Fictional interpretation – a case study

In order to clearly highlight what I consider as fictional interpretation of the Bible, allow me to use this example from my recent discussion with a trinitarian theologian.

First, the theologian wrote:

“Thus my advice is to be content with the fact that the God of Moses is not Just ONE person. You have in Exodus 3 YAHWEH revealing Himself to Moses in His quality of Heavenly Messenger (“Angel”) of YAHWEH. Thus there is ONE YAHWEH in Heaven, and anOTHER YAHWEH as His legate showing Himself to Moses. If the name of God is not applicable to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit together (three Persons each manifesting the true God), then we have in Exodus 3 a case of idolatry, worshipping another god. There is no way to escape this conclusion, therefore my non-trinitarian SDA friends prefer to avoid Exodus 3 and similar scriptures.”

Notice that the point he is making is that Exodus 3 shows that there are two which are called by the same name YHWH, yet YHWH is the name of one God. This situation of two persons using one name, which name belongs to only one person is the conundrum to which a harmonising solution must be found. Notice that his solution to this conundrum is a logic which combines the two (of course with the Spirit, though the Spirit was never called YHWH neither by Moses nor any writer in the Bible) to make up the one being called the One God.

Then I responded challenging him to separate what the Bible says from his own solution. I wrote:

“You admitted yourself that in your theology, the Bible is not enough in logic…If you
consider the Bible to be complete in defining who God is, and if you stick to biblical
definitions, you will come to a different conclusion. Try it. In your thinking about Exodus 3,
try to separate what is stated, from what you reason out (your logic). Then consider where
your reasoning is coming from. It is a simple normal scholarly thing to do, really…So when
you say the plurality is obvious, it is only obvious to what you have added to your insufficient Bible by logic. You need to learn the difference between what is in the Bible, and what you add by logic and tradition, and that both the data and the logic must come from the Bible… On the plurality of one being, you add your logic to the Bible.”

That must be straightforward. The theologian is challenged to identify his logic and separate it from what the Bible says. Then identify where he got the logic from.

Then he responded as follows:

“You want me ”try to separate (in Exodus 3) what is stated” from what I reason out (my
logic).” … In Exodus 3 the pluri-personality of God is obvious, because it is the simplest
deduction from the data, not some complex phylosophical or theological speculation. If
Moses called the One in the burning bush both the Messenger of YHWH (Ex 3:2) and God or YHWH Himself, how one can justify such colossal confusion, if Moses did not mean two
different persons? If your logic is better in this case, please dare to explain to me! Why
Moses, the father of monotheism, compromised his grand idea from the beginning?”

True to the theologian’s earlier assertion that the Bible does not contain enough logic to explain the One God and he has to make his own deductions, the theologian responds saying that by using the same name for two persons, Moses could have shown colossal confusion, except if he meant the logic that says combine persons to form one being/person. The colossal confusion is that he called two persons by the same name, yet the name belongs to one person/being. The theologian then throws back to me to tell him if there is biblical logic which explains how two separate persons can use the same name, yet the same name belongs to one person/being.

Notice that the theologian agrees that his deduction, that these two persons are combined to make one person/being called one God is his own, not from the Bible. It sounds obvious to him, as it does to many trinitarians, that their logic explains what the Bible intended to mean, but the Bible did not say, which now has been reasoned out by them.

So I take up the challenge to use only what the Bible says to explain how the Father and the Son use one name, yet the name belongs to only one God. I responded.

“Consider Exodus 3 and let us see how you cleverly add to the scriptures… Here is how you separate the data from your own logic, then how you find biblical logic, which is complete.
Here is the data.

  • Moses referred to the one who spoke from the burning bush as YHWH.
  • YHWH refers to the Father who cannot be seen neither interacts directly with mankind, and is in heaven.
  • So that means two persons referred to as YHWH.

That is as far as the biblical data goes.

  • To that you can add that Christ is “I AM”, is worshipped, forgives sins, is called God, etc. All that is just the [biblical] data. [the logical problem that two persons are referred to by one name, and yet the name belongs to one person, still remains.] But what does the Bible explicit say that is what the data means?

Now to say these two (Father and Son) then have to be put together to make a plural God is your deduction [as you asserted yourself], not biblical logic. That logic cannot be found anywhere in the Bible [neither the Bible nor natural reality ever teaches the combination of persons to form another being/person]. So what I am saying to you is stop right there and consider, what is in the Bible, explicitly written that gives us an explanation, i.e. the logic of how two persons can be referred to by the same name, which name belongs to one person.
“It does not follow, even in normal non-fictional human logic, that the reference to multiple persons by the same name combines them into one being. Neither is it logical biblically.
“… Don’t pull ideas out of thin air to explain these two persons with one name, search for the answer in the Bible. You are stopping your search, and giving your conclusion [or
deduction] while there is still much more data to explain how two persons can use the same name. That is where I am saying separate your fictional ideas about making a being out of persons, which thing you were never told to do, and consider the Bible to be sufficient. Continue searching the Bible and SOP for an answer, not your own imagination of a being with persons, or the meaningless idea of a plural being, which is pure fiction.”

So I gave him back his challenge to search again something that is not of his own deduction, to let the Bible make the deductions. It has been half a year and the challenge has not been answered yet.

But let us consider a logic that is found in the Bible.

I ask the reader to think about this carefully. If two persons use the same name, what question comes to your mind if you are investigating that situation? I suggest that it is absolutely biblically and humanly logical to seek how the two persons got the name. So does the Bible explain how the Father and the Son got their names? Yes it does.

Philippians 2:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.

So Christ was given a name by God the Father. What name was he given?

Hebrews 1:4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

Christ got a name by inheritance. Now I don’t know if there is anyone who does not know what inheritance means. The only way Christ can get a name by inheritance is if he gets his Father’s name, that name is YHWH. The Father Himself was not given a name by anyone.

If you believe in EGW, here is what she says on the same point.

“Jehovah is the name given to Christ…”—The Signs of the Times, May 3, 1899, p. 2. { 7ABC
439.3 }

So, the Father and the Son are using one name because the Father gave His Son the His (the Father’s) own name, YHWH. That is why Christ speaks as the Father Himself. EGW says exactly that.

“The great Creator assembled the heavenly host, that he might in the presence of all the
angels confer special honor upon his Son. The Son was seated on the throne with the Father, and the heavenly throng of holy angels was gathered around them. The Father then made known that it was ordained by himself THAT CHRIST SHOULD BE EQUAL WITH HIMSELF; so that wherever was the presence of his Son, it was as his own presence. His word was to be obeyed as readily as the word of the Father. His Son he had invested with authority to command the heavenly host.” — (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, January 9,1879; also in Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, pp. 18, 19) (emphasis added).

Christ says the same.

John 7:16 Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.

Please identify if I used any concept of human imagination in explaining this? Or I read very explicit verses and quotes with absolutely no addition except what the verses and quotes actually say in their own text. This is non-fictional explanation of how there are two persons in one name, which name belongs to one person, the One God, God the Father.

To end this section, let me say, when faced with a situation where two persons use the same name, yet the name belongs to one person, probably the most illogical, fabricated, meaningless, fictional and pagan idea you can ever think of is to combine the persons into one entity that you can refer to singularly as a ‘he’ as the One God of the Bible is referred to. To me that does not make sense at a grand scale. So is the idea of making the word ‘love’ explain the nature of God, a totally fabricated thought process.

Critique of George R Knight’s Article ‘Adventist and Change’

The Ministry Magazine is “an international professional journal published monthly by the Ministerial Association of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, directed primarily to Adventist pastors and religious professionals”[i]. An article appeared in the Ministry Magazine in October 1993 written by George R Knight (author). In this article, the purpose or aim was not clearly stated. However, one can infer that the article was meant to present how Adventists have changed their theological position on the trinity question and associated teachings. The article attempted to trace the trends of change beginning with the Adventist pioneers.

The purpose of this paper is to critique the article and Author’s opinions.

1           Background

The reader would agree that a non-trinitarian view of the Bible is contrary to a trinitarian one. Changing from one to another means totally turning away from several points of faith. For example, the trinitarian viewpoint is at odds with a literal sonship of Christ as held by most non-trinitarians. Similarly, the idea that God is one in three (gods/persons/beings) and that the godhead is an entity comprised of other entities are both unacceptable from a non-trinitarian point of view. Therefore, to claim that the church has changed from a non-trinitarian viewpoint to a trinitarian is to say the church has contradicted its previous position.

Moreso, to claim that one inspired by God has changed from a non-trinitarian to a trinitarian viewpoint is to claim that God sanctioned such as contradictory change. These are all huge claims which demand a closer look. The author acknowledges the same saying “that Adventism has experienced major theological change across the course of its history”.

This wide doctrinal difference between the modern SDA Church and the pioneers is widely acknowledged including by Jerry Moon as follows.

“That most of the leading SDA pioneers were non-Trinitarian in their theology has become accepted Adventist history……either the pioneers were wrong and the present church is right, or the pioneers were right and the present Seventh-day Adventist Church has apostatized from biblical truth.” — Jerry Moon, The Trinity, Chapter, Trinity and anti-trinitarianism in Seventh-day Adventist history, p. 190

The article by George Knight asserts that “most of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism would not be able to join the church today” because of the current doctrines pertaining to the trinity, divinity of Christ and the personhood of the Holy Spirit (the three doctrines). There is sound evidence to make this assertion and that most SDA pioneers were non-trinitarian.

However, there are several issues with how this article begins. Firstly, the article seems to consider the personal views of some of the pioneers as representative of the consensus of the pioneer SDA Church. The statements from J. Bates, J. White and M. E. Cornell are taken to represent the pioneer SDA Church on the trinity and the statements of J. N. Andrews and E. J. Wagonner are taken to represent the pioneer SDA Church’s view of the divinity of Christ. These views are set by the article as the beginning point to analyse the Adventist theological change on these three doctrines.

The article goes on to outline the purported change from a collection of individual views of selected pioneers, to the alleged leadership of EGW into a trinitarian theology and the final adoption of the trinitarian position by the church after the passing of all the pioneers.

In this paper, we propose that, if the article was to be fair on the pioneers, the article should have taken the common doctrinal position of the pioneers. Then the author would have used that common doctrinal position of the pioneers as the starting point for analysing the trends. The trend would respect that the common positions accepted by the church as a whole at any time represent the church, rather than individual quotations of specific members. The trend would then move on from one church position to the next until the current SDA Church position.

More specifically, the article could have acknowledged the pioneers’ belief in EGW as God’s messenger to mean that her writings at that time represented their common belief. In addition, the article could have recognised the importance of the 1872 fundamental principles as depicting the common doctrinal position of the pioneers on the identity of God.

2           The pioneers’ belief in EGW

The church of the pioneers believed in EGW and her writings therefore the writings of EGW would be a fair representation of what the pioneers commonly held. In fact, the earliest pioneers received the doctrines through collective study and the revelations of Christ through EGW ministry. This is clearly laid out in this statement.

“Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, [Older brethren among the pioneers are here thus reminiscently referred to. “Father Pierce” was Stephen Pierce, who served in ministerial and administrative work in the early days. “Father Andrews” was Edward Andrews, the father of J. N. Andrews.—Compilers.] Elder [Hiram] Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often, we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again, and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, “We can do nothing more,” the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me.” (1SM 206.4) (emphasis added)

We see here that the pillars of Adventist faith were set through study and explained by revelation given through EGW to the pioneers. Therefore, prior to1872, EGW’s writings represented the pioneer points of faith. By failing to recognise that the beliefs of the pioneers were a product of their diligent study and coupled with revelation given to EGW by the Lord himself, and that, according to EGW, their beliefs were firmly set as a line of truth to the end, the author misses an important element of the topic. The author should have considered the writings of EGW as that which the pioneers believed, whether before or after 1890.

