What has God Revealed
I was one of three asked to critique the above book by Glynn Parfitt. My section was pages 243-500 on the Holy Spirit. I thought it would be an unbiased book with “a few mistakes” or “misunderstandings” about what non-Trinitarians believe, and perhaps the author might be willing to change these ‘difficulties’ before it was printed.
Now that I have concluded my section I can see that this would be impossible, as every point is written with a purpose – to weigh the non-Trinitarian position and see if it stands up to the author’s scrutiny, after which the author weighs his evidence in favour of the Trinity. Anyone who accepts this weighing cannot help but accept the Trinity as truth, because not one finalizing question gives less than 94-98+% in favour of the Trinity.
We were not told that our critiques would be printed. This was a shock when some weeks later we found them in the book. Unfortunately, appearing in the book seemed to say we were in favour of the book, which was certainly not correct. However, time has gone by and we have heard no more of the book.
Critique on 'The Trinity'
SECTION: THE HOLY SPIRIT
We all have different personalities. Some do not know how to answer questions. Others do not know how to ask questions. A few people know how to answer every question. The latter appears to fit the author of this book, however, this does not mean his answers are correct.
A personal experience just last week will serve as a demonstration.
When speaking to a brother, who believes the timeline prophecies will be repeated in the future, I am always wrong.
For instance, my statement was ‘1844 is the end of prophetic time’, and the reply given, ‘that doesn’t mean there can’t be literal time’.
Again, ‘Our message isn’t to hang on time’ – ‘it doesn’t because we don’t know when any of the dates begin’.
And again, ‘The GC says 1844 is the last and longest prophetic time’ – its been changed by Prescott. The 1884 and 1888 one doesn’t say that.’
And on and on, without me being right once.
My personal feeling when reading through the objections in ‘The Trinity’ is that the author has given answers in the same way, pulling out a minute point from the statement, and then gathering evidence from the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy to prove it. So, no matter what I say, I will be wrong. It may not be an ability when speaking, only when writing. The author is not dishonest in doing this, but it makes it difficult for the listener or reader to show that he has a thinking mind too.
I found that in reading the objections that at times the answer was so far from the non-Trinitarian position that all I could do was sigh. Often there is a clear answer, but it would take a great deal of explanation, because the whole premise is wrong. When one begins with a faulty base, even the progression is very logical, the conclusion will be wrong. As a result, one must go back to the beginning and explain why the foundation is wrong. This can take many pages of writing, and if the reader is not willing to learn, it will be as if it had not been written.
As I said, the author of ‘The Trinity’ has finished his book, and although he might be willing to learn beyond what he has written, it would not be practical to begin changing his book at this stage.
I have chosen three objections to demonstrate that the author’s answers are not necessarily correct, and in my opinion are entirely wrong.
1. The author of ‘The Trinity’ quotes a number of non-Trinitarians upon which to base his objections. In some cases the person quoted does not speak for those who take this position.
For instance – Objection 8. Fred Allaback says that where Ellen White writes of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, it is interchangeable with the ministry of the angels. I do not know anyone who believes this, so in actual fact, the author is correct when he says that God works for us through the Holy Spirit and the angels.
However, using a false argument means that the objection is invalid and a straw man. In this case, it is the basis of the argument that is wrong, which is something both Trinitarians and non-Trinitarians would concur.
2. Objection 12. (In part) Again Fred Allaback is quoted where he says the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of both the Father and the Son.
This is believed by all non-Trinitarians. The author of ‘The Trinity’ says, “This cannot be the case. He could be the personal Spirit of one, but not of both. Person, personal, personality contains the idea of identity. My personal spirit would mean my own inner being, mind and nature.” The Trinity p254.
This argument is using finite reasoning. Certainly ‘my spirit’ (yours and mine) could not be the spirit of more than one person, but no one can say it cannot be so with God. His Spirit is far beyond our understanding. The Father is the divine Source of the Spirit and it is not up to us mortals to say God cannot do something that we do not understand.
In a further objection (Objection 12 – Can a person be omnipresent?) the other side is given.
The author’s objection is not important here, but he now argues for the infinite nature of God. He says, “Why should it be difficult for an infinite personal being to be everywhere present? Why do we think we must have a God whose infinite nature we can comprehend with our finite minds?” The Trinity p301.
Thus the author argues opposites, something he has charged non-Trinitarians with doing. It is true the Holy Spirit is personal and not simply a force or a power. It is God’s Spirit, and because Christ was begotten of the Father, He received by the inheritance of birth all that belongs to the Father, including His omnipresent Spirit. Answering ‘how’ in any way, is not possible. So of this aspect, as well as to the nature of the Spirit, “silence is golden”, to quote the prophet.
3. Objection 15. Christ is the only being who can enter the heavenly councils.
The author of ‘The Trinity’ quotes Alan Stump and says his quotation is not the only one he could have used, then proceeds to give a number of similar quotations, commenting that the Holy Spirit is not included. Then he says, “However, in 1899, the Holy Spirit is included, even though the statement is brief…”
The full quotation is as given by the author.
“It is the glory of the gospel that it is founded upon the principle of restoring in the fallen race the divine image by a constant manifestation of benevolence. This work began in the heavenly courts. There God decided to give human beings unmistakable evidence of the love with which He regarded them. He ‘so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ John 3:16.
