There is a movement within Adventism that, as I write, appears to be growing exponentially. Those associated with it haven’t given themselves a name possibly because they, like our friends the feast-keepers, are not an organized body yet and, like the feast-keepers, there are differences of opinion among themselves on what they believe. At the moment they are known as non-Trinitarians but rather than a negative label I'd prefer to give them a name that captures what they do believe so I'll refer to them here as Dualists.
The two teachings common to Dualism are 1) the denial of the Holy Spirit as a separate person distinct from the Father and Son, so, in place of a three deity Godhead they worship a two person Godhead (Dualism) and 2) their teaching on the begotten nature of Christ in which they assert Christ originated by an act of the Father at some point in eternity before the creation of any other being or world.
The two errors are twins in that both errors diminish or deny the divinity of these two members of the Godhead but in different ways: Their doctrine on the Holy Spirit denies His existence as a separate person while the doctrine of Christ as a begotten being who is derived from the Father denies His original divinity and eternal being. Citing Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD”, they reason that since God is one, the Father must be that one and only supreme God and they attempt to exalt Him by magnifying His authority and Godship.
However, the result is sadly the opposite. Taken together these teachings change the sublime, harmonious relationship between the members of the Godhead revealed in scripture which is the model for universal, unselfish love among created beings. The greatness and majesty of all three members of the Godhead is diminished, particularly the majesty of the Father who, when viewed thought this filter, takes on authoritarian attributes and the divine plan to redeem humanity from the grasp of sin is undermined. The oneness that Christ, as equal with the Father, experienced in eternity with the Father and the Spirit is the very oneness that Christ prayed for on behalf of His people: “That they may be one as we are one” (John 17:11).
There is no doubt that God the Father is in every sense the final universal authority. But the meekness and mercy of God, His justice - these twin attributes of His glory - are demonstrated in the plan to redeem mankind. Mercy and justice are revealed in the interaction of the members of the Deity with one another as co-equal Dignities in the plan to save us.
Dualist brethren teach that the true Holy Spirit is the spirit of the Father and that Christians who worship the Trinity are worshiping an entity devised by Satan, promoted anciently through paganism and introduced into Christianity by an apostate church. Since the members of the movement are former and present Adventists, they continue to believe in the three angel’s messages but in a substantially altered form: To them, the call of the first angel of Revelation 14 to worship the Creator God is a call to worship the Dualist Godhead. (Allen Stump, The Foundations of our Faith, Sixth Edition, 139.) Furthermore many of them view the call of the second and third angels to separate from Babylon as a call to separate from other Christian trinitarian idolaters, including Adventists (Stump, 139).
But not everyone in the movement feels it is necessary to separate. For example, at the time of writing this there is an Adventist church in the Ohio Conference in the United States where the members share these beliefs but have not felt it necessary to separate, yet.
Historically, it is true that Adventists have avoided using the term Trinity to define their understanding of the Godhead and many early Adventists have vigorously opposed the Catholic concepts of the Trinity. In all of the writings of Ellen White she never once used the term and the term is not found in scripture. Unfortunately, beginning about the 1920’s some Adventist church leaders started using the term and in recent times have chosen to adopt the term, redefining it to fit our understanding of the Godhead. The definitions given in numbers 2 to 5 of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the church define the Godhead in scriptural terms but unfortunately the word Trinity is used.
Dualists are correct that many of the pioneers did initially share their views on the begotten nature of Christ. By the time the Desire of Ages by Ellen White was published in 1888, however, the doctrine of the original and eternal deity of Christ was well established within Adventism. In fact the first paragraph of the book begins with this description of the eternal nature of Christ:
His name shall be called Immanuel, . . . God with us." "The light of the knowledge of the glory of God" is seen "in the face of Jesus Christ." From the days of eternity the Lord Jesus Christ was one with the Father; He was "the image of God," the image of His greatness and majesty, "the outshining of His glory. White, 19
The Catholic teaching on the Trinity is that God is one essence and the Father, Son and Spirit are differing manifestations of that essence. Where have we heard of God as an essence? For Adventists, we've heard of this in the mystical religions of the East and in Pantheism of Dr. Kellogg. Dualists unwittingly adopt a similar view that the Father projects His spirit to communicate with all His creatures. But we can be thankful to God for scriptures that assure us of the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit, sent by Christ and the Father as their representative, the Comforter of the church.
