're united in Their purpose of saving man. But they're obviously two different people, 'cause there he is on earth praying to his Father in heaven."

Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "The Spirit is an integral part of the triune Deity from whom grace and peace are communicated to the readers and hearers of the book of Revelation [...]"

Doug Batchelor: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. You read where it says in the beginning all things were made by Jesus, in John chapter 1. So Jesus must also be part of God."

Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "So, both God and Christ are portrayed somehow as involved in this judgement. We, too, are involved, in chapter 20, verse 4 [...]"

Caller (Doug): "I was having a discussion with a friend of mine the other day about the Nature of God, and she was saying that she saw God's Nature as being Three Separate Individuals that acted together under the Title of God--kind of like how my father, my mother and I would act together under the title 'family.' And that is how she explains that you've got a singular God; a singular Entity called God, but that there can be different individuals in that. And I don't really know how to answer that."
Doug Batchelor: "Well actually that's not too far from the truth Doug, [...]"

Dr. Norman R. Gulley: "Here is a clear statement that there is more than one Person in the Godhead, and a clear statement that they share the same name 'God,' and in this respect there is only one God, the God who is represented by these two in the passage."

Dr. Jerry Moon: "For example, one trinitarian creed that early Adventists quoted fairly often was that of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Ellen White's church of origin. That creed says in part, 'There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts.' Well, the early Adventists didn't take long to come up with several biblical passages that certified that God had both 'body' and 'parts.'

"Ellen White was also much interested in this question. Twice in early visions of Jesus, she asked Him questions related to the 'form' and 'person' of God. In one early vision, she reported seeing 'a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus' countenance,' she said, 'and admired His lovely person. The Father's person I could not behold, for a cloud of glorious light covered Him. I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself.' Notice the emphasis on person and form and shape. 'He said He had,'--Jesus said the Father had a form--'but I could not behold it, for said He, 'If you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist.''

"In 1850 she reported, 'I have often seen the lovely Jesus, that He is a person. I asked Him if His Father was a person and had a form like Himself. Said Jesus, 'I am in the express image of My Father's person.'' Thus her visions confirmed what her husband had written in 1846, that the Father and the Son are 'two distinct, literal, tangible persons.' The visions also disproved, to her mind, the claim of the Methodist creed that God is 'without body or parts.' Thus, the early visions steered her developing view of God away from creedal trinitarianism--at least that which she was acquainted with--although they offered nothing directly contrary, or directly contradictory to her later statements of what we could call biblical trinitarianism."

Dr. Merlin D. Burt: "'Since we as SDAs do not hold a creedal view of the Trinity, as many other churches do, how are we viewed by those other churches, as a sect or at least as out of the mainstream of Christianity?' Well, of course, there's a couple different categories of other churches. [...] But I think that the reason why we are viewed as a sect, as a general rule, has not been because of us not holding to a creedal view, but rather, more because of some of our distinctive beliefs and doctrines. Belief of the end-time gift of prophecy, the understanding of eschatology that we have, and so forth. The approachment back in the 1950s, as we begin to settle the issue of the Trinity, opened up communication with other Protestant churches, in a very remarkable way, and, of course, that was the goal of Questions on Doctrine, to try to find a place of meeting and contact. I mean, we can chide them for some things, if we want to try to do that, but their goals were very good, they were admirable. They were trying to make contact and interact with them. And the fact that we were holding to a Biblical view of the Trinity opened up a place of dialogue and contact that was helpful, in that way."

Dr. Paul Petersen: "Now, what have we got? And here, whether you agree or not, this is where we are, in our church, this is what the understanding of the Trinity implies, that is, that God has revealed Himself to us as community. [...] But in the twentieth century, especially the last twenty-five years, this concept of God as communion has been revived."

LeRoy Moore: "I just wanted to comment, in line with what has already been said, but that there were several tribes that were identified by the Papacy as Arian. Ellen White warns us, however, about the fact that the Papal historical process has actually confused many issues. But I would like to say, I think there were seven non-orthodox, which means those who did not hold their brand of Trinitarianism, which we reject today, along with them [the Arians]. So, we [today's SDA Church] probably would have been branded as Arian by the orthodox [in the early centuries]."

2006 Adventist Theological Society "Trinity Symposium" panel participant: "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."

