Responding to the “three holiest being” statement.

Brother C. wrote:

“Modern non trinitarians often question the authenticity of the stenographical writings because of statements like this:

“You are born unto God, and you stand under the sanction and the power of the three holiest beings in heaven, who are able to keep you from falling.” [End Quote]

Okay friends, there is a fair amount that needs to be said here. It’s almost hard to know where to begin. I guess let’s start off with the typical reasoning why many anti/non-trinitarians reject this particular stenography statement. It is usually a two step process.

The first step is that they note this was not a published statement during Mrs. White’s lifetime. In emphasizing this point they note quotes such as these:

And now to all who have a desire for truth I would say: Do not give credence to unauthenticated reports as to what Sister White has done or said or written. If you desire to know what the Lord has revealed through her, read her published works. Are there any points of interest concerning which she has not written, do not eagerly catch up and report rumors as to what she has said. {5T 696.1}

I said, “If any of the citizens of Battle Creek wish to know what Mrs. White believes and teaches, let them read her published books {RH January 26, 1905, par. 19}

The second step is that they share published or written quotes wherein sister White asserts that Christ was the only Being who could enter into counsel with God, etc,…

Christ the Word, the Only Begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father,—one in nature, in character, and in purpose,—THE ONLY BEING IN ALL THE UNIVERSE THAT COULD ENTER INTO ALL THE COUNSELS AND PURPOSES OF GOD…. {GC 493.1}

Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father—one in nature, in character, in purpose—THE ONLY BEING THAT COULD ENTER INTO ALL THE COUNSELS AND PURPOSES OF GOD… {PP 34.1}

To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. THIS WORK ONLY ONE BEING IN ALL THE UNIVERSE COULD DO. Only He who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known. Upon the world’s dark night the Sun of Righteousness must rise, “with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2. {DA 22.1} “

…Christ became one with them. The ONLY BEING WHO WAS ONE WITH GOD lived the law in humanity, descended to the lowly life of a common laborer, and toiled at the carpenter’s bench with his earthly parent… {ST, October 14, 1897 par. 3}

…Christ became one with them. THE ONLY BEING WHO WAS ONE WITH GOD live the law in humanity, descended to the lowly life of a common laborer, and toiled at the carpenter’s bench with His earthly parent...{Lt121-1897.7}

Now, in commenting on this two step reasoning process, let me say this.

I believe the usage of the first two quotes is slightly erroneous. Mrs. White did not limit her ministry to publications made during her lifetime. To use those quotes that way would refute later releases of her writings and that is expressly contrary to her plan. She planned for the publication of her unpublished writings after her death. That plan makes no sense if she were trying to limit her teaching to what was already published. I hope this is clear. She gave those quotes to deal with refuting rumors.

As for the usage of the “only being” quotes I believe that has more validity.
There appears to be a discrepancy between her calling the holy Spirit a “being” in the “three holiest beings” stenography quote when compared to her writings. We see in GC 493.1; PP 34.1; DA 22.1; ST Oct 14, 1897; Lt121-1897, as quoted above, that she referred to Christ as “the only Being,” even “in all the universe,” who was capable of entering God’s counsel;“the only Being” capable of doing the work of revealing God’s character in contrast to satan; “the only Being” who was one with God.

These quotes seem strange if she believed and taught that the holy Spirit was a completely separate third Being who as one with God and that He (or It) was the same in nature as God the Father and His only begotten Son in every respect. If that were the case, then Christ would not be the only Being capable of entering into God’s counsel, revealing Him in contrast to satan, who was one with God. There should be a third Being who could do all of this too.

This seems to be quite a reasonable argument, one which, in my experience, certain of our trinitarian brethren do not want to admit or typically address.

So then what is the solution? Where is the harmony? Well, there are a couple possibilities here but I’ll share with you what I believe to be the best one. Many years ago, back in 2011 I think, I wrote something about this very issue. It may be helpful again now so I will share it again with the slight addition of a bracketed RH Sept 30, 1890 reference.

