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PART 4:

PRE-1915 SDA PIONEERS DEBUNK


MODERN SDA ANTI-TRINITARIANS!!

By Derrick Gillespie

Introduction

It has now come to light that almost every major quote from S.D.A. pioneer
E.G. White that has been claimed (by mainstream Adventists) to be
“Trinitarian” in tone and content has been copied/borrowed directly (with
only slight alterations) from Trinitarian writers of other Protestant Churches.
Interesting indeed!! What is even more interesting is that it was only after SDA
pioneers affirmed, through one of its publishing houses, namely the Pacific Press,
that there is indeed a “BIBLE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY” in 1892, by way of
publishing and endorsing the Trinitarian thesis of the Presbyterian minister Samuel
Spear (For proof CLICK here), that we then see E.G. White starting to not only
increasingly and repeatedly speak of “three persons” of the “Eternal Godhead”, but
(as is now coming to light) heavily quoting Trinitarian writers in expressing
thoughts about the three persons of the Godhead. Remarkable!!

I say this is remarkable, because any one who is properly informed knows that
early SDA pioneers believed that there is no Trinity, that the Holy Spirit was not a
“third person” of three Godhead persons, and that Trinitarianism in all its forms
was a vestige of paganism and Roman Catholicism. It would have been
unthinkable in the earlier years of Adventism to have any SDA writer, much
more Adventism’s chief pioneer and leader (E.G. White), digging around in
Trinitarian literature, not just to speak on non-controversial issues (like
Christian living, or faith, or prayer, etc.), but to ‘borrow’ thoughts and
expressions from Trinitarian writers to DIRECTLY explain matters about the
controversial “three persons” or “three personalities” of the Godhead. Yet, by
the 1890s, after Adventists undeniably started to accept that there are indeed
“three persons” in the Godhead, and that there is indeed a “Bible Doctrine [or
true version] of the Trinity” that we then see Mrs. White confirming the newly
emerging belief, and freely using Trinitarian literature to express truths about
the controversial “threefold Godhead”. This perfectly illustrates that Mrs.
White’s role on doctrinal issues in Adventism was confirmatory not ‘originatory’;
Adventists did not have her as the source of doctrines. Thus after pre-1915
Adventist pioneers started to endorse basic Trinitarianism (despite always rejecting
the idea of the three persons being one being), we then see Mrs. White seeing merit
in Trinitarian expressions of other Protestant writers.

Obviously, because SDAs maintained certain differences between the


traditional Trinitarian viewpoints, despite accepting/endorsing certain basic
Trinitarian ideas, it would not be a strange thing to see Mrs. White making
slight alterations to the thoughts ‘borrowed’ from Trinitarian writers she
quoted from in order to speak about the three persons of the Godhead. But
the bigger picture of her seeing validity in much of what Trinitarian writers
were saying about the three persons of the Godhead is a truth no anti-
Trinitarian alive in Adventism today can escape from, even as they try to bury
their heads in the sand about it, or lamely try to explain away these matters.

This final paper in this series is meant to totally ‘sink the boat’ of those anti-
Trinitarians in the minority in Adventism who seek to be “accusers of the [SDA]
brethren” in the majority who are of the view that indeed basic Trinitarianism is
the correct belief, even if the version taught by the Catholic Church and established
Protestant Churches, as well as certain points in modern Adventism’s explanation
of the Trinity do have certain inherent flaws. Accepting a trinity, or trio, or triad of
the Godhead is not the problem (all orthodox Christians from the first century
onwards believed similarly), but rather it is how one EXPLAINS that threefold
Godhead. But without even delving into that matter (I have already done that in
part 3 For proof CLICK here) let me now share with you examples of E.G. White
‘borrowing’ directly from Trinitarian writers to express the “Bible doctrine of the
Trinity” (to use the 1892 phrase directly from SDA pioneers themselves):