2006 ATS "Trinity Symposium" panel participant: "We are arguing for a Biblical doctrine of the Trinity. And I think that we need to emphasize that point. Just because other people use a term, and give it meanings--and there are many different meanings that have been given to this term--doesn't mean that we can't talk of a Biblical doctrine of the Trinity, a Biblical teaching of the Trinity."
Another panel participant: "Just like we talk about a Biblical Sabbath. Many people apply the word Sabbath to Sunday. We don't quit using the word. But we do clarify what we mean by it."
Dr. Woodrow W. Whidden: "Non-Biblical abuse does not cancel legitimate, Biblical use."

Dr. Paul Petersen: "First of all, to me it is an important part of our identity, of my identity as a Seventh-day Adventist, that I have the Bible as my absolute source of authority. So, I regularly criticize, maybe reject, notions about the Trinity that are based on philosophical constructions, but not on the Bible."

John W. Reeve: "So there was no orthodox Trinity doctrine until 381, and then, I think even before 381, it starts getting messed up."

LeRoy Moore: "What James [White, husband of Ellen] and the other men were opposed to, we [current SDAs] are just as opposed to as they were. [...] I know of nothing that they [the early SDA pioneers, who were Arians] were objecting to, in objecting to Trinitarianism, that we [current SDAs] have not also objected to."

John W. Reeve: "'Who held the true Trinitarian view between 100 A.D. and 381 A.D.?' And the simple answer there, is: nobody that I know of."

Dr. Jerry Moon: "She clearly rejects any view of the Trinity that makes God impersonal and unreal, and she clearly embraces a literal, biblical view of one God, three eternal Persons, who are relationally united in character, purpose, and love."

Dr. Richard M. Davidson: "And indeed it implies that this Person is Co-Creator with Yahweh."

Dr. Jerry Moon: "The change from Adventist rejection of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity to acceptance of a biblical trinitarian doctrine was not a simple reversal. When James White denounced creedal trinitarianism in 1846, Ellen White agreed with both of his points. She agreed with his positive point--that 'the Father and the Son' are 'two distinct, literal, tangible persons'--and she agreed with his negative point--that the philosophical trinitarianism held by many did 'spiritualize away' the personal reality of the Father and the Son.

"Soon after this she added the conviction, based on visions, that both Christ and the Father have bodily form--rejecting the teaching of one trinitarian creed that God is 'without body or parts.'"

Dr. Richard M. Davidson: "Is it possible that, perhaps in a council between the members of the Godhead before creation, it was decided that the One we now call the Second Person of the Godhead would at the commencement of creation condescend to partially empty himself, to step down (perhaps taking the form of an angel?) to become the Mediator between the infinite God and finite creatures?"

Dr. Jerry Moon: "In the 1890s, when she became convinced of the individuality and personhood of the Holy Spirit, she referred to the Holy Spirit in literal and tangible terms much as she had earlier the Father and the Son. For instance, in an address to the students at Avondale in 1899, she said, 'the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person as God is a person, is walking through these grounds, unseen by human eyes . . . . He hears every word we utter and knows every thought of the mind.'"

Dr. Richard M. Davidson: "This inner-textual hint is perhaps reinforced in Proverbs 30, in verse 4, with possible allusion to Father and Son Co-Creators [...]"

Dr. Jerry Moon: "Her capstone statements came in 1905. 'There are three living persons of the heavenly trio,' she wrote, '...three great powers--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.' In the same year she defined Their unity in relational rather than philosophical terms: 'The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. They are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person. It is thus that God and Christ are one.' That's Ministry of Healing, 421 and 422."

Doug Batchelor: "So there you have another example of those three Entities that the Bible speaks of."
Caller: "But do you think They are three completely separate Entities?"
Doug Batchelor: "The three Persons of the Godhead--you know when Jesus was baptized is a good example where you can see they're three separate Entities."

Dr. Jerry Moon: "Since Ellen White clearly held the basic formula of one God in three eternal persons, it can hardly be denied that her view is essentially trinitarian. However, her view differs from traditional trinitarianism in the following important aspects. Number 1. She taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct individuals, which is not true of the medieval doctrine of the Trinity."

Doug Batchelor: "[...] you can find three distinct Individuals outlined in the Bible."

