SDARM & the Godhead

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva: The Tritheism of the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement's (SDARM) view of the Godhead

The Reformists of the SDARM generally BELIEVE and TEACH:
- That the doctrine of the Trinity is unscriptural.
- That the doctrine of the Trinity is an invention of the Roman Catholic Church.
- That the Father, Son and Spirit are not of ‘one substance.’  
- The Godhead is composed of three separate, distinct, eternal beings. What the Reformists advocate is a type of pagan Tritheism – the worship of three separate gods. Some Reformists adopt a form of Arianism  Jesus as a 'mini' god and created being not equal to the Father.  Some Reformists adopt a type of Bi-theism – denying the Holy Spirit is a 'person' of the Godhead like the Father or Son. 
The Reformists are WRONG because:
- The doctrine of the Trinity is supported in scripture.
- The doctrine of the Trinity is not an invention of the Roman Catholic Church – it more appropriately was formulated by the Greek-speaking Eastern Church.
- SDARM Reformists misunderstand the word ‘person’ because it means something different in the original Greek than it does in English.
- Tritheism is a belief found in paganism, such as ancient Greece and modern Hindu India.
- In their naivety, Reformists threaten the central message to Moses of monotheism – that there is just one God.

Who do you say I am?  The most basic question
Jesus once asked Peter, as recorded in Mark 8:29:
‘But who do you say that I am?’
Could there be a more basic question for a Christian?  Perhaps the only more basic question would be who or what God is?  For most Christians, the answer to these questions are found in the doctrine of the Trinity – one God in three persons. 
The mainstream SDA Church has what most would consider an ‘orthodox’ or ‘mainstream’ view of the Trinity, as explained in Fundamental 2 of its beliefs:
2. The Trinity:

There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal 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. He is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation. (Deut. 6:4; Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 4:4-6; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:17; Rev. 14:7.)
And yet it appears the Seventh-day Adventist Reform Movement (SDARM) does not really know the answer itself.
Despite focusing on vegetarianism, sleeveless shirts, or measuring the length of a women’s hair, they don’t seem to have a coherent answer to the most fundamental questions of worship.  Whilst they accuse other Churches to be in Babylon, of not worshipping God in the true and proper way, it seems they are not in fact sure what God they actually worship! 

SDARM Smugness: People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones
As will be explored in this article, the SDARM have had some pretty unusual views about the Godhead.  Their latest and current theory is something akin to Tritheism – the worship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three separate gods.
With all respect, this seems to be nothing more than paganism.  As will be discussed, the Reformist view of the Godhead seems to have more in common with the ancient pagan religion of Hinduism, found in India, which worships Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, than it does with the monotheistic Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Christianity. 
Moreover, one can acknowledge that the ultimate question of God is somewhat above human comprehension, which is why we should perhaps avoid being too dogmatic about the whole matter, as if human hubris can put God in a box.  As SDA pioneer Ellen White noted:
‘The revelation of Himself that God has given in His word is for our study. This we may seek to understand. But beyond this we are not to penetrate. The highest intellect may tax itself until it is wearied out in conjectures regarding the nature of God, but the effort will be fruitless. This problem has not been given us to solve. No human mind can comprehend God. None are to indulge in speculation regarding His nature. Here silence is eloquence. The Omniscient One is above discussion.’—The Ministry of Healing, p. 429.
The Eastern Orthodox branch of Christianity, who first developed the doctrine of the Trinity, has long held a similar belief.  Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, these Eastern Christians are careful by avoiding to define the Godhead in detail, which they say detracts from embracing its mystery.
However, rather than being uncommitted and open on the idea, the SDARM adopts such smugness, claiming every other Christian group, including the mainstream SDA Church, is supposedly in Babylon.  As stated by Parick Jones in the 'independent historic' Reformist publication The Godhead Is Composed Of Three Separate, Distinct, Eternal Beings:
‘The term “Trinity” is nowhere found in the Bible. It is an unscriptural term that describes an unscriptural entity… Could it be that many Seventh-day Adventists are ignorantly worshipping the same God that they are told not to worship in the third angel’s message—the god of the beast power? Or are we just calling the true Godhead by the name of a false god? What god are we worshipping today? Could modern Israel, like Israel of old, be worshipping a false god?’
And similarly by A. Balbach, explaining the Reformist position from the SDARM Principles of Faith (1925) in Considerations of the Godhead:
‘In the light of our Principles of Faith (1925), as can be seen, we [the SDARM] do not teach the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity… Although several pioneers held that the rejection of the papal trinity was important, no specific statement in support of Arianism or Semi-arianism ever became part of the present truth… To warn the Adventist people against the introduction of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, is a must; but let us be careful and not go from one extreme to the other. It is definitely wrong to weed out from the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy that which does not agree with our ideas or that which is beyond our comprehension.’
We could well then ask the Reformers the same question, as to who they are worshipping? As this article will demonstrate, their confusion on the matter seems the very epitome of Babel – literally confusion. Again, we could all be more forgiving of their own naïve views if it were not for the fact that they are so dogmatic themselves, being so quick to look at the speck in their brethren’s eye whilst ignoring the plan in their own.