The Godhead was stirred with pity for the race, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit gave Themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption. In order fully to carry out this plan, it was decided that Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, should give Himself an offering for sin. What line can measure the depth of this love? God would make it impossible for man to say that He could have done more. With Christ, He gave all the resources of heaven, that nothing might be wanting in the plan for man’s uplifting.” Counsels on Health p222.
When analysing this statement, it is easy to jump to conclusions that the word Godhead is referring to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but the word ‘Godhead’ does not necessarily mean that ‘the three’ were stirred with pity, which is the first reaction, but if you read the first paragraph you will see that it is God (the Father) who is stirred with pity for the fallen race, and this thought is continued to the end of the second paragraph.
Another point is that the words “the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit gave Themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption”, can appear that they worked out the plan together, however, this is not the only possibility, in fact, when taking into account the numerous statements given by Sr White that it was the Father and the Son who devised or worked out the plan of salvation, it is more than likely it does not mean this. Below are some of these statements.
“The plan of salvation devised by the Father and the Son will be a grand success.” Signs of the Times. Jun 17. 1903.
“Before the fall of man, the Son of God had united with His Father in laying the plan of salvation.” Review & Herald. Sep 13.1906.
“A covenant has been entered into by the Father and by the Son to save the world through Christ.” Signs of the Times. Oct 10 1892.
“In counsel together, the Father and the Son determined that Satan should not be left unchecked to exercise his cruel power upon man.” Manuscript 31. 1911.
We must also include the Bible statement, “…and the counsel of peace was between them both.” Zechariah 6:12.13. This could refer to Christ’s priesthood and kingship, but Sr White says it means the Father and the Son. “In the plan to save a lost world, the counsel was between them both; the covenant of peace was between the Father and the Son.” Signs of the Times. Dec 23. 1897.
So from Sr White’s statements we can see that the Father and the Son devised the plan of salvation together, and seeing Christ is the only being who can enter into the councils of God, this fits perfectly.
But what of the statement that includes the Holy Spirit?
Two points should be noted.
Firstly, the Spirit of God is always a part of God Himself, even though He can operate by that Spirit elsewhere in the universe. So even though the Spirit is not mentioned in most of the statements, God’s Spirit is always there as a part of Himself.
Secondly, ‘working out of the plan’ does not necessarily mean ‘devising or formulating the plan’. It can also mean ‘fulfilling the plan’.
In the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary, ‘work out’ means ‘to effect by labor and exertion’. It does not mean ‘to devise a plan of labor’, but the actual working out of the plan already formulated. A text given as a reference in the dictionary is Philippians 2:13. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”. This does not mean to devise a plan, but to co-operate with God in His plan.
If you read the Ellen White reference again, you will see that the three great powers of heaven “gave themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption”, a plan that had been formulated by the Father and the Son in the councils of heaven prior to the creation of the earth. At the fall of man, the working out of the plan began, and of course, God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all a part of the fulfilling of the plan. No one would argue with this, as we are clearly told that “It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer.” Desire of Ages p671.
I could spend many hours going over every point, however, I feel that the three brief illustrations show simply that there is another way to look at each subject, and the author is not always right. It seems rather pointless going through every objection because it would not be possible for the author to change his position. His manuscript is completed. At times a question answered one way will make a big difference to a question answered further on. But more than that, he has weighed every answer mathematically and then taken those figures to give a final figure. These are not things that can be altered.
The author of ‘The Trinity’ has weighed the evidence according to how he feels each answers weighs. He has tried to be lenient in giving credit at times to the non-Trinitarian position, however, the end result is always in accordance with his own position. Thus by a mathematical formula his conclusions are drawn:
The combined probability that the Holy Spirit is a distinct Being: 99.86%.
The combined probability of there being three fully divine Beings existing from all eternity: 98.6%.
The combined probability that the Trinity is true: 94.3%.
The fact that non-Trinitarians are seen as totally wrong in every case will win some to the Trinity cause, and it may make us look rather foolish, however, if anyone is willing to submit to the Holy Spirit and listen to what God is saying, he/she will know the doctrine, whether it is true or false.
It is not mathematical equations that will convict the seeker for truth, but the Spirit of God. This is the Bible standard, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6. Even when reading answers that attempt to prove the Trinity 94-99% right, suddenly God’s omnipresent Spirit can speak, and make all things clear. When Peter was asked by Jesus who he believed the Son of man to be, he replied, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’. Jesus blessed him and said that this was revealed by “My Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 16:16.17. I do not believe the glorious Father descended from the throne of heaven to whisper in Peter’s ear, but that the Spirit of the Father spoke to him and identified His Son.
In the end, the controversy will be over two things – the day on which we worship and the God who sanctified the day. Today, no matter on which side we stand, if we are surrendered and committed to Jesus, we will know the true God and His Son, and in our great time of need will be empowered to keep holy the seventh-day Sabbath by the true Spirit. But if we do not know God, we will bow the knee to the idol Sunday and its false god, and be lost. It is my prayer that all who read this critique will be in the former group in that day.
Glyn Parfitt has spent countless hours on his book and no doubt is very anxious to have it printed, together with the Biblical Research Institute and the Signs Publishing Company. To all I would say -- with respect -- that this book is a misrepresentation of the non-Trinitarian position. In the Forward by A Leroy Moore, readers are encouraged to “weigh the evidence”, but when the evidence is incorrect, it is quite obvious there will be a very lop-sided result.
I would like to conclude with a Bible verse that gives me encouragement and confidence whenever truth is made to appear as error. “We can do nothing against the truth, but for the truth.” 2 Corinthians 13:8.