PRO-TRINITARIAN EXPRESSIONS FROM E.G. WHITE

After 1892 Mrs. White borrowed and used several (not all) historic Trinitarian
expressions like, for example, “of one substance” (regarding Father and Son),
“three great powers” and “three great Agencies” (regarding all three Godhead
persons), “third person of the Godhead” (regarding the Holy Spirit), etc., but the
following borrowed expression deserves some attention.
“Three living personalities (or “persons”) of the heavenly Trio”

This borrowed expression is the most interesting because not only does it show that
the Trinitarian writer she ‘borrowed’ it from that he had interchangeably used both
the expressions “three living personalities” and “three living persons” to mean the
same thing, but he used them in the Trinitarian sense, and only Trinitarians at the
time used these expressions regarding the Godhead. The source of this
quotation is undoubtedly taken from a book entitled The Higher Christian Life
(1858) by a Trinitarian writer, William Boardman. This book was found in Mrs.
White’s personal library, and the paragraph she quoted from Boardman on the
“three living persons” of the Godhead speaks of them as existing in an interactive
“society” in the Godhead. Mrs. White later spoke of these “three living persons” or
“personalities” (N.B. she herself also used both expressions she borrowed) as the
“three holiest BEINGS in heaven”, and proves how much she was even more
pointed on how they would be interactive as “beings” (and not united as one
organism or being). Adventism’s earliest post 1892 assent to a trinity was in the
sense of these “three living personalities” being three beings (not one being with
three personalities joined in one substance); a matter Mrs. White was to later
confirm as well.

Adventists were at first (in 1892) hesitant to speak directly of three beings of
the Trinity (despite hinting at no objection to the Spirit being seen as a being),
and seen in the following quote:

" We [Adventists] understand the Trinity, as applied to the Godhead, to consist


of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The two former to be personal, spiritual
beings, eternal and infinite in all their ways and attributes… The Holy Spirit is
the representative of the Deity in all parts of the universe. These supreme Beings
we cannot comprehend or measure…There is certainly nothing incongruous in
the idea of the Spirit being a personal representative, hence saying that the
Spirit' is the representative of the Father and Son does not deny his personality...
He [the Spirit] occupies in our minds an exalted place with Deity …as a supreme
Being"
- Bible Echo & Signs of the Times (Australia), Vol. 7, April 1, 1892, p112

Of course this was a remarkable advancement in thought (considering earlier


Adventist objection to there even being a Trinity in the first place), and more
importantly, 1892 was the same year Adventists were officially endorsing that
there is a “Biblical Trinity” of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, by way of endorsing
Spear’s Trinitarian thesis. For proof CLICK here. This advancement in thought
would be further developed by other pioneers before 1915 (as seen below), and
later confirmed by E.G. White who wrote the clearest regarding “three holiest
beings in heaven”; “beings” that she directed prayer to as the “three Great
Worthies”. Ever keep in mind that you do not direct prayer to a non-existent
individual, and only Trinitarians directed prayer to Father, Son and Holy
Spirit as “three living persons” or “three holiest beings” in Mrs. White’s
lifetime. That is unbeatable.

“God is one [person]. Jesus Christ is one [i.e. another


person]. The Holy Spirit is one [the third person of three].
And these three are one: there is no dissent nor
division among
them.”
-A. T. Jones,
Review and Herald, January 10, 1899, pg.24

Keeping in mind that the above expression “among them”


always indicates three or more beings involved (not just two),
then it is plain evidence that pioneer A.T. Jones had already
come to believe that there is not just a Godhead ‘duo’ of
beings, as anti-Trinitarians in Adventism today desperately
struggle to uphold, but rather that there is a Godhead oneness
of three (not two) beings, otherwise A.T. Jones could never
have spoken about “there is no dissent or division among
them”; he would have instead said no division “between” them.
Notice carefully the years of the following quotes, showing the
clear progression of post-1892 thought in Adventism, and
indicating clearly before 1915 (when Mrs. White died) that the
Adventist version of the Trinity was gradually being accepted
as consisting of three beings united as our God:

