One God, One Lord
The Biblical Basis
for a Doctrine of God

The Bible picture of God.
The loving Father. The obedient Son. One in Spirit.

God the Father
The Son of God
The Son Receives
They are One
The Only Begotten Son
The Eternal Son
The Son's Sacrifice
The Son is Raised
The Spirit of God
The Trinity

Belief in the Begotten
Part I: The Pioneers

Early Adventist Doctrine James White Joseph Bates
Uriah Smith Hull and Cottrell 1888 General Conference
Waggoner's Christology Underwood's Christology Prescott's Christology
Ellen White's Christology History of the Beliefs  

What do we Adventists believe?

"Most of the founders of Seventh-day Adventism would not be able to join the church today if they had to subscribe to the denomination's Fundamental Beliefs. More specifically, most would not be able to agree to belief number 2, which deals with the doctrine of the Trinity." George Knight, Ministry, October 1993, p. 10.

"Adventist beliefs have changed over the years under the impact of 'present truth'. Most startling is the teaching regarding Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord…the Trinitarian understanding of God, now part of our fundamental beliefs, was not generally held by the early Adventsists." William G. Johnsson, Adventist Review, Jan 6, 1994, p. 10.

This is evidenced by the 1874 statement of faith published in the June 4 issue of the Signs of the Times:

1. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual Being, the Creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal; infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by His representative, the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139:7. [Where can I go from Thy spirit? or where can I flee from Thy presence?]

2. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the One by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist…" All 25 points are listed in Appendix A.

Compare this with today's 28 Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church number 2

"There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-eternal Persons."

Most Adventists credit this dramatic change to the influence of progressive revelation from the pen of Ellen White in the last years of her life. Yet she denied any change, insisting that truth does not change nor contradict past truths.

"That which was truth in the beginning is truth now. Although new and important truths appropriate for succeeding generations have been opened to the understanding, the present revealings do not contradict those of the past. Every new truth understood only makes more significant the old." EGW, Review and Herald, March 2, 1886

There has also been no change in the tendency of Adventists to quote her as the ultimate authority in what is truth. But she placed the Bible first in being the standard of truth.

"But don't you quote Sister White. I don't want you ever to quote Sister White until you get your vantage ground where you know where you are. Quote the Bible. Talk the Bible. It is full of meat, full of fatness. Carry it right out in your life, and you will know more Bible than you know now." EGW, April 1, 1901 Battle Creek College Library meeting in Spalding and Magan Collection, p. 174

"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 thier positions from the Scriptures and substantiate every point they claim as truth from the revealed Word of God." Letter 12, 1890 (Ev 256).

"You must bring your creed to the Bible and let the light of the Bible define your creed and show where it comes short and where the difficulty is. The Bible is to be your standard, the living oracles of Jehovah are to be your guide." Faith and Works (1979) p. 77

We must not speculate on the nature of God--what God is,
but we may certainly study God Himself--
who He is,
and what is revealed about Him in Scripture.

"The revelation of Himself that God has given in His Word is for our study. This we may seek to understand. But beyond this we are not to penetrate. . . . None are to indulge in speculation regarding His nature. Here silence is eloquence. The Omniscient One is above discussion." The Faith I Live By p. 40

The study of God and His Son is not a trivial, side-issue.
It is central to our three most distinctive doctrines:

These are embodied in the proclamation of the three angel's messages of Revelation 14:
to "fear God for the hour of His judgment is come" to the heavenly sanctuary,
and "give glory to Him" who raised Jesus Christ His Son from the dead,
and "worship Him who made heaven and earth", the Creator of the first Sabbath..

Not only are the patient saints who deliver the three angel's messages to "keep the commandments of God" (Rev 14:12), but they will also keep "the faith of Jesus" as preserved in His Word.

"We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history." Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, p. 196, 1892.

"When a doctrine is presented that does not meet our minds, we should go to the word of God, seek the Lord in prayer." Gospel Workers, p. 301; Review and Herald Aug 27, 1889

"The only right way would be to sit down as Christians, and investigate the position presented, in the light of God's word, which will reveal truth and unmask error." Review and Herald, June 18, 1889.

"...all should decide from the weight of evidence." 3T, p. 255.

"There are many in the church who take it for granted that they understand what they believe; but, until controversy arises, they do not know their own weakness. When separated from those of like faith and compelled to stand singly and alone to explain their belief, they will be surprised to see how confused are their ideas of what they had accepted as truth. . . . This light should lead us to a diligent study of the Scriptures and a most critical examination of the positions which we hold. . . . Believers are not to rest in suppositions and ill-defined ideas of what constitutes truth. Their faith must be firmly founded upon the word of God so that when the testing time shall come and they are brought before councils to answer for their faith they may be able to give a reason for the hope that is in them, with meekness and fear. . . " God's Amazing Grace, p. 30.

The transformation of Seventh-day Adventist doctrine from a widely held belief in the Son of God begotten of his Father (that remained uncontested for more than 50 years prior to the death of Ellen White) to our current officially proscribed unbegotten second Person of a Triune Godhead was a concerted effort waged against staunch opposition well into the 1940s. Here is the story of that battle.

Early Adventist Doctrine
The formulation of the "foundation of our faith", the "principal points of our faith" was through much prayer and earnest Bible study by the early pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church:

"Many of our people do not realize how firmly the foundation of our faith has been laid. My husband, Elder Joseph Bates, Father Pierce, Elder {Hiram} Edson, and others who were keen, noble, and true, were among those who, after the passing of the time in 1844, searched for the truth as for hidden treasure. I met with them, and we studied and prayed earnestly. Often we remained together until late at night, and sometimes through the entire night, praying for light and studying the Word. Again and again these brethren came together to study the Bible, in order that they might know its meaning, and be prepared to teach it with power. When they came to the point in their study where they said, "We can do nothing more, " the Spirit of the Lord would come upon me, I would be taken off in vision, and a clear explanation of the passages we had been studying would be given me, with instruction as to how we were to labor and teach effectively. Thus light was given that helped us to understand the scriptures in regard to Christ, His mission, and His priesthood. A line of truth extending from that time to the time when we shall enter the city of God, was made plain to me, and I gave to others the instruction that the Lord had given me. During this whole time I could not understand the reasoning of the brethren. My mind was locked, as it were, and I could not comprehend the meaning of the scriptures we were studying. This was one of the greatest sorrows of my life. I was in this condition of mind until all the principal points of our faith were made clear to our minds, in harmony with the Word of God." EGW 1 Selected Messages pp. 206, 207, 1904

It was an understanding of "the scriptures in regard to Christ" that was first made clear. Then, upon this foundational truth, an understanding of "His mission and His priesthood" and "all the principal points of our faith" was made plain to them.

Although "all the principal points of our faith were made clear" by "the Spirit of the Lord" shortly after 1844, it is today suggested that God allowed the important truth of the Trinity to slowly develop some 40 years later. But such a conclusion may be premature. Ellen White said the issues had been fully explored and nothing changed over time.

"That which was truth in the beginning is truth now. Although new and important truths appropriate for succeeding generations have been opened to the understanding, the present revealings do not contradict those of the past. Every new truth understood only makes more significant the old." EGW, Review and Herald, March 2, 1886

This is a plain statement showing that "progressive truth" cannot contradict old truth. New truth can never reverse the position of original truth; the present only enhances the past. Thus, if Ellen White eventually became Trinitarian she would fail her own counsel of holding old truth.

There is no need to speculate when we limit our statements to those in the Bible.
We must compare scripture with scripture, quote the Bible and study His Word!

So what was the "truth in the beginning," what was past truth, what was old truth?
First, it is recognized that the "personality" of God was one of old landmark pillars of faith:

"Those who seek to remove the old landmarks are not holding fast; they are not remembering how they have received and heard. Those who try to bring in theories that would remove the pillars of our faith concerning the sanctuary or concerning the personality of God or of Christ, are working as blind men. They are seeking to bring in uncertainties and to set the people of God adrift without an anchor." EGW, Manuscript Release 760 p. 9.5, 1905

"The statements of God's Word are plain. Plant your feet firmly on the platform of eternal truth. Reject every phase of error, even though it be covered with a semblance of reality, which denies the personality of God and of Christ." EGW, Review & Herald, August 31, 1905

And what "denies the personality of God and Christ" ?

"The doctrine of the Trinity which was established in the church by the council of Nice, A. D. 325. This doctrine destroys the personality of God, and his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." J. N. Andrews, Review & Herald, March 6, 1855

"Here we might mention the Trinity, which does away [with] the personality of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ..." James S. White, Review & Herald, December 11, 1855

James White
This strong anti-Trinitarian position of James White, J.N. Andrews, Loughborough, Bates and others is explained, some maintain, by their association with the Christian Connexion prior to joining the Advent Movement. The Christian Connexion (not the on-line dating service) was a movement that developed out of the Presbyterian Church in 1794 led by Barton Warren Stone who took issue with the Trinity doctrine and argued against it. "Revelation no where declares that there are three persons of the same substance in the one only God; and it is universally acknowledged to be above reason," he proclaimed in his Address to the Christian Churches, 2nd Edition (1821).

