The Spirit, a Being or a Person?

Thank you for taking so much time to write, but you’ll have to excuse me. My time has been taken up by so many people asking questions. What you ask is interesting to me, but not something I want to spend a whole lot of time on, as we are now touching upon the nature of the Spirit, which we are told to keep our hands off of. But, perhaps, for growth in my own understanding, I will answer quickly—trying not to go beyond what inspiration has revealed.


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Comment: The Distinction between “Being” and “Person”

Dear Pastor Mesa,

I have recently been watching your videos (especially “The Godhead from Before the Fall”, which most of my comments relate to). You may be pleasantly surprised to learn have been referred to me by both anti-Trinitarians (as the best thing to watch ever) and Trinitarians (as about the most dangerous thing to watch) on the Internet.

I’ve also been reading some of your blog posts. I always greatly appreciate how open-minded you are, always willing to accept questions and being willing to enter into dialogue with people – telling people to check everything you say and keep you straight. I also especially appreciate the email exchanges you have with people, which you fully share. I don’t share many on social media. Some though should be shown. =)

(email address in the original)

Background: Within that context, there is a question I have (or rather a series of questions stemming from one central question) about the difference between “being” and “person”. This relates foremost to the nature of the Holy Spirit but also to a lesser extent about the relationship between Father and Son. 

In particular, in “Misrepresentations of the Godhead”, page 8, you state:

“EGW never calls the Spirit a “being.” He (or it) is a person, “divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof.” The Spirit as a dove was emblematical…”

And further on this discussion of “being” as a distinct concept from “person”, you comment in “Answering Michael Malachi”, page 1-2:

“But I DO see the difference—the being having a form, the person without a form. God is a Being. The Son is a Being. Angels are beings. The Spirit is a person—divested of a form, or the personality of humanity. At present, I have concluded that we can call a BEING a PERSON, but not necessarily a PERSON a BEING, in light of how EGW relates to the Spirit.” I still believe this.

I also note other prominent anti-Trinitarians make similar arguments, in relation to various SOP passages that affirm the Holy Spirit as a person: “Ellen White demonstrated a distinction between the words ‘person’ and ‘being.’ (http://www.trinitytruth.org/wasellenwhiteatrinitarian.html

I in turn note that Adventist defenders of the Trinity claim anti-Trinitarians such as yourself supposedly believe: “That the Holy Spirit is not a separate divine Person, but is rather the spiritual presence of the Father and the Son.” (KP, “Three Co-Eternal Persons”, ADvindicate, http://advindicate.com/articles/2017/5/7/three-co-eternal-persons). However, looking at what you and others have actually said, I wonder if this is an unfair misrepresentation of what you actually teach? Yes, K is quick at the mouth too often. I know him personally.

Taking these comments as our background, and some of the confusion as to what you and others actually believe or not, I was wondering if you could possibly clarify for me the following:

1. In relation to the Holy Spirit, can I presume from your discussion with Mr Malachi and others you do admit the Spirit is an independent “person” with a “personality”, while acknowledging the Spirit is not a separate “being”? I take it this is the nub of your response to Trinitarians when they cite SOP passages such as the following: “The Holy Spirit has a personality, else he could not bear witness to our spirits and with our spirits that we are the children of God. He must also be a divine person, else he could not search out the secrets which lie hidden in the mind of God. . . .” (Evangelism, 617, is indexed as Manuscript 20, February 7, 1906.) Yes, this is my position.

a. I take it you absolutely 100% agree the Holy Spirit is both a “person” and has “personality” – this seem a core foundation of any discussion on the topic? Yes.

b. Given SOP says the Spirit is a person with personality, do you hold that the Spirit is a mere impersonal force? In what sense do you understand the Spirit to be personal versus impersonal in nature? I believe the Spirit is the personal presence of Jesus, having given it as His personal gift (or donation as EGW says it) of omnipresence. 

