Maranatha Media

The Pioneers Adventists and the Trinity

Posted Nov 16, 2011 by Bobby B in General
10,255 Hits

The Pioneers Adventists and the Trinity


One of the most intense theological discussions among Adventists in recent years is related to Trindade.1 Since some "discovered" that the pioneers of the church did not believe in this doctrine, many questions have been raised. The main thesis of Adventists who reject the Trinity is that only after the death of Ellen G. White, which occurred in 1915, this doctrine would have been introduced and accepted in the denomination. Therefore, they said, the church had strayed from the true pioneers and sustained is in a state of apostasy.

These allegations raise serious questions: What the Adventist pioneers really believed? They were right and we are far from the truth? Either they were wrong and we find out the truth? The historical facts that show?

This article divides the history of the Adventist understanding of the Trinity in the life of Ellen G. White in the following periods: (1) Emphasis on the rejection of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity (1846-1890), (2) Stress on the personality of the Spirit (1890-1897), and (3) Emphasis on acceptance of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity (1897 -).

Emphasis in the rejection of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity (1846-1890) - It is well known that early Adventists did not accept the doctrine of the Trinity. But why they think so? What reasons had to justify that position?

Reasons for rejection. The pioneers had basically two reasons for rejecting this doctrine. The first is the fact that many Protestant faiths define the Trinity as an essence "without body or parts." In other words, God was not understood as a personal being, but abstract and ghostly. This understanding of the Trinity "spiritualize the existence of the Father and the Son as two distinct persons, literal and tangible" .2 The pioneers argued that this concept contradicts the Bible, because it presents God as a personal being "tangible" that "has and body parts ".3

The second reason is a logical consequence of the first: the creeds do not clearly distinguish the persons of the Godhead. In traditional theological language, the word person does not have the current sense of individuality, but it indicates a "face" or "manifestation." Therefore, in accordance with this understanding of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are not three distinct persons, but three manifestations or revelations of the essence divina.4 "Trinitarianism" was defined as the "doctrine of the Father, the Son Spirit and are united in one and the same person ".5

Adventists believe in the "personality distinct from the Father and the Son, rejecting as absurd trinitarianism, who insists that God, Christ and Holy Spirit are three persons and yet one" .6

The conclusion is obvious: the pioneers did not reject the biblical teaching on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but the Trinity as understood by Christian theology in general. We can easily understand this when we remember that biblical words as soul, predestination and hell have a sense for Adventists and other for most Christians. The same occurs with the word Trinity. But while the pioneers of the creeds reject the Trinity, they did not consider this position as "test of Christian character," ie, a requirement for membership in the igreja.7

Ellen G. White and the pioneers. We can now understand why Ellen G. White did not chide his contemporaries Adventists reject the Trinity. It essentially agreed with their position and even declared that the Father has "the same way" that Christ and is a "person" as the pioneers Ele.8 Although they disagreed among themselves about the details of the Godhead, and we can not accept every sentence written on the subject, we believe that they were essentially correct about Trindade.9

After examining what the pioneers wrote on the subject, Jerry Moon, professor of church history at Andrews University, concluded that "the Trinitarian teaching [ie, the doctrine of the Trinity] of the last writings of Ellen G. White is not the same doctrine that early Adventists rejected ".10

Nature of the Holy Spirit. It is interesting to note that in arguing against the Trinity of the pioneers, they did not deny the personality of the Holy Spirit. Contrary to popular belief, they did not have a definite position on the matter. The "Fundamental Principles of the Seventh-day Adventists" (1872) said simply that "there is a God, a personal and spiritual," which is "everywhere present by His representative, the Holy Spirit." This statement may be supported by those who believe that the Holy Spirit is a person as well as by those who deny this idea.

In 1877, writing about the "personality of the Spirit of God," JHWaggoner argued that as there was a consensus among Christians about the exact meaning of the word "person", he considered "a pointless discussion about" the personality of the Spirit Santo. Waggoner warned that doctrines must be defined "only when the words of Scripture are as straightforward" put an end to all discussão.11 In the case of the Holy Spirit would not be possible, since the Bible does not apply to him the word "person" . However, this undefined position on the Holy Spirit would be changed in the 1890s, when Ellen G. White has used the term "person" to refer to the Holy Spirit.

But the pioneers had a very high conception of the position of the Holy Spirit. The Adventist hymnal contained several songs addressed to him (especially between numbers 136-167). One has the following words: "Come, Holy Spirit, come, [...] then we will know and adore, and love the Father, the Son and Thee" 12 A popular song was called "Doxology," which says: "Praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit." 13 Ellen G. White approved the use of this hino.14

We found only one text prior to 1890 that argues against the personality of the Spirit Santo.15 But in many ways it contradicts the Adventist teaching of the time, it states, for example, that Christ is not God and the Holy Spirit is not worthy of praise . This text expresses obviously the personal opinion of the author, and not understanding the Adventists in general.

