doctrine of the Trinity

My Journey to Biblical Truth

Re-thinking my Church's Doctrines

Foto van Martin Bredenkamp - skrywer

Dr. Martin William Bredenkamp. D.Sc.; M.Sc.; B.Sc.

Dr. Martin Bredenkamp shares his disillusionment with certain of the Church’s doctrines and his search for Biblical alternatives



Editor’s Comment: The editorial context of this blog


My Adventist background

I was born a Seventh-Day Adventist, and have been a strong supporter of the Church all my life.  I spent 10 of my twelve school years in Adventist schools, and completed my first tertiary degree at an Adventist College. For the past eight years I have supported the Church in working at its university in Thailand (AIU).

I believe, being in the Adventist school system during my formative years, gave me a fairly good grasp of what Adventist dogma is all about.
 

“Mere reflector’s of other men’s thoughts” 

At school and at College we were often reminded to think and to study for ourselves.

The context of these reminders usually related to the fact that members of other beliefs often just accept what their priests or pastors tell them and they do not investigate for themselves. We were also reminded that our Adventist Church originated because our own church fathers did not just blindly accept what their Churches told them to be the truth, but set out on their own journey of truth-seeking.

“Sabbath conferences”

The well known “Sabbath conferences” that took place in the years following the 1844 disappointment were often cited as prime examples of such self-study efforts. These investigations eventually led to the rejection of many of the doctrines of the “mainline” churches and eventually to the establishment of our own Adventist Church with its distinctive set of doctrines.

Strangely enough, this is what we were taught, but in practice most Adventist church members do just what others do and we blindly accept “the traditions of our fathers”.
 

I have fallen into the same trap 

It has only been in recent years that I realized that my understanding of church dogma is to a great extent the result of rather blindly accepting the instructions of the organized Church.

I consequently set out on a journey to re-examine my own belief system. Once I commenced this journey I soon started to feel uncomfortable with some of the doctrines of the Church that I grew up with. Together with my wife Charmaine, we decided to investigate “from scratch” what the Bible actually teaches with regard to the doctrines of our Church.
 

 Other men’s footprints

As we prayed and read the Bible and investigated sources that are available on the internet we discovered that we were not the only ones on this journey. Others were also researching and discovering. Some had already walked further along this way than we and we could follow in their footsteps and learn from them. Having said that, I am also aware of the danger of again just becoming another pair of reflectors of other men’s thoughts. And it is with this awareness that we approach each of our doctrines.

A “clean slate”

Our purpose, in a sense, is to be a clean slate and to let the Bible itself reveal to us that which is hidden in its pages. In all of this we have decided to tread very lightly and carefully. We realize that other greater minds than ours have gone before us and we would hate to be presumptuous and believe that only our own discernment can be of value!
 

Purpose 

In the following paragraphs I would like to share some of our discoveries regarding our church doctrines that we are seriously disgruntled with.

Because of the complexities of the issues that we have discovered it is impossible to even begin to do justice to each topic in the span of one blog. The purpose of this particular article is therefore to highlight a few of the doctrinal areas that we are struggling with and to mention some aspect of each that is of outstanding importance to us. In future blogs I would like to delve a little deeper into each of these topics.
 

Spirit of Prophecy

The first doctrine that we do not agree with is the application of the Spirit of Prophecy, as mentioned in the book of Revelation, to Ellen White. We believe there must be a wider application for the Spirit of Prophecy than one person. Joel indicates many people prophesying at the end of time.
 

The Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity has also come under our scrutiny and we are convinced that the way that it is taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church is incorrect.

It has become clear to us from scripture that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not equal beings, but that the Father takes primacy. The Son is submissive and inferior to Him, and that the Spirit does the bidding of both Father and Son.

Doctrine of the Trinity not part of our 19th century doctrines

We furthermore discovered that the 19th century Adventist church did not hold the doctrine of the Trinity as it is spelled out today in our statement of fundamental beliefs. The Adventist church’s modern day doctrine of the Trinity was only formally accepted as official church doctrine (1980) and seems to have been popularized by the work and publications of Leroy E. Froom, a well known Adventist scholar between 1930 and 1950.There seems to be some indication that Froom himself was influenced in his thinking by his association with the Catholic Church. 
 

The “Investigative Judgement”

The 1844 disappointment came about as the result of a misinterpretation of Biblical prophecy. Afterwards the Adventist church fathers tried to justify it by building a theology around the cleansing of the heavenly temple.

A study of the Bible, of history, and an understanding of science does not support this doctrine. The reality is, 1844 was a mistake, and nothing more. God does not need to investigate because He already knows (John 3:18). 
 
