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By Derrick Gillespie Introduction It has now come to light that almost every major quote from S.D.A. pioneer E.G. White that has been claimed (by mainstream Adventists) to be “Trinitarian” in tone and content has been copied/borrowed directly (with only slight alterations) from Trinitarian writers of other Protestant Churches. Interesting indeed!! What is even more interesting is that it was only after SDA pioneers affirmed, through one of its publishing houses, namely the Pacific Press, that there is indeed a “BIBLE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY” in 1892, by way of publishing and endorsing the Trinitarian thesis of the Presbyterian minister Samuel Spear (For proof CLICK here), that we then see E.G. White starting to not only increasingly and repeatedly speak of “three persons” of the “Eternal Godhead”, but (as is now coming to light) heavily quoting Trinitarian writers in expressing thoughts about the three persons of the Godhead. Remarkable!!
I say this is remarkable, because any one who is properly informed knows that early SDA pioneers believed that there is no Trinity (even originally denouncing the word “trinity” itself), that the Holy Spirit was not a “third person” of three Godhead persons, and that Trinitarianism in all its forms was a vestige of paganism and Roman Catholicism. It would have been unthinkable in the earlier years of Adventism to have any SDA writer, much more Adventism‟s chief pioneer and leader (E.G. White), digging around in Trinitarian literature, not just to speak on non-controversial issues (like Christian living, or faith, or prayer, etc.), but to „borrow‟ thoughts and expressions from Trinitarian writers to DIRECTLY explain matters about the controversial “three persons” or “three personalities” of the Godhead. Yet, by the 1890s, after Adventists undeniably started to accept that there are indeed “three persons” in the Godhead, and that there is indeed a “Bible Doctrine [or true version] of the Trinity” that we then see Mrs. White confirming the newly emerging belief, and freely using Trinitarian literature to express truths about the controversial “threefold Godhead”. This perfectly illustrates that Mrs. White‟s role on doctrinal issues in Adventism was confirmatory, not „originatory‟; Adventists did not have her as the source of doctrines. Thus after pre-1915 Adventist pioneers started to “biblically” endorse basic Trinitarianism (despite always rejecting the idea of the three persons literally forming one being), we then
see Mrs. White seeing merit in certain Trinitarian expressions of other Protestant writers. Obviously, because SDAs maintained certain differences between the traditional Trinitarian viewpoints, despite accepting/endorsing certain basic Trinitarian ideas, it would not be a strange thing to see Mrs. White making slight alterations to the thoughts „borrowed‟ from Trinitarian writers she quoted from in order to speak about the three persons of the Godhead. But the bigger picture of her seeing validity in much of what Trinitarian writers were saying about the three persons of the Godhead is a truth no antiTrinitarian alive in Adventism today can escape from, even as they try to bury their heads in the sand about it, or lamely try to explain away these matters. This research paper is meant to totally „sink the boat‟ of those anti-Trinitarians in the minority in Adventism who seek to be “accusers of the [SDA] brethren” in the majority, who are of the view that indeed basic Trinitarianism is the correct belief, even if the version taught by the Catholic Church and established Protestant Churches, as well as certain points in modern Adventism‟s explanation of the Trinity do have certain inherent flaws (in this writer‟s view). Accepting a trinity, or trio, or triad of the Godhead is not the problem (all orthodox Christians from the first century onwards believed similarly), but rather it is how one EXPLAINS that threefold Godhead. But without even delving into that matter (I have already done that For proof CLICK here) let me now share with you examples of E.G. White „borrowing‟ directly from Trinitarian writers to express the “Bible doctrine of the Trinity” (to use the 1892 phrase directly from SDA pioneers themselves):
PRO-TRINITARIAN EXPRESSIONS FROM E.G. WHITE
After 1892 Mrs. White borrowed and used several (not all) historic Trinitarian expressions like, for example, “of one substance” (regarding Father and Son), “three great powers” and “three great agencies” (regarding all three Godhead persons), “third person of the Godhead” (regarding the Holy Spirit), etc., but the following borrowed expression deserves some attention.
