From your response you obviously do not believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, so I suppose you will have a problem with any definition that incorporates three distinct persons. The SDA position (which is the subject of this thread) can be summed up this way:
"The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight.
The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested. The Word of God declares Him to be “the express image of His person.” “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Here is shown the personality of the Father.
The Comforter that Christ promised to send after He ascended to heaven, is the Spirit in all the fullness of the Godhead, making manifest the power of divine grace to all who receive and believe in Christ as a personal Saviour. There are three living persons of the heavenly trio; in the name of these three great powers—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—those who receive Christ by living faith are baptized, and these powers will co-operate with the obedient subjects of heaven in their efforts to live the new life in Christ."
(Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 7, pp. 62, 63. (1905))
For Joseph Bates the Trinity was an unscriptural doctrine, for James White it was that "old Trinitarian absurdity," and for M. E. Cornell it was a fruit of the great apostasy, along with such false doctrines as Sunday-keeping and the immortality of the soul.
For J. N. Andrews "the Son of God ... had God for His Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have beginning of days." And E. J. Waggoner, of Minneapolis 1888 fame, penned in 1890 that "there was a time when Christ proceeded forth and came from God,... but that time was so far back in the days of eternity that to finite comprehension it is practically without beginning."
Uriah Smith, not only was anti- Trinitarian and semi-Arian, like so many of his colleagues, but also like them pictured the Holy Spirit as "that divine, mysterious emanation through which They [the Father and the Son] carry forward their great and infinite work." On another occasion, Smith pictured the Holy Spirit as a "divine influence" and not a "person like the Father and the Son."
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. Those misconceptions also probably helped set some Adventists up for the holy flesh heresy by the end of the 1890s
The decade of the 1890s, fortunately, also witnessed a positive shift in Adventist theological focus in areas related to the Godhead. That shift found its roots in the Minneapolis General Conference session of 1888. The 1888 meetings had reemphasized Jesus and His saving righteousness areas of theological thought that Adventists had tended to downplay between the late 1840s and 1888.
The renewed emphasis on Jesus and His saving righteousness, however, called for views of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, and the divine nature of Christ adequate to serve as a theological basis for the new soteriology. 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.
Whereas before the Minneapolis meetings she had not been explicit in setting forth her views on the Trinity, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, and the divine nature of Christ, during the next two decades she would speak with great clarity on those topics. Thus she would uplift the "three living persons of the heavenly trio," stipulate that "the Holy Spirit... is as much a person as God [the Father] is a person," and repeatedly indicate that "Christ is the preexistent, self-existent Son of God." 6
Perhaps her most famous or infamous statement on the divine nature of Christ was published in The Desire of Ages in 1898. "In Christ," she penned, "is life, original, unborrowed, underived." 7
That same year also saw the publication of Looking Unto Jesus, by Uriah Smith. According to Smith, "God [the Father] alone is without beginning. At the earliest epoch when a beginning could be a period so remote that to finite minds it is essentially eternity appeared the Word." Thus on this topic Smith was in harmony with one of his archrivals, E. J. Waggoner, who had published the exact sentiments earlier in the decade.8
Not only was Ellen White out of step with Adventist theology, but her newly crystallized ideas shook up some of the brethren. One of those was young M. L. Andreasen, who later recalled "how astonished we were when Desire of Ages was first published, for it contained some things that we considered unbelievable; among others the doctrine of the Trinity, which was not generally accepted by the Adventists then."
Being suspicious that perhaps some one had been taking undue license in "editing" her writings, Andreasen later read nearly all Ellen White's handwritten material. "I was particularly interested," he recalled, "in the statement in Desire of Ages which at one time caused great concern to the denomination theologically: 'In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived' (p. 530). That statement may not seem very revolutionary to you, but to us it was. We could hardly believe it. ... I was sure Sister White had never written, 'In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived.' But now I found it in her own handwriting just as it had been published." 9
Theological change generally brings pain to those involved, but various individuals respond to it in different ways. Some, such as Andreasen, were able eventually to accommodate to the "new theology."