If the Holy Spirit as a “being” quote is something that Mrs. White actually said, the only way I can harmonize Christ as “the only being” privy to all of God’s counsels and one with Him is to guess that she is speaking of Christ as the only VISIBLE being here. As I stated previously the Holy Spirit may not have been a visible for His “nature…is a mystery…[that] the Lord has not revealed” to men. (AA pg 52). Very rarely in Scripture do we see the Holy Spirit in a form. However we know that “from eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator” (RH Dec 31, 1908) and this we know this to be the function of the Holy Ghost (RH Sept 30, 1890). The Spirit is not visible now as man’s Indweller and since it was God’s purpose “from eternal ages” to indwell both men and angels the Spirit was very likely not visible back at the time of Lucifer’s rebellion either. This may be the reason why Mrs. White speaks of Christ as the “only being” who entered into God’s counsels. That is, He (Christ) was the only one that anyone could observe doing so.[End Quote]

I will return to talk more about this quote and stenography reports in a moment but the suggestion that I am offering above not only helps us harmonize the “only Being” quotes but I believe it also sheds a harmonizing light on why Lucifer was jealous of God’s Son and not also jealous of the holy Spirit too. It helps us fathom why Lucifer was ranked “next to Christ” and not next to Christ and next to the
holy Spirit.
This view can also help us fathom why God and Christ are seen upon throne but the Spirit Itself is conspicuously absent from being seated upon the throne. As I understand it there is actually a spiritual temple and a spiritual throne – the temple of the body and the throne of the heart – that is spoken of. Interestingly enough when Lucifer was envious of the Son of God we are told that “in his heart there was a strange, fierce conflict” {PP 36.3}. So the holy Spirit would be internal within God, within Christ, and indwelling the holy angels. As such the Spirit would never be seen entering into God’s counsels, as a tangible Being, like how the only begotten Son would. In fact, by default, the Spirit would have to already be there as the internal agency who searches and knows the things of God (1 Cor 2:10, 11).

I suspect this conclusion will be resisted by those who appear to have a tritheistic view of the Father, Son and holy Spirit as a completely separate God Beings. Yet, to such brethren, I would ask what is your harmonizing factor for these things? It would be good to hear it.

Now let’s talk about stenography reports for a moment. This was a form of shorthand writing that used symbols and marks to record what someone was saying during a speech and then, later on, it had to be transcribed back into the full language. This was an imprecise science that lacked the precision of personal writings. All properly informed parties should be able to admit this. I will not get into it more detail now but this is important to understand to make sense of the following disclaimer from the White Estate:

All the messages reproduced in this volume were delivered in public and stenographically reported, or were prepared with that purpose in view. Many of Ellen White’s sermons may be found in the Review and Herald and Signs of the Times, but nearly all of those included in this series have been drawn from previously unpublished manuscripts, as they appear in our files. So, although there were not tape recorders in Ellen White’s day, a person may get the true “feel” of Ellen White as a speaker by reading this book” {1SAT i.3}

Did you catch it? A person can get a true “feel” for Ellen White as a speaker but, since there were no tape recorders back then, we cannot get any more than just a “feel.” On top of that it is very possible that there will be some errors in stenography reports. You see not only could there be errors made when recording them this could also occur when transcribing them back to full length speech. And when doing so there are liberties taken. Therefore we must take all such records with a grain of salt.

Now how can you know that what I am telling you is correct and that this is how it worked with Ellen White? Fortunately, there is a verifiable occasion where there were multiple stenographers who recorded her message. We know this because there are 5 stenographic reports of a talk that sister White gave on Monday, April 1st, 1901. These are Manuscripts 43, 43a, 43b, 43c, and 43d. I am indebted to a brother Brendan Valiant for first bringing this to my attention.

Now let’s get into some of the details of these manuscripts. First up Ms 43 has 4,905 words while Ms 43b has 4,943 words and those two manuscripts lack the introduction found in the other 3 manuscripts. If you look at these manuscripts you can see that they are edited to remove the free-form expressions present in typical speech. They also remove redundant material and shorten some accounts. They also help to clarify ambiguities which are present in the other 3 manuscripts.