Yet James White did believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He included the Doxology "Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost" in his first Hymn book compiled by him in 1849. It wasn't the "threeness" but the "oneness" that he rejected because it destroyed not only their individuality but denied the divine sonship of Christ

In a letter to the Day Star published in the January 24, 1846 issue, James White speaks of-

"A certain class who deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. This class can be no other than those who spiritualize away the existence of the Father and the Son, as two distinct, literal, tangible persons, also a literal Holy city and throne of David…. The way spiritualizers this way have disposed of or denied the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ is first using the old unscriptural trinitarian creed, viz, that Jesus Christ is the eternal God, though they have not one passage to support it, while we have plain scripture testimony in abundance that He is the Son of the eternal God"

"To assert that the saying of the Son and His apostles are the commandments of the Father is as wide from the truth as the old trinitarian absurdity that Jesus Christ is the very and eternal God." James White, Aug 5, 1852 Review & Herald vol. 3, no. 7, p. 52, par. 16

Some formulations of the Trinity include expressions such as "three persons in one being." James evidently did not believe that the Son of God was the same being as his eternal Father. Even more examples of the language used during these early years can be found within the Advent Review and Sabbath Herald issues beginning with its debut in 1851 published and edited by James White.

"Two testimonies from the Eternal Father, and one from his Son Jesus Christ, are worth more to us than ten thousand from the so called "Christian Fathers," however near the apostolic age they might have lived." Review and Herald, May 5, 1851 p. 4.

Although there was care to preserve the distinction between the Eternal Father and His Son, James had no misgivings about also ascribing to the Son the title of everlasting Father and the God of Abraham.

"Christ is the "everlasting Father" of his people, [Isa ix, 6,] the New Jerusalem the mother, [Gal. iv, 26.] and the members of the church of Christ are the children. Soon the whole family is heaven and in earth will be gathered. The view that the church is the bride of Christ, not only unites by marriage, the father with the children, but the bridegroom with the guests." Revew and Herald, June 9, 1851 p. 7.

"Now, Christ being the Son of Man, the chief man, or second Adam, the man of God's right hand, the heir of all things, is of right Lord even of the Sabbath day." "As Christ proves the resurrection, in Mark xii, 26, 27, "I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob; I am not the God of the dead, but of the living;" so Christ is Lord of the Sabbath day. He is not Lord of the dead types and shadows, or of that which is not in being, but he is Lord of the lively oracles, of which I consider the Sabbath to be one. Acts vii, 38." Review and Herald, September 2, 1851 p. 1

This small sampling of comments dealing with the personhood and Godhead of the Father and Son during just the first year's publication give evidence that there was no objection to these believers in saying that Christ was divine, that he was the Creator, the everlasting Father of his people, heir of all things, the God of the living. However, there is also evidence that they placed a distinction between the Eternal Father, the Ancient of Days, God the Father, Jehovah the Great Law-giver, Almighty God and His Son. It appears that there were some at that time (as some still do today) who promoted a blurring of the Godhead into what some call "the god blob" or as Gerald Wheeler calls it in his book on James White, "merging the members of the Trinity into an amorphous state."

The assumption is that since James White did not accept the Trinity notion of Christ and the Father being the same "Eternal God" then he must also deny Christ's equality with the Father and hence deny Christ's divinity. As we have seen, he had no problem with Christ being equal with his Father; his objection was in making the Son equal to the Father. This he firmly believed was the result the Trinity doctrine. James White, as editor of the Review & Herald, reprinted a portion of the Catholic Doctrinal Catechism in 1854 to demonstrate the papal claims over Scriptural authority and acceptance by Protestants of the papal traditions.

"Q. Have you any other proofs that they [Protestants] are not guided by the Scriptures? "A. Yes; so many that we cannot admit more than a mere specimen into this small work. They reject much that is clearly contained in Scripture, and profess more that is nowhere discoverable in that Divine Book.

"Q. Give some examples of both?
"A. They should, if the Scripture were their only rule, wash the feet of one another, according to the command of Christ, in the 13th chap. of St. John; - they should keep, not the Sunday, but the Saturday, according to the commandment, 'Remember thou keep holy the Sabbath-day;' for this commandment has not, in Scripture, been changed or abrogated.

"Q. Have you any other way of proving that the Church has power to institute festivals of precept?
"A. Had she not such power, she could not have done that in which all modern religionists agree with her; - she could not have substituted the observance of Sunday, the first day of the week, for the observance of Saturday, the seventh day, a change for which there is no Scriptural authority.

"Q. Do you observe other necessary truths as taught by the Church, not clearly laid down in Scripture?
"A. The doctrine of the Trinity, a doctrine the knowledge of which is certainly necessary to salvation, is not explicitly and evidently laid down in Scripture, in the Protestant sense of private interpretation." Review and Herald, August 22, 1854

While we still prominently feature the Catholic Catechism in our evangelistic presentations to support the biblical truth that the little horn power would "think to change times and laws" in changing the sanctity of the Sabbath to the first day of the week as "a mark of her ecclesiastical authority," it is no longer politically correct to also quote the Catechism as a reference in condemning the doctrine of the Trinity for which there is no biblical support. But James White continued to credit the Trinity as one of the basic tenets of the Papacy.

"The greatest fault we can find in the Reformation is, the Reformers stopped reforming. Had they gone on, and onward, till they had left the last vestige of Papacy behind, such as natural immortality, sprinkling, the trinity, and Sunday keeping, the church would now be free from her unscriptural error." James White, Feb 7, 1856 Review & Herald vol. 7, no. 19, p. 148, par. 26.

This lack of scriptural authority is a recurring theme, and is the reason that Catholicism must appeal to tradition. But there were strong convictions expressed by the early Adventist leadership in opposition to the establishment of a "human creed" that might be based on "the traditions and fables of men." During the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist church in 1861, there was much discussion about coming up with a creed. James White opposed what he saw as an attempt to be like other churches.

"But the Seventh-day Adventists have no human creed or discipline, therefore give room for God to teach through the gifts of the Spirit. They ardently desire to cast aside the traditions and fables of men, and keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ. Their weekly practice in keeping the Sabbath is a standing rebuke on the churches and the world, and on almost every point of Bible 'truth they stand in direct opposition to the popular doctrines of the churches. And, besides this, there has been an unceasing testimony among us, warning us to stand out separate from the world." James White, Review & Herald, October 1, 1861

One week later John Loughborough gave the reason why:

"I am still of the opinion I advanced sometime since through the Review:
The first step of apostasy is to set 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.
I plead that we are not patterning after the churches in any unwarrantable sense, in the step proposed." J. N. Loughborough, Review & Herald, October 8, 1861

James White agreed and then said,

"The Bible is our creed. We reject everything in the form of a human creed. We take the Bible and the gifts of the Spirit; embracing the faith that thus the Lord will teach us from time to time. And in this we take a position against the formation of a creed." ibid.

Since the Trinity was based in creed rather than scripture, James White was relentless in his opposition to the notion of a "three-one God."

"Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one as he was one with his Father. This prayer did not contemplate one disciple with twelve heads, but twelve disciples, made one in object and effort in the cause of their master. Neither are the Father and the Son parts of the "three-one God"." James White, 'Life Incidents' page 343 Chapter 'The Law and the Gospel' 1868

"With this view of the subject [that Christ is the very Son of God] there are meaning and force to language which speaks of the Father and the Son. But to say that Jesus Christ "is the very and eternal God," makes him his own son, and his own father, and that he came from himself, and went to himself." James White, Review & Herald, June 6, 1871

Those who believed what Jesus said about himself (that he proceeded from and came out from his Father) had no difficulty with also believing that the Son of God was therefore fully divine, having within him all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. However, others treated a begotten Son to be essentially the same as a created Son because both have a beginning. For some reason, not clearly defined by Scripture, "non-inception" became a prerequisite criterium for meeting the definition of divinity. Consequently, it was a continual struggle to dispel the assumption that believers in the Begotten Son denied his divinity. James objected to such accusations.

"We do not deny the divinity of Christ. We delight in giving full credit to all those strong expressions of Scripture which exalt the Son of God. We believe him to be the divine person addressed by Jehovah in the words, " Let us make man." James White, Review & Herald, June 6, 1871

While most current Adventist Trinitarians exhibit this isolated statement as proof that James had "softened" his position and was now "virtually" Trinitarian, the context of his entire article is one of identifying common ground between Seventh-day Adventists and Seventh-day Baptists. He begins by acknowledging that "The principal difference between the two bodies is the immortality question." But he could honestly say that the divinity of Christ-on the basis of His true Sonship, coming from the Father, inheriting the very same divine nature of God-was no different. The crux of the issue hinged on one's definition of divinity.

The Bible explains the nature of God in terms of His eternal existence and creative power.

