The Adventist Review recently posted a survey on Facebook which appears to be designed to link Antitrinitarianism with Last Generation Theology and with those who oppose women’s ordination.
The current resurgence in Antitrinitarianism is not justified by the Bible or the Ellen G. White writings. A small number of persons have recently adopted Antitrinitarian notions and are presenting teachings such as
– There are two persons in the Godhead—the Father and the Son Jesus only—and that there are not three distinct persons.
– The Holy Spirit is not an actual person in Himself.
– There was a time when Jesus as a distinct person actually had a beginning.
All three notions are false. There are three persons, not two (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:13). The Holy Spirit is a distinct person in Himself just as the Father and Jesus. And, Jesus has always existed as a distinct person in the Godhead; He never had a beginning (Micah 5:2; John 1:1-3).
Meanwhile, “Last Generation Theology” is basically a shorthand way to refer to the distinctive Adventist sanctuary package. In the last days God has raised up a movement to follow Jesus fully, and to receive His forgiveness and power for victory over sin (Revelation 14:12; 18:1). As Ellen White writes,
Christ is cleansing the heavenly sanctuary from the sins of the people, and it is the work of all who are laborers together with God to be cleansing the sanctuary of the soul from everything that is offensive to Him (Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, pp. 54, 55).
There is more to say, but Ellen White stated a profound truth in The Great Controversy that
The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, showing that God’s hand had directed the great advent movement and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people” (The Great Controversy, p. 423).
Meanwhile, other voices seem determined to give the impression of a strong connection between LGT and Antitrinitarianism. George Knight, not content to compare General Conference leadership to Nazis and Catholics over the women’s ordination issue, follows a guilt-by-association plan in his new book End-Time Events and The Last Generation (ETETLG). What he does here is similar.
Knight claims in ETETLG that “anti-Trinitarianism is especially strong among the believers in Andreasen’s last generation theology,” and, “It should be noted that not all of the newer voices among the last generation theology believers are anti-Trinitarian,” and, “it is important to realize that the last generation segment of Adventism is far from united on Trinitarian issues,” pp. 113, 114 and 114, respectively). Knight’s attempt to link the recent interest in anti-Trinitarianism among a small number of Adventists and former-Adventists at the margin falls flat. All of the prominent contemporary voices Knight names as supporting Last Generation Theology and who are named in the Seminary book God’s Character and the Last Generation, are fully Trinitarian and fully supportive of the Fundamental Beliefs of the church including the Godhead or Trinity.
Adventist Review editors in early May 2018 posted a short survey on Facebook titled “The Godhead Survey.” Most of the questions composing the survey are significantly misleading. Do we believe that the one God in three persons, whom Ellen White refers to as the “heavenly trio,” are co-equal? or co-eternal? Do we believe that Jesus is eternally submissive to the Father? or functionally submissive? Here are the survey questions:
- God the Father and God the Son share co-equal, co-sovereign divinity. T or F
- Jesus may properly be called God’s only begotten Son because He had a beginning at some stage in eternity past. T or F
- God the Father and God the Holy Spirit share co-equal, co-sovereign divinity. T or F
- Jesus’ eternal subordination to His Father is a divine dimension of the hierarchy also present within God’s created order. T or F
- Jesus’ eternal subordination to His Father illustrates the same principle of headship applicable between husband and wife in God’s ideal for marriage. T or F
- The life of Jesus proves that victory over sin is assured to everyone who trusts in God as Jesus did. T or F
- Before Christ returns God is looking for a generation of people who will vindicate Him by showing a perfect reproduction of the character of Christ.
- Because Christ shared the same human nature that we do, we know that we may overcome as He did.
- How old are you?
- Gender? M or F
What is intended in the survey to be the meaning of “co-equal”? Adventist Fundamental Beliefs do not make this claim. Instead, FB #2 states, “There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons.” The full texts of FBs #2 The Trinity, #3 The Father, #4 The Son, #5 The Holy Spirit, never use language stating that the three divine Persons are co-equal. But Survey questions #1 and #3 use “co-equal” and ask the respondent to indicate True or False.