Now here’s the important part. There are clear variations of words in them. For example one manuscript uses:

This is what alarms me” {Ms43-1901}

The other one uses:

This is what frightens me {Ms43b-1901}

So which word did she use?

Or again one manuscript uses:

These things must be purged from the men who are helping to prepare a people to stand in the last great conflict, which is just upon us. {Ms43-1901.20}

While the other uses:

“These things must be taken away from the men who are helping to prepare a people to stand in the last great conflict, which is just upon us. {Ms43b-1901.18}

So what did she actually say?

Again one manuscript uses:

….we know that new power must be brought into the regular lines.” {Ms43-1901.4}

But the other uses:

…we know that new blood must be brought into the regular lines.” {Ms43b-1901.4}

So is it power or is it blood?

Do you see the problem? Stenography reports aren’t perfect! And the other manuscripts, which are much longer, have their variations too. We we will not discuss these details except to say that Ms 43a is 8,106 words, Ms 43c is 7856 words and Ms 43d is 8,127 words. And there are occasions where these manuscripts disagree with one other manuscript but agree with the other.

Now can you imagine if someone attempted to base a doctrine off of just one quote? Say for example the “new blood” quote from Ms43b. Should we go by that stenography report or should we examine the totality of sister White’s published writings before reaching any conclusion? Thoughtful readers will understand what I am getting at here.

So what’s the salient point? The point is that stenography is an imprecise science. It does not carry the precision of personal writings. On top of that we must deal with the meaning and intent behind her words. It can be misunderstood by the listeners. We must use caution here.

So let’s come back around full circle back to the “three holiest beings” stenographer quote. In dealing with this quote we need to remember a principle that is applicable to the Word of God itself:

Some look to us gravely and say, “Don’t you think there might have been some mistake in the copyist or in the translators?” This is all probable, and the mind that is so narrow that it will hesitate and stumble over this possibility or probability would be just as ready to stumble over the mysteries of the Inspired Word, because their feeble minds cannot see through the purposes of God. Yes, they would just as easily stumble over plain facts that the common mind will accept, and discern the Divine, and to which God’s utterance is plain and beautiful, full of marrow and fatness. All the mistakes will not cause trouble to one soul, or cause any feet to stumble, that would not manufacture difficulties
from the plainest revealed truth.
{1SM 16.2}

I saw that God had especially guarded the Bible, yet learned men, when the copies were few, had changed the words in some instances, thinking that they were making it more plain, when they were mystifying that which was plain, in causing it to lean to their established views, governed by tradition. But I saw that the word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain, one portion of scripture explaining another. True seekers for truth need not err; for not only is the word of God plain and simple in declaring the way to life, but the Holy Spirit is given to guide in understanding the way of life revealed in his Word {1SG 117.1 }

It is “all probable” that there were mistakes made by the copyists and translators but our minds must not be narrow so as to stumble over this. Even though “learned men” actually “changed the words in some instances” back when “the copies were few” thus “mystifying that which was plain” and “causing it to lean to their established views, governed by tradition” we still need not stumble. Why not? Because “the word of God, as a whole, is a perfect chain” with “one portion of Scripture explaining another.” Therefore “true seekers for truth need not err.” The Word of God is “plain and simple in declaring the way to life” and “the Holy Spirit” has been given to guide our understanding in that way as revealed in His Word.”

So, despite a few possible/probable errors, if we let the Word interpret the Word, under the unction of God’s Spirit, we need not fear. This same principle is to be used with the Testimonies.

The testimonies themselves will be the key that will explain the messages given, as scripture is explained by scripture {1SM 42.2}

When we look at Mrs. White’s writings as a whole we have no need to stumble. It is really possible that she said “three holiest beings” but then again, because this is a posthumous release of her writings, it is also a possible error. In truth we do not know for certain. If she had published this statement we could know but she never did so we are left with ambiguity. Yet do not stumble!

Here is a bit of information about this manuscript release for those who want to know.

