Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: What Adventists Believe

Blog July 3, 2024

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21–22)

Although the word “trinity” is not found in the Bible and it did not become a formal Christian doctrine until the Council of Nicaea in 325, the concept is found in Jesus’s own words and life. In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and My Father are one.” When He was baptized, all three members of the Trinity were present. Onlookers saw the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove and heard the Father speak (Luke 3:22). In Matthew 28:19, Jesus’s parting instructions were to go out and baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

When church members were asked in the 2023 Global Church Member Survey (GCMS) whether they agreed that “there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three eternal equal Persons,” 81.3% stated that they “embrace it wholeheartedly” (slightly down from 83.7% in 2018). Another 13.3% said that they “accept it because the church teaches it” (up from 10.8% in 2018). There was minimal doubt or disagreement; just 3% “have some questions about it” (3.1% in 2018), 1.2% “have major doubts” (0.9% in 2018), and 1.2% don’t accept it at all (1.5% in 2018).

The GCMS2023 included a question that hadn’t been in the GCMS2018 survey, asking members whether they agreed that “the Holy Spirit is God’s power in the world, not a Person.” More than a third of the members disagreed (10.5%) or strongly disagreed (25.1%) with the statement, while 7.9% weren’t sure. However, more than half of the of respondents agreed (22.6%) or strongly agreed (34%) that the Holy Spirit is not a person. This finding calls for a closer look at how the Trinity is being taught in the Church. It could also mean that there were translation difficulties, and that as a result the question may not have been correctly understood by church members in some parts of the world.

The second of the Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs is on the Trinity: “There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons. God is immortal, all-powerful, all-knowing, above all, and ever present. He is infinite and beyond human comprehension, yet known through His self-revelation. God, who is love, is forever worthy of worship, adoration, and service by the whole creation.” This makes it clear that Seventh-day Adventists believe the Holy Spirit is a person, not just a nebulous “power.”

It’s true that the concept of the Trinity is a hard one to wrap one’s head around. God is infinite and our minds are finite. We can’t comprehend exactly how that can work. We trust that it does because God tells us that it does. The fifth Fundamental belief states that “God the eternal Spirit was active with the Father and the Son in Creation, incarnation, and redemption. He is as much a person as are the Father and the Son.” It’s a beautiful concept, and one that we need to try harder to explain to our fellow believers in our teaching, preaching, evangelism, and writings.

Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.

Published by ASTR on 07/03/2024.