Great truths are dearly bought. The common truth,
Such as men give and take from day to day,
Comes in the common walk of easy life,
Blown by the careless wind across our way.
Great truths are dearly won; not found by chance,
Nor wafted on the breath of summer dream;
But grasped in the struggle of the soul,
Hard buffeting with adverse wind and stream.
Truth springs like harvest from the well-ploughed fields,
Rewarding patient toil, and faith, and zeal.
To those thus seeking her, she ever yields
Her richest treasures for their lasting weal.
Longfellow (Part of)..
||THE CENTRAL DOGMA OF CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY
The Trinity Doctrine is a great truth of Scripture that must be proclaimed but it must also be protected. Ever since New Testament times it has been attacked, distorted, and discredited. It is a basic teaching of Scripture and therefore seems to come in for special attention. Other authorities have been brought in to try and override Scripture in an endeavour to undermine the doctrine and this has been done among groups such as the Jehovah's Witnesses (the Watch Tower Prophet) and Mormons (Joseph Smith). Unfortunately, Ellen G. White has been used by some Seventh-day Adventists to try and bring about a similar result. This is distressing to faithful Seventh-day Adventists.
As for me, when I left the Jehovah's Witnesses, I determined that nothing would ever again come between the Bible and me. The Watch Tower had been a teaching wedge driven between the Bible and me by the Jehovah's Witnesses - so I know the danger and the error of allowing something other than the Bible to be my teacher.
Because the Roman Catholic Church has claimed that the Trinity Doctrine is at the centre of it's teachings, many have scoffed at Seventh-day Adventists who support the doctrine (the true one). These scoffers don't seem to know that other groups make the same claim.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church,
Oxford University Press, 2005, describes the Trinity as
"the central dogma of Christian theology."
||ELLEN G. WHITE AND AUTHORITY FOR DOCTRINE
All sorts of things have been written about this dear lady. To some her writings are on a par with the Bible. To others she was an inspired Commentator on the Bible. To others she was an absolute fake, a phoney. Unfortunately, there are extremists in about everything everywhere. To me, I can only speak of her as a wonderful Christian lady who loved God and strived all of her life to serve Him. She was not infallible and never claimed to be, in fact I have found her to be quite human but in a good sense. Her position was that she was a lesser light to lead to the Greater Light (the Bible). She positively asserted that her writings should not be used to determine doctrine.
Silly people have written a lot of silly garbage about Ellen White, particularly on the Internet. My friends, only silly other people take notice of this discrediting nonsense.
Some will think that I am attacking Ellen White, that will sadden me because I am endeavouring to discover the truth about her. Truth and honesty are vitally important to me. If anyone can show me to be in error in the assessments which I make in the following material, I would be most thankful for your advice. I can change, I have had to in the past, and I will change again if I can clearly be shown to be out of harmony with the facts.
||AUTHORITY FOR DOCTRINE ACCORDING TO THE SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST CHURCH
Item 1 of the Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church states:
"In this Word God has committed to man the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrine, and the trustworthy record of God's acts in history."
Surely, that is clear enough, isn't it? But no, if what we have just read is not in agreement with what they want to believe it is never enough for some. What about Ellen White? We move to Item
18 of our Fundamental Beliefs and read:
"Her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction.
They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested."
I have highlighted this last section for emphasis.
Surely, all this is very clear. The writings of Ellen White have their place and are to be appreciated, but they are not the final authority – the final authority is the Bible. Here are a few statements from Ellen White herself on the matter:
||ELLEN WHITE´S OWN SUMMATION OF WHAT HER POSITION WAS AND IS
God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms...Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain "Thus saith the Lord ."
The Great Controversy,
Let all prove their positions from the Scriptures and substantiate every point they claim as truth from the revealed Word of God. Evangelism, page 256
The Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be our creed, the sole bond of union; all who bow to this Holy Word will be in harmony. Our own views and ideas must not control our efforts. Man is fallible, but God's Word is infallible. Instead of wrangling with one another, let men exalt the Lord. Let us meet all opposition as did our Master, saying, "It is written." Let us lift up the banner on which is inscribed, The Bible our rule of faith and discipline.
1 Selected Messages,
Lay Sister White to one side. Do not quote my words again as long as you live until you can obey the Bible. When you make the Bible your food, your meat, and your drink, when you make its principles the elements of your character, you will know better how to receive counsel from God. I exalt the precious Word before you today. Do not repeat what I have said, saying, "Sister White said this," and "Sister White said that." Find out what the Lord God of Israel says, and then do what He commands.
3 Selected Messages,
The testimonies of Sister White should not be carried to the front. God's Word is the unerring Standard. The Testimonies are not to take the place of the Word....Let all prove their positions from the Scriptures and substantiate every point they claim as truth from the revealed Word of God.