May be the author should have considered this question. If the pillars of Adventist faith were set at the beginning, then where were they written? This is important because the setting of the pillars of Adventism claimed by EGW suggests that those present came to a collective understanding at that time. In fact, the case of Brother Chapman shows that the pioneers had a collective position on the trinity, which EGW subscribed to.

In writing to Brother Chapman and correcting his erroneous views about who the Holy Spirit is, EGW said to him, “You need to come into harmony with your brethren.” (Ellen White, June 11, 1891, Manuscript Releases, vol. 14, pages 175-180). Therefore, there was harmony among the brethren on the subject of the identity of the Spirit, for example, which is part of the trinity question.

What was that harmony among the brethren? The brethren believed that the Spirit is the presence of God as recorded in 1872 fundamental principles (principle 1) and using Psalms 139:7. But brother Chapman believed the “Holy Ghost’s not being the Spirit of God, which is Christ, but the angel Gabriel”.

Notice that Brother Chapman summarises the belief of the brethren, which he was countering. Brother Chapman wrote, “My idea in reference to the Holy Ghost’s not being the Spirit of God, which is Christ, but the angel Gabriel…” (14MR 175.1). According to Bro Chapman, the brethren believed that the Holy Ghost is Christ. But he did not accept that and EGW admonished him to come back to harmony with the brethren, that the Spirit of God is Christ. EGW said this to Brother Chapman.

“Your ideas of the two subjects you mention do not harmonize with the light which God has given me…It is not essential for you to know and be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is. Christ tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, and the Comforter is the Holy Ghost…This refers to the omnipresence of the Spirit of Christ, called the Comforter.” (14MR 179.1-2)

EGW goes on to confirm the same (much later in 1902), that the Comforter is Christ, using the promise of the Comforter John 14:26 to justify the claim.

“CHRIST is to be known by the blessed name of COMFORTER. “The Comforter,” said Christ to His disciples, “which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you…” (E.G. White, Ms7-1902, Jan 26, 1902)

This is exactly what the brethren believed, i.e. the Spirit being the presence of Christ, i.e. Christ himself personally present by His Spirit. In other words, receiving the Spirit is receiving Christ himself, by His Spirit, not another being equal to and separate from and of the same nature as the Father and Christ (as is believed by the SDA Church today). So, in this example of Brother Chapman, we see that the brethren had a unity of belief about the Holy Spirit which EGW promoted and taught Brother Chapman to believe the same, as collective faith of the brethren.

3           Collective doctrinal points of the pioneers

Does EGW answer the question of where these collective doctrinal points were recorded? There are three options to answer this question based on EGW’s writings and the pioneers themselves.

  1. Ellen White constantly refers to the “pillars of our faith” or “fundamental principles” over and over throughout her time, especially after the Kellogg’s apostacy. These pillars of our faith were established by 1846 and were found in her writings beginning at that time. These pillars were revealed to her by Christ in addition to the study of the brethren.

“And now, after half a century of clear light from the Word as to what is truth, there are arising many false theories, to unsettle minds. But the evidence given in our early experience has the same force that it had then. The truth is the same as it ever has been, and not a pin or a pillar can be moved from the structure of truth. That which was sought for out of the Word in 1844, 1845, and 1846 remains the truth today in every particular.” EGW, Letter 38, 1906 (emphasis added)

  • The second record of the collective doctrinal points are the common writings of the pioneers. EGW treated them with much respect. She understood them as writings from men raised by Christ and given a message for the people. Those are the old landmarks which should be reproduced.

“God has given me light regarding our periodicals. What is it?—He has said that the dead are to speak. How?—Their works shall follow them. We are to repeat the words of the pioneers in our work, who knew what it cost to search for the truth as for hidden treasure, and who labored to lay the foundation of our work. They moved forward step by step under the influence of the Spirit of God. One by one these pioneers are passing away. The word given me is, Let that which these men have written in the past be reproduced…” (CW 28.1)

  • The third and more concise record of the collective faith was of course the 1872 fundamental principles. EGW refers to them as this.

“The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error.” 1SM 204.2

The principles themselves state that there was great unanimity between the brethren on these fundamental principles. Just to point out here that it would not add up to say there was great unanimity between the brethren excluding EGW, by and through whom revelation was given that brought the brethren to the same unanimity.

Therefore, it is only logical and scholarly honest to consider the collective pillars of the pioneers of the SDA Church if one is to study the trends in doctrinal changes. Why the author does not consider this important element is unclear, but the omission definitely makes the author’s findings inconsistent with the information available on this subject.

4           The 1872 fundamental principles

That the pioneers had 25 fundamental principles which they commonly held and believed, those being the basis of understanding what was collectively believed by them, before changes came in after the pioneers, is an important fact. The important point to note here is this. It seems that according to the article, the early pioneers had no defined united doctrinal position related to who God is, the divinity of Christ and the spirituality of the Spirit. The article gives the impression that the pioneers did not settle these doctrines but were in a process of discussion and change led first by leading early pioneers then by EGW, then other different individuals until the current doctrinal positions were established. Yet, that is not what we find in the writings of EGW.

According to the quotation above (1SM 206.4), EGW is emphatic that the doctrinal pillars were established right at the beginning. Consider some more quotes making this point, that the doctrines were set at the beginning with no room for contradictory change, except further refinement.

“And now, after half a century of clear light from the Word as to what is truth, there are arising many false theories, to unsettle minds. But the evidence given in our early experience has the same force that it had then. The truth is the same as it ever has been, and not a pin or a pillar can be moved from the structure of truth. That which was sought for out of the Word in 1844, 1845, and 1846 remains the truth today in every particular.” EGW, Letter 38, 1906 (emphasis added)

“…if such application moves one pillar from the foundation that God has sustained these fifty years, is a great mistake.” CW 32.2, 1905 (emphasis added)

But what was in the 1872 Fundamental Principles pertaining to God, his Son and his Spirit?

Firstly, the 1872 Fundamental Principles began with emphasising that the pioneers had great “unanimity” on these principles. Secondly, the principles emphasised that the principles were necessary to meet the false accusation of those who have not clearly understood the beliefs of the SDA Church. That means the SDA Church had a common belief structure which they defended, especially using the 1872 fundamental principles. Hence these were endorsed by the church and published by them.

These principles also point out that the beliefs had been believed before they were written. The principles emphasised that the pioneers, had a harmony and common understanding of what they believed and could defend it. Hitherto, these had not been compiled into one document. When compiled, they were obviously completely non-trinitarian.

The first principle read as follows:

“I. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps. 139:7.”

Notice that non-trinitarian nature of the belief. They believed that God is one, a personal (not a unity of persons), spiritual being and that the Holy Spirit was his presence. In fact, the only verse quoted here (Psalms 139:7) emphasises the Spirit as the omnipresence of God, the possessor of the Spirit. Today the church believes that the one God is three in one. The church believes that the Spirit is not the presence of the one God, but another being in the godhead or trinity (depending on who you ask) equal to the Father and the Son.

The second principle emphasises the sonship of Christ by saying “That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all Things…”

Therefore, to begin with acknowledging what was commonly believed as found in EGW’s writings of their time and in the fundamental principles would result in a different understanding than presented by the author. The insinuation that the pioneer SDA Church did not have a decided position on the trinity is erroneous and that is a principal mistake by the author.

As quoted before (1SM 204.2), EGW endorsed the fundamental principles showing that EGW was of the same non-trinitarian faith as the other pioneers.

If the article had begun with the stated 25 fundamental principles, the common writings of the pioneers and the writings of EGW prior to 1890 it would make the evolution of the trinity doctrine in the SDA Church a deviation from the divinely inspired truth, an apostatizing. That is so because the record of the harmony of doctrine among the SDA pioneers sets down the non-trinitarian position of the pioneers not as their individual views under continuous debate, but as the divinely revealed position from God. It also removes the idea that they collectively had misconceptions and it upholds the inspiration of EGW. It asserts the pioneers’ beliefs as the unchanging truth received from God.

5           Common doctrinal positions of the SDA pioneers

The article arbitrarily asserts that the pioneers were in error (had misconceptions). According to the author, the pioneers were in error because they held that Christ “proceeded forth and came from God” or was begotten. In short, the author claims that to uphold the literal sonship of Christ and the spirituality of the Spirit are errors. But is that so?

The article does not consider the fact that EGW taught the same thing as we have seen already with the Brother Chapman example above. EGW also taught the same by revelation from God.

“‘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.” (ST May 30, 1895, par. 3) (emphasis added)

In this statement, EGW provides a definition of begottenness in John 3:16 which is literal. She compares the literal sonship of angels with that of sinners to the literal begottenness of Christ. We see that EGW taught that Christ was begotten, that being the means by which he is the Son of God and God’s express image before the fall. Notice that Christ is an EXPRESS IMAGE of the Father, not the other way round.

Notice that unlike the author’s view which tallies with the SDA Church today (i.e. divinity only without literal sonship), EGW upheld both the literal sonship and the divinity of Christ simultaneously. Today, the literal sonship of Christ is not upheld by the SDA Church.

This non-trinitarian statement from EGW was written in 1895, at a time when the author claims EGW was leading the church away from a non-trinitarian position into the trinity doctrine. But how can non-trinitarian statements teach trinitarianism? What we see is that EGW was still true to the founding pillars of their faith, as she affirms elsewhere in her writings that she never changed (1888 734.1).

In 1910, EGW still taught the same thing (i.e. the literal sonship and pre-existence of Christ.)

“This fact the [fallen] angels would obscure, that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and they came to consider that they were not to consult Christ.” (TDG 128.2) Letter 42, April 29, 1910

About the Spirit, the article claims that it was an error of the pioneers to believe that the Spirit of God “is not a “person like the Father and the Son.”” But notice what EGW taught as who the Spirit of God, the Comforter is.

“‘I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.’ The divine Spirit that the world’s Redeemer promised to send, is the presence and power of God. He will not leave his people in the world destitute of his grace, to be buffeted by the enemy of God, and harassed by the oppression of the world; but he will come to them. The world cannot see the truth; they know not the Father or the Son, but it is only because they do not desire to know God, they do not wish to look upon Jesus, to see his goodness, his love, his heavenly attractions. Jesus is inviting all men to accept him; and wherever the heart is open to receive him, he will come in, gladdening the soul with the light and joy of his presence.” (ST November 23, 1891, par. 1) (emphasis added)

Notice that after quoting the very words of Christ (John 14:18) that he will come himself to his disciples, EGW applies that to the divine Spirit. The divine Spirit is the presence and power of God. EGW then ends by saying that the divine Spirit is Jesus in the heart which is the “light and joy of his presence”. This is the same as what the pioneers taught, that the Spirit of God is his divine influence, power and presence, not another being separate from, equal to and of the same nature as the Father and Christ.

Here is another definition of the Spirit.

“…This [the Comforter] refers to the omnipresence of the Spirit of Christ, called the Comforter.” (Lt7-1891.14) (emphasis added)

Here is one more.

“Christ is to be known by the blessed name of Comforter. ‘The Comforter,’ said Christ to His disciples, ‘which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you, Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’” (Ms7-1902.10) (emphasis added)

Notice that EGW applies the title Comforter to Christ. Notice that to justify that application of the title Comforter to Christ himself or to explain it, EGW quotes the John 16:13, the promise of the Comforter. So, when the pioneers understood the Spirit not as another being separate from Christ, but as a power/influence/presence/etc. by which the Father and Christ manifest themselves to us, they were not wrong at all. They were in agreement with EGW’s own statements.

If the pioneers were in error in believing the literal sonship of Christ and the spirituality of the Spirit, then EGW was also in error throughout her life and the revelation she received was not from God. This is what the article seems to be tending to, to remove the divine inspiration of EGW.