c. If you agree the Spirit is not a mere impersonal force, but a “person” with “personality” and “individuality” how is this different from the doctrine of the Trinity, except insofar as to when the Spirit was “begotten” and from whom it was begotten? The Spirit was given at Pentecost as “divested from the personality of humanity and independent thereof.” Not before as God hadn’t yet become human. Trinitarians believe He has always been the third person and is the fullness of the Godhead. The Spirit is not the fullness… EGW says the Spirit is IN all the fullness. Big difference. BTS March 1, 1906, par. 1-2

d. I touch on this further down (in relation to your begetting-begetting idea), can I presume you understand that even within the “orthodox” notion of the Trinity there is a variety of views as to how the Spirit was originated – especially whether from the Father alone or from the Father and Son? Of course. Everyone has differing thoughts. I try to keep mine in concert with inspiration. Not easy to do, as we have our own language, but I’m striving to use words that are coined by the prophets when speaking about divinity.

2. Can I presume you think Mrs White applied the word “agency” in a similar way as “person”, as a distinct concept from “being”. So for example: “Three distinct agencies, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, work together for human beings.” (Manuscript 27a, 1900). Sure, as we can see Angels referred to as agencies as well. The Father and Son are agencies, yet they are with forms—you can see that in EW, 54. See also John 5:37.

3. How do you think Mrs White defines the concept of “being” and “person” respectively? This seems like a redundant question from above. A being has a form, a person doesn’t have to, it seems.

a. For example, you seem to make some comment about a “being” correlating to the existence of some “form”. Yes, the Father, the Son, angels, you, have forms. A Spirit can be without flesh and bones. See Luke 24:39. The Father is a Spirit (John 4), but He has a shape… So, I can’t say I understand all of the mysteries of God, but this is the closest I can come.
The Spirit of Christ is divested from the personality of humanity and independent thereof. I think this makes the Comforter unique. 

b. But to perhaps state the obvious, what makes a “person” and what makes a “being” – how do they concepts differ? 

c. Why must a “being” have “form” in the way a “person” need not have “form”? Because it seems to me that Ellen White actually distinguishes the concepts of “form” from that of “being” – not use them as synonyms as you have: “When God had made man in His image, the human form was perfect in all its arrangements, but it was without life… Then a personal, self-existing God breathed into that form the breath of life, and man became a living, breathing, intelligent being.” (8th Volume testimonies page 264, ‘The essential knowledge’, 1904) She just never calls the Spirit a being. I’m trying to understand the differentiation instead of trying to prove that she didn’t write the trio type statements. Here you have a body given a mind. The Spirit seems to be a mind without a body. Again, speculation, as this is the nature of the Spirit.

d. Does not this quote illustrate that in Mrs White’s view, before the breath of life, Adam had “form” but he was not yet a “being” – they are interrelated by distinct concepts? 

4. Doesn’t SOP also affirm the Spirit has a “form”: “The heavens are opened, and upon the Savior’s head descends a dovelike form of purest light” (The Desire of Ages, pages 111-112)? Sure, that form is nigh impossible to grasp, and is “emblematic”, but didn’t the Spirit have a “form” nonetheless – she says so explicitly? In the Youth’s Instructor quote, by looking up the word “emblematical” you can see that the “light” and “glory” of God that proceeded from the throne was what took on the form of a dove. Call it what you will, the Bible called it the Spirit of God, and I would say the same thing—though I won’t call it a third being, or even the third person at that point—as it was God’s plan to, “After his transgression God would communicate to man through Christ and angels.” SR 50.

5. Is the Spirit’s “form” not “real” somehow because Ellen White suggested this dovelike form was an “emblem”? Whatever it was, it was the light and glory of the Father.

a. However, isn’t Christ equally an “emblem”, being the image of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3)? I wouldn’t call Christ emblematical, so, no. He was a representative, yes. 

b. Yet we would all affirm the reality of Jesus’ “form”?

