9. Begotten Theology Part 6 of 6 - God the Father in the Person of the Son
Seventh-day Adventist Trinity issues
The Begotten Series
(Part 6 of 6)
God the Father in the person of the Son
The preponderant belief of Seventh-day Adventists has always been that Christ is God but throughout the time of Ellen White’s ministry and even beyond, this was always professed in terms that were strictly non-trinitarian. In other words, whilst Ellen White was alive, Seventh-day Adventists made no profession of the trinity doctrine.
This was no different than it was in early Christianity (see section two and section three). This was prior to the 4th century when the trinity doctrine was formulated. This was also the time period when in the form of the established church, Christianity was fast heading towards apostasy (see section nine of the detailed history series).
Regarding the trinity doctrine and the divinity of Christ, James White, in 1877, expressed the generally held view of Seventh-day Adventists.
This is when he wrote
“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 29th article ‘Christ Equal with God’ 1877)
Even having been married to Ellen White for 31 years, James White remained, just as he had done so throughout his time as a Seventh-day Adventist, a devout trinitarian. He did not believe though, as can be very clearly seen here, that Christ was in any way a lesser being than God. This was written by him 4 years before his death in 1881. He died a non-trinitarian.
J. H. Waggoner, the father of Ellet Waggoner, was a long time contemporary of James White.
In the 1884 edition of a publication that he authored concerning the atonement he wrote (note the use of the word “we” denoting Waggoner was referring to Seventh-day Adventists in general)
“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.” (J. H. Waggoner, ‘The Atonement in Light of Nature and Revelation’, 1884 Edition, chapter ‘Doctrine of a Trinity Subversive of the Atonement’)
By way of explanation of trinitarian thinking (note again the use of “they” and “we”) Waggoner added
“Their [the trinitarian’s] 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.” (Ibid)
This is very true. Most trinitarians will say that unless the divinity of Christ is expressed as in the trinity doctrine, it is not correctly expressed – even though it is an assumed doctrine (see section four of the detailed history series).
Waggoner then said (note again the word “our”)
“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.” (Ibid)
Whilst we shall not be pursuing this latter line of thinking here (the atonement), suffice to say that trinitarians believe that the personage of the pre-existent Christ (or as many term Him the pre-existent Son of God) did not really die at Calvary. All that trinitarians say died was the human nature of Christ. Whatever version of the trinity doctrine is accepted, this is standard theology. This is one of the reasons why early Seventh-day Adventists rejected the trinity doctrine. They believed that the pre-existent Son of God really did die. This death was in His human nature.
Note Waggoner says that Seventh-day Adventists firmly believe in the divinity of Christ. There was no ‘He might be sort of divine’ or ‘in one sense he may be divine’. The belief was that He is divine in the highest sense of its meaning. As James White said (see above), Christ was not regarded by Seventh-day Adventists as a lesser divine being than God the Father but equal to Him. This is the testimony of the Scriptures through and through (see John 1:1 and Philippians 2:5-8 etc)
In its various forms, Joseph Waggoner’s ‘atonement’ publication was circulated amongst Seventh-day Adventists for 23 years. This was between 1861 and 1884. This shows how highly this work was valued. It also shows what the accepted faith of Seventh-day Adventists was at that time. That Christ was fully divine and fully God was never in question within Seventh-day Adventism but it was not professed in terms that were trinitarian.
As Russell Holt put it in a term paper he completed for Dr. Mervyn Maxwell in 1969 (this was with respect to the time period leading up to the death of James White in 1881)
“A survey of other Adventist writers during these years reveals, that to a man, they rejected the trinity, yet, with equal unanimity they upheld the divinity of Christ.” (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)
Holt then wrote of the pioneer’s beliefs
“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 Christ’s divine nature.” (Ibid)
During the 1880’s as the famous Minneapolis Conference loomed ahead (1888), this was the preponderant faith of Seventh-day Adventists. This was the faith that professed Christ to be fully divine and fully God yet not as expressed in the trinity doctrine. This is something that obviously brought about an antagonism between Seventh-day Adventists and the other denominations who, in the main, were trinitarian. It was this one belief (non-trinitarianism) that between us and the trinitarian denominations acted as an impenetrable barrier to fellowship with them. In other words, whilst that non-trinitarian barrier was in place, there could be no concord between us and the trinitarian denominations.