Little heed is given to the Bible, and the Lord has given a lesser light to lead men and women to the greater light. 3 Selected Messages, page 30.
The Spirit was not given –nor can it ever be bestowed—to supersede the Bible; for the Scriptures explicitly state that the word of God is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested.
The Great Controversy,
Our position and faith is in the Bible. And never do we want any soul to bring in the Testimonies ahead of the Bible.
[Christ] pointed to the Scriptures as of unquestionable authority, and we should do the same. The Bible is to be presented as the Word of the infinite God, as the end of all controversy and foundation of all faith.
Christ's Object Lessons,
page 39 .
We have established that the Bible is the authority that settles all questions related to doctrine and that there is no other authority which is in legitimate contention with it.
I have shown in other places that the Trinity Doctrine is a doctrine of Scripture – see the rest of this website (www.thetrinitydoctrine.com) for details.
I have also contended that Ellen White was first of all a Trinitarian and then she became a Semi-Arian and later a Trinitarian again. I know something of what she went through for I went through a similar process. Let me explain about Ellen White:
||THE REALLY EARLY ELLEN WHITE WAS A TRINITARIAN
Ellen Gould Harmon was born November 26, 1827. At the age of 9 a stone thrown by a classmate from her school injured her. The injury inhibited her quite considerably – the exact extent is difficult to determine.
On June 26, 1842 Ellen was baptised and accepted into the fellowship of the Methodist Church – this was the fellowship of her family.
Ellen and her family became involved with the 1844 movement and because of this she and her parents and other members of her family were disfellowshiped from the Methodist Church (A Trinitarian Church) in September of 1843.
||EARLY ADVENTISTS AND THE IMAGE OF GOD
Ellen got to know and appreciate James White a young ordained Minister of the Christian Connection a non-Trinitarian group. He also had been part of the 1844 movement - they were married on August 30 1846. She would then have been 18 years of age still.
James and Ellen were now part of the group emerging from the 1844 disappointment which later was organised as the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Presumably, Ellen was still a Trinitarian and James a non-Trinitarian. Although the emphasis of our early believers was on the imminent Second Coming of Jesus, the Judgment, the Ten Commandments, Conditional Immortality, and suchlike, this matter surely needed to be settled. Would James become a Trinitarian, or would Ellen become a Semi-Arian? Or would they perhaps remain as they were?
Was it a mere coincidence, or was there much more to it than that, for James White to write in the Day Star, January 24, 1846, page 25, dismissing the Trinity doctrine "as the old unscriptural Trinitarian creed"? This was a Methodist Creed as can bee seen from pages 206, 207 of
by Whidden, Moon and Reeve, Review and Herald, 2002. This was eight months before the marriage took place. Was this perhaps part of his attempt to condition Ellen away from the Trinity doctrine to his belief? Ellen would still have been a teen-ager at this time.
Methodist Book of Discipline
does have a statement such as James mentioned,
"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts..."
However, my readers may not know that it was common among Trinitarians to acknowledge that God is without body or parts. He has always been acknowledged among Trinitarians as being pure spirit. (John 4:24). This also seems to have caused concern among our early believers because of some referred to as "Spiritualisers" who virtually spiritualised God away. Of course Trinitarians are not guilty of such a foolish thing at all. We recognise that God has all sorts of intelligent qualities and attributes. Here are what some other creeds offered about God, all of them from before the time of James White:
The Thirty-Nine Articles
(Church of England), 1571 –
"There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions..."
The Westminster Confession
of 1646 –
"There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions..."
The Baptist Confession of Faith
of 1689 –
"Who is a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions."
Confession of Faith of the Calvinistic Methodists or the Presbyterians of Wales,
"God is a pure, invisible, self-subsisting Spirit, without body parts, or passions..."
It is not strange to believe that God is pure Spirit, without body or parts.
states most clearly that
"God is spirit."
The Following is from page 27 of
Seventh-day Adventists Believe,
Ministerial Association of the General Conference, 2005:
"God is omnipresent (Ps. 139:7-12; Heb. 4:13), transcending all space. Yet He is fully present in every part of space. He is eternal (Ps. 90:2; Rev. 1:8) exceeding the limits of time, yet is fully present in every moment of time."
James White, and I guess others, were successful in helping persuade the young Ellen White to accept that God does have body parts. How they could reconcile this with the fact that He is plainly said to be Spirit is quite beyond me. A body would place severe limits on God and confine Him to particular places constantly.