Others, however, found accommodation impossible. One such was J. S. Washburn, a retired minister who in 1939 published a pamphlet in which he noted that the doctrine of the Trinity was "a cruel heathen monstrosity," "an impossible, absurd invention," "a blasphemous burlesque," and "a bungling, ab surd, irreverent caricature." Beyond that, it was a "Roman doctrine" that was "seeking to intrude its evil presence into the teachings of the third angel's message." Washburn also claimed that W. W. Prescott could not be a Seventh-day Adventist because he believed in the Trinity. 10
One conference president was so impressed with the Washburn pamphlet that he ordered 32 copies to distribute to his ministers. Meanwhile, the Arian views set forth in Uriah Smith's Daniel and the Revelation were not removed until the mid-1940s. 11
By now it should be obvious to our readers that Adventism has experienced major theological change across the course of its history and that Ellen White had a role in that change. That brings us to this question: Did Ellen White as an individual experience changes in her teachings and/or beliefs across the seven decades of her ministry?
Claims on both sides of that question are seemingly aired with increasing frequency, probably in reaction to the alter native positions. I would like to suggest that both sides of the dialogue capture a part of the truth, but that neither has all of it.
Before looking at the question itself, we must first acknowledge that Mrs. White left herself open to the possibility of change. For example, in 1906 she wrote: "For sixty years I have been in communication with heavenly messengers, and I have been constantly learning in reference to divine things." 12 The truth of that statement seems to be reflected in the increasing complexity and sophistication set forth in the various stages of the Conflict of the Ages story as she wrote and rewrote it from the late 1850s up through the time of her death in 1915.
Beyond her willingness to grow, even in theological truth, 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. 13
Again, in 1903 she noted that at a council held in her house she "spoke words which gave liberty for certain things to be done in a certain place." For that, she added, "I was reproved by the Lord. ... As soon as possible I wrote a letter saying I had been wrong in sanctioning these plans, that God did not endorse them." A similar situation can be found in counsel, relating to the Southern Publishing Association, that she had to retract. 14
At the very least, this information indicates not only that Ellen White was open to change, but that in her day-to day advice to people she made mistakes and had to revise her counsel as God revealed those mistakes to her.
But, you may be asking, did Mrs. White change any of her ideas related to doctrine and lifestyle? The answer is yes, but that answer needs to reflect the various nuances of the word "change" if we are to understand its implications. It is all too easy to overlook those nuances. The result of such oversight is less than satisfactory in terms of understanding change in Ellen White's writings. Such change needs to be viewed as being of at least three distinct types: (1) clarification, (2) progressive development, and (3) contradiction or reversal.
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, 15 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." 16 The change in the above sequence is a change from ambiguity to clarity.
A second type of change that we find in Ellen White's ideas across time is that of progressive development. An illustration of that dynamic can be seen in her approach to the topic of unclean foods.
From at least as early as 1850, some of the Sabbatarian Adventists had been raising the question as to whether it was appropriate to eat swine's flesh. James White hoped to settle the issue once and for all in November 1850 by publishing a powerful argument based on Acts 10 and other passages by which he sought to prove that the use of swine's flesh in the Christian era was quite appropriate. 17 In spite of James's forceful argument, however, the issue refused to die a peaceful death. S. N. Haskell agitated the issue among the Sabbatarians in the late 1850s. Ellen White, in responding to Haskell, urged him not to press his views to the point where they would cause division in the developing church. "I saw," she wrote, "that your views concerning swine's flesh would prove no injury if you have them to yourselves; but in your judgment and opinion you have made this question a test.... If it is the duty of the church to abstain from swine's flesh, God will discover it to more than two or three. He will teach His church their duty. God is leading out a people, not a few separate individuals here and there, one believing this thing, another that. . . . Some run ahead of the angels that are leading this people.... I saw that the angels of God would lead His people no faster than they could receive and act upon the important truths that are communicated to them." To preach the swine's flesh issue at that time, she asserted, would be rushing on "without divine guidance, and thus bring confusion and discord into the ranks." 18
It should be noted that the Whites, along with most other Adventists in the late 1850s, were still using swine's flesh in their diet. As proof of the fact, James scribbled a note on the back of a letter from Ellen in which she was advising a sister to cook swine's flesh for her husband if he desired it. James's note read: "That you may know how we stand on this question, I would say that we have just put down a two-hundred-pound porker." 19
By 1863, however, Ellen White's writings had taken a new position on the swine's flesh issue. "Pork," she penned, "although one of the most common articles of diet, is one of the most injurious. God did not prohibit the Hebrews from eating swine's flesh merely to show His authority, but because it was not a proper article of food for man. . . . God never designed the swine to be eaten under any circumstances." 20
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.
