This is the third post in a series on the Great Controversy. For the previous post please click HERE. Each post builds on themes and arguments presented so if you have not read my others I recommend starting with the first by clicking HERE.
Before getting started I am going to present the view of the Nature of God necessary for the Great Controversy correct. If you are or used to be Seventh Day Adventist then you have heard of Pastor Doug Batchelor.
“The real risk in the redemption plan, besides the loss of man, was the breakup of the Godhead. Had Jesus sinned, He would have been working at cross-purposes with the Spirit and His Father. Omnipotent good would have been pitted against omnipotent evil. What would have happened to the rest of creation? Whom would the unfallen universe see as right? One sin could have sent the Godhead and the universe spinning into cosmic chaos; the proportions of this disaster are staggering. Yet the Godhead was still willing to take this fragmenting risk for the salvation of man.” The Trinity, By Doug Batchelor
Before analyzing the above I am going to post a few Ellen White quotes along the same lines so that you know Pastor Batchelor isn’t straying from the SDA narrative.
“The temptations to which Christ was subjected were a terrible reality. As a free agent He was placed on probation, with liberty to yield to Satan’s temptations and work at cross-purposes with God.” EGW, Selected Messages, Bk. 3, p. 131.
“For a period of time Christ was on probation. He took humanity on Himself, to stand the test and trial which the first Adam failed to endure. Had He failed in His test and trial, He would have been disobedient to the voice of God, and the world would have been lost.” EGW, Signs of the Times, May 10, 1899.
There is a few things that I want to make clear in the above quote. First of all Pastor Batchelor is using the words “real risk” with regards to the outcome of the nature of God. This would prove that he is actually entertaining the possibility and not simply speaking in a theoretical sense.
As a possible outcome of said “risk” Pastor Batchelor includes the breakup of the Godhead, and even refers to Jesus Christ as “omnipotent evil”.
To analyze this framework Biblically there are a few questions that need to be asked and answered using clear scripture.
- Is Jesus Christ fully God?
- Is incarnate Jesus Christ fully God in every sense that he was pre-incarnate?
- Is it Biblically possible for the Trinity to breakup and no longer be one (1) being expressed in three (3) persons?
- Is it Biblically possible for God to be evil in any sense?
Is Jesus Christ fully God?
This topic comes up a great deal when studying SDA material. It is common knowledge that Arianism was a prominent view in early SDA history. We can see this reflected in the writings of Ellen White where she teaches a pre-incarnate exaltation. I have covered this in detail HERE if you want to take a moment to dig into it.
Disregarding Ellen White for a moment, if we appeal to scripture we see that Jesus calls himself the very “I AM”, thus identifying himself as God speaking to Moses at the burning bush.
“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” Exo 3:14 KJV
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58 KJV
This is expounded upon in the letter to the Colosians where Paul identifies Jesus Christ as the creator and sustainer of all things.
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. Col 1:15-17 KJV
So the answer to the question is yes, Jesus Christ is fully God. The text clearly ascribes creation of all things to Christ. If it were so that Christ was created then one would have to assert that Christ created himself. This is stupid, for one to create themselves they would have to exist before their creation and by definition would be un-created.
Is incarnate Jesus Christ fully God in every sense that he was pre-incarnate?
SDA argue that Jesus gave up his divinity at least in some portion when he became flesh. This is critical to the Great Controversy motif because you need a weakened and bound Christ to be at threat of defeat in the hands of the Devil.
The truth is that scriptures define the humbling of the incarnation as taking the form of a servant, not a lessening of Divinity.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Phil 2:5-8 KJV
For one to argue that Jesus Christ was less Divine in the form of a servant they would have to then disagree with Christ when he says that the greatest among us is the greatest servant.
“But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matt 20:26-28 KJV
The greatest expression of the Divinity of Christ is in his sacrifice for our sin. To lessen the Divinity of Christ post-incarnation would be to theologically void the greatest act of servitude. Any created being can sacrifice themselves for a cause or person. But only God in human flesh can ransom himself for the sins of the world past, present, and future.
We see incarnate Christ is omnipotent:
(John 11:38-44)(Matt 8:26-27)(Matt 28:18)(Luke 7:14-15)(Rev 1:8)
We see incarnate Christ knows everything:
(Matt 16:21) (Luke 11:17) (John 4:29)(John 21:17)
We see incarnate Christ is omnipresent:
(Acts 18:10)(Matt 18:20)(Matt 28:20)(Eph 1:23)
We see incarnate Christ is eternal both past and future:
(John 1:1) (John 8:58)(Rev 1:17-18)
If you’re interested in this topic I recommend studying the nature of Christ in depth. Christians believe that Christ is fully God and fully Man. He is not half and half or more of one than the other. I will do a post focusing on this in the future. But the Biblical answer is to not abrogate one with the other as SDA do in part, but rather to accept both natures of Christ as being fully true.
