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Compiled By Derrick Gillespie
UNWITTING EARLY ADMISSIONS BY SDA PIONEERS!!
“A Trinity is three persons. To recognize [admit to] a trinity [the true type], the distinction between the Father and Son must be preserved.” -J.H. Waggoner, 1884, The Atonement, pgs. 167-169 “Inseparable from the Father in the creation of all things, inseparable from him in the ordaining of law and the establishing of government through all his glorious realms, he [Jesus] is not to be separated from him in the awe-inspiring scenes of Sinai. Acting for the Father, in whatever in their united counsel they willed to do, so he spoke for the Father, in whatever they had occasion to proclaim. Equal in the authority by which law was enacted, they were equally concerned in its promulgation. Whatever God does, Christ does, because God does it through him; and whatever Christ does, God does, because Christ does it by him. And as in actions, so in words: God's words are Christ's words, because God speaks by him; and Christ's words are God's words, because Christ receives them from him…This union between the Father and the Son does not detract from either, but strengthens both. Through it, in connection with the Holy Spirit, we have all of Deity.” -Uriah Smith, Looking Unto Jesus, 1898, pg. pgs. 17-18 “This union between the Father and the Son does not detract from either, but strengthens both. Through it [i.e. this inseparable union], in connection with the Holy Spirit, we have all of Deity." - Uriah Smith, Looking Unto Jesus, 1898, PGS. 3, 10, 17, esp. 13. “[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
PROGRESSIVE PRE- 1915 TRINITARIAN-TYPE THOUGHTS IN ADVENTISM AFTER 1888
As far as the record shows the very first time any Adventist doctrinal paper gave allowance for the word and doctrinal concept of a “Trinity” it was in 1891, when it was agreed that the Trinity consisted of Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit, but as “supreme Beings”. Yet there was clear reluctance at that point to see the Spirit as a “third” being that can be described, even if he admittedly has some form of personality. The sign of transition in pioneering Adventist thought was already starting to emerge.
“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 Son is of the Father, equal in glory and honor, but in some measure subject in authority. The Holy Spirit is the representative of the Deity in all parts of the universe. These supreme Beings we cannot comprehend or measure…we did not consciously reveal any definite position in regard to the Holy Spirit's personality. 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 … " - Bible Echo & Signs of the Times (Australia), Vol. 7, April 1, 1892, pg.112
Then in 1892 some SDA pioneers were even more pointed about a growing acceptance of the concept of a Trinity, by way of the following article they NAMED themselves and SUPPORTIVELY published:
“…The Godhead makes its appearance in the great plan for human salvation. God in this plan is brought before our thoughts under the personal titles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, with diversity in offices, relations, and actions toward men. These titles and their special significance, as used in the Bible, are not interchangeable. The term “Father” is never applied to the Son, and the term “Son” is never applied to the Father. Each title has its own permanent application, and its own use and sense. The distinction thus revealed in the Bible is the basis of the doctrine of the tri-personal God… The exact mode in which the revealed Trinity is … must be to us a perfect mystery, in the sense of our total ignorance on the point. We do not, in order to believe the revealed fact, need to understand this mode. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity—whether, as to its elements, taken collectively or separately — so far from being a dry, unpractical, and useless dogma adjusts itself to the condition and wants of men as sinners…. The truth is that God the Father in the primacy attached to Him in the Bible, and God the Son in the redeeming and saving work assigned to Him in the same Bible, and God the Holy Ghost in his office of regeneration and sanctification – whether considered collectively as one God, or separately in the relation of each to human salvation—are really omnipresent in, and belong to, the whole texture of the revealed plan for saving sinners." -The Bible doctrine of the Trinity- Bible Series, No. 90, Pacific Press, 1892
Rather telling isn’t it? In fact, in 1892 and 1894 respectively here is what SDA pioneers said glowingly about the same Spear article quoted above:
“… We believe that it sets forth the Bible doctrine of the trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit with a devout adherence to the words of the Scripture, in the best brief way we ever saw it presented." -Signs of the Times , Vol.18, No.22, 1892.
“…It presents the Bible view of the doctrine of the Trinity in the terms used in the Bible, and therefore avoids all philosophical discussion and foolish speculation. It is a tract worthy of reading." -Signs of the Times, Vol. 20, No. 29, 1894.