Hence the article misses an important point, that by revelation, EGW was in harmony with the pioneers’ collective position of the One personal spiritual God being, his literally begotten and fully divine Son, and the Spirit being the personal presence of both the Father and the Son.

6           EGW’s non-trinitarian statements before 1890

The article could benefit from investigating the non-trinitarian statements of EGW both before and after 1890 such as those upholding the literal sonship of Christ. This would help the author to see that there were abundant non-trinitarian statements from EGW throughout her lifetime, which means she did not lead the church away from non-trinitarianism.

Consider this.

“Angels that were loyal and true sought to reconcile this mighty, rebellious angel to the will of his Creator. They justified the act of God in conferring honor upon Jesus Christ, and with forcible reasoning sought to convince Satan that no less honor was his now than before the Father had proclaimed the honor which he had conferred upon his Son. They clearly set forth that Jesus was the Son of God, existing with him before the angels were created; and that he had ever stood at the right hand of God, and his mild, loving authority had not heretofore been questioned; and that he had given no commands but what it was joy for the heavenly host to execute. They urged that Christ’s receiving special honor from the Father, in the presence of the angels, did not detract from the honor that he had heretofore received. The angels wept. They anxiously sought to move Satan to renounce his wicked design and yield submission to their Creator; for all had heretofore been peace and harmony, and what could occasion this dissenting, rebellious voice?” (1SP 19.1 1870) (emphasis added)

Notice that who God is (according to EGW), is very clear in this passage. God is the one who 1. has a Son called Christ, 2. conferred honor upon his Son. Notice that 20 years before 1890 (i.e. in 1870), EGW as a pioneer herself, upheld the literal sonship of Christ, and singularity of a personal God, the Father, just as other pioneers did, just as the Bible says in John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Ephesians 4:6, Mark 12:29-34, Deuteronomy 6:4 and other verses. Therefore, EGW had a non-trinitarian position before 1890.

Therefore, the author ignored that EGW, by revelation, had the same understanding as the other pioneers. As we will see below, EGW attributes all her published writings to revelation from Christ, since she was a girl.

7           EGW’s non-trinitarian statements after 1890

“In order that the human family might have no excuse because of temptation, Christ became one with them. The only being who was one with God lived the law in humanity, descended to the lowly life of a common laborer, and toiled at the carpenter’s bench with his earthly parent.” (ST October 14, 1897, par. 3) (emphasis added)

Notice that God is one, and Christ was with God. How can there be three beings in one God, if Christ was the only being who was one with the one God? Notice that this statement clearly excludes the Spirit from being a being equal to the Father and the Son. For we know the Spirit was in God’s counsels, but not as a being like the Father and the Son, but as their Spirit which they possessed together.

Notice that this statement is very akin to what Stephen Haskell wrote:

“Before the creation of our world, “there was war in heaven.” Christ and the Father covenanted together; and Lucifer, the covering cherub, grew jealous because he was not admitted into the eternal councils of the Two who sat upon the throne.” — (S.N. Haskell, The Story of the Seer of Patmos, pages 217, 1905)

Stephen Haskell also understood that there were only two on the throne and only two who covenanted. This is Zechariah 6:13 (and the counsel of peace shall be between them both).

Consider this.

“In the plan to save a lost world, the counsel was between them both; the covenant of peace was between the Father and the Son.” (ST December 23, 1897, par. 2 ‘The Love of God’)

You will notice that this is referring to Zechariah 6:13, echoed by EGW as by Stephen Haskell. How come the Spirit, if part of the three in one God, is excluded from the covenant by both the Bible and the SOP? This section is titled “The Love of God” and immediately after the sentence quoted above, EGW applies John 3:16, that the Love of God is in giving his son.

Consider this statement.

“Let the brightest example the world has yet seen be your example, rather than the greatest and most learned men of the age, who know not God, nor Jesus Christ whom he has sent. The Father and the Son alone are to be exalted.” (YI July 7, 1898, par. 2)

Notice how EGW taught very non-trinitarian belief at a time when the author credits her for leading the Church into trinitarianism. We should exalt Father and the Son only. The Holy Spirit is again excluded. The Spirit, being possessed by them is inherent in their exaltation and not always deserving a specific mention because it is not another being equal to them, but the Spirit they both possess.

“The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each. 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.” (CCh 76.4, 76.5 1904) (emphasis added)

This statement from 1904 clearly shows that EGW continued to believe in the literal begottenness of Christ. When read in conjunction with her statements that teach that Christ was the Son of God before the fall, and was literally begotten, we see that she did not believe in a Christ who was a partner co-equal to God, as another being without a familial parental relationship. EGW taught that even Christ’s exalted position and equality were given to him by the Father, just like the Bible says, “For it pleased the Father that in him should all the fullness of divinity [divine nature] dwell” (Colossians 1:19).

How about this one.

“The Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, is truly God in infinity, but not in personality.” (20LtMs, Ms116, 1905 par 6)

Notice that Christ’s divinity is different from that of God the Father. He is not God in personality, i.e. he is not THE GOD, but God by virtue of being the Son of God, whose full divinity is as much as he is fully the only begotten Son of God. The same thought was taught by the pioneer J.G. Matteson as follows.

“Christ is the only literal Son of God. “The only begotten of the Father.” John 1:14. He is God because he is the Son of God; not by virtue of his resurrection…” — (J.G. Matteson, Review and Herald, October 12, 1869)

Notice that even by 1905, EGW was still echoing the same non-trinitarian position of the pioneer SDA Church sometimes almost word for word. These non-trinitarian points from EGW, and her unity with pioneer SDA beliefs were not accounted for by the article.

8           What the Pioneers Refused about the Trinity

The author viewed the beliefs of the pioneers with a trinitarian lense and fails to understand what they actually believed. It is necessary to clearly identify that which the pioneers disagreed with in the trinity doctrine.

Firstly, as we saw earlier, the pioneers believed in a personal God, one individual being who is God the Father.

Consider the following statement about who God is.

A Personal God. “As Jehovah, the supreme Ruler, God could not personally communicate with sinful men, but He so loved the world that He sent Jesus to our world as a revelation of Himself.” (Ms124-1903.2)

Pioneers (including EGW), believed in a personal God, one individual, who is not interchangeable with his Son.

The author makes a tremendous error in claiming that the pioneers did not believe Jesus as being truly God. This is not true. In fact, while the author claims that the pioneers had misconceptions, it turns out the author has misconceptions about what the pioneers really believed on these matters. The author, being of a trinitarian persuasion, does not realise that the pioneers did not see a contradiction between the full divinity and literal sonship of Christ as trinitarians of the modern new SDA Church organisation do. From a trinitarian point of view, if Christ is a literal son, then he cannot be fully divine, and if fully divine he cannot be a literal son. The pioneers saw it differently. To the pioneers, upholding the literal sonship of Christ was in fact upholding his full divinity. This is the only doctrinal position in the world on this topic that is in harmony with the simple reading of both the Bible and EGW’s writings.

The acceptance of the harmony between Christ’s literal sonship and his full divinity is the only doctrinal position that can be defended from the Bible without making any assumption or reading simple texts with a metaphorical mind.

Consider the following:

“WE DO NOT DENY THE DIVINITY OF CHRIST. WE DELIGHT IN GIVING FULL CREDIT TO ALL THOSE STRONG EXPRESSIONS OF SCRIPTURE WHICH EXALT THE SON OF GOD. We believe him to be the divine person addressed by Jehovah in the words, “Let us make man…We have not as much sympathy with Unitarians that deny the divinity of Christ, as with Trinitarians who hold that the Son is [interchangeable with] the eternal Father, and talk so mistily about the three-one God. Give the Master all that divinity with which the Holy Scriptures clothe him.” James White, RH June 6, 1871 (emphasis added)

With the words, “as with Trinitarians who hold that the Son is the eternal Father” it would seem as if James White is mistaking modalism for trinity. However, modalism and trinity agree in removing the literal sonship which James White held to. Without literal sonship, the Son is just as the eternal Father, no difference between them. Therefore, modalism is just as much a one in three god doctrine as the trinity on this point.

The important thing, however, is that the pioneers upheld the full divinity of Christ, just as EGW also wrote.

How about this?

“We do not believe in the three-one God of the Trinitarians nor in the low views of Jesus Christ held by unitarians. We believe that Christ was a divine being, not merely in his mission, but in his person also. . .” (Review and Herald – RH June 27, 1878 “To correspondents”) (emphasis added)

How about this one from J.H. Wagonner.

“As before remarked, the great mistake of Trinitarians, in arguing this subject, is this: they make no distinction between a denial of a trinity and a denial of the divinity of Christ. They see only the two extremes, between which the truth lies; and take every expression referring to the pre-existence of Christ as evidence of a trinity. (Review and Herald, November 10, 1863, vol. 22, p. 189)

And one more to confirm the position:

“A survey of other Adventist writers during these years (up to 1881) reveals, that to a man, they rejected the trinity, yet, with equal unanimity they upheld the divinity of Christ. 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 Christs divine nature.” (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). (emphasis added)

Contrary to the author’s assertions, the pioneers upheld the full divinity of Christ just as much as one can uphold the full humanity of Christ as Son of Man. Similarly, one can uphold the full humanity of any man born of a man. A father and a son are both fully human. If Christ was fully human by virtue of being born of a woman, so was he fully divine by virtue of being the only begotten Son of God. The pioneers believed that they upheld the full divinity of Christ better than the trinitarians and definitely against the unitarians.

The author also fails to realise that the pioneers understood the Holy Spirit as the presence of God and Christ, but not as another being separate from them. This position, unbeknown to the author, does not remove the personality or personhood of the Holy Spirit in as much as the spirit of a man is the personality/personhood of the same man. The Spirit was therefore understood by different definitions including that it is the presence of the Father and the Son, yet without visible form.

The other issue was about God’s character of love as expressed in the giving of his actual son.

“And yet he was not alone. He had said, “I and my Father are one.” God suffered with his Son. Man cannot comprehend the sacrifice made by the infinite God in giving up his Son to reproach, agony, and death. This is the evidence of the Father’s boundless love to man.” (3SP 100.1)

Notice that by removing the literal sonship of Christ trinitarians remove the greatest expression of God’s love. That is how pioneers (and EGW included) understood the trinitarian error. The pioneers observed that the trinity, in removing the literal sonship of Christ, removed the essence of God’s love, that he sent his actual son, someone who has a direct connection to God’s own being, one equal to him by being his express image. Hence in destroying the literal sonship, the character of God, His character of love was destroyed.

We therefore observe that, the author’s opinions are hampered by lack of a clear understanding of what the pioneers actually believed, and the author’s opinions clearly misleading.

9           Was EGW inspired or not

There is a subtle underlying motif behind the article. This is the question about the inspiration of EGW. We will explore this with the following points.

The article makes two disturbing claims that have a clear implication on the inspiration of EGW. The first is this:

“Such misconceptions during the 1890s a decade in which the work of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling power of Christ were being emphasized by such writers as Ellen White, E. J. Waggoner, and W. W. Prescott helped pave the way for the pantheism that Waggoner and J. H. Kellogg taught around the turn of the century.”

It seems that according to this statement, EGW had misconceptions in the 1890s pertaining to “the work of the Holy Spirit and the indwelling power of Christ”. Wow! That such a statement could be published in an Adventist publication is unbelievable. It just goes to show how much the modern SDA Church is different from the pioneer SDA Church in many ways.

Three problems come to mind. First, if EGW could have the same misconceptions as anyone else, that means EGW was not inspired, and was not taking her instructions from Christ. Second, this assertion is in direct contradiction with EGW’s own claims. According to her, she received revelation from Christ for the teachings she gave to the brethren as we will see in the next section. Thirdly, EGW herself wrote against pantheism and the holy flesh movement but in this article, she can be one of the causes for it.