I AM: Jesus is God
Like most things in Christianity, the starting point for this discussion on the Godhead and Trinity begins with the question of Jesus Christ.  
Since the days of the Early Church, some 2,000 years ago, there has been an acknowledgement that Jesus was somehow divine.  There are several passages in the New Testament which clearly support the pre-existent and divine characteristics of Jesus. One of the clearest passages include John 1:1-3,14, where Christ is described as the pre-existent Word (which is in fact was a Jewish concept that predates Christianity):
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’
Moreover in John 8:58-59, Christ calls Himself in the Temple by the name ‘I AM’.  Jesus in effect calls Himself by God’s personal name as revealed to Moses in Ex 3:14.  This amazing claim results in quite a reaction, where the Jewish audience then proceeds to stone Jesus for blasphemy:
‘Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I AM.”  So they picked up stone to throw at him, but Jesus him himself and went out of the temple.’

Finally in Phil 2:6-7, Jesus Christ is described as being in the form of God, but emptied himself to become born as a human being:
‘who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,  but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness’

Abraham’s Monotheism: Worship of One God
There has been a problem, however, since the days of the Early Church.  If Jesus is God, then how can there be just one God – the foundation of monotheism?  After all, both the Old Testament and New Testament are clear that there is only one God.
To suggest otherwise is to do away with the very purpose for which Abraham left Chaldea, as well as God’s purpose in raising up Moses and the Children of Israel. To abandon the worship of one God is simply to embrace paganism – the worship of many gods.  After all, as the Shema Judaism in Deut 6:4 states:
‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the LORD is one.’
Jesus Himself affirmed in Mark 2:29 that the greatest commandment is the worship of just one God:
‘Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one”’
Furthermore, the first commandment of the Decalogue in Ex 20:3 clearly requires:
‘you shall have no other gods before me.’
Finally, as made explicitly clear in Isaiah 44:6, if it could not be any clearer:
‘Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel and his redeemer the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; and beside me there is no God’