Today things are very different. The evangelicals now accept us as fellow Christians but this would not have happened if we had not adopted the trinity doctrine as part of our fundamental beliefs.
Christ is fully God - the testimony of Ellen White
Throughout the entirety of her writings, Ellen White maintained that Christ was God essentially. Never once did she waver from this view. This was also the preponderant view of our pioneers.
In such statements through the spirit of prophecy Seventh-day Adventists were told (volumes more can be found)
“This Saviour was the brightness of His Father's glory and the express image of His person. He possessed divine majesty, perfection, and excellence. He was equal with God. "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell." "Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Ellen G. White, Testimonies Volume 2 page 200, ‘The sufferings of Christ’)
She also said in 1877
“The Son of God was in the form of God, and he thought it not robbery to be equal with God. He was the only one, who as a man walked the earth, who could say to all men, Who of you convinceth me of sin? He had united with the Father in the creation of man, and he had power through his own divine perfection of character to atone for man's sin, and to elevate him, and bring him back to his first estate.” (Ellen G. White, Spirit of Prophecy Volume 2 page 10, ‘The first advent of Christ’, 1877)
In volume three of the Spirit of Prophecy Ellen White wrote (1878)
“The Jews utterly failed to understand the spiritual connection which identified Christ with both the human and the divine, and gave fallen man a presentation of what he should strive to become. Christ was God in the flesh. As the son of David, he stood forth a perfect type of true manhood, bold in doing his duty, and of the strictest integrity, yet full of love, compassion, and tender sympathy. In his miracles he revealed himself as Lord. When he was asked by Philip to show him the Father, he answered, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." (Ellen G. White, Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 3 page 259, 1878, ‘Ascension of Christ’)
In 1893 in the Signs of the Times the same author said
“The Redeemer of the world clothed his divinity with humanity, that he might reach humanity; for, in order to bring to the world salvation, it was necessary that humanity and divinity should be united. Divinity needed humanity, that humanity might afford a channel of communication between God and man, and humanity needed divinity, that a power from above might restore man to the likeness of God. Christ was God, but he did not appear as God. He veiled the tokens of divinity, which had commanded the homage of angels and called forth the adoration of the universe of God. He made himself of no reputation, took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. For our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich.” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, 20th February 1893, ‘The plan of salvation’)
In 1906 she wrote
“The world was made by him, "and without him was not anything made that was made." If Christ made all things, he existed before all things. The words spoken in regard to this are so decisive that no one need be left in doubt. Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore.” (Ellen White, Review and Herald, 5th April 1906, ‘The Word made flesh’)
This was indeed the faith of early Seventh-day Adventists. This faith was that Christ is no one less than God Himself in the person of His own Son. We shall now take a look at the latter from the viewpoint of the writings of Ellen White. This will serve to further endorse the begotten theology.
God in the person of His Son
Many statements of Ellen White can be found expressing the view that Christ was God Himself in the person of His Son.
These are such as
“We are called upon to behold the Lord our Father in the person of his Son. Christ came in the robe of the flesh, with his glory subdued in humanity, that lost man might communicate with him and live. Through Christ we may comprehend something of him who is glorious in holiness. Jesus is the mystic ladder by which we may mount to behold the glory of the infinite God. By faith we behold Christ standing between humanity and divinity, connecting God and man, and earth and heaven.” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, 20th January 1890, ‘God made manifest in Christ’)
The “Lord our Father” is obviously God our Father.
In a General Conference Bulletin in 1899 Ellen White said
“In the person of his only begotten Son, the God of heaven has condescended to stoop to our human nature. The Father in heaven has a voice and a person which Christ expressed.” (Ellen G. White, General Conference Daily Bulletin. 6th March 1899, ‘Special Testimonies’)
Take particular note as to who it was that Ellen White said had condescended to take human nature. It was God Himself - in the person of His own Son.
In the Review and Herald of 1898 and 1904 Ellen White wrote
“In the person of his only begotten Son, the God of heaven has condescended to stoop to our human nature. To the question of Thomas, Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake." (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 8th November 1898, ‘The revelation of God’, see also Review and Herald 17th March 1904
In ‘The Desire of Ages’ the same thought comes out even more clearly.