To link EGW’s writings to pantheism and the holy flesh movement in a bid to defend the trinity is such a disturbing assertion. It should make every right-thinking Adventist think twice about the trinity.

The second disturbing claim about EGW made by this article is this.

“It was Ellen White whose writings led the way in the theological shift. Unlike her experience in the post-1844 period, during which she followed the lead of her husband and Bates in the formulation of the distinctively Adventist doctrines, in the 1890s she was at the forefront of the action, related to theological reformulation, through her major writings on Christ and His teachings.”

Notice this contradiction in the thought of the author of this article. The first quotation above states that “…misconceptions during the 1890s…were being emphasized by such writers as Ellen White…” Yet, in the next quotation, the same EGW was leading a theological shift. How come she was emphasising a misconception and leading a ‘correct’ theological shift into correct understanding during the same period? The author sounds very confused here, misleading first himself, then others.

If EGW said something that the author does not like, then she had a non-trinitarian misconception. If she said something that the author liked, then it was a correct trinitarian theological shift, even though this is happening at the same time. This level of bias is astonishing. The author places himself as the judge of EGW’s writings, him a theologian judging her who received counsel directly from God. Judge for yourself.

According to this article, EGW taught the non-trinitarian ideas from her husband and Bates all the way from 1844 to 1890, before she changed. The author denigrates Ellen G White by claiming that she was led by her husband and Bates. This clearly contradicts EGW’s own claims that she was given teaching by Christ since she was a girl. If she claims that she was given teaching by Christ, yet it was from her husband and Bates post-1844, then she was lying to people, and she wrote lies. Besides, who would want to believe a messenger who simply follows other people’s views not from God who sent her?

The author demonstrates a detrimental level of bias again. When EGW’s writings are useful for the author’s desired views, they are fine. But if not, then they are her own thoughts or those of others. EGW herself deals with this rebellious selective use of her writings as follows.

“If the preconceived opinions or particular ideas of some are crossed in being reproved by testimonies, they have a burden at once to make plain their position to discriminate between the testimonies, defining what is Sister White’s human judgment, and what is the word of the Lord. Everything that sustains their cherished ideas is divine, and the testimonies to correct their errors are human—Sister White’s opinions. They make of none effect the counsel of God by their tradition.”—Manuscript 16, 1889. (3SM 68.2) (emphasis added)

According to this statement, EGW knew and taught that her testimonies were counsels from God from the start to finish. EGW clearly disagrees with those would take some of her writings as true and some as her own opinions. The author seems to be one such person who chooses what to accept and what to reject from EGW according to his own inclinations.

Here is another one.

“In the testimonies sent to Battle Creek, I have given you the light God has given to me. In no case have I given my own judgment or opinion. I have enough to write of what has been shown me, without falling back on my own opinions. You are doing as the children of Israel did again and again. Instead of repenting before God, you reject His words, and attribute all the warnings and reproof to the messenger whom the Lord sends.”—Testimony for the Battle Creek Church, 50-58 (1882). (emphasis added)

The article claims that EGW changed her teachings over time. We will analyse this claim in more detail later. But for now, notice that the EGW Estate emphasises that a messenger of God cannot shift positions over time. Consider the following evidence from the EGW Estate.

“Ellen White’s major health visions of 1863 and 1865 encompassed all features of the health reform message that she emphasized until her death. Changes in certain emphases through the years only refined those principles, they did not add or subtract from them. As time passes, even prophets must take time to assimilate revealed principles–time for theory to become practice in their own lives. She constantly advocated the principle, in practice as well as in teaching, that everyone who is committed to truth will move from the bad to the good, from the good to the better, from the better to the best. Such was her experience.”[ii]

Notice the emphasis. First, she had received no light from God on swine’s flesh before 1863. It follows that whatever she did or said before that time was her own thoughts. It is said that she ate pork before then. But, when she had a vision, she never changed (add or subtract from it). She continued to teach the same until the end though with refinements.

Notice that the EGW Estate emphasizes that she did not change, because changing a doctrinal position would mean she was lying at first. This is what is expected and is biblical. A prophet maintains and expands on the same line of truth from the beginning to the end.

Therefore, the author demonstrates clearly that he does not believe in EGW’s inspiration at all and that he is comfortable with using only her messages that suits the author’s predetermined misconceptions. Such an author, it is advised, is not one to be taken seriously by true Adventists who actually believe in the inspiration of EGW.

Another point is this. On one hand, with respect to Ellen White’s non-trinitarian stance the article says “she [Ellen White] followed the lead of her husband and Bates in the formulation of the distinctively Adventist doctrines” meaning that she was not writing revelation from God to her. On the other hand, with respect to Ellen White making errors, the author says Ellen White “ran ahead of the angel”. The author therefore arbitrarily assigns EGW’s writings either to other people or to God as and when it suits the author to make his point. According to this article, EGW’s writings can or cannot be inspired solely at the author’s arbitrary discretion. This is evidence of gross inconsistency and bias in the author’s thinking.

10       The research method bias

The conclusions reached by any study depend on the study method used, especially how data is analysed. In his article, the author did not use sound and honest analysis of data, leading to ill-conceived conclusions.

The author’s aim was to explain the change that happened in Adventism especially within the first 70 years or so. To do that, the author chose to use specific statements of the pioneers and of EGW to trace what the author believes to be a change in doctrinal position. In other words, the author would select statements, interpret them according to his own viewpoint and conclude whether that was trinitarian or not and whether there was change. But that method is fraught with lack of objectivity.

Firstly, giving meaning to any statement from the past is inherently subjective. In this case, as shown before, the author’s understanding of what the pioneers meant by certain statements is questionable. In other words, the author’s own bias was not separated from his analysis of pioneers’ statements.

For example, the author admits that EGW knew the word trinity but never used it. It is inconsistent that after admitting that EGW knew the word trinity but never used, then the author claims that her statements were in fact trinitarian. That suggests that the author is seeing his own thoughts in EGW’s thoughts. If God instructed EGW to present a trinitarian viewpoint, she had no restraint from endorsing a trinitarian view just as much as she did with other unpopular views such as the health message.

Secondly, the author made an opinion based on a few selected statements which do not adequately represent the sentiments from any specific period from the pioneers’ time. As shown before, there are many other statements that the author did not take into account which could have completely changed the outcomes of his analysis. Hence the author selectively used information, concentrating on what could be used in favour of his conclusions and disregarding anything contrary.

Thirdly, the author did not consider an obvious and recommended method of handling inspired writings. That method is harmonising the writings of EGW over time. This is the preferred method because EGW herself asserts that all her writings are a light getting brighter with time, rather than one light turning off and another lighting. In other words, there was to be no contradiction between her writings.

“But although the long line of events extends through so many centuries, and new and important truths are from time to time developed, that which was truth in the beginning is the truth still. The increased light of the present day does not contradict or make of none effect the dimmer light of the past.” — (Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, August, 1913)

The harmonisation of the writings of EGW is the expected method given the test of inspiration according to the Bible. The Bible teaches that the word of God was made here a little there a little (Isaiah 28:13) yet harmonised into a non-contradictory, harmonious and unchanging truth.

In this critique, it is affirmed that all of EGW’s statements can be harmonised into a consistent non-trinitarian truth, both individually and by weight of evidence.

Fourthly, a better way of checking whether the pioneers including EGW changed their doctrinal positions at any time would have been simply to ask them whether they changed or not. The next section answers the question of whether EGW saw any change in her teachings at any time in her life. EGW affirms the unchanging nature of her teachings, contrary to the author’s conclusions that EGW changed over time.

Fifthly, the author draws conclusions that are far beyond the evidence. For example, the author quoted EGW saying,

“For sixty years I have been in communication with heavenly messengers, and I have been constantly learning in reference to divine things.” (Ellen G. White, Selected Messages (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1958- 1980), book3, p. 71.)

The author concludes that this means that EGW was open to the possibility to change. Yet again, to be constantly learning does not necessarily mean to be constantly changing. One can be constantly learning mathematics all his life but that does not mean a time will come when the first basic calculations learnt in primary school become changed and false. Constantly learning means more complex, not contradiction.

Notice also that the author insinuates that by constantly learning, EGW was reviewing past messages. It is a necessary step for those who impose evolution of doctrine on EGW to present the Adventist pillars of faith as being under constant review and change. The evidence points to the fact that over and over EGW advocated that the pillars of Adventism should not be changed and that to change them is, in fact apostasy.

“We are not to receive the words of those who come with a message that contradicts the special points of our faith.” (CW 32.2; 1905)

Sixth, the author failed to consider that there were many who misunderstood EGW’s writings. the author also failed to consider that if Andreasen considered EGW’s writings to be trinitarian, like many people, yet EGW vehemently denied ever changing, then it was possible that Andreasen, like Kellogg, misunderstood EGW’s positions. In other words, the fact that Andreasen saw EGW’s statements as trinitarian does not make EGW’s views trinitarian. As stated before, all of EGW’s statement were clearly non-trinitarian if we try to harmonise them with the rest of her writings, the Bible and the pioneers, whom she sometimes quoted.

Seventh, the author fails to consider this telling evidence about the change of the Advent movement from trinitarianism to non-trinitarianism prior to 1844. This is clearly evidenced by the following quote from JV Himes.

“At first, they [Adventists] were generally Trinitarians; subsequently they have, almost unanimously, rejected the Trinitarian doctrine as unscriptural” (Joshua V. Himes, 1835). (emphasis added)

Further, it can be observed that even Miller, though he did not believe in the Sabbath, but he also moved from trinitarianism to non-trinitarianism as part of his study of the 2300 days. Notice the change in his statement of faith between 1822 and 1844.

“ART. II. I believe in one living and true God, and that there are three persons in the Godhead, – as there is in man, the body, soul and spirit. And if any one will tell me how these exist, I will tell him how the three persons of the Triune God are connected.

ART. III. I believe that God, by his Son, created man in the image of the Triune God, with a body, soul and spirit; and that he was created a moral agent, capable of living, of obeying, or transgressing the laws of his Maker.” Sylvester Bliss, Memoirs of William Miller, (1853) pages 77,78 – Written at Low Hampton, Sept. 5, 1822

Now notice the change.

“I believe in God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is a Spirit, omnipresent, omniscient, having all power, creator, preserver, and self-existent. As being holy, just and beneficent, I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, having a body in fashion and form like man, divine in his nature, human in his person, godlike in his character and power. He is a Savior for sinners, a priest to God, a mediator between God and man, and King in Zion. He will be all to his people, God with us forever. The spirit of the Most High is in him, the power of the Most High is given him, the people of the Most High are purchased by him, the glory of the Most High shall be with him, and the kingdom of the Most High is his on earth.” William Miller’s Works Vol 1 (1842) page 33

Clearly, he did not affirm a trinitarian position (three in one) after 1844.

So, we see again the importance of taking all the evidence, especially on the collective position of the pioneers, not individual statements from a select of them. The author did not do that.

Therefore, the author used a questionable, non-objective study method and drew unjustified conclusions in order to formulate a theory of change in Adventism, one that would justify the trinitarian position already taken prior to the study. The research method used by the author conveniently predetermined the outcomes of the study.

11       What EGW says about change

Probably the biggest misstep of the article was failure to acknowledge what EGW herself says about changing doctrinal position. The question to consider is what EGW taught as acceptable change or not, and whether she saw herself as having changed.

“You must know if you are not blinded, that my testimonies have not changed, that I have not changed in character or in my work, and hope through the grace of God, never to swerve to the right or to the left to have harmony with you or Elder Butler or any elder in the ranks of Sabbathkeepers.” (1888 734.1) (emphasis added)

These are heavy words. Please note that only those who are blinded would think that EGW changed here doctrinal positions. Judge for yourself whether based on this quotation the article could not be considered blinded, since it claims that EGW changed.