"The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth" Isaiah 40:28
"O LORD, are you not from everlasting?" Habakkuk 1:12
"He is blessed from everlasting to everlasting" Psalm 12:13
"From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God" Psalm 90:2
"This God is our God forever and ever" Psalm 48:14
"The high and lofty One who inhabits eternity" Isa. 57:15

The realm of eternity is defined as that which exists before Earth's creation.

"Your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain" Psalm 102:24-26
"Before the mountains were brought forth,
or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world" Ps. 90:2
"From everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was
"Before the mountains were settled, before the hills" Prov 8:23, 25
"Known unto God are all things from the beginning of the world" Acts 15:18

God is eternal because He is immortal.

"The King eternal, immortal" 1Tim 1:17
"Who only has immortality" 1Tim 6:16
"Who is, and was, and is to come" Rev 1:18

God is also distinguished by His immutability: God does not change.

"I am the LORD, I change not" Malachi 3:6
"that the purpose might not be changed" Daniel 6:8, 12, 16, 17
"The Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind" 1 Sam 15:29; Num 23:19
"My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips" Ps. 89:34

It is the divine character, as expressed in His law, that does not change.

Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8)

because His character never changes. But, even though his divine nature does not change, his form did:

from being "made so much better than the angels" (Heb 1:4)
"being in the form of God" (Phil 2:6) was then
"made a little lower than the angels" (Heb 1:9; Ps 8:6)
"being found in fashion as a man" (Phil 2:8).

Jesus "emptied himself" "and the Word became flesh" "God manifest in the flesh". His form is not immutable; his character is. Why should Christ coming out from his Father be a threat to his unchangeable divine character or to his eternal immortality? His "goings forth are from the days of eternity" Micah 5:2 margin. He was "brought forth" "in the beginning of his way, before his works of old" Prov 8:22, 24.

James White never disputed the divinity of Christ. He explained this more fully the following year:

"Paul affirms of the Son of God that he was in the form of God, and that he was equal with God. "Who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Phil. 2:6. The reason why it is not robbery for the Son to be equal with the Father is the fact that he is equal. If the Son is not equal with the Father, then it is robbery for him to rank himself with the Father. James White, Review &Herald November 29,1877, 'Christ Equal with God'

This unmistakable confession of equality for the Son with the Father is not a concession to his growing acceptance of the Trinity because it is followed in the same article by this:

"The inexplicable Trinity that makes the Godhead three in one and one in three, is bad enough; but that ultra Unitarianism that makes Christ inferior to the Father is worse."

"The great mistake of the Unitarian is in taking Christ when enfeebled with our nature as the standard of what he was with the Father before the creation of the world, and what he will be when all divine, seated beside the Father on his eternal throne."

"True, Christ prayed to a superior. This is during the time of his humiliation, when enfeebled by the seed of Abraham. There was no such dependence before he humbled himself that he might reach the feeble sinner in all his weakness and shame. Neither will there be when Christ shall be seated at the right hand of power in Heaven."

"The question of the state of the dead is not a practical subject. And yet we discuss it in order to warn the people against spiritualism. The question of the trinity and the unity is not practical, and yet we call attention to it to guard the people against that terrible heresy that takes from our all-conquering Redeemer his divine power." Ibid, 1877

"In his exaltation, before he humbled himself to the work of redeeming lost sinners, Christ thought it not robbery to be equal with God, because, in the work of creation and the institution of law to govern created intelligences, he was equal with the Father." James White, Review &Herald November 29, 1877

"We believe that Christ was a divine being, not merely in his mission, but in his person also; that his sufferings were penal and his death vicarious." James White, Review & Herald, June 27, 1878

James, once again within the last four years of his life, did not question the truth of Christ's equality with God; it was the Trinitarian notion of making him equal to God (destroying his separate personality) that he fiercely opposed. In this he was in full accordance with Ellen; the only time she ever used the expression "co-equal" was in the setting of his being the Son of God, an emphasis that is difficult to ignore:

"It was to save the transgressor from ruin that he who was co-equal with God, offered up his life on Calvary. 'God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' " Review & Herald June 28, 1892

And, finally, in the year of his death he once again confessed the equality of Christ.

"In his exaltation, before he humbled himself to the work of redeeming lost sinners, Christ thought it not robbery to be equal with God, because in the work of creation and the institution of law to govern created intelligences, he was equal with the Father." James White, Review & Herald January 4, 1881 'The Mind of Christ'

The two ways in which they are equal is "in the work of creation" and the "institution of law." Jesus said to the Jews who objected to his healing on the Sabbath, "My Father works hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God." John 5:17, 18. This is why Jesus also said, "I can of mine own self do nothing." "I do nothing of myself" John 8:28. The Son and Father work together. "We have an advocate with the Father." 1 John 2:1 Both Father and Son are on our case. "The Father Himself loves you" John 16:27.

Notice, however, that he qualifies this equality as pertaining to the shared involvement "in the work of creation and the institution of law." Then, again "on his death bed," in the same article, James once again expressed his life long conviction that the Son of God was indeed born and begotten of God:

"The Father was greater than the Son in that he was first. The Son was equal with the Father in that he had received all things from the Father." Ibid, 1881

It seems odd that this is never quoted by those who would like to demonstrate that James White had a change of heart in his final years, that he discarded his belief in a begotten Son of God and in his final years came to accept the Trinity, forsaking his earlier "Semi-Arian" position. This was clearly not the case.

But truth lies close to the track of error. Current Roman Catholic Catechisms describe the "Blessed Trinity" in the following way, emphasizing the begotten Son and the proceeding Spirit.

"The divine persons are really distinct from one another. They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds." St. Paul's Catachism of the Roman Catholic Church, Strathfield, New South Wales, 1998, Pocket Edition, Complete and Unabridged

Dr. Barry Harker, writing in the ALMA Torch of November 2008 notes that this is "virtually indistinguishable from ideas being promoted in our midst today by those who reject the eternity of the Son and the Holy Spirit."

This is an unfair characterization. Those who reject the Trinitarian doctrines of men do not necessarily reject the eternity of the Son nor the existence of the Holy Spirit. A divine Son (Phi. 2:6; Col. 1:15; 2:9; John 5:23; John 14:9) who comes from (John 7:29; 8:42; 16:27, 28) an Eternal Father (1Tim 1:17) must inherently possess the same eternal immortality (John 5:26) and the same eternal Spirit (Heb 9:14). This is the teaching of scripture.

What is not scriptural in the Catholic version of the Trinity is that the Father is in the process of continually and eternally begetting the Son, a teaching that was adopted in the 4th century to avoid dealing with the problem of the Son's beginning. Stranger still is their notion that the Father "knows" Himself in the same way that Adam "knew" Eve and she conceived, imposing on the divine emergence of the Son of God some sort of human biological mechanism. Scripture does not explain how this happened. The Catholic teaching of a so-called "eternal generation" is only speculation.

Sadly, we "people of the Book" are now fully accepted by the Mother Church as respectable Christians because we have accepted a doctrine for which there is no scriptural teaching.

"The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit." So much in Common, (co-authored by the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the World Council of Churches), p 33,.1968

"While no single scriptural passage states formally the doctrine of the Trinity, it is assumed as a fact by Bible writers and mentioned several times. Only by faith can we accept the existence of the Trinity." Adventist Review, Vol. 158, No. 31, p. 4.


Joseph Bates

"My parents were members of long standing in the Congregational church, with all of their converted children thus far, and anxiously hoped that we would also unite with them. But they embraced some points in their faith which I could not understand. I will name two only: their mode of baptism, and doctrine of the trinity. My father, who had been a deacon of long standing with them, labored to convince me that they were right in points of doctrine. … Respecting the trinity, I concluded that it was an impossibility for me to believe that the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, was also the Almighty God, the Father, one and the same being. I said to my father, "If you can convince me that we are one in this sense, that you are my father, and I your son; and also that I am your father, and you my son, then I can believe in the trinity." The Autobiography Of Elder Joseph Bates, 1868, page 204

Bates tackled the paradox of the Trinity's struggle to maintain a "singleness" of God by asserting there is only one Being, and a "threeness" of a Trinity by asserting there are three persons. In order to avoid falling into the error of polytheism, the Trinity doctrine must maintain that there is only one God Being. Current Adventist models for the Trinity include one version that promotes three Beings, citing a stenographed "recording" of an Ellen White sermon delivered in Oakland, California. But Ellen never wrote and published herself such words. She limited her threeness expressions to "three worthies", "three great powers", "three personalities" as we shall see later. In a letter to William Miller in 1848,

"One thing more: Much derision is made about those of our company that have joined the Shakers. I say it is a shame to them first, to have preached so clearly and distinctly the speedy coming of our Lord Jesus Christ personally to gather his saints - and then to go and join the Shakers in their faith, that he (Jesus) came spiritually in their Mother, Ann Lee, more than seventy years ago. This, without doubt in my mind, is owing to their previous teaching and belief in a doctrine called the trinity. How can you find fault with their faith while you are teaching the very essence of that never - no never to be understood, doctrine? For their comfort and faith, and of course your own, you say "Christ is God, and God is love." As you have given no explanation, we take it to come from you as a literal exposition of the word; …