A difficult question: Christian theories about Jesus and the Godhead
So how did Early Christians reconcile the fact that Jesus was God, but then not contradict the very basis of the Abrahamic faith, which is the worship of just one God? For about the first few centuries, there was no clear solution to the issue. 
If one is totally honest, the New Testament writers themselves did not come up with and communicate one clear and unambiguous overarching theory – to some extent the answer is still a mystery.  Instead, the Apostles largely merely left the ingredients.
It was left to future generations to explain how these different pieces, where each piece in itself is wholly biblical, somehow fit together to make one coherent whole.  The most common solutions included as follows:
Arianism held that Jesus was a divine god, or was god-like, but he was not the ultimate God.  Arianism was developed by a bishop called Arius in c.250-336 CE. 
Instead, Jesus was merely the first creation of God, and through Jesus everything else was created. Thus, this theory maintained that Jesus was divine, but it also ensured there was only one God (who wasn’t Jesus).  Therefore, Jesus is not the God of the Bible, but just the greatest creature. 
The main problem with Arianism is it denied the central tenet of Phil 2:6-7 – that Jesus was God and was equal with God. Arianism also seemed to deny Christ’s self-description in John 8:58-59 as the one and only God of the Old Testament, the transcendent ‘I Am’.  It further seemed to deny God’s own divine power in of Himself, where in John 10:18 Jesus confirms He has the power to raise Himself from the grave.  Finally, because Arianism treats Christ as a mere creature, it seemed to deny His designation as the true and unchangeable alpha and omega of Heb 13:8 and Rev 22:13 – the eternal beginning and end of everything.
Finally, Arianism seemed to be a little too reminiscent of the pagan-Greek philosophical idea of Gnosticism, which had begun infiltrating the Church in the time of the Apostles.  It was the Gnostics who taught the Hebrew Creator of the Garden of Evil was actually an evil Demiurge, or flawed little god.  It was in response to Gnostic infiltrators in the Early Church that John had accused some of being anti-Christ in 1 John 4:3 (as Gnostics believed Jesus was only in a spirit-form and not really in the flesh, known as Docetism).
Arianism was quite popular amongst early Adventist pioneers.  However, SDA pioneer Ellen White seemed to have more ‘orthodox’ leanings, and such  her teachings eventually came to influence the early SDA Church:
This Saviour was the brightness of His Father's glory and the express image of His person. He possessed divine majesty, perfection, and excellence. He was equal with God. (2T 200)
‘The Son of God was in the form of God, and he thought it not robbery to be equal with God. (2SP 10)
Jehovah’s Witnesses are probably the best known modern group who essentially adhere to Arianism.
The next theory was Modalism, also known as Sabellianism or Monarchianism.  It essentially held that there is just one God, but it is just the believer who perceives there to be more than one deity.  In support of the Modalist position is the acknowledgment that the original meaning for ‘person’ does not mean as we understand it in English, but in Greek is hypostasis or prosopa and in Latin personae – literally ‘faces’ or ‘masks’. A classic Modalist text is John 14:10, where Jesus makes clear there is no difference between Him and the Father:
‘"Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?’   
In this way, Modalists affirmed Jesus is God, and at the same time ensured the worship of just one God. The reason God can appear to be in more than one place at once, as perceived by the believer, is because God is omnipotent – He is everywhere.
In opposition to Modalism, it was said to contradict passages such as the Great Commission in Matt 1:16-17, which describe God as separate – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Moreover, much like Arianism, a main argument against Modalism was that it derived principally from pagan-Greek teachings that had infiltrated Christianity. Some Modalists even suggested Jesus was not pre-existent, but only came into being when made flesh on earth.
Ellen White, in her opposition to Kellogg’s Pantheism, raised concerns with any theory that suggested the Father did not have a personality as a personal being:
‘The new theories in regard to God and Christ, as brought out in "The Living Temple", are not in harmony with the teaching of Christ. The Lord Jesus came to this world to represent the Father. He did not represent God as an essence pervading nature, but as a personal being. Christians should bear in mind that God has a personality as verily as has Christ. (Letter 212, 1903 in SpM 324)
Oneness Pentecostal Churches are probably the best known modern group who essentially adhere to Modalism.  They are usually well known for only baptising in Jesus’ name rather than using the traditional formula of baptising in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The final and most widely held Christian view is Trinitarianism. The doctrine of the Trinity is commonly described as being ‘One God in three persons.’ 
Texts used in support of the Trinity include Gen 1:26, 3:22 and 11:7, where God talks about the plural ‘us’ - and plural in the present tense and not merely a succession of modes.  The word God there is Elohim, which can have a plural meaning. Other hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament include Isaiah 48:16, which talk about Lord (Father), sent (Christ) with Spirit (Holy Spirit), as well as Psalms 110:1 (referred to by Jesus in Matt 22:44), where the Lord speaks to my Lord.
In the New Testament, the word ‘Trinity’ is never used – but neither is ‘Arian’, ‘Seventh-day Adventist’, ‘Soul Sleep’ and a whole bunch of other doctrinal labels.  There are, however, clear ingredients in the New Testament that can be combined by the careful reader.  These include 2 Cor 13:13, which distinguishes Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit:
‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you’
There is also the clear Trinitarian formula found in the Great Commission of Matt 28:19:
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ 
There are also a range of biblical parallels or examples including: marriage, where two become one in flesh, and the third in the relationship is God who makes the union (Gen 2:24); the human person made up of mind, body and spirit (breath); and the Church itself, as if made up of different organs working together (1 Thes 5:23; Heb 4:12).
To take the example of water:
  • Arianism, which would view two containers of liquid, a superior and pure container of water (Father-God) and a lesser pure container of say wine (Son-lesser-god);
  • Modalism, which would view only one container of water, which goes from liquid (Father), to ice (Son) to steam (Spirit) in three different and successful states, which cannot exist in different states at the same time, and where there is only ever one container of water; and
  • Trinitarianism, which would view three containers of water, one of which is liquid (Father), one ice (Son) and one steam (Spirit); thus, all three containers share the same essence (H2O water) but there are in fact still three separate containers existing separately in different states at the same time. 
This Triune view was crystalized in the Councils of Nicaea (325) and Constantinople (381), and became known as the Nicene Creed. However, as explored further below, one needs to be careful because English terminology may not adequately explain what was originally meant by the Trinitarian formula. The term one ‘God’ was actually in Greek one ousia, meaning one ‘essence’; the term three ‘persons’ was actually three hypostaseis, meaning three existences or entities.

