F. M. Wilcox, Question Corner; The Signs of the Times, November 17. 1914, pg. 714
48 — VARIOUS TEXTS ON THE DEITY
1. How are we to understand the following scriptures : Ps. 90:2 ; Isa. 42:8; I Cor. 8 : 6; Deut. 6:4?
2. Can we conclude, from Rev. 3 : 14 and Col. I: 15, that our Lord Jesus had a beginning, and there was a time T. God the Father was alone? T. A. Z.
1. Some of these scriptures are so plain that it seems as though we cou4d have no question concerning them at all. The one in Psalms would seem to apply to our Lord. The term used is not “Jehovah,” but Adonai, which, without question, is applied to Christ; and this is the One whom Moses is addressing. He declares, “Even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God.” And this is in harmony with Micah 5: 2. Isa. 42:8 evidently has reference to God. It is Jehovah Himself who speaks : “I am Jehovah, that is My name; and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise unto graven images.” That is the very family name of the Godhead. Sometimes our Lord is called Jehovah. This is emphatically true in Jer. 23: 6. In verse 5 He is called the Branch. “In His days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is His name whereby He shall he called: Jehovah our righteousness.”
I Cor. 8 : 6 presents before us the agencies by which the earth is created, the relative positions of the two Persons : “To us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him.” The same thought is expressed in John t : 1-3 and in Col. 1 : 16,— that all the creation was wrought through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Deut. 6:4 is simply an expression of the unity of the Godhead: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” Many times, when mention is made of God, it simply implies the Godhead. Of course there is absolute unity in that, just as truly as though there were but one Person; and therefore it is spoken of as one. Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 indicates the same thing : “As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee.” And then He prays that the same unity may exist among His followers.
2. Yes, some do conclude, from Rev. 3: 14, that there was a time when the Son did not exist, save in the all-comprehending purpose and potency of God. And yet there are others who still hold — and there is nothing to the contrary in the text — that the beginning of the creation of God means the One in whom the creation began, as declared in Col. I: 17, “And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” The finite can not grasp the infinite. Let this suffice,— that our. Lord is God with the Father from the “days of eternity”; that “He is before all things, and in Him all things consist,” and He brings to all those who believe in Him the plenitude of the power of the Deity according to our needs. Of course, sometimes the expression, such as is used in Col. 1: 15, “the First-born,” refers to preeminence rather than to priority. God calls Ephraim His first-born, although Manasseh was the first-born. He calls Israel His first-born, while Esau was the first-born of Jacob. That is, God had adopted these as such. They became preeminent because of character. So Jesus is called the First-born of the dead, and is preeminent above them all, and only by His power do all the others live.
“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)
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.