We believe that Peter and his master settled this question beyond controversy, Matt. 16:13-19; [where Peter confessed that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God."] and I cannot see why Daniel and John has not fully confirmed that Christ is the Son, and, not God the Father. How could Daniel explain his vision of the 7th chapter, if "Christ was God." Here he sees one "like the Son (and it cannot be proved that it was any other person) of man, and there was given him Dominion, and Glory, and a kingdom;" by the Ancient of days. Then John describes one seated on a throne with a book in his right hand, and he distinctly saw Jesus come up to the throne and take the book out of the hand of him that sat thereon. Now if it is possible to make these two entirely different transactions appear in one person, then I could believe that God died and was buried instead of Jesus, and that Paul was mistaken when he said, "Now the God of peace that brought again from the dead out Lord Jesus that great shepherd of the sheep" &c., and that Jesus also did not mean what he said when he asserted that he came from God, and was going to God, &c.&c,; and much more, if necessary, to prove the utter absurdity of such a faith." Past And Present Experience, page 187


Uriah Smith

Uriah Smith who became one of the most prominent figures in the early Adventist movement joined the Sabbatarians in 1852 at the age of 20, following the lead of his sister Annie and parents who were first Millerites in their home state of New Hampshire. The following year James White invited Uriah and Annie to join the staff of the Review and Herald in Rochester, New York. Two years later he became editor, a post he kept for more than 40 years.

Smith was a prolific writer. His first year on the job allowed him to publish a 35,000 word poem he had composed. In 1862 he began presenting a series of articles entitled "Thoughts on Revelation." It is of interest that this version made no comment on Rev. 3:14. But when he published these articles in expanded book form, the first printing included the following comments on the message to Laodicea:

"Moreover he [Christ] is 'the beginning of the creation of God.' Not the beginner, but the beginning, of the creation, the first created being, dating his existence far back before any other created being or thing, next to the self-existent and eternal God. On this expression Barnes makes the following significant admission: 'if it were demonstrated from other sources that Christ was, in fact, a created being, and the first that God had made, it cannot be denied that this language would appropriately express that fact.' " (Uriah Smith, Thoughts Critical and Practical on the Book of Revelation, Battle Creek, Michigan: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1865/7, p. 59).

But Uriah quickly changed his wording (or position) in the next edition, published 10 years later:

"Moreover he is 'the beginning of the creation of God.' Not the beginner, but the beginning, as some under-stand, of the creation, the first created being, dating his existence far back before any other created being or thing, next to the self-existent and eternal God. Others, however take the word to mean…" ibid 1875, p. 66.

In the next edition, which combined his work on Daniel and Revelation, he clarified his advancing understanding of Christ's origins. Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation published in 1882 by Uriah Smith and the 1897 edition contained the following statement regarding the Greek word arche translated as "the beginning"of God's creation:

"Moreover, he is "the beginning of the creation of God." Some attempt by this language to uphold the error that Christ was a created being, dating his existence anterior to that of any other created being or thing, next to the self-existent and eternal God. But the language does not necessarily imply that he was created… Others, however, and more properly we think, take the word to mean the "agent" or "efficient cause," which is one of the definitions of the word, understanding that Christ, is the agent through whom God has created all things, but that the Son came into existence in a different manner, as he is called "the only begotten" of the Father. It would seem utterly inappropriate to apply this expression to any being created in the ordinary sense of that term." Daniel and Revelation p. 371, Para. 2.

Even more so "Uriah Smith's Looking Unto Jesus was the most comprehensive and carefully nuanced exposition of the non-trinitarian view among Adventists." (Jerry Moon, 'The Trinity', chapter 13 'Trinity and anti-trinitarianism in Seventh-day Adventist history' page 196, 2002). That Uriah Smith was indeed non-trinitarian is clearly demonstrated in the following samples:

"God 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. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' John 1:1. This uncreated Word was the Being, who, in the fullness of time, was made flesh, and dwelt among us."
"His beginning was not like that of any other being in the universe. It is set forth in the mysterious expressions, 'his [God's] only begotten Son' (John 3:16; 1 John 4:9), 'the only begotten of the Father' (John 1:14), and 'I proceeded forth and came from God.' John 8:42." "Thus it appears that by some divine impulse or process, not creation, known only to Omniscience, and possible only to Omnipotence, the Son of God appeared."
"And then the Holy Spirit (by an infirmity of translation called 'the Holy Ghost'), the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the divine afflatus and medium of their power, representative of them both (Ps. 139:7), was in existence also." Uriah Smith, 'Looking unto Jesus', 1898, p. 10

"But while as the Son he does not possess a co-eternity of past existence with the Father, the beginning of his existence, as the begotten of the Father, antedates the entire work of creation, in relation to which he stands as joint creator with God. John 1:3; Heb. 1:2. Could not the Father ordain that to such a being worship should be rendered equally with himself, without its being idolatry on the part of the worshiper? He has raised him to positions which make it proper that he should be worshiped, and has even commanded that worship should be rendered him, which would not have been necessary had he been equal with the Father in eternity of existence." Uriah Smith, Daniel and the Revelation, 1897 edition p. 430.

The assertion is frequently made that Smith's belief in a literally begotten Son of God was merely his own personal view, was not shared by the majority of Adventists at that time, and particularly was at odds with Ellen White. However, since he employed the very same texts that Ellen White did as support for his theology, it is quite understandable that Ellen White not only failed to reprove him of his "error" but strongly endorsed the truths he presented.

"Especially should the book Daniel and the Revelation be brought before people as the very book for this time. This book contains the message which all need to read and understand. Translated into many different languages, it will be a power to enlighten the world. This book has had a large sale in Australia and New Zealand. By reading it many souls have come to a knowledge of the truth. I have received many letters expressing appreciation of this book." Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases Volume one, No. 26. page 60, "Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation," MS 174 1899

"Let our canvassers urge this book upon the attention of all. The Lord has shown me that this book will do a good work in enlightening those who become interested in the truth for this time. Those who embrace the truth now, who have not shared in the experiences of those who entered the work in the early history of the message, should study the instruction given in Daniel and the Revelation, becoming familiar with the truth it presents."
"Those who are preparing to enter the ministry, who desire to become successful students of the prophecies, will find Daniel and the Revelation an invaluable help. They need to understand this book. It speaks of past, present, and future, laying out the path so plainly that none need err therein. Those who will diligently study this book will have no relish for the cheap sentiments presented by those who have a burning desire to get out something new and strange to present to the flock of God. The rebuke of God is upon all such teachers. They need that one teach them what is meant by godliness and truth." "The great, essential questions which God would have presented to the people are found in Daniel and the Revelation. There is found solid, eternal truth for this time. Everyone needs the light and information it contains." Ibid page 61

"God desires the light found in the books of Daniel and Revelation to be presented in clear lines. It is painful to think of the many cheap theories picked up and presented to the people by ignorant, unprepared teachers. Those who present their human tests and the nonsensical ideas they have concocted in their own minds, show the character of the goods in their treasure house. They have laid in store shoddy material. Their great desire is to make a sensation."
"As they receive the knowledge contained in this book, they will have in the treasure house of the mind a store from which they can continually draw as they communicate to others the great, essential truths of God's Word." Ibid, page 62

"The interest in Daniel and the Revelation is to continue as long as probationary time shall last. God used the author of this book as a channel through which to communicate light to direct minds to the truth. Shall we not appreciate this light, which points us to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, our King?"
"I speak of this book because it is a means of educating those who need to understand the truth of the Word. This book should be highly appreciated. It covers much of the ground we have been over in our experience. If the youth will study this book and learn for themselves what is truth, they will be saved from many perils."
"Young men, take up the work of canvassing for Daniel and the Revelation. Do all you possibly can to sell this book. Enter upon the work with as much earnestness as if it were a new book. And remember that as you canvass for it, you are to become familiar with the truths it contains." Ibid page 63

"The grand instruction contained in Daniel and Revelation has been eagerly perused by many in Australia. This book has been the means of bringing many precious souls to knowledge of the truth. Everything that can be done should be done to circulate Thoughts on Daniel and the Revelation. I know of no other book that can take the place of this one. It is God's helping hand." (Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases Volume 21 No. 1595 'Words of Instruction Regarding Camp Meetings, Soul Winning, and Truth Filled Books, 1901)

"Instruction has been given me that the important books containing the light that God has given regarding Satan's apostasy in heaven should be given a wide circulation just now; for through them the truth will reach many minds. 'Patriarchs and Prophets,' 'Daniel and the Revelation,' and 'Great Controversy' are needed now as never before." Ellen G. White, Review &Herald February 16, 1905. 'A call for Active Work'

There is no indication here in these recommendations by Ellen White that Uriah Smith's theology was wrong or that he was teaching error. Quite the contrary. She said it contains the message all need to understand as never before; it is God's helping hand, presenting great, essential, eternal truths of God's Word for this time. Her approval of Uriah Smith continued until at least 1905, well after she wrote the Desire of Ages in 1898, her allegedly Trinitarian masterpiece that is said to have dramatically convulsed the Adventist church into mainstream doctrinal orthodoxy in harmony with the rest of the Christian majority.