Trinity: Biblical or Roman Catholic
At this point it is necessary to dispel two myths.  First, is the accusation, as observed in the SDARM quote above, that the Trinity is not biblical because the word ‘Trinity’ is not found in the New Testament.  The word isn’t found, but neither is the phrase ‘Seventh-day Adventist’ ever used in the New Testament to describe God’s Church.  Rather, theological terms are merely short-cut labels are not in of themselves proof of anything.  Moreover, Adventists, including the SDARM, have long recognised the importance of present truth, new light and progressive revelation.  Thus, theological developments did not end with the Apostles, as the Holy Spirit continues to pour out his gifts on His people.
Secondly, it is not exactly true to describe the doctrine of the Trinity as Roman Catholic – it would be more accurate to describe it as Eastern Orthodox.  The Councils of Nicea (325 CE) and Constantinople (381 CE), like most of the early Councils of Christianity, were held in the Greek-speaking Eastern Empire.  The eventual formulation owes much to the Cappadocian Fathers, who were all Greek-speaking Eastern Christian leaders.
As such, the doctrine of the Trinity had little to do with the Western-rite Latin Roman Catholic Church.  In fact, when the Roman Catholic Church did eventually become involved several centuries later, they caused much havoc with their introduction of their Filioque clause.  This Roman Catholic change to the Trinity was then rejected and continues to be today in the Eastern half of Christianity.
Moreover, as discussed above, the word ‘person’ in English is a rather poor translation of the Latin personae, which is itself a poor translation of the original Greek hypostasis. Even the Protestant Reformers largely inherited this Latin confusion, because contrary to common perception, most Western Christians at the time were unfamiliar with the Greek Nicene Creed but instead used the Latin Athanasian Creed.
Thus, much of the current confusion in the West about the Trinity owes to a translation error of a translation error.  This confusion extended through to the Protestant Reformers.  By contrast, the Eastern Orthodox Christians who formulated the original doctrine are more in-line with Ellen White’s own advice to accept the mystery of the Father and Holy Spirit, without trying to define exactly what it means to call them ‘persons’.  Therefore, when people like the SDARM say they reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, they need to be clearer as to whether they are or are not rejecting the original formulation of the Greek-speaking Eastern Church, or just the Roman Catholic variation.

Back to the future: Evolution in Adventist thought about the Godhead   
The mainstream SDA Church now has what most would consider an ‘orthodox’ or ‘mainstream’ view of the Trinity, as explained in its Fundamental 2, keeping in mind the Western version (from the Roman Catholics) is slightly different from the original Eastern Orthodox variation.   However, this was not always so.  As observed by Gerhard Pfandl, The Doctrine of the Trinity Amongst Adventists (Biblical Research Institute: 1999), in its earliest day Arianism dominated Adventism for a time, together with smatterings of Modalism and even Pantheism. 
However, slowly, in no small amount due to the influence of SDA Pioneer Ellen White, a move away from Arianism occurred towards a Trinitarian position.  In her dramatic book, the Desire of Ages, Ellen White wrote:
From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father (19).
In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. . . . The divinity of Christ is the believers assurance of eternal life (530).
The Saviour came forth from the grave by the life that was in Himself (785).
Sin could be resisted and overcome only through the mighty agency of the Third Person of the Godhead (671).
Although she never used the word ‘Trinity’, Ellen White had an essentially Trinitarian understanding of God, stating in Special Testimonies, B (1905):
The Father can not be described by the things of earth. The Father is all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight.
The Son is all the fulness of the Godhead manifested. The Word of God declares Him to be "the express image of His person."
"God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Here is shown the personality of the Father. 
The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fulness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit-- those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.
Finally in 1931, the doctrine of the Trinity was finally enshrined in the SDA fundamental beliefs.  Although this occurred after the death of Ellen White, she had laid much of the foundations for development in this doctrine, according to Adventist understandings of progressive revelation and present truth – as opposed to the creedal stagnation found in both in SDARM and Papal Rome.