Dr. Jerry Moon: "For all these reasons, Ellen White declined to endorse the traditional concept of the Trinity. But she is emphatic in her support for the Biblical concept of one God, comprised of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three eternal persons, who are united in character, purpose, and love."

Doug Batchelor: "Yeah, well keep in mind, the Bible says in Deuteronomy 6, verse 4, 'Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one'--but the word 'one' in Hebrew is not numerical quantity."

Dr. Jerry Moon: "She agreed with the earliest anti-Trinitarians in our movement that the Father and the Son are two literal, tangible persons. And she agreed that the Trinitarian creed was wrong in seeing God as without form, and body, and so forth."

Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "In the eternal kingdom that is established at the time of Christ's return in glory to receive His followers, Jesus Christ and His Father co-rule the universe, separate but equal, sharing the same throne."

Dr. Jerry Moon: "My understanding is that personality includes character, and will, emotions, the things that make a person an individual. And she said--and, of course, we can have some other things in common. I and my family are of the same genetic makeup basically, just as the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of one nature and so forth. But, even though they're one nature, they still are individuals. Now, the way in which they are one, primarily, is that they are one in purpose, and character, and love. So they are united by choice, rather than simply by what their 'being' is."

Steve Pickett/Jeff Miller: "See, we were made in the image of God, and God's not so far different from us, in a lot of ways. In a lot of ways, He's far different from us, too. But in those ways, that relationship within the Godhead was a very joyful, playful experience that They had."

Doug Batchelor: "Now some people get confused and they say, 'these three are one? How can They be three in one?' All you've got to do is remember that in the Hebrew mind, one meant unity. Jesus said a man leaves his father and mother, cleaves unto his wife, they become one flesh. Well they're two in reality. We know they're two separate, distinct persons. They're now one unit of a family. God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in their purpose of creation, of redemption, and saving man."

Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "The Lamb has followers who follow Him wherever He goes, like a flock following their divine Shepherd. Nonetheless, the salvation of the race is declared to be a joint venture between God, who sits on the throne, and the Lamb, who has come down and sacrificed Himself for humankind."

Dr. Woodrow W. Whidden: "[...] only One who is equal with God would be able to treat with God for our redemption. Okay? And He does so with His bargaining chip, and His bargaining chip is His atoning death that was qualified by His totally victorious life."

Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "God the Father is portrayed throughout the book of Revelation as the figurehead, the One who sits on the throne, the Almighty, the Sovereign Ruler (pantokrator), the Creator who rightfully receives the worship of all created things, the One who lives forever and ever, who was and is and is coming. He is the Father of Jesus Christ, the Lamb, who is the Son of God. Although God shares His throne with His Son, it is usually depicted as His throne, which He shares at His will, and the Son is never portrayed as sitting on it by Himself. The Father is the God of heaven, He is the Lord of the earth. He is also the Lord God of the holy prophets. If there is any seniority in rank among the three divine Persons, in terms of function, it would be the Father who is depicted as holding that position."

Dr. Woodrow W. Whidden: "Listen also to this powerful statement on Christ as Mediator [NOTE: the quote is from Ellen G. White]: 'The reconciliation of man to God could be accomplished only through a mediator who was equal with God, possessed of attributes that would dignify, and declare Him worthy to treat with the Infinite God in man's behalf, and also represent God to a fallen world. Man's substitute and surety must have man's nature, a connection with the human family whom He was to represent, and, as God's ambassador, He must partake of the divine nature, and have a connection with the Infinite, in order to manifest God to the world, and be a mediator between God and man.' Folks, that is a transcendent vision. That is heavy."

Dr. Jack Blanco: "Why did He remain in the tomb until Sunday morning? Well, we may give numerous reasons, and there may be numerous reasons. But the fact is that He remained in the tomb submissively, waiting until an angel came and rolled away the stone. Even though He had power to do so. And Paul reminds us that it was God who raised Christ from the dead. In other words, Christ submissively waited in the tomb until His Father called Him. Submissiveness in death. This kind of submissiveness is more than human, it is divine."

LeRoy Moore: "Christ did take a lower position before sin entered the world, and He was the representative of God, and the reason why Lucifer became so confused, because he decided that he was an equal to Christ, and sought to be next to the Father, as Christ was next to the Father. The other factor is that Christ took a human body, forever to retain it, and became the King of this world, aside from sharing the throne of the universe."