So we see that there was a new and growing willingness to accept a Trinity once non-speculative thoughts about Father, Son and Holy Spirit were not entertained. There was a growing acceptance of the Spirit as a personality, a heavenly intelligence, but equally an acceptance that not much is Biblically revealed about his person and form:
“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
Candid confessions about previous erroneous views held about the Godhead started to be freely expressed after 1892, as seen below about the Holy Spirit. Read also a key admission from Mrs. White herself in that same year 1892:
“There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation. We are living in perilous times, and it does not become us to accept everything claimed to be truth without examining it thoroughly; neither can we afford to reject anything that bears the fruits of the Spirit of God; but we should be teachable, meek and lowly of heart. There are those who oppose everything that is not in accordance with their own ideas, and by so doing they endanger their eternal interest as verily as did the Jewish nation in their rejection of Christ. The Lord designs that our opinions shall be put to the test, that we may see the necessity of closely examining the living oracles to see whether or not we are in the faith. Many who claim to believe the truth have settled down at their ease, saying, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." --Review and Herald, December 20, 1892.
"Is the work that has been noticed in these [Review and Herald] articles done by an influence? — There is an influence and a power, it is true; but we should not make the mistake of believing in an influence simply, when we so much need the One who carries the influence and power. The Holy Spirit is Christ's personal representative in the field; and he is charged with the work of meeting Satan, and defeating this personal enemy of God and his government.
It seems strange to me, now, that I ever believed that the Holy Spirit was only an influence, in view of the work he does. But we want the truth because it is truth, and we reject error because it is error, regardless of any views we may formerly have held, or any difficulty we may have had, or may now have, when we view the Holy Spirit as a person. Light is sown for the righteous. Satan's scheme is to destroy all faith in the personality of the Godhead, — the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,—also in his own personality; and when this is done, he would have men deify the state, and set that up as a personal god, to be worshiped and obeyed...Let us beware lest Satan shall lead us to take the first step in destroying our faith in the personality of this person of the Godhead,— the Holy Ghost. It was once hard for me to see how a spirit could be a person; but when I saw "that God is a spirit" (John &: 24), and that he is no less a person; when I saw that the last Adam (Christ) "was made a quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15 : 45), and that he is a person; when I saw that the angels are "spirits" (Heb. 1 : 7, 14), and even that the fallen angels, called "devils" are said to be "unclean spirits" (Luke 8 : 26, 29; Acts 19:15, 16); and knowing that all these are persons, I could understand better how the Holy Spirit can be a person. … Christ has put into the field, as his personal representative, the Holy Ghost, who is in charge of all the forces of God's kingdom to overthrow Satan and his angels; and the Holy Ghost is the only one to whom is delegated this authority from God. "The prince of the power of evil can be held in check only by the power of God in the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit."—"Special Testimony," No. 10, page 37. God and Christ have placed all the angels and the power of the throne of omnipotence under him [the Holy Spirit], to overthrow the rebellion against God's government. …In my former difficulties there was one more point to be settled; and when that was made clear, I saw, as I had never seen before, the wonderful workings of God's kingdom. It was this: Is it a settled principle, laid down in the Bible, that when one in authority and power delegates to another a work, with power to execute the same, and the work is accomplished by the one entrusted with it, the work is accredited to the one directing and delegating such power?—Yes; this is a principle recognized by God, and accepted by all civilized nations. Let us look at this principle. 'Christ was delegated with authority by the Father to represent the Father. Hence Christ says: " He that hath seen me hath seen the Father." Why?' —Because he was the authorized representative of the Father in creating and redeeming the world. Christ acted under the authority received from the Father; and the work committed to the Son, and accomplished by the Son, is accredited to the Father. See John 1:10;- Heb. 1:1-.3; John 5 : 26, 30; 6:57. The Holy Ghost being Christ's representative, and Christ being the Father's representative, the Holy Ghost represents both the Son and the Father; and the work done by the Holy Spirit is accredited to those whom he represents, for he is their agent. Again: the Holy Spirit being in charge of all the holy angels, whatever is done by them under the authority of the Holy Spirit, is accredited the work of the Holy Spirit. - R.A. Underwood – “The Holy Spirit a Person”, Review and Herald, Vol. 75, No. 20, May 17, *1898, pg. 310
Then in 1900 there appeared, for the first time, the use of the expression “our Triune God” by an Adventist doctrinal paper, and in the context of the Trinity being seen as “supreme beings”; not as one being consisting of three persons united as one indivisible substance:
“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 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.