EGW taught that doctrines could be more clearly understood over time with the coming of new light, but never in contradiction to the old landmarks.

“If we are the Lord’s appointed messengers, we shall not spring up with new ideas and theories to contradict the message that God has given through His servants since 1844. At that time many sought the Lord with heart and soul and voice. The men whom God raised up were diligent searchers of the Scriptures. And those who today claim to have light, and who contradict the teaching of God’s ordained messengers, who were working under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, those who get up new theories, which remove the pillars of our faith, are not doing the will of God, but are bringing in fallacies of their own invention, which, if received, will cut the church away from the anchorage of truth, and set them drifting, drifting, to where they will receive any sophistries that may arise.”—Manuscript 75, 1905, 2, 3 (emphasis added)

This statement from 1905 shows how rigid the pillars of Adventist faith were from the beginning. Contradiction with that which was setup at first was not acceptable to EGW. She promoted the writings of the early pioneers.

While EGW accepted that new light would come, she did not see that new light would ever contradict old light.

“But although the long line of events extends through so many centuries, and new and important truths are from time to time developed, that which was truth in the beginning is the truth still. The increased light of the present day does not contradict or make of none effect the dimmer light of the past.” (ST June 3, 1886, par. 13) (emphasis added)

Based on these quotations, the only way the modern SDA Church organisation could be true to EGW is if it never contradicted both her writings and those of the pioneers’ collective. Therefore, if the Son of God was literally the Son of God, we could only understand that better and explain it better as new light comes in. However, we would never replace that the Son of God is literally his son with a new and contrary understanding that the Son of God is not literally the Son of God. If the trinity was wrong then, it would remain wrong today.

Therefore, the idea that the church would migrate from a non-trinitarian understanding of who God is, into a contradictory trinitarian understanding is not in harmony with EGW’s teachings.

It appears even during her time, EGW was accused of having shifted her doctrinal positions. This she refuted in no uncertain terms. Consider this,

“Ellen G. White Message Consistent Through the Years—The meeting on Sunday afternoon was attended by many of the citizens of Battle Creek. They paid the best of attention. At this meeting I had opportunity to state decidedly that my views have not changed. The blessing of the Lord rested upon many of those who heard the words spoken. I said: “You may be anxious to know what Mrs. White believes. You have heard her speak many times…. She has the same service to do for the Master that she had when she addressed the people of Battle Creek years ago. She receives lessons from the same Instructor. The directions given her are, ‘Write the messages that I give you, that the people may have them.’ These messages have been written as God has given them to me.””—Letter 39, 1905. (3SM 73.1) (emphasis added)

EGW clearly saw herself as teaching the same doctrine from the beginning without any change but only clearer, as revealed by God. Yet the author appoints her writings to influence not from God. Could God have given EGW some misconceptions?

Notice that EGW attributes her writings to Christ. The writings were written as they were given to her by Christ. It is one thing to say she understood better as she grew in understanding, but it is another to say that she understood differently.

If EGW had changed to a trinitarian viewpoint later in her life, contrary to her contemporaries, one would expect that as an honest messenger of the word of God, she word point out the errors in her past. More specifically, she would not recommend the pioneers if they were in error as that would perpetuate the error. Yet we see that EGW did not change her support for the purer doctrinal understanding of the pioneers. Later in her life, she continued to support the pioneer positions on the pillars of Adventism. Consider these statements after 1900.

“The Lord would have us at this time bring in the testimony written by those who are now dead, to speak in behalf of heavenly things. The Holy Spirit has given instruction for us in these last days. We are to repeat the testimonies that God has given His people, the testimonies that present clear conceptions of the truths of the sanctuary, and that show the relation of Christ to the truths of the sanctuary so clearly brought to view.” 4MR 247.1 (emphasis added)

Notice that the pioneers wrote testifying “in behalf of heavenly things”. But one would say this is about the sanctuary not about the subject of who God is. That question fades when we consider that the pioneers considered the pillars of their doctrine to be a “structure” of which a change in one pillar would lead to the collapse of the rest. In other words, the pioneers would not have the understanding of the sanctuary that they had if they did not believe what they believed about who God is. The right God gave them the sanctuary message which the wrong god could not give those who believed in the wrong god. [A quick point to repeat on this, there are only two beings involved in the sanctuary process from start to end – the Father and the Son only – not three.]

Consider this.

“If we are the Lord’s appointed messengers, we shall not spring up with new ideas and theories to contradict the message that God has given through His servants since 1844. At that time many sought the Lord with heart and soul and voice. The men whom God raised up were diligent searchers of the Scriptures. And those who today claim to have light, and who contradict the teaching of God’s ordained messengers, who were working under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, those who get up new theories, which remove the pillars of our faith, are not doing the will of God, but are bringing in fallacies of their own invention, which, if received, will cut the church away from the anchorage of truth, and set them drifting, drifting, to where they will receive any sophistries that may arise.”— Manuscript 75, 1905, 2, 3. (“Building the Waste Places.” May, 1905.) (4MR 247.2) (emphasis added)

Notice that while the author points to the pioneers’ doctrines as ones that the church moved away from, EGW points to the same as those that the church should return to. In other words, to be clear about who God is, as opposed to Kellogg’s new teachings about who God is, go back to the pioneer’s testimonies, because God raised them up and gave them a testimony. Hence the author is completely at odds with EGW once again.

This statement comes at a time when Kellogg had come up with his pantheistic ideas, then became trinitarian to the surprise of AG Daniells. Notice that following quote from a letter written by AG Daniells to WC White concerning Kellogg’s views. Notice that difference between the pantheistic view and the trinitarian view, according to Kellogg, was only a matter of expression.

“Ever since the council closed I have felt that I should write you confidentially regarding Dr Kellogg’s plans for revising and republishing ‘The Living Temple’… He (Kellogg) said that some days before coming to the council, he had been thinking the matter over, and began to see that he had made a slight mistake in expressing his views. He said that all the way along he had been troubled to know how to state the character of God and his relation to his creation works… He then stated that his former views regarding [against] the trinity had stood in his way of making a clear and absolutely correct statement; but that within a short time he had come to believe in the trinity and could now see pretty clearly where all the difficulty was, and believed that he could clear the matter up satisfactorily. He told me that he now believed in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost; and his view was that it was God the Holy Ghost, and not God the Father, that filled all space, and every living thing. He said if he had believed this before writing the book, he could have expressed his views without giving the wrong impression the book now gives. I placed before him the objections I found in the teaching, and tried to show him that the teaching was so utterly contrary to the gospel that I did not see how it could be revised by changing a few expressions. We argued the matter at some length in a friendly way; but I felt sure that when we parted, the doctor did not understand himself, nor the character of his teaching. And I could not see how it would be possible for him to flop over, and in the course of a few days fix the books up so that it would be all right.” — (Letter: A. G. Daniells to W. C. White. October 29, 1903. pp. 1, 2) (emphasis added)

Notice that at that time in 1903, AG Daniells the president of the General Conference at the time did not believe in the trinity nor in pantheism and he found them so contrary to the gospel. This purported change had not happened to AG Daniells.

Notice that even Kellogg himself did not believe in the trinity prior to writing his book on pantheism. It was only after pantheism was resisted by the pioneers that he came up with the trinity as an alternative, and in his view, a better explanation. In other words, his trinitarian “revelation” came about while trying to explain his pantheism better. And just to divert the flow a bit, notice that even now, there is a strong connection between pantheism (which is spiritualism) and trinitarianism. Simply, the commonality is that if the Spirit is a god-being, as trinitarians believe, and is in every living thing, then there is a real god in all living things. That is the basis for pantheism that anything has god in it and when you worship it, you worship the god in it.

If in 1903, EGW had started teaching trinitarianism, the AG Daniells, WC White and Kellogg would not have an issue about it. They would have been agreeable to Kellogg editing his pantheistic views into a trinitarian teaching which is the same as EGW, if she had taught a trinitarian view.

Moving on, the author could have observed the implications of imposing contradicting change on EGW which kind of change she denies ever doing. If EGW moved from one view to a contrary view and denied it, then she bore false witness. If EGW contradicted herself but did not know that she contradicted herself, then her ability to understand and testify the truth from God is questionable. In either case, as espoused by most SDA trinitarian authors, the inspiration of EGW is placed in question.

The reader must make a choice here. Should we believe the author and other modern ‘SDA’ theologians who apply inexistent change to EGW’s writing, or, if at all we believe that EGW was inspired, we simply believe her own viewpoint that she did not change, and that the pioneers, collectively, were raised by God? In this critique, we reject anyone else’s statements not in harmony with EGW’s statements about herself and others.

12       Unrelated subjects

The author applies the concept of change to unrelated subjects. The first one is this.

The author makes an important point when he says that,

“…Ellen White several times admits that she made definite mistakes in giving counsel at various times. These generally seem to be on occasions when she, so to speak, “ran ahead of the angel.” One example of such an admission of error is found in Testimonies for the Church, where she flatly states: “In this I did wrong.” That confession was stimulated by the fact that she allowed herself to be pressured, against her better judgment, into publishing Testimony No. 11 in 1867 in spite of the fact that she had not had the time to write out all she had seen. The result was less than satisfactory.”

The author could have also acknowledged EGW’s honesty in identifying the specific times she made mistakes. It is important to note that the mistake and the subject was identified by EGW herself. If her making mistakes is taken as a general occurrence as the author does, then at any time EGW can be said to have made a mistake when she has not. Therefore, it is logical to apply her admission only to those specific points that she made mistakes only as she pointed out herself. To project that admission into the trinity question is both unfair to her and misleading to the reader. In fact, insinuating, as the author seems to do, that she may have made an error of “running ahead of the angel” with respect to the trinity question is an act akin to blackmail.

Still on that point, as stated in the article when EGW made a mistake, the Angel would correct her, making it necessary for her to admit the mistakes by correcting her writings to the brethren. Hence the correction is an instruction from the Angel as and when needed. We would therefore expect the correction to be there wherever EGW made a mistake. Without such a record pertaining to EGW correcting herself with respect to the trinity question, the author has no more than misleading speculation.

Note that EGW herself says she has not been asked to change what she has written. Therefore, we should accept what she wrote without insinuating that it may be erroneous. In other words, the errors that EGW made and corrected are unrelated to her teachings relating to the trinity question.

The second one is this. The author insinuates that if EGW changed on the health message, she could do the same on everything. Firstly, as discussed before, EGW had no vision on health matters until 1863. After the visons came and define to her the position she must take, she never changed. Therefore, what EGW did on the health message is not changing opinions but she received a message which was hitherto unknown to her. However, unless EGW said herself she changed on a certain subject, which she does not, then the premise that she changed on any other subject cannot be honestly extended to an unrelated subject.

Going further, the very fact that EGW was honest enough to admit her mistakes and correct them means that if she had changed on the trinity questions, she similarly would have admitted and corrected her writings accordingly. That, of course, is not the case. She never altered her position on the trinity question, but rather continued to teach the same.

We therefore note that the author needed to find and use EGW’s own statements that she changed her views on the trinity and related subjects. Without that, the author is simply desperate to find a rationale for a change that does not exist. The author steps way out of evidence and logic to like unrelated subjects and create a possibility that EGW changed on the trinity question, which possibility has no basis.

13       The concept of change

The author proposes three concepts of change which we will now interrogate. These are change by clarification, change by progressive development and change by reversal.

13.1     Change by clarification

It appears in this section, the author deals with the subject of divinity versus literal begottenness of Christ (covered in Section 8 of this writing).

In his argument, the author makes a claim about EGW as follows.