1901
"God says, [notice after this whom she means says this]
"Come out from among them, and be ye
separate, . . . and touch not the unclean thing; and I
will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and
ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord
Almighty." [Now notice carefully] This is the pledge of
[not one person, but] the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit [i.e. the *pledge to receive and be a Father to you];
made to you if you will keep your baptismal vow, and
touch not the unclean thing… In order to deal
righteously with the world, as members of the royal
family, children of the heavenly King, Christians must
feel their need of a power, which comes only from
the [three] heavenly agencies that have pledged
themselves to work in man's behalf. After we have
formed a union with the great THREEFOLD POWER
[singular; collective], we shall regard our duty toward
the members of God's family with a sacred
awe.”
-E.G. White, Signs of the Times, June 19, 1901

1906

“You are baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost. You are raised up out of the water to live henceforth in newness of
life--to live a new life. You are born unto God, and you stand under the
sanction and the power of THE THREE HOLIEST *BEINGS IN HEAVEN,
who are able to keep you from falling. You are to reveal that you are dead to
sin; your life is hid with Christ in God. Hidden "with Christ in God,"--
wonderful transformation. This is a most precious promise. When I feel
oppressed, and hardly know how to relate myself toward the work that God
has given me to do, I just *CALL UPON THE THREE GREAT WORTHIES,
and say; You know I cannot do this work in my own strength. You must work
in me, and by me and through me, sanctifying my tongue, sanctifying my
spirit, sanctifying my words, and bringing me into a position where my spirit
shall be susceptible to the movings of the Holy Spirit of God upon my mind
and character. And this is the prayer that every one of us may offer. . .”
-E.G. White, Manuscript Release, Vol.7, pgs. 267, 268 (Ms 95,
1906, pp. 8-12, 14-17; "Lesson from Romans 15," October 20, 1906.)

1909

“There is a trinity, and in it there are three


personalities…We have the Father described in Dan. 7:9,
10…a personality surely…In Rev. 1:13-18 we have the
Son described. He is also a personality… The Holy Spirit
is spoken of throughout Scripture as a personality.
These divine persons are associated in the work of God…
But this union is not one in which individuality is lost…
There is indeed a divine trio, but the Christ of that
Trinity is not a created being as the angels- He was the
“only begotten” of the
Father…”

- Robert Hare, Australasian Union Conference Record,


July 19, 1909

1913

“Seventh-day Adventists [not just myself] believe


[now] in ... the Divine *TRINITY. This Trinity consists
of the Eternal Father… the Lord Jesus Christ… [and]
the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the
Godhead”

- F. M. Wilcox (chief editor), *Review and Herald,


October 9, 1913
We [Adventists] recognize the divine Trinity, the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, each
possessing a distinct and separate personality, but
one in nature and in purpose, so welded together in
this infinite union that the apostle James speaks of
them as "one God." James 2:19. This divine unity is
similar to the unity existing between Christ and the
believer, and between the different believers in
their fellowship in Christ Jesus…”
- F.M. Wilcox, Christ is Very God, Review and
Herald

Nothing beats evidence I think, and it is absolutely amazing to see how anti-
Trinitarians today in Adventism deny and twist, or try to hide from the truth of the
facts as here laid out. It demonstrates that no one is immune from brainwashing
and self-deception; not even anti-Trinitarians.

IS THE ADVENTIST TRINITY TRI-THEISM?


What has been demonstrated so far plainly debunks anti-Trinitarians in Adventism
from the historical standpoint. Let’s see the utter futility of their arguments from
the logical standpoint. They are usually seen attacking the Adventist trinity, which
consists of three beings, as being “unorthodox” and proof of tri-theism. Well, the
truth is that it is unorthodox as believed today and it was unorthodox as believed
by the pioneers between 1892 and up to 1915. So what? Being unorthodox has
never bothered Adventists!! As for the argument of tri-theism it is a straw-man
argument, since:

[1] Opponents to the orthodox Trinity, which consists of one Being with three
persons united in one substance, have also used the “tri-theism” argument against
the belief even when three separate beings are not considered as objects of
worship. This proves that it is all a matter of perspective and is highly subjective

[2] The very same anti-Trinitarians who charge Adventists with worshiping three
Gods, because we see three separate beings in the Godhead, they would be equally
guilty of polytheism or worshipping two Gods, i.e. if the charge they level against
Adventism was indeed correct. They believe in two Godhead beings whom they
direct worship to as Creator, Redeemer, and King of kings.