Our early leaders were aware of the many statements of Scripture where God is spoken of as having eyes, hands, and suchlike. and they saw them as supporting the concept that God has a body. But they surely must also have been aware that the Bible also points to Him having wings and feathers – see
Expressions such as we have mentioned are very widely acknowledged to be anthropomorphisms. It is not hard to see that such things said of God are metaphorical, designed to help us understand some things about our Omnipresent God who is invisible Spirit.
Our Pioneers were clearly going down a wrong track and for whatever reason Ellen White was now going down the same track with them. I seriously doubt that Herbert Douglas would endorse much of what I am writing but his comments on page 552 of his book
Messenger of the Lord,
Pacific Press, 1998, are applicable to the young Ellen White no matter what the context:
"Ellen Harmon White experienced the same growth patterns as do all men and women. Human beings understand concepts in a step-by-step process, starting early in life-a principle that Jesus and Paul well understood in their eagerness to teach new truth to their hearers. Young Ellen, it seems, did not fully understand, at first, all the implications of her earliest visions. She had to work with the mindset of her time as well as the mental equipment of a teenager."
Now, some of my readers begin to get real worried, am I trying to depreciate Ellen White? Why would I want to do that? I have no reason to want to do such a thing – what I want is the truth about Ellen White and that is not hard to see by anyone willing to accept the truth.
||MY FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH A STATEMENT FROM ELLEN WHITE WHICH BOTHERED ME
Not long after I became an Adventist I was quite astonished to read a statement from Ellen White which says:
"Man was to bear God's image, both in
and in character." (emphasis supplied)
Patriarchs and Prophets,
I was quite puzzled by this. I had recently spent well over a year intensely studying things about God that caused me to become a Trinitarian. Now could I accept that God was much like me to look at? I was busy with other things and didn't understand how the statement related to other matters in Ellen White writings, so for the time being I just let it go at that.
Now I can see this was from the pen of Ellen White who had been conditioned to be a Semi-Arian. God looks something like me? How could a single human look something like the Great Spirit Trinity God who is everywhere present at the same time? The statement of our dear lady does fit the Semi-Arian God quite well, but certainly not the Trinitarian God! Should we not heed the warning of
"To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to?"
It must be accepted that God is unique and that there is really nothing that we can compare Him with in the whole Universe. The plain truth is that God is pure spirit –
God is not like us for a spirit does not have flesh and bones –
In fact God is Omnipresent - in other words, He is everywhere present at the same time (this should not be confused with Pantheism – which claims that God is not only everywhere but is everything).
beautifully describes this attribute of God.
"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?"
"If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depths you are there."
"Am I only a God nearby, declares the LORD, and not a God far away?
"Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him? Declares the LORD.
"Do not I fill heaven and earth? Declares the LORD."
Jeremiah 23:23, 24
The attributes of God are far beyond our complete understanding really. It is clear however that God is everywhere. Yet Scripture says we are made in His image
(Genesis 1:26, 27).
It cannot be physically for God is a spirit of immense, even unlimited, proportions. We have, in a limited way, some of His characteristics, for example the ability to love and to reason. Perhaps when God manifested Himself to the Angels he appeared in a form that He later moulded man into?
In some way we are made in God's image, but does that suggest that He exists in our physical image? Surely we can agree that such a conclusion would be taking the matter too far. Ekkehardt Mueller, of the Biblical Research Institute, provided an interesting article on the subject on pages 5 and 6 of
a Biblical Research Institute Newsletter No 3, dated July 2003. In it Mueller states:
"it seems likely that the image of god primarily has to do with being god's representative as well as with standing in an intimate relationship with God."
He further states that "Genesis 5:1-3
may therefore suggest that the image of God also includes a resemblance of all human faculties and the entire human being with the Lord of the universe."
Is it not true that many are inclined to think of God as sitting on a throne in a place somewhere out there far beyond the Sun? If it was true that God is limited to being in a single place (because He has a body much like ours) we can't help wondering about the rest of the Universe. An Astronomer calculated that if we were to travel from planet Earth to the edge of the known Universe, travelling at the speed of light (186,000 miles per second), it would take us ten billion years to arrive there. The mind boggles as we try to understand how enormously large the Universe is. Would we be able to escape God at the known edge of creation? What about beings on other planets? Is God not involved with them as well as with us? He is involved with the swirling Universes wherever they exist I believe that we would still find Him no matter where we might go. If that is so, what does this say to us about God? It means that we must be careful not to make God too small in our thinking and that conversely it is necessary to think of Him as being infinite.
||HERE ARE A FEW OF THE STATEMENTS OF ELLEN WHITE THAT CONVINCE ME THAT SHE WAS SEMI-ARIAN IN HER EARLY YEARS
This is where many seem to prefer not to go. I want the truth about Ellen G. White. I am willing to go where the truth leads me on this and I invite all those who cherish truth to come with me. Some things that she says will be
often seen the lovely Jesus, that He is a person. I asked Him if His Father was a person and had a form like Himself.