“Change as clarification may be illustrated by Ellen White’s treatment of the divine nature of Christ in her various presentations of the Conflict of the Ages story. For example, there is a vagueness, in her explanation of the authority of Christ in Spiritual Gifts (1858) and The Spirit of Prophecy (1870), that permits a reader to read her position as being either in harmony with her semi-Arian ministerial colleagues or in terms of Christ’s always having had full equality with the Father, even though that equality had been lost sight of by many of the heavenly hosts. Unlike other Adventist writers of the time, however, her statements could not be interpreted as being unquestionably semi-Arian.

“That vagueness would change in 1890 with the publication of Patriarchs and Prophets. In that volume she clarifies what may have been implicit in her earlier statements by noting that “there had been no change in the position or authority of Christ”; Christ’s equality with the Father “had been the same from the beginning.” The change in the above sequence is a change from ambiguity to clarity.”

Notice the following:

  1. Various unspecified presentations of the divine nature of Christ before 1890 were vague because they allowed a semi-Arian in harmony with other pioneers. It would have been easier if the author had specified the statements, he considers semi-Arian. So according to this author, to be vague is to allow what he calls a semi-Arian understanding. Usually, to be vague is to be difficult to understand. This shows that the author is trying not to accept that the statements were both non-trinitarian and in harmony with the other leading pioneers who were all non-trinitarian, as revealed to them through Bible study and revelation through EGW’s ministry during the early years of Adventism (pre1850).
  2. The author shows another confusion. Earlier on in the article, the author asserts that EGW, before 1890, was following the sentiments of J Bates and J White. Which means she was in harmony with them. Yet in this section, the author turns around and claims that EGW was writing unlike other Adventist writers at the same time. This demonstrates that depending on what the author wants, EGW can be writing in harmony or against other pioneers. The author does not use any objective method to make this claim except to suit his own thesis.
  3. The author missed something. The statement quoted says “had been the same from the beginning”. The question is, from the beginning of what? It would make sense since God has no beginning, to consider the beginning referred to here as the beginning of time as we know it. Therefore, this statement cannot be implying the divinity of Christ prior to the beginning.
  4. The bias in the author comes through again in the last paragraph where he quotes from Patriarchs and Prophets. The author, from a trinitarian viewpoint makes two mistakes. The first is that he assumes that the statements “there had been no change in the position or authority of Christ” and “had been the same from the beginning” are trinitarian. Yet they are not. The position of Christ has never changed, he has always been equal to his Father as the only begotten Son of God, of whom he is an express image. Similarly, as the only begotten son of God, he has always been the same. These are not trinitarian statements, unless the reader is wedded to the trinitarian viewpoint prior.

The second mistake is that the author does not take into account that EGW echoed the same statements about the literal begottenness of Christ both in the Patriarchs and Prophets itself and long after the 1890s. EGW maintained that Christ had full equality with the Father as given by the Father from whose bosom He was torn.

Here are examples.

“The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate—a co-worker who could appreciate His purposes, and could share His joy in giving happiness to created beings. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” John 1:1, 2. Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father—one in nature, in character, in purpose—the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6. His “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Micah 5:2. And the Son of God declares concerning Himself: “The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting…. When He appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.”” Proverbs 8:22-30. (PP 34.1) (emphasis added)

Notice how the one God is clearly identified here as the sovereign, the one who embarked on creation. Notice that the work was HIS (singular) and the purpose was HIS (singular) and that he had a co-worker (just one), who was the only being who could enter into the purposes of the Sovereign. Notice how the Son declares his begottenness through Solomon in Proverbs 8:22-30. This is fully a non-trinitarian statement right there in the same book that the author quoted from, but ignored the statements militating against his conclusions.

Here is another from 1904.

“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.” (8T 268.3) (emphasis added)

Therefore, once again, the article errs because of trinitarian bias, confusion and selective collection and analysis of information.

In this concept of change as clarification, the author proposes a theory which is confusing and mind-bending. Consider the meaning of change. The key word in the definition of change is “different”. On the other hand, clarification is about making the same thing clear. Therefore, a clarification may change the words used, but not the meaning intended. Again, logical reasoning recommends that EGW’s writings be harmonised rather than be divided into correct and incorrect parts as the article tries to do.

Therefore, change by clarification cannot lead to an opposite view as it clarifies the already existing view. EGW could not have clarified a non-trinitarian view into a trinitarian one, given these are opposite views on many fronts.

As discussed in Section 11 of this book, EGW is in harmony with clearer understanding of doctrine over time, but not contradictory understanding. Therefore, the theory of change by clarification is in contradiction with both logic and EGW’s own statements.

13.2     Clarification as progressive development

Unfortunately, the author does not define what progressive development is. Without a proper definition, it seems, the author drifted into examples which are not well thought out. Neither do they resemble a consistent understanding of what progressive development is.

In this section, one of the lines of argument by the author can is captured in this statement.

“Thus in a few short years Mrs. White had moved from tolerance on the use of pork to a position in which she counseled against its use on the basis of health. She would hold to that position for the rest of her life.”

A response to this view was covered in Section 9 on page 12 and will be covered again below.

That EGW never changed her teaching on health after 1863 is attested to by the author, and that is key to understanding the matter of progressive development. The same point, i.e. never changed, is clearly affirmed by the EGW Estate as describe before. We notice there that before 1863, EGW had no vision about health reform. However, when the vision came, it had “all features of the health reform message that she emphasized until her death” (EGW Estate). Further health reform messages only “refined those principles, they did not add or subtract from them” (EGW Estate).

Let us consider progressive development. There are different ways of conceptualising progress. One way is to progress in terms of knowing or doing better what you have already been knowing or doing. For example, you start a training exercise and soon you can run a bit faster and longer than before, but it is all running not flying. This is a step from the inferior to the superior of the same knowledge or practice.

Another way to conceptualise progressive development is that, you had no clue about something but now you know it. In other words what you used to know or do and what you know or do later are totally different because new knowledge hitherto unknown has been introduced. In this kind of change, one knowledge or practice is replaced by another completely different one, because the prior was wrong or bad, and the new is right or better.

In EGW’s case on the health reform, both apply. At first, she experienced the latter form of progress. She received new light which she did not know before. What she knew before was wrong, what she received was right. This kind of progress is more aptly called a transformation. After that, she had progress in improving understanding of the same transformative knowledge received at the beginning.

It is important to distinguish that when EGW used pork, it was her own viewpoint, and when she counselled against use of pork products it was the Lord’s instruction. The correct knowledge from the Lord replaced the wrong knowledge in EGW. Prior to that, EGW had never said, “the Lord has said we can or cannot eat pork”. When a “thus saith the Lord” eventually came, it was sustained unchanged forever.

What you will see in this explanation is that when a message of truth comes from God, it can transform the receiver, but afterwards, the message of truth can be refined but cannot be contradicted by a message from the same God. God gives truth which is constantly refined but never contradicted. That is what we expect of our God.

Therefore, the progressive development that EGW experienced on the health message applies to the trinity question and EGW in this way. Prior to 1844, she was trinitarian since she originated from a Methodist position which was and still is trinitarian. That was not what the Lord had instructed her, but was her own knowledge based on her upbringing and prior faith. Then transformative progress came in during the period 1844 to 1846 when EGW received new transformative light from God. With this light the pillars of Adventist doctrines were set as a “line of truth” stretching all the way “to the city of God”. In those pillars of truth was the rejection of the trinity doctrine and the affirmation of the One True God of heaven, his literally begotten divine Son and the Spirit representing them without visible form.

After this period, EGW experienced the refining progressive development in which she was able to explain better the message about who God is, yet without contradiction to the former transformative progress from a trinitarian to a non-trinitarian position. Hence, all her statements after 1845 can be reconciled with the non-trinitarian transformative knowledge she received in her early years about who God is and the nature of Christ.

The preceding analysis would have helped the author with consistency and clarity on what progressive development really is and how a prophet of God can never attribute two contradicting statements to the same God and remain trustworthy as a prophet. Since EGW attributed all her writings to the same God, “the line of truth” which was set from God at the beginning and which she expounded on throughout her life cannot and must not be contradictory to itself. In other words, there is no way EGW would later change to be trinitarian without relinquishing her claim of being a messenger of God.

13.3     Change as a reversal

Having failed to appreciate the elements of progressive change, the author continues to use examples which are inconsistent. The main inconsistency comes from the author’s failure to realise that there is a difference between EGW’s own thoughts and actions prior to receiving light and what she claims to be inspired writing from God after receiving light from God.

Here are the examples.

1844 and EGW

The author displays a rather questionable understanding of what EGW believed about the 1844 experience. The author writes:

“By December 1844 she had given up the view that anything had transpired on October 22. The significance of her first vision must be seen in the face of that disbelief. What she had concluded before the vision to be darkness she came to see as a “bright light set up behind” the Advent people as they moved forward toward the kingdom.”

The first point in reaction to this statement is that it is incorrect. To say EGW believed or taught that nothing transpired in 1844 is simply incorrect. Consider what she wrote later on.

““And, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away.” Daniel 7:13, 14. The coming of Christ here described is not His second coming to the earth. He comes to the Ancient of Days in heaven to receive dominion and glory and a kingdom, which will be given Him at the close of His work as a mediator. It is this coming, and not His second advent to the earth, that was foretold in prophecy to take place at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844. Attended by heavenly angels, our great High Priest enters the holy of holies and there appears in the presence of God to engage in the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man—to perform the work of investigative judgment and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.” CIHS 172.2

So clearly, EGW taught by inspiration that on October 22 1844, Christ did not return to the earth but entered “the last acts of His ministration in behalf of man—to perform the work of investigative judgment and to make an atonement for all who are shown to be entitled to its benefits.” She applies Daniel 7:13, 14 to October 22, 1844. The author was wrong on this point as in many other points in his article.

The second point is that there is no difference between this example (the change in EGW’s belief about 1844) and the health message example given before. The author ascribes the former to progressive development and the latter to change as a reversal, yet there is no difference at all between them. In both cases, the author did not see that what EGW believed from other people’s preaching and her own background is different knowledge from that which was revealed by God to her. Before 22 October 1844, EGW believed that Christ would return on that date. That belief was not a revelation to her from God by vision, but her belief in the preaching by Miller and others. At that time, she was just like anyone of us in using one’s own judgment to believe in the information given by others. Like any one of us, as happens often, she could clearly be in error.

However, when she gets her first vision in December of 1844, signalling the beginning of her prophetic ministry, she had a knew transformative progressive development based on what God’s new light directly given to her. From then on, her statements about 1844 must harmonise, and they do.

The Shut Door theology

The author writes:

“William Miller had taught that at the end of the 2300 days the door of mercy would be shut, human probation would be closed, and the work of warning sinners would be over… All Adventists (including Ellen White) who held that a fulfillment of prophecy had taken place on October 22 also believed that human probation had closed.”

Two points come to mind critiquing this statement. Firstly, since the shut door teaching was based on the anticipated coming of Christ, the very fact that Christ did not come meant that the teaching could not hold any more.

The second point is that EGW had no vision or word from the Lord confirming the shut door teaching. She never endorsed it after the beginning of her ministry. So once again, the author fails to distinguish between EGW’s own thoughts and beliefs prior to receiving light from God, and the truth given to her by God. Though there was a change in her own understanding after receiving new light, that change is nothing akin to a reversal from a non-trinitarian to a trinitarian position as the reader is coerced to believe by the article.

The author confirms this viewpoint by writing:

“On this point Ellen White admits to having held theological error. In 1874 she wrote: “With my brethren and sisters, after the time passed in forty-four I did believe no more sinners would be converted. But,” she hastened to add, “I never had a vision that no more sinners would be converted.””

As we see here, EGW believed the shut door error by her own inclination, but not by inspiration which characterised her ministry and writings afterwards. Notice that “she hastened to add” that she had never had a vision about it. Of course, her ministry had not begun when the shut door teaching was believed and promoted. She would not leave that point uncleared, so she hastened to clarify, to demarcate when the Lord intervened with new transformative light.