“Three living personalities (or “persons”) of the heavenly Trio”
This borrowed expression is the most interesting because, not only does it show that the Trinitarian writer she „borrowed‟ it from had interchangeably used both the expressions “three living personalities” and “three living persons” to mean the same thing, but he used them in the Trinitarian sense, and only Trinitarians at the time used these expressions regarding the Godhead. The source of this quotation is undoubtedly taken from a book entitled The Higher Christian Life (1858) by a Trinitarian writer, William Boardman. This book was found in Mrs.
White‟s personal library, and the paragraph she quoted from Boardman on the “three living persons” of the Godhead speaks of them as existing in an interactive “society” in the Godhead. Mrs. White later spoke of these as “three holiest BEINGS in heaven”, and not just as “three living persons” or “personalities” (N.B. she herself also used both expressions she borrowed from Boardman), and this proves how much she was even more pointed on how they should be seen as interactive “beings” (rather than united as one organism or being of traditional Trinitarian thought). Adventism‟s post-1892 assent to a trinity was in the sense of these “three living personalities” being three beings (not one being with three personalities joined in one substance); a matter Mrs. White was to later confirm as well. Adventists were at first (starting in 1892) hesitant to speak directly of three beings of the Trinity (despite first hinting at no objection to the Spirit being seen as a being), and seen in the following quotes in the 1890s:
“We [Adventists] understand the Trinity, as applied to the Godhead, to consist of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The two former to be personal, spiritual beings, eternal and infinite in all their ways and attributes… The Holy Spirit is the representative of the Deity in all parts of the universe. These supreme Beings we cannot comprehend or measure…There is certainly nothing incongruous in the idea of the Spirit being a personal representative, hence saying that the Spirit' is the representative of the Father and Son does not deny his personality... He [the Spirit] occupies in our minds an exalted place with Deity …as a supreme Being" - Bible Echo & Signs of the Times (Australia), Vol. 7, April 1, 1892, pg.112
“We cannot describe the Spirit…From the figures which are brought out in Revelation, Ezekiel, and other Scriptures, and from the language which is used in reference to the Holy Spirit, we are led to believe he is something more than an emanation from the mind of God. He is spoken of as a personality, and treated as such. He is included in the apostolic benedictions, and is spoken of by our Lord as acting in an independent and personal capacity, as teacher, guide, and comforter. He is an object of veneration, and is a heavenly intelligence, everywhere present, and always present. But as limited beings, we cannot understand the problems which the contemplation of the Deity presents to our minds. … He does not come to us through the agency of angels; he is sent direct from the Father by the Son. And for reasons noted above, he is spoken of with the personal pronoun as an intelligent, independent existence. --G.C. Tenny- “To Correspondents”, Review& Herald, June 9, *1896, pg. 362
Of course this in and of itself was a remarkable advancement in thought (considering earlier Adventist objection to there even being a Trinity and or a personal Holy Spirit in the first place), and more importantly, 1892 was the first time Adventists were officially endorsing that there is a “Biblical Trinity” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, by way of endorsing Spear‟s Trinitarian thesis. For proof CLICK here. This advancement in thought would be further developed by other pioneers before 1915 (as seen below), and later confirmed by E.G. White who wrote the clearest regarding “three holiest beings in heaven”; “beings” that she directed prayer to as the “three Great Worthies”. Ever keep in mind that you do not direct prayer to a non-existent individual, and only Trinitarians directed prayer to Father, Son and Holy Spirit either as “three living persons” or “three holiest beings” during Mrs. White‟s lifetime. That is unbeatable. First, take note of how A.T. Jones first candidly recognized in 1891what took place in Church history, and then note his own subsequent doctrinal admission about the threefold Godhead of separate persons some eight years later in 1899: “[At the Council of Nicea] …There was no dispute about the fact of there being a Trinity, it was about the nature of the Trinity. Both parties believed in precisely the same Trinity, but they differed upon the precise relationship which the Son bears to the Father… it was admitted on both sides that the Son of God has a distinct person and existence, and all acknowledged that there is one God in a Trinity of persons..." – A.T. Jones, The Two Republics, 1891, pgs. 332-333, 335 “God is one [person]. Jesus Christ is one [i.e. another person]. The Holy Spirit is one [the third person of three]. And these three are one: there is no dissent nor division