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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Beliefs of An Adventist Part 4

We continue our examination of Seventh-Day Adventists’ Beliefs with the third Fundamental Belief, which is as follows:

God the eternal Father is the Creator, Source, Sustainer, and Sovereign of all creation. He is just and holy, merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father.

We have in this Belief the explanation of God the Father. This is a basic belief not only of Christianity but of Judaism as well (Islam never really jumped onto the “God the loving Father” bandwagon). God the Father is the first person in the Holy Trinity. Seventh Day Adventists, like all Christians, have no problem admitting this truth. In fact, for most of the Adventist explanation of this Belief, found in Seventh-Day Adventists Believe, are the same beliefs as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The first sign of something wrong comes when the book examines how Jesus reveals the Father. In that section, Seventh-Day Adventists Believe notes the following:

In creating, the Father and the Son acted together. God gave us life in spite of knowing that doing so would lead to the death of His own Son.

At Bethlehem, He gave Himself as He gave His Son. What pain the Father experienced when His Son entered our sin-polluted planet! Imagine the Father’s feeling as He saw His Son exchange the love and adoration of angels for the hatred of sinners; the glory and bliss of heaven for the pathway of death.

But it is Calvary that gives us the deepest insight into the Father. The Father, being divine, suffered the pain of being separated from His Son–in life and death–more acutely than any human being ever could. And He suffered with Christ in like measure. What greater testimony about the Father could be given! The cross reveals–as nothing else can–the truth about the Father. (p. 33-34. Emphasis added)

Did the Father really suffer from the Incarnation? Can God the Father SUFFER? No. God cannot suffer. He is impassable (which is a fancy way of saying he can’t suffer). There are scriptural references to such an attribute of God. For example, one here’s Jesus exhorting his disciples, “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Likewise, the Church has always taught that God does not suffer. He does not feel pain. To do so would imply imperfection, and God is perfect. So no pain, no suffering, no sadness, no anger. None. Sure, we talk about the “wrath of God,” but that is mere anthropomorphism (using human words to describe something un-human, such as “running water”). Likewise, God the Father wouldn’t have experienced “pain” upon the Son entering “our sin-polluted planet.” Not only was it GOD (the unity of the three persons) that thought up the Incarnation, but he KNEW what would happen if He became incarnate. The wording of Seventh-Day Adventists Believe seems to imply that one or all of the persons in the Holy Trinity did not completely understand, or was surprised by, the human world. I could understand someone claiming a lack of knowledge in the man Jesus of Nazareth (that’s a whopper discussion for another day), but not God omnipotent. Such an erroneous understanding of Divine foreknowledge is not healthy, and it certainly places a huge imaginary limit on the awesome power of God.

But there’s another problem. In the last paragraph quoted, it claims that God the Father “suffered the pain of being separated from His Son–in life and death–more acutely than any human being ever could.” The Father and the Son were never truly separated. God didn’t divide like a cell at the moment of the Incarnation, so some of Him lived on Earth and the rest hung out in heaven. He doesn’t work that way. GOD, the great divinity, fully dwelt among us AND retained his divinity. The second person, the Son, was the person through which God became incarnate, but that doesn’t mean that God the Father and the Son were separated, somehow, similar to the way a child is kidnapped and his dad hunts for him and hopes for his return. It humanizes too much the Divine Nature in explaining the Incarnation. It doesn’t work. God stops being God, and settles into the rut of everyday humanity.

Everyday humanity is not a pleasant life for divinities. Ask the Greek gods, if you can find them.

Even though at first glance it seems that the Adventist share traditional beliefs concerning God the Father, it turns out that they have a very (very) problematic view of divine impassability. Bring this point up in discussion with Adventists. See if it breeds fruitful dialogue.

And onward we move, to see the Adventist treatment of the Second Person of the Trinity: the Son.