Apocalyptic prophecy
172 years have passed since 1844, and much progress has been made in understanding prophecy. We have no reason to cling to the original interpretation made to these prophecies almost 200 years ago.

The foundation of these prophecies were conjured with the expectation of the Advent in 1844. Naturally all the pre-Advent prophecies had to find interpretation in history since the Advent was expected in 1844. There are far better and more literal interpretations to many of the prophecies now, 172 years later. 
 

The taboos relating to Sabbath observance

Adventists have through the years developed a whole culture of do’s and don’ts around Sabbath-keeping, making it in many respects burdensome like it was to the Jews in the time of Christ.

Christ was quite radical about Sabbath-keeping measured against the Jewish culture of his day. If He were here today, I guess He would again be quite radical toward some aspects of Adventist Sabbath-keeping. I must add that Sabbath observance in the Adventist Church today differs from culture to culture, and nation to nation, and many of the strict observance taboos of 50 years ago have been put on the back burner – to the chagrin of some older die-hards and the rejoicing of others.
 

Looking ahead

These, in a nut shell, are the main issues we have come to question through our own Bible study. In the next blog I will focus in greater detail on some of the key issues around the doctrine of the Trinity.
Read a response by Pastor Evert Potgieter to Martin Bredenkamp’s Article.

Please climb onto our soapbox and share your take on Martin’s journey to rediscover “true” biblical doctrine.

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  • Hi Martin

    It seems like an age since I struggled with Chemistry and you sailed through it. That you reached the dizzy heights of mercurial wizardry enabled me to rationalise the normality my own limitations.

    I recall that we would ‘chew the fat’ on all kinds of issues back then and I am the richer for your consideration at the time, and it seems that you will be enlightening us all further.

    One of the questions I ask people from time to time, is: ‘how has your understanding of a given issue changed since cradle roll’? Many surprise themselves when they discover that they have not changed that much. We all discover change at different times of our lives. Those of us who were critical in our youth had to swim upstream. I trust that your later in life adjustments are not coupled with disappointment.

    A blessing I found studying Chemistry was to play with increasingly sophisticated models while reminding myself of their limitations. Each model was not a denial of the prior but a nuanced development. We are patient with those for whom the simplest model suffices. Those who teach, use models they know to be incomplete, as stepping stones to deeper insights rather than delusions.

    Over the years I have met thousands of good folk trying to understand the science of salvation, their own in particular. Most cope with fluid approximations and live with the construct of best fit. The dangerous ones are those for whom the model becomes the reality, and will fight to defend the model at all cost. Sadly this ilk seem to be ascendant.

    I look forward to reading what you have to say, while recognising even from the circle of this blog that we all have travelled through the same station.

    • Martin W Bredenkamp

      Victor, it is good to see your contribution, and to hear your take on matters of faith. Yes, it is very easy to go with the flow and not ever think about things seriously. However, I have noticed that many people do question the norms that they were exposed to at some or other time. Most people go through that experience as teens, and question. I believe this is a good thing. Teens do this because they are flexing their wings to enter the adult world in a meaningful way, even though they make the world uncomfortable for their parents especially, and their teachers, and those around them.

      I grew up in a Calvinistic culture with parents that stuck as close as possible to the Adventist blueprint. My up-bringing was such that I did not dare question, so perhaps I had to grow up to be fifty something before I became a teen. (That was tongue in the cheek.) Adventism taught me that truth was the only way, and that truth is in the Bible. The Advent church also claims to be dynamic and will follow new truth as it is revealed. However, in the last few decades we have become big, making it difficult for one person to introduce a concept and have the church accept it. The Advent church has also fastened its doctrines by writing a book on what we believe, 28 doctrines. This seems to have somehow turned our belief system into a creed, and now we are inflexible and unable to change and accept new truth.

      So an ironic situation occurred in my life. I was taught to do Bible study by the Advent church, and in doing exactly that, it has led me to become rejected by the church because of the reinterpretation of doctrines that have taken place during my study.

      Thanks for the compliments Vic. It was good to have you in the same chemistry class, because your determination to succeed also encouraged me to keep at it and make a success. It is strange here too how I went to Helderberg with the intent of becoming a Maths teacher, but ended up changing my career into one of chemistry. The beauty of organic chemistry and its usefulness to real life caught me. Also the fact that there were aspects of chemistry that could be rationalised and not just rote learned, in particular, aromatic chemistry.

      Over time I wish to share some of the discoveries I have made in my Bible study.

    • Martin W Bredenkamp

      Hi Victor,

      It is good to see your contribution, and to hear your take on matters of faith. Yes, it is very easy to go with the flow and not ever think about things seriously. However, I have noticed that many people do question the norms that they were exposed to at some or other time. Most people go through that experience as teens, and question. I believe this is a good thing. Teens do this because they are flexing their wings to enter the adult world in a meaningful way, even though they make the world uncomfortable for their parents especially, and their teachers, and those around them.