This is when Ellen White wrote
“God has adopted human nature in the person of His Son, and has carried the same into the highest heaven. It is the "Son of man" who shares the throne of the universe. It is the "Son of man" whose name shall be called, "Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isa. 9:6. The I Am is the Daysman between God and humanity, laying His hand upon both. He who is "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners," is not ashamed to call us brethren. Heb. 7:26; 2:11.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, page 25, ‘God with us’)
This was much the same as she said to the Seventh-day Adventist youth the year previous to the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’.
This was when she wrote
“What an ocean of love is circulating, like a divine atmosphere, around the world! What manner of love is this, that the eternal God should adopt human nature in the person of his Son, and carry the same into the highest heaven!” (Ellen G. White, Youth’s Instructor, 29th July 1897, ‘The gift of God’s grace)
These statements and others like them can only be fully understood in a ‘begotten Christ’ concept. To view them any other way they do not make sense.
Regarding their views concerning Christ, Seventh-day Adventists were often misunderstood. They were often thought of, because they were not trinitarians, as denying His divinity. We shall see now that Ellen White experienced this misunderstanding.
Ellen White experiences the misunderstandings of others to the non-trinitarian ‘faith’ of Seventh-day Adventists
Just two years previous to her ‘begotten’ and ‘made’ statements (1895) that we have noted in previous sections (this was just 5 years after the Minneapolis General Conference), Ellen White spoke of the misrepresentations, in Australia where she was then residing, of the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. This she said was particularly with regards to what Seventh-day Adventists believed regarding the divinity of Christ (these ‘begotten’ and ‘made’ statements referred to here we shall look at again later in this section).
“In this country [Australia], the denominational ministers tell the most unblushing falsehoods to their congregations in reference to our work and our people.” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, 12th May 1893, ‘An appeal for the Australasian field’)
She followed this by saying
“Whatever false report has been started, is circulated by those who oppose the truth, and is repeated from church to church and from community to community. The circulators of these falsehoods take no pains to find out whether or not they are true, for many of those who repeat the reports, though not the framers of them, still love the false reports, and take delight in giving them a wide circulation.” (Ibid)
This is very often the scenario today.
She then added
“They do not, like honest, just men, come to those who are accused, and seek to find out what is the truth concerning what they have heard in regard to their faith; but without inquiry they spread false statements in order to prejudice the people against those who hold the truth.” (Ibid)
Again how true this is today. Some people would rather believe gossip (perhaps even lies) than ask the ones who are being gossiped about what they actually do believe.
People who do this (said Ellen White) are not acting like honest men but in order to cause prejudice spread false statements about those of whom they are gossiping. Note here that Ellen White said that this was to prejudice people’s minds “against those who hold the truth”. This is very important. She was referring primarily of course to what was then, in the 1890’s, held and being taught as truth by Seventh-day Adventists. Take particular note that this was whilst we were still very much a non-trinitarian denomination, meaning teaching the aforementioned begotten concept of Christ.
As an example of what she had claimed, Ellen White then recounted an incident when attempts were made to hire a hall for evangelistic purposes (she had said previously that they could not use tents in many places as they had done in America because the wind would strip them to ribbons).
“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 schoolteacher there opposed the truth, and declared to the people that Seventh-day Adventists did not believe in the divinity of Christ.” (Ibid)
Here then is the reason why Seventh-day Adventists (in this instance) were not allowed to hire the hall. It was said that they “did not believe in the divinity of Christ”. Note very importantly that the schoolteacher mentioned was said by Ellen White to have “opposed the truth”. Again this is very important.
Ellen White then went on to say
“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.” (Ibid)
I must admit that at one time I had wondered myself why Christians of other denominations had come to this conclusion. I reasoned, “How could anyone believe this, seeing that we were trinitarians”, which I had once erroneously believed. When I realised that from our beginnings, also for decades after the death of Ellen White, we had been a non-trinitarian denomination, the truth suddenly struck home to me. People thought as I once did that a denial of ‘the trinity’ was equivalent to a denial of Christ’s divinity, which of course, as also I realise now, is far from being the truth (see J. H. Waggoner’s comments above for the same reasoning).