To know him is to know the Father and the Son, and these cannot be truly known and really honored until we receive and know the Spirit; for no man can call Jesus Lord but by the Holy Ghost. And, furthermore, he would so unfold Christ in us, who are born of the Spirit, causing his life to actually flow through us, that our lives- are submerged and blended in the same oneness with the Father and the Son. Blessed be God forever, for the gift of the Holy Ghost, by whose work we who are the body of Christ are perfected in union with our living Head. For as we allow self to be displaced, and he comes in, his personality and ours are blended more and more. Our life is inseparable from his, our thoughts are the impartation of his mind, our love is the love of God, and our works and words are the fruit of his active life in us. Let the blending process go on; be willing, yea, eager, to sink out of self into Christ. The Kings Messenger, *“Blended Personalities”, Review and Herald, Vol. 77, No. 14, April 3, *1900, pg. 210
By 1909 the pioneering doctrinal transition was clearly well developed in the minds of certain SDA pioneers, yet displaying the same consistent features of rejecting the traditional Trinity explanation of the “oneness”, even while accepting a trinity, as seen in the following:
“In the fourth and fifth centuries many absurd views were set forth respecting the Trinity—views that stood at variance with reason, logic, and Scripture. As these views were formulated into creeds, humanity had to shut its eyes and receive them as the dictates of God, though they were verily human and some of them even satanic. Mystery was heaped upon mystery, and the mind of man at last gave up the effort to reason out the dogmas of what claimed to be religion. Satan was behind this work of mystification, just as he has been behind every other false idea of God. Where Satan cannot lead into absolute unbelief, he will endeavor to mystify so that the belief remaining may prove ineffectual. From the confusing idea of "one God in three Gods," and "three Gods in one God "—the unexplainable dictum of theology—the enemy gladly leads to what appears to be a more rational, though no 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—the "Ancient of Days" enthroned. In Rev. 1:13-18, we have the Son described. He is also a personality. The appearance and form of the Holy Spirit is not described. He is the agency whereby God revealed His Word to man, and of Him Christ declares, "He shall not speak of Himself." John 16:13. Hence the man who speaks much of himself has not a very close acquaintance with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is spoken of through the Scriptures as a personality.
These divine persons are closely associated in the work of God. Christ speaks of Himself and the Father as "one." But this union is not one in which individuality is lost. Christ would have His people one even as He and the Father are one. But we know that the union of God's people is to be one of mind not of personality (John 17:21-23). This is set forth in the admonition to "be of one mind." 1 Peter 3:8. With these scriptures agree the words of the Spirit in these latter days :— "There are three living persons in the heavenly trio. In the name of these three powers— the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost—those who receive Christ by living faith are to be baptized, and these powers will cooperate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ."—Mrs. E. G. White, in Bible Training School, February, 1906. This is indeed a divine trio, but the Christ of that Trinity was not a created being such as His angels—He was the "only begotten" of the Father – Robert Hare, the Trinity, Australasian Union Record, July 19 1909
Thus by 1913, Adventism’s chief editor of our main doctrinal paper was able to make the following first time editorial declaration in our main doctrinal paper, and without any rebuke from Mrs. White, mind you:
"For the benefit of those who may desire to know more particularly the cardinal features of the faith held by this denomination, we shall state that Seventh-day Adventists believe, 1. In the divine Trinity. This Trinity consists of the eternal Father, a personal, spiritual being, omnipotent, omniscient, infinite in power, wisdom, and love; of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the eternal Father, through whom all things were created, and through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the one regenerating agency in the work of redemption..." - F.M. Wilcox, Review and Herald, Editorial, Oct. 9, 1913, pg. 21
And what did F.M. Wilcox explain this declaration in our main doctrinal paper to mean, not just to him but the growing number of “SD Adventists”, despite the natural and understandable opposition from some? His explanations elsewhere are instructive:
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
All the foregoing realities takes us up to the year 1915, when Mrs. White (Adventism’s chief pioneer) died, and so what took place after that was simply an expansion on what was taking place in Adventist ideology long before (just after the controversial 1888 General Conference); not something new at all. Thus, all those misguided anti-Trinitarians today on the fringes of SD Adventism who, by way of independent ministries, seek to present the false view of so-called “100 years of non-Trinitarian Thought among SDA pioneers” (i.e. from 1844-1944) clearly are either uninformed, or they conveniently ignore the glaring realities which simply refuse to remain hidden in this the ‘information age’. In 1919 the leaders of the Adventist Church met at a now famous Bible Conference to continue the discussions and further explore the transitional thoughts already existing in Adventism from way back in 1888. At that time, while discussing the eternal nature of Christ, it became evident that the contending viewpoints were those of Arianism versus Trinitarianism (no longer was the Adventist scene dominated by Arian and semi-Arian views, as in the earlier days from 1844-1888). One SDA pioneer, made it plain that they will not yet “vote” trinitarianism versus arianism even as they were forced to “think”, but another pioneer at the Bible Conference candidly admitted why he was more for trinitarianism when he frankly said:
“WE [many Adventists] BELIEVED A *LONG TIME THAT CHRIST WAS A CREATED BEING, in spite of what the Scripture says…” -W.W. Prescott, The 1919 [S.D.A.] Bible Conference Transcripts, July 6, 1919, pg. 62
Thus it is clear that what Adventists were breaking away from was Arian viewpoints, and the acceptance of a new/tailored version of the Trinity, i.e. “the Bible doctrine of the Trinity”; not an acceptance of all the traditional viewpoints regarding the Trinity as traditionally taught by Creeds of Christendom. SDA pioneer W.W. Prescott however knew very well the close connection between accepting the “Biblical” version of the trinity and accepting the true personhood of the Spirit, and so he further made the following clear points in the years following the 1919 Bible Conference:
“Not only individual Christians, but whole communities of disciples are found who have been so imperfectly instructed that they have never known that there is a Holy Spirit, except as an influence, an impersonal something to be vaguely recognized. Of the Holy Ghost as a divine person, dwelling in the church, to be honored and invoked and obeyed and implicitly trusted, they know nothing…The Spirit here spoken of is a personal existence. Throughout all that our Lord says in this last conversation regarding the Spirit, personal epithets are applied to him, and the actions ascribed to him are personal actions. He is to be the substitute of the most marked and influential, Personality with whom the disciples had ever been brought in contact. He is to supply his vacated place…The Spirit performs such actions as a person only can perform. Thus we read in Scripture: He strives with the ungodly. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He performs miracles. He caused the Virgin Mary to conceive. He inspired the sacred writers. He speaks expressly of events in the latter times. He said to the churches the messages of the Son of man. He appoints ministers in the church. He commands and forbids. He new creates the soul. He intercedes for us in prayer. He teaches, and comforts, and guides us into all truth. He sheds abroad the love of God in the heart. He seals the soul unto the day of redemption. He cries in our heart, until he teaches us to cry, Abba, Father. He testifies with personal witnesses. He shall testify, and you also testify. He approves with personal counselors. ‘It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us.’ He invites with personal messengers. ‘The Spirit and bride say, Come.’ He repeats the beatitude pronounced on those who die in the Lord. ‘Yea, said the Spirit, they rest from their labors and their works do follow them.’ Here are some twenty different actions, some of them standing forth as the greatest facts in the past history of the church of Christ, and many of them being repeated continually in the experience of believers, but all proving beyond contradiction, the operation of an intelligent and personal agent…” -W.W. Prescott- The Doctrine of Christ, 1920, pgs. 111-114
All of foregoing (especially as evidenced in pioneering SDA thoughts up to 1915) made it understandable why in 1931 SD Adventists felt that they
had reasonable grounds to, for the first time, present in the Adventist yearbook a Trinitarian Statement of Belief, as quoted hereafter:
“FUNDAMENTAL BELIEFS OF SEVENTH- DAY ADVENTISTS (1931 YEARBOOK) Seventh-day Adventists hold certain fundamental beliefs, the principal features of which, together with a portion of the scriptural references upon which they are based, may be summarized as follows: 1. That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, contain an allsufficient revelation of His will to men, and are the only unerring rule of faith and practice. 2 Tim, :15-17. 2. That the Godhead, or Trinity, consists of the Eternal Father, a personal, spiritual Being, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite in wisdom and love; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, through whom all things were created and^ through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power in the work of redemption. Matt. 28:19. 3. That Jesus Christ is very God, being of the same nature and essence as the Eternal Father. While retaining His divine nature He took upon Himself the nature of the human family, lived on the earth as a man, exemplified in His life as our Example the principles of righteousness, attested His relationship to God by many mighty miracles, died for our sins on the cross, was raised from the dead, and ascended to the Father, where He ever lives to make intercession for us. John 1:1, 14; Heb. 2:9-18; 8:1, 2; 4:14-16; 7:25…”
-Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-Day Adventists, 1931 Yearbook, page 377
Thus stands the record in Seventh-day Adventism’s doctrinal history (from 1891 -1931), clear and true. No one can cover it up, and instead use propaganda and personal opinions to mislead the uninformed. And what is of critical importance is that all the Trinitarian-type viewpoints documented here can be confirmed both in the Bible itself, and also in the writings of E.G. White (Adventism’s leading pioneer), even as she wrote about whom she called “the three holiest beings in heaven”. And this writer says a whole hearted “Amen”.
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