6. Mrs White says the Spirit is “Cumbered with humanity, Christ could not be in every place personally; therefore it was altogether for their advantage that He should leave them, go to His father, and send the Holy Spirit to be His successor on earth. The Holy Spirit is Himself divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. He would represent Himself as present in all places by His Holy Spirit, as the Omnipresent” (14MR 23.3) 

a. Is this not simply saying the Spirit is the “image”, “emblematic” or “representative” of Christ just as Christ for the Father? The Spirit was divested of the personality of humanity, the Father wasn’t, neither was the Son. That happened in totality at Pentecost. 

b. If we recognise that Christ is a separate “person” (you might even say a separate “being” but I probably would not) from the Father, but one with the Father, and yet independent, why is it not the same with the Spirit? PP 34.1 calls Jesus Christ a being. EGW never, with her own pen, called the Spirit a being. Luke 24:39 says a spirit has no flesh and bones—yet that is a mystery, as we know the Father and Son both have a form, EW 54. Christ is the only one though from which the Spirit was “divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof.” 

c. I believe you also mention (it is about 44 min in) that the Spirit is begotten from Christ as Christ was begotten from the Father, as we are begotten from the Spirit. Yet all those things (including us in that list) are not impersonal but personal! Yes, the Spirit is personal, but that too is part of the mystery, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 

d. Likewise, isn’t a “successor” something “distinct” as the thing that came before, just as scripture talks similar of wills and testaments. No one says I leave my successor and it is me myself. So in citing absurdities, it seems to work both ways. So isn’t SOP meaning that as the Spirit is Christ’s successor, this means they are one but distinct “persons” (or some might say “beings”), just as Christ is one but distinct from the Father and His successor. I’d like to believe the many quotes like this rather than explain them away, “While Jesus ministers in the sanctuary above, He is still by His Spirit the minister of the church on earth. He is withdrawn from the eye of sense, but His parting promise is fulfilled, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20. While He delegates His power to inferior ministers, His energizing presence is still with His church.” DA 166.2
 
What about the many quotes like these? “We want the Holy Spirit, which is Jesus Christ.” Lt66-1894.18

e. And wouldn’t it be true that the quote doesn’t deny the Spirit’s pre-existence in its entirety but rather has an emphasis about the Spirit’s presence “on earth” – note those words. 

f. Finally, does not Mrs White finish the quote with the emphasis that the Spirit is “independent” of Christ? The Spirit may not have the “personality of humanity” but elsewhere she affirms the Spirit definitely has “personality” – it is the nature of that personality she is commenting upon. Yes, I agree the HS has a personality. He is a person—just not in the same sense as the Father and Son, else He too would have a seat on the throne and would wear a crown, and He would be worshipped. Notice, “The Father and the Son alone are to be exalted.” YI July 7, 1898, par. 2

g. So wouldn’t all those things affirm that in the same way Christ is in union with but a distinct “person” (or at least something beyond a mere impersonal force) from the Father, the same must equally apply to the Spirit – not merely something lacking “personality” or “individuality”? I’ve never said He isn’t individual and has no personality.

7. To go back to you statement that “the Father begets Christ, Christ begets the Spirit and the Spirit begets you” (about 44 min) and then you jest about two dads. 

a. But along the same vein, whose spirit is the Holy Spirit then? Is it Christ’s spirit or the Father’s spirit, because you suggest (about 1hr) that Christ gave up His own omnipresent spirit as His sacrifice, meaning the Father got to retain His and Christ lost His. There is one Spirit according to Eph. 4. Christ, being human, gave up His omnipresence. The Father never has been mentioned as doing that.

b. Have you turned the jestful notion of two divine dads upside down and made two divine twins instead? Yes, I have, though I mentioned along with that, three twins.

c. Is there just one Spirit or is there two – does the Father and Son each have their own spirit, if they are both spirit, and the reference to the Holy Spirit is just an impersonal force? “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.” 1 Corinthians 2:11. The idea of spirit here is synonymous with mind. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2:16 

d. I don’t otherwise have a problem if you are suggested the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and Son, which is actually a concept most Trinitarians also agree with per the “filioque clause”. Revelation 22:1 shows there is one throne with the Father and Son on it, whereby the Spirit is proceeding as living waters from that throne.