Whilst Ellen White did say that the man who had refused them the hire of the hall may not have known what Seventh-day Adventist really believed about Christ, she also said that he was told “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”. She also said that when people were spreading false rumours about these non-trinitarian Seventh-day Adventists, they only did this “in order to prejudice the people against those who hold the truth”. This “truth” of course included what our pioneers, including Ellen White, then believed and taught about the divinity of Christ, which was of course a non-trinitarian belief (perhaps better said semi-Arianism). Here Ellen White says that what Seventh-day Adventists were then teaching was “the truth”.
This realisation is a serious indictment against those like William Johnsson (retired editor of the Review) who said in 1994
“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. Only gradually did this false doctrine give way to the Biblical truth, and largely under the impact of Ellen Whites writings in statements such as “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. (Desire of ages p 530)” (William Johnsson Adventist, Review January 6th 1994 ‘Present Truth - Walking in God’s Light’, 1994)
It is quite apparent that Ellen White did not reason the same way as William Johnsson – far from it. She said that what the pioneers were teaching about Christ, albeit it was in a begotten non-trinitarian framework, was the truth. This is in contrast to William Johnson’s view that they were teaching “false doctrine” and not “Biblical truth”. There is an obvious conflict of views here but we must remember that Ellen White was God’s messenger to the remnant and she was gifted with the spirit of prophecy. This cannot be said of William Johnsson.
An ongoing ‘problem’
An interesting observation is one that was made by Gilbert Valentine in 2005.
During the mid 1890’s (the time period we have just spoken of) and regarding the work in Australia he said
“Church workers were astonished at the interest, particularly in the light of the widespread prejudice against Adventists in the community.” (Gilbert Valentine, Ministry, May 2005, ‘A slice of history: How clearer views of Jesus developed in the Adventist Church’)
He then added
“Uriah Smith's Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation had been widely distributed by colporteurs, and its semi-Arian teaching on the pre-existence of Christ had caused many to view Adventists as a heretical, sub-Christian sect that denied the divinity of Christ.” (Ibid)
Obvious to relate, the so-called semi-Arianism of Seventh-day Adventism was a continuing source of problems for Seventh-day Adventism but as was said by Ellen White, it was the truth that God had given to our pioneers. This is why she upheld both it and them in these beliefs.
The book mentioned here (“Uriah Smith's Thoughts on Daniel and Revelation”) was at one time at the centre of the trinity controversy. This is seen in section thirty-eight, section forty-one, section forty-six and section forty-seven of the detailed history series. This is where it is seen that in the 1940’s to erase the non-trinitarianism from its pages, this book underwent a massive editing. This was when trinitarianism was on its way to becoming prominent within Seventh-day Adventism.
The eternal presence
We noted previously that in 1895 (this was 2 years after the above quoted experience in Australia), Ellen White did very clearly say that Christ, in His pre-existence, was a begotten Son (see section seven). This statement therefore acted as confirmation of that which up to then was what was being taught as the truth by Seventh-day Adventists.
We also noted that 4 years later in 1899 she also said that His pre-existent life could not be measured by “human computation” and “is not measured by figures” (see section seven). This leads us to the obvious conclusion that even after the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’, Ellen White had not changed her views.
In 1894, the year following the above experience in Australia (this was whilst she was still in Australia completing the manuscripts for ‘The Desire of Ages’), Ellen White asked the youth of her day (this was the year before she made her ‘begotten’ and ‘made’ statements)
“Who is Christ? -- He is the only begotten Son of the living God. He is to the Father as a word that expresses the thought, -- as a thought made audible. Christ is the word of God. Christ said to Philip, "He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father." His words were the echo of God's words. Christ was the likeness of God, the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person." (Ellen G. White, Youth’s Instructor, 28th June 1894, ‘Grow in grace’)
Ellen White was here echoing the Scriptures by saying that Christ is the “express image” of God’s person (Hebrews 1:3) also that He is the “word of God” (John 1:1), God’s “thought made audible”. Note she differentiates as usual between the One she refers to as “the living God” and His “only begotten Son”. Her remarks concerning the Son of God being like an expression of thought (a word) are also very interesting although we will not comment here. She said this the year previous to her ‘begotten’ and ‘made’ statements concerning Christ.
In conclusion there is no way whatsoever that ‘The Desire of Ages’ (1898) could depict a Christ any differently to what we have seen Ellen White confess here, meaning as a truly begotten Son. Certainly in this book she does not depict God as a trinity. That is only part and parcel of the machinations of the human mind.
