TRINITY IN ADVENTIST HISTORY

Ministry Magazine, October, 1993; cover

What SDA historians say about our own church history:

Some Adventists today think, that our beliefs have remained unchanged over the years, or they seek to turn back the clock to some point when we had everything just right. But all attempts to recover such “historic Adventism” fail in view of the facts of our heritage.” {Adventist Review Jan 6, 1994 p. 10, written by William G. Johnsson, Editor of the Adventist Review, Article “Present Truth – Walking in God’s Light”.}

“Adventist beliefs have changed over the years under the impact of ‘present truth’. Most startling is the teaching regarding Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Many of the pioneers, including James White, J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith and J. H. Waggoner, held to an Arian or semi-Arian view–that is the Son at some point in time before the creation of our world was generated by the Father… Likewise, the Trinitarian understanding of God, now part of our fundamental beliefs was not generally held by the early Adventists. Even a few today do not subscribe to it.” (ibid)

“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.” (George R. Knight–professor of church history at the Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan; Ministry, October, 1993, p. 10)

“In like manner, most of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism would have trouble with fundamental belief number 4, which holds that Jesus is both eternal and truly God. For J. N. Andrews “the Son of God … had God for His Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have beginning of days.” And E. J. Waggoner, of Minneapolis 1888 fame, penned in 1890 that “there was a time when Christ proceeded forth and came from God,… but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning.” (ibid)

Read the entire article from Ministry Magazine, October, 1993 issue HERE.

“The Development of the Trinity doctrine demonstrates that sometimes doctrinal changes require the passing of a previous generation. For Seventh-day Adventists, it took over 50 years for the doctrine of the Trinity to become normative.” Burt, Merlin D. (2006) “History of Seventh-day Adventist Views on the Trinity, ” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society: Vol. 17 : Iss. 1, Article 9. (P. 139)

A well-known Adventist Trinitarian Jerry Moon who was a co-author of the book The Trinity wrote:

“That most of the leading SDA pioneers were non-Trinitarian in their theology has become accepted Adventist history” {Jerry Moon “The Trinity” p. 190}

He then goes on to say,

“either the pioneers were wrong and the present church is right, or the pioneers were right and the present Seventh-day Adventist Church has apostatized from biblical truth.” — Jerry Moon, The Trinity, Chapter, Trinity and antitrinitarianism in Seventh-day Adventist history, p. 190

Merlin Burt (Professor of Church History, Director, Center for Adventist Research, Andrews Theological Seminary) wrote about the history of trinitarianism in SDA:

“One of the remarkable aspects of the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the development of the position of the trinity and the deity of Christ. These doctrines did not become normative in the church until the middle of the twentieth century”. (Merlin Burt, ‘Demise of Semi-Arianism and anti-trinitarianism in Adventist theology, 1888-1957 page iv ‘Preface’)

He further explains,

The church gradually shifted during from the 1930s to 1950s to the ‘orthodox’ Christian view on the trinity and deity of Christ. . . . During the 1940s an ever increasing majority of the church was believing in the eternal underived deity of Christ and the trinity, yet there were some who held back even actively resisted the change.” (Ibid, pages 47-48)

 

A Brief Summary of Trinity in Adventism

1) The church did not have an official directly voted upon trinity doctrine for the first 117 years of its existence (from 1863 to 1980). There was no corporate study ever done upon the subject by the general conference and it was only in the year 1980 that the church actually directly voted on the subject. The 1931 statement was adopted by default at the 1946 conference. Even to this day the church, at large, is in great confusion about this doctrine and it needs to be studied out officially.

2) Though Ellen White came out of Methodist church (which was a trinitarian denomination), in her approximately 25 million words she carefully avoided the word, “trinity” to describe God even though she had plenty of opportunity to do so and clearly knew the word. She did however used the word just once to denote three fleshly desires mentioned in 1 John 2:15-17:

“This warning now comes to you, and what will you do with it? Will you say, “Have no fear of me?” But beware of that which the old writers called the world’s trinitythe lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. If you trifle and tamper with these, they will prove your ruin. Unless you are born again, unless your objectionable hereditary tendencies are changed, unless purity and sanctification work a transformation in your lives, your barque will be shipwrecked, your souls lost. {Lt43-1898.25}

Furthermore, we know that she has read trinitarian authors (i.e. W. E. Boardman, John Harris) and even used their wording at times but she never once described God as a “trinity” or spoke of a “triune God” or used the term, “God” to mean “a unity of 3 persons” nor any other expression that alluded to a God of plurality. What would you call someone who never did that? Non-trinitarian seems like a reasonable expression. Instead, she said “God is a [numerically singular] person”:

“I have often seen the lovely Jesus, that He is a person. I asked Him if His Father was a person and had a form like Himself. Said Jesus, “I am in the express image of My Father’s person.” {EW 77.1}

-1850s Ellen White said Christ and His Father are personal beings with Tangible forms (This counters the Methodist’s creedal articles of faith, as well as Catholic’s creed) which made God formless: “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts,”)
-1869, She said Christ was equal with God; here, she forged ahead of her contemporaries in this assertion.
-1872 She said, Christ was not a created being like the angels.
-1890s Coinciding with the publishing of the book, The Desire of Ages, Testimonies bore more clearly concerning the divinity of Christ and the personhood of the Holy Spirit.

The closest thing you’ll ever read from her pen is the phrase, “three living persons of the heavenly trio.” Mrs. White seems to have gotten as close as you can to the trinity without crossing over. She appears to have remained neutral. She never rebuked the anti-trinitarian pioneers and wrote some things in harmony with them. She also never rebuked her post 1890 contemporaries who used trinitarian terminology and wrote some things (on eternality of Christ and of the personhood of the Holy Spirit) that appears to be in harmony with them including her endorsement of the Doxology. At least, in appearance, the inspiration takes a position between the two camps, supporting some aspects of each view but never embracing either holistically.

3) From 1844 till at least late 1890s the nearly unanimous position of the SDA people was non-trinitarian. This is what the church’s fundamental principles (1872-1914) indicate. Ellen White gave strong endorsements of these principles and so there must be an aspect of truth in them that should not be abandoned. But towards the late 1890s to the early 1900s, various influences from both within (Kellogg Crisis-See below) and from without the denomination (Dudley Canright being one of the principal culprit), forced the church to react and shift its position to accept the trinitarian terminologies in the more positive sense while still maintaining their non-trinitarian beliefs as far as the ontological pre-incarnate begotten Sonship and the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of the Father and the Son.

In addition, while it is accurate to say that from 1844 up until the 1930s, the consensus view was that the Son of God was begotten before incarnation; there was a shift in terms of when that occurred, with some even adopting an orthodox view (i.e. eternal generation). Moreover, even with the Ellen White’s description of the Holy Spirit as a “person” notwithstanding, the Holy Spirit was consistently viewed as the Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ within this period.

It is also between the 1950s -1970s that SDA theology started to decidedly shift toward unbegottenism (Jesus is not a begotten but a “unique” Son prior to incarnation), which is now the dominant view.

“Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. BUT THEY SAID, WE WILL NOT WALK THEREIN.” -Jeremiah 6:16

What Ellen White has said about the church pioneers and the pillars of our faith:

“As a people, we are to stand firm on the platform of eternal truth that has withstood test and trial. WE ARE TO HOLD TO THE SURE PILLARS OF OUR FAITH. The principles of truth that God has revealed to us are our only true foundation. They have made us what we are. THE LAPSE OF TIME HAS NOT LESSENED THEIR VALUE. . .” (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages Vol 1 pg. 201) {1SM p. 201}

Let Pioneers Identify Truth.–When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth. No aftersuppositions, contrary to the light God has given are to be entertained. Men will arise with interpretations of Scripture which are to them truth, but which are not truth. The truth for this time, God has given us as a foundation for our faith. He Himself has taught us what is truth. One will arise, and still another, with new light which contradicts the light that God has GIVEN UNDER THE DEMONSTRATION OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT.”  (Counsels to Writers and Editors, 1905, p. 31)

“We are NOT to receive the words of those who come with a message THAT CONTRADICTS THE SPECIAL POINTS OF OUR FAITH. They gather together a mass of Scripture, and pile it as proof around their asserted theories. This has been done over and over again DURING THE PAST FIFTY YEARS. And while the Scriptures are God’s word, and are to be respected, the application of them, IF SUCH APPLICATION MOVES ONE PILLAR FROM THE FOUNDATION THAT GOD HAS SUSTAINED THESE FIFTY YEARS, IS A GREAT MISTAKE. He who makes such an application knows not the wonderful demonstration of the HOLY SPIRIT THAT GAVE POWER AND FORCE TO THE PAST MESSAGES THAT HAVE COME TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD.”—Preach the Word, p. 5 (1905). {CW 32.2}

“I do not wish to ignore or drop one link in the chain of evidence that was formed as, after the passing of the time in 1844, little companies of seekers after truth met together to study the Bible and to ask God for light and guidance. . . . The truth, point by point, was fastened in our minds so firmly that we could not doubt. . . .The evidence given in our early experience has the same force that it had then. The TRUTH IS THE SAME AS IT EVER HAS BEEN, AND NOT A PIN OR A PILLAR CAN BE MOVED from the structure of truth. That which was sought for out of the Word in 1844, 1845, and 1846 remains the truth in every particular.” (Letter 38, 1906, pp. 1,2 [MS])

The truths given us after the passing of the time in 1844 are just as certain and unchangeable as when the Lord gave them to us in answer to our urgent prayers. The visions that the Lord has given me are so remarkable that we know that what we have accepted is the truth. THIS WAS DEMONSTRATED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT. Light, precious light from God, established the main points of our faith AS WE HOLD THEM TODAY.” (Letter 50, p. 3, par. 4 [1906 MS])

“At this time many efforts will be made to unsettle our faith in the sanctuary question; but we must not waver. Not a pin is to be moved from the foundations of our faith. Truth is still truth. Those who become uncertain will drift into erroneous theories, and will finally find themselves infidel in regard to the past evidence we have had of what is truth. The OLD WAYMARKS MUST BE PRESERVED, that we lose not our bearings.” (Letters 395, 1906, p. 4 [1906MS])

“Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, [Older brethren among the pioneers are here thus reminiscently referred to. “Father Pierce” was Stephen Pierce, who served in ministerial and administrative work in the early days.] Elder [Hiram] Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, “we can do nothing more,’ the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me. {EW xxii.4} (RH, May 25, 1905 par. 24)

MANY OF OUR PEOPLE DO NOT REALIZE HOW FIRMLY THE FOUNDATIONS OF OUR FAITH HAS BEEN LAID. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, [Older brethren among the pioneers are here thus reminiscently referred to. “Father Pierce” was Stephen Pierce, who served in ministerial and administrative work in the early days.] Elder [Hiram] Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, “we can do nothing more,’ the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures IN REGARD TO CHRIST, HIS MISSION, AND HIS PRIESTHOOD. A LINE OF TRUTH EXTENDING FROM THAT TIME TO THE TIME WHEN WE SHALL ENTER THE CITY OF GOD, WAS MADE PLAIN TO ME, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me. {EW xxii.4} (RH, May 25, 1905 par. 24)

. . . The truths that we have been proclaiming for more than half a century have been contested again and again. Again and again the facts of faith have been disputed; but every time the Lord has established the truth BY THE WORKING OF HIS HOLY SPIRIT. Those who have arisen to question and overthrow the principles of 7 present truth, have been sternly rebuked.” (Letter 95, 1905) Note: this is after Desire of Ages was published.” {10MR 45.2}

The time has come when things must be called by their right names. The truth is to triumph gloriously, and those who have long been halting between two opinions must take their stand decidedly for or against the law of God. Some will take up with theories that misinterpret the Word of God and undermine the foundation of the truth that has been firmly established, point by point, AND SEALED BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. The old truths are to be revived, in order that the false theories that have been brought in by the enemy may be intelligently met. There can be no unity between truth and error. We can unite with those who have been led into deception only when they are converted. {Lt121-1905.10}

“What influence is it would lead men at this stage of our history to work in an underhand, powerful way to tear down the foundation of our faith – the foundation that was laid at the beginning of our work by prayerful study of the Word and by revelation? UPON THIS FOUNDATION WE HAVE BEEN BUILDING FOR THE PAST FIFTY YEARS. Do you wonder that when I see the beginning of a work that would remove some of the pillars of our faith, I have something to say? I must obey the command, “Meet it!”…” 1SM 207.3

“We are God’s commandment-keeping people. FOR THE PAST FIFTY YEARS every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us, to becloud our minds regarding the teaching of the Word – especially concerning the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and the message of Heaven for these last days, as given by the angels of the fourteenth chapter of Revelation. Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of THE TRUTH WHICH, POINT BY POINT, HAS BEEN SOUGHT OUT BY PRAYERFUL STUDY, AND TESTIFIED TO BY THE MIRACLE-WORKING POWER OF THE LORD. But the waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, and they will be preserved, as God has signified through His Word and the testimony of His Spirit. He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith, to the FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES THAT ARE BASED UPON UNQUESTIONABLE AUTHORITY.” {1SM 208.2-1903}

In her letter to her son, W. C. White on December 4, 1905, Ellen White warned about the apostasy that would enter the church and implored the members to “hold fast to the first principles of our denominated faith.”