Tensions over the personality of the Holy Spirit (1890-1897) - Between 1890 and 1897, there was some discussion between those who believed in the personality of the Holy Spirit and those who denied this conceito.16 In 1890, the editors of the Australian publishing house had a definite understanding on the "Trinity" as consisting of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit ".17 A Bible study titled" The Trinity "argued about the" three distinct personages of Heaven "18 The booklet" The biblical doctrine of the Trinity ", published by Pacific Press and had" the one God subsisting and working in three persons, "19 was recommended by the General 20.

Apparently in response to that popularized this understanding, Uriah Smith, in 1890, went on to write some articles against the personality of the Holy Spirit. How much of our knowledge, this position was clearly expressed only by him and TR Williamson. Still, Smith believed that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are "three big players" or 21 "three agents" 22 performing the work of salvation.

Uriah Smith came to argue that as "in the baptismal formula [Mt 28:19], the name 'Holy Spirit' is associated with the names of Father and Son," may "properly be put as part of the same hymn of worship in Trinity 'Praise the Father, Son and Holy Spirit ".23 Although Smith probably never have accepted the personality of the Holy Spirit, he did not consider only one attribute of God.

Emphasis on acceptance of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity (1897 -) - In 1896, after listening to sermons by WW Prescott and HC Lacey about the personality of the Holy Spirit, Ellen G. White acknowledged as correct this compreensão.24 From that year, she repeatedly went on to describe the Holy Spirit as "the third person of the Godhead" and one of 25 "three living persons belonging to the heavenly trio" .26

These and other writings of Ellen G. White was crucial to bring Adventists to study more deeply the Bible and come to a definite position regarding the three persons of the Godhead. These statements of Ellen G. White on the subject were published during his life.27 and were known by their contemporaries. Studies of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit often quoted statements in which she talks about "the third person of the Godhead" and 28 "three persons" of the "heavenly trio". 29

As a result of the writings of Ellen G. White and especially Bible study, published on the Trinity and the personality of the Holy Spirit became common among Adventists from 1897. Since then, the few who had argued against the personality of the Holy Spirit (including Uriah Smith), never did. The doctrine of the Trinity came to be advocated in consensus by Adventists.

In our study were located more than 400 texts written between 1897 and 1915 that explicitly mention the existence of three persons of the Godhead. The following is a small sample of what was written on the subject during the life of Ellen G. White.

Publications in general. AG Daniells, then president of the General believed that the Holy Spirit is "the third person of the Godhead" and "the successor and representative of the Savior" .30 SN Haskell, an important pioneer and ordained minister in 1870, argued that the Holy Spirit is not "the angel Gabriel," because "the Holy Spirit is a [person] of the Trinity" .31 The Christ in Song hymnal contained a section entitled "Praise to the Trinity" .32

R. Hare, in an article entitled "The Trinity", argued that the Godhead is made up of the "three living persons of the heavenly trio". 33 In another article with the same title, WR French argued that "the Godhead consists of three personal beings" .34 Between 1909 and 1910, the Society of Missionary Volunteer (predecessor of the Pathfinder) studied "the great doctrines of the Word of God. " 35 According to the first lesson, entitled "The Trinity", there are "three persons" that "constitute the Godhead" and "the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Holy Trinity" 36 FW Spies, then leader of the church in general Brazil, wrote: "Jesus declared formally and categorically that the Holy Spirit [is] the third person of the Godhead (Matthew 28:19)." 37

Several series on the Trinity were developed during the period under consideration. Between 1897 and 1901, were published in the Review many items taken from the journal The King's Messenger, which emphasized the personality of the Holy Spirit. ME Stewart produced a series of articles entitled "The Godhead - God the Father," "The second person of the Godhead - Jesus Christ" and "The third person of the Godhead - the Holy Spirit" .38 GB Thompson published in journals some series about the personality and the Holy Spirit, who were later released in the form of livro.39

Theological teaching and evangelism. In 1906, HC Lacey, a professor of theology at Duncombe Hall Training College (now Newbold College, England), explained that "the nature and character of the triune God" was the subject studied in his classes and was one of " main points of faith that make up the system of Adventist beliefs ".40 OA Johnson, Walla Walla College (now Walla Walla University, USA), wrote the textbook Bible Doctrines. In the chapter "The Deity," he argues that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are "three persons" that "constitute the Godhead" or "Trinity" .41