Note here something really very interesting.
Returning our thoughts to the “I AM” statement (this time as referred to in ‘The Desire of Ages’) Ellen White wrote
“Silence fell upon the vast assembly. The name of God, given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence, had been claimed as His own by this Galilean Rabbi. He had announced Himself to be the self-existent One, He who had been promised to Israel, "whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity." Micah 5:2, margin. (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, page 469, ‘The light of Life’)
Here we are told that the words “I am” as Jesus used them as quoted in John 8:58 express the idea of “the eternal presence”. This is very important for us to remember because this tells us that she believed, just as the Bible says, that Jesus is God Himself manifest in the flesh (see John 1:1, 14, Hebrews 1:1-3, 1 Timothy 3:16 etc). Note again her use of the margin notes of Micah 5:2. This was in keeping with her statements about Christ’s pre-existence as not being reckoned “by human computation” or “measured by figures” (see section seven)
This statement was obviously drawn from the thoughts first penned in a manuscript that the Ellen White Estate confirms was written on February 18th and February 19th, 1895, at Granville, New South Wales. This is obviously during the time that Ellen White was residing in Australia (1891-1900).
This is when she said (this is quite possibly where her above ‘Desire of Ages’ “eternal presence” statement comes from)
“I AM means an eternal presence; the past, present, and future are alike to God. He sees the most remote events of past history and the far distant future with as clear a vision as we do those things that are transpiring daily.” (Ellen G. White, Manuscript No. 1084, February 18, 19th, 1895, page 21)
She added two paragraphs later
“Then said the Jews unto Him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM. Then took they up stones to cast at Him" because of that saying [verses 57-59]. Christ was using the great name of God that was given to Moses to express the idea of the eternal presence.” (Ibid)
I say this is very interesting because it means that this statement regarding Christ as “the eternal presence” (the ‘I AM’), was written by Ellen White 3 months before she wrote the article in the ‘Signs of the Times’ (30th May 1895) saying that Christ is “a Son begotten in the express image of the Father's person”.
This is when she said
“A complete offering has been made; for "God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,"-- not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father's person, and in all the brightness of his majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection. In him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, 30th May 1895, ‘Christ our complete salvation’)
This eternal presence statement was also written almost 5 months before the article was written in which she referred to Christ as being “Him who was made”.
This is when she said
“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." (Ellen G. White, Review & Herald 9th July 1895 ‘The Duty of the Minister and the People’)
Obvious to relate, because Ellen White believed that Christ is the “eternal presence” (Feb 1895), this did not stop her saying that He is “begotten” (May 1895) or “made” (July 1895), in fact this made it imperative. In other words, if Christ is God begotten then He must be the “eternal presence”. That much is very clear.
In her understanding of “begotten” and “made”, Ellen White made no profession of knowing ‘how’ this was accomplished. This remains therefore, just as Waggoner admitted in his book ‘Christ and His Righteousness’, a happening unexplainable to man.
We can see from all of this that it is not possible to draw the conclusion that in ‘The Desire of Ages’ Ellen White spoke of God as being a trinity, at least not as expressed in the orthodox trinity doctrine or in the version currently held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Into the 1900’s and warnings
We can see from the above that regarding Christ as a truly begotten Son, Ellen White endorsed and supported the views of the pioneers. We have also seen that she continued this view long after ‘The Desire of Ages’ was published. This means that the Christ she presented in that latter book was a begotten Christ, albeit this begetting was so far back in eternity that it is beyond the human mind to even contemplate it. This then was the early 1900’s faith of Seventh-day Adventists.
In 1904 Ellen White warned of departing from this faith.
“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.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies Series B, No. 2 page 16, ‘A Letter to Leading Physicians’, July 24th 1904, ‘Teach the Word’)
Seventh-day Adventists were being warned here not to depart from what was then, in 1904, their denominational faith. If this is not what she was doing then the warning does not make sense. This faith that she said they were not to depart from was the ‘begotten’ faith that we have seen so clearly expressed above and in previous sections.