“One thing it is certain is soon to be realized—the great apostasy, which is developing and increasing and waxing stronger and will continue to do so until the Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout. WE ARE TO HOLD FAST TO THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF OUR DENOMINATED FAITH and go forward from strength to increased faith. Ever we are to keep the faith that HAS BEEN SUBSTANTIATED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD from the earlier events of our experience UNTIL THE PRESENT TIME. We need now larger breadth and deeper, more earnest, unwavering faith in the leadings of the Holy Spirit. If we needed the manifest proof of the Holy Spirit’s power to confirm truth in the beginning, after the passing of the time, we need today all the evidence in the confirmation of the truth, when souls are departing from the faith and giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. There must not be any languishing of soul now. If ever there was a period of time when we needed the Holy Spirit’s power in our discourses, in our prayers, in every action proposed, it is now. We are not to stop at the first experience, but while we bear the SAME MESSAGE to the people, this message is to be strengthened and enlarged. We are to see and realize the importance of the message made certain by its divine origin. We are to follow on to know the Lord, that we may know that His going forth is prepared as the morning. Our souls need the quickening from the Source of all power. We may be strengthened and confirmed in the past experience that holds us to the essential points of truth which have made us what we are—Seventh-day Adventists. {Lt326-1905.2}

Principles of our faith needs to be preserved

THE PAST FIFTY YEARS HAVE NOT DIMMED ONE JOT OR PRINCIPLE OF OUR FAITH as we received the great and wonderful evidences that were made certain to us in 1844, after the passing of the time. The languishing souls are to be confirmed and quickened according to His Word. And many of the ministers of the gospel and the Lord’s physicians will have their languishing souls quickened according to the Word. NOT A WORD IS CHANGED OR DENIED. THAT WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT TESTIFIED TO AS TRUTH after the passing of the time, in our great disappointment, is the solid foundation of truth. Pillars of truth were revealed, and we accepted the foundation principles that have made us what we are—Seventh-day Adventists, keeping the commandments of God and having the faith of Jesus. {Lt326-1905.3}

“We are not to receive the words of those who come with a message that contradicts the special points of our faith. They gather together a mass of Scripture, and pile it as proof around their asserted theories. This has been done over and over again during the past fifty years. And while the Scriptures are God’s word, and are to be respected, the application of them, IF SUCH APPLICATION MOVES ONE PILLAR FROM THE FOUNDATION THAT GOD HAS SUSTAINED THESE FIFTY YEARS, IS A GREAT MISTAKE. HE WHO MAKES SUCH AN APPLICATION KNOWS NOT THE WONDERFUL DEMONSTRATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT GAVE POWER AND FORCE TO THE PAST MESSAGES THAT HAVE COME TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD. (Preach the Word, p. 5 -1905). {CW 32.2}

“What influence is it that would lead men at this stage of our history to work in an underhanded, powerful way to tear down the foundation of our faith,—the foundation that was laid at the beginning of our work by prayerful study of the word and by revelation? Upon this foundation we have been building for the past FIFTY YEARS. Do you wonder that when I see the beginning of a work that would remove some of the PILLARS OF OUR FAITH, I have something to say? I must obey the command, ‘Meet it!’” {EGW, SpTB02 58.1; 1904}

The Lord’s servant has said, “WE ARE TO HOLD FAST TO THE FIRST PRINCIPLES OF OUR DENOMINATED FAITH.” These principles of faith, she said, were “SOUGHT OUT BY PRAYERFUL STUDY, AND TESTIFIED TO BY THE MIRACLE-WORKING POWER OF THE LORD” and that they were “BASED UPON UNQUESTIONABLE AUTHORITY” and ”THAT WHICH THE HOLY SPIRIT TESTIFIED TO AS TRUTH…”

We would say that these are pretty strong endorsements coming from the Messenger of the Lord. Again and again Ellen White implored the believers to hold fast to the “foundation of our faith,” which the church pioneers have so firmly laid. She recalls that “A line of truth extending from that time [1844] to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me”. This shows that God had given to Ellen White all the necessary pillars of truth which our church needed from the time she was writing forward until “we shall enter the city of God.”

It is also worth noting that these statements were written between 1903 and 1905. The latest fundamental principles extant at that time were the 1889, and they wouldn’t be amended again until 1931. This is significant because many within the church believe that the SDA Church’s non-trinitarian position has already shifted toward trinitarianism in the year which coincided with the publishing of Ellen White’s book, The Desire of Age in 1898.

She added,

WHEN MEN WHO COME IN WHO WOULD MOVE ONE PIN OR PILLAR FROM THE FOUNDATION WHICH GOD HAS ESTABLISHED BY HIS HOLY SPIRIT, LET THE AGED MEN WHO WERE PIONEERS IN OUR WORK SPEAK PLAINLY, AND LET THOSE WHO ARE DEAD SPEAK ALSO, BY THE REPRINTING OF THEIR ARTICLES IN OUR PERIODICALS. Gather up the rays of divine light that God has given as He has led His people on step by step in the way of truth. This truth will stand the test of time and trial. — Manuscript 62, 1905, 6.” (“A Warning against False Theories,” May 24, 1905.) {1MR 55.1}

The truths that have been substantiated by the manifest working of God are to stand fast. Let no one presume to move a pin or a foundation stone from the structure. THOSE WHO ATTEMPT TO UNDERMINE THE PILLARS OF OUR FAITH ARE AMONG THOSE OF WHO THE BIBLE SAYS THAT ‘IN THE LATTER TIMES SOME SHALL DEPART FROM THE FAITH, GIVING HEED TO SEDUCING SPIRITS, AND DOCTRINES OF DEVILS.’” Letter 87, 1905, pp. 2, 3. (To Elder and Mrs. S. N. Haskell, February 25, 1905.) {1MR 55.2}

“Those who seek to remove the old landmarks are not holding fast; they are not remembering how they have received and heard. Those who try to bring in theories that would remove the pillars of our faith concerning the sanctuary or concerning the personality of God or of Christ are working as blind men. They are seeking to bring in uncertainties and to set the people of God adrift without an anchor. {YRP 235.3}. “A Warning Against False Theories,” May 24, 1905.) {MR760 12.2}

“A liar is one that presents false theories and doctrines. He who denies the personality of God and of His Son Jesus Christ is denying God and Christ. ‘If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son and in the Father.’ If you continue to believe and obey the truths you first embraced regarding the personality of the Father and the Son, you will be joined together with them in love.”
[Ms 23-1906.20]

Please note that “the sanctuary or concerning the personality of God or of Christ” are referred as “the pillars of our faith” and that they are also regarded as part of the “old landmarks” which Ellen White warned would change. Significantly, it is the very Fundamental Principles that has to do with the “personality of God or of Christ” is what did change from what the Pioneers previously believed to what the modern SDA church believes now

Ellen White Has Warned that Changes Would Take Place:

“The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error.”— Ellen White, {1SM 204.2}

THE FOLLOWING MESSAGE WAS WRITTEN IN 1903 FOLLOWED BY THE 25 FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES WHICH SHE SAID WOULD BE ACCOUNTED AS “ERROR”.

“The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. THE FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES THAT HAVE SUSTAINED THE WORK FOR THE LAST FIFTY YEARS WOULD BE ACCOUNTED AS ERROR. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure. {1SM 204.2} Letter 242, October 19, 1903

“Who has authority to begin such a movement? We have our Bibles. We have our experience, attested to by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. We have a truth that admits of no compromise. Shall we not repudiate everything that is not in harmony with this truth? {1SM 205.1}
“I hesitated and delayed about the sending out of that which the Spirit of the Lord impelled me to write. I did not want to be compelled to present the misleading influence of these sophistries. But in the providence of God, the errors that have been coming in must be met.” {1SM 205.2}

What did she say would happen?

1. The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists.

2. This reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization.

3. The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded.

4. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error.

5. A “new organization” would be established. Books of a new order would be written.

6. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced.

7. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed (original concept of One God is removed and was replaced with One God means trinity), they would place their dependence on human power.

8. It’s worth noting that of all the “fundamental principles” Seventh-day Adventist church has held when Ellen White wrote those words, the only notable doctrine that the modern SDA church counts it as being an error is the very doctrine that the church pioneers have held that deals with the personality of God.

“The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith.— Ellen White {1SM 204.2}

“I have been instructed to warn our people; for MANY ARE IN DANGER of receiving theories and sophistries that undermine the FOUNDATION PILLARS OF THE FAITH.” {Selected Messages bk. 1 p.196, 1904}

“The Lord has declared that the history of the past shall be rehearsed as we enter upon the closing work. Every truth that He has given for these last days is to be proclaimed to the world. Every pillar that He has established is to be strengthened. We cannot now step off the foundation that God has established. We cannot now enter into any NEW ORGANIZATION; for this would mean apostasy from the truth.”—Manuscript 129, 1905. {2SM 390.1}

“What influence is it would lead men at this stage of our history to work in an underhand, powerful way to tear down the foundation of our faith—the foundation that was laid at the beginning of our work by prayerful study of the Word and by revelation? Upon this foundation we have been building for the past fifty years. Do you wonder that when I see the beginning of a work that would remove some of the pillars of our faith, I have something to say? I must obey the command, “MEET IT!”… 

“I must bear the messages of warning that God gives me to bear, and then leave with the Lord the results. I must now present the matter in all its bearings; for the people of God must not be despoiled. 

“We are God’s commandment-keeping people. For the past fifty years every phase of heresy has been brought to bear upon us, to becloud our minds regarding the teaching of the Word—especially concerning the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and the message of Heaven for these last days, as given by the angels of the fourteenth chapter of Revelation. Messages of every order and kind have been urged upon Seventh-day Adventists, to take the place of the truth which, point by point, has been sought out by prayerful study, and testified to by the miracle-working power of the Lord. But the waymarks which have made us what we are, are to be preserved, and they will be preserved, as God has signified through His Word and the testimony of His Spirit. He calls upon us to hold firmly, with the grip of faith, to the fundamental principles that are based upon unquestionable authority.” 1SM 207.3-208.2

Note: When she wrote all of these warnings, Seventh-day Adventist Church was a non-trinitarian denomination and the Fundamental Principles (Specifically # 1 and #2 dealing with the personality of God) of the church were published in the church’s yearbook from 1889 until it was changed and was published again in 1931 and later officially voted in 1980.

Fundamental Principles of Early Adventists

The Declaration of Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by Seventh-day Adventists consisting of 25 propositions largely written by James White was published as a pamphlet at Battle Creek, Michigan. This laid down a clear non-Trinitarian foundation and is not replaced or changed in any way until 1931. These propositions contain neither the term Godhead nor Trinity. First year that the Fundamental Principles were actually published in the denominational annual Yearbook was 1889 and subsequently was republished in 1905, 1909, 1913, 1914 without any notable theological change. (original copies available below)

Please note that 1914 was the last time the “Fundamental Principles” was published without any amendments to the 1889’s Fundamental Principles. It is of interest that at this time almost all the original pioneers who had labored in the raising of the foundation had passed away. Ellen White herself died in 1915.

From 1915 to 1930, the Fundamental Principles goes missing in the church’s Yearbook but in 1931, it was published again as the “Fundamental Beliefs” with notable changes (see below).  Prior to 1981, the Fundamental Beliefs appeared in the Yearbooks dated, 1942, 1955, 1965-66, 1973-74, 1975, 1980.

Below are the published Fundamental Principles from 1872 (for almost 60 years was not changed) until it was amended in 1931. See for yourself what changed. The comparisons of the first two Principles or Beliefs dealing with the personality of God from before and now would be of interest:

1872 Fundamental Principles, published as a pamphlet; cover
1872 Fundamental Principles, opening paragraph
1872 1st four Fundamental Principles

Notice the opening paragraph of the 1872 Fundamental Principle. It reads, “We do not put forth this as having any authority with our people, nor is it designed to secure uniformity among them, as a system of faith, but is a brief statement of WHAT IS, AND HAS BEEN, WITH GREAT UNANIMITY, held by them.” (FP1872 3.1)

Shows answers to a question rejecting the trinity and makes reference to the Fundamental Principles; published in the Review and Herald, 1883.
Fundamental Principles, 1889 Yearbook pg. 147
Fundamental Principles,1889 Yearbook pg. 148

Fundamental Principles were published again seventeen years later in 1889. Note that principles No. 1 through 3 are the same… still non-trinitarian, and note that in the opening paragraph concerning these principle beliefs, we still read “The following proposition may be taken as a summary of the principal features of their religious faith, upon which there is, so far as we know, ENTIRE UNANIMITY THROUGHOUT THE BODY.” (FP1889 147.2) This testifies not only to the unity of the pioneers’ faith in the teachings of these “Fundamental Principles”, but also to their general or unanimous acceptance by the body of believers.

Again, these Principles, (being understood as reflecting the Adventist faith of that time), were published with no theological amendment until 1931 (see below).

Fundamental Beliefs-1931 SDA Yearbook pg. 377

As you can see, the “Fundamental Principle” is now the “Fundamental Beliefs” in the 1931 Yearbook and the trinitarian language has been inserted into the 2nd Belief.

The 1931 Yearbook with the new Statement of Beliefs was published without a vote or authority. Then General Conference President C.H. Watson was voted the authority to select a committee of four men of which he was also a member, to prepare a statement for publication in the Yearbook. The four are General Conference Associate, Secretary M.E Kern, Review editor F. M. Wilcox, manager of Review and Herald, E.R. Palmer, and G. C. President C.H Watson. Francis McLellan Wilcox, editor for the Review and Herald (for 33 years), alone wrote up the new Statement of Beliefs with 22 Fundamental Beliefs with the approval of the committee and passed it over to Edson Rogers (G.C statistician from 1903-1941) who placed it in the 1931 Yearbook.

