New "Light" about the Holy Spirit

Posted May 21, 2010 by Bobby B in Trinity Hits: 3,936

Almost every Adventist writer that has ever written a book or article about the Holy Spirit from a Trinitarian perspective have quoted Ellen White. Specifically, "third person of the Godhead," and "three living persons." Many writers even argue that Ellen White was responsible for changing the entire denominational view regarding the Holy Spirit and Trinity. It's true that Trinitarians and non-trinitarians have their favorite EGW quotes ready for any given challenge, its also true that Mrs. White died in 1915 and therefore, cannot speak for herself. Within the midst of hundreds of EGW quotes on just about any given subject, my favorite quote about the Holy Spirit is taken from the Chapman letter.  (June 11, 1891, Manuscript Release # 1107)

Modern denominational leaders claim that all the early Adventist pioneers were wrong in denying the personality of the Holy Spirit as a separate divine being from the Father and His Son.  It's also claimed that Mrs. White herself "corrected" this false conception with her statement in "The Desire of Ages," and several statements dealing with Kellogg. At the same time it's asserted that she never changed her mind regarding the Holy Spirit but "progressively" advanced and built upon former truth. Lets see how she would build upon her letter to Brother Chapman without having a total reversal and "change of mind" by the time Desire of Ages was written.

A non-trinitarian and Trinitarian Adventist are having a friendly discussion one sunny day.  Inevitably the subject of the Holy Spirit arises and the Trinitarian Adventist becomes uncomfortable. "Whats wrong," the non-trinitarian Adventist asks? "It seems like your teaching 'new light' and I think you are starting to speculate about God's presence which is a mystery and it worries me very much," the Trinitarian replies.  Ellen White said in "Acts of the Apostles" that:

“It is not essential for us to be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is....The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery.  Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them.  Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them; but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden.” AA-51,52.

"I mean no disrespect," the non-trinitarian replies, but what I believe is not "new light," but the same as all the Adventist pioneers including Mr. White have always believed. The "new light" is from those who try to define the Holy Spirit as a separate Divine Being; Someone other than the Father, or His Son. There are those who teach that we should pray to and worship this other Divine being; isn't this the mystery that's not revealed in scripture and therefore "too deep for human understanding?" "All the pioneers were wrong about the Godhead and Ellen White corrected them," the Trinitarian replies. "The only two people Ellen White reproved and corrected about the Holy Spirit were brother Chapman and J. H. Kellogg," answers the non-trinitarian.

This quotation in "Acts of the Apostles" is taken from a personal letter from Ellen White to brother Chapman. Ellen White was rebuking Chapman because he was teaching that the Holy Spirit was a separate being other than the Father and Son. Brother Chapman wanted to work as a pastor or evangelist but church leaders would not allow him until he changed his belief about the Holy Spirit.  Chapman was very sad so he wrote Ellen White a letter of appeal thinking she could help him.  Ellen White did care, and she does help him.  She writes him back quoting his original letter to her as follows: “I have received yours dated June 3.  In this letter you speak in these words: ‘Elder Robinson does not want me to leave, but urges that I enter the canvassing field until such time as the conference can afford to employ me in some other capacity, but states positively that I cannot be sent out to present the truth to others until some points held by me are changed or modified in order that the views regarded by us as a people should be properly set forth.  He quotes as a sample, ‘My idea in reference to the Holy Ghost’s not being the Spirit of God, which is Christ, but the angel Gabriel...On all fundamental points I am in perfect harmony with our people; but when I try to show what seems to me to be new light on the truth, those in authority, none of whom have seemingly ever made a personal investigation of the matter, refuse to look into the Bible, but brand me as a fellow with queer ideas of the Bible.’..." Then Mrs. White comments on his letter. “Your ideas of the two subjects you mention do not harmonize with the light which God has given me. The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery not clearly revealed, and you will never be able to explain it to others because the Lord has not revealed it to you. You may gather together Scriptures and put your construction upon them, but the application is not correct. The expositions by which you sustain your position are not sound. You may lead some to accept your explanations, but you do them no good, nor are they, through accepting your views, enabled to do others good.  It is not essential for you to know and be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and the Comforter is the Holy Ghost, ‘the Spirit of truth, which the Father shall send in My name.’ ‘I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter that He may abide with you for ever;  even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him, for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” [John 14:16,17]. This refers to the omnipresence of the spirit of Christ, called the Comforter...“There are many mysteries which I do not seek to understand or to explain; they are too high for me, and too high for you. On some of these points, silence is golden... “I hope that you will seek to be in harmony with the body...you make the mistake that many others have made, of thinking that you have new light, when it is only a new phase of error. “You need to come into harmony with your brethren...It is your duty to come as near to the people as you can...Now, my brother, it is truth that we want and must have, but do not introduce error as new truth.”  (MR#-1107, 1891)

Elder Robinson would not let him become a "teacher" of truth until Chapman changed his belief regarding the personality of the Holy Spirit. Elder Robinson and all the other church leaders believed that the: "Holy Ghost is the Spirit of God, which is Christ." Brother Chapman claimed to have "new light" regarding the personality of the Holy Spirit. Ellen White told him he should "not introduce error as new truth.” Then she makes a definitive statement regarding who the Holy spirit is: "the omnipresence of the spirit of Christ, called the Comforter." Then she appeals to Chapman three separate times: "seek to be in harmony with the body"...“You need to come into harmony with your brethren"..."It is your duty to come as near to the people as you can." What was the position of the "body," the "brethren," and "the people" regarding the personality of the Holy Spirit in 1891? They certainly did not believe the Holy Spirit to be a separate Divine Being, a separate God other than the Father and His Son. They positively did not believe in the Trinity.

You won't find a more direct Ellen White quote about the Holy Spirit. Chapman was in error, church leaders directing him in the work knew all about his error, and Ellen White directly confronted and corrected him.  It could be hypothetically argued that in the next seven years, by the time "Desire of Ages" was written, Ellen had a dramatic change of mind about the personality of the Holy Spirit and Trinity. Though if she did, she told no-one (including her own sons), she took that dark secret to the grave.