Ellen White also wrote in 1904
"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.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies Series B, No. 2 ‘The Foundation of our Faith’ Page 53 1904)
Note that Ellen White said that the “omega” would appear within Seventh-day Adventism “in a little while”. This she said in 1904, which is over 100 years ago. We must ask therefore, has this “omega” already arrived within Seventh-day Adventism or are we still awaiting its arrival? After all, 100 years is quite a long time.
From the above, it is obvious that Ellen White saw something coming upon Seventh-day Adventists that made her shudder with fear. We must ask therefore, as God’s remnant people, can we today afford to ignore these warnings?
Ellen White also warned in 1904
“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.” (Ellen G. White, Special Testimonies Series B No. 2, page 50, letter, August 7th 1904 ‘Beware’)
This is quite an ‘attention grabbing’ statement. There were no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ about it. Ellen White did say that all those who did not heed the warnings would receive the omega. To every Seventh-day Adventist today, these “omega” testimonies should be a matter of very serious importance.
The next year at the 1905 General Conference session at Takoma Park she said to the delegates
“Let not any man enter upon the work of tearing down the foundations of the truth that have made us what we are.” (Ellen G. White to the delegates at the 1905 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Takoma Park, Washington D. C., May 24th 1905, "A Warning against False Theories," MR 760)
She then added
“God has led His people forward step by step, though there are pitfalls of error on every side. Under the wonderful guidance of a plain "Thus saith the Lord," a truth has been established that has stood the test of trial. When men arise and attempt to draw away disciples after them, meet them with the truths that have been tried as by fire.” (Ibid)
Here at the 1905 General Conference, whilst the Seventh-day Adventist Church was still a non-trinitarian denomination, Ellen White was telling its members that their faith (beliefs) as they held it then was the truth that “step by step” God Himself had given to them. She also said that it had “stood the test of trial” and had “been tried as by fire”.
Many attempt to say that Ellen White was only making reference here to what was believed by Seventh-day Adventists concerning the sanctuary but this is far from being the truth. We shall see this now.
After appropriately quoting from God’s message to the church at Sardis (this was with respect to ‘holding fast’ to the faith that they then had) Ellen White said
“Those who seek to remove the old landmarks are not holding fast; they are not remembering how they have received and heard.” (Ibid)
In principle, this is exactly what God said to the believers at Sardis (see Revelation 3:1-6). Just as they were told to ‘hold on’ to their faith, so too Seventh-day Adventists in 1905 were being told to ‘hold on’ to what they then believed.
She then added
“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.” (Ibid)
Here we can see that these “old landmarks” included not only what was then believed concerning the sanctuary, but also what was then believed regarding the separate personalities of God and Christ. This simply means that regarding what Seventh-day Adventists believed in 1905 concerning both God and Christ, Ellen White did include in the “foundations of the truth that have made us what we are” (see above).
This included the ‘begotten’ faith concerning Christ. Today we have ‘given up’ this faith therefore we have not heeded the warnings. This means that we have been “giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” (see above). It also means that amongst us we have “the omega” (see above).
In summary it can only be reiterated that in these ‘omega’ warnings, Seventh-day Adventists were being warned not to depart from their 1904 denominational faith. This was the faith that said that because He was begotten of God in eternity, Christ is truly the divine Son of God.
Today in current Seventh-day Adventism, with the acceptance of a certain version of the trinity doctrine, this is denied.
As Dr. Fernando Canale said with reference to the ‘begotten’ concept of Christ (he wrote the section on the theology of God in the Seventh-day Adventist Handbook of Theology)
“In a similar vein, monogenes does not contain the idea of begetting but rather of uniqueness and, when applied to Christ, emphasizes His unique relationship with the Father. On the other hand, Hebrews 1:5 gives no idea of physical or spiritual generation.” (Fernando Canale, Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopaedia, Volume 12, page 125, ‘The doctrine of God’)
He then concludes
“There is, therefore, no ground within the biblical understanding of the Godhead for the idea of a generation of the Son from the Father.” (Ibid)
As can be seen from the above, early Seventh-day Adventists, including Ellen White, would not have agreed with Canale. They saw plenty of grounds for believing that Christ is begotten. They really did believe that Christ is the divine Son of God and that God really is His Father.