The 1913 SDA Year Book inside front cover shown here featured both Ellen White and Uriah Smith books now a decade after his death.

As can bee seen by these examples, belief in the begotten Son was pervasive and protracted throughout the years of Ellen White's ministry. Interestingly, today it is generally believed that this was only a "minority view" and that Ellen White intentionally steered the course of Adventist thought toward a solid belief in orthodox Trinitarian dogma by emphasizing the eternal deity of Christ and explicitly identifying "the third person of the Godhead." Today's version of Adventist history pictures her primary protagonist to be Uriah Smith, editor of the Review and Herald, crafter of the Church's 25 Fundamental Beliefs, and author of the "Daniel and the Revelation," an embarrassingly non-trinitarian work that was sold around the world and promoted by the church's three publishing houses and Ellen White herself for at least 70 years.

Ellen White did not oppose Uriah Smith's theology or condemn his explicit statements regarding Christ's Sonship "from the days of eternity" the same expression she herself used (see next section). She did, however, single out Kellogg's Living Temple and openly denounced it at the 1905 General Conference. She also dealt with Albion Ballenger advising him that he was misapplying scripture in teaching that Christ's atonement was finished at the cross and he directly entered the Most Holy place at His ascension.

But no words of reproof, censure, or correction came from her pen to Uriah Smith. By this time Uriah Smith had published numerous articles and books clearly presenting the begotten Son of the Father at "the earliest epoch" of time for over 40 years. Looking Unto Jesus had been off the press for 7 years. Yet Ellen White said nothing to discredit Uriah's ideas about the "person and personality of God"

Uriah Smith's Fundamental Principles
In 1872 the Review and Herald published a "synopsis" of 25 "Fundamental Principles" in pamphlet form which were reprinted in the June 4, 1874 issue of the Review with an introduction that stressed the lack of any creed other than the Bible and that they are and have been held "with great unanimity" by Seventh-day Adventists:

__In presenting to the public this synopsis of our faith, we wish to have it distinctly understood that we have no articles of faith, creed, or discipline, aside from the Bible. We do not put forth this as having any authority with our people, nor is it designed to secure uniformity among them, as a system of faith, but is a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great unanimity, held by them. We often find it necessary to meet inquiries on this subject, and sometimes to correct false statements circulated against us, and to remove erroneous impressions which have obtained with those who have not had an opportunity to become acquainted with our faith and practice. Our only object is to meet this necessity.
__ As Seventh-day Adventists, we desire simply that our position shall be understood; and we are the more solicitous for this be-cause there are many who call themselves Adventists, who hold views with which we can have no sympathy, some of which, we think, are subversive of the plainest and most important princi-ples set forth in the word of God.
  __ As compared with other Adventists, Seventh-day Adventists differ from one class in believing in the unconscious state of thedead, and the final destruction of the unrepentant wicked; from another, in believing in the perpetuity of the law of God, as sum-marily contained in the ten commandments, in the operation of the Holy Spirit in the church, and in setting no times for the advent to occur; from all, in the observance of the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath of the Lord, and in many applications of the prophetic scriptures.
__ With these remarks, we ask the attention of the reader to the following propositions which aim to be a concise statement of the more prominent features of our faith.
__ 1. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchange-able, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps 139:7.
__ 2. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist;

In 1889 it was included, with the first two items unchanged, in the SDA Yearbook.

"As elsewhere stated, Seventh-day Adventists have no creed but the Bible; but they hold to certain well-defined points of faith, for which they feel prepared to give a reason 'to every man that asketh' them. The following propositions may be taken as a summary of the principal features of their religious faith, upon which there is, so far as we know, entire unanimity throughout the body. They believe,--
__I. That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal; infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps. 139:7.
__II. That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom he created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race […]" (Fundamental Principles of Seventh-day Adventists, 1889 SDA Yearbook, p.147, emphasis added)

It did not appear again in a Yearbook until 1905 on page 188:

The same list was reprinted each subsequent year through 1914 when it was attributed to "the late Uriah Smith."

But after Ellen White's death, it did not appear in the Yearbook until 1931. This time there is no mention of "entire unanimity" of these beliefs among the body of believers. But dramatic changes are noticed. The term "Trinity" is introduced as an equivalent alternative to "Godhead." The Lord Jesus Christ is still described as "the Son of the Eternal Father" but now emphasized as "very God."

This version was constructed by F.M. Wilcox, then editor of the Review and Herald. His inclusion of "Trinity" first appeared in a 1913 issue of the Review:

"Seventh-day Adventists believe, - 1 . In the divine Trinity. This Trinity consists of the eternal Father, a personal, spiritual being, omnipotent, omniscient, infinite in power, wisdom, and love; of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the eternal Father, through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the one regenerating agency in the work of redemption." F.M.Wilcox, Review and Herald, October 9, 1913

Now three persons are prominent, yet, without stating that they share one "indivisible substance," it falls short of being fully Trinitarian-only ambiguously Tritheistic: an eternal Father being, a Son and a person-agency. Some evidence therefore exists for the emergence of a different opinion as to just how the Church should express its belief in the Godhead.

There is some evidence that Wilcox was responding to a claim made by James M. Gray, D.D. who published a book in 1913 entitled "Bible Problems Explained."

On page 81 Gray answers a question regarding what Seventh-day Adventists believe.

Top of the list was the denial of the Trinity and consequently the Deity of Christ. Today it would be said, The "Full" Deity. Gray admitted, however, that "this is not stated."

This was not new for Seventh-day Adventists. Ellen White recounted an episode that happened in New Zealand in the 1890s.

"...a school-teacher there opposed the truth, and declared to the people that Seventh-day Adventists did not believe in the divinity of Christ. This man may not have known what our faith is on this point, but he was not left in ignorance. He was informed that there is not a people on earth who hold more firmly to the truth of Christ's pre-existence than do Seventh-day Adventists." Review and Herald, Dec 5, 1893.

Ellen White regarded the truth of Christ's pre-existence as evidence of his divinity. More than any other people on earth, Adventists held to Christ's divinity more firmly because they believed he was Michael the Archangel, the Firstborn of heaven, the divine Son of God. But Wilcox, threatened by James Gray responded by featuring the word Trinity in an obscure list of Adventist beliefs under an article title that would have otherwise given no clue that it contained such a revelation. Forty years later Froom and Anderson would react in a very similar way to the threat of Walter Martin.

It is of interest that another (M.C.) Wilcox, six years later at the 1919 Bible Conference, would state his shared belief in the literal begotten Son of God, who at some point in time in eternity past by some mysterious process came out of the Father--a confession of faith that is a virtual duplicate of Uriah Smith's.

Uriah Smith personally professed his belief in a begotten Son of God, but chose not to incorporate "begotten" into his version of the Fundamental Principles. His reserve demonstrates a desire to avoid provocation and limit each statement to such as could be accepted by all members. The 1992 publication of "Issues" authorized by officers and Union Presidents of the North American Division agreed:

"The nonbinding, noncreedal status of the statement is of special interest. Even more significant, however, is the fact that the statement is distinctly non-trinitarian. Jesus is described as Creator and Redeemer but is nowhere identified as God or as eternal. He simply is "the Son of the eternal Father" ('Issues: The Seventh-day Adventist Church and Certain Private Ministries' page 39, chapter, 'Historic Adventism - Ancient Landmarks and Present Truth', 1992)

The Fundamental Principles remained unchanged from 1872 to 1914, a period of 42 years. Besides the original Review and Herald printing in 1874, it also appeared in the Signs of the Times of Feb. 21, 1878, and Review and Herald of Aug. 22, 1912. Each time with the same prolog declaring that the beliefs were unanimously held among the Seventh-day Adventist people. For over 40 years God and Christ were presented as two separate and distinct personages. The "one God" was "a personal, spiritual being."

There was no concept of a three-in-one Godhead. Smith's list of Fundamental Beliefs were admittedly unauthorized. They had not been voted upon for a reason.


D.W. Hull
In 1859, D. W. Hull authored a two part article in the Review and Herald entitled "Bible Doctrine of Divinity" (November 10, p. 93 and November 17, p. 201). 21-26. Hull, like James White, considered Trinitarianism as professing Monarchianism (concurrent rather than sequential modalism) and then argued against this conclusion. He rejected the notion that the Father could possibly be the same as the Son, or that the Father was the divine part of Christ, and that only the human part of Christ died on Calvary. Waggoner and Cottrell also sided with Hull and White.