Please note that the Belief of the Godhead as expressed in this 1931 statement, though using trinitarian terminology, is not in reality confessing “orthodox trinitarianism” nor does it convey the same trinitarian theology as how the modern SDAs define it. Both “Orthodox trinitarianism” and the Modern SDA trinitarianism converges the three divine personalities into “one God;” a “unity” of three persons, whereas the 1931 do not define “One God” as such.

Furthermore, looking at the 1936 Sabbath School Lesson book, the church still held to its non-trinitarian understanding of Jesus being the natural/ontological pre-incarnate Son of the Father, and the Holy Spirit defined as the Spirit of the Father and the Son. (Click HERE for the 1936, 4th quarter Sabbath School Lesson; Pg. 11 and 12 should be of interest) Nevertheless, the insertion of the trinitarian language was a sure indicator of the what was to come. The shift has already begun in Adventist theology.

Le Roy Froom, a well respected Adventist theologian and a historian; would later claim that there was a wide consensus because no one complained. He fails to mention that the church at large for the most part was unaware of this action. President Watson knew, but did not seek to take official action. Thus the Statement of Beliefs was added NOT by approval of the G.C, but “by common consent” and is “accepted without challenge.” (Le Roy Froom, Movement of Destiny, p. 414)

1942 – same as 1931. Not a real trinity doctrine as Jesus is the Son of the Eternal Father. He is not called or referred to as co-equal, co-eternal as in what would happen in at the Dallas GC Conference in 1980.

1955 – Same as 1931 and 1942. While the Holy Spirit was labeled as the third person of the Godhead, there isn’t a first person, second person identified. And the Holy Spirit was not called God.

1981 – The unbegotten theology and the separate and individual personhood of the Holy Spirit which was finally officially adopted in all its fulness. One God is now defined as “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three coeternal Persons.” Click HERE for the current 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventists

Fundamental Beliefs as it appears in the 1981 SDA Yearbook

Yearbooks

Original 1872 Fundamental Principles; published as a pamphlet at Battle Creek, Michigan. View/Download HERE

Original 1889 SDA Yearbook (Fundamental Principles are found on pages 147 to 151).
View/Download HERE

Original 1905 SDA Yearbook ( Fundamental Beliefs on p. 188-192) View/Download HERE.

Original 1909 SDA Yearbook ( Fundamental Beliefs on p. 220-224) View/Download HERE.

Original 1913 SDA Yearbook ( Fundamental Beliefs on p. 281-285) View/Download HERE.

Original 1914 SDA Yearbook ( Fundamental Beliefs on p. 293-297) View/Download HERE.

Original 1931 SDA Yearbook ( Fundamental Beliefs on p. 377-380) View/Download HERE.

Original 1942 SDA Yearbook ( Fundamental Beliefs on p. 4-6) View/Download HERE.

Original 1955 SDA Yearbook ( Fundamental Beliefs on p. 4-5) View/Download HERE.

Original 1981 SDA Yearbook ( Fundamental Beliefs on p. 5-7) View/Download HERE.

For a full archive of the SDA Yearbooks click HERE.

The evidences presented thus far does not mean that we can pin down some exact period in the past “when the pioneers all got it perfectly right.” But what the evidence do suggest is the fact that the pioneers indeed had a clearly established view of the personality of God and of Christ, (the doctrine of God) expressed in the very Fundamental Principles of the church, which they held for decades. The Lord’s Servant reminds us “but while we bear the SAME MESSAGE to the people, this message is to be strengthened and enlarged.”

They believed,

  1. One true God of the Bible as the Father-the real Father of Christ (not A God defined as a UNITY of 3 co-eternal persons).

  2. That the pre-incarnate Christ was the natural/literal/ontological son of God, begotten in the express image of the Father BEFORE He became the Son by the virgin birth (not a son only in light of incarnation or as a metaphor or a covenantal Son only in a soteriological sense, as how the modern SDAs would have you believe).

  3. That the Holy Sprit was the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of the Son (Not an entirely separate individual as how it is believed today by the modern SDAs).

Other notable landmarks which were unanimously held by the Adventist believers included, the perpetuity of the Law including the 4th Commandment (7th-day Sabbath), the cleansing of the Sanctuary-end of the 2300 days, non-immortality of the wicked, the authority of the scriptures, the second advent of Jesus, the millennium, the judgment of the wicked, the resurrection of the dead, the Three Angels Messages, etc. 

All the data seems to indicate that this was the unanimous position of the church during the time when Ellen White was alive. And at least until the mid 1930s, this position was regarded as the normative, although the trinitarian terminologies can be seen in the church’s flagship publications as early as 1890s. Again while all the Pioneers didn’t have every single point of our faith perfectly harmonized, the more broader fundamental tenets of their faith as it was expressed in the church’s then “Fundamental Principles” were laid solid and was strongly endorsed by the Lord’s Messenger. And that infrastructure was indeed of a Non-Trinitarian in its teachings. Now, the modern Adventism comes along and, instead of “building” upon its foundation, it re-wrote, undermined and uprooted what was already there and considers the previous an error and a heresy.

As a caveat, we would all do well to heed the following Testimony,

”There is no excuse for any one in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation. We are living in perilous times, and it does not become us to accept everything claimed to be truth without examining it thoroughly; neither can we afford to reject anything that bears the fruits of the Spirit of God; but we should be teachable, meek and lowly of heart. There are those who oppose everything that is not in accordance with their own ideas, and by so doing they endanger their eternal interest as verily as did the Jewish nation in their rejection of Christ. The Lord designs that our opinions shall be put to the test, that we may see the necessity of closely examining the living oracles to see whether or not we are in the faith.” {RH December 20, 1892, par. 1}

Did Ellen White changed and or matured in her understanding regarding the personality of God?

There are many people today who say that Ellen White changed and/or matured in her views regarding the personality of God and of Christ and became a trinitarian as proved by the book “The Desire of Ages.” (Originally published 1898)

Well, maybe we should take a closer look at what she herself had to say regarding her own faith.

“I should be an unfaithful watchman, were I to hold my peace, when I see the very foundations of our faith being torn away by those who have departed from the faith, and who are now adrift, without an anchor. In this time, when false doctrines are being taught, we are to teach THE SAME TRUTH that we have taught FOR THE PAST HALF CENTURY. I HAVE NOT CHANGED MY FAITH one jot or one tittle, and I am pleading with God that both of you shall be able to discern clearly the difference between loyalty and disloyalty. This God calls upon every physician and every minister to do.” — Ellen G. White, Lt150-1906.9

“Light came to me months ago that there was work that must be done. A company of us were praying and the power of God was in our midst. IF ANY COME UP WITH MODERN THOUGHTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT which takes off from the sanctuary, we need to be on guard, for God wants us to stand in the right position. THIS TRUTH HAS BEEN GIVEN US POINT BY POINT and if we take a piece out of our faith it will leave us, as Christ said, on the sand. If we stand on the Word nothing can move us, for it is riveted to the rock. Ministers may present theories that God has never given. If you have God for the PILLARS OF TRUTH, you will not be turned away, for He is the foundation of gold, silver, and precious stones.

“The word that comes to me is that we must revive the testimony of the dead among the living. There will be species of error brought in, but where are they when they are established? There is no more truth to that then. We must not be moved by any sophistry that man can bring in. WE NEED THE TRUTH ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS—the testimony of the dead to be revived. We know the Holy Ghost spoke these things. I know wherein I believe and what is the foundation of my hope. I STAND WHERE I HAVE FOR THE PAST 50 YEARS. I HAVE NOT CHANGED. We want to be where we can speak the truth to those in need. We want all to have the truth in the inward parts.” -20LtMs, Ms 186, 1905, par. 13-14

“I appreciate the truth, every jot of it, just as it has been given to me by the Holy Spirit for the last fifty years. I desire every one to know that I STAND ON THE SAME PLATFORM OF TRUTH THAT WE HAVE MAINTAINED FOR MORE THAN HALF A CENTURY. That is the testimony I desire to bear on the day that I am seventy-eight years of age. {Ms142-1905.6}

Notice the date—1906 (8 years after she wrote The Desire of Ages). Ellen White said in 1906 that she had not changed her faith “one jot or one tittle” for the past half century.

Upholding the Divinity of Christ

One of the main criticisms from the modern trinitarian Adventists of the pioneers’ non-trinitarian position is the idea that, if Jesus is the literal pre-incarnate begotten Son then, it denigrates the divinity of Christ. Based on some of the data, it appears that the church back then faced similar objections.

Here’s one such enquiry we find in one of the church’s flagship publication, Review and Herald dated 1883, “Scripture Question” section under “Commentary”:

96.—CHRIST NOT A CREATED BEING.

Will you please favor me with those scriptures which plainly say that Christ is a created being?

Ans. You are mistaken in supposing that S. D. Adventists teach that Christ was ever created. They believe, on the contrary, that he was “begotten” of the Father, and that he can properly be called God and worshiped as such. They believe, also, that the worlds, and everything which is, was created by Christ in conjunction with the Father. They believe, however, that somewhere in the eternal ages of the past there was a point at which Christ came into existence. They think that it is necessary that God should have antedated Christ in his being, in order that Christ could have been begotten of him, and sustain to him the relation of son. They hold to the distinct personality of the Father and Son, rejecting as absurd that feature of Trinitarianism which insists that God, and Christ, and the Holy Spirit are three persons, and yet but one person. S. D. Adventists hold that God and Christ are one in the sense that Christ prayed that his disciples might be one; i. e., one in spirit, purpose, and labor. See “Fundamental Principles of S. D. Adventists,” published at this Office.” (W. H. Littlejohn, Commentary-Scripture Questions, Review & Herald, April 17, 1883, pg. 250)

Here’s a more modern dissertation on the subject of Christ’s divinity, as it relates to the SDAs pioneers’ view:

“A survey of other Adventist writers during these years (up to 1881) reveals, that to a man, they rejected the trinity, yet, with equal unanimity they upheld the divinity of Christ. To reject the trinity is not necessarily to strip the Saviour of His divinity. Indeed, certain Adventist writers felt that it was the trinitarians who filled the role of degrading Christs divine nature.” {Russell Holt “The doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, its rejection and acceptance”, A term paper for Dr. Mervyn Maxwell 1969}

When Russell Holt says, “to a man, they rejected the trinity” he means that Adventists, “during these years” (meaning, up to 1881, based on his own research), unanimously rejected the trinity. And yet, he found that all the early Adventist pioneers also upheld the divinity of Christ. The early Adventist church was united on these points!

This seems strange to many today, since most Christians, as well as today’s Seventh-day Adventists, are under the assumption that to deny the trinity is tantamount to denying that Jesus is divine. But the Adventist pioneers believed that it was the trinitarians who degraded Christ’s divine nature. They believed that it was the Trinitarians who were robbing Christ of His real or actual divinity.

The unitarians believed that Jesus was created like all the rest of us. This kind of belief is generally regarded as Arianism, although there are some conflicting views as to what Arius actually believed and taught. Regardless, the early Adventists did NOT believe that Jesus was created and they strongly opposed unitarianism. Instead, they believed that He was begotten (in an offspring sense) prior to His incarnation, having been brought forth from God His Father, and thus befitting that He is the only begotten Son of God. Again, while they rejected the mystical teachings of trinity, they resolutely defended the divinity of Christ.

“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?”” (James White, November 29, 1877, Review & Herald)

“We have not as much sympathy with Unitarians that deny the divinity of Christ, as with Trinitarians who hold that the Son is the eternal Father, and talk so mistily about the three-one God. Give the Master all that divinity with which the Holy Scriptures clothe him. ..” (Jame White, Review and Herald June 6, 1871 James and Ellen White’s – Western Tour.)

Let’s look a bit at what some of the early pioneers wrote concerning God and the divinity of Christ. In 1878, a reader of the Review and Herald asked if Seventh-day Adventists were unitarians or trinitarians; answer given was:

“Neither. We do not believe in the three-one God of the Trinitarians nor in the low views of Jesus Christ held by unitarians. We believe that Christ was a divine being, not merely in his mission, but in his person also. . .” {Review and Herald – RH June 27, 1878 “To correspondents”}

Here’s another statement by one of the leading pioneers, J.H. Waggoner (Father of E.J. Waggoner):

Many theologians really think that the Atonement, in respect to its dignity and efficacy, rests upon the doctrine of a trinity. But we fail to see any connection between the two. To the contrary, the advocates of that doctrine really fall into the difficulty which they seem anxious to avoid. Their difficulty consists in this: They take the denial of a trinity to be equivalent to a denial of the divinity of Christ. Were that the case we should cling to the doctrine of a trinity as tenaciously as any can; but it is not the case. They who have read our remarks on the death of the Son of God know that we firmly believe in the divinity of Christ; But we cannot accept the idea of a trinity, as it is held by Trinitarians without giving up our claim on the dignity of the Sacrifice made for our redemption. {J.H. Waggoner “The Atonement in light of Nature and Revelation”, 1884 Edition, Chapter ”Doctrine of a Trinity Subversive of the Atonement”.}

It is a big issue to deny the trinity because in most people’s eyes, they are also denying that Jesus is divine. However the early Adventists realized that the dignity of the Atonement was at stake. The robbing of Christ involved His sacrifice on Calvary. Did the Son of God really die, or was it only a human form that died because the trinity was actually in heaven and even one part of the trinity god cannot die?