Dr. Ron E.M. Clouzet: "We must remember, that the Holy Spirit, there is no evidence, that I've seen--maybe some of the theologians can help me here, but, there's no evidence that I have seen that the Holy Spirit has a body, just like the Son and the Father do. The Holy Spirit is the invisible God, it is the, is the, is the spirit God, if you will, that chooses to be more behind the scenes, by function."

Dr. Paul Petersen: "Now, how come that we have changed, or at least developed the issue? Why wasn't it very clear from the beginning? Now let me point to that--isn't that part of our prophetic message? That there would be a time where Jesus will be preached in conjunction with our distinct message? And that will be the Loud Cry. So that the development of our theoretical understanding of the Trinity, at least, could be seen as a fulfillment of prophecy."

Questioner to Dr. Edwin E. Reynolds: "You have the Father and the Son on the throne, but the Spirit is never on the throne. I mean, it seems like if I were writing the book of Revelation, I'd finally have them all three on the throne, at the end, you know, I mean--they all have different functions and working the plan of salvation, but when it's all over, you'd want to represent the Triune God somehow, you know, in a manner of togetherness that way."

Steve Pickett/Jeff Miller: "You know, I was thinking, when we read in the Scripture earlier, where it says, 'I was as one brought up with him.' You know, it's almost like the Father and the Son grew up as twin brothers."

Doug Batchelor: "First of all, the concept of one is the most misunderstood concept that people struggle with. Moses says, 'Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one.' But it's also Moses who wrote, 'a man leaves his father and mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one.' Well that oneness in the Bible doesn't always mean that it's one numerically. You can remember, Andre, in John 17, Jesus prays the Apostles might be One, even as He and the Father are One. One means unity."

Dr. Woodrow W. Whidden: "I would suggest to you that it is out of the profound Trinitarian oneness, that the wonders of the atonement were cooked up, [...]"

John W. Reeve: "By genus, he means a group of related individuals. That's what Aristotle meant, and that's one of the things that is referred to by the term ousia. That was the way in which it was referred to 'of the same substance with the Father.' We have two beings, with the same characteristics. That's what was intended."
[NOTE: Reeve's claim is patently false--St. Athanasius, who actually attended the Council of Nicaea, explained clearly what was meant by the term ousia/homoousious.]

Dr. Woodrow W. Whidden: "God died. The death of the God-forsaken God, Jesus Christ."

Dr. Paul Petersen: "We need to highlight who God is, and who Jesus is. But, we need to do it in such a way that our pillars, our distinctive traits of Adventism, are not lost. It's easy to say 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,' and end up saying nothing."

Doug Batchelor: "It's like water. You know water can be ice, water can be steam and water can be liquid. It's one thing, but it's three different forms. Well that's actually not a good illustration because God is three separate people."
Caller: "It helps me to understand."
Doug Batchelor: "Okay."

Dr. Woodrow W. Whidden: "The Father died in the sense that He died the thousand deaths that every parent dies when they send their children on a hopeless mission that they know will possibly bring death. God was in Christ in that He was undergirding His Son every step of the way as the Son was responsive to meet the demands of a just mercy so that we could be redeemed. And where was the Holy Spirit in all of this? The Holy Spirit was the agency of Father God to sustain Christ to the very portals of the tomb. Folks, the hell of hell was that moment when Christ said, 'My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?' He was the God-forsaken God! For God's sake and for our sake."

2006 Adventist Theological Society "Trinity Symposium" closing prayer: "Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit, we have spent these last couple days wrestling with who you all are, [...] Thank you for joining together at every point, at creation, and the Cross, and the sanctuary, and the final coming. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen."

Dr. Merlin D. Burt: "They [SDA pioneers] were certainly anti-tritheism."

Dr. Norman R. Gulley: "[...] one God addresses another God."

Dr. Merlin D. Burt: "So yes, there was a careful attempt to avoid that type of perspective."

Doug Batchelor: "A lot of people just get real bent out of shape, they say we're teaching polytheism"

Dr. Norman R. Gulley: "[...] one God addresses another God."

Doug Batchelor: "We worship one God"

Dr. Frank Gonzalez: "God, who is an Adventist God [laughs]"

(Note: Portions of this transcript were derived from written transcripts/articles from the original sources.)

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