"The great mistake of Trinitarians, in arguing this subject, is this: they make no distinction between a denial of a trinity and a denial of the divinity of Christ. They see only the two extremes, between which the truth lies; and make every expression referring to the pre-existence of Christ as evidence of a trinity. The Scriptures abundantly teach the preexistence of Christ and His divinity; but they are entirely silent in regard to a trinity." JH Waggoner, Review and Herald, Nov 10, 1863.

"The Trinity, or the triune God, is unknown to the Bible; and I have entertained the idea that doctrines which require words coined in the human mind to express them, are coined doctrines." R. F. Cottrell, Review & Herald, June 1, 1869


R. F. Cottrell
Cottrell continued to confess his own belief concerning the divinity and oneness of Christ and His Father.

"I believe all that the Scriptures say of him.
If the testimony represents him as being in glory with the Father before the world was,
_____I believe it.
If it is said that he was in the beginning with God, that he was God, that all things were made by him and for him, and that without him was not anything made that was made,
_____I believe it.
If the Scriptures say he is the Son of God,
_____I believe it.
If it is declared that the Father sent his Son into the world,
_____I believe he had a Son to send.
If the testimony says he is the beginning of the creation of God,
_____I believe it.
If he is said to be the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person,
_____I believe it.
And when Jesus says, 'I and my Father are one,'
_____I believe it;
and when he says, 'My Father is greater than I,'
_____I believe that too;
it is the word of the Son of God, and besides this it is perfectly reasonable and seemingly self-evident."

"If I be asked how I believe the Father and Son are one, I reply, They are one in a sense not contrary to sense. If the 'and' in the sentence means anything, the Father and the Son are two beings. They are one in the same sense in which Jesus prayed that his disciples might be one." Review & Herald, June 1, 1869

The following month, Cottrell continued:

"But to hold the doctrine of the trinity is not so much an evidence of evil intention as of intoxication from that wine of which all the nations have drunk. The fact that this was one of the leading doctrines, if not the very chief, upon which the bishop of Rome was exalted to the popedom, does not say much in its favor. This should cause men to investigate it for themselves; " R. F. Cottrell, Review &Herald, July 6, 1869, 'The Trinity'

He referred to the historical fact that it was this very issue of the Trinity that invoked the civil Roman power in 325 AD to once again enforce a religious doctrine of the emerging little horn power. Church and State had just united on the issue of Sunday observance when Constantine empowered the first Sunday law in 321 AD. So also it was over this same issue of the Trinity that the Roman Church waged battle with the three Sabbath-keeping non-trinitarian tribes during the 6th century that led to the State in giving to the Church "its seat, its authority and great power" in 538 AD.

While the development of the Trinity as the foundation of the Roman Church evolved over the span of several centuries following the death of the original apostles, likewise its development was recapitulated within the Advent movement over many decades following the deaths of the early Advent pioneers.

To these leaders in Adventism's early years, the number of beings in the Godhead was less contentious than the nature of Christ's divinity and His status within the Godhead. Even 30 years after the Disappointment, the pioneers were strong proponents of a Bible standard for faith and practice.

"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." Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1885.

Thus the early Adventist pioneers saw no biblical evidence for three persons in one being. They rejected the notion of a Trinity because they believed it either made the Father and Son identical or taught the existence of three Gods.

The Adventist understanding of Christ's divinity was very close to that of the trinitarians; but it was not trinitarian. This was more clearly stated in 1880 by John Harvey Kellogg in the Review as a reply to N. Wardner, a Seventh-day Baptist minister.

"The only grounds upon which our reviewer could be justified in making such a statement would be the supposition on his part that we believe in the doctrine of the trinity; but he very well knows, from positions taken and arguments used in previous articles, that we do not agree with him on this subject any better than on that of the nature of the soul." "We believe in but one Deity, God, who is a unity, not a compound being." "We repell the charge of 'trinitarianism' without the slightest hesitation. We do not believe in a triune God, as before remarked." (J. H. Kellogg, Review and Herald, November 25, 1880)

Notice that at least until 1880 the official published position of Seventh-day Adventists (including Dr. Kellogg, which as we shall see later changed) was non-trinitarian. They feared that belief in a Trinity would diminish the value of Christ's atonement essentially making His death a human sacrifice. Further, His titles as "only begotten Son" and "beginning of the creation of God" (Rev 3:14) suggested a real Son and Father relationship.

The 1888 Minneapolis General Conference
As the Advent Movement converged with the National Day of Rest Movement during the late 1880's, a remarkable revival of Bible study over the nature of Christ took place in the years immediately preceding the 1888 General Conference. Sunday law legislation was before the House of Congress and conditions were ripe for the final fulfillment of prophecy. But the church needed preparation to exemplify "the patience of the saints, who keep the commandments of God AND the faith of Jesus" Rev 14:12. While protestant churches since Luther championed righteousness by faith, they sought to avoid the obligations of the seventh day Sabbath by declaring the law of God nullified, no longer binding, and nailed to the cross. Advent ministers, however, boldly preached the perpetuity of the ten commandments and the creation roots of God's Sabbath yet with such zeal that they became strict legalists without the faith of Jesus.

The General Conference of 1888 became the climax of the movement for that time. The powerful theme of "Righteousness by Faith" and the eternal nature of God's Law was spearheaded by Jones and Waggoner and endorsed by Ellen White.


Ninety delegates, gathered from the 26,968 world membership, met in Minneapolis. The 1888 GC session was a landmark event because it focused on the nature of Christ: His divinity, having "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily," qualified Him as the Perfect Sacrifice; His humanity qualified Him to be our Great High Priest "touched with the feelings of our infirmity"; His divinity and humanity, made Him the complete Saviour of the world.

Some years before, Ellet J. Waggoner discovered "the matchless charms of Christ" as he studied the biblical basis for his father's views and came to the conclusion that Jesus was fully God (because he was the divine Son of God and Creator of the universe) and fully man (because he was the human Son of man overcoming sin in the flesh) who intends to dwell within His children and enable them with his own creative power to live a righteous life by writing His law upon their minds and hearts.


When Waggoner became editor of the Sign of the Times, his articles on these subjects met rebuttal from the General Conference president, George I. Butler.

Butler opposed Waggoner's position that the law in Galatians was the moral law of the ten commandments, fearing that such a stand would be a concession to the church's opponents and thus destroy the claims of the seventh-day Sabbath.


Alonzo T. Jones joined the fray because of his discovery that the Alemanni and not the Huns were one of the ten horns of Daniel 7. Again, this was a threat to Uriah Smith's position. Both views, the law in Galatians and interpretation of the ten horns-ten toes, were seen as heresy that were threatening the pure doctrinal foundations of the church.

The young troublemakers were not welcome, sides were taken, division brewed. Debate ensued and Jones and Waggoner prepared. They presented a purely biblical support, which was approved by Ellen White. She described their message as a balanced treatment of Revelation 14:12, respect for the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus:

"The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world." -Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 91, 92.

Waggoner refuted Arianism with Scripture. He showed that Jesus was Immanuel "God with us" and was "by nature the very substance of God and having life in Himself, He is properly called Jehovah, the self-existent One." Christ as God was essential to meet the claims of the Law in securing our redemption (justification) as well as providing the power of God's indwelling Spirit to achieve victory in our lives (sanctification). The message was a balance of grace and the law, faith and obedience, and all presented in Christ the Son of God. Ellet J. Waggoner there presented what two years later became a book entitled Christ and His Righteousness (CHR).

Waggoner's Christology
LeRoy Froom, in his Movement of Destiny applaud's Waggoner's presentation as a decisive change in Adventist's concept of Christ by repeatedly featuring Him in whom "dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead" Col 2:9 which Froom accepts as His "full divinity." Froom suggests that this was a radically new concept for the Advent believers at that time. In actuality, Waggoner upheld the same belief that had ever been embraced from the beginning: a literal begotten Son of a real Father, two separate and distinct beings, both divine, both from the days of eternity. The issue which drew so much fire from "the old guard" was not Waggoner's statements concerning the divine birth of Christ as the begotten Son of God at some point in the remote eternal past, but his application of this truth to the impartation of Christ's perfect righteousness coming from the all powerful fully divine Creator into the life of the Christian and his claim that this was the source of victory over sin rather than the keeping of the 10 commandments. There was no dispute over the begotten Son of God at Minneapolis.

Waggoner began by providing a wonderful collection of scripture from which he paints a comprehensive picture of Christ, the "only name under heaven given among men whereby we can be saved" Acts 4:12 for "no man can come unto the Father" but by Him John 14:6 so that when He is "lifted up" all men will be drawn unto Him John 12:32, the "Author and Finisher of our faith" Hebrews 12:2, "in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" Col 2:3 since "all power in heaven and earth is given" to Him Matt. 28:19, thus Christ is "the power of God and the wisdom of God" 1Cor. 1:24 "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" 1Cor 1:30. Waggoner consider this the "one text which briefly sums up all that Christ is to man." CHR pp. 6, 7.