In this next quote, one of two Adventists were speaking to a couple of Congregationalists. Then one of the men asked: Do you believe in the divinity of Christ?” That was when the second Adventist entered the conversation:

“I now thought it was my turn to join in; so I replied, “Why, yes sir. We believe that Christ is all divine; that in him dwell ‘the fullness of the God-head bodily;’ That ‘he is the brightness of the Father’s glory’, ‘the 10 express image of his person’, ‘upholding all things by the word of his power’. {R&H June 25, 1867 brother Johnston, letter to Uriah Smith}

Other Christians believed that since Adventists did not believe in the trinity that they also did not believe in the divinity of Christ, like the unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This next quote is the response to such a question sent into the Review and Herald:

“To A.S. You are correct in saying we do not deny the divinity of Christ. If those who assert such a thing are acquainted with our faith, they know better; if they do not know they are guilty of speaking evil of the thing they know not.” {R&H July 14, 1868}

From this answer, we can understand that it should have been a well known fact that the early Adventists did not deny the divinity of Christ. If anybody knew anything about our faith back then, they would know without a shadow of a doubt that the Adventists believed in the divinity of Christ.

Here’s yet another statement defending the divinity of Christ. And as you can see, the same sort of misrepresentation and vitriol accompanied the early church for their unique doctrinal position on the sonship of Christ.

“The interest here has been peculiar from the beginning. We have had thus far to work against a strong current of prejudice, bitterness, and misrepresentation from certain quarters. One leading minister at least has not scrupled to declare before large congregations in neighboring towns that Seventh-day Adventists were a very dangerous class of people, great hypocrites, and DISBELIEVERS IN THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST. That the same things have been said to many in this city we have had every reason to believe. Hence large numbers have seemed to think the tent a most dangerous place to go to…” (G. I. Butler, Review and Herald July 17, 1894, pg. 459 – ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA.”)

In 1893 even with the church’s non-trinitarian-begotten-Son theology notwithstanding, Ellen White said there was not a people on earth who believed in the Divinity of Christ more than the Adventists.

“For instance, an effort was made to obtain the use of the hall at a village four miles from Hastings, where some of our workers proposed to present the gospel to the people; but they did not succeed in obtaining the hall, because a school-teacher there opposed the truth, and declared to the people that Seventh-day Adventists did not believe in the divinity of Christ. This man may not have known what our faith is on this point, but he was not left in ignorance. He was informed that THERE IS NOT A PEOPLE ON EARTH WHO HOLD MORE FIRMLY TO THE TRUTH OF CHRIST’S PRE-EXISTENCE THAN DO SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTISTS. But the answer was given that they did not want that the doctrines of Seventh-day Adventists should be promulgated in that community. So the door was closed.” — RH, December 5, 1893 par. 5

In 1871, Ellen White sat with her husband in a train as he explained why they rejected the Trinity but believed in the Divinity of Christ:

“This missionary seemed very liberal in his feelings toward all Christians. But after catechizing us [James and Ellen White] upon the trinity, and finding that we were not sound upon the subject of his triune God, he became earnest in denouncing unitarianism, which takes from Christ his divinity, and leaves him but a man. Here, as far as our views were concerned, he was combating a man of straw. WE DO NOT DENY THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST. WE DELIGHT IN GIVING FULL CREDIT TO ALL THOSE STRONG EXPRESSIONS OF SCRIPTURE WHICH EXALT THE SON OF GOD. We believe him to be the divine person addressed by Jehovah in the words, ” Let us make man.” He was with the Father before the world was. He came from God, and he says, “I go to him that sent me.” The apostle speaks of Christ as he now is, our mediator, having laid aside our nature. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. —James White, RH June 6, 1871

“THE SIMPLE LANGUAGE OF THE SCRIPTURES REPRESENT THE FATHER AND SON AS TWO DISTINCT PERSONS. With this view of the subject there are meaning and force to language which speaks of the Father and the Son. But to say that Jesus Christ “is the very and eternal God,” makes him his own son, and his own father, and that he came from himself, and went to himself. And when the Father sends Jesus Christ, whom the Heavens must receive till the times of restitution, it will simply be Jesus Christ, or the eternal Father sending himself. — ibid

We have not as much sympathy with Unitarians that deny the divinity of Christ, as with Trinitarians who hold that the Son is the eternal Father, and talk so mistily about the three-one God. Give the Master all that divinity with which the Holy Scriptures clothe him.” — ibid

We can see that the Adventists were constrained to the expressions of Scripture. Thus, they gave full credit to all those strong expressions in the Bible which exalt the Son of God. Adventists gave all the divinity that the Holy Scriptures had clothed him. This shows that the Adventists were willing to follow the Bible even if it meant they would have to have doctrines which are not popular.

While most modern Seventh-day Adventists deny Christ’s pre-incarnate begottenism, one should recognize the consensus view of the church back then with respect to the sonship of Christ (which was non-trinitarian while affirming the divinity of the pre-incarnate begotten sonship). Thus one should recognize that the following statement would have been understood within such framework.

“The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom Him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind. He is willing to do more, “more than we can ask or think.” An inspired writer asks a question which should sink deep into every heart: ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’” {Ellen G. White, RH July 9, 1895, par. 13}

 

Were Seventh-day Adventist Pioneers Arians or Semi-Arians?

As noted earlier, the Seventh-day Adventist’s own historians characterize the church’s founding pioneers as primarily “non-trinitarians.” In addition, they have also characterized our pioneers as either Arians or Semi-Arians. Furthermore, the historians have equated the labels, Arians or Semi-Arians, as those who believe Christ to be a created being.

Our pioneers clearly held Arian or semi-Arian views in regard to the person of Christ. They understood “firstborn over all creation” (Col 1:15) and “only begotten Son” (John 3:16) in a literal sense. The Father, therefore, was first and superior, and the Son, who had a beginning sometime in eternity, was subordinate to the Father. A corollary of this view was the belief that the Holy Spirit is an influence or the power of God, but not a person.”
(Gerhard Pfandl, Biblical Research Institute, The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Seventh-day Adventists; Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 17/1 (Spring 2006): 160-179)

“Adventist beliefs have changed over the years under the impact of ‘present truth’. Most startling is the teaching regarding Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. Many of the pioneers, including James White, J. N. Andrews, Uriah Smith and J. H. Waggoner, held to an Arian or semi-Arian view–that is the Son at some point in time before the creation of our world was generated by the Father… Likewise, the Trinitarian understanding of God, now part of our fundamental beliefs was not generally held by the early Adventists. Even a few today do not subscribe to it.” (William Johnsson, “Present Truth: Walking in God’s Light”, Adventist Review, January 6, 1994, p. 10)

Were they Arians/Semi-Arians? Did they believe that Christ was a created being? Or did they actually have the correct understanding of the True God of the Bible and His Son?

The word Arian was used by Rome as a stigma. And that stigma would apply to anyone who disagreed with her (Roman Catholic Church and their dogma, especially the Trinity). It was like a theological slur. This had a real negative tone to it with real consequences, and history reveals that those who opposed Rome were persecuted as heretics. It is worth noting that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has adopted an attitude that is no different than the Roman Papacy as it defends its Trinity doctrine and similarly labels anyone who opposes the Trinity doctrine as either Arians or Semi-Arians.

It is true that the Adventist pioneers held to a set of beliefs that were similar to Arians or Semi-Arians, but upon closer examination, you will find that their views did not necessarily fit as either Arians nor Semi-Arians (as far as how Arians/Semi-Arians are generally portrayed today). The mischaracterization of our pioneers’ beliefs, often intentional, may be attributed to certain biases the Adventist scholars and historian’s may have toward non-trinitarianism and to distance themselves from the church’s past which they deem to be heretical. This is primarily the reason why most non-trinitarian Seventh-day Adventists are characterized as Arians, and also accused of denigrating Christ as a created being. To learn more on this topic, click HERE

Personality of God and the Pillars of Our Faith Under Attack

“Those who seek to remove the old landmarks are not holding fast; they are not remembering how they have received and heard. Those who try to bring in theories that would remove the pillars of our faith concerning the sanctuary or CONCERNING THE PERSONALITY OF GOD OR OF CHRIST, are working as blind men. They are seeking to bring in uncertainties and to set the people of God adrift without an anchor.” {760MR 9.5}

“I entreat every one to be clear and firm regarding the certain truths that we have heard and received and advocated. The statements of God’s Word are plain. Plant your feet firmly on the platform of eternal truth. Reject every phase of error, even though it be covered with a semblance of reality, which denies the personality of God and of Christ. {RH August 31, 1905, par. 11}

“Just such theories as you have presented in Living Temple were presented then. These subtle, deceiving sophistries have again and again sought to find place amongst us. But I have ever had the same testimony to bear which I now bear regarding the personality of God. Lt253-1903.9

“May 14, 1851, I saw the beauty and loveliness of Jesus. As I beheld His glory, the thought did not occur to me that I should ever be separated from His presence. I saw a light coming from the glory that encircled the Father, and as it approached near to me, my body shook and trembled like a leaf. I thought that if it should come near me, I would be struck out of existence; but the light passed me. Then could I have some sense of the great and terrible God with whom we have to do.” Lt253-1903.11

“I have often seen the lovely Jesus, that He is a person. I asked Him if His Father was a person, and had a form like Himself. Said Jesus, ‘I am the express image of My Father’s person!” Lt253-1903.12

“The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each…. The personality of the Father and the Son, also the unity that exists between Them, are presented in the seventeenth chapter of John, in the prayer of Christ for His disciples… The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. THEY ARE ONE IN PURPOSE, IN MIND, IN CHARACTER, BUT NOT IN PERSON. It is thus that God and Christ are one.” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 421, 422)

“Christ IS ONE with the Father, but Christ and God are TWO distinct personages. Read the prayer of Christ in the seventeenth chapter of John, and you will find this point clearly brought out. How earnestly the Saviour prayed THAT HIS DISCIPLES MIGHT BE ONE WITH HIM AS HE IS ONE WITH THE FATHER. But the unity that is to exist between Christ and His followers DOES NOT DESTROY the personality of either. They are to be one with Him AS He is one with the Father.” (The Review and Herald, June 1, 1905)

“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (THERE ARE THE TWO PERSONALITIES, but GOD AND CHRIST ARE ONE IN ‘PERFECTION OF CHARACTER’).” (Ms116-1905.15)

“The burden of that prayer was that His disciples might be one AS He was one with the Father; the oneness so close that, ALTHOUGH TWO DISTINCT BEINGS, THERE WAS PERFECT UNITY OF SPIRIT, PURPOSE, AND ACTION. THE MIND OF THE FATHER WAS THE MIND OF THE SON.” {Lt1-1882.1}

Now, the word, “personality” as it relate to Father and Son means an individual or a distinct Person. So, “The personality of God” or “The personality of Christ” are phrases that identify both God and the Son as being distinct and different Persons with different characteristics. So, they cannot both be part of the unified Trinity, but rather, they are completely separate divine Persons. The volumes of testimonies concerning the descriptions of the Father and the Son each having a distinct corporeal personality, in large part, was a counter response to the pantheistic or the orthodox trinitarian conception of God that made God’s personality into a formless “essence pervading all nature” or a consubstantial/indivisible composite Being. Also we would do well to recognize that there is a profound connection between the personality of God and the Sanctuary and also the atonement, as we shall see. Salient point here is that there was an established position of the church regarding the personality of God and Christ and that it was non-trinitarian.