8. You say Mrs White never calls the Spirit a “being” but is there anywhere that she equally calls the Son and Father separate “beings”? “The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with his Father” RH April 5, 1906, par. 5. The Father begot the Son in His own image—therefore, the Father as well is a being with a form (“The Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” John 5:37) We don’t have the same things written about the Spirit—but we can stand tall on our foundations of sand claiming it all to be true. 
 
Please don’t get caught on the word eternal there in the RH quote. Born again believers have eternal life—which had a beginning.  Christ, after being brought forth from the Father, is the eternal Son.

a. From the passages I can find, she only ever uses the singular “being” and never the plural “beings” with an “s”, when referring to the relationship of the Son to the Father. She certainly affirms the Son as a “being” somehow distinct from the Father, but also only ever in recognition of His union with the Father: “I and my Father are one. John 10:30. As a personal being, God has revealed Himself in His Son” (Reflecting Christ, page 39). 

b. Can you find any passage where she explicitly calls the Father and Son divine beings – with plural “s”? No, but concluding the above, and using things like this, “the Father and Son carried out their purpose, which was designed, before the fall of Satan, to make human beings in their own image” BLJ 227.4, it makes perfect sense. Especially as we have seen in EW 54 that EGW says the Father has a form. Where can we find a being without a form? I don’t believe it exists, but we can find a Spirit without a form and divested of the personality of humanity and independent thereof. 
 
Very different wording, therefore, we can’t treat it the same way.  

9. I also note you have also cited SOP, which in turn cites scripture: “He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His [the Father’s] throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between Them both.’ Zechariah 6:12, 13.” (Great Controversy, page 415). And similarly, “The Father and the Son alone are to be exalted” (The Youth’s Instructor, July 7, 1898.) You seem to suggest the word “both” or “alone” implies two (Father and Christ) and only two, with an omission for the Holy Spirit suggesting the Spirit is not a separate “being”. But assuming what you say about the Holy Spirit is true, does this prove Father and Son are different “beings” as opposed to different “persons” in one “being”? Assuredly, They are not different persons in one being. “From eternity there was a complete unity between the Father and the Son. They were two, yet little short of being identical; two in individuality, yet one in spirit, and heart, and character.” YI December 16, 1897, par. 5. It says “from eternity” not throughout. Very different. Throughout is used in connection with eternity as future tense. 

a. Why does the one prove the other? 

b. Why does GC passage further mention the Father and Son siting on a throne (singular) and not thrones (plural) as one would expect of two beings? Because, “God is the Father of Christ; Christ is the Son of God. To Christ has been given an exalted position. He has been made equal with the Father. All the counsels of God are opened to His Son.” 8T 268.3
 
There is one throne for the Father, which He shared/shares with His Son. They didn’t each, throughout eternity passed, (not jesting) have a throne for each of them to rule each other before something was created. 

c. Jesus said He could do not of Himself but only the will of Him who sent Him (John 5:30). When Mrs White said, “He was the Word of God,- God’s thought made audible” (Desire of Ages), does this not also point to just one “being”? If Christ had chosen to do His own will, it would have been outside Their counsel of peace. Christ would have given us an example to do our own will while we live here as humans too!

10. Do we take the omission in the above mentioned Father-Son passages as an argument of silence that the Spirit is not a “being” but the Father and Son are “beings” – again, noting the fact all three are “persons” with “personalities” not being in dispute between us? How could Christ be “an associate—a co-worker”, “the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God” PP 34.1, if the Spirit was there with His throne as well? Please realize that your questions seem as though they are trying to build up something that doesn’t exist. 

a. Are you perhaps reading too much in to silence? Just taking God’s Word as it reads. “The truths most plainly revealed in the Bible have been involved in doubt and darkness by learned men, who, with a pretense of great wisdom, teach that the Scriptures have a mystical, a secret, spiritual meaning not apparent in the language employed. These men are false teachers. It was to such a class that Jesus declared: “Ye know not the Scriptures, neither the power of God.” Mark 12:24. The language of the Bible should be explained according to its obvious meaning, unless a symbol or figure is employed. Christ has given the promise: “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” John 7:17. If men would but take the Bible as it reads, if there were no false teachers to mislead and confuse their minds, a work would be accomplished that would make angels glad and that would bring into the fold of Christ thousands upon thousands who are now wandering in error.” GC 598.3

b. To take the biblical analogy of the body, around dinner time, your brain and stomach have a sort of interaction that your heart generally does not (as it automatically goes on pumping and keeping you alive) – and incidentally if you are trying to lose weight, you will ensure your stomach humbles itself before your brain. 

