The doctrine of the Trinity doesn’t have to be understood to be appreciated.
Do you find the concept of the Trinity hard to understand? I did. Even though I’m a third generation Adventist, born, bred, and raised in the church, I never really understood the Godhead and how God reveals Himself in the Bible. This left me open to be drawn into an anti-Trinitarian movement (often called the One True God movement) that tries to explain God in literal human terms. Those terms often make sense to human minds, but as I discovered, they’re not biblical.
After studying the matter with friends, I came to believe that there is really only one true God, the Father. Jesus Christ was God only because He was the Son of God.
In other words, at some time in eternity past, Jesus proceeded from the Father, and thus He owes His existence to the Father. He is God, I believed, because He is the same substance as the Father. I came to believe that the Holy Spirit was not a person like the Father and the Son, but was the presence and power of the Father and the Son. This belief made sense to me at first. I thought I was closer to God because the literal Father-Son relationship seemed to help me understand the sacrifice of the Father.
But it didn’t last. It took me to the fringes of Adventism and fostered a critical spirit in me. I became critical of the church and got into various conspiracy theories. I came to believe the church set up this whole thing and altered Ellen White’s writings to suit its agenda. I loved to debate this subject on Internet forums, and people often couldn’t answer my arguments.
But I couldn’t solve the nagging problems in the back of my mind. Why were there so many clear Ellen White statements that were hard to harmonize with this teaching? Didn’t she say that the Holy Spirit is a mystery, not clearly revealed? Aren’t we trying to explain this mystery? Why did it seem that so few genuine Christians believed this teaching?
But I pushed these doubts aside by comforting myself that the weight of evidence was in my favor.
Through a long chain of providential circumstances I left the circle of people with whom I was fellowshipping and moved from Queensland to Victoria. Here I began associating with people who were good Bible students, and also Trinitarians. They shared ideas with me that I had not seen before. They raised questions that left cracks and fissures in my foundation.
I distinctly remember talking with one of my Bible teachers regarding my belief that the Son proceeded from the Father at some point in eternity. He said, “If God has foreknowledge, that means He knew about the coming of sin before Christ came into existence. That means He brought Christ into existence to fulfill the plan of redemption. This casts aspersions on the love of God. If the plan of redemption had failed, couldn’t He have begotten another Son? The idea that God can clone Himself and make a Son destroys the whole plan of redemption!”
This and many other things rocked my world and sent me back to the drawing board to restudy my understanding of God. I threw all my preconceptions to the wind and asked God to teach me the truth. Slowly, piece by piece, the picture came together. I studied the Bible and the writings of Ellen White.
I came to understand that Christ is eternal God in every sense of the word, as is the Father. He is self-existent, with life original, unborrowed, and underived. I discovered that the Holy Spirit is an actual person with His own individuality. That His work is to represent Christ to us now that Christ is eternally bound to a human body. The Holy Spirit so perfectly represents Christ that to us His presence is the presence of Christ. This truth makes it self-evident that there are three divine persons in the Godhead. They are a heavenly trio that functions in complete unity. They are not three Gods, but like a family, they all bear the same name. That’s why we baptize in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What’s more, I came to understand the love of God on a much deeper level. I realized that God’s love does not depend on a literal Father-Son relationship as we understand it. The relationship between the Father and the Son is a relationship that has existed from all eternity. It has never been broken from eternity past. Yet They were willing to sever that relationship at Calvary for you and me. What amazing love!
Joel Ridgeway lives in Australia with his wife and three young children. His passion is sharing Jesus through a family business/ministry called Revealer Films. He tells his story in the book Understanding the Godhead: My Personal Journey (RevealerFilms.org/Godhead).