Waggoner also concurred with James and Uriah that Christ is fully divine by quoting John 5: 22, 23 "For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father." He then concludes "To Christ is committed the highest prerogative, that of judging. He must receive the same honor that is due to God, and for the reason that He is God." The Bible says so. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1. This "Divine Word is none other than Jesus Christ." "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth." Verse 18.

Waggoner next probes the meaning of two words: "beginning" and "begotten."

The Word was "in the beginning." The mind of man cannot grasp the ages that are spanned in this phrase. It is not given to men to know when or how the Son was begotten; but we know that He was the Divine Word, not simply before He came to this earth to die, but even before the world was created. Just before His crucifixion He prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify thou Me with Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was." John 17:5. And more than seven hundred years before His first advent, His coming was thus foretold by the word of inspiration: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto Me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from the days of eternity." Micah 5:2, margin. We know that Christ "proceeded forth and came from God" (John 8:42), but it was so far back in the ages of eternity as to be far beyond the grasp of the mind of man." CHR p. 9 To "finite comprehension it is practically without beginning." CHR p. 22.

At the very beginning of his discourse Waggoner plunges into the eternal origins of God's Son. He does not shy away from invoking the word "begotten." In fact, he exploits it to establish the undeniable fact that Christ, the Word, is both God and eternal. To bolster this, he displays a host of scriptural witness.

"The mighty God… Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence" Ps. 50:1-6.
Tthe Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel" 1Thess. 4:16.
The voice of the Son of God will be heard by all that are in the grave. John 5:28, 29.
"His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father" Isa. 9:6.
"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." Ps. 45:6.
When "we turn to the New Testament," he concluded, "we find that God the Father is the speaker, and that He is addressing the Son, calling Him God." Heb. 1:1-8.

Waggoner next examines the significance of the title "Son of God" by focusing on Heb. 1:4. "He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they," the angels. Waggoner italicized these words to make his point:

"A son always rightfully takes the name of the father; and Christ, as "the only begotten Son of God," has rightfully the same name. A son, also, is, to a greater or less degree, a reproduction of the father; he has, to some extent, the features and personal characteristics of his father; not perfectly, because there is no perfect reproduction among mankind. But there is no imperfection in God, or in any of His works; and so Christ is the "express image" of the Father's person. Heb. 1:3. As the Son of the self-existent God, He has by nature all the attributes of Deity. "It is true that there are many sons of God; but Christ is the "only begotten Son of God," and therefore the Son of God in a sense in which no other being ever was or ever can be. The angels are sons of God, as was Adam (Job 38:7; Luke 3:38), by creation; Christians are the sons of God by adoption (Rom. 8:14, 15); but Christ is the Son of God by birth." CHR p. 12

To Waggoner, Christ was God because He said, "I and My Father are one." John 10:30. Because "when the Father brought the First-begotten into the world, He said, 'And let all the angels of God worship Him.' Heb. 1:6." "Because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God." John 10:33. Because "the only-begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him." John 1:18. "He has His abode there, and He is [sic] there as a part of the Godhead, as surely when on earth as when in heaven. The use of the present tense implies continued existence. It presents the same idea that is contained in the statement of Jesus to the Jews (John 8:58), 'Before Abraham was, I am.'" CHR p. 13-15.

More than any other text, Waggoner featured the "fullness" statements of Paul in Col. 1:19; 2:9: "it pleased the Father than in Him [Christ] should all fullness dwell" for "in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." To Waggoner "This is most absolute and unequivocal testimony to the fact that Christ possesses by nature all the attributes of Divinity." CHR p. 16. "And since He is the only-begotten Son of God, He is of the very substance and nature of God, and possesses by birth all the attributes of God." "So He has 'life in Himself;' He possesses immortality in His own right, and can confer immortality upon other." CHR p. 22.

But Waggoner was careful to assure his readers that a "begotten" Son is not a "created" Son. As if quoting the Nicene Creed his states, "He is begotten, not created." CHR p. 21. Although Revelation 3:14 calls Christ "the Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God" it does not mean "that God's work of creation began with Him. But this view antagonizes the scripture which declares that Christ Himself created all things." CHR p. 20. To secure this fact, he builds an impregnable fortress around the truth that Christ is the Creator of all things. He is "the first-born of every creature;" not because He is the first creature to be born, but because "by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth…all things were created by Him, and for Him; and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist." Col. 1:15-17. "He upholds all things by the word of His power." Heb. 1:3. Even His Father says of Him, "Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands." Heb. 1:8-10.

Christ is the "Beginning of the creation of God" in that He is "head" or "chief" (Greek arche) as in "archbishop, and the word archangel. Take this last word. Christ is the Archangel. See Jude 9; 1 Thess. 4:16; John 5:28, 29; Dan. 10:21. This does not mean that He is the first of the angels, for He is not an angel, but is above them. Heb. 1:4. It means that He is the chief or prince of the angels, just as an archbishop is the head of the bishops. Christ is the commander of the angels. See Rev. 19:14. He created the angels. Col. 1:16…He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Rev. 21:6; 22:13. He is the source whence all things have their origin." CHR p. 21.

Here Waggoner pauses to restore balance. The Father must not be ignored. "Let no one image that we would exalt Christ at the expense of the Father." "We honor the Father in honoring the Son. We are mindful of Paul's words, that 'to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by Him" 1 Cor. 8:6. He then concludes,

"All things proceed ultimately from God, the Father; even Christ Himself proceeded and came forth from the Father; but it has pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, and that He should be the direct, immediate Agent in every act of creation. Our object in this investigation is to set forth Christ's rightful position of equality with the Father, in order that His power to redeem may be the better appreciated." CHR p. 19

This beautiful and logical conclusion that Christ is the self-existent Son of God because he was begotten and born from God is dismissed by Froom as a "regrettable venture into unsound speculation," that Waggoner was "confused" by the words "proceeded forth," so that he "ventured out onto the thin ice of speculation." Froom prefers to attribute all "proceeded forth" "problem statements" regarding the origins of the Son to that of His incarnation. Froom then jumps to the conclusion that Waggoner is "clearly breaking away from the semi-Arian views" (Movement of Destiny p. 271) and instead "clearly used the word Godhead in the sense of Trinity" (ibid p. 273) putting words in his mouth. Because Waggoner confirms the oneness of Father and Son, Froom claims he espouses three! But this is quite different from Waggoner's own conclusion:

"Finally, we know the Divine unity of the Father and the Son from the fact that both have the same Spirit. Paul, after saying that they that are in the flesh cannot please God, continues: 'But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.' Rom. 8:9. Here we find that the Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. Christ 'is [sic] in the bosom of the Father;' being by nature of the very substance of God, and having life in Himself, He is properly called Jehovah, the self-existent One, and is thus styled in Jer. 23:56, where it is said that the righteous Branch, who shall execute judgment and justice in the earth, shall be known by the name of Jehovah-tsidekenu-THE LORD, OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." CHR p. 23, 24.

Waggoner is thus seen to continue in the same belief of the begotten Son who shares the same Spirit with His Divine Father. The two are one in this sense. Because He "came out" from God, as Eve came out from Adam, He has the "very substance of God" and thus the same self-existent life within Himself. He is the Branch from His Father, who is the Divine Root of life, power and all righteousness.


Underwood's Christology
Writing in two 1889 issues of the Review and Herald (August 6 and September 17), R. A. Underwood spoke of "Christ and His Work." He clearly was influenced by Waggoner's presentations in Minneapolis the year before. While he promised to simply "quote a few texts and leave the reader to form his own opinions," Underwood couldn't resist italicizing important words and commenting on their significance. All italicized emphasis that follows is his alone.

"There is no being in all the universe worthy of so much study as Christ. Though we think with care of Christ, we cannot comprehend his greatness, his love, his infinite sacrifice for sinners. The Bible and the Holy Spirit reveal him to us. On three occasions the voice of the eternal God is heard calling our attention to Christ as the One in whom he is well pleased, and bids us, "Hear ye him." Matt. 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28. "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Col. 2:9.

"First, we will consider Christ and his work by viewing him as the only being delegated to represent the eternal Father in name, in creating the worlds, and in giving the law; second, as the author and finisher of the plan of salvation, the one who gave the Bible, both the Old and the New Testament; the one that made the old as well as the new covenant, a Prophet, a Priest, and a King." [italics in original]

Like the many times that Ellen White singled out Christ as "the only being" beside the Father, Underwood also identifies a Godhead of two: the Son and his eternal Father. Following in Waggoner's path, he covers the same issues placing repeated emphasis on the Father and Son.

"The question is sometimes raised, Was Christ a created being? All we may know of this is simply what the Bible says. We quote a few texts, and leave the reader to form his own opinions. "

And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God." Rev. 3:14. The word here rendered "beginning" is arche; and the second definition of this word, according to Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, is, "The person or thing that commences, the first person or thing in a series, the leader." According to this, we might read it, "The beginner of the creation of God." "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born [Gr. prototokus, first in dignity, chief] of every creature." Col. 1:14, 15. "For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." John 5:26. Whatever construction may be placed upon the first two texts quoted the last one shows clearly that the Son of God received his life, and all his mighty creative power as a gift from the Father."