Said Jesus, 'I am the express image of My Father's person.'"
page 77, 1882.
We know that the early Adventists were concerned about Methodist Trinitarians saying God had no body or parts. They thought that to say this was to spiritualise Him away so that He was really nothing. The anxiety of Ellen White to clarify all this is clear.
"I asked Jesus
if His Father had a form
like Himself. He said He had but I could not behold it, for said He, 'If you should once behold the glory of His person you would cease to exist.'"
page 54. This is virtually the same as the previous quote except now we are told that the Father has glory which Jesus did not share.
Similarly, on pages 47, 48 of
Supplement to the Christian Experience and Views of Ellen G. White
(1854) we read that Jesus was able to approach the Father in His Glory but did not share this Himself.
We have to conclude from these statements that Jesus did not share the glory of the Father.
This is not what we would expect from
The fact that Mrs White says she saw in vision that Jesus and the Father are quite separate individuals does not fit with the Trinitarian concept found in Scripture.
"The Lord has shown me that Satan was once an honoured angel in heaven,
next to Jesus Christ."
Volume 1, page 17, 1858.
"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, but that he (Satan) had proved himself unworthy a place in Heaven."
The Spirit of Prophecy,
Volume one, page 22, 1870.
The Trinity doctrine teaches that the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all equal – they are all Omniscient. Ellen White says in
Sermons and Talks
"The one great burden and grief of Jesus, was that
He, with omniscient eye,
was viewing the destruction of Jerusalem."
The earlier statement of Ellen White requires that Jesus was a lesser Person than the Father – He was not. In actual fact they were both Omniscient.
In all of this
Jesus is being revealed as next in line to the Father but not equal with Him. Next in line to Him is Satan. The Holy Spirit has apparently no place at all in her thinking then.
God would reveal His secret purposes to Jesus only –
to the Holy Spirit. As a Trinitarian I believe that all Three are conscious of the purposes of the others automatically.
When Ellen White described the baptism of Christ in 1873 the Holy Spirit is still not yet recognised as a Person:
"The heavens were opened, and beams of glory rested upon the Son of God and assumed the form of a dove, in appearance like burnished gold.
The dove-like form was emblematical of the meekness and gentleness of Christ."
Review and Herald,
January 21, 1873.
We must all surely know that the Dove represented the Holy Spirit – but not in the mind of Ellen White at this time.
All that she was writing fitted perfectly with the teachings of the Semi-Arians. But thankfully God had not finished with her yet – it seems that after 1888 her mind was now open to be educated further in an understanding of things about God.
It was not until in 1897 that Ellen White wrote that the Holy Spirit is
"the third person of the Godhead."
Special Testimonies for Ministers and Workers, series A, No. 10 (1897).
Here are a couple of her
statements on the Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit is a person,
for he beareth witness with our spirits that we are the children of God...The Holy Spirit has a personality; else he could not bear witness to our spirits and with our spirits that we are the children of God. He must be a divine person, else he could not search out the secrets which lie hidden in the mind of God."
pages 616, 617.
"We have been brought together as a school, and we need to realize that
the Holy Spirit, who is as much a person
as God is a person, is walking through these grounds..."
Volume 7, page 299.
At one time Ellen White was convinced that Jesus was the only Person in the Universe who could atone for our sins.
Here is one of her statements on this:
"The Son of God was next in authority to the great Lawgiver. He knew that his life alone could be sufficient to ransom fallen man"
Review and Herald,
December 17, 1872, Para. 1.
Here again we have Jesus next in authority to the Father - not equal in authority. How could it possibly be true that Jesus was the only one who could be an atonement for our sins? What about the Father? What about the Holy Spirit? Ellen White could only say what she did because she held to Semi-Arian concepts.
Roy Adams asks us to
"imagine a situation in which the Being we have come to know as God the Father came to die for us, and the One we have come to know as Jesus stayed back in heaven ... Nothing would have changed except that we would have been calling Each by the name we now use for the Other."
Sabbath School Bible Study Guide,
Lesson for April 10, 2008.
Obviously, any of the Three could have come as the sacrifice but in the wisdom and Counsels of the Trinity Jesus accepted that responsibility.
||A FEW OTHER MATTERS INDICATING THE SEMI-ARIANISM OF ELLEN WHITE
There was a time when Ellen White seemed to believe that Jesus could be obliterated, annihilated:
"Remember that Christ risked all; "tempted like as we are," he staked even his own eternal existence upon the issue of the conflict. Heaven itself was imperiled for our redemption."
The General Conference Bulletin,
"Though Christ humbled Himself to become man, the Godhead was still His own. His Deity could not be lost while He stood faithful and true to His loyalty."