Three things happened that help account for the shift in Ellen White's teaching on this subject. First, a "new disease" (trichinosis) was discovered in hog flesh in the early 1860s and was receiving widespread publicity. Second, the long battle among Adventists over organization was finally concluded with the formation of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in May 1863. 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).21
The time, therefore, was ripe for the third element in the new equation in the Adventist approach to the use of swine's flesh Ellen White's health reform vision of June 6, 1863, which took place less than three weeks after the organization of the General Conference. That vision set forth a broad-based view of health reform that led to new emphases in later Adventism and Mrs. White's writings.
In other words, the changing times had led to changing emphases. Present truth, as the early Adventists saw it, was progressive. (We will have more to say on that topic later in this article.) Ellen White had implied that perspective in her counsel to Haskell in 1858. "God," she wrote, "is leading out a people, not a few separate individuals here and there, one believing this thing, another that. . . . The third angel is leading out and purifying a people. . . . / saw that the angels of God would lead His people no faster than they could receive and act upon the important truths that are communicated to them." 22
By 1863 the time had come for the forward move in the area of health re form, including the use of swine's flesh. Ellen White's counsel modified accordingly.
Meanwhile, her husband and others would be claiming by 1872 that the eating of swine's flesh was a sin. Ellen, on the other hand, never took her husband's extreme position. In 1889 she wrote that "swine's flesh was prohibited by Jesus Christ enshrouded in the billowy cloud." But, she added, in agreement with her 1858 counsel to Haskell, "this is not a test question." For her, as the 1889 passage goes on to indicate, the issue was one of health.23
The difference in the treatment of the use of swine's flesh between the Whites is informative. They both changed their positions, but James took the polar extremes from arguing from the New Testament for the use of swine's flesh in 1850 to condemning it as a sin in 1872. Ellen, on the other hand, avoided both polar positions. Her counsel in 1858 was not one of advocacy for the use of swine's flesh, but that Haskell should not make his views prominent because the church was not ready for that step. Meanwhile, although it appears that she may not have recognized the full implications at the time, her 1858 statement definitely implied that God would lead in the direction of the prohibition of pork from the diet. The way, therefore, was left open for progressive change. On the other hand, her counsel that pork eating was not a test question remained constant across time.
Thus we find two different types of change in the teachings of the Whites on the pork question. James's treatment illustrates contradictory change, while Ellen's illustrates progressive change against the background of the ongoing development of present truth.
Does that mean, we might ask, that Ellen White never experienced contradictory change in her thinking on religious topics? No, but, as the following illustrations demonstrate, it does mean that not all changes found in her writings were contradictory, or reversals. Some were clarifying changes, while others were progressive.
A third type of change in the writings of Ellen White is that of contradiction, or reversal, of her earlier positions. The number of these in doctrinal areas is not numerous, but three come to mind.
The first has to do with October 22, 1844, being the termination date for the 2300 day/year prophecy of Daniel 8:14. 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 be fore 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.24
Another example of contradictory change, or reversal, has to do with Ellen White's understanding of the shut door. 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.25 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. Only gradually could they disentangle error from truth in this aspect of their theology.
Ellen White's changing belief in the shut door had both progressive/clarifying aspects and contradictory aspects. The first of those aspects has to do with her progressive shift in understanding from the shut door being the close of probation to it being the reality that "Jesus had shut the door of the holy place, and no man can open it; and that He had opened the door into the most holy, and no man can shut it." 26 The progressive aspect, of course, had to do with the developing Sabbatarian under standing of the heavenly sanctuary.
But the shut door issue cannot be cleared up merely by calling on progressive/clarifying change. Here we also have an example of contradictory change, or reversal. 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." 27
Her later understanding contradicted that of her earliest years in the post-1844 period. That new understanding gradually came about through comprehending the implications of the Sabbath and sanctuary doctrines for world mission in the context of Revelation 14:6-12 and through her early visions. As with her fellow believers, the shut door misunderstanding took time to resolve itself in her mind.