The Alpha of Deadly Heresies — John Harvey Kellogg

Ellen White prophesied of what she termed “the Omega of Deadly Heresies”. In 1904 she said it was yet to come. Back in the early 1900’s a book was published by John Harvey Kellogg called “The Living Temple”. John Harvey Kellogg, famous for his advanced research in the health field, was an influential figure within the church. This book had what Ms. White termed as the “Alpha of Deadly Heresies”. She envisioned an “omega that would follow in a little while.” She tells us that it would be in respect to the “presence and personality of God.” Below is what she wrote in her response to Dr. Harvey Kellogg:

“Be not deceived; many will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. We have now before us the alpha of this danger. The omega will be of a most startling nature.” {1SM 197.4}

“I am instructed to speak plainly. “Meet it,” is the word spoken to me. “Meet it firmly, and without delay.” But it is not to be met by our taking our working forces from the field to investigate doctrines and points of difference. We have no such investigation to make. In the book Living Temple there is presented the alpha of deadly heresies. The omega will follow, and will be received by those who are not willing to heed the warning God has given.” {1SM 200.1}

Living Temple contains the ALPHA of these theories. I knew that the OMEGA would follow in a little while; and I trembled for our people. I knew that I must warn our brethren and sisters not to enter into CONTROVERSY OVER THE PRESENCE AND PERSONALITY OF GOD. The statements made in Living Temple in regard to this point are incorrect. The scripture used to substantiate the doctrine there set forth, is scripture misapplied. {1SM 203.2}

The theory that God is an essence pervading all nature is one of Satan’s most subtle devices. It misrepresents God and is a dishonor to His greatness and majesty. {CCh 322.6}

“…If God is an essence pervading all nature, then He dwells in all men; and in order to attain holiness, man has only to develop the power that is within him. {CCh 322.8}

“These theories, followed to their logical conclusion, sweep away the whole Christian economy…” {CCh 323.1}

“Those who continue to hold these spiritualistic theories will surely spoil their Christian experience, sever their connection with God, and lose eternal life.” {CCh 323.2}

“If we are the Lord’s appointed messengers, we shall not spring up with new ideas and theories to contradict the message that God has given through His servants since 1844. At that time many sought the Lord with heart and soul and voice. The men whom God raised up were diligent searchers of the Scriptures. And those who today claim to have light, and who contradict the teaching of God’s ordained messengers who were working under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, those who get up new theories which remove the pillars of our faith, are not doing the will of God, but are bringing in fallacies of their own invention, which, if received, will cut the church away from the anchorage of truth and set them drifting, drifting, to where they will receive any sophistries that may arise. These will be similar to that which Dr. J. H. Kellogg, under Satan’s special guidance, has been working for years.” {MR760 14.2}

“During the past night, I have been shown more distinctly than ever before that these sentiments have been looked upon by some as the grand truths that are to be brought in and made prominent at the present time. I was shown a platform braced by solid timbers—the truths of the Word of God. Some one high in responsibility in the medical work [Kellogg] was directing this man and that man TO LOOSEN THE TIMBERS SUPPORTING THIS PLATFORM. Then I heard a voice saying, “Where are the watchmen that ought to be standing on the walls of Zion? Are they asleep? How can they be silent? THIS FOUNDATION WAS BUILT BY THE MASTER WORKER AND WILL STAND THE STORM AND TEMPEST. Will they permit this man to present doctrines that deny the past experience of the people of God? The time has come to take decided action.” {Lt242-1903.8} (bracket supplied)

Connection between the Personality of God and the Sanctuary

The sanctuary question is a clear and definite doctrine as we have held it as a people. You are not definitely clear on the personality of God, which is everything to us as a people. You have virtually destroyed the Lord God Himself.” {Lt300-1903.7}

There is in it [pantheism] the beginning of theories which, carried to their logical conclusion, would destroy faith in the sanctuary question and in the atonement. I do not think that Dr. Kellogg saw this clearly. I do not think that he realized that in laying his new foundation of faith, he was directing his steps toward infidelity.” —Letter 33, 1904, p. 2. (To Brethren Faulkhead and Salisbury, January 17, 1904.) {2MR 243.2} Released February, 1963.

“…there they become indoctrinated with the very sentiments regarding the PERSONALITY OF GOD AND CHRIST that would undermine the foundation of our faith. The sanctuary question, which means so much to the heavenly family and to the believers on earth, has been made as nothingness.” — Letter 72,1906

“Those who try to bring in theories that would remove the pillars of our faith concerning THE SANCTUARY or concerning THE PERSONALITY OF GOD OR OF CHRIST, are working as blind men. They are seeking to bring in uncertainties and to set the people of God adrift without an anchor.” (Ms. 62, 25-5-1905)

“In the future, deception of every kind is to arise, and we want solid ground for our feet. We want solid pillars for the building. Not one pin is to be removed from that which the Lord has established. The enemy will bring in false theories, such as the doctrine that there is no sanctuary. This is one of the points on which there will be a departing from the faith. Where shall we find safety unless it be in the truths that the Lord has been giving for the last fifty years?” —The Review and Herald, May 25, 1905. {CW 53.2}

“I entreat every one to be clear and firm regarding the certain truths that we have heard and received and advocated. The statements of God’s Word are plain. Plant your feet firmly on the platform of eternal truth. Reject every phase of error, even though it be covered with a semblance of reality, which denies the personality of God and of Christ.” {Review and Herald – RH, August 31, 1905 par. 11}:

Please note that when Ellen White responded to Kellogg, You are not definitely clear on the personality of God, which is everything to us as a people,” we can know that there was an established view during Ellen White’s time, even as she rebuked Dr Kellogg’s pantheistic ideas and warned us not to change it. The question we need to ask is: Why is the personality of God everything to us as a people? Why has Mrs. White taken such a strong position on the question of who God is?

Here is the issue: We can deduce from the inspired testimonies that the personality of God and Christ has a profound bearing on how we understand the heavenly Sanctuary and the atonement. Sister White strongly warned that there is a great danger of holding to a wrong conception of God (primarily objecting to Kellogg’s heresy) which carried to their logical conclusion, would destroy faith in the sanctuary question and in the atonement” and even “sweep away the whole Christian economy…”

This is why James White (Ellen White’s husband) wrote such statements as:

“It is said that the view that Adventists have fulfilled the parable .of Matt. xxv, 1-12, leads to spiritualism. This may be true ; but take notice, this is not our position. The coming of the bridegroom is in the history of the marriage. Our position is, that a change has taken place in the position and work of our literal High Priest in the literal Sanctuary in heaven, which is to he compared to the comities of the bridegroom in the marriage. This view is a perfect safeguard against spiritualism. WE NOT ONLY BELIEVE IN A LITERAL JESUS, WHO IS A “MINISTER OF THE SANCTUARY,” BUT WE ALSO BELIEVE THAT THE SANCTUARY IS LITERAL.— And more, when John says that he saw ” one like the Son of man ” ” in the midst of the seven candlesticks,” that is, in the Holy Place, WE KNOW NOT HOW TO MAKE THE CANDLESTICK SPIRITUAL, AND THE SON OF MAN LITERAL. WE THEREFORE BELIEVE THAT BOTH ARE LITERAL, and that John saw Jesus while a ” Minister •’ in the Holy Place. John also had a view of another part of the Sanctuary, which view applies to the time of the sounding of time seventh angel. He says, “The temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ARK OF HIS TESTAMENT.” Rev. xi, 19. Also, ” The tabernacle of the testimony was opened in heaven.” Chap. xv, 5. This being an event to take place under the sounding of the seventh angel. it could be fulfilled at no other time than at the end of the 2300 days. The Most Holy, containing the Ark of the ten commandments, was then opened for our Great High Priest to enter to make atonement for the cleansing of the Sanctuary. IF WE TAKE THE LIBERTY TO SAY THERE IS NOT A LITERAL ARK, CONTAINING THE TEN COMMANDMENTS IN HEAVEN, WE MAY GO ONLY A STEP FURTHER AND DENY THE LITERAL CITY, AND THE LITERAL SON OF GOD. Certainly, Adventists should riot choose the spiritual view, rather titan the one we have presented, We see no middle ground to be taken.” (James White, Second Advent Review, and Sabbath Herald, June 9, 1851, p. 101) https://adventistdigitallibrary.org/adl-348729/second-advent-review-and-sabbath-herald-june-9-1851 Additional source: {Parable by James White, p. 16, Par. 1, [MATT25]; ND JW PARA 16.1} Click HERE

Thus the spiritualistic conception of God carried to their logical conclusion would lead to the denial of literal reality that Father and Christ are literal personal Beings, having corporeal personalities with local presence, who occupies literal throne in heaven and ministers in the literal heavenly sanctuary, etc.

The Omega of Deadly Heresies-Connections between John H. Kellogg and the Trinity

Many within Adventism do not see any connection between Kellogg’s spiritualistic theories and the trinity but that is a clear oversight for it was Kellogg’s spiritualistic theory that set the stage for him embracing the trinity doctrine. Kellogg said that, because he had recently come to believe in the doctrine of the trinity, he could now explain his theories much better.

We can observe how Kellogg’s belief undergirded his own belief in the trinity because A. G. Daniells (then G.C. president) wrote to W. C. White (Ellen White’s son) telling him about it.

Letter, A. G. Daniells to W. C. White Oct 29th 1903; pg. 1; Click to enlarge
Letter, A. G. Daniells to W. C. White Oct 29th 1903; pg. 2; Click to enlarge

Click HERE to view or download the entire original letter.

Daniells wrote in his letter to W. C. White,

“He [Kellogg] then stated that his former views regarding the trinity had stood in his way of making a clear and absolutely correct statement but that within a short time he had come to believe in the trinity and could now see pretty clearly where all the difficulty was and believed that he could clear up the matter satisfactorily.” — Letter, A. G. Daniells to W. C. White Oct 29th 1903; pg. 2

Here we can see that like the vast majority of all other Seventh-day Adventists, Kellogg had once been a non-trinitarian. Now though, in 1903, he was making confession to Daniells that “within a short time he had come to believe in the trinity”. This admission was obviously a departure from what he, along with Seventh-day Adventists in general, had believed previous to this time.

Daniells continued,

“He (Kellogg) told me that he now believed in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost and his view was that it was God the Holy Ghost and not God the Father that filled all space and every living thing.” (Ibid)

Also interesting to note here is the fact that the “God the Holy Spirit” (“the third person of the Godhead”) as He is currently known within Adventism, is essentially an entirely separate formless God, whose personality is “an essence pervading all nature.” How we view the “God the Holy Spirit” within Adventism therefore is fraught with elements of pantheism which Ellen White greatly objected.

Omega Would Follow

Ellen White tells us that “the omega would follow”. She was certain of it. Knowing that the Alpha had to do with the “presence and personality of God,” we can be quite certain that the Omega would be something of an extension of the first.

In the first edition of ‘Living Temple’, Kellogg said,

“Says one, ‘God may be present by his Spirit, or by his power, but certainly God himself cannot be present everywhere at once.’ We answer: How can power be separated from the source of power? Where God’s Spirit is at work, where God’s power is manifested, God himself is actually and truly present.” (Living Temple, p. 28)

“Suppose now we have a boot before us–not an ordinary boot, but a living boot, and as we look at it, we see little boots crowding out at the seams, pushing out at the toes, dropping off at the heels, and leaping out at the top–scores, hundreds, thousands of boots, a swarm of boots continually issuing from our living boot–would we not be compelled to say, ‘There is a shoemaker in the boot’? So there is present in the tree a power which creates and maintains it, a tree-maker in the tree, a flower-maker in the flower — a divine architect who understands every law of proportion, an infinite artist who possesses a limitless power of expression in color and form; there is, in all the world about us, an infinite, divine, though invisible, Presence…” — The Living Temple p29.

Lectures by Kellogg and others were given at the 1899 and 1901 General Conference sessions saying such statement as,

“There is an intelligence that is present in the plants, in all vegetation… Wherever God’s life is, God Himself is. You cannot separate God and His life. That is the reason why God is everywhere… God is in me, and everything I do is God’s power; every single act is a creative act.” John H. Kellogg, General Conference Bulletin. Second quarter. 1901.

What Kellogg had come to believe was that he was equating the “power and presence” of God with God Himself. And in order to rationalize his theory, Kellogg embraced trinity, which allowed him to view the Father and Son as corporeal beings but also viewed Holy Spirit as an entirely separate, independent God (not unlike the Father and Son) that dwells in all things. In short, he was confounding God with His Spirit.

Consider the following:

The reason the trinity is connected to Kellogg’s “alpha” is because it IS a version of the Alpha. The Alpha has to do with destroying the “personality of God and of Christ”. This is what the trinity does. Ellen White wrote about Kellogg’s adoption of the trinity saying:

“It will be said that Living Temple has been revised. But the Lord has shown me that Dr. Kellogg HAS NOT CHANGED, and there can be no unity between him and the ministers of the gospel while he continues to cherish his present sentiments.” (Lt 277, 1904)

If Ellen White said Kellogg “has not changed” after his adoption of the trinity, then His view was STILL THE ALPHA!

In the same period, Ellen White linked the destruction of the personality of God and Christ to the destruction of the Sanctuary doctrine. Ballenger came out three years after the Living Temple trying to destroy the Sanctuary. Ballenger’s theology of spiritualization was rooted in Kellogg’s thinking. This was “a little while” after Kellogg. It was also “startling”, but thanks to Ellen White’s decisive action, little damage came from the “omega” in her day. It has since popped up many times through Conradi, Fletcher, Ford, etc until it now permeates much of the leadership of the Church.

The doctrine of God is the FOUNDATION of Christian belief. The Sanctuary is the CENTRAL PILLAR. When you remove the foundation, you can still be considered Adventist, but when you follow that to its logical end in destruction of the Sanctuary doctrine, you have come to the end, or omega, of Adventism.

In view of these Scriptures, who will dare to interpret God and place in the minds of others the sentiments regarding Him that are contained in Living Temple? These theories are the theories of the great deceiver, and in the lives of those who receive them there will be sad chapters. This is Satan’s device to unsettle the foundation of our faith, to shake our confidence in the Lord’s guidance and in the experience that He has given us. Many things of like character will in the future arise. I entreat our medical missionary workers to BE AFRAID TO TRUST THE SUPPOSITIONS AND DEVISING OF ANY HUMAN BEING WHO ENTERTAINS THE THOUGHT THAT THE PATH OVER WHICH THE PEOPLE OF GOD HAVE BEEN LED FOR THE LAST FIFTY YEARS IS A WRONG PATH. Beware of those who, not having had any decided experience in the leading of the Lord’s Spirit, would suppose that this leading is all a fallacy; that we have not the truth; that we are not the people of the Lord, gathered by Him from all countries and nations. BEWARE OF THOSE WHO WOULD TEAR DOWN THE FOUNDATION, UPON WHICH WE HAVE BEEN BUILDING FOR THE LAST FIFTY YEARS, TO ESTABLISH A NEW DOCTRINE. I KNOW THAT THESE NEW THEORIES ARE FROM THE ENEMY. {Ms137-1903.10}

Note: The salient point in this warning Ellen White gave, relating to Kellogg’s heresy, is how these errors would ultimately undermine and tear down the very foundation which the church have been building “for the last fifty yeas” and count them as errors, in order to establish a new doctrine.

