“For the benefit of those who may desire to know more particularly the cardinal features of the faith held by this denomination, we shall state that Seventh-day Adventists believe,— “1. In the divine TRINITY. This TRINITY consists of THE ETERNAL FATHER, a personal, SPIRITUAL BEING, omnipotent, omniscient, infinite in power, wisdom, and love; of the Lord Jesus Christ, THE SON OF THE ETERNAL FATHER, through whom all things were created, and through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the one regenerating agency in the work of redemption.” (F.M. Wilcox, Review and Herald, Oct 9, 1913, pg21)

As Valentine perceptively notes of this statement.

“Even though F. M. Wilcox had published in the Review in 1913 that Adventists believed in the divine Trinity, THE STATEMENT AVOIDS DISCUSSION OF THE INNER-TRINITARIAN RELATIONS, stating that Jesus is ‘the Son of the eternal Father’ rather than the eternal Son. RH, Oct. 9, 1913, p. 21. Semi-arians such as Washburn could live with it.” (Gilbert M. Valentine, W.W. Prescott, p. 285)

The trouble is with a lot of people today is that they are using the word ‘trinity’ without properly explaining what they mean by it. Why people should get excited over Wilcox writing that SDA’s believe in a divine trinity I have no idea. Something like 21 years earlier in 1892, the SDA Church published a tract for the public called ‘The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity’. It was made available for about 25 years. It was a re-print of an article written by a Presbyterian minister by the name of Samuel Spear. Why therefore get excited about Wilcox using the word ‘trinity’ in 1913?

Wilcox certainly DID NOT EXPLAIN his “divine Trinity” as in the trinity doctrine of today. We know this because 18 years AFTER his 1913 “divine Trinity” statement, he wrote an apology for previously saying, in the Review and Herald, that Christ was the “one and only true God”. This is what he wrote in his apology

“When we referred to Christ as the “one and only true God,” the thought in mind was to contrast Him with the gods of the heathen world.” (F. M. Wilcox, Review and Herald, October 29 1931 pg. 3, ‘Christ is Very God’)

If this is what Wilcox meant he should have said so. As it was, he made no mention of this in his article. Hence Wilcox confessed:

“The expression was not properly elucidated, and so was unfortunate.” (Ibid)

After his apology, Wilcox went on to explain the ‘trinity’ he was advocating (that which he claimed was held by SDA’s). Here is what he said

“We recognize the divine Trinity,— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,—each possessing a distinct and separate personality, but one in nature and in purpose, so welded together in this infinite union that the apostle James speaks of them as “one God.” James 2:19. THIS DIVINE UNITY IS SIMILAR TO THE UNITY EXISTING BETWEEN CHRIST AND THE BELIEVER, AND BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT BELIEVERS IN THEIR FELLOWSHIP IN CHRIST JESUS.” (Ibid)

This is very important. This is because it explains how, in the 1930’s, SDA’s understood “the divine Trinity”. Wilcox had made these remarks under the sub-heading of The Trinity Explained.

This statement by Wilcox completely invalidates the claim made by some that SDA’s in general, were, at that time (1931), believers in the trinity doctrine. This is whether as espoused by what is known as mainstream Christianity, or as held by the present-day (2020) SDA Church. This is because in explaining “the divine trinity”, Wilcox says that the “divine unity” between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is similar to the unity between “Christ and the believer”, also as between fellow Christians. How can this possibly be representative of how the trinity doctrine explains this unity? No true trinitarian would ever make such a statement.

Wilcox therefore, when saying “divine Trinity”, could not have been expressing a belief in the trinity doctrine. This is because the trinity doctrine says (as explained by our theologians)

“There is only one God (Deut. 6:4), however, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all called God (Matthew 27:46, John 20:28: Acts 5:3-4). Consequently, we do not worship three Gods, but one God who reveals Himself in and consists of three “persons”. THE THREE PERSONS SHARE ONE INDIVISIBLE NATURE. Each person of the Godhead is by nature and essence God, and the fullness of the deity dwells in each of them. ON THE OTHER HAND, EACH PERSON OF THE GODHEAD IS INSEPARABLY CONNECTED TO THE OTHER TWO.” (Ekkehardt Mueller, Biblical Research Institute, Reflections newsletter, July 2008, Page 8, ‘Scripture Applied, – A Bible Study’)

This is one the trinity doctrines that is being espoused by a Seventh-day Adventist theologian. (Learn more about the modern SDAs view of Trinity doctrine HERE) It is NOT how Wilcox explained the SDA trinity – and that was in 1931.

Wilcox also said in his ‘apology’

“There has been through the centuries some very unfortunate and speculative teaching regarding the divine Trinity, and these philosophies have created great divisions in the Christian church.” (F. M. Wilcox, Review and Herald, October 29 1931, ‘Christ is Very God’)

Do you see what I mean? Wilcox said that there had been some unfortunate explanations of the “divine Trinity”. So on its own, the words “divine Trinity” can mean anything. It appears to me therefore that Wilcox would have REJECTED the current SDA doctrine of the trinity (which really is the trinity doctrine)

We need to be careful with our words. Don’t lead people to believe that Wilcox was saying that in 1913, SDA’s believed the TRINITY DOCTRINE because the evidence of history says that he was NOT doing so.