Usually they try to escape this charge of worshiping two Gods by lamely
explaining that only the Father is God (i.e.supreme), and the Son merely inherited
divine equality (or divine supremacy) and the right to being worshiped as God, but
only by nature, and so that is not really polytheism. But this is simply a case of
“cock mouth kill cock”. You can’t have your cake and eat it. If polytheism is
worshiping and praying to more than one separate beings as God, then using their
same tri-theism arguments against them one could easily overturn their belief in
the worship of Father and Son together. And their appeal to ancient pagan religions
of many gods being the pattern for polytheism in Christianity does not help their
cause either, since many pagans worshiped gods in twos, as separate beings, with
one coming from the other, and ancient pagan religions also worshiped groups of
three separate beings or individuals (even of different genders), often with all
originating from one god. To escape this similarity the anti-Trinitarians in
Adventism would have to admit that similarity does not always mean source, and
this equally applies to the Godhead ‘duo’ of SDA anti-Trinitarians as well as to the
‘trio’ or ‘trinity’ of mainstream Adventists as well. Otherwise they too would be
guilty of polytheism, even as they point the finger
Mind you, this writer is not saying that the historic orthodox Trinity does not have
inherent flaws in certain explanations, nor am I saying that the present unorthodox
version of the Trinity in Adventism does not have certain inherent flaws in certain
explanations, but what is certain is that worshiping two beings as God does not
escape the critic’s charge of polytheism any more than worshiping three beings or
persons as one God. It is time we all wake up to that fact.

Finally I must say that this writer is comfortable with the basic premise as written
so clearly by an Adventist pioneer as early as 1909, when he said:

From the confusing idea of ‘one God in three Gods’ and


‘three Gods in one God’ – the unexplainable dictum of
theology- [i.e. the traditional Catholic Trinity explanation, of a
singular threefold organism/Being or a singular tri-personal
substance] - the enemy gladly leads to what appears to be
a more rational, though not less erroneous idea – that
there is no trinity, and that Christ is merely a created
being. But God’s great plan is clear and logical. There is a
trinity, and in it there are three personalities…We have
the Father described in Dan. 7:9, 10…a personality
surely…In Rev. 1:13-18 we have the Son described. He is
also a personality… The Holy Spirit is spoken of
throughout Scripture as a personality. These divine
persons are associated in the work of God…But this union
is not one in which individuality is lost…There is indeed a
divine trio, but the Christ of that Trinity is not a created
being as the angels- He was the “only begotten” of the
Father…let not the lips of man speak of Christ as a
created being. He is one of the divine trio- the ‘only
begotten Son’ of the
Father…”

- Robert Hare, Australasian Union Conference Record, July 19, 1909

I am comfortable that these three personalities/persons can be called the “three


holiest beings in heaven”, that all three “pledges” to receive and be “a
Father” to us, that, in response, we must “pledge to “serve” all three, and am
comfortable that when we need help it is our privilege to call upon the “three Great
Worthies”; all doctrinal matters confirmed by Adventism’s leading pioneer, E.G.
White. As an Adventist I am comfortable with the basics, and upon this platform I
stand to agitate for a reform in the areas of our mainstream Trinitarian belief, areas
in explanation that admittedly deny other equally important truths; truths like the
historic Christian faith that Jesus is the real and truly begotten Son of the Father
(not just an ‘incarnational Son’), and that both he and the Holy Spirit (though
existing as “eternal heavenly dignitaries”, yet) are of/from the Father, the Great
Source of all (since only he is in-originate and owes his existence to none other).
Amen.