      I grew up in a Calvinistic culture with parents that stuck as close as possible to the Adventist blueprint. My up-bringing was such that I did not dare question, so perhaps I had to grow up to be fifty something before I became a teen. (That was tongue in the cheek.) Adventism taught me that truth was the only way, and that truth is in the Bible. The Advent church also claims to be dynamic and will follow new truth as it is revealed. However, in the last few decades we have become big, making it difficult for one person to introduce a concept and have the church accept it. The Advent church has also fastened its doctrines by writing a book on what we believe, 28 doctrines. This seems to have somehow turned our belief system into a creed, and now we are inflexible and unable to change and accept new truth.
      So an ironic situation occurred in my life. I was taught to do Bible study by the Advent church, and in doing exactly that, it has led me to become rejected by the church because of the reinterpretation of doctrines that have taken place during my study.

      Thanks for the compliments Vic. It was good to have you in the same chemistry class, because your determination to succeed also encouraged me to keep at it and make a success. It is strange here too how I went to Helderberg with the intent of becoming a Maths teacher, but ended up changing my career into one of chemistry. The beauty of organic chemistry and its usefulness to real life caught me. Also the fact that there were aspects of chemistry that could be rationalised and not just rote learned, in particular, aromatic chemistry.

      Over time I wish to share some of the discoveries I have made in my Bible study.

  • clive page

    what Martin is doing here is to create his own version/interpretation of Adventism. cherry picking if you like and or re inventing the wheel. thousands if not millions have done this before and yet still no body knows which one is the right one. everybody still equally stumbling around in the dark. in one of Martins paragraphs he uses the sentence ” let the bible itself reveal to us that which is hidden in its pages “. Really ? if there is an almighty and all knowing and perfect God then why are things hidden in the pages where you cant find them ? and or are so wide open to interpretation that it is impossible to get any resolution ? would God not want his word to be absolutely clear to everybody straight away without any doubt what so ever ? why all the secrecy ? Martin has admitted in previous debates on FB that the bible had been tampered with. we also have confirmation that through the ages the bible had been edited about 35000 times. so we are now to believe a document that changes all the time and with things ” hidden in its pages ” ? Really ? how pathetic !! how would Martin feel if his science textbooks changed the laws of maths, physics and chemistry all the time ? would he still believe in them ? but no he still doggedly goes with the bible trying to find a version that he is comfortable with. cherry picking and re inventing the wheel.!! what is this human obsession of having to believe in a God/holy book/intelligent designer ? for what ? to achieve what ? each person could and should be able to be happy with believing in what they can see and what can be scientifically proven. to believe in what can not be proven is superstitious and irrational and therefor primitive !!

    • Martin W Bredenkamp

      Victor, it is good to see your contribution, and to hear your take on matters of faith. Yes, it is very easy to go with the flow and not ever think about things seriously. However, I have noticed that many people do question the norms that they were exposed to at some or other time. Most people go through that experience as teens, and question. I believe this is a good thing. Teens do this because they are flexing their wings to enter the adult world in a meaningful way, even though they make the world uncomfortable for their parents especially, and their teachers, and those around them.

      I grew up in a Calvinistic culture with parents that stuck as close as possible to the Adventist blueprint. My up-bringing was such that I did not dare question, so perhaps I had to grow up to be fifty something before I became a teen. (That was tongue in the cheek.) Adventism taught me that truth was the only way, and that truth is in the Bible. The Advent church also claims to be dynamic and will follow new truth as it is revealed. However, in the last few decades we have become big, making it difficult for one person to introduce a concept and have the church accept it. The Advent church has also fastened its doctrines by writing a book on what we believe, 28 doctrines. This seems to have somehow turned our belief system into a creed, and now we are inflexible and unable to change and accept new truth.

      So an ironic situation occurred in my life. I was taught to do Bible study by the Advent church, and in doing exactly that, it has led me to become rejected by the church because of the reinterpretation of doctrines that have taken place during my study.

      Thanks for the compliments Vic. It was good to have you in the same chemistry class, because your determination to succeed also encouraged me to keep at it and make a success. It is strange here too how I went to Helderberg with the intent of becoming a Maths teacher, but ended up changing my career into one of chemistry. The beauty of organic chemistry and its usefulness to real life caught me. Also the fact that there were aspects of chemistry that could be rationalised and not just rote learned, in particular, aromatic chemistry.

      Over time I wish to share some of the discoveries I have made in my Bible study.