Using Testimonies to justify Error

“There is danger that the false sentiments expressed in the books that they have been reading will sometimes be interwoven by our ministers, teachers, and editors with their arguments, discourses, and publications, under the belief that they are the same in principle as the teachings of the Spirit of truth. The book Living Temple is an illustration of this work, the writer of which declared in its support that its teachings were the same as those found in the writings of Mrs. White. Again and again we shall be called to meet the influence of men who are studying sciences of satanic origin, through which Satan is working to make a nonentity of God and of Christ. {9T 68.1}

In the very next paragraph, she says,

The Father and the Son each have a personality. Christ declared: “I and My Father are one.” Yet it was the Son of God who came to the world in human form…” (ibid)

Thus, whenever you find Testimonies clearly distinguishing the personality of the Father and the Son, we would do well to recognize that she is countering the “false sentiments” that had everything to do with obfuscating the personality of God and Christ. She also points out that many will use her writing to support their erroneous teachings.

“The time has come when whatever I may write in private letters to some of our brethren will do little good; for those who have not held the beginning of their confidence firm unto the end will be liable to interpret my communications in a false way. To have ministers and physicians who have long known the truth using my writings in a way that gives the impression that these writings uphold the very sentiments that are condemned by the testimonies I have received from God, places a very heavy burden on my soul. These men place such an interpretation on extracts which they take from my writings, that the reproofs given by God are made of no effect. The Lord God of heaven declares, “If they repent, I will pardon their transgressions; but if they do not repent, I will call them to account for that which they have misinterpreted in order to serve theories that are not true. By their course, souls have been led astray, and when I cease my forbearance, because they will not repent, I will punish them for all the evil they have done by mingling false sentiments with the true. They have departed from the faith themselves, and have led others astray.” 10MR 44.2

Kellogg’s Misunderstanding and Misapplication of Ellen White’s writing

“As far as I can fathom, the difficulty which is found in the Living Temple, the whole thing may be simmered down to this question: is the Holy Ghost a person. You say no. I had supposed the Bible said this for the reason that the personal pronoun he is used in speaking of the Holy Ghost. Sister White uses the pronoun he and has said in as many words that the Holy Ghost is the third person of the Godhead. How the Holy Ghost can be the third person and not be a person at all is difficult for me to see.” (Dr. John Harvey Kellogg wrote to G. I Butler on Oct 28, 1903 concerning ‘The Living Temple’)

On the same day, another letter was sent to W. C. White intimating similar thoughts,

“I have been studying very carefully to see what is the real root of the difficulty with the Living Temple, and as far as I can see the whole question resolves itself into this: Is the Holy Ghost, a person? I had supposed it was thoroughly recognized that the Holy Ghost was a person, since the Bible uses the pronoun he in speaking of the Holy Ghost, and I got the impression also from what your mother has written and from the way the brethren speak when they remark, ‘The Lord is here,’ speaking of His presence in the prayer-meeting. The prevailing idea seems to be that such expressions refer to the Spirit of the Lord, and that this is not a person but a principle of some sort. Now, I am not going to set myself up as a theologian and start a controversy over this thing, but will accept your mother’s statement about it, that it is not proper to speak of God himself as being in the tree. So long as this mode of expression confuses and offends people, certainly it ought to be avoided.” (John Harvey Kellogg Letter to W. C. White, October 28, 1903)

Then a few months later, Kellogg again wrote,

I believe this Spirit of God to be a personality you don’t. But this is purely a question of definition. I believe the Spirit of God is a personality; you say, No, it is not a personality. Now the only reason why we differ is because we differ in our ideas as to what a personality is. Your idea of personality is perhaps that of semblance to a person or a human being.” Letter: J H Kellogg to G I Butler. Feb 21. 1904.

Obviously the words “person” and “personality” were (and still are) difficult to define. Dr Kellogg had come to believe the Holy Spirit was a separate God-Being (as taught in the Trinitarian doctrine, although he uses the word ‘personality’), whereas the early church believed it was the divine omnipresence of God and Christ. The difficulty lay in both calling the Spirit a “person” or “personality,” as both meant something different. The pioneer teaching was that the Spirit is the very personality of God and Christ manifested in their omnipresence, whereas Kellogg understood the “personality” to mean an entirely separate God Being.

The significance of the quote above, is that Kellogg’s argument resemble so similar to what the current SDA trinitarians are saying (i.e. “Ellen White says Holy Spirit is a person, therefore He must be a person in the same sense as the Father and Son are persons). And he was using the Testimonies to justify his position. But we see clearly that he is not in agreement with Sister White nor Butler who held to then established position of the church.

Notice G. I. Butler’s response to J. H. Kellogg just two month after:

God dwells in us by His Holy Spirit, as a Comforter, as a Reprover, especially the former. When we come to Him we partake of Him in that sense, because the Spirit comes forth from Him; it comes forth from the Father and the Son. It is not a person walking around on foot, or flying as a literal being, in any such sense as Christ and the Father are – at least, if it is, it is utterly beyond my comprehension of the meaning of language or words.” — Letter: G I Butler to J H Kellogg. April 5. 1904.

Why was Ellen White telling Kellogg that he isn’t clear on “the personality of God”? Among other things, He did not understand her use of the word “person” and the word “Godhead” which is not the same as “God”. Ellen White wrote to G.I. Butler about the misuse of her writings. Please note that Ellen White was not rebuking Butler for his non-Trinitarian stance. She is addressing men like Kellogg:

There are some, who upon accepting erroneous theories, strive to establish them by collecting from my writings statements of truth, which they use, separated from their proper connection and perverted by association with error.” .—Letter 136, April 27, 1906, to Brethren Butler, Daniels, and Irwin.” (Ellen White, 1906, This Day with God, p. 126)

She goes on to speak about this misuse and misunderstanding of her statements such as what Kellogg had done.

“In the controversy that arose among our brethren regarding the teachings of this book, those in favor of giving it a wide circulation declared: ‘It contains the very sentiments that Sister White has been teaching.’ This assertion struck right to my heart. I felt heartbroken; for I knew that this representation of the matter was not true.” (1SM 203)

“I am compelled to speak in denial of the claim that the teachings of Living Temple can be sustained by statements from my writings. There may be in this book expressions and sentiments that are in harmony with my writings. And there may be in my writings many statements which, taken from their connection, and interpreted according to the mind of the writer of Living Temple, would seem to be in harmony with the teachings of this book. This may give apparent support to the assertion that the sentiments in Living Temple are in harmony with my writings. But God forbid that this sentiment should prevail.” (1SM 203)

Clearly, Ellen White was not in agreement with Kellogg’s views. She felt that John Harvey Kellogg had taken her statements out of their context. Kellogg was saying to Butler that he felt Ellen agreed with him regarding the Holy Spirit being a “person” in the same sense the Father and Son are persons, but in the letters we have between Butler and Ellen, she agrees with Butler and is out of harmony with Kellogg.

There are many individuals that have pointed to our church’s switch to a Trinitarian theology as the Omega of apostasy (or heresies) that Ellen White warned us about (Selected Messages Bk. 1, p. 203, 204).  Could the switch to this position, in changing the foundation upon which we are now building, be the reason that we are seeing so much of our distinctiveness as a people eroding away? It’s very interesting to note Ellen White’s statement in regard to the Omega of apostasy:

“We have now before us the alpha of this danger. The omega will be of a most startling nature. We need to study the words that Christ uttered in the prayer that He offered just before His trial and crucifixion. ‘These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.'” (Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 197)

Progressive Truth?

Adventists are told that it was progressive truth that took God’s remnant church from the non-Trinitarian denomination to what is now the Trinitarian denomination. They say that the church pioneers grew in their understanding, not unlike other beliefs or practices such as eating of the unclean meat, Sunday keeping, tobacco chewing, Sabbath’s opening and closing times, or the “shut door” theory, etc.

Nobody, whether Trinitarian or not, is arguing for a return to the above erroneous practices the church pioneers engaged in the early part of the church history. Yes, of course, it’s true that they at one point did all of these things. The Lord winked at their ignorance on these matters (Acts 17:30). Nevertheless, these practices are completely different from the non-trinitarian position the denomination held, and aren’t even in the same category, for the following reason:

While practiced by some, the pioneers never made the above beliefs or practices into points of faith, or statements of belief. Ellen White never mentioned these matters as being true in any of her counsels nor did God give any messages to Ellen in support of these matters. As for their belief in the only true God being the Father, and Jesus being the literally begotten Son, and the Holy Spirit being the Spirit of the Father and the Son; however, were front and center in their statement of beliefs, were published numerously in our church’s flagship publications for many decades without a single rebuke and were affirmed by the living prophet.

Are we to believe that God gave many important truths to His remnant Church, with a living prophet among them, having received over 2000 visions and messages from God but never told them what the correct view was on the personality of God for the first fifty years of its history?

Well, there is a problem with this. Not only was Ellen White a Methodist before she came into Adventism and most of the pioneers who came into Adventism were also Protestants, and the Trinity doctrine was one of the main pillars of Protestantism (with the exceptions of a very few including Joshua Himes (Episcopalian/Christian Connection) and James White-Ellen White’s husband, who was a Baptists but had affiliation with the Christian Connection-a non-Trinitarian church). Methodists still worship the God of Trinity to this day. So did Ellen White come out of the Trinity, accept the non-Trinitarian truth, did not have a clear understanding of the personality of God for many years (or God never revealed it to her clearly), only to go back to the Trinity (like the rest of the Protestants) again after she grew in her understanding? Did she not have the knowledge of the Trinity previously when she was still a Methodist?

Just stop and think about this for a moment. If the Trinity doctrine were true, then almost every mainstream churches that arose after the Protestant reformation, which she describes as an “apostate protestantism” who “has accepted the false sabbath instituted by the Roman Catholic Church” {Ms110-1904.59} would have had a greater light in this regard. That would mean that God’s very own remnant church (being the exception), which was also the only church that had a real live prophet to guide them, was in error, while the rest of the Christendom had the truth?

Adventists are also expected to believe that God sent Ellen White from place to place, correcting others with false doctrines while allowing her own Church in error:

“I was sent by the Lord from place to place to rebuke those who were holding these false doctrines. There were those who were in danger of going into fanaticism, and I was bidden in the name of the Lord to give them a warning from heaven.” — (E.G. White, RH, May 25, 1905)

So, even though God instructed Ellen White to do this, God supposedly never told His own remnant that they were in error about one of the main articles of faith? Is it not important to know if God and Christ are a real Father and Son or a 3-in-1 god that is just role playing? God would have corrected such an error. But He did not have to as He gave this truth as one of the pillars of faith from the beginning and why God also told her to recommend the non-Trinitarian writings of the pioneers.

The reality is that the change to the Trinity doctrine from its non-trinitarian position took place very slowly over many decades. It did not get into the fundamental beliefs for 87 years and even then most did not know it had happened, and it was not official until 136 years after the Church began.

Progressive truth they say! No, rather it was progressive error of trinity that was slowly brought in over time so as not to be noticed! The whole idea of the trinity being the progressive truth and that God’s very own remnant Church with a real live prophet to guide them being the only Church in error mocks and insults God.

But let’s make this even clearer. The Lord instructed Ellen White from the very beginning specifically to correct others who were teaching false ideas regarding God more than once.

“After the passing of the time in 1844, we had fanaticism of every kind to meet. Testimonies of reproof were given me to bear to some holding spiritualistic theories. There were those who were active in disseminating false ideas in regard to God. Light was given me that these men were making the truth of no effect by their false teachings. I was instructed that they were misleading souls by presenting speculative theories regarding God. I went to the place where they were and opened before them the nature of their work. … This is only one of the instances in which I was called upon to rebuke those who were presenting the doctrine of an impersonal God pervading all nature, and similar errors.” — (E.G. White, 3TT 270.4, 271.2)

With the above quote in mind consider the following.

  1. How could Ellen White correct others on false ideas and speculative theories about God if she was in error herself?

  2. Why would God be content for His own Church to be in error for decades and yet see the urgency to correct others?

  3. And why is there no record of her instructing a change to the Trinity doctrine? She never even used the word once to describe God.

Furthermore, Ellen White strongly rebuked Dr. Harvey Kellogg’s erroneous ideas about the personality of God as it was aforementioned.

There is no record of Ellen White telling anyone she had become a Trinitarian and instructing the Church to change because she never did. If she failed to inform others of such a change, then she would have failed in her duty as a messenger of the Lord. Would God instruct Ellen White to go from place to place rebuking those holding false doctrines while allowing His own remnant Church to hold the false doctrine (consider to be a terrible heresy by the modern Adventists) as its own?

We would contend that God’s remnant Church had the God given truth the entire time while Ellen White was alive. It was not until after her death and that of the pioneers that error was able to be brought into the Adventist Church. So don’t let anyone try and tell you that the change to the Trinity doctrine was progressive truth.

Adventist’s adoption of the current trinitarian doctrine is not a progressive truth but a total reversal on the most important of all doctrines.

As many (actually almost all except John Harvey Kellogg as far as the prominent leadership was concerned) Adventists did not believe in the Trinity in the early years of the movement, it would only be proper for God to send His Messenger to correct their heretical views. But was not the case in the least.

If she didn’t do this, it begs the question as to why she didn’t! Because she certainly rebuked against any other doctrine that tried to destroy the personalities of God, namely Kellogg’s pantheism.