Dualism, like the error of Dr. Kellogg's Pantheism, is the outgrowth of the same sin - speculation on the nature and personality of the members of the Godhead beyond what scriptures reveal. And it is a sign of the times.
Our Dualist friends point out that there is no command in scripture to worship the Holy Spirit. While it is true that there is no direct command in scripture to worship the Holy Spirit the scriptures do indicate that the Holy Spirit is equal in divinity and dignity to the Father and the Son. The scripture is replete with admonitions and commands to forsake our idols whatever they might be and worship God from the heart in spirit and truth. If the Holy Spirit is God, then it follows that worship is due Him.
Our worship, our prayers and all our acts of devotion to God, according to Christ and the Apostles, are in and through the Spirit. John 4:23, 24; Eph. 6:18; Rev. 1:10. It is the Spirit of God that bears witness with our spirit. Rom. 8:16. It is essential to salvation that the Spirit forms a personal saving relationship with us. Christ, speaking at Jacob’s well to the Samaritan woman said: “But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23).
Significantly Jesus in this same interview said to the woman of Samaria; “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). My appeal to our Dualists brethren is to pause and prayerfully consider whether Christ is not bearing the same testimony to them: “You worship you know not what.” If God has raised up Adventism and commissioned it with the final Elijah message for the world who are the children of Abraham by faith today but those who abide in it and in Him?
Even more troubling to me than the denial of the Holy Spirit as a distinct person is the diminishing of the full divinity of Christ. Christ is on an equality with God (Philippians 2:6-8). As fully divine, Christ, like the Father, inhabits eternity, a concept our finite minds can't fully grasp (Isaiah 57:15). He reveals Himself as the I AM, the self-existent One who has life in Himself and who is the sustaining fountain of life to all creation (Hebrew 1:3). When He takes a grave oath on behalf of His people He makes it by His eternal deity, lifting his hand and solemnly affirming: “As I live for ever" (Deuteronomy 32:40, Daniel 12:7, Revelation 10:6 and Genesis 22:16). According to the Apostle John the spirit of anti-Christ is manifested in the denial that the Son of God has come in the flesh. I John 4:1-3. A denial of His divinity from eternity and/or his divinity while on earth as man is such a denial. Christ affirms today as He did to the scribes and Pharisees who also denied His divinity: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).
But I’m glad to see that many Dualists have not adopted a mindset of total revolt. Some are still hesitant about separating from the church and labeling God’s remnant movement Babylon. Sadly, others have rashly denied the light and stepped off the platform of truth. Those who’ve taken this step are following their beliefs to their logical conclusion. But God knows who are His. Some of these may yet see they are fighting God and be reconciled to Him.
At the present, however, the prominent leaders of the Dualist movement such as Nader Monsour and others (1) are spreading the call for separation, if not from the church, at a minimum from this supposed error, claiming that the church has apostatized into what Ellen White has termed the “Omega of apostasy” and a “deadly error”, descriptors that in actuality fit the Dualist movement alarmingly well (Ellen White, Selected Messages, Book 1, 200).
I would like to share more of what I've gleaned in my study of these issues because it's been an eye-opening experience for me. The closer we examine the truth, the more beautiful it appears but this is all I can fit in here. In my ebook on this topic, I look at the teachings of the pioneers on the Holy Spirit and Christ, the relationship between the “begetting” of Christ and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the early and latter rains – an especially interesting and timely topic - and the characteristics of the Omega.
May the prayer of Christ our Lord recorded for us in John 17 as He faced the cross for you and me be answered in the church today for that love and unity among us that exits among the three dignities of the Deity. Why? Because when our Lord's prayer is answered and divine unity is achieved among us as demonstrated in the Godhead, He will be glorified, the world along with the universe will witness it as the final testimony to the truth, and then He will return in triumph to take us home. Maranatha.
- See Nader Monsour video lecture http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8iQcrbi774U and David Clayton in Open Face, The Abomination of Desolation by September 2013, No. 92. page 1-6, and 12 and Allen Stump,The Foundations of Our Faith, Sixth Edition, pages 221 to 241.