Contact with non-evangelical Christians illustrates the Adventist understanding of the Godhead. JL Shaw, one of the leading evangelists of the time, advised that the first contacts with the Muslims should be "avoided the presentation of the Trinity, especially in public" .42 But the doctrine was taught during the process of evangelization. FC Gilbert, a converted Jew, came to believe in the existence of "three persons of the Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit," which form the "Trinity" .43

Statements of belief. Several texts that present a representative church doctrine confirm that in the early 20th century, Adventists understand the biblical teaching on the three persons of the Godhead. In 1907, the consulting section of doctrinal Signs of the Times said, "no doubt [the Adventists] believe that the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead" .44

FM Wilcox, editor of the Review and Herald, wrote that among "the main points of faith held by this denomination," was the "Holy Trinity", which includes the "Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead" .45 The book Bible Readings, the most representative exhibition of Adventist doctrine hitherto published, concludes that the Holy Spirit is one of "three persons of the Godhead" and "the third person of the Godhead" 46 The general body of the church in Brazil explained that "Adventists believe the seventh day "in the" Trinity of the Godhead "and" personality of the Holy Spirit ".47

Conclusion - Early Adventists correctly rejected the Trinity of the creeds, which presents a God "without body or parts" and does not clearly distinguish the persons of the Godhead. The pioneers did not have a definite position on the personality of the Holy Spirit, but this situation changed in the 1890s, influenced by Ellen G. White. In the early 20th century, the biblical teaching on the three persons of the Godhead was already considered one of the "main points of faith," the "system" Adventist theology, one of the "great doctrines of the Word of God" and the "main points faith "of the church.

From 1897, he became an Adventist abundant literature on the personality of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit. No statements were incidental and sporadic, but frequent and extensive consensus on the subject. Historical documents show that in the early years of the 20th century, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had a consolidated position on the three persons of the Godhead.

Adventists did not accept the Trinity through a church leader a few decades ago, but the study of the Bible and the influence of Ellen G. White, more than one hundred years. If the Trinity was a false doctrine, by Ellen G. White did not chide his contemporaries who wrote so extensively and consensus on the topic from 1897?

We believe that instead of having been an apostasy, the Lord led the church in the understanding of biblical truth and fulfilled his promises: "The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day "(Prov. 4:18)," When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth "(John 16:13, NIV).


1. Resources for the subject of this article can be found in PowerPoint presentations "Adventists and the Trinity" and "Myths and facts about the Trinity in the Adventist Church," available at Most historical sources cited can be found at the archives of the General Conference: / DocArchives.asp.

2. James White, "Letter from Bro. White, "The Day-Star, January 24, 1846, p. 25. 3. AC Bordeau, "The Hope That Is In You," Review and Herald (hereafter, HR), June 8, 1869, p. 185, 186. 4. See Roger E. Olson and Christopher A. Hall, The Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI / Cambridge: Eerdmans, 2002), Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, v. 1 (Rio de Janeiro: Publishing House of the Assemblies of God, 2009). 5. William C. Gage, "Popular Errors and Their Fruits. No. 3, "HR, August 29, 1865, p. 101. 6. WH Littlejohn, "Scripture Questions. 96 - Christ Not a Created Being, "RH, 17 April 1883, p. 250. 7. James White, "Christian Unity", HR, 12 October 1876, p. 112. 8. Early Writings, p. 54, 77.

9. For a comparison between the traditional biblical doctrine and the doctrine of the Trinity, see Woodrow Whidden, Jerry Moon and John W. Reeve, The Trinity: How to understand the mysteries of God's person in the Bible and the history of Christianity (Tatura, SP, Brazil Publishing House, 2003), p. 188-198, Fernando L. Canale, "Doctrine of God" in the Treaty of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (Tatura, SP, Brazil Publishing House, 2011), p. 105-159, Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology: Doctrine of God (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, forthcoming).

10. Jerry Moon, "The Quest for a Biblical Trinity: Ellen White's" Heavenly Trio "Compared to the Traditional Doctrine," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, Spring 2006, p. 142 (emphasis in original).

11. JH Waggoner, "The Gift Of ces and of the Holy Spirit - No.1", HR, 23 September 1875, p. 89 (emphasis added). 12. The General Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists, The Seventh-day Adventist Hymn and Tune Book for Use in Divine Worship (Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald / Oakland, CA: Paci c Press, 1888), p. 55.

13. Ibid., P. 86. This hymn No. 581 corresponds to the current Adventist Hymnal. 14. HR, 4 January 1881, Letter 57, 1897. 15. DM Canright, "The Holy Spirit not a Person, but an Influence Proceeding from God," HR, July 25, 1878, p. 218, 219, 236.