“The spiritualization of heaven, God, Christ, and the coming of Christ lay at the foundation of much of the fanatical teachings that 17-year-old Ellen Harmon was called upon by God to meet in those formative days. THE VISIONS FIRMLY ESTABLISHED THE PERSONALITY OF GOD AND CHRIST, the reality of heaven and the reward to the faithful, and the resurrection. This sound guidance saved the emerging church.” {1BIO 81.1} (Ellen G. White: The Early Years: 1827-1862 (vol. 1))

Note: Through the visions of Ellen White, the doctrine regarding the personality of God and of Christ have been firmly established as part of our church’s pillars of faith during Ellen White’s time. And yet it is clear that our church’s position has changed in this regard since then. There is no other significant changes to our church’s previous doctrines other than what is now the Trinity doctrine that fits Ellen White’s warning. 

Many do not realize that the non-trinity doctrine is not the “new movement” which Sister White has warned us against in her writings but it is actually the other way around. It was the Trinity doctrine, which crept into our early church, many years after Ellen White’s warning, that has led our church to discard its former beliefs and regard them as error.

Ellen White received her first vision soon after the Great Advent Disappointment in December of 1844, which was first published in 1846. And it was as early as 1848, she received visions concerning the health message such as tobacco, tea, coffee. Learn more HERE

The Sabbath truth was clearly given to such men as Joseph Bates and Hiram Edson in the year 1846 and was shared with Ellen and James White. And as early as 1847, Ellen White herself received visions affirming the heavenly sanctuary and the Sabbath. Learn more about how the early Adventists came to observe the Sabbath HERE.

Ellen White on the “shut door”:

“For a time after the disappointment in 1844, I did hold, in common with the advent body, that the door of mercy was then forever closed to the world. THIS POSITION WAS TAKEN BEFORE MY FIRST VISION WAS GIVEN ME. It was the light given me of God that corrected our error, and enabled us to see the true position.”–Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 63.

The salient point here is that by the time the church was established, God had already given the church the sufficient light on all the vital pillars of our faith

Hope for Unity, If

“If your faith in the Word of God is strengthened; if you will fully accept the truths that have called us out of the world and made us a people denominated by the Lord as His peculiar treasure; if you will unite with your brethren IN STANDING BY THE OLD LANDMARKS, THEN THERE WILL BE UNITY. But you remain in unbelief, unsettled AS TO THE TRUE FOUNDATION OF FAITH; there can be no hope of any more unity in the future than there has been in the past. {11MR 319.1}

“I am instructed to say that you need to be re-taught the first principles of present truth. You have not believed the messages that God has given for this time because they do not favor your sentiments. Think you that while you remain in doubt and unbelief you can be fully united with those who have stood for the truth as it is in Jesus and who have accepted the light that God has given to us as a people? {11MR 319.2}

“Ask yourself candidly whether you are sound in the faith. Do all in your power to come into unity with God and with your brethren. As a people we cannot receive the full measure of the blessing of God while some who occupy leading positions are continuously working against the truth that FOR YEARS WE HAVE HELD SACRED, and obedient to the faith that has brought us what success we have had.”—Letter 23, 1904, pp. 1, 2. (To J. H. Kellogg, December 1904, copied January 16, 1905.) {11MR 319.3}

 

Statements about the Trinity made by various the pioneer leaders of our church:

The way spiritualizers have disposed of or denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ is first using the old unscriptural Trinitarian creed, viz., that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, though they have not one passage to support it, while we have plain scripture testimony in abundance that he is the Son of the eternal God.”  (James White, The Day Star, January 24, 1846)

“As fundamental errors, we might class with this counterfeit sabbath other errors which Protestants have brought away from the Catholic church, such as sprinkling for baptism, the trinity, the consciousness of the dead and eternal life in misery. The mass who have held these fundamental errors, have doubtless done it ignorantly; but can it be supposed that the church of Christ will carry along with her these errors till the judgment scenes burst upon the world? We think not. “Here are they [in the period of a message given just before the Son of man takes his place upon the white cloud, Rev. 14:14] that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” This class, who live just prior to the second advent, will not be keeping the traditions of men, neither will they be holding fundamental errors relative to the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. And as the true light shines out upon these subjects, and is rejected by the mass, then condemnation will come upon them.” {Review & Herald, September 12, 1854, vol. 6, no. 5, page 36, par. 8, Written by James White}

“My parents were members of long standing in the Congregational church, with all of their converted children thus far, and anxiously hoped that we would also unite with them. But they embraced some points in their faith which I could not understand. I will name two only: their mode of baptism, and doctrine of the trinity. My father, who had been a deacon of long standing with them, labored to convince me that they were right in points of doctrine… Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossibility for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being. I said to my father, ‘If you can convince me that we are one in this sense, that you are my father, and I your son; and also that I am your father, and you my son, then I can believe in the trinity.'”  (The Autobiography of Elder Joseph Bates, p. 204, 1868)

As we can see, the early Adventist, during the time that Mrs. White was alive, believed that the trinity was included in with all the other Pagan errors that most Christians held.

““The greatest fault we can find in the Reformation is, the Reformers stopped reforming. Had they gone on, and onward, till they had left the last vestige of Papacy behind, such as natural immortality, sprinkling, the trinity, and Sunday-keeping, the church would now be free from her unscriptural errors.” (Review and Herald, February 7, 1856, vol. 7, no. 19, p. 148, par. 26)
— James White

“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?’” (James White, Review and Herald, November 29, 1877)

“The Father was greater than the Son in that he was first.  The Son was equal with the Father in that he had received all things from the Father.” (James White, Review and Herald, Jan. 4, 1881)

“He (James White) received a commendation that few others have attained. God has permitted the precious light of truth to shine upon His word and illuminate the mind of my husband. He may reflect the rays of light from the presence of Jesus upon others by his preaching and writing.” (E.G. White, Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, p. 502)

“What a contradiction of terms is found in the language of Trinitarian creed: ‘In unity of this head are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.’ There are many things that are mysterious, written in the word of God, but we may safely presume the Lord never calls upon us to believe impossibilities. But creeds often do.” (A.J. Dennis, Signs Of The Times, May 22, 1879)

“To say that the Son is as old as his Father, is a palpable contradiction of terms. It is a natural impossibility for the Father to be as young as the Son, or the Son to be as old as the Father.” (J. M. StephensonReview and Herald, Nov. 14, 1854)

“In 1 Cor. 15, I find that it is not the natural man that hath immortality; yet Paul assures the Romans that by patient continuance in well doing all could obtain immortality and eternal life. The doctrine called the trinity, claiming that God is without form or parts; that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the three are one person, is another. Could God be without form or parts when he ‘spoke unto Moses face to face as a man speaketh unto a friend?’ [Ex. 33:11] or when the Lord said unto him, ‘Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me and live? And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by; and I will take away my hand and thou shalt see my back parts, but my face shall not be seen.’ Ex. 33:20, 22, 23. Christ is the express image of his Father’s person. Heb. 1:3.” (Uriah SmithReview and Herald, July 10, 1856)

“The doctrine of the Trinity which was established in the church by the council of Nicea, A.D. 325. This doctrine destroys the personality of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The infamous measures by which it was forced upon the church which appear upon the pages of ecclesiastical history might well cause every believer in that doctrine to blush.” (J.N. Andrews, Review and Herald, Mar. 6, 1855)

“The inconsistent positions held by many in regard to the Trinity, as it is termed, has, no doubt, been the prime cause of many other errors. Erroneous views of the divinity of Christ are apt to lead us into error in regard to the nature of the atonement. Viewing the atonement as an arbitrary scheme (and all must believe it to be so, who view Christ as the only ‘very and eternal God’), has led to some of the arbitrary conclusions of one or two classes of persons; such as predestinarianism, Universalism, etc.” (D.W. Hull, Review and Herald, Nov. 10, 1859)

Question: What serious objection is there to the doctrine of the Trinity?

Answer: There are many objections which we might urge, but on account of our limited space we shall reduce them to the three following: 1). It is contrary to common sense. 2). It is contrary to scripture. 3). Its origin is Pagan and fabulous.” (J.N. Loughborough, Review and Herald, Nov. 5, 1861)

“Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossibility for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being. I said to my father, “If you can convince me that we are one in this sense, that you are my father, and I your son; and also that I am your father, and you my son, then I can believe in the trinity.” (Joseph Bates, 1868, The Autobiography Of Elder Joseph Bates, page 204)

“And as to the Son of God, he would be excluded also, for he had God for his Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have beginning of days.” (J.N. Andrews, Review and Herald, Sept 7, 1869)

Christ is the only literal Son of God. ‘The only begotten of the Father.’ John 1:14. He is God because he is the Son of God; not by virtue of His resurrection. If Christ is the only begotten of the Father, then we cannot be begotten of the Father in a literal sense. It can only be in a secondary sense of the word.” (John Matteson, Review and Herald, Oct. 12, 1869)

“It is not very consonant with common sense to talk of three being one, and one being three. Or as some express it, calling God ‘the Triune God’ or ‘the three-one-God.’  If Father, Son and the Holy Ghost are each God, it would be three Gods; for three times one is not one, but three.” (Ibid)

“While both are of the same nature, the Father is first in point of time.  He is also greater in that he had no beginning, while Christ’s personality had a beginning.” (E.J. Waggoner, Signs of the Times, April 8, 1889)

“God alone is without beginning. At the earliest epoch when a beginning could be, – a period so remote that to finite minds it is essentially eternity, – appeared the Word. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ John 1:1. This uncreated Word was the Being, who, in the fulness of time, was made flesh, and dwelt among us. His beginning was not like that of any other being in the universe. It is set forth in the mysterious expressions, ‘his [God’s] only begotten Son’ (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), ‘the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14), and ‘I proceeded forth and came from God.’ John 8:42. Thus it appears that by some divine impulse or process, not creation, known only to Omniscience, and possible only to Omnipotence, the Son of God appeared. And then the Holy Spirit (by an infirmity of translation called ‘the Holy Ghost’), the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the divine afflatus and medium of their power, representative of them both (Ps.139:7), was in existence also.” (Uriah Smith, Looking Unto Jesus, 1898, p. 10.1)

Revisionist Theology-D. M. Canright’s role in the introduction of trinity to SDA

Dudley Marvin Canright and his criticisms played a significant role in the introduction of the doctrine of the trinity within Seventh-day Adventism.

For 22 years, Dudley Melvin Canright defended the message, the movement, and the beliefs of the Advent people. Evangelist, debator, and fierce opponent of the Trinity doctrine, Canright had been the first to state that Christ “was begotten of the Father’s own substance,” an expression later repeated by EJ Waggoner and then Ellen White.

But in 1887, just one year before the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference, after years of depression and confession, he left the Adventist communion to write his book, “Seventh-Day Adventism Renounced,” which was published 1889. In it he charged SDAs with rejecting the Trinity and therefore the divinity of Christ.

“Dudley Marvin Canright was a prominent leader in Seventh-day Adventism and had an on again, off again relationship with the church. He left the fold for the final time in 1887 and in 1889 he published his book Seventh-day Adventism Renounced. Its import is best explained by the historian Gary Land. “His book Seventh- day Adventism Renounced became the chief weapon used by Evangelicals against Seventh-day Adventists…” (Adventism in America: a history – Page 105, Gary Land -1986).  

The linked article below by Jason Smith examines the theory that the 1888 meetings were the impetus that first introduced the trinity into Adventism in a positive sense. Contrary to that theory, the article suggests that it was actually a reaction to D.M. Canright. 

For further study, click HERE for the article, Dudley Canright and the SDA trinity.

LeRoy Froom and His Influence

LeRoy Froom, one of the main persons responsible for Adventists to accept the Trinity doctrine:

LeRoy Froom: (October 16, 1890 – February 20, 1974) was a Seventh-day Adventist minister and historian whose many writings have been recognized by the church. He was also a central figure in the meetings with evangelicals that led to the publication of the Adventist theological book, Questions on Doctrine; he authored such books as The Coming of the Comforter, 4 Volumes of Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, Movement of Destiny, and the notable compilation of the writings of Ellen G. White, Evangelism.

So how did the central doctrine of the Catholic Church end up as a doctrine of the Seventh-day Adventist faith? It may come as a surprise to many that LeRoy Froom was largely responsible for introducing the Trinity doctrine into the Adventist Church, and purposefully set about to promote its acceptance and institute it into the beliefs of the Church.

LeRoy Froom set out to search over 100,000 pages of her writings (25,000,000 words) for anything that could be mistaken as being Trinitarian and managed to find a small handful of quotes that he rightly figured could. He then placed these quotes into a book called Evangelism. Most think that the quotes called “EV” or “Evangelism” are from a book written by Ellen White. But it was a compilation by Froom in 1946 which was 30 years after the death of Ellen White.

While we may not know his true intent, Froom compiled various statements from Ellen White in the book Evangelism (mostly found in pages 613 to 617), purposefully designed to squash anti/non-trinitarianism, including titles that would give “trinitarian” bias to the statements that would follow. Below is a letter by Froom giving some clues about his intent:

“I am sure that we are agreed in evaluating the book, Evangelism as one of the great contributions in which the Ministerial Association had a part back in those days. You know what it did with men in the Columbia Union who came face to face with the clear, unequivocal statements of the Spirit of Prophecy on the Deity of Christ, personality of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, and the like. They either had to lay down their arms and accept those statements, or else they had to reject the Spirit of Prophecy.