c. The heart meanwhile has its own “personality”, such as its interactions with the rest of the body are more noticeable and direct at other times, so as when you are about to go into flight or fight mode, and your brain suddenly and consciously notices the heart beating loudly (when this is others not given unconscious notice most of the time). 

d. Perhaps the Spirit is not mentioned for a similar simple reason – His function is different due to the nature of His “personhood”, distinct from the contemplative interaction between the “person” of the Father and Son? 

e. Perhaps the Spirit has a “form” quite different from the Father and Son, even as the Spirit is a “person” within only one “being”?
Here it would be well to look again at one of the trio quotes. “The Father can not be described by the things of earth. The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight. The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested. The word of God declares Him to be “the express image of His person.” “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Here is shown the personality of the Father. BTS March 1, 1906, par. 1
“The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio. In the name of these three powers,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ.” BTS March 1, 1906, par. 2
 
The Father IS all the fullness.
The Son IS all the fullness.
The Spirit is IN all the fullness.
 
There’s a big difference there. Now, you can see that AFTER she spoke of the is, is, in, she then called them a trio. Where was the Spirit? 

11. Talking further of beings, can you find any SOP passages that mention “beings” (plural “s”) except in relation to mere creatures, as in: “The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate—a co-worker who could appreciate His purposes, and could share His joy in giving happiness to created beings.” (Patriarchs and Prophets, page 34) Considered above.

12. Mrs White further admitted: “The Father is all of the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight” (Special Testimonies, Series B, num. 7, 1905 pp. 62); “I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself. He said He had, but I could not behold it” (Early Writings, p. 54); and citing John 4:24 that, “God is a spirit; yet He is a personal being, for man was made in His image”. =)

a. I would like to know what your views about Mrs White’s choice of words here, in using: “bodily” (adverb) rather than “body” (noun); affirming the Father has a “form” which is “spirit”; and stating the Father’s form is “like” that of Jesus (noting “like” means “similar”, not “same”). Never thought about it until now. Good question. He perhaps ‘embodies’ the fullness of the Godhead? 

b. And how do these SOP passages fit within the Trinitiarian-like statement in Eph 4:4-6 that there is in fact only “one body” – an analogy for the Church – but indicative of the divine relationship, which one notes is one, not two or three bodies? Christ is the head. He’s the one who became human to give His omnipresent Spirit to continue living here while He also in Heaven—DA 166.2. He’s the one living within His people—Col. 1:27. He’s the Mediator between God and men, therefore, the church is His body—His bride—represented by the candlesticks of Revelation 1. 

c. How might that likewise relate to the question whether the Father, Son and Spirit are all distinct “persons”, all having “form” (albeit the forms of the Father and Spirit are almost impossible to see or comprehend) but only Christ has a “body” as we understand and comprehend it? I can’t understand it fully, but can call all of Them persons with personalities, but cannot call Them all beings. 

13. Linked to some of the above concepts, would you at least be open to the idea that there is one God but that one God has two or more “forms”? Meaning either the Spirit has no “form” at all, or alternatively, that the Father and Son essentially have the same (or similar) “bodily” form, while the nature of the Spirit is a completely different type of form? No, I reject modalism. John 1:1, 3:16, 17:3. 