So, we see again that this example is not different from the other examples and does not represent a different type of change than any of them as the author purported. Rather, this example of the shut door teaching confirms the same trend, i.e. transformative new light moves the prophet from own personal views to the true position of “Thus saith the Lord”. Then refining light progressively clarifies without contradicting the now old transformative light.

The Sabbath sunset vision

The last example of reversal change given by the author is not a reversal either, but the same transformative new light which changes the prophet’s own sentiments. The author writes that:

“…Uriah Smith was careful to point out that the vision’s sunset conclusion “was contrary to her own sentiment at the time the vision was given.” In other words, she changed from the 6:00 p.m. position to that of sunset because of the vision.”

Once again, first there was no word from God, then the word came, and it was against her own viewpoint. Thus, she had to change and did so permanently without ever contradicting the word of God given to her.

Remember the article is tracking change in Adventism. In doing so, the article focuses on how EGW changed her views because of revelation from God. The article then seems to suggest that this change is what happened with respect to the trinity question, yet there is not such evidence. By taking EGW’s own personal change as representative of change in Adventism, the article greatly erred.

Without a record of when EGW admits that her own non-trinitarian sentiment was changed by a vision into a trinitarian one in the 1890s, and admitting her errors as she consistently did when in error, all these examples given by the author have no bearing to the evolution of the trinity doctrine among Adventists. In fact, these examples prove the contrary, which is that EGW, having been trinitarian as a Methodist, by revelation became non-trinitarian and maintained that understanding to the end of her ministry in 1915.

Adventism changed by revelation from God, bringing new light that transformed their collective understanding, not by personal change of any of the pioneers individually from error to light.

13.4     Development of Adventist doctrine

The article makes a very important observation in this section which we will now consider.

“With the extensive efforts to develop Adventist doctrine out of the way (1844- 1850) and the rigorous drive for organization accomplished (1850-1863), Adventism was ready for its next progressive step lifestyle and institutional development (1863-1880s).”

The author rightly notes that the Adventist movement had a period of developing doctrine, that this period was completed before 1850, and after that emphasis moved on to other matters affecting the movement. It is very surprising that the author knew about this but did not consider the full implication of this knowledge.

The primary doctrine of any church is the identity of God. The Catholics say that all their doctrines are based on the trinity doctrine. The SDAs have the identity of God as Fundamental Beliefs 2 to 5, the Methodists have it as basic belief 1, etc. In the lists of doctrines of any church, it is certain that the identity of God is the primary doctrine. So was the Adventist movement. In the 1872 fundamental principles, the identity of God was the fundamental principle 1. And as noted before, all the early pioneers unanimously defended their non-trinitarian position regardless of whether they were trinitarian before joining the Adventist movement or not.

Therefore, we can attest to the fact that the doctrine of who God is, was settled prior to 1850 among the Adventist pioneers. In fact, so true is this fact that even this article attributes EGW non-trinitarian viewpoint as a matter of simply following J. Bates and J. White not her own revelation during the same years, hence affirming that EGW was non-trinitarian in that period. But of course, we know she attributes all her writings to God, not to any of the people around her.

Just as a side note, one anonymous SDA Pastor replied this way in a personal communication with this writer.

“Using old Ellen White statements to bolster anti trinitarianism suggests she never grew in understanding…” (Anonymous, personal communication, 2019)

So, the fact that EGW was non-trinitarian in her early ministry is well known among modern Adventists.

Now, back to 1850, if the author understood this settling of all doctrines prior to 1850, it is amazing that the author did not consider that EGW says that the doctrines from that period will always be true, and not to be changed.

“And now, after half a century of clear light from the Word as to what is truth, there are arising many false theories, to unsettle minds. But the evidence given in our early experience has the same force that it had then. The truth is the same as it ever has been, and not a pin or a pillar can be moved from the structure of truth. That which was sought for out of the Word in 1844, 1845, and 1846 remains the truth today in every particular.” EGW, Letter 38, 1906 (emphasis added)

“…if such application moves one pillar from the foundation that God has sustained these fifty years, is a great mistake.” CW 32.2, 1905 (emphasis added)

Therefore, the prevailing theory that the Adventist movement went through a period of contradictory doctrinal evolution stretching beyond 1850 is a lie. Only refinements happened after 1850. The author himself upholds the point that a period of doctrinal development was closed prior to 1850, but the author does not realise that it destroys the theory he was building in his article.

14       Present truth a dynamic concept

The author once again demonstrates lack of clarity on the meaning of concepts. No clear definition of present truth is given by the author, but it is assumed that it has to do with development of doctrine, changing from one to another. That does not sound consistent.

The author writes:

“Arguing in 1857 that some believers were “of a disposition to draw off from the great truths connected with the third message, to points of no vital importance,” White remonstrated that “it has been impossible to make some see that present truth is present truth, and not future truth, and that the Word as a lamp shines brightly where we stand, and not so plainly on the path in the distance.” Thus White left the way open for further development of Adventist doctrine.”

Taking into account the definition of present truth given by James White, present truth is “truth applicable to that present time” and “is that which shows present duty”. It is about what needs to be done at that time, not about developing doctrine into new ideas. Future truth, therefore, has to be duty for the future.

It is hard to see what the trinity could mean in terms of present duty today, given that the pioneers were called out of the trinity doctrine, as part of their present duty, how could going back into the trinity be present duty for Adventists to come after them?

Further, it is hard to see what present duty is there to proclaim in the trinity which is already rampant and well-established throughout Christianity. Lastly, the author misses the point that future duty, does not destroy old pillars of faith, it builds on them. In other words, no doctrine was to come which would destroy or contradict that which the Lord established by revelation (EGW, Letter 38, 1906) through the Church of the pioneers, the church of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13).

Further development of Adventist doctrine was open, but not contradiction of Adventist doctrine such as this change from non-trinitarian to trinitarian doctrine. Present truth changes the duty from one time to another, but not the truth revealed by God. Neither does it discard old light. That is confusion.

The author understood the same point but did not give it a proper bearing in his discourse. The author wrote that EGW “was quite adamant that new present truth must not negate the central doctrinal pillars that were developed in the 1840s and that give Adventism its unique place in Christian history.” That is the point to keep in mind in the development of any new doctrine in Adventism. Clearly the development of the trinity doctrine negates this emphasis as it contradicts the 1872 fundamental principles, the collective faith of the pioneers (EGW included) and the writings of EGW.

Still on present truth, it could have been beneficial for the author to separate the idea of present truth from that of a statement of beliefs. The statement of beliefs is set from the beginning. It has some points which are present truth but it goes beyond that. It encapsulates all that is believed. This is the statement of the pillars of Adventist faith from the beginning. Change is allowable only by way of addition of new light, which is clarification of existing belief points, but never to discard and contradict old light.

As we have seen, before, and as the author clearly confirms, EGW taught against any such contradictory change to the pillars of faith of Adventism, also called the fundamental principles.

Yet present truth is what the people of God are required to do or proclaim at a particular time in the unfolding of events towards the imminent return of Christ. Present truth is not a change in the statement of beliefs, but a specific emphasis of action suitable for the prophetic time.

For example, while leaving Egypt was present truth for Moses, proclaiming the gospel was present truth for Stephen. Yet Stephen, in proclaiming his present truth narrates the exodus experience, believing in it. Therefore, Stephen believed in the work of Moses, which was present truth to Moses, but not to Stephen. This difference between present truth and statement of beliefs, the author failed to account for.

It is disputable as to whether there is any significant present duty now that was not there during the time of the pioneers. The set of present truth points of the pioneers are still exactly the same as for this time, that is the three angels’ messages in their different aspects.

15       Demonstrating the harmonisation of EGW’s writings

The author uses his own interpretation of what is and is not trinitarian, when there are no conclusive definitive arguments that these statements are really so. The author cites one example found in the book the Desire of Ages.

“Jesus declared, “I am the resurrection, and the life.” IN CHRIST IS LIFE, ORIGINAL, UNBORROWED, UNDERIVED. “He that hath the Son hath life.” The divinity of Christ is the believer’s assurance of eternal life. –The Desire of Ages, p. 530 (1898)” (emphasis added)

Some understand this to mean that if Christ had his life original, unborrowed and underived, then that life could not have come from the Father. This understanding is contrary to what John 5:26 says “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” They understand “original, unborrowed, underived” as a statement of how he did not get life from anyone, but this is about describing the nature of the life he has.

Notice the error of trying to reconcile the Bible with EGW not EGW with the Bible. The Bible says Christ was “given” life by the Father so that the life he has is as the Father has (John 5:26). Therefore, the statement from EGW (in Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived) should be reconciled to the fact of John 5:26, that God gave the same life as His own to His own Son, not reconcile the Bible to EGW. So, the Father has life that is original not a fake, unborrowed that is his own not to be returned to someone, and underived, i.e. self-existent. So, Christ was given the same life, that he may have life as the Father has, original not fake, given not borrowed (his own not to be returned), self-existent not derived. Do we despise God’s ability to give as such to His own beloved only begotten Son?

Now notice the context of EGW’s statement. It is about believers receiving the life of Christ from Christ. Why? Because Christ has an original, unborrowed, underived life given by the Father, he can give us life too.

That is a non-trinitarian statement in the Desire of Ages p. 530. The same can be said about the so called trinitarian statements from EGW, all of them. They all agree with this view that there is One God the Father, He has his only begotten Son, a Son fully divine by being the only begotten Son of God, and they share the same Spirit as they give to those who fully believe in them, and the Spirit is their representative, their personal presence without visible form.

16       Trinitarian worldview and its reliance on assumptions

The author could have dissociated himself from a trinitarian assumptive worldview to avoid the human constructions that trinitarians normally apply to scripture. Let us illustrate these human constructions (assumptions) that trinitarians use. A good example is the trinitarian interpretation of Matthew 28:19 with respect to the Spirit of God.

Matthew 28:19 reads as follows. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” An honest simple reading of this verse, if without prior bias, leaves one with a simple point. The point is that the name of the Spirit of God is included in the baptism of converts. That is all. There is nothing about equality of God the Father with His Spirit in the text itself. That equality comes in the mind of the reader, if of trinitarian thinking.

Now, please notice this. After reading this simple verse, the trinitarian mind goes into speculation about what it means that the Spirit of God is mentioned together as a name in baptism. To deal with that, the trinitarian mind makes up a premise, purely from human logic. The premise is that, ‘if the Spirit of God is named in baptism, in which God the Father is named, then the Spirit of God is equal to God the Father. Notice that this premise is not anywhere found in the Bible, not even the basis for it, but purely as an assumption.

If the trinitarian mind could ask itself, is it true, according to the Bible, that when the Spirit of God is mentioned together with God pertaining to that which God does, then that does have existential implications? In other words, does that mean that God the Father is the same nature, equal to and separate from His Spirit? The answer obviously is not so. The premise is an assumption not found in scripture, but in human constructions.

This same question applies to 2 Corinthians 13:14, 1 John 5:7, and other verses where the Spirit is said to have done something or have an emotion of some sort or plays a role in the plan of salvation. Does the fact that the Spirit of God is grieved, speaks, thinks, etc. make it an equal to, separate from and of the same nature as the God who has sent it/him?

As you can see, what it takes for trinitarians to assume and see a trinity is the mere mention of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one sentence connected to a certain function or emotion or the attribution of personal characteristics to the Spirit of God. That for example, the Son of God and the Spirit of God are always sent by God, to do the commands of God, on behalf of God, has no meaning to the trinitarian worldview. They cannot see it. Similarly, when EGW writes statements such as heavenly trio, three dignitaries, third person of the godhead, etc. immediately and assumptively, they become trinitarian statements.

