Terry Hill's Commentary on Pastor Max Hatton's Book

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Dear Friend,

A little while ago, a friend of mine, (who like you receives my trinity presentation), very kindly gave me as a present a book called 'Understanding the Trinity'. It is written by a Seventh-day Adventist Minister called Max Hatton. It is advertised in the 2002 ABC catalogue. This is how it is described

"Understanding the Trinity. Max Hatton. Called "the best defence of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity in the last fifty years", this book discusses the Deity and pre-existence of Christ, the Holy Spirit in both Old and New Testaments, and the personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit. Numerous objections to the Deity of Jesus and to the doctrine of the Trinity are dealt with convincingly from scripture"

It sells for U.S. $9.99.

If you are on the GCO list forum (as some of us are), then you will have just seen that its moderator, Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick (also an Seventh-day Adventist minister), has just given the forum the link to Max Hatton's website. It is

http://www.users.bigpond.com/mhatton/

After reading this letter, you may wish to go to this website.

It is likely that there are those who in all sincerity believe that what I have written regarding the introduction of the trinity into the Seventh-day Adventist church, is 'a little bit over the top' even unnecessary. Some perhaps cannot see what all the fuss is about.

Recently, one person who receives these documents has suggested that it may be beneficial to produce a 'more condensed' version in an attempt have more people read it. I thought that his suggestion was a very good idea. I may do this in the new year when I have finished the 'longer' presentation because I do believe that it is absolutely necessary to have this 'more detailed' version.

So concerning the trinity, what is the fuss all about? Is this issue really important?

If ever I had any doubts as to the importance of this issue, then they have now completely disappeared. This is because I have just read Max Hatton's article titled 'Ellen G. White and the Trinity' (which is on his website).

I believe that my studies of the trinity doctrine, (especially the history of the pioneers attitude towards it as well as the history of its development), is one of the greatest privileges that God has ever afforded me. He has indeed blessed me and I thank Him continually.

So why were the pioneers so much against the trinity doctrine? Was it the unreasonable 'one in three and three in one' concept? Was it because the trinity doctrine is the centrality of the Roman Catholic faith? Was it because they did not really understand the trinity doctrine ?

The answer is that none of these reasons was, as far as I am concerned, the main issue. Yes they did see the three in one and the one in three idea as being totally unreasonable. Yes they did realise that this doctrine was the centrality of the Roman Catholic Church.

So did they understand the trinity doctrine? The answer to that I believe is an unequivocal 'yes', they did understand. That is why they rejected it.

So was it because they did not accept the complete deity of Christ that they rejected the doctrine of the trinity?

No it was not! They had no problem in this direction. Even way back in 1877 James White said in the Review and Herald of the 29th November

"The inexplicable Trinity that makes the Godhead three in one and one in three, is bad enough; but that ultra Unitarianism that makes Christ inferior to the Father is worse. Did God say to an inferior, "Let us make man in our image?"

Have you reasoned yet as to the main reason why the pioneers were so much against the trinity doctrine?

To put it simply, it was because the trinity doctrine teaches that the divine Son of God did not really die, only that the 'human bit' died.

Over the top? Exaggerated?

We who are on the SDA GCO list forum, have seen that there are established SDA's who believe that the divine Son of God did not really die (only that His human body died). I have personally met certain SDA's who believe this same thing. One very established SDA recently tried to convince me (and he used EGW to try and prove his point) that when Jesus was in the tomb, He was standing next to His dead body waiting to call it back to life on the third day. He also said that Jesus was monitoring the events that were going on around Him during His time in the tomb from Friday to Sunday.

One SDA who also said that the Son of God never died (only His human body), agreed that it was possible for Jesus to sin but if He had, it would only have been in His humanity. He concluded therefore that it was only his human body that would have suffered the consequences and not the divine Son of God. He went on to say that if Jesus had sinned (in His humanity of course), then the divine Son of God would have returned to His Father in Heaven and would, at a later date, have another go at saving the human race in another human body. This person is a lay preacher in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

How about the SDA who asked that if Jesus had sinned, would we have a divided God i.e. a good God and a bad God? He wasn't joking. He was very serious.

All these ideas stem from the various concepts of the trinity.

Now do not get me wrong. I believe that there is to a great degree a certain amount of truth concerning the basic trinity idea but I also believe that there is error. Perhaps that is what makes it so subtle in its deceptions.

So why have I written all this? Was it just to fill in a little bit of time until I get out the new section on the trinity? Not really.