14. And coming to what seems the crescendo of your presentation (about 1hr) that Christ gave up His own omnipresent spirit as His sacrifice, that at the Cross the sealing of the Spirit returned to the Father, doesn’t that mean the Father still got to retain His but Christ lost His? Christ yielded up His omnipresence forever—knowing He would never get it back again. He simply surrendered to the counsels of peace He had participated in with His Father to decide this selfless “donation.” He could have stopped everything at that point and said no.

a. And do I understand this as an allusion to Christ “begetting” the Holy Spirit as the Father “begot” the Son? That’s more clearly spelled out in John 7:37-39 where the word “belly” is translated “womb” most often. The Rock brought forth water in the OT, in the NT the same. 

b. But would that not mean that at least from the Cross onwards, there are now three co-eternal “persons” (or at least something beyond a mere impersonal force) – just like a grandfather, father and child? In a sense yes, but I won’t use the word “co-eternal” as it doesn’t have a place in inspiration. They are eternal, but that doesn’t include existence throughout the ceases ages past.

c. So that the doctrine of the Trinity doesn’t explain what existed before Golgotha, but it is a doctrinally true (more or less) idea now – perhaps explaining why the idea was not formulated in Judaism beforehand? What then is the problem? They knew the Father had a Son (John 5:18, Proverbs 8:22-30, 30:4), but they hadn’t known of the Spirit till Christ taught it in John 14 and onward. In Acts 19 they were baptized, but didn’t know of the Spirit!
 
When John the baptist said there was someone after Him who would baptize with fire, who was he speaking about? When Jesus is standing at the door and knocking, who does He say will come in? When it’s all said and done, with the mystery being finished, who will be in us as the hope of glory?

d. Or is it more like the Father split Himself in half, and Christ split Himself in half again, giving up His omnipresent spirit and keeping His human corporeality? But if people think the idea of one God in three persons is absurd, wouldn’t you be suggesting the Holy Spirit is really a ¼ – half of a half of the original God?  The Spirit is IN all the fullness of the Godhead. I don’t want to say what you’ve suggested here, as it would be trying to understand beyond what has been revealed. I don’t believe this would be true though.

e. If you say (about 1h 4min) that at the Cross the Spirit went to heaven where it waited for Christ, does not that sort of language likewise suggest something personal rather than a mere impersonal force? If my argument was that Christ’s Spirit was impersonal, then yes. But that’s not my argument at all. I don’t know that the Spirit “went to Heaven”, but I do know EGW says the Spirit was waiting. The omnipresence of Christ, the divinity that Christ partook of from the Father, the same divine nature you and I partake of as humans, that was waiting. Humanity died, divinity did not die. I will continue to grow in understanding this, as it is a mystery, but I don’t believe what happened to Christ on the cross, with the Spirit waiting, goes against our understanding of what Biblically happens in death. 

f. Does this mean you admit that the Father has a dual aspect (both spirit and “bodily” corporeality) while Christ has lost half of His (retaining His “bodily” corporeality but losing His omnipresence)? So is it true we can see how the Father sent Christ and then sent the Spirit (when it was waiting in heaven after it left Christ at the Cross). Isn’t this just the doctrine of the Trinity in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, minus the “filioque clause”? I don’t think it too difficult to believe that Christ is no longer omnipresent as He was before He became human. I believe God so loved the world that He GAVE His Son—not expecting Him back as it was. I would agree with the first sentence in principle, but not the second and the third. The Spirit didn’t “leave” Christ at the cross. After all, He will filled with His Father’s Spirit (John 14:10). On the cross He yielded to the plan in eternity past, in the counsels of peace with His Father, to give up His omnipresent Spirit. If I didn’t say it clearly in the video, I will hope to say it clearer in the future. 

g. And does your “begetting-begetting” idea mean the while you admit there are three “persons” and two “forms” (where the Father alone retains corporeality and omnipresence) these three “persons” are all “individuals” with “personalities” so that none – not even the Holy Spirit – is a mere “impersonal force”? I would agree. This is what I believe EGW is saying—but that doesn’t coincide with the 2nd fundamental belief. The SDA church corporately believes it differently than how I am seeing the Bible and EGW explain it. 

15. Coming back to the original central point then, in distinguishing the concept of “being” from “person”, something most ordinary people would probably struggle to understand (or thinking extremely pedantic or near incomprehensible), are you not essentially adopting a Trinitarian argument? Not in my mind. I taught the trinity, really tri-theism, for 18 years. I know there are vast differences. I used to worship a God I couldn’t explain. It was a mystery, now there are known areas of mystery—of which we now communicate together—but there are HUGE areas that are so much more clear. 
 