"The apostle Paul contrasts Christ with the angels, as follows: "Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." Heb. 1:4. The inheritance of Christ from God the Father was such as no other being in the universe received. God the Father delegated to the "beginning of the creation," "the first-born of every creature," his own name, and his own almighty, creative, life-giving power. We are in ignorance of when this was done. We only know that it was in the eternity of the past; before the worlds and all that in them is, were created."

This is no different from what Waggoner taught just the year before at Minneapolis. Like Waggoner he equates "eternity of the past" with that epoch that existed "before the worlds…were created."

"There are many names and titles given to this wonderful being called Christ. We will notice only a few. He is the "Prince of Peace," the "everlasting Father," the "mighty God," etc. Isa. 9:6; Ps. 50:3; Titus 2:13,14. The eternal Father is represented as addressing him as God: "And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom." Heb. 1:7, 8. Unless we recognize Christ as bearing the name of God, we shall often be misled in correctly understanding his work and mission."

"He is often called an angel. Ex. 3:2; 23:20,21; 1Thess. 4:16. Christ is the being that executed the will of the Father in creating all things that exist in the entire universe of God. Proof: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds" (Heb. 1:1, 2); "And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Eph. 3:9); "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist." Col. 1:14-17.

"The foregoing ought to be proof enough to satisfy all, but we give one more text: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made." "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." John 1:1-3,14."

"When a small boy, I learned this chapter in the Sunday-school. I was confused because the teacher could not explain the first verse-"In the beginning was the word," etc. "The Word is Christ," said the teacher; that was plain. "And the Word [Christ] was with God [the Father]." I understood that; but the next statement, "and the Word was God," was the mystery I could not understand, nor could the teacher give me any light upon it. He he shown me that one of the names by which Christ is known is God, all would have been clear; I would not have confounded Christ with God the Father as being the same, and only one being. While they are one in that unity of work which Christ prayed that his disciples (John 17:11) might experience, they are two beings as much as a father and his son are two."

Underwood confesses his belief that Christ, the Word, is God because that is his name, his nature; but Christ is not the same being as the Father. They are two beings, not confounded into only one being.

"Before we leave this text that declares that all things were made by Christ in the beginning, we inquire, What beginning? For an answer we turn to the statement, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." Gen. 1:1. The Hebrew word elohim, translated "God" in Gen. 1:1,2, is plural, and the text would be properly translated, "In the beginning the Gods created," etc. This same idea is sustained in the 26th verse, when the Gods said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion," etc., as well as by John 1:1, and many other texts of the Bible. When the Gods (God the Father and God the Son) had wrought six days in creating, the statement is made, "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." Gen 2:1-3. The Gods (elohim) rested on the seventh day, and blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it, or set it apart for a holy purpose."

"Christ, the Man of Calvary, stands equal with the Father in instituting the Sabbath."
"He stood equal in power in the creation of the universe, "who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God." Phil. 2:6.

Underwood, thus is not presenting anything new. He is not insisting that the Son is absolutely co-eternal with the Father, requiring that their filial-paternal relationship be reduced to one of mere title only. He accepts that "the beginning" was the creation of heaven and earth. He appreciates the fact that Christ is equal with the Father because he was born of God, and the Son inherits all things from the Father.

1890 Unity or Disunity?
A single statement buried in an 1890 Review and Herald article (November 18) by D. T. Bourdeau has caught the eye of Neo-Trinitarians looking for some evidence of divergence within the staunchly non-trinitarian Adventists of the mid to late 19th century. The article, whose title is "We may partake of the Fullness of the Father and the Son," does not discuss the Godhead, nor the Trinity; the Holy Spirit is not even mentioned. Bourdeau, who in 1890 had been an Adventist for 35 years, an ordained SDA minister for 32 years, wrote about how an individual's concept of the character of God can affect one's behavior. In this context he said,

"Although we claim to be believers in, and worshippers of, only one God, I have thought that there are as many gods among us as there are conceptions of the deity." D.T. Bourdeau, Review and Herald November 18, 1890.

Gane and Moon are split on whether Adventists at this time were united or not on their understanding of God. Gane wanting to believe there was none; Moon only that it was crumbling.

"There can be no doubt but that in 1890 there was no unity of understanding in regard to the nature of God, in Adventist circles." Erwin Gane, Masters Thesis, June 1963.

"…the collective confidence in the anti-Trinitarian paradigm was showing some cracks."
Jerry Moon, The Trinity, page 195, 2002.

Gane says there is no unity; Moon says there is but it's starting to weaken. So, because he thinks Bourdeau is talking about a vast multitude of concepts regarding the Godhead, rather than of God's character, Jerry Moon calls it a "provocative statement." Ibid, 2002.

But Bourdeau explains himself,

"We do not half study the character of God the Father and of God the Son, and the result is that we make God and Christ such beings as ourselves. In approving sin in ourselves, we sometimes make God a sinner. This is true when we would make it appear by an appeal to God or to the Bible, that wrong is right, and that when we are tempted to do evil, we are tempted of God to do right." Ibid, 1890.

Gane is puzzled why Bourdeau should not elaborate in more detail about what "the prevailing conceptions of the Deity" might be.

"Unfortunately for our purpose Bordeau [sic] does not elaborate on the nature of the prevailing conceptions of the Deity. Whether he is referring to an Arian verses [sic] Trinitarian disagreement among believers is difficult to say" Erwin Gane, Masters Thesis for the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University June 1963

The reason it's "difficult to say" is because Bourdeau wasn't addressing this issue at all. His point is the character of God (not the nature of God) is vital for believes to understand because it affects our lifestyle and behavior which cannot reflect God's character when we have a distorted understanding of it.

Other Pioneers
Ellen White's Son, Loughborough, Haskell, Smith, Andrews, Jones, Waggoner, Prescott, Canright, Matteson, Littlejohn, Blanchard, Johnson also weighed in on the side of the begotten Son. In chronological order:

John 1:1, John 1:18 and John 3:16
"According to this, Jesus Christ is begotten of God in a sense that no other being is; else he could not be his only begotten Son. Angels are called sons of God, and so are righteous men; but Christ is his Son in a higher sense, in a closer relation, than either of these." "God made men and angels out of materials already created. He is the author of their existence, their Creator, hence their Father. But Jesus Christ was begotten of the Father's own substance. He was not created out of material as the angels and other creatures were. He is truly and emphatically the "Son of God," the same as I am the son of my father." D. M. Canright, Review and Herald, June 18, 1867

"Even the angels of God have all had beginning of days, so that they would be as much excluded by this language as the members of the human family. And as to the Son of God, he would be excluded also, for he had God for his Father, and did, at some point in the eternity of the past, have beginning of days." J. N. Andrews, Review and Herald, 7th September 1869

"Christ is the only literal son of God. 'The only begotten of the Father.' John 1:14. He is God because he is the Son of God; not by virtue of His resurrection. If Christ is the only begotten of the Father, then we cannot be begotten of the Father in a literal sense. It can only be in a secondary sense of the word." J. G. Matteson, Review & Herald, October 12, 1869 p. 123

"Will you please favor me with those scriptures which plainly say that Christ is a created being? Answer: "You are mistaken in supposing that S. D. Adventists teach that Christ was ever created. They believe, on the contrary, that he was "begotten" of the Father, and that he can properly be called God and worshiped as such." Question No. 96, Review and Herald, April 17, 1883, The commentary, Scripture questions, 'Answers by W. H. Littlejohn

"The Word then is Christ. The text speaks of His origin. He is the only begotten of the Father. Just how he came into existence the Bible does not inform us any more definitely; but by this expression and several of a similar kind in the Scriptures we may believe that Christ came into existence in a manner different from that in which other beings first appeared; That He sprang from the Father's being in a way not necessary for us to understand." C. W. Stone, The Captain of our Salvation, page 17, written 1883, published by Uriah Smith 1886. Charles Wesley Stone was Secretary to the General Conference, teacher in Battle Creek College

"Back in the ages, which finite mind cannot fathom, the Father and Son were alone in the universe. Christ was the first begotten of the Father, and to Him Jehovah made known the divine plan of Creation." S. N. Haskell, The Story of the Seer of Patmos, pp. 93, 94. 1905 "Christ was the firstborn in heaven; He was likewise the firstborn of God upon earth, and heir to the Father's throne. Christ, the firstborn, though the Son of God, was clothed in humanity, and was made perfect through suffering." S. N. Haskell, The Story of the Seer of Patmos, pp. 98, 99. 1905.

"From a reading of John 1:1-3, 10, it will be seen that the world, with all it contains, was created by Christ (the Word), for "all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made." The angels, therefore, being created, are necessarily lower than Christ, their Creator. Christ is the only being begotten of the Father." James Edson White, Past, Present, and Future, page 52, chapter, 'Angels - their nature', 1914 edition (1909)

"Christ is the agent through whom God has created all things, but that he himself came into existence in a different manner, as