Is it Biblically possible for the Trinity to breakup and no longer be one (1) being expressed in three (3) persons?
To confess that the Trinity can break up into pieces is to confess polytheism. This is because if one believes that it were possible for Christ to work at cross purposes with the Father and the Holy Ghost they would have to confess that Christ is on some level separate in being and or substance from the Father and the Holy Ghost.
The reason you have this confusion in SDA is mostly due to the stories Ellen White makes up about heaven. She always describes the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost as separate characters in a play. The Father and Son in particular have their own bodies and walk around heaven talking to angels or to Lucifer etc.
Since 1946 SDA have formally confessed the Trinity, and when you ask one to define it they will generally give you the Biblical answer. That is, if properly educated in the SDA confessions they will confess one (1) being expressed in three (3) persons. The problem is that SDA also believe EGW’s writings to be an authoritative source of truth. Though she doesn’t come out and deny the Trinity in a formal capacity her teachings, particularly the stories of heaven, are not compatible with it. This is one of the reasons why SDA prefer the term “Godhead” as in their dialogue it fits the concept of three beings united in purpose rather than substance.
The problem is that the Bible teaches that God is one in substance and being. I dig into this concept in my post on the Trinity which you can find HERE. But I will paste an excerpt from the section on substance below.
One in Substance
The Bible teaches unequivocally that God is Spirit (John 4:24), I also further argue that God is one substance, not a divided substance. Read the below passages very carefully:
“I and my Father are one.” John 10:30 KJV
Notice that it doesn’t say one in purpose, or like one, but that they are one. In every such clarity as Deut 6:4 teaches that there is one God. The only logical explanation that accepts both verses as true is same substance of being but separate persons.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1 KJV
How can the Word (Christ) be both with God and be God at the same time? Again, same substance same being, different person of the Trinity.
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: …” Gen 1:26 KJV
In Genesis 1:1 it refers to God in the singular, but later God says “us” in reference to himself. Some argue that he is speaking to angels, but if that were the case then he would be sharing the creative work of making man with angelic beings. The only Biblical explanation is that the Trinity is in view here very early in the Old Testament.
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” 1 Tim 2:5 KJV
The above verse not only argues for the Trinitarian teaching of one substance, but also for the inseparable dual natures of Christ as fully God and fully Man. This is because it affirms monotheism, cites Christ as sole mediator in the heavenly council of God, and then references the human nature of Christ.
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28 KJV
Notice that the Holy Ghost is not only referred to as God, but Jesus Christ as well via the statement “purchased with his own blood”. This is a clear example of the Holy Ghost being the same substance of God and Christ even though Christ is also flesh of man.
“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Col 2:9 KJV
The “him” it speaks of here is Christ. This is teaching that Christ is God, not part of God but all of God. One being, same substance but still a different person of the Trinity.
Verses like this is why we say that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. The words clearly state “fullness of the Gohead bodily”. Every bit of God is every bit of Christ and visa versa, meaning that this goes both ways. This is why the doctrine of the Holy Trinity teaches “same substance”.
To argue that Christ could work at cross purposes with the rest of the Trinity is a division of substance to the point where two God Beings are in view. One substance Evil and the other Holy. The very fact that this is considered possible in SDA theology means that they theologically divide the substance of God, and thus on some level are teaching polytheism while confessing monotheism.
Is it Biblically possible for God to be evil in any sense?
For a Controversy to be considered “Great” it follows logically that there exists a threat of failure. This is why Pastor Doug Batchelor and other SDA mull over the possibility of Christ sinning and thus failing in his redemptive work. Scripture doesn’t allow for such a weakness or character flaw in God.
“For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.; The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.; Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the Lord will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.” Psa 5:4-6 KJV
“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” 1 Jhn 1:5 KJV
In the face of clear scripture that teaches there is no darkness in God, there is found not a single passage teaching the possible failure or wickedness of God. With no threat of God’s failure and no lessening of his Divinity in the incarnation there is no Controversy at all. Satan simply loses end of story.
Furthermore, this was not something anyone had to wait around to find out. This is because the scriptures teach that Christ was slain from the very foundations of the world.
“And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Rev 13:8 KJV
God crushed Satan like a bug on the cross, there was never any controversy at all. There were no angels biting their nails in Heaven hoping that Christ would pull it off. He won and saved us from hell as it was always to be. Without any threat of failure you don’t have a controversy at all, let alone a “great” one.
In a Facebook conversation with an SDA in Uganda, I confronted him with various scriptures, including Deut. 6., and the problem with Jesus saying “obey my commandments” and being Michael the Archangel. He seriously argued for polytheism…that was weird!
I’ve experienced the same a number of times. All the ancient heresies seem to pop up. That’s part of why I felt the need to study this stuff.
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