A third example of contradictory change in the belief system of Ellen White has to do with the time to begin the Sabbath. Early Sabbatarian Adventists were quite divided on this issue, with some holding for sunset, while others believed Sabbath should begin at 6:00 p.m., sunrise, or midnight.
J. N. Andrews was commissioned to study the issue. He read his paper to a conference at Battle Creek in November 1855. His biblical arguments on the sun set position convinced all but a few. Then, at the close of Andrews' presentation, Ellen White was given a vision that confirmed the Bible truth and brought unity among the believers. The vision, penned James White in 1868, "settled the matter with Brother Bates and others, and general harmony has since prevailed among us upon this point." 28
In case some of the enemies of the Seventh-day Adventists were tempted to suggest that that experience was just Ellen White's method of manipulating the believers through her visions, 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.29 Thus she was among the "others," mentioned by her husband in 1868, who needed to be brought into harmony with the body of believers.
These examples indicate that Ellen White was capable of both believing error and growing in her understanding. She knew whereof she spoke in 1906 when she remarked that for the past 60 years she had been "constantly learning in reference to divine things." 30
Joseph Bates and James and Ellen White the founders of Seventh-day Adventism each had a dynamic concept of what they called "present truth." Bates used the phrase as early as 1846 in relation to the Sabbath. At other times he expanded the concept to include the entire message of Revelation 14:6-12. Present truth was the Sabbath, the sanctuary, and related truths.31
James White in 1849, after quoting 2 Peter 1:12 with its use of "present truth," wrote that "in Peter's time there was present truth, or truth applicable to that present time. The Church have [sic] ever had a present truth. The present truth now," he continued, "is that which shows present duty, and the right position for us who are about to witness the time of trouble." He was in definite agreement with Bates as to the content of present truth. The first two angels of Revelation 14 had sounded; now it was time for the third. 32
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." 33 Thus White left the way open for further development of Adventist doctrine.
Ellen White was in harmony with her husband's flexible position. Therefore, while she could categorically claim in 1850 that "we have the truth, we know it; praise the Lord," she could also claim 53 years later that "there will be a development of the understanding, for the truth is capable of constant expansion.... Our exploration of truth is yet incomplete. We have gathered up only a few rays of light." She had earlier noted that what is present truth for one generation might not be present truth, or a "test," for other generations.34
Both Ellen and James White were open to further developments in the search for truth. Thus she was not shocked by the progressive light on the use of swine's flesh or by the revolutionary developments in Adventist theology in the late 1880s and 1890s. Of course, she 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.
The possibility of further developments in present truth was one reason that James White and the other early Adventist believers were opposed to creeds. After all, hadn't many of the Adventist believers in the mid-1840s been cast out of the existing denominations because they had discovered new truth in their Bibles and could not remain quiet about it? Because of such experiences, the early Sabbatarian Adventists held that their only creed should be the Bible.
In 1861 at the meeting at which the Sabbatarians organized their first state conference, John Loughborough high lighted the problem that early Adventists saw in creeds. According to Loughborough, "the first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And, fifth, to commence persecution against such." 35
James White then spoke, noting that "making a creed is setting the stakes, and barring up the way to all future advancement." He complained of some people who through their creed had "marked out a course for the Almighty. They say virtually that the Lord must not do any thing further than what has been marked out in the creed. . . . The Bible," he concluded, "is our creed. We reject everything in the form of a human creed." 36
Following an animated discussion, the conference unanimously voted to adopt a "church covenant" that contained a short statement of fundamental beliefs, on the basis that a church has a responsibility to say something about what it believes to both its members and outsiders, even though it should avoid an inflexible creed.
