Project Documents

Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Project Report

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry

School

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

Program

Doctor of Ministry DMin

First Advisor

Marcos De Benedicto

Second Advisor

Ricardo Norton

Third Advisor

Eduard Schmidt

Abstract

Problem

The task of this project was to develop, implement, and evaluate a seminar to confront anti-Trinitarian dissidence in the Central Amazon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Brazil. In a historical study, Burt (2006) pointed out that the progression of Adventists from anti-Trinitarianism to a biblical Trinitarian view has been a difficult process (p. 126), and he also explained on the same year that “the last decade has seen an increased anti-Trinitarian agitation within the Seventh-day Adventist Church” (p. 125). Whidden, Moon, and Reeve (2002) point out that there are “increasing reports” of anti-Trinitarianism in North America and around the world, and they suggest that, as this movement gains ground, “local churches increasingly find themselves drawn into debate over the issues” (pp. 8, 9). Pastoral observation suggests that a similar problem within the Central Amazon Conference (ACEAM) has caused some polarization, and a significant number of believers have left the church. At least three churches within the conference have been visibly affected by this issue, and the phenomenon is gaining ground. These realities represent the main reason why this project was implemented.

Methodology

This project (which through a seminar sought to confront anti-Trinitarian dissidence in the Central Amazon Conference) belongs to the discipline of applied theology. Issues related to the concept of Trinity were studied in the light of the Bible, the writings of Ellen White, and other contributions from contemporary literature. The lessons learned from such an exploration, along with a careful analysis of the project’s context, constituted the theoretical platform for the development, implementation, and evaluation of a seminar to confront anti-Trinitarian dissidence within the Amazon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. Individual interviews, group discussion, and surveys served as tools to evaluate the results of the implementation of the program.

Results

The analysis of literature related to the subject of the Trinity allowed the creation and implementation of the seminar. With the advantages provided by the methods of naturalistic observation and contrived observation (Gravetter & Forzano, 2009, p. 358), the researcher was able to recognize behaviors otherwise impossible to observe (p. 359), and such behaviors revealed that the seminar was well received by church members. The leaders of the ACEAM especially valued the fact that this project allowed them to observe the main reasons why church members tend to accept or resist anti-Trinitarian dissidence.

The surveys conducted for this project suggest that the level of doctrinal knowledge is a significant factor that causes Seventh-day Adventist church members to be prone to either accept or reject anti-Trinitarian movements. Most (73.68%) of those surveyed in a church without a history of dissidence (iglesias sin historia de disidencia, or ISHD, its acronym in Spanish), and also among those surveyed in a church with history of dissidence (iglesias con historia de disidencia, or ICHD, its acronym in Spanish) most (57.14%) do not have the book that deals with the 28 fundamental beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists (having the book might help clarify some of the related issues in the minds of new church members, if they read the book). Surveys also reveal that 52.63% of those in the ISHD and 71.42% of those in the ICHD said the subject of Trinity is hardly ever dealt with, or is dealt with merely when a doctrinal problem emerges. The surveys conducted reveal, among others, the following main factors that make a church member prone to accept anti-Trinitarian doctrines: first, a superficial knowledge about biblical beliefs in general and about the Trinity in particular; second, little historical awareness regarding Seventh-day Adventist pioneers and the development of their beliefs regarding Trinity and other issues; third, lack of participation in personal evangelism; and fourth, lack of meaningful relationships between church members and their leaders.

Conclusions

The results of this project suggest that the Seventh-day Adventist Church in ACEAM and around the world might find it beneficial to implement similar programs in which church members might be exposed to a deeper understanding of Seventh-day Adventist beliefs in general, and Trinity in particular. Since pastors and church elders are among the first ones church members talk to when they have questions such as those related to the Trinity, it is important to make sure pastors and other leaders have good relationships with their church members, and also that they are knowledgeable in matters related to biblical beliefs. We must recognize that a mistaken view of God will cause us to have a flawed view of all other biblical doctrines. On the other hand, a proper understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity will help us to perceive a God who is present and provides everything necessary for our salvation (the Father); who was nailed to the cross in the place of the human race (the Son); and who is with us every day (the Holy Spirit). Only through a correct concept of the Trinity will we be able to testify with conviction: God is love.

Subject Area

Antitrinitarianism; Seventh-day Adventists--Apologetic works; Central Amazon Conference of Seventh-day Adventists

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