Signs of the Times,
May 10, 1899;
S.D.A. Bible Commentary,
Vol. 5, page 1129
"He became subject to temptation, endangering as it were, His divine attributes. Satan sought, by the constant and curious devices of his cunning, to make Christ yield to temptation."
Letter 5, 1900,
as quoted in the
Seventh-day Adventists Bible Commentary,
Volume 7 page 926.
It seems that she became quite clear on this matter by 1904 when she reversed her belief:
"In Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. When Christ was crucified, it was His human nature that died.
Deity did not sink and die; that would have been impossible.
Letter 280 of 1904
found in the
SDA Bible Commentary,
Vol. 5, page 1113.
||AN IMAGINARY MEETING WITH ELLEN WHITE IN THE FUTURE
As I have already said, I conclude that Ellen White was a Semi-Arian in her early years in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Her statements, that I have offered cannot be reconciled with the Trinity doctrine.
Thankfully she did grow in understanding and consequently changed her stand as she gained a clearer picture of what God is. She unquestionably became a Trinitarian and made many positive statements declaring this fact to be so. Nobody can know whether prior to her death her understanding of God had reached the maximum possible for a human to have. I am of the opinion that she still had things to learn.
I have tried to imagine a conversation I hope to have with Ellen White in heaven. In response to my queries about her early years as an Adventist, this is what I expect she might say:
"I was very young then and somewhat immature. I reported things as I understood them to be. I was no doubt influenced by my husband and other associates and I also had visions from God. I can see now that I had some dreams as well as visions and mistakenly interpreted them to be visions too. As I grew in knowledge and understanding I came to see who Jesus was really and I also came to understand that the Holy Spirit was a Divine Person too. Gradually, I became a Trinitarian and I think I made this very clear in my later writings."
When I asked her about the question of decisions some make when comparing what she says in her early years about God and what the Bible says, she responded:
"There should be no question about it, I have never been commissioned by God to be the arbiter on doctrine. Study the Bible and stand firm on what it says. This is what God expects from each one of us."
||AT THIS POINT I THINK IT WOULD BE HELPFUL TO OFFER WHAT OTHER ADVENTISTS HAVE SAID ABOUT THE EARLY ELLEN WHITE
A few months ago I wrote to a considerable number of Church leaders hoping that they might be able to help me with the dilemma I experienced when comparing the early Ellen White statements on God with her later statements. It had become very clear to me that the early Ellen White was a Semi-Arian but in her later years she was quite clearly a Trinitarian. I wrote to various leaders in Australia but received no response (normally papers on the Trinity that I have circularised have received approval by some Presidents). I received a kind response from the White Estate in the U.S.A., but no real help with the quotations I offered from Ellen White. Gerhard Pfandl of the General Conference Biblical Research Institute offered a small suggestion which I can't see helps really. I will quote from Pfandl a little further on. I sent a copy of my letter to Erwin Gane who has commented that Ellen White was apparently always a Trinitarian – a note about him will appear a little further on. Further, I wrote to Jerry Moon on the matter and two emails from him appear below. I did not have an address for Woodrow Whidden so I asked Moon to either forward a copy of my email on to him or provide me with an email address. I have no idea what happened there, I have heard nothing from Whidden. So here are some comments from these brethren.
of the Biblical Research Institute had a paper
"The Doctrine of the Trinity Among Seventh-day Adventists"
in the Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 17/1, 2006, pages 163, 164. The following is extracted from it. I highlighted some points which I wish to draw special attention to:
"The Position of Ellen G. White During the early decades of our church, Ellen White made statements
that could be interpreted as anti-Trinitarian. She at times referred to the Holy Spirit as "it,"10 and in the context of her description of the fall of Satan, she wrote,
A special light beamed in his [Satan's] countenance, and shone around him brighter and more beautiful than around the other angels; yet Jesus, God's dear Son, had the pre-eminence over all the angelic host. He was one with the Father before the angels were created. Satan was envious of Christ, and gradually assumed command which devolved on Christ alone.
The great Creator assembled the heavenly host, that he
might in the presence of all the angels confer special honor upon his Son .... The Father then made known that it was ordained by himself that Christ, his Son, should be equal with himself;
so that wherever was the presence of his Son, it was his own presence. . . . His Son would carry out His will and
His purposes, but would do nothing of himself alone.
This seems to imply that after the angels were created, they did not know or recognize that Christ was equal with the Father and it took a special "heavenly council" to inform them of this.
On the other hand,
if Christ's equality was a "special honor" which was conferred upon him, the implication is that he was not equal to the Father before that time.