1) We do not have a handwritten stenography draft or any record of who recorded this. Men assume it was Clarence Crisler (a reasonable assumption) but I don’t think we know for certain.

2) This statement was not written by Ellen White and neither was it published by her.

3) The typed copy of the stenographer’s report lacks her signature or stamp.

4) This quote was not release by the White Estate until 1976.

5) Nevertheless it was a part of her file and she never corrected it. Here is Tim Poirier’s defense on the matter.

“It was a manuscript that she [Mrs. White] had in her file- a part of her collection when she died. Sometimes we have signed copies sometimes we don’t. The burden of proof is for someone to prove that it isn’t [genuine]. It is not unusual for us to have documents where she did not personally sign each one. She certainly had opportunity to correct the document or remove it. It’s bound in her letter book from 1906- [and] there are multiple copies of the carbon. Her secretaries did this in 1906 or 1907.” (Tim Poirier, Vice Director of White Estate Voicemail message to Jason Smith from Monday, July 18, 2011 @ 9:00 AM).

6) It is a genuine possibility of something she said in her message.

7) Judging from all of her writings, overall, there is a way to show the harmony of this statement.

The words “person” and “being” can be used synonymously. Elsewhere in her writings Mrs. White speaks of being “a new being” created in the image of God.

The blessing comes when by faith the soul surrenders itself to God. Then that power which no human eye can see creates a new being in the image of God. {YRP 15.2}

This same point can be demonstrated by parallelism elsewhere.

It should be apparent that she is using the word “being” here to mean the same thing as “person.” Since she did write that Spirit was the “third person” of the Godhead or heavenly trio it is very possible that she said “being” as in “three holiest beings” and meant “three holiest persons” or “three holiest powers.” Or, then again, maybe she said something slightly different and the stenographer made an error here. Yet if that is the case God did not see fit to have Mrs. White catch it or fix it. And, truthfully, it does not amount to much except for when men, with a theological agenda, try to make it so.

Please note the following quotes that are entirely from published statements in her lifetime.

Evil had been accumulating for centuries, and could only be restrained and resisted by the mighty power of the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, who would come with no modified energy, but in the fulness of divine power. Another spirit must be met; for the essence of evil was working in all ways, and the submission of man to this satanic captivity was amazing {SpTA10 25.2}

Christ determined that when He ascended from this earth He would bestow a gift on those who had believed on Him and those who should believe on Him. What gift could He bestow rich enough to signalize and grace His ascension to the mediatorial throne? It must be worthy of His greatness and His royalty. He determined to give His representative, the third person of the Godhead. This gift could not be excelled. He would give all gifts in one, and therefore the divine Spirit, converting, enlightening, sanctifying, would be His donation {ST December 1, 1898, par. 2}

…Those who are baptized in the threefold name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, at the very entrance of their Christian life declare publicly that they have forsaken the service of Satan and have become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. {6T 91.3}

The presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the three highest powers in the universe and those in whose name the believer is baptized, is pledged to be with every striving soul. It will impart grace and strength to all who will watch unto prayer, to all who will purify the soul by obedience to the truth. And it will make the believer instrumental in leading other souls to accept Christ by faith. {PUR July 2, 1908, par. 4}

The presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, the three highest powers in the universe, is pledged to be with every striving soul. They will impart grace and strength to all who will watch unto prayer, to all who will purify the soul by obedience to the truth. And they will make the believer instrumental in leading other souls to accept Christ by faith. {SW December 15, 1908, par. 3}

The three highest powers in the universe are pledged to labor with those who will seek to save the lost. God wants his people to claim his promised help for the accomplishment of his work in the world… {RH August 12, 1909, par. 3}

We are to cooperate with the three highest powers in heaven,—the Father, th
e Son, and the Holy Ghost,
—and these powers will work through us, making us workers together with God… {SpTB07 51.1}

As a Christian submits to the solemn rite of baptism, the three highest powers in the universe,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,—place their approval on his act, pledging themselves to exert their power in his behalf as he strives to honor God…” {ST August 16, 1905, par. 1}

The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio. In the name of these three powers,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ. {BTS March 1, 1906, par. 2}

Let us not forget our baptismal vow. In the presence of the three highest powers of heaven,—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,—we have pledged ourselves to do the will of him who, over the rent sepulcher of Joseph, declared, “I am the resurrection and the life.”...{RH May 26, 1904, Art. A, par. 15}

Hence we see, via her publications, that she wrote about “three powers” – Father, Son, and holy Spirit – and she wrote of the latter power as a “person” too – even the “third person of the Godhead.”