The Truth: Which Truth?
The SDARM often likes to say it has The Truth.  But when it comes to the question of who or what God is, it appears they don’t or at least haven’t had The Truth for very long.  As Helmut Kramer, in SDA Reform Movement at page 55 observes:
‘The Reform Movement has never had a clear understanding of the nature of the Godhead. In the booklet, Principles of Faith, it is still stated that the Holy Spirit is a power. No mention is made that He is also a personal Being. It was not until the General Conference (IMS) session in 1978 that it was acknowledged for the first time that the Holy Spirit is actually a Person. Despite the decision to this effect, there are still leading men who strongly dispute this teaching.
Even more sad is the belief and teaching of some of the General Conference leaders regarding the divinity of Christ. Until recently, Arianism, the teaching that Christ is a created being, was taught at the mission school for potential workers. As late as the General Conference Committee (IMS) session of 1980, workers were requested to teach that Christ, while on earth, was totally human without any divinity.’
Given they seem to be so late to the party, in only recently abandoning Arianism, one would think the SDARM would be a little less arrogant in condemning other Christian groups.  This is especially true of condemning the mainstream SDA Church, for its views of the Godhead.  The SDARM effectively says they condemn others for concepts they seem to admit they don't really understanding themselves.  

Everyone not on the same page: Confusion in the SDARM ranks
The other interesting situation is that despite all of the above, it appears many within the SDARM have not received the memo that their Church does not teach a belief in the Trinity.  For example, in the ‘About Us’ section for the SDA Reform Movement, Temple Hills MD, it states:
’About SDA Reform Movement
: Adventists believe a Trinity of three persons–the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit–make up one God. 

Three deities without a shared essence: The SDARM rejection of the Trinity
So what are the SDARM concerns about the Trinity? According to the SDARM, there are supposedly a number of errors that makes the doctrine of the Trinity heresy.  According to Parick Jones, in the 'independent historic' Reformist publication The Godhead Is Composed Of Three Separate, Distinct, Eternal Beings, these alleged errors include the following:
* ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all of one substance.
* Three “Persons” are really not persons, but “manifestations” of one mega-god.
* The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not “united”, but “triune.”
* Not eternal, but “co-eternal”.
* The Son, and Holy Spirit not “un-derived.”
* The one mega-God is a spirit without body or parts.’
And as explained by A. Balbach, Considerations of the Godhead, as to the SDARM problems with the Trinity:
‘We think they would do a much better job if they directed their thrust only at the erroneous aspects of the dogma, such as these two:
"From all eternity, [the Son] is generated, He is begotten, in the divine mind of the Father."
"The doctrine of the Trinity is intended to affirm the threefold oneness of God… one God who makes himself known in three ways of being."’
It is probably best to address each of these concerns in turn.  However, one should realise no two theologians in the world probably agree on what the ‘persons’ of the Trinity really means. Again, that is fine, if we adopt the position of the Eastern Orthodox Churches and Ellen White in not trying to be too dogmatic about an issue is beyond human comprehension.