In the book Patriarchs and Prophets (1890)
she wrote, "He [Satan] was beloved and reverenced by the heavenly host, angels delighted to execute his commands, and he was clothed with wisdom and glory above them. Yet the Son of God was exalted above him, as one in power and authority with the Father." Two paragraphs further on
There had been no change in the position or authority of Christ. Lucifer's envy and misrepresentation and his claims to equality with Christ had made necessary a statement of the true position of the Son of God; but this had been the same from the beginning. Many of the angels were, however, blinded by Lucifer's deceptions.
Nevertheless, these kinds of statements are used today to support the semi-Arian position that some Adventists have recently begun to advocate. Could it be that these passages express Ellen White's understanding of Christ's position in heaven at that time and that as time progressed, she received more light, which eventually led to her very clear Trinitarian statements in the late 1890s?"
The early Ellen G. White seems to have been in harmony with her associates who did not believe in the Trinity. The Anti-Trinitarian Adventists today try to carry her early concepts through to the end of her life. I see a clear reversal in her thinking so that later in life she moved from being a non-Trinitarian to being a true Trinitarian. The dissidents try to marry the old Ellen G. White concepts with her later ones as though there was development but no real change. However, as we shall yet see there was considerable change many of her old concepts were left far behind.
Here are two emails from Jerry Moon which are revealing. As Moon says, he and I are not far apart in our conclusions about the early Ellen White.
From: Jerry Moon
To: Max Hatton
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2010 2:09 AM
Subject: RE: The Early Ellen White and Semi-Arianism
Thank you for your article. I just returned from vacation with 200+ unanswered emails. I am interested in your research and will get to it as soon as I can. Meanwhile, I am not dogmatic about EGW's early position, because the data is limited. You may be right.
Your brother in Christ.
From: Jerry Moon
To: Max Hatton
Sent: Thursday, June 17, 2010 9:17 AM
Subject: RE: The Early Ellen White and Semi-Arianism
Dear Brother Hatton,
Please forgive me for taking so long to respond. I have been swamped for months and am still swamped. I don't think our understandings of EGW's early views are that far apart. I said she was not "antitrinitarian," because, unlike some of her colleagues, she never directly criticized the basic idea of the trinity. She may have been "semi-Arian" in her view, because some of her early statements can be taken that way. Her most emphatic statements, like
54-55, are simply statements of what she saw in vision, and do not clearly support either the Arian or Trinitarian views.
"I saw a throne, and on it sat the Father and the Son. I gazed on Jesus' countenance and admired His lovely person. The Father's person I could not behold, for a cloud of glorious light covered Him.
I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself. He said He had,
but I could not behold it, for said He, "If you should once behold the glory of His person, you would cease to exist." Before the throne I saw the Advent people--the church and the world. I saw two companies, one bowed down before the throne, deeply interested, while the other stood uninterested and careless. Those who were bowed before the throne would offer up their prayers and look to Jesus; then He would look to His Father, and appear to be pleading
with Him. A light would come from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the praying company. Then I saw an exceeding bright light come from the Father to the Son, and from the Son it waved over the people before the throne.
The bold sentence above, "I asked Jesus if His Father had a form like Himself. He said He had . . . ." disagreed with the Methodist Episcopal creed, which described God as "without body or parts," but the statement did not disagree with the basic biblical idea of one God in three divine persons.
The part that could seem semi-Arian is that she saw the Father and the Son, but said nothing about the Holy Spirit in this immediate passage. That could be read as evidence that she held a semi-Arian view. Or it could be that she did not yet have any fully-defined view of the Godhead at that time. Since in later life she is clear about the "heavenly trio," it seems likely to me that God simply revealed to her information about the Godhead, little by little. The church had so many issues to accept and change—Sabbath keeping, church organization, and health reform, to name a few. Just choosing a name and forming a legal organization was so controversial it took roughly a decade to reach agreement on—from 1850 to 1860. They barely got the GC organized when God initiated the health reform. I wonder if the issue of the Trinity vs. semi-Arianism would have been just too divisive if it had been confronted directly. Even the matter of not eating pork was sufficiently divisive that it was threatening the unity of the body (1T 206.3 – 207.1).
I wish I had more time to give to this, but I don't have it right now.
Blessings to you,
Associate Professor of Church History
"Seek Knowledge. Affirm Faith. Change the World."
His well known work,
The Arian or Anti-Trinitarian Views Presented in Seventh-day Adventist Literature and the Ellen G. White Answer,
1963, received some criticism from Eric Claude Webster,
Crosscurrents in Adventist Christology,
Peter Lang, Publisher, New York, 1984. Webster says on page 72:
"While Gane comes out in strong support of Ellen White's anti-Arian views against this background it should be noted that his evidence is taken mainly from the period 1890 and beyond."