“I know that you and Miss Kleuser and I had considerable to do with the selection of these things under the encouragement of men like Elder Branson who felt that the earlier concept of the White Estate brethren on this book Evangelism was not adequate.” — (Letter from LeRoy Froom to Roy A. Anderson, January 18, 1966)

It so happened that the collection of these statements in the book Evangelism presents only one side of the story when it comes to the personality of God. It has left out volumes of evidence in dealing with the Holy Spirit and the personality of God that would give you a full, comprehensive understanding on the subject.

Unfortunately, Evangelism became the go to book in defending the Trinity doctrine of the church. Too many people go to this single book, and they stop there and the subject is already settled in their minds; they don’t see what is left out. They fail to realize that the representations of the Godhead in the book is not the whole picture but only a partial truth and therefore dishonest. But even so, most say, “the views contained in these few statements (that are found in Evangelism) are clear enough and therefore we don’t need to go any further.” They fail to include volumes of statements that would bring much clarity to many misunderstandings and false representations.

This is how Froom eventually managed to influence the majority of the Adventist Church astray because people did not take the time to research what else Ellen White wrote in this regard. She in fact wrote numerous non-Trinitarian statements right through to her death, which is very easy to confirm if people would only take the time to look without prejudice.

What Le Roy Froom did:

1) Falsify the history about the original SDA pioneer position regarding the trinity. This revisionist history can be seen in the books Questions on Doctrine and Movement of Destiny. While Froom is not the originator of this tactic he is most certainly the key perpetuater and popularizer of it.

2) Burn evidence to the contrary. This little known fact reveals much about Mr. Froom. True historians do not burn the source material yet Froom did! When I learned about this I was not even surprised. It fit the pattern perfectly because based on the personal letters that he received LeRoy Froom actually knew the truth but chose to lie anyway. It’s just more dishonest, underhanded tactics on Froom’s part.

3) Promote unbegottenism by introducing new theology and playing a part in having the old pioneer references to the begotten Son expunged. Due to this Froom is certainly culpable for the psuedo-tritheistic doctrine that exists in Adventism today.

4) Manipulate the inspired data from the Spirit of prophecy. Froom did this on a few subjects. Basically he used partial data presentations, out of context quotations and ellipses to make Mrs. White seem like she was supporting doctrines that she really was not (i.e. trinity, [pre-fall, sinless flesh] nature of Christ, [completed] atonement [at Calvary]) [brackets added for clarity]

It is also notable that LeRoy Froom did not start with the Bible and then move on to the writings of Ellen White. Instead he did the exact opposite. He actually began with the writings of Ellen White in order to try and find support for his belief. The fact is that Froom’s belief in the Trinity and the Holy Spirit came from outside of the Seventh-day Adventist faith, and he set out to try and support it with statements from the Spirit of Prophecy. The reason LeRoy Froom had to go to outside sources, rather than use writings from our Pioneers is because none of the early pioneers were Trinitarians and therefore did not agree with Froom’s opinions. This is also why Froom had to wait until Ellen White and the pioneers had all passed away before he could try and achieve his goal. How could this be a greater light as they called it a hundred years later?

“I was compelled to search out a score of valuable books written by men outside of our faith–those previously noted–for initial clues and suggestions… The next logical and inevitable step… involved REVISION of certain standard works, so as to ELIMINATE statements that taught, and thus perpetuated ERRONEOUS views on the Godhead ” (LeRoy Froom, Movement of Destiny, p. 322, 422)

In his book “Movement of Destiny”, which was published in 1971, he tells us how he came to write about the Holy Spirit and believe in the Trinity. How much of what he wrote is truth as he understood is unknown considering other facts. He states that what he calls the “Truth of the Trinity” was an inevitable evolution in our theology stemming from the 1888 Conference and message. He concludes his brief account by claiming that the book The Desire of Ages presented an “inspired depiction” of the Trinity doctrine and because of this it has become our denominations’ “accepted position.” And yet the Desire of Ages is filled with non-Trinitarian statements.

LeRoy Froom boasts that the Desire of Ages was even publicized in a prominent Catholic journal. Here are his own words, “…The Desire of Ages, of course, presented an inspired depiction, and was consequently destined to become the denominationally accepted position…. The Desire of Ages…. is one of the most highly esteemed books of the Denomination–a recognized classic, even publicized in such a Catholic journal as the “Universal Fatima News” for September 1965.” (Movement of Destiny; pp. 323, 324). As a professed Seventh-day Adventist, why would he be so proud of its endorsement and publicity in a Catholic Journal? That is what you would expect from a Catholic, not an Adventist.

The book Truth Triumphant written by Adventist theologian Dr. B.G. Wilkinson is an exhaustive study of the history of God’s Church in the wilderness and contained statements against the Catholic Church. Froom was angry about the book and ordered the destruction of the offset press plates so the book could not be reprinted. Wilkinson was 80 years of age at this point and could not afford to have the plates made again. Why would an Adventist do such a thing unless of course he was a Catholic? Something is very wrong here and I am inclined to believe the testimony.

On the 14 December 1955, LeRoy Froom in a letter to Reuben Figuhr wrote, “I was publicly denounced in the chapel at the Washington Missionary College by Dr. B. G. Wilkinson as the most dangerous man in this denomination.” This took place in the mid 1940’s. I believe Dr. B.G. Wilkinson had very good reason for saying this, much to the disgruntlement of Froom.

Note that the “old timers” described in Froom’s letter below are our pioneers. They are the ones who knew what the Church believed while Ellen White was alive and they denied the doctrine of the Trinity Froom was pushing. So who was left to oppose Froom once Ellen white and the pioneers had passed on?

“May I state that my book, The Coming of the Comforter, was the result of a series of studies that I gave in 1927-28, to ministerial institutes throughout North America. You cannot imagine how I was pummeled by some of the old timers because I pressed on the personality of the Holy Spirit as the Third Person of the Godhead. Some men denied that –-still deny it. But the book has come to be generally accepted as standard.”  (Letter of LeRoy Froom to Otto H. Christensen, October 27, 1960)

The following letter from Froom reveals his agenda was to try and convince others that Ellen White was a Trinitarian for the sole purpose of getting the Church to follow his direction. Here is the letter to Roy Allen Anderson revealing its intent and purpose. The abused and misunderstood quotes from Ellen White are still being used to pervert the truth today.

“I am sure that we are agreed in evaluating the book Evangelism as one of the great contributions in which the Ministerial Association had a part back in those days. You know what it did with men in the Columbia Union who came face to face with the clear, unequivocal statements of the Spirit of Prophecy on the Deity of Christ, personality of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity, and the like. They either had to lay down their arms and accept those statements, or else they had to reject the Spirit of Prophecy.
I know that you and Miss Kleuser and I had considerable to do with the selection of these things under the encouragement of men like Elder Branson who felt that the earlier concept of the White Estate brethren on this book Evangelism was not adequate.” (Letter from LeRoy Froom to Roy A. Anderson, January 18, 1966)

Froom found “every” major statement from Ellen White that could be abused and misunderstood which means he literally had to look at everything she wrote. Could he be so deceived that he could not tell the difference between a non-Trinitarian and Trinitarian statement? Highly unlikely. He had no trouble finding every single statement that could be misunderstood so he had to know the difference. That means Froom saw the tens of thousands of non-Trinitarian statements that she wrote throughout her entire life. And he would also know that she wrote non-Trinitarian statements right through to her death. So LeRoy Froom had to know Ellen White never became a Trinitarian. How could all that he did not be intentional?

Ask yourself what the following points reveal about LeRoy Froom and his agenda:

1) He looked to sources outside the Adventist Church because he couldn’t find anything within our writings to fit his agenda.
2) He searched 100,000 pages (25,000,000 words) of Ellen White’s writings for anything that could be misunderstood.
3) He wrote his book Evangelism after a trip to the Vatican in which he placed the misunderstood quotes he found.
4) When Adventists use these quotes they almost always have Froom’s book as the source and yet he did not write them.
5) Hence most Adventist Trinitarians believe that Evangelism was written by Ellen White, further revealing the deception.
6) Froom boasted that the Desire of Ages was even publicized in a prominent Catholic journal.
7) He wrote that the Desire of Ages was an inspired depiction of the Trinity doctrine and why it is now accepted by the Church.
8) Yet the Desire of Ages is a non-Trinitarian book proven by all the non-Trinitarian statements, again revealing the deception.
9) Froom wrote a letter stating that the pioneers in their old age strongly opposed the Trinity doctrine that he was pushing.
10) Froom had the printing plates of a book destroyed that was not his that revealed many truths about the Catholic Church.
11) It is “alleged” that Froom was seen functioning as a Catholic priest prior to entering the Adventist Church.
12) Dr. B.G. Wilkinson publicly denounced Froom as being the most dangerous man in the Adventist Church.
13) Froom wrote a letter stating how he was able to change the Church by the Spirit of Prophecy quotes he searched for.

Ellen White said serious error would be brought into the Adventist Church after her death, and Revelation 12:17 states that Satan would make war with God’s remnant. So how far can and would Satan go? Could some Adventist pastors have the spirit of Satan while thinking they have the Holy Spirit? Most would say no.

“I saw that Satan was working through agents in a number of ways. He was at work through ministers, who have rejected the truth, and are given over to strong delusions to believe a lie that they might be damned. While they were preaching, or praying some would fall prostrate and helpless; not by the power of the Holy Ghost, no, no; but by the power of Satan breathed upon these agents and through them to the people. Some professed Adventists who had rejected the present truth, while preaching, praying or in conversation used Mesmerism to gain adherents, and the people would rejoice in this influence, for they thought it was the Holy Ghost. And even some that used it, were so far in the darkness and deception of the Devil, that they thought it was the power of God, given them to exercise.” (E.G. White, Review and Herald, August 1, 1849)

Click HERE to learn more about how LeRoy Froom systematically altered the course of Adventist history.

Additional Notes

A View of Approaching Danger

About the time that Living Temple was published, there passed before me in the night season, representations indicating that some danger was approaching, and that I must prepare for it by writing out the things God had revealed to me regarding the foundation principles of our faith. A copy of Living Temple was sent me, but it remained in my library, unread. From the light given me by the Lord, I knew that some of the sentiments advocated in the book did not bear the endorsement of God, and that they were a snare that the enemy had prepared for the last days. I thought that this would surely be discerned, and that it would not be necessary for me to say anything about it. {1SM 202.3}

In the controversy that arose among our brethren regarding the teachings of this book, those in favor of giving it a wide circulation declared: “It contains the very sentiments that Sister White has been teaching.” This assertion struck right to my heart. I felt heartbroken; for I knew that this representation of the matter was not true. {1SM 203.1}

Finally my son said to me, “Mother, you ought to read at least some parts of the book, that you may see whether they are in harmony with the light that God has given you.” He sat down beside me, and together we read the preface, and most of the first chapter, and also paragraphs in other chapters. As we read, I recognized the very sentiments against which I had been bidden to speak in warning during the early days of my public labors. When I first left the State of Maine, it was to go through Vermont and Massachusetts, to bear a testimony against these sentiments. Living Temple contains the alpha of these theories. I knew that the omega would follow in a little while; and I trembled for our people. I knew that I must warn our brethren and sisters not to enter into controversy over the presence and personality of God. The statements made in Living Temple in regard to this point are incorrect. The scripture used to substantiate the doctrine there set forth, is scripture misapplied. {1SM 203.2}

I am compelled to speak in denial of the claim that the teachings of Living Temple can be sustained by statements from my writings. There may be in this book expressions and sentiments that are in harmony with my writings. And there may be in my writings many statements which, taken from their connection, and interpreted according to the mind of the writer of Living Temple, would seem to be in harmony with the teachings of this book. This may give apparent support to the assertion that the sentiments in Living Temple are in harmony with my writings. But God forbid that this sentiment should prevail. {1SM 203.3}

Few can discern the result of entertaining the sophistries advocated by some at this time. But the Lord has lifted the curtain, and has shown me the result that would follow. The spiritualistic theories regarding the personality of God, followed to their logical conclusion, sweep away the whole Christian economy. They estimate as nothing the light that Christ came from heaven to give John to give to His people. They teach that the scenes just before us are not of sufficient importance to be given special attention. They make of no effect the truth of heavenly origin, and rob the people of God of their past experience, giving them instead a false science. {1SM 203.4}

In a vision of the night I was shown distinctly that these sentiments have been looked upon by some as the grand truths that are to be brought in and made prominent at the present time. I was shown a platform, braced by solid timbers—the truths of the Word of God. Someone high in responsibility in the medical work was directing this man and that man to loosen the timbers supporting this platform. Then I heard a voice saying, “Where are the watchmen that ought to be standing on the walls of Zion? Are they asleep? This foundation was built by the Master Worker, and will stand storm and tempest. Will they permit this man to present doctrines that deny the past experience of the people of God? The time has come to take decided action.” {1SM 204.1}

The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure. {1SM 204.2}

Who has authority to begin such a movement? We have our Bibles. We have our experience, attested to by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. We have a truth that admits of no compromise. Shall we not repudiate everything that is not in harmony with this truth? {1SM 205.1}

I hesitated and delayed about the sending out of that which the Spirit of the Lord impelled me to write. I did not want to be compelled to present the misleading influence of these sophistries. But in the providence of God, the errors that have been coming in must be met. {1SM 205.2}