Eternal God: Son begetting and Spirit proceeding from the Father
The first major concern of the SDARM is understandable, in that the doctrine of the Trinity as taught by many might suggest Jesus and the Holy Spirit are not eternal because they somehow come from the Father.  However, this is again more a problem of terminology than substance.  For the avoidance of doubt, to say the Son and Spirit come forth from the Father is not to suggest they are somehow created or not eternal like the Father, as that would be Arianism.
The preliminary question is to contemplate the nature of the universe.  The pagan Greeks taught the universe was eternal chaos, to which the Gnostic-Demiurge god fashioned into everything.  The first Christians on the other hand rejected this teaching, instead holding to the doctrine of creation ex nihilo.  This means everything, even space and time itself, are not eternal, but mere creations – only God is eternal!  Modern science itself proves this as fact.
Although it is difficult for human beings to understand, space is not eternal.  As explained by Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Everything, if you could travel in a faster-than-light space ship in one direction through space, you would never reach the edge of the universe.  Rather, you would simply end up in the same spot you left from.  This is because according to Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity space itself is curved.  A two-dimensional analogy we can understand is the world’s surface, where if you travelled in one direction long enough you would never reach an edge but rather end up at your starting point.
Similarly, time is not eternal, as only God is the transcendent ‘I AM’.  Contrary to our intuitions, time ticks at different rates depending upon our speed and location throughout the universe.  For example, extremely accurate atomic clocks in space pass at a slightly different rate than those on earth.  Again, Einstein predicted all this.  To account for this, special clocks on satellites have to be installed otherwise our GPS system would not work – nor would the internet you are reading this article on.
So if space and time itself are created, and not eternal, what does that say about God?  Well it means in the beginning of Gen 1:1 there was nothing – not even the empty vacuum of space, because that would still be ‘something’.  Only God existed in the very beginning.
But when God created the universe, what happened?  Well, it appeared a ‘person’ of Godhead ‘remained behind’ and omnipotent, which is the Father; a ‘person’ of Godhead proceeded to be everywhere and omnipresent, which is the Holy Spirit; and a ‘person’ of the Godhead ‘lowered’ itself to adopt a corporal form/body, an omnibenevolent act which is the Son.
In this way, the Son is begotten and the Spirit proceeds from the Father, but the Son and the Spirit are not ‘created’ – they always were with the Father in the beginning.  Thus, it seems the SDARM has made a ‘rookie’s mistake’, in wrongly thinking the Trinity promotes the notion of a created Jesus and Holy Spirit, which would be the heresy of Arianism.  It is highly complicated, so that mistake is understandable, but why then call those who believe in the Trinity apostate and in Babylon?
One mega-God without parts: meaning of ‘person’
The second major concern of the SDARM is that it seems that by rejecting the English-word meaning of ‘person’, that someone means the Trinity denies the distinction or differences of the Father, Son or Holy Spirit.  However, that would be to promote the heresy of Modalism, which is to say the persons of the Godhead just appear as perceived from the observer to be distinct but are not.  
The original Greek-speaking Christians who formulated the Nicene Creed were quite cognisant of this problem. As discussed above, the word ‘person’ in English is a rather poor translation of the Latin personae, which is itself a poor translation of the original Greek hypostasis. As observed by Edward W. Bauman, Beyond Belief (quoted in the book Faith in Search of Understanding, by John B. Magee):
‘In attempting to define more precisely what is meant by the threefold oneness of God, the church has spoken of God "in three Persons," a practice that goes back to the third century. Translation of the Latin word persona as "person" can be misleading, however, because the third-century meaning is quite different from the meaning today. The word originally referred to the mask worn by actors in a play, then to dramatic roles in the play, and only much later to the conscious self or ego, the individual "person." Use of the term today in connection with the Trinity implies that there are three personal divine beings in one God, a definite form of tritheism. In contrast to this, the doctrine of the Trinity is intended to affirm the threefold oneness of God.’
A good biblical analogy is the human body, which the Church is described as being analogous to (Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 12:12). Organs of the body, are distinct and separate, but they all work together as part of some greater interconnected whole.  As we all know, the ‘lowliest’ organ such as the colon to the ‘highest’ organ such as the brain, have to be in perfect unison otherwise the person dies.  Our own bodies are also made up of billions of tiny individual cells, and yet they cannot exist except as a collective, and we still consider ourselves as ‘one.’
As explained above, the word ‘person’ in Greek is a broader concept and does not mean quite the same as what it means in English. For example, Jesus Christ had arms and legs and a corporal form we humans can understand – even in His pre-incarnate OT form as the Angel of the Lord or Michael the Archangel seems to be a ‘person’ as created beings could relate to (Genesis 16:7; 22:11-15; Exodus 3:2-4; Numbers 22:22-38; Judges 2:1-3; Judges 6:11-13; and Judges 13:3-22). 
By comparison, the nature of the Holy Spirit’s existence as an entity seems to be radically different, as the Holy Spirit is omnipresent (everywhere at once), as the Bible attests (Psal 139:7-10).  As such, the nature of the Holy Spirit’s existence as a ‘person’ is beyond comprehension, because we can’t really grasp something existing everywhere at the same time. 
However, whilst we can’t understand or describe how the Holy Spirit is a ‘person’ exactly, we equally need to avoid denying that separate substance or existence, because that would lead to Modalism and Pantheism. Again, as to the hubris of making dogmatic judgments as to what type of ‘person’ the Holy Spirit is exactly, Ellen White noted:
‘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 51-52)
Similarly, we need to be careful in imposing a limited human understanding of ‘person’ when contemplating the true nature of the existence of the Father. Ellen White seemed to acknowledge this difficulty in understanding what type of ‘person’ the Father is:
I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus' countenance 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. He said He had, but I could not behold it, for said He, If you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist.’ (EW 54)
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.” (EW 77)
‘The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both. (PP 36)
Therefore, the Father, Son and Spirit share the same essence as one monotheistic God, but in different existences, substances or personalities.  If we forget this slight but important distinction, we fall into danger of breaking the second commandment of the Decalogue in Ex 20:4:
‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.’
Thus, it seems the SDARM has made another ‘rookie’s mistake’, in wrongly thinking the Trinity denies the distinctive and separate existences of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, which would be the heresy of Modalism.  Again, it is highly complicated, so that mistake is understandable, but why then call those who believe in the Trinity apostate and in Babylon?