As Ellen White said in 1908 (10 years after ‘The Desire of Ages; was published)
“God is the Father of Christ; Christ is the Son of God. To Christ has been given an exalted position. He has been made equal with the Father. All the counsels of God are opened to His Son.” (Ellen G. White, 8th Volume Testimonies, page 268, ‘The essential knowledge)
The ultimate risk
Ellen White made many statements that can only be regarded as non-trinitarian; none more so than where she says that the Son of God, by becoming incarnate, could have sinned and by doing so would have lost His eternal existence. We shall look at some of those statements now.
In her supposedly trinitarian book ‘The Desire of Ages’ she wrote
“Satan in heaven had hated Christ for His position in the courts of God. He hated Him the more when he himself was dethroned. He hated Him who pledged Himself to redeem a race of sinners. Yet into the world where Satan claimed dominion God permitted His Son to come, a helpless babe, subject to the weakness of humanity. He permitted Him to meet life's peril in common with every human soul, to fight the battle as every child of humanity must fight it, at the risk of failure and eternal loss.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages. Page 49 ‘Unto you a Saviour’)
Who was it here that God allowed to come into the world to face life’s peril as every human being to face it, meaning “at the risk of failure and eternal loss? It was “His [God’s] Son”. This again shows that Ellen White was not a trinitarian. No trinitarian would believe such a thing. This is because trinity theology forbids this reasoning.
She also wrote in the same book
“Never can the cost of our redemption be realized until the redeemed shall stand with the Redeemer before the throne of God. Then as the glories of the eternal home burst upon our enraptured senses we shall remember that Jesus left all this for us, that He not only became an exile from the heavenly courts, but for us took the risk of failure and eternal loss.” (Ibid page 131, ’The victory’)
Here we are being told that it is only when we realise what was risked and given up by Christ that we can truly appreciate the gospel. Note what Ellen White actually said. She said that when the redeemed stand “with the redeemer” we shall “remember” that Christ “took the risk of failure and eternal loss”. If we are to remember this truth at the time that we enter into Heaven, then it is only too obvious that we must have known it before we got there.
The very same year that ‘The Desire of Ages’ was published Ellen White wrote
“Could Satan in the least particular have tempted Christ to sin, he would have bruised the Saviour's head. As it was, he could only touch His heel. Had the head of Christ been touched, the hope of the human race would have perished. Divine wrath would have come upon Christ as it came upon Adam. Christ and the church would have been without hope.” (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, June 9th 1898, see also Selected Messages Book 1 page 256)
This is very plain speaking that is not easily misunderstood. It is also something that no true trinitarian believes. This is because in trinity theology, Christ losing His existence is a total impossibility. We can see therefore that in ‘The Desire of Ages’ as well as other places, Ellen White never spoke of Christ in a trinitarian sense but one that was non-trinitarian (trinitarians would say anti-trinitarian). This is just one of the reasons why neither she nor ‘The Desire of Ages’ can ever be truly termed trinitarian.
Three years previous to the publication of ‘The Desire of Ages’ Ellen White wrote
“Who can estimate the value of a soul? Go to Gethsemane, and there watch with Jesus through those long hours of anguish when he sweat as it were great drops of blood; look upon the Saviour uplifted on the cross; hear that despairing cry, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Look upon that wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet.” (Ellen G. White, General Conference Bulletin 1st December 1895 ‘Seeking the Lost’)
She then added
“Remember that Christ risked all; "tempted like as we are," he staked even his own eternal existence upon the issue of the conflict. Heaven itself was imperiled for our redemption. At the foot of the cross, remembering that for one sinner Jesus would have yielded up his life, we may estimate the value of a soul.” (Ibid)
In this General Conference Bulletin, which was in fact a week of prayer reading for that year, notice what it was that Ellen White was asking of Seventh-day Adventists. It was not only to remember that Christ could have sinned but also that in the consequence of this happening, He could have lost His “own eternal existence”. It was the pre-existent divine Son of God that risked “his own eternal existence” in becoming incarnate. This shows us how much He and the Father love us. It also shows us that Ellen White was not a trinitarian.
In 1895, this was obviously the generally accepted belief within Seventh-day Adventism. This was certainly not a trinitarian faith. It seems that in our haste to adopt the trinity doctrine, many Seventh-day Adventists have already forgotten this wonderful truth, even before they get to Heaven. In other words, for the sake of speculative philosophy, we have forfeited this truth. This statement was made the same year that she made here ‘begotten’ (not created or adopted) and ‘made’ statements (see above).
