Comment on `1888 “Light From Heaven” Rejected– The Covenants Issue'
Once again one of my replies is far too long, so I have had to write a blog instead!
David Barron's article on the rejection of the two covenants is the clearest and most concise summary of the real issue behind the rejection of `1888' that I have ever read and I find it a real blessing. Clearly, those in the Butler camp had imbibed of some tenets of dispensationalism - one thing our historians are reluctant to tell us. Take, for example the case of D. M. Canright. It was only a year after he had written the statement which David has reproduced here, that he had defected to the Baptists and had become a pastor there - and twelve months later Waggoner and Jones were refuting his position on the two covenants at Minneapolis. I assume that by that time Canright had become a Trinitarian (if he wasn't already) he had also imbibed of the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, as well as the full-blown dispensationalist position that holds to Futurism as its explanatory mode of prophecy.
This brings me to another point. Although there are many non-Trinitarians in this forum who believe that none of our pioneers were semi-Arian by belief - this is in fact views our history through a distorted lens. There is no doubt that Uriah Smith held to this belief and never really changed his mind, even after being counselled by Ellen White. One must bear in mind that he was editor of `Review and Herald' for intermittent periods spanning fifty years and just as he influenced many in regard to his position on the covenants, so also did he influence these same people in regard to the position he took on ontology. I suspect that there were many in the Butler camp who sided with him in regard to the covenants and semi-arianism, as the resulting subtle legalism which focuses upon the Law at the expense of salvation by faith alone is but one feature which is common to this theology - which then led to the necessity of the `1888 message', as our people were falling into the same morass which Israel had fallen into at Mt. Sinai - i.e `Whatever the Lord has said, we will do and be obedient' (Exodus 24: 7). As their faith was based upon the Old Covenant - which amounted to man making promises to God and failing to keep them, then as the contract which they agreed to stipulated that they would die if they sinned, then this contract was fulfilled when they all died in the wilderness of sin. That was the path which our `Old Covenant' pioneers was taking prior to `1888'.
In order to understand why this happened, we need to understand what the theology which they believed infers, so we If we briefly look at the theology of Arius (of the 1st Council of Nicaea fame in 325 A.D.), it is with Arius we will find an answer. Arius focussed upon the example theory of the atonement by believing that Christ had been created by the Father and was therefore not fully divine. He asserted that although Christ was "strong god", He was not "full god". On the other hand, Athanasius, his opponent, went to the opposite extreme by spiritualizing away the humanity of Christ in an attempt to prove that He is completely divine.
These men arrived at positions of faith on the humanity of Christ that were opposed to each other simply because Arius had been influenced by the Aristotelian schools of thought in Antioch, Syria - while Athanasius had been influenced by the Catechetical School of philosophy in Alexandria, Egypt. One feature which is common to both schools of neo-Platonic thought, is that God cannot descend into the material plane of existence in which we reside, for to do so would corrupt His divinity. While the Aristotelian school of thought (which focussed upon the rationalism of Aristotle) led Arius to quarantine the divinity of Christ from the corruption of the material plane of existence by making Him into a glorified man who was saved by being obedient to the Law of God, the Alexandrian school of thought led Athanasius to also quarantine the divinity of Christ from the corruption of the material world by developing a theology which made it impossible for Christ to be tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin; which later developed into the Chalcedonian Creed. It teaches that Christ had the pre-fall (or pre-lapsarian) human nature of Adam. So when we look at the dispensationalist (or old covenant) theory which Uriah Smith and his associates believed, they descended into subtle legalism. Yet when we look at Conradi, he ended up descending into spiritualism after imbibing of Trinitarianism, and thus left the faith completely. Many others, including Des Ford, have followed his lead. One facet of faith which is common to all of these men, is that all began with a rejection of the 1888 position on the two covenants. Those who followed Arian theology (such as Uriah Smith) descended into legalism. Those who followed Athanasian theology (such as Des Ford) ended up with an evangelical position on faith - which amounts to spiritualism. Thus, the common feature which led all of these men to reject the Sanctuary message resulted from their initial rejection of the 1888 position on the two covenants. As the Adventist Church is now a Trinitarian Church, we can see the outright spiritualization of the Athanasian position on the two covenants devastating it. It's a chilling thought. I fear for our people.