Assuming that what Webster says is correct, I have to comment that there are two Ellen Whites on the Trinity question. The Semi-Arians are incorrect in accepting her early statements and then trying to push the concepts gained right through her life. It is just as incorrect to accept the concepts from her later life and try to claim that her earlier statements are in harmony with them. If we want the truth we have to accept that Ellen White was a Semi-Arian in her earlier experience with the Adventist Church but became a Trinitarian in her later years. We pass on noting that what Gane says cannot be accepted as support for the claim that the early Ellen White was a Trinitarian.
As we think on these things we need to remember that the spirit of prophecy and other spiritual gifts are always subject to the authority, supervision and correction of Scripture. It is never the other way round.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-21
instructs us as follows:
"Do not put out the Spirit's fire, do not treat prophecy with contempt. Test everything. Hold on to the good."
Anyone who has the Gift of Prophecy is not to be thought of as infallible. Even great men like the Apostles were open to making mistakes. Take the great Apostle Peter as an example. He denied Jesus at the time of the Crucifixion and later was entirely wrong in his relation with the Gentiles. Yes he was wrong but he was corrected and received the correction. Ellen White was wrong on a number of matters. Eventually she was corrected and she accepted the correction. Ellen White was quite wrong in her acceptance of Semi-Arianism in her early experience with our Church group. I cannot be faithful to her as she was then and to Scripture at the same time. I am proud to stand with her in her later experience as a Trinitarian. She stated clearly that she was not infallible and who are we to try and make out that she was?
||SOME MATTERS ON WHICH ELLEN WHITE WAS IN ERROR BUT LATER CHANGED
The following is from Jerry Moon, Andrews University Seminary Studies, No.2, Autumn 2003,
The Adventist Trinity Debate Part 2,
The Role of Ellen G. White:
Evidences for Change
At the core of the debate is the question regarding Ellen White's position and her role in the process of change. Some assume that Ellen White did not change, that she was either always trinitarian or never trinitarian. There is ample evidence, however, that Ellen White's beliefs did change on a number of other issues, so it is entirely plausible that she grew in her understanding of the Godhead as well. When she declared in 1849, "We know we have the truth," she was referring to the beliefs that Sabbatarian Adventists held in distinction from other Christian groups. She did not mean that there was no more truth to be discovered or that Adventists would never need to change any of their views.
The argument that her views did change is based on the recognition that at every stage of life her knowledge of God and His will was a combination of what she had learned through ordinary means such as parental training, church attendance, Bible study, and personal experience, and—after December 1844—what she received through visions. Furthermore, she herself considered her visions as an educational process that continued in cumulative fashion for many years. Consequently, her personal understanding, especially in the earlier years, contained many elements not fully consistent with her later beliefs, because neither her personal Bible study nor her visions had yet called her attention to those inconsistent elements.
For instance, after her first vision in December 1844, she continued to observe Sunday as the Sabbath for almost three more years. She had not yet learned about the seventh-day Sabbath. A second example of a changed view was the discovery of the "time to commence the Sabbath" in 1855. For nine years after they accepted the seventh-day Sabbath, the Whites and most of the Sabbatarian Adventists observed the Sabbath from 6:00 p.m. Friday to 6:00 p.m. Saturday. Not until J. N. Andrews in 1855 demonstrated from Scripture that the biblical Sabbath begins at sunset, did Ellen White very reluctantly acknowledge that for nine years Adventists had been ignorant of the biblical time to begin the Sabbath.
A third example is what Adventists have historically called health reform. Until 1863, most of them, including James and Ellen White, were heavy meat eaters, even slaughtering their own hogs. Not until after basic denominational organization had been achieved, was the attention of the movement called to a broader platform of health principles, including complete proscription of pork products and the strong recommendation of vegetarianism.
In view of these and other areas of conceptual development, it is not particularly surprising that Ellen White should show both development and change in her view of the Godhead.
Other examples could be offered but surely the fact that Ellen White could and did change has been established.
||IN HER MATURE YEARS ELLEN WHITE LEFT FAR BEHIND THE INFERIOR VIEWS OF JESUS THAT SHE ONCE HELD
In her later years she accepted the equality of Jesus with the Father and His eternity and self-existence. I feel compelled to offer some examples and again I will offer points I want to emphasise in highlight:
"Christ is the pre-existent, self-existent Son of God. . . . In speaking of his pre-existence, Christ carries the mind back through dateless ages. He assures us that
there never was a time when he was not in close fellowship with the eternal God."
"He is the eternal self-existent Son."
"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,
"Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity,
God over all, blessed forevermore."
SDA Bible Commentary,
Vol. 5, page 1126.
"When the voice of the angel was heard saying, "Thy Father calls thee," He who had said, "I lay down my life, that I might take it again," "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up," came forth from the grave to life that was in Himself.
