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Though Adventists have been careful and deliberate in their study of many biblical doctrines—for example the doctrines of last-day events, justification by faith, the sanctuary, and the atonement—other doctrines have been neglected. One of them is the biblical doctrine of the Godhead. And perhaps we are now seeing the results of this neglect. Likely it is here that the difficulties with the doctrine of the Trinity begin for some people, and some Adventists in particular.

First, we have a term that is not found in Scripture, and Adventists are determined to base their doctrines on Scripture only. Second, to our modern, analytical, and mathematical minds, the Trinity is a hard concept to understand. How can three equal one, or one equal three? Although the Old Testament emphasizes the exclusive unity of God Deut.

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Of all allusions to this plurality of God in the Old Testament, Isaiah and come very close to a Trinitarian formulation. The New Testament does not have any explicit statement on the Trinity—apart from 1 John , which has been rejected as a medieval addition to the text—but the Trinitarian evidence is overwhelming.

Jesus is clearly described as divine in the Gospel of John John ; , and He himself proclaims His own divinity In the New Testament we find also clear references to the three persons of the Godhead. All three are mentioned at the baptism of Jesus Matt. The Book of Revelation also presents three persons involved in the final events of this world Rev. But all these biblical evidences to the triune God become somewhat ambivalent for some people because the Holy Spirit is often referred to with metaphors of objects: a dove Matt.

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But the history of the development of the doctrine of the Trinity also brings up some issues. Historically, it can be argued that the development of the doctrine of the Trinity is closely connected with the Christological disputes the early church struggled with. When the early church through a series of councils confirmed the eternal divinity of Jesus, it opened the way for a clarification of the relationship between God the Father and Jesus. For the early Church, the fact that Christian faith involved acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord meant that the Trinity quickly found its way into the creeds of the church.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. The early church fathers gave us the vocabulary we use and discuss today. However, another issue for us today is that much of that vocabulary and thought assumed ancient Greek dualism and metaphysics, which are very distant and confusing to us now. Augustine grounded his theology of the Trinity on the concept of relationship and on the bond of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although the Son and the Spirit may appear to be secondary to the Father, this judgment applies only to their role within the process of salvation; they may appear to be subordinate to the Father in history, but in eternity all are equal.

But there have always been strong divergent opinions threatening this consensus. Jaroslav Pelikan believes that during the Reformation, the doctrine of the Trinity was relegated to a secondary position in relation to the immediate moral-religious interest of the Reformers. Most devastating to the doctrine of the Trinity was the impact of Enlightenment rationalism and Deism, an impact that is still felt today.

Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective: An Introductory Christology

Ever since the Reformation, Socinianism had been criticizing the doctrine of the Trinity on both biblical and rational grounds, but during the 18th and 19th centuries the criticisms appeared with growing frequency and insistence also within churches that were professedly Trinitarian in their confessions of faith. Along with Unitarianism, which was gradually beginning to take its place alongside the Trinitarian churches, some American denominations, such as the Christian Connection and some Freewill Baptist churches, became anti-Trinitarian.

Hans Boersma. Biblical Theology.


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