The second survey question states “Jesus may properly be called God’s only begotten Son because He had a beginning at some stage in eternity past.” The title of the survey, “Godhead,” seems calculated to interest antitrinitarian respondents, who will certainly mark question two as “True.” This response, along with others, will cause it to appear that there is a connection between those who believe regular Adventism, who are thus “LGT,” and those who are Antitrinitarian!
Survey question #4 states, “Jesus’ eternal subordination to His Father is a divine dimension of the hierarchy also present within God’s created order.” But “eternal subordination” is a straw man argument of the pro-women’s ordination faction in the church. Rather, from what we read in the Bible and EGW writings, Jesus chooses to be in functional submission to the Father. Eternally subordinate could indicate a structural or organic difference within the Godhead. We have Bible evidence for functional submission but not for eternal subordination.
Survey question #5 states “Jesus’ eternal subordination to His Father illustrates the same principle of headship applicable between husband and wife in God’s ideal for marriage.” It is wrong to use the term “eternal subordination,” which, again, is not employed by any who support LGT or who oppose women’s ordination. But this question, if answered “True,” would lend support to the idea that male leadership or headship is based on a mistaken view of the relation between the three persons of the Godhead or Trinity.
What the Adventist Review would seek to prove about male leadership using the potential survey results of this misleading Survey?
Questions #6 through #8 would likely be regarded by most Adventists as close to true. We believe that Jesus’ victory shows us how to overcome. Yet we have to ask, Who can claim to trust in the Father with hearts as deeply committed to Him as Jesus did? Yes, that should be our goal. But those trusting the most in Jesus will feel deep distrust in themselves. Such might hesitate to mark this “True.” Christ has not yet come, as He seeks to see His character closely copied in the last generation (Ellen White uses the term “perfectly reproduced.” See Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69; Counsels to Teachers, p. 324). But we must beware of claiming that they vindicate Jesus. By living holy lives, they will give testimony to God’s goodness, and those lives will have a vindicating aspect to them (The Desire of Ages, p. 671), but all should be clear that Jesus’ death on the cross provided the complete sacrifice for our sins and that humans living holy lives in no way add merit to the sacrifice of the cross.
Most will be comfortable answering questions #6, #7, #8 “Yes,” but what would be the result of the finished survey? Question two would assure receiving many “True” answers from Antitrinitarians, while questions 6-8 would provide many “True” answers from Adventists who believe what the Church teaches. Thus, survey results could create the false impression that there is substantial overlap between Antitrinitarianism, Last Generation Theology, and those who support a biblical-qualifications only position with reference to women’s ordination (those opposing women’s ordination).
Thus, the Antitrinitarian error might be used misleadingly to portray conservative Adventists as heretics. The Adventist Review “Godhead Survey” appears to be intentionally designed to create false impressions, false linkages between truth and error.
Was it so designed? We will likely never know.
Hopefully, the survey will be deleted from the Adventist Review’s Facebook page during the next few days. But “The Godhead Survey” is filled with misleading questions, seems to treat the members of the church with contempt, and to be designed for political purposes to divide and confuse conservative Adventists and to unite and advance the insubordinate position of those now combining against the authority of the world church in session and the General Conference. Are the editors at the Review working to unite the Church at this time? Bill Knott’s remarkably awful 2015 article “A Time to Marginalize” reminds us that the Review has been a deeply-divisive source of disunity, right when we need to unify over biblically sound decisions the church has made which have been decided by duly elected delegates in Session.
Let us pray for the appointment of new leadership at the Adventist Review and apology for this remarkable exhibit of deception.
The editor of the Review can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. But at this point, a more effectual course really would be to write to the chair of the Adventist Review, Elder Ted N.C. Wilson, at email@example.com.