Deity did not die. Humanity died,
but Christ now proclaims over the rent sepulcher of Joseph, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." In His divinity Christ possessed the power to break the bonds of death."
SDA Bible Commentary,
Vol. 5, page 1113.
"He was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent. He could pay the ransom for man's freedom.
He is the eternal self-existing Son."
SDA Bible Commentary,
Vol. 5, page 1136.
"These are wonderfully solemn and significant statements. It was the Source of all mercy and pardon, peace and grace,
the self-existent, eternal, unchangeable One,
who visited His exiled servant on the isle that is called Patmos."
SDA Bible Commentary,
Vol. 7, page 955.
There can be no doubt that there is a vast difference between the early and the later Ellen White. She left her earlier immature concepts far behind.
||HERE ARE JUST A FEW OF HER STATEMENTS WHICH REQUIRE US TO ACCEPT THAT IN HER LATER YEARS ELLEN WHITE WAS A CONVINCED TRINITARIAN
"The Godhead was stirred with pity for the race, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit gave themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption."
Australasian Union Conference Record
April 1, 1901.
"The Three Highest Powers in the Universe are pledged to labor with those who will seek to save the lost."
Review and Herald
August 12, 1909.
"God Himself was crucified with Christ, for Christ was one with the Father."
The Faith I Live By
"There are many who have thought that the Father had no part in the suffering of the Son, but this is a mistake. The Father suffered with the Son."
The Signs of the Times,
November 25, 1889, page 706.
I cannot see that the first of the two statements just offered could be made by other than a Trinitarian. I cannot see that it could be made by one who accepts the Tritheistic or non-Trinitarian concepts of the Godhead either. I believe most definitely that those who are responsible for the following statements are true Trinitarians.
"the term Trinity has been found a most fitting way of referring to the one God who has revealed Himself in the Scriptures as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The concept suggests that within the one essence of the Godhead we are to distinguish three persons who are neither three parts nor three modes of God but coequally and coeternally God."
Dr. Raoul Dederen,
The Mystery of the Trinity,
page 8, Adventist Review, August 26, 1993
Dederen made a somewhat similar statement in
Reflections on the Doctrine of the Trinity,
page 16, Andrews University Seminar Studies, Vol. VIII, No. 1 January, 1970:
"we must confess that the trinity is one indivisible God and that the distinctions of the persons do not destroy the divine unity. This unity of God is expressed by saying that he is one substance. Nevertheless, in the divine unity there are three co-eternal and co-equal persons, who, though distinct, are the One undivided and adorable God. This is the doctrine of Scripture."
More recently we have the following statement from Dr. Ekkehardt Mueller of the General Conference Biblical Research Institute:
"We do not believe in three Gods but one God in three persons. These three personalities participate in one substance. In the divine unity there are three coeternal and coequal persons, who, though distinct, are the one undivided God."
Reflections page 9, the Biblical Research Institute Newsletter for July, 2008.
Here is something else that convinces me that the mature Ellen White was a Trinitarian.
She refers to each of the Heavenly Trio as Omnipotent. No one will dispute that the Father is Omnipotent so here are statements from her on the Omnipotence of Jesus and the Holy Spirit:
"He was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent"
SDA Bible Commentary,
Vol. 5, page 1136
"With Christ is Omnipotence"
Volume 15, page 101.
"The omnipotent power of the Holy Spirit is the defense of every contrite soul."
The Desire of Ages,
"He knew that truth, armed with the omnipotence of the Holy Spirit, would conquer in the contest with evil"
Unless my reasoning is faulty, you cannot have three who are Omnipotent unless the Three are members of the Trinity God. That is the single significant exception.
"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.".
Testimonies Series B,
No. 7, pages 62, 63.
Dear reader, the world is full of frauds. Just about everything seems to have been corrupted somehow. The truths of the Bible have been distorted and confused. The Trinity doctrine has not escaped this disfiguring. However, the truths are still there for the diligent seeker to find.
As I have endeavoured to show; some have tried to confuse the writings of Ellen G. White with the Bible. This was never God's intention for her. She was a faithful servant and did her best to serve the Lord that she undoubtedly loved. We do not honour her by making out that she was someone that she really wasn't. We really do honour her when we reveal who she truly was and what her relationship with the Bible really was.
Some have presented what is really a mythical Ellen White and we must not get carried away with the myth. We need to know the truth on this matter and as Scripture says, the truth will set us free. The evidence for the truth is there and I have tried to unravel and reveal it to the best of my limited ability. I trust that what I have presented is clear enough for ordinary readers.
Please do not forget that I would appreciate any genuine suggestions where I might be thought to be in error.
Iposture shrinks from light
And dreads the curious eye
But sacred truths the tests invite
They bid us search and try.