among them.” -A. T. Jones, Review and Herald, January 10, 1899, pg.24 Keeping in mind that the above expression “among them” always indicates three or more beings involved (not just two), then it is plain evidence that pioneer A.T. Jones had already come to believe that there is not just a Godhead ‘duo’ of beings, as anti-Trinitarians in Adventism today desperately struggle to uphold, but rather that there is a Godhead oneness of three (not two) beings. This must be so, otherwise A.T. Jones could never have spoken about “there is no dissent or division among them”; he would have instead said no division “between” them. And notice that this A.T. Jones admission came after he already admitted in 1891 that, historically, Christians generally never disputed whether three Godhead persons existed (that was a given), but the dispute was over how they are one. This was indeed a rather remarkable
development of pioneering viewpoint on the Godhead in Adventism in the 1890s. Notice carefully now the years of the following quotes, showing the clear progression of post-1892 thought in Adventism, and indicating clearly before 1915 (when Mrs. White died) that the Adventist version of the Trinity was gradually being accepted as consisting of three beings united as “our triune God”: 1900 “To receive the message of the Spirit is to receive the message of the Father and the Son. There is something charmingly beautiful about their union. With exquisite delicacy of utterance does Jesus declare the divine authority of his message, “The word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me;" and again, “The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself." He is ever in union with the Father, and came, really, that men might see the Father, and know his love. So the Holy Spirit cherishes the same delicacy of spirit and expression. He is the administrator, revealer, and guide of this age. And as such he must make himself known and understood; but withal he does not speak from himself alone. He does not manifest himself as apart from the Father and the Son; but as one with and sent by the Father and the Son. He [the Spirit] is here that he may make us know the things of Christ, and any nominal honor given to the Spirit that does not really make known the character and things of Christ is a great grief to his unassuming, dovelike nature. He would make us know his personality, but ever in living connection with Christ. He abides in our hearts down here, while Christ Jesus is our Advocate with the Father above; but he abides in us as Christ, making the very life that speaks and works in Christ to also speak and work in us. “Christ in you." Let us not grow overbold concerning the Spirit alone; but remember that he is ever with the Father and the Son, and that whatever he speaks to us he speaks as from them; for it is written, "Whatsoever he hall hear, that shall he speak." Let him make you know, beloved, how surpassingly beautiful are the blended personalities of our triune God, manifested by the personal presence of the Holy Ghost.” - The Kings Messenger, *“Blended Personalities”, Review and Herald, Vol. 77, No. 14, April 3, *1900, pg. 210
1901 "God says, [notice after this whom she means says this] "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, . . . and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." [Now notice carefully] This is the pledge of [not one person, but] the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit [i.e. the *pledge to receive and be a Father to you]; made to you if you will keep your baptismal vow, and touch not the unclean thing… In order to deal righteously with the world, as members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King, Christians must feel their need of a power, which comes only from the [three] heavenly agencies that have pledged themselves to work in man's behalf. After we have formed a union with the great THREEFOLD POWER [singular; collective], we shall regard our duty toward the members of God's family with a sacred awe.”
-E.G. White, Signs of the Times, June 19, 1901
1906 “You are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. You are raised up out of the water to live henceforth in newness of life-to live a new life. You are born unto God, and you stand under the sanction and the power of THE THREE HOLIEST *BEINGS IN HEAVEN, who are able to keep you from falling. You are to reveal that you are dead to sin; your life is hid with Christ in God. Hidden "with Christ in God,"--wonderful transformation. This is a most precious promise. When I feel oppressed, and hardly know how to relate myself toward the work that God has given me to do, I just *CALL UPON THE THREE GREAT WORTHIES, and say; You know I cannot do this work in my own strength. You must work in me, and by me and through me, sanctifying my tongue, sanctifying my spirit, sanctifying my words, and bringing me into a position where my spirit shall be susceptible to the movings of the Holy Spirit of God upon my mind and character. And this is the prayer that every one of us may offer. . .” -E.G. White, Manuscript Release, Vol.7, pgs. 267, 268 (Ms 95, 1906, pp. 8-12, 14-17; "Lesson from Romans 15," October 20, 1906.)