The very worst solution: SDARM Tritheism
The implication of the SDARM’s rejection of the Trinity is to embrace Tritheism, the worship of three separate gods - like the Greek gods on Olympia.   This is by far the worst solution.  Although Arianism, Modalism and Trinitarianism view God’s oneness and separateness differently, at least all three theories ultimately seek the same thing – to preserve Jesus’ divinity but also the unity of just one monotheistic God.
Tritheism by contrast effectively denies the oneness of God.  It is about as monotheistic as Hinduism, with its worship of thousands, if not millions of gods, which they teach are mere manifestations of one divine. 

The mistakes of Aaron: The Golden calf of the SDARM
It appears that the Reformers have fallen for the original ‘rookie’s mistake’ of them all.  Instead of acknowledging we are made in God’s image, they have attempted to make God in ours.  They have read the English word ‘person’, which is a poor translation of a poor translation, and come to an erroneous conclusion that this must mean a person in the limited human sense of the term.
In effect the SDARM have made the same mistake as Aaron and the children of Israel. They have abandoned the mysterious ‘I AM’ that they couldn’t understand and instead made a man-made god in their own image.

Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva: SDARM views amount to paganism
As a final word, it seems the Refomers’ view of God seems not that dissimilar from the Hindu Tritheism of Brahma, Vishnu and Sheva.  Whilst the understanding of the Godhead is exceptionally difficult, if not beyond comprehension, it is astounding the SDARM could be so brazen in calling other Christians, including the mainstream SDA Church, as apostate. Again, the problem is not just the SDARM view of the Godhead, but that they would have the cheek to condemn the mainstream SDA Church over a topic they clearly have no proper understanding of themselves.
Whilst the Reformers are quick to claim the mainstream SDA Church is part of the three frog confederation of Satan, they are in fact the ones who are promoting the worship of three separate gods like the ancient pagans of old.  How do they really differ from those ancient Canaanites who tried to give Yahweh a wife in Asherah (the 'Queen of Heaven') and Baal? So who is calling who is in Babylon?  

Three Frogs: Diagram about different theories on the nature of God
For our SDARM friends, the following is a helpful series of diagrams explaining the main theories on the nature of God.  We can only hope our Reformist viewers become more familiar with these main concepts of the Godhead before they go ahead and calling others Babylon.


  1. Listen and watch as independant, renegade, John Thiel describes how HE will be part of the Godhead.

    1. Had a look at this from 'independent historic' Reformer John Thiel (for those who don't know who you are talking about).

      The link suggests: 'Independent adventist minister John Thiel comes out as a divinely appointed prophet and declares that he shall be part of the God head and equal with Christ.'