The author displays the same tendencies in this article by assuming that EGW started writing trinitarian statements after 1890. The author understood EGW’s statements as trinitarian even though there is no reason to do so outside a trinitarian worldview. Therefore, the inherent trinitarian bias of the author limited his ability to objectively understand what one could consider as the evolution of the trinitarian apostacy in Adventism.

The very speculation on the nature of the Spirit of God, to call it of the same nature, equal to and separate from God is clearly warned against by EGW. It is an application of human construction on the verses about the Spirit.

“The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery. Men cannot explain it, because the Lord has not revealed it to them. Men having fanciful views may bring together passages of Scripture and put a human construction on them, but the acceptance of these views will not strengthen the church. Regarding such mysteries, which are too deep for human understanding, silence is golden.” (YRP 11.3)

Another question is, if a trinitarian worldview is used to understand the bible, but assumed to be correct, where did the trinitarian worldview originate from? With respect to this question some trinitarian writers are honest enough to admit the truth.

“While no single Scripture passage states the doctrine of the Trinity, IT IS ASSUMED AS A FACT… only by faith can we accept the existence of the Trinity.” — (Adventist Review, Vol. 158, No. 31, p. 4) (emphasis added)

“The concept of the Trinity, namely the idea that the three are one, is not explicitly stated BUT ONLY ASSUMED.” — Fernando L. Canale, The Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology, Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopaedia, Volume 12, page 138, ‘Doctrine of God’ (emphasis added)

To put it more graphically, the trinitarian assumption is the same as the ‘duck test’ also called abductive reasoning. They say, if it looks like a duck, if it swims like a duck and if it quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. However, in the duck test, they still stop short of saying emphatically, ‘it is a duck’ for they realise it is still an assumption until it has been objectively verified. With the trinity assumption, there is no such caution. They simply say, if it talks like God, feels like God, and does like God, it MUST BE another God.

17       Consistency of EGW non-trinitarian statements

To highlight the author’s trinitarian bias, here are a few of EGW’s statements that are completely non-trinitarian. To show that EGW did not change, and to show the harmony of her teachings on the trinity question, statements from both the earlier and later years of her ministry are used.

“God informed Satan that to his Son ALONE he would reveal his secret purposes, and he required all the family in heaven, even Satan, to yield him implicit, unquestioned obedience;” — Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, January 9, 1879, Art B, par 9.

“Can anyone consider the condescension of God in preparing the gospel feast, and its great cost, and treat the invitation slightingly? No man, nor even the highest angel, can estimate the great cost; it is known ONLY to the Father and the Son.” — Ellen G. White, The Bible Echo, October 28, 1895, par 4

“The ONLY Being who was one with God lived the law in humanity, descended to the lowly life of a common laborer, and toiled at the carpenter’s bench with His earthly parent.” — Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, October 14, 1897, par 3

“The Father and the Son ALONE are to be exalted.” — Ellen G. White, The Youth’s Instructor, July 7, 1898, par 2

“God and Christ ALONE know what the souls of men have cost.” — Ellen G. White, Signs of the Times, January 13, 1909, par 8

“CHRIST the Word, the only-begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father – one in nature, in character, and in purpose – the ONLY being in all the universe that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. By Christ, the Father wrought in the creation of all heavenly beings.” — Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 493

In these quotations, EGW repeatedly affirms that:

  • Christ was the only being with God
  • The Father and the Son ALONE know the Father’s purposes
  • The Father and the Son alone are to be exalted
  • The Father and the Son are the only beings involved.

These statements cannot be reconciled with the trinity/tritheist belief without making huge speculations and playing on metaphors.

Trinitarians exalt three beings, not two. Yet here, EGW by using the word “ALONE” excludes the Holy Spirit from exaltation, from knowledge and as a being. Why? Because the Spirit is already in both the Father and the Son, not as another being equal to them, but as their spirit, given to the Son by the Father, and given to us by the Father through the Son (John 3:34, 14:16).

The Spirit as the mind of God knows the things of God, as the spirit of man knows the things of man, yet in both cases not as separate beings equal to the possessor of the spirit (1 Corinthians 2:11). Therefore, when speaking of the beings i.e. form of existence, it is possible to exclude the Spirit from the statement as EGW did here.

Let us consider this quotation again.

“The nature of the Holy Spirit is a mystery; it is not clearly revealed, and you will never be able to explain it to others, because the Lord has not revealed it to you… (Lt7-1891.13) …”it is not essential for you to know and be able to define just what the Holy Spirit is…. (Lt7-1891.14)

Notice that if the nature of the Holy Spirit cannot be understood, yet trinitarians and tritheists alike state decidedly that the Spirit is the same nature as the Father and the Son, a being equal and separate from the Father and the Son, they are actually claiming to have understood the nature of the Spirit.

“Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and lucifer, that glorious angel, got up a warfare over the matter, until he had to be thrust down to the earth. (Ms86-1910 (August 21, 1910) par. 30)

“This fact the [fallen] angels would obscure, that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and they came to consider that they were not to consult Christ. (TDG 128.2)

Notice that while trinitarians and tritheists either deny the sonship of Christ or make it a metaphor, here it is presented as the reason for rebellion of lucifer, i.e. a real sonship and a fact.

We could explore more of these not trinitarian quotations. Suffice to say, these EGW statements were not given a part to play in the thesis developed by the author about Adventist change on the trinity question.

18       Summary

Author’s claim/implicationCorrect position
Pioneers had no defined collective doctrinal standing on the trinity question.The earlier writings of EGW and the 1872 fundamental principles were a record of the collective position of the church at that time, and in them they rejected the trinity doctrine as unscriptural.
Development of the doctrine of who God is continued after 1850.The doctrine of who God is, like other fundamental pillars of Adventist faith was settled before 1850 and was unanimously defended by all pioneers thereafter.
During her early years, EGW did not write revelation from God, but she simply followed the writings of J. White and J. Bates.EGW says she has always written what Christ bid her to write.
EGW took a leadership in the change to a trinity doctrine.EGW never changed her position.
EGW made trinitarian statements.EGW made non-trinitarian statements which are in agreement with the 1872 fundamental principles, the pioneers’ writings and the Bible.
The pioneers were in error with respect to the divinity of Christ.The pioneers fully upheld the divinity of Christ together with his literal sonship, which positions they did not see as contradicting, as the trinitarian author did.
EGW’s error on the personality of the Holy Spirit may have led to the Kellogg apostacy and the Holy Flesh movement.EGW did not have an error at any time with respect to this subject and she condemned and wrote extensively against Kellogg’s and Holy Flesh movement’s errors.
Clarifying a doctrine can lead to an opposite and contradictory doctrine.EGW says new light never contradicts the old light.
Present truth is the statement of beliefs.Present truth is different from a statement of beliefs.
The paper selectively used evidence to support a predetermined idea of change towards trinitarianism.The paper could consider many EGW statements which are decidedly non-trinitarian and attempt to harmonise her writings across her entire lifetime.
The analysis performed by the author is subjective and biased.The author could simply analyse the evidence where EGW herself maintains that she never changed, which is more reliable than other people’s opinions about her.

19       Conclusion

This paper set out to critique George R. Knight’s article by comparing his opinions to the facts and evidence. It has been clearly demonstrated that the author had extreme bias in both the collection and analysis of evidence pertaining to the true pioneer doctrinal beliefs and the writings of EGW. Moreso, that the author did not attempt to synthesise the collective position of the pioneer SDA Church on the trinity question and the identity of the God they worshipped as explained in the earlier writings of EGW and the 1872 fundamental principles. In addition, the trinitarian viewpoint of the author caused failure to see what the pioneers actually believed on the three doctrinal points vis-à-vis the oneness of God, the divinity and literal sonship of Christ, and, the spirituality of the Spirit.

The author also used a very subjective method to analyse evidence, despite the objective methods clearly available to one interrogating this subject. The best method would have been simply to ask EGW if there was ever a change in her writings on any topic. It would have been more logical to harmonise EGW’s writings as she required of her readers than to impose on them a process of change from non-trinitarian to a trinitarian position.

The author also failed to distinguish between that which EGW believed personally prior to revelation and that which was revealed to her by God.

Lastly, it is disturbing to those who believe in all of EGW’s writings as inspired writings to note that the author made statements which suggests that he does not believe in the inspiration of some of EGWs writings.

The truth is that EGW never changed her views on the trinity. All the writings can be harmonised into a simple non-trinitarian viewpoint, and in harmony with the collective viewpoint of the pioneers.

We therefore conclude that the trinity doctrine truly evolved and transformed the Adventist pillars of faith radically, enough to repel the pioneers if they were alive today. However, that such an evolution and transformation had the support, let alone the leadership of EGW is a complete fallacy, designed to pave the way for the acceptance of the trinity doctrine by unsuspecting readers.

[i] Ministry Magazine. 2020. Ministry magazine. Available at

[ii] Ellen Gould White Estate. 2020. Questions and Answers About Ellen G. White. Available at

A short answer about the third person/personality of divinity

Please read the Chapman letter, MR14 No 1107, p176-180.

In short, Chapman wrote to EGW saying that the Holy Spirit is not Christ as the brethren (pioneers) believed, and EGW wrote back to Bro Chapman asking him to be in harmony with this teaching, i.e. THE HOLY SPIRIT IS CHRIST HIMSELF.

So how is it that they all including EGW agreed that the Holy Spirit is Christ?

The simple answer is that a spirit is the person/personality/character/power/presence of the one who possesses that spirit. What the spirit does, hears, says, feels, etc. that is the one who possesses the spirit, not another being equal to and separate from the possessor of the spirit (which would be spiritualism, yes trinitarianism is based on the same platform as spiritualism, i.e. that a spirit is a being equal to, independent of and separate from its possessor).

Further, the Spirit of God, after the cross had a role/person/personality/presence/power that never existed before then. It was the promised Spirit that dwells in believers ONLY, which is Christ in us, hence the third personality/person of divinity. Notice that, although the Spirit of God was there throughout the OT in all the prophets, yet the prophets having themselves the same Spirit, promised the Spirit to come. Why would the Spirit come if the Spirit is already with the prophets?

The answer is, prior to Christ’s first advent (i.e. incarnation), there never existed a fully divine and fully human being in the universe. God did not create such from the beginning. It was made necessary by the fall of man, to save man from sin. It is by this, combination of two forms of existence to form one being, a god-human, that we are saved by being transformed into the same, i.e. partaking of divinity (2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature…), to be called the sons of God (Galatians 4:4-6). The Spirit of the Son of God (which Christ received from his Father, the GREAT SOURCE OF ALL) who is the Son of Man is the third person/personality/officework/role of divinity.

Thus Christ had to present himself before the Father and be accepted by the Father as a human, before the Spirit, the life of his life, could be sent to us. That’s a different role never played by the Spirit ever before. That’s why all references to the third person by EGW relate to baptism and sanctification in the Christian life, never before that.

“Christ gives them the life of His life. The Holy Spirit puts forth its highest energies to work in mind and heart. Through the grace given us we may achieve victories which, because of our defects of character and the smallness of our faith, may have seemed to us impossible.” {HP 62.4}

This is the message of righteousness by faith that the church rejected and has failed to understand to this date. Rejection of the righteousness by faith message led the church down the trinity route, beginning with the alpha of apostacy, pantheism (by the way both pantheism and the trinity uphold spiritualism, the idea that a spirit of a being is another being equal to, separate from, independent of and of the same nature as the possessor of the spirit. That’s why the pioneers referred to trinitarians as spiritualisers (James White, The Day Star, January 24, 1846)).


For more please watch this video.

Discrepancies concerning the Holy Spirit –

Matthew 28:19 and the Holy Spirit –

Allos, heteros and the third person –

Thoughts on Matthew 28:19 –

Thoughts on the word Elohim –

Also check out this article:

Happy to discuss more.

God bless you all.