After you have read through this letter, I want you to go to Max Hatton's website (link already provided) and read his article on 'Ellen G. White and the Trinity'. I want you to consider very carefully what he is asking you, its reader, to believe.

I want you to see his conclusions concerning Christ and His death (even His life). My question is "Do you agree with his theology?"

It says simply that when Jesus was here on earth, He was also in Heaven with His Father (in fact he says that when Jesus was on earth, he was also everywhere else at the same time).

Confused?

You would not be confused if you really understood the original trinity doctrine.

According to Max Hatton (30 years a Seventh-day Adventist minister), Jesus is omnipresent. He says that He was omnipresent even when He was here on earth in his humanity. Max Hatton concludes that Jesus is and was everywhere at all times including with His Father in Heaven.

This is the age old trinity doctrine.

According to this teaching, where was Jesus when he died? In heaven of course with His Father where He has always been. He is an everlasting generation of the Father.

Did the divine Son of God really die? In this theology NO! only the human bit of Jesus died. No wonder the pioneers said that the trinity doctrine was subversive of the atonement. I wonder what they would say to Max Hatton if they were here today.

Perhaps we can all see more clearly now why in the 'Ministry' magazine of October 1993, George Knight (professor of church history at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan) wrote in an article called 'Adventists and Change' wrote

"Most of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism would not be able to join the church today if they had to subscribe to the denomination's Fundamental Beliefs. More specifically, most would not be able to agree to belief Number 2, which deals with the doctrine of the Trinity".

As you read Max Hatton's article, I believe also that you will see a difference between the history that I have shown you in my presentation and the 'potted' history as Max Hatton sees it. You will need to compare it and decide for yourself which is true. We both cannot be correct.

I would also ask you to take a good look to at his conclusion at the end of his article. Would you agree with it?

There is one thing that I would like to explain to you before you read his article. You may not have encountered this before.

It concerns Max Hatton's use of John 3:13. It amazes me. Most Bible scholars realise that there are serious problems with this text inasmuch as the phrase 'which is in heaven' cannot be found in earlier manuscripts. It is believe to have been added by a scribe. That is why so many translations omit the phrase but Max Hatton uses it as the main infrastructure to support his theories.

In the majority of translations that I possess, the phrase 'which is in heaven' is omitted. One of the best translations of scriptures that I use is the New Jerusalem Bible (because it is a Roman Catholic translation, I obviously do not agree with its notes etc but the translation is very accurate). Being a Roman Catholic translation, and because the inclusion and use of this phrase would support the trinity doctrine, you would think that they would include it but they did not. Even they omit the phrase 'which is in heaven' ... the very church that still says that the trinity teaching is THE faith of the church.

The phrase cannot be found either in the NIV, the Phillips, the RSV, the Moffatt, the Good News, or the New World translation of the Bible. The NEB and Weymouth say "Whose home is in Heaven". Even Taylor in his Living Bible leaves it out and includes instead that Jesus "will return to Heaven".

Our own SDA Bible commentary says concerning the phrase 'which is in heaven'

"Important textual evidence may be cited for the omission of this clause. If retained, it refers to the timeless existence of Jesus in Heaven, His permanent abode. Possibly, however, the phrase was added by a later scribe, and thus at a time when Jesus was once more "in Heaven""

If you have any other translations that omit this phrase then I would really be interested. Please tell me if you know of any.

I would ask you now to read Max Hatton's article. My question is, "Do you accept his theology as being the truth? Many of you come back to me each time and thank me for receiving each section of my presentation that I send out (I really appreciate that) but very few make any comments. I invite you now to make comments. Do you believe what Max Hatton has written is true?

If you do, then all that I can say is that this is your prerogative. It is your divine right and your duty to accept and to act upon that which you believe to be the truth. God gave you that right. I would not seek to tamper with it.

Personally, I do not agree with Max Hatton's theology but that too is my divine right given to me by God.

If this article was written by a lay person, then I would not think of directing your thoughts towards it in such a manner as I have done but Max Hatton is not a lay person. He is a Seventh-day Adventist pastor with 30 years of experience in the ministry.

I emailed Max Hatton (see his home page if you want to send a comment to him) who replied to me very quickly. I asked him if the divine Son of God was safely in Heaven when Jesus died at Calvary. I will send you a copy of his reply when you make your comments.

The question is is Max Hatton correct with his theology or is there a problem with it?

May God continue to bless you as you study.

Regards Terry