Now, to the best of my knowledge, the contested stenographer’s quote is the only place where it can be claimed she explicitly called the Spirit a “being” yet since she so clearly referred to the Spirit as a “power” and “person” elsewhere this should not cause anyone to stumble.

Since she certainly referred to the Spirit as a Person (we have published statements on this) it is possible she referred to the spirit as a “Being” too but, if so, we still must harmonize that with what she wrote elsewhere.

As I wrote before the conspicuous absence of the holy Spirit from the great controversy narrative and her other published references to the Son of God as “the only Being” provide balance here. We must let the Testimonies interpret the Testimonies, especially with respect to a stenographer’s report published posthumously. We are dealing with a person or being whose nature is a mystery not revealed.

I believe the best harmonizing factor is in what I wrote above which I will share again:

“If the Holy Spirit as a “being” quote is something that Mrs. White actually said, the only way I can harmonize Christ as “the only being” privy to all of God’s counsels and one with Him is to guess that she is speaking of Christ as the only VISIBLE being here. As I stated previously the Holy Spirit may not have been a visible for His “nature…is a mystery…[that] the Lord has not revealed” to men. (AA pg 52). Very rarely in Scripture do we see the Holy Spirit in a form. However we know that “from eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator” (RH Dec 31, 1908) and this we know this to be the function of the Holy Ghost (RH Sept 30, 1890). The Spirit is not visible now as man’s Indweller and since it was God’s purpose “from eternal ages” to indwell both men and angels the Spirit was very likely not visible back at the time of Lucifer’s rebellion either. This may be the reason why Mrs. White speaks of Christ as the “only being” who entered into God’s counsels. That is, He (Christ) was the only one that anyone could observe doing so….[End Quote]

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James White on the Spirit

Responding to such claims that “The pioneers dug for truth as for hidden treasure. James White, Joseph Bates, Hiram Edson, John N. Andrews, and others quarried out the building stones to make the temple…. they found the ineffable mystery of the oneness of God in the Trinity….(A.W. Spalding, “Captains of the Host” pg 214, 1949)

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2 Responses

  1. Um, Three substantive Divine BEINGS, one being non-visible. E G White’s statement and the ‘harmonizing’ statement could never be utilized in support of TRUE Trinity theology as those statements in essence, within that theology, constitute polytheism (tritheism), heresy within the True Trinity concept. Mrs White’s statement and the ‘harmonizing’ would give support to a fair number of Adventists who do believe in 3 separate DIVINE BEINGS working as a SINGLE unit. Similar to Mormon and JW concepts of the Godhood/Godhead. There is a problem though. John’s reference to the Comforter, which most of Christianity assumes to be the 3rd person/personality/3rd ‘being’ known as the Holy Spirit/Holy Ghost/God the Spirit, John uses the Greek word ‘parakletos’ for Comforter 4 times in the book of John. He then reveals in 1 John Who ‘parakletos’ is—–Jesus Christ. Notably NOT a 3rd DISTINCT BEING entity. This would seem to be especially in conflict with the BTS statement of March 1 , 1906 paragraph 2 to which some imply that the ‘Spirit’ referred to is that 3rd entity. I also cannot find any reference among EG White’s SDA pioneer peers to a 3 distinct Divine BEINGS, one being non-visible, belief. It is apparent that within Adventism, there is more than one God being acknowledged and worshiped. Question then becomes, Do we know not who we worship?

  2. Guessing that EGW meant to something that is not written down is risky business. I cannot go there. We could then start "guessing" all kinds of extraneous ideas into inspired records.

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