The Father begot a Son and sent Him to redeem fallen humanity. The Son gave His omnipresent Spirit after becoming victorious as a human. Amen. This is not trinitarian. 

a. Within an SDA context, FB#2 says in English “There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons”. And for most of Christianity, I presume all would agree that they understand the doctrine of the Trinity as originally formulated in Greek in the Nicene Creed and Chalcedon Definition, being three “hypostasis” (often translated as “person” but also meaning “entity” or “substance”) in just one “ousia” (meaning “being” or “essence”). It would seem that this is partialism. Partialism is illustrated by a three leafed clover; one plant, three identical leaves coming from the one stock. I don’t believe the Bible teaches this either. 
 
Do you realize what you just admitted? The SDA FB#2 comes from an ecumenical creed organized and encouraged by Rome. That was just four years after giving the ominous Sunday law. The goal of that council was to bring everyone together. It took until the early nineteen hundreds to start breaking down the walls that the Seventh-day Adventists (by God’s direction) had set up against it. And then the SDA church in the majority voted to have that as part of our doctrines in Dallas Texas as late as 1980!
 
Can we not see an ecumenical landslide here? Is the trinity a doctrine we have bought into, believing (as I used to) that God had kept the truth about Himself in most ALL Christian churches to at least give a fair chance at the rest of His truth? Now I see that I too was duped! =/

b. So would you agree that this nuance, between divine “person” (the ancient “hypostasis”) and “being” (the ancient “ousia”) is in fact not that different from what Trinitarians traditionally came up with centuries ago? Con-substatial is not what I believe, nor encourage others to believe. Adam and Eve are the best illustration I can come up with for who God and His Son are. More here.

c. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am saying this in a spirit of finding common agreement, rather than those within the Adventist Church who would be quick to point the finger and say “heretic”. Thank you. I’m glad for your inquiries, though I don’t plan to take this much time in answering everyone’s questions! =)

16. I note you further say (about 43 min): “Out of His womb will come rivers of living water… In Christ’s case, it was the Spirit that came forth… Christ doesn’t know what it is to give birth – yes He does!” On the same vein, isn’t this simply the “Filioque Clause” concept, that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son (as most Catholics and Protestants teach), and not simply from the Father alone (as Eastern Orthodox teach)? The SDA FB#5 essentially affirms the same concept, saying the Spirit was: “Sent by the Father and the Son”. Here is the fifth FB: “God the eternal Spirit [applied directly to the Father in EGW] was active with the Father and the Son in Creation [please give one EGW reference where the third person of the Godhead is stated as being active in the creation of this world—because I don’t believe Genesis 1:2 is referring to the third person of the Godhead, as the Comforter hadn’t been divested of the personality of humanity until after the cross], incarnation [if this is true, Christ would have two fathers and the LGBTQI community would be correct], and redemption [agreed]. He inspired the writers of Scripture [1 Peter 1:11 says it was the Spirit of Christ that was in them]. He filled Christ’s life with power [John 14:10 says it was the Father that was in Christ]. He draws and convicts human beings… [this is done also by Christ.]”
 
Please notice this paragraph: “Christ was the spirit of truth. The world will not listen to His pleadings. They would not accept Him as their guide. They could not discern unseen things; spiritual things were unknown to them. But His disciples see in Him the Way, the Truth, and the Life. And they shall have His abiding presence. They shall have an experimental knowledge of the only true God and of Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. To them He says: You will no more say, I cannot comprehend. No longer shall you see through a glass darkly; you shall comprehend with all saints what is the length and depth and breadth and height of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge. He who has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. The honor of God, the honor of Jesus Christ [what about the Spirit???], is involved in the perfection of your character. Your work is to co-operate with Christ, that you may be complete in Him. In being united to Him by faith, believing and receiving Him, you become a part of Himself. Your character is His glory revealed in you. And when you shall appear in His presence, you will find the benediction awaiting you, “Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things: I will make thee ruler over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” SW October 25, 1898, par. 2

17. In conclusion, given you admit the Holy Spirit is a separate “person”, would you therefore agree with the traditional Trinitarian formula of “One God in three persons”? Would you agree with that statement but perhaps with a qualification, by adding a few words, so it becomes: “One God in three persons in two beings”? I would be happier to agree with the Biblical writings, “The only true God, and Jesus Christ” who He has sent—twice. =)
 
The old 1872 and 1889 fundamental principles are best stated. I do agree with those regarding who God is.

