An Aussie vs. Dwight Nelson: “Trinity Under Fire”

In the ebb and flow of theories regarding the identity of the Holy Spirit in scripture I’m amused at the plethora of arguments. This morning I decided to tackle an article by an Adventist brother from Australia. I’ve come to see that, unlike many anti-Trinitarians today, his heart seems to be in the right place. His very public and ever-growing website propagates not only his message, but reveals his boldness in approaching church leaders and pastors. Although his actions are directed by a good heart and convictions, sadly I feel it’s his convictions that are misguided and wrong.

His recent letter to Pastor Dwight Nelson (Appeal to Pastor Dwight Nelson) intrigued me. Very early on I learned that when my Australian brother analyzes a speaker, I need to first go to the original source and hear or read for myself the message, before reading his counter argument. This way, I can hear or read, the untainted original source to see what merit, if any, my Aussie friend’s argument(s) may hold.

I must now confess that I find myself surprised at how seemingly ignorant Pastor Dwight Nelson’s sermon was. Hear me out on this…His presentation of the Holy Spirit countered a Modalist perspective. Perhaps he had a specific audience in mind, but I can’t help but wonder why Pastor Nelson never fully addressed the larger issue involving not only the Adventist community, but also the evangelical world where the charge is that the Holy Spirit is nothing more than an extension of God or Christ. However, we’ll leave that alone for now and dissect our Aussie friend’s letter.

In my library sits a brand new unopened book on the Trinity by Whidden, Moon and Reeve. Well over a year old now, I have yet,  for various reasons, to read a single page in the book. One of those reasons was exemplified by Pastor Nelson’s use of one of the quotes from this book in his series “Part 6: The Last Days: ‘Trinity Under Fire'”. Pastor Nelson quoted Whidden, Moon and Reeve who quoted Bruce M. Metzger and Otto H. Christensen. Metzger and Christensen argue that God could not fully love if He were one person. They also suggest that you can only truly love if “three” people are involved1. I’ve also heard Asscherick use this argument with the example of Adam and Eve in the garden having children making the love complete…three are now involved.

I have a problem with this theory. Too many times, we bring God down to our level and interject that He must only fit into the laws of earth. But God is the creator, and as creator He established the laws of this world. Although He works within most of those parameters within our realm, it doesn’t mean that He must or that He couldn’t work outside those parameters anytime He wanted. God Is Love! and Love (God) set those laws in place to help and guide us. It doesn’t mean that Love (the Creator) can’t work outside of His created laws of physics. We have no idea what the other realms are like. Look at the Angels, they neither marry nor bear children (Matt. 22:29-30, Mark 12:24-25, Luke 20:34-36), so there is no second person involved in that scenario and therefore impossible for a third. In this example, when you add God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, it then makes four. An earthly family would be two parents, a child, God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit making it six. The prophet Daniel did not marry and therefore, according to Metzger and Christensen’s theory, he could never truly or fully love or experience complete love.

The theory, and it’s only a theory, of Metzger and Christensen is flawed in my opinion. In the garden all the animals had pairs, and when God saw Adam’s awareness of his singleness, He made woman. Simply put. It didn’t mean that man couldn’t love fully, it just meant he was incomplete. That’s a different issue. Adam would not have had a companion and his days would have been lonely. Sure God could have designed it so that Adam was able to populate the world by himself, but it was companionship that God wanted for Adam.

Our Aussie brother’s letter to Dwight Nelson is warranted. Sadly, the angle he chose to counter saddens me. He chose to make an issue out of an issue that wasn’t even there. He told Pastor Nelson:

The second thing I would like to mention is that the Greek, as you are well aware, indicates that God is agape. My understanding from my studies is that agape is a love that invests value rather than seeks it. God giving His Son to us invests value in us and is indeed agape. Yet when I listened to what you were saying about the love expressed between the Godhead members, I heard something different. I wrote down some of the points from your sermon:

“so God is love. God needs someone else in order to be love”

“for love requires the presence of another to receive it.”

“’For if love be of the essence of God, He must always love. And being eternal’–I thought this was very helpful—‘He must have possessed an eternal object of love. Furthermore,’ keep reading, ‘perfect love is possible only between equals.’ Good point.”

“Oh, come on, God, aren’t I enough? Wouldn’t you be happy with just you and me? And the answer is, “No! I need somebody like Me! To love and receive and give!”

“in order for God to be God and to be love He had to have at least one co-equal, one co-eternal person with whom He bestows love and from whom He receives love. He has to have it or He’s not love”

From what you have said, I understand that the love being described here is a love that needs another to function. It also is seeking for another of equal value or status to itself. This love is a love that seeks for value and a love that needs or desires another. From my understanding of the Greek this type of love is not agape as described in 1 John 4:8 and 1 Cor 13…I do not write to you with any sense of animosity but only a deep sense of respect for you and your ministry which has blessed me in the past. I would not dare say that you are presenting a picture of God as purely eros, but it has several elements that point in this direction. You rightly mention about the serving aspects of God’s loving nature which indeed reflect agape. Yet this combination of eros and agape is the centerpiece of the recent Encyclical of Pope Benedict called “God is love” written in 2005,” (all emphasis that of our Aussie friend).

Dwight Nelson’s sermon was emphasizing the belief of Metzger and Christensen, he was not parsing 1 John 1:8 as our Aussie friend is suggesting. Pastor Nelson’s example was simply one of many supporting his theory, and that is where the Aussie’s challenge falls apart insinuating that Pastor Nelson was saying something else. On one hand I agree with our Aussie friend that Pastor Nelson’s argument is flawed, but I do so for a whole different reason as expressed in the beginning. Both our Aussie friend and Pastor Nelson need be careful in how they present theories. Our Aussie friend went on taking and arranging select texts — similar to Pastor Nelson’s use of 1 John 4:8 — to support his theory of a non-Trinity and “begotten*” Christ. I challenge any reader to read scripture for themselves and not to solely rely on scriptural interpretations of others like Pastor Nelson or our Aussie friend. Yes we need to stick with what our church releases and as you know I use many church resources on this site. But, be selective in whom you go to, and be selective even with those you go to and allow God to impress you and not these men who, like me, all have agendas.

1) see Metzger, Bruce M, The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ, pp. 83 and Christensen, Otto H., Getting Acquainted with God, pp. 58, 59.

(* Admin Note (5/11/2012):  A sentence in the final paragraph originally read “Our Aussie friend went on taking and arranging select texts — similar to Pastor Nelson’s use of 1 John 4:8 — to support his theory of a non-Trinity and created Christ.” It has been changed to reflect the correct belief of “begotten” rather than “created”. In this our Aussie friend believes that Christ at some point in ages past originated from God, that Christ at some point had an origin. I do not dissect or explain that position in this article.)

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