Since the development of the first conference organization in 1861, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has had only three point-by-point declarations of belief that have achieved any degree of official acceptance, and only one has been voted by a General Conference session. The first was Uriah Smith's 1872 declaration of belief, the second was the 1931 statement of beliefs, and the third is the statement of fundamental beliefs adopted by the General Conference in session in 1980.37
There have been, however, progressively stronger moves to set Adventist beliefs in "creedal cement," but so far those initiatives have been successfully resisted. From the early 1930s through 1980 the 1931 statement of beliefs appeared in the denominational yearbooks and church manuals, thereby giving it some official status in spite of the fact that it was formulated somewhat casually. In 1946 the General Conference in session voted "that no revision of this Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, as it now appears in the Manual, shall be made at any time except at a General Conference session." 38 That vote set the stage for the need for official action of the General Conference in accepting the new statement in 1980. The 1980 action made the statement much more official than anything the church had had previously.
But perhaps the most astounding thing about the 1980 statement of fundamental beliefs is its preamble. The preamble not only begins with the historic Adventist statement that "Seventh-day Adventists accept the Bible as their only creed and hold certain fundamental beliefs to be the teaching of the Holy Scriptures," but also leaves the way open for further revision.
In the spirit of the dynamic nature of the early Adventist concept of present truth, the preamble closes with the fol lowing sentence: "Revision of these statements may be expected at a General Conference session when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller under standing of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God's Holy Word."
That is truly a remarkable statement. As I understand it, however, provision for the possibility of revision was resisted by some I suppose in fear of losing the content of "historic" Adventism. That fear, however, merely high lights misconceptions over the nature of historic Adventism. At its core that phrase includes the distinctive landmark doctrines that formed the foundation of Adventism's uniqueness in the 1840s, and the great gospel truths, recovered in the 1$88 period, that the denomination shares with other evangelical Christians. The problem, of course, is that there are always some who want to multiply the number of landmark doctrines.
Along that line, some argued at Minneapolis and in the 1890s that Adventists needed a creed to protect the "true" position on the law in Galatians and the 10 horns of Daniel. Ellen and W. C. White, after much effort, successfully blocked the creedal drive at that time.39 Yet there are undoubtedly many today who feel that the denomination should have hard-and-fast creedal statements on such varied topics as the human nature of Christ and biblical hermeneutics.
Such movements, should they succeed, might be founded on the best of motives as their proponents seek to protect historic Adventism, but one suspects that in the process of preserving Adventism's historic content they might actually kill its living spirit. Adventism's founders expressed a great deal of wisdom in their understanding of the dynamic nature of present truth and in their claim that "the Bible is our only creed."
James, rather than quoting "a" definition of the trinity and denying that, why not tells us what is wrong with what SDAs believe?
Do SDAs believe in the trinity or the Godhead? Those terms appear in Adventist literature today yet they do not mean the same things. The summary of what the pioneers wrote about trinity does gr
eat disservice to well reasoned and scriptural arguments they brought against the monstrous doctrine of trinity. For example trinity degrades the atonement and denies Christ's Sonship. This doctrine has come not through "progressive revelation" so-called but fraud.
God has not allowed his Word to be changed. There is a curse on those who do try.
Rev 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: 19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
Elijah, did you read IMG 0147.JPG in post above this one. There are places by mistakes of translation or misunderstanding, that certain verses have problems that are not intentional, in various versions. There are also those places where intentional alteration of the original has occurred, as documented in the above attachment referred to from the Companiion Bible.
Also some versions are better than others, some may be better on a certain verse than another version. Even the scriptures say in I Cor. 13:" 9For we know in part, and we prophesy in part."
Most of the essence of the Word is preserved, but corruption has come in, including the trinity doctrine. You obviously have not studied anything but SDA materials on this subject, you haven't studied history from an unbiased viewpoint, your sweeping statements "God has not allowed his Word to be changed," well that happened with Eve in the Garden, she changed God's Word and God allowed it, though He did not approve of it, but warned of such.
Come on, your statements and the trinity doctrine defy the majority of scriptures, history, common sense, the holy spirit in operation, as I have NEVER heard in 42 years of interpretation of tongues and prophesy that I and others have done of any reference to the Trinity or of the Father, Son and holy spirit being referred to together. NEVER! The First Century Church never did anything in three names, only in the name of Jesus Christ, on record. Did all the Apostles disobey and not use the three names? IF that was true, then we might as well forget everything done and said and become buddhists and start chanting.
mistake, meant to read I Corinthians 12, 13 and 14...
Minor spelling error "obedience," not odeience in first sentence above.