1909 “There is a trinity, and in it there are three personalities…We have the Father described in Dan. 7:9, 10…a personality surely…In Rev. 1:13-18 we have the Son described. He is also a personality… The Holy Spirit is spoken of throughout Scripture as a personality. These divine persons are associated in the work of God…But this union is not one in which individuality is lost…There is indeed a divine trio, but the Christ of that Trinity is not a created being as the angels- He was the “only begotten” of the Father…” - Robert Hare, Australasian Union Conference Record, July 19, 1909
1913 “Seventh-day Adventists [not just myself] believe [now] in ... the Divine *TRINITY. This Trinity consists of the Eternal Father… the Lord Jesus Christ… [and] the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead” - F. M. Wilcox (chief editor), *Review and Herald, October 9, 1913 We [Adventists] recognize the divine Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, each possessing a distinct and separate personality, but one in nature and in purpose, so welded together in this infinite union that the apostle James speaks of them as "one God." James 2:19. This divine unity is similar to the unity existing between Christ and the believer, and between the different believers in their fellowship in Christ Jesus…” - F.M. Wilcox, Christ is Very God, Review and Herald “…after Christ should leave His disciples, the Spirit was to become His official representative, His vicegerent, in a new and larger sense than ever before. We may remark in passing that Christ has only one Vicegerent. He gives no recognition to any prelate of any church or religious faith who may lay claim to this position… The sinner who accepts Christ as his Savior expresses his faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of his Lord in the rite of baptism by immersion. This baptism is “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Matthew 28:19. This text clearly reveals that the Holy Spirit is one of the holy Trinity…In our study of the work of the Holy Spirit we may profitably
consider further what this heavenly agency is. We are not to think of the Spirit as a mere influence emanating from a divine source. Distinctive characteristics are ascribed to the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. We enumerate a few of these. The Bible represents the Spirit as possessing wisdom (1 Corinthians 2:10), having feelings of love (Romans 15:30), being able to instruct (Nehemiah 9:20), feeling grief over sins of professed Christians (Ephesians 4:30), making intercession for the saints (Romans 8:27), forbidding the apostle Paul to preach at a particular time in Asia (Acts 16:6, 7). These and other Scriptures reveal that the Holy Spirit is a personal being, the third person of the Godhead…Many of us, as we have read the story of how Jesus walked and talked with His disciples, have wished that we might have been there; but today we have a Person just as divine as Jesus, just as worthy of our confidence and our trust, right by our side to supply every need of our life…No matter how dark the night and how many foes we may fear are lurking on every hand, there is a divine One who walks by our side and who can and will protect us from every danger. He can make the darkest night bright by the glory of His presence.” – F.M. Wilcox, Heart to Heart Talks, pgs. 51, 52
Nothing beats evidence I think, and it is absolutely amazing to see how antiTrinitarians today in Adventism deny and twist, or try to hide from the truth of the facts as here laid out. It demonstrates that no one is immune from brainwashing and self-deception; not even SDA anti-Trinitarians.
IS THE ADVENTIST TRINITY TRI-THEISM?