16. For more thorough study of this and the following sentence, see Matthew Cardoso, "The doctrine of the Trinity in the Seventh Day Adventist Church (1890-1915)," Kerygma, 2nd half of 2011, available at .

17. "Queries," Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, December 15, 1891, p. 376. 18. Charles L. Boyd, "The Trinity" Bible Echo and Signs of the Times, October 15, 1890, p. 315. 19. Samuel T. Spear, "The Bible Doctrine of the Trinity," Bible Student's Library, No. 90 (March 1892), p. 14. 20. Seventh-day Adventist Year Book (General Conference Association of Seventh-day Adventists, 1893), p. 95.

21. Uriah Smith, "The Spirit of Prophecy and Our Relation to It," General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 14, 1891, p. 147. 22. Ibid. "Begging the Question," HR, 10 April 1894, p. 232. 23. Idem, "696. Worshiping the Holy Spirit, "HR, 27 October 1896, p. 685. 24. Gilbert Valentine, WW Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism's Second Generation (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2005), p. 121, 122, 129.

25. Letter 8, 1896, Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers, No. 10, p. 25 (published in 1897); Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 10, p. 37 (published in 1897), The Desire of Ages, p. 671 (published 1898) Signs of the Times, December 1, 1898; RH, 19 May 1904; Southern Watchman, November 28, 1905; Signs of the Times Australia, December 4, 1911.

26. Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, p. 62, 63 (published in 1906); Bible Training School, March 1, 1906. 27. "Original Sources for Ellen White's Statements on the Godhead Printed in Evangelism, pp.. 613-617 "(Ellen G. White Estate, 2003), Tim Poirier," The trinitarian statements of Ellen G. White: what she really wrote it? "Parousia, 1H 2006, p. 27-46.

28. RA Underwood, "The Holy Spirit a Person," RH, 17 May 1898, p. 310, 311, AT Robinson, "The Holy Spirit", Australian Union Conference Record, May 1, 1900, p. 2.

29. R. Hare, "The Trinity", Australian Union Conference Record, July 19, 1909, p. 2, WR French, "The Trinity", HR, 19 December 1912, p. 5, 6.

30. AG Daniells, "The Ministry of the Holy Spirit," HR, 22 November 1906, p. 6. 31. SN Haskell, "Is Gabriel the Holy Spirit?" Bible Training School, June 1907, p. 10. 32. Franklin E. Belden, ed., Christ in Song for All Religious Services, 2nd edition (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1908), p. vi. 33. R. Hare, "The Trinity", Australian Union Conference Record, 19 July 1909: 2. 34. WR French, "The Trinity", HR, 19 December 1912, p. 5, 6. 35. "Study for the Volunteer Missionary Society," Youth's Instructor, October 5, 1909, p. 11.

36. "Society Studies in Bible Doctrines, Lesson I - The Trinity," Youth's Instructor, October 19, 1909, p. 12, 13.

37. FW Spies, "The Spirit [sic] Ghost - Your gifts and manifestations," Monthly Magazine (now the Adventist Review), May 1913, p. 1 (current spelling). 38. ME Stewart, "The Divine Godhead - God, the Father," HR, 15 December 1910, p. 8, ibid., "The Second Person of the Godhead - Jesus Christ," HR, 22 December 1910, p. 5; idem, "The Third Person of the Godhead - the Holy Spirit," HR, 29 December 1910, p. 4, 5. 39. GB Thompson, The Ministry of the Spirit (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1914).

40. H. Camden Lacey, "The Bible Classes," The Missionary Worker, 6 June 1906, p. 91. 41. OA Johnson, 150 Bible Doctrines Containing Lessons (College Place, WA: Press of Walla Walla College, 1910), p. 13, 15-17. 42. JL Shaw, "Workers are Moslems and Best Methods of Approach," RH, 18 May 1911, p. 10. 43. FC Gilbert, Practical Lessons from the Experience of Israel is the Church of Today (South Lancaster, MA: South Lancaster Printing Company, 1902), p. 242, 246. 44. CM Wilcox, "2089. - The Holy Spirit, "Signs of the Times, May 22, 1907, p. 322. 45. FM Wilcox, "The Message for Today", HR, 9 October 1913, p. 21. 46. Bible Readings for the Home Circle: A Topical Study of the Bible, Systematically Arranged for Home and Private Study (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1914), p. 182. 47. "Our belief," Monthly Magazine, May 1920, p. 11 (current spelling)

CARDOSO MATHEUS is assistant editor of the books of the Spirit of Prophecy in Brazil Publishing House. Text published in RA Ago/2011.