18. And given the discussion above, would you be open to admitting that the Father and Son are in fact part of only one divine “being” (“ousia”)? Again, perhaps with some qualifying words about one God in different “forms”, so it becomes “One God, one divine being, but in three persons and two forms?” If you could admit that, it would seem fairly close to the Trinitarian position. You seem to be describing something akin to modalism, which I cannot accept. 
 

From one substance? I’d say yes, as Eve was brought forth from the substance of Adam, just as the Son was brought forth from the substance of the Father. But that doesn’t make Eve Adam, nor the Son the Father. 

I apologize for the number of questions and sub-questions – all relating to this interesting issue of what is meant by saying the Spirit is a “person” but not a “being”. Agreed. I’m sure my understanding of this will broaden, but I’m just trying to stick with what is revealed in inspiration—or as closely to it as possible. I don’t have any desire or need to go beyond that. 

I also apologize for being awfully technical, if not a bit confusing, in trying to get to the bottom of this distinction between “person” versus “being”, and indeed “being” from “form”. But in my defence, you did mention these distinctions yourself as a core, if not the core, explanation of those SOP passages affirming the “personhood” and “personality” of the Godhead. You likewise seem to mention (about 50 min) about minor differences that have enormous consequences. 

Blessings 

S________


Time: May 16, 2017 at 12:45 pm

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2 thoughts on “The Spirit, a Being or a Person?”

  1. When you wrote, “A Spirit can be without flesh and bones. See Luke 24:39.” I believe Jesus there was speaking to the common understanding of formless ghosts or apparitions, and not making a doctrinal statement about the nature of spirits.

    It’s hard to prove this except perhaps by context and putting other pieces together.

    Paul wrote that there are natural bodies as well as spiritual bodies. 1 Corinthians 15:44.

    Jesus was made a quickening spirit, yet he also has flesh and bones.

    In Hebrews we read that angels are ministering spirits, yet EGW also wrote that when she saw Satan, that she saw his “flesh hung loosely about his hands and face”, EW 152.3, and several other places.

    Language fails us sometimes, I guess, sort of like how when the Bible talks about “wine”. Alcoholic wine or unfermented juice? Depends who you ask 😉

    I believe the trinitarian teaching of a formless third being called god the holy spirit, a mind without any bodily form at all, is the beginning of spiritualism, and is the core teaching that underlies the belief of the immortality of the soul, that minds can exist without bodies. How does this exactly apply to the Father and the Son, and Their Spirit? I’m not exactly sure, that’s holy ground, and the risk of uttering heresy increases with each word I write. Silence is golden 😉

    1. Thank you for commenting. I see what you’re saying in the first paragraph, though I don’t know how far to take the applications of what is said here and what is said there. It seems this should be able to apply to something the Bible calls a mystery as well as not.

      Jesus being made a quickening spirit could certainly be referring to His omnipresence which ministers here on earth, right? (Consider DA 166.2, “While Jesus ministers in the sanctuary above, He is still by His Spirit the minister of the church on earth. He is withdrawn from the eye of sense, but His parting promise is fulfilled, “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20. While He delegates His power to inferior ministers, His energizing presence is still with His church.”)

      Very good point about satan’s flesh…

      I have a ThD friend who asked an MDiv, “when you are in heaven and look upon all that make up the fullness of the Godhead, how many beings will you see?”

      We both agreed there will be two. I don’t know that we will be able to hold the hand of the Spirit, though you’ve brought up good points. Thanks.

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