Interesting is that when this reading was transposed into ‘Christ’s Object Lessons’ (1900) in the chapter ‘This man receiveth Sinners’, the wording "”tempted like as we are," he staked even his own eternal existence upon the issue of the conflict” was not included.
In a letter written two years after ‘The Desire of Ages’ had been published, Ellen White wrote of Christ (the year that ‘Christ’s Object Lesson’ was published)
“He became subject to temptation, endangering as it were, His divine attributes. Satan sought, by the constant and curious devices of his cunning, to make Christ yield to temptation.” (Ellen G. White, Letter 5, 1900, as quoted in the Seventh-day Adventists Bible Commentary Volume 7 page 926)
From the above, we can readily see that not only did Ellen White believe that Christ was a separate personality from God but also, if He had sinned He would have lost both His “divine attributes” and His “eternal Existence”. This was even though He was, in His pre-existence, God essentially. Again we see that in 1900, Ellen White was not a trinitarian.
It is only within a non-trinitarian faith that the conclusion can be drawn that Christ could have gone out of existence. Trinitarianism totally forbids this reasoning.
Ellen White also wrote in 1893
“To the honor and glory of God, His beloved Son -- the Surety, the Substitute -- was delivered up and descended into the prisonhouse of the grave. The new tomb enclosed Him in its rocky chambers. If one single sin had tainted His character the stone would never have been rolled away from the door of His rocky chamber, and the world with its burden of guilt would have perished.” (Ellen G. White, Ms. 81, 1893, p. 11, Diary entry for Sunday, July 2, 1893, Wellington, New Zealand)
This is a mind-blowing realisation. Can we possibly imagine how God the Father would have felt if His Son had sinned and had been lost forever? How would you feel if this were to happen to one of your loved ones?
It must be remembered here that there were not two Christ’s. There was only one. If that one Christ had not come out of the tomb then the divine pre-existent Son of God would have ceased to be. The incarnate Christ was indeed the divine Son of God.
No Existence separate from the Father
In 1890, five years before she would write her ‘begotten’ and ‘made’ statements (see above), Ellen White wrote
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." Christ came to the world to reveal the character of the Father, and to redeem the fallen race.” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald 7th Jan 1890, ‘Christ revealed the Father’)
She then added
“The world's Redeemer was equal with God. His authority was as the authority of God. He declared that he had no existence separate from the Father. The authority by which he spoke, and wrought miracles, was expressly his own, yet he assures us that he and the Father are one.” (Ibid)
Notice the words “He declared”. This said Ellen White is Christ’s own personal testimony. This was that “He had no existence separate from the Father”.
This is an allusion to the begotten concept, meaning that Christ is sourced of the Father.
This is also in keeping with where she said
“Man may become a partaker of the divine nature; not a soul lives who may not summon the aid of Heaven in temptation and trial. Christ came to reveal the Source of his power, that man might never rely on his unaided human capabilities.” (Ellen G. White, Review & Herald 18th February 1890, ‘How to meet a controverted point of doctrine’)
Ellen White was obviously referring here to Christ in His pre-existence. She said that He came to “reveal the Source of his power”.
Wherever we go in the writings of Ellen White, we cannot get away from the fact that she always writes in terms of Christ as being begotten of the Father, the one and only begotten Son of God. This is how it was all through the late 1890’s as the turn of the century approached and when in the early 1900’s Ellen White gave the warnings not to depart from their God given faith.
We shall now go the final section in this ‘Begotten Series’. This is where we shall be taking a look at the current theology of the Seventh - day Adventist Church.
In closing I would ask that if you know of others who may be interested in this study then please send them either this page or the link to this website.
As you consider this request, please remember that before He returned to His Father in Heaven, Jesus did say to His followers
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” John 8:32
He also admonished each one of us to
“Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” Matthew 10:8
Whilst not everyone has been given the gift of healing or the gift of casting out devils, we have all been given the ability to freely share with others what God has freely shared with us. If therefore you know of someone whom you believe may benefit from this study then please consider passing it on.
Initial publication – 29th November 2007
Last edited – 27th March 2009
© T. M. Hill 2007
“When a man who is honestly mistaken hears the truth, he will either quit being mistaken or cease to be honest!" (Source unknown)
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