      The statement of John Thiel emphasized in the link seems something along these lines (at about the 5-min mark):

      "We have the privilege, as heirs of God, of being part of the position of the Godhead. People try to pull me up on this asking, 'Are you trying to say we can be part of the Godhead. Isn't this what it teaches? If you were to die in Christ, you would be God. The world does not know this or understand this. Who believes this - if you don't, then you separate yourself from the Godhead."

      Scary, scary stuff!

      Then interestingly John Thiel's statement is compared with the teachings of Joseph Smith, that we can become gods. The Mormons are well known for this belief.

      However, I think what John Thiel is teaching is also found in many Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Budhhism. This is Nirvana.

      Similar teachings are in fact found in Roman Catholicism. It is the idea of 'apotheosis'. Cyril of Alexandria in the 4th-Cent was the first to use this idea to justify the doctrine of transubstantiation, which is the idea that the Eucharist (bread) is the literal body of Jesus, which is necessary so we can become part of the Godhead.

      I wonder if John Thiel has been influenced by Mormonism, Eastern Religions or Roman Catholicism - or all of them.

      Finally, I have heard it said that the accusations of sexual sin against John are lies, and that in fact he was expelled from the SDARM because of his views on the nature of Christ. However, I wonder if that is right - John was expelled from the SDARM because of these heretical views - so at odds with monotheism and Protestant Christianity.

    2. John was disfellowshiped from the SDARM for sexual sin or the apearance of it, he seized upon the SDARM 1999 declaration of Christ as an excuse to seperate from the ADARM and take his gaggle of female devotees with him.

    3. Interesting. What sort of group does he have now? I assume not connected with any of the SDARM factions? For all the faults of the SDARM, at least as a world-wide institution, there are inherent checks and balances. As a one-man show now, I guess there really are no checks and balances on his control over his devotees? I probably don't know enough about it, but the parallels to David Koresh come to mind.

  2. Read the book "Divine Truth or Human Tradition" by Patrick Navas. All your arguments are refuted therein.

  3. "Before Abraham was, I am" just means "I am before Abraham was." "I am" is the historical present. Jesus was answering a question about his age: "You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?"

    1. The crowd’s reaction, which seems an attempt at stoning for blasphemy, suggests the audience understood the statement as a divine claim. Why would they do this if Jesus was merely saying something as innocuous as "I am Jesus"?

  4. Really "I am" is the most common subject verb combination in every language. If "I am" is being used as a title the sentence lacks a predicate.

    1. You seem to be referring to John 8:15:

      “Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stone to throw at him, but Jesus him himself and went out of the temple.”

      The Greek words, ego ami, ‘I am’, can be simply a phrase of common speech as we would use ‘It is I’ or ‘I am the one’. However, it also has a solemn and sacred use in the Old Testament as the divine covenant name of the One True God, derived from the verb ‘to be’, which most Biblical scholars now translate as 'Yahweh' – God’s personal name as explained to Moses in the burning bush.

      It seems you are thinking in English – not Koine Greek. Greek often drops the predicate because of implication. As R Bauckham correctly noted, English translators have trouble smoothly translating the absolute aorist infinitive that lacks a predicate nominative into something that would be intelligible in English.

      The fact of no possible predicate does not support your argument – it supports mine. Where Abraham’s coming into existence is described with an aorist infinitive, Christ’s is described as an absolute present tense; an existence initiated by birth compared with absolute existence. Jesus applied the divine title “I am” (egō eimi) in the absolute (i.e., with no supplied predicate) to Himself on seven (or possibility eight) different occasions! The phrase does indeed become intelligible without an implied predicate EXCEPT as an allusion to the Divine Name.

      Moreover and most convincing of all, the crowd’s reaction, which seems an attempt at stoning for blasphemy, suggests the audience understood the statement as a divine claim. Why would they do this if Jesus was merely saying something as innocuous as "I am Jesus"?

  5. The Jews' attempt to kill Jesus in John 8 is the result of their long and intense verbal disputation throughout the entire chapter. Prior to Jesus' statement in 8:58, he said that the Jews were already seeking to kill him (8:37). He referred to them as slaves of sin, children of their father the devil, rebels against the word of God, and liars following in the footsteps of the father of lies. Finally he claimed to preexist the father of their nation, which was the straw that broke the camel's back and thus led to the Jews finally trying to stone him.


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