What has been demonstrated so far plainly debunks anti-Trinitarians in Adventism from the historical standpoint. Let‟s see the utter futility of their arguments from the logical standpoint. They are usually seen attacking the Adventist trinity, which consists of three beings, as being “unorthodox” and proof of tri-theism. Well, the truth is that it is unorthodox as believed today and it was unorthodox as believed by the pioneers between 1892 and up to 1915. So what? Being unorthodox has never bothered Adventists!! As for the argument of tri-theism it is a straw-man argument, since:
 Opponents to the orthodox Trinity, which consists of one Being with three persons united in one substance, have also used the “tri-theism” argument against the belief even when three separate beings are not considered as objects of worship. This proves that it is all a matter of perspective and is highly subjective
 The very same anti-Trinitarians who charge Adventists with worshiping three Gods, because we see three separate beings in the Godhead, they would be equally guilty of polytheism or worshipping two Gods, i.e. if the charge they level against Adventism was indeed correct. They believe in two Godhead beings whom they direct worship to as Creator, Redeemer, and King of kings.
Usually they try to escape this charge of worshiping two Gods by lamely explaining that only the Father is God (i.e. supreme), and the Son merely inherited divine equality (or divine supremacy) and the right to being worshiped as God, but only by nature, and so that is not really polytheism. But this is simply a case of “cock mouth kill cock”. You can‟t have your cake and eat it. If polytheism is worshiping and praying to more than one separate beings as God, then using their same tri-theism arguments against them one could easily overturn their belief in the worship of Father and Son together. And their appeal to ancient pagan religions of many gods being the pattern for polytheism in Christianity does not help their cause either, since many pagans worshiped gods in twos, as separate beings, with one coming from the other, and ancient pagan religions also worshiped groups of three separate beings or individuals (even of different genders), often with all originating from one god. To escape this similarity the anti-Trinitarians in Adventism would have to admit that similarity does not always mean source, and this equally applies to the Godhead „duo‟ of SDA anti-Trinitarians as well as to the „trio‟ or „trinity‟ of mainstream Adventists as well. Otherwise they too would be guilty of polytheism, even as they point the finger Mind you, this writer is not saying that the historic orthodox Trinity does not have inherent flaws in certain explanations, nor am I saying that the present unorthodox version of the Trinity in Adventism does not have certain inherent flaws in certain explanations, but what is certain is that worshiping two beings as God does not escape the critic‟s charge of polytheism any more than worshiping three beings or persons as one God. It is time we all wake up to that fact. Finally I must say that this writer is comfortable with the basic premise as written so clearly by an Adventist pioneer as early as 1909, when he said:
From the confusing idea of ‘one God in three Gods’ and ‘three Gods in one God’ – the unexplainable dictum of theology- [i.e. the traditional Catholic Trinity explanation, of a singular threefold organism/Being or a singular tri-personal substance] - the enemy gladly leads to what appears to be a more rational, though not less erroneous idea – that there is no trinity, and that Christ is merely a created being. But God’s great plan is clear and logical. There is a trinity, and in it there are three personalities…We have the Father described in Dan. 7:9, 10…a personality surely…In Rev. 1:13-18 we have the Son described. He is also a personality… The Holy Spirit is spoken of throughout Scripture as a personality. These divine persons are associated in the work of God…But this union is not one in which individuality is lost…There is indeed a divine trio, but the Christ of that Trinity is not a created being as the angels- He was the “only begotten” of the Father…let not the lips of man speak of Christ as a created being. He is one of the divine trio- the ‘only begotten Son’ of the Father…” - Robert Hare, Australasian Union Conference Record, July 19, 1909 I am comfortable that these three personalities/persons can be called the “three holiest beings in heaven”, that all three “pledges” to receive and be “a Father” to us, that, in response, we must “pledge to “serve” all three, and am comfortable that when we need help it is our privilege to call upon the “three Great Worthies”; all doctrinal matters confirmed by Adventism‟s leading pioneer, E.G. White. As an Adventist I am comfortable with the basics, and upon this platform I stand to agitate for a reform in certain areas of our mainstream Trinitarian belief; areas in explanation that admittedly deny other equally important truths; truths like the historic Christian faith that Jesus, despite a being existing from all eternity, is the real and truly begotten Son of the Father (not just an „incarnational Son‟), and that both he and the Holy Spirit (though existing as “eternal heavenly dignitaries”, yet) are of/from the Father, the Great Source of all (since only he is in-originate and owes his existence to none other). Amen.