The answer all depends on whom you ask, I suppose, and in what context they are answering.
This Sabbath I went to visit a local Adventist church. The people sang a Nicean hymn. I took a picture of it (see attached pic). It’s quite a popular one in Adventism too.
Do the SDA people really think about what they sing? Is their conception of God truly Nicean?
Or what if a Catholic or Protestant was to ask SDA leadership what is their trinitarian belief? Honestly, they might get this response:
A Statement by SDAs to the Protestant/Evangelical World:
I. IN COMMON WITH Conservative Christians AND THE HISTORICAL PROTESTANT CREEDS, WE BELIEVE— …. 2. That the Godhead, the Trinity, comprises God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Questions on Doctrine pg 21)
A Statement by a SDA to the World Council of Churches:
“The member churches of THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES AND SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTSISTS ARE IN AGREEMENT ON THE FUNDAMENTAL ARTICLES OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH AS SET FORTH IN THE THREE ANCIENT SYMBOLS (Apostolicum, NICAENON-CONSTANTINOPOLITUM, ATHANASIUM). This agreement finds expression in UNQUALIFIED ACCEPTANCE OF THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY and the Two-Natures.” (So Much In Common, p. 107 (1973) Co-authored by B.B. Beach and Dr. Lukas Vischer- Faith and the Order Secretariat of the WCC.)
A Statement by a SDA (Director of the Biblical Research Institute) to a Representative Group of Roman Catholics:
“Nature of God. A reading of the above statements will show that with respect to their doctrine of God SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS ARE IN HARMONY WITH THE GREAT CREEDAL STATEMENTS OF CHRISTENDOM, including the Apostles’ Creed, NICEA 325), and the additional definition of faith concerning the Holy Spirit as reached in CONSTANTINOPLE (381)”. (George Reid, Seventh-day Adventists: A Brief Introduction to Their Beliefs, Biblical Research Institute)
A Statement by a SDA to the Methodists:
“…In an odd sort of way, the somewhat isolated, anti-ecumenical Adventists, thanks to their proselytizing success, BECAME ECUMENICAL IN THE SENSE THAT THEY WERE ABLE, THROUGH THESE CONVERTS, TO TAP INTO THE GREAT TRADITION OF THE ECUMENICAL CREEDS OF THE FIRST FOUR CENTURIES. (Woodrow Whidden: Andrews University Berrien Springs, MI (USA) A Paper Presented to The Tenth Oxford Institute of Methodist Theol. Studies Working Group: History of Wesleyan Traditions: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries August 12-22, 1997 Oxford University Somerville College)
A Statement to SDA church members studying with other Christians:
In the book Studying Together by Mark Finley we read that “the Godhead or the Trinity” is one point of “doctrinal beliefs held” by SDAs “in common with” the following denominations: “the Baptists… non-denominational Bible churches …Catholics …Episcopalians ….Lutherans ….Methodists ….Nazarenes….Presbyterians ….Seventh-day Baptists (see pgs 123, 127, 131, 143, 163, 164, 166, 182, 190, 204)
Note: These churches tend to be creedal trintiarians! In fact, the Methodist creed and Presbyterians overtly teach that God is without body and parts! Do SDAs really have this belief “in common with” them? Is that an impression they want to make?
A Statement by a SDA about what Catholics think of SDAs:
“…THE CATHOLIC SIDE RECOGNIZES in the document the Christocentric character of our beliefs, AND ESPECIALLY OUR BELIEF IN THE TRINITY, as well as ecclesiological identity of the Church, a status affirmed by an act of the Polish Parliament. On our part, we spoke of a need to change attitudes toward our denomination and recognized the openness of the Catholic Church, especially in recent times, toward the Bible,” Lyko explained. [“Adventist Church Cannot be Treated as a Sect,” Say Adventists and Catholics in Poland, Feb, 14, 2000]
A Statement to SDAs about Adventist participation in UN and Ecumenical Meetings:
“Adventists value unity just as God does. Unity is grounded in the existence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit…. Unity is dear to the heart of God. The whole plan of salvation demonstrates God’s determination to unite His divided and dispersed family, which He created in His image. Unity is grounded in the being of God who is Trinity: a unity in Trinity…. Seventh-day Adventists support Christian unity as they join the Triune God who is determined to gather people He created in His image. (Ganoune Diop “Why Adventists Participate in UN and Ecumenical Meetings”)
Another Statement to SDAs explaining the mystery of the trinity:
[Picking up papers] “This statement here is from THE OFFICIAL CATHOLIC DOCTRINE ON THE TRINITY, ladies and gentlemen, 26 pages long. I’ve read most of it but let me share something with you. Right in the beginning the dogma of the trinity here is the official position of the Roman Catholic church. And I’m not here trying to defend the Catholic church, I’m showing you that we should not be speaking contrary to what they believe and falsely representing them. Because when you do that, whether you are a pastor or a lay person, ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you what’s happening – you are breaking the 10 commandments of God, whether you know it or not. Because if you do that you are bearing false witness against your neighbor and, ladies and gentlemen, I don’t want to do that. And if I can find equal ground, equal footing, with somebody of another religious persuasion so that I can get them, convince them, to sit down with me and study Bible prophecy and say ‘Hey listen we have some similarity here.’ And if God has opened the door for that to happen, ladies and gentlemen, why would I want to turn around and make an enemy out of that certain individual simply because I have a misunderstanding of their doctrinal position on something. I don’t want to do that. I want to find commonality with people so that I can share with them the 3 angels’ message, what do you say? And that’s what I want to do as a Christian but look at this. [Reading now from paper] “The trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion, the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are 3 Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These 3 Persons being truly distinct one from another” – that sounds like the statement I just read here at the beginning of this, concerning this book – 3 distinct personalities all inclusively being part of the Godhead, which I see more as the family name in the nature of God. [Reading from paper again] “Thus in the words of the Athanasian creed the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God and yet there are not three Gods but one God. In this trinity of persons the Son IS BEGOTTEN OF THE FATHER BY AN ETERNAL GENERATION” – in other words they’re saying we really don’t understand it, that’s what they’re really saying from what I’m getting from this. They go on and say, very interestingly, and [reading from paper again] “THE HOLY SPIRIT PROCEEDS BY AN ETERNAL PROCESSION FROM THE FATHER AND THE SON notwithstanding THIS DIFFERENCE AS TO ORIGIN the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal, all alike are uncreated and omnipotent” – NOW ISN’T THAT WHAT WE BELIEVE AS SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHRISTIANS? THAT’S WHAT WE BELIEVE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. They go on to say here [reading from paper] “This the church teaches is the revelation regarding God’s nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon the earth to deliver to the world and which she (talking about the church) possesses to man, oh sorry, proposes to man as the foundation of her whole dogmatic system.” – that’s amazing, that is amazing. And I can honestly, I can say to a Catholic who’s my neighbor, I can say to that Catholic, THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT MY CHURCH TEACHES AND BELIEVES, WE HAVE THE SAME PERSPECTIVE ON THIS ISSUE AND THIS UNDERSTANDING OF THE TRINITY. But to turn around and say the Catholic believe that 3 entities emanating out of one being that is not Biblical and the Catholics don’t teach that or believe that themselves… (The Mystery of the Trinity (Part 1) by Pastor Justis St. Hilaire 55:19- 58:21 White Horse Media Presentation)
A Statement by the president of the SDA Greek Mission:
“Please, let us be careful in wording the Trinity’s initiative in regard to the redemption of humankind. I WOULD STILL LIKE TO CLING TO THE OLD NICENE CREED—certainly with my Orthodox fellow Christians in mind (Herman J. Smit, President Greek Mission, Review and Herald, Adventist Review, December 26th, 1996)
The sad reality here is that no one can really “officially” say that Seventh-day Adventist trinitarianism is or is not in harmony with creedal trintiarianism. Why not? The answer is because the fundamental belief avoids defining the matter. It was written with some purposeful ambiguity. However, it can be said, without fear of contradiction, that you absolutely can believe in orthodox trinitarianism and be a Seventh-day Adventist in good standing. You can even tell others that this is what the SDA trinity belief is!
Sadly, what a SDA pioneer once said about the doctrine of the trinity, regarding the other churches, is now true within Adventism itself.
“This has been a popular doctrine and regarded as orthodox ever since the bishop of Rome was elevated to the popedom on the strength of it. It is accounted dangerous heresy to reject it; but each person is permitted to explain the doctrine in his own way. All seem to think they must hold it, but each has perfect liberty to take his own way to reconcile its contradictory propositions; and hence a multitude of views are held concerning it by its friends, all of them orthodox, I suppose, as long as they nominally assent to the doctrine (RH June 1st, 1869)
And if you question this doctrine today in Adventism, well, as Ingo Sorke explains:
“A mere Like on Facebook . . . and the emails started coming. Mind you, I hadn’t spoken, printed, published, preached, or taught any anti-trinitarian sentiments. I also discovered along the way that other denominational employees can deny Ellen White, 1844, the heavenly sanctuary, the perpetuity of the Ten Commandments, the veracity of the Sabbath from Friday evening to Saturday evening (from the pulpit!) with no implications. But merely touch the doctrine of the Trinity and the axe falleth quickly. Unfortunately, rational thinking, biblical dialogue, and historical frameworks are overshadowed by emotional, knee-jerk reactions and dismissal – and much bearing of false witness. If the pioneers could turn over in their graves, the inside of their caskets would be polished to a silver shine!
Please examine brother Sorke’s website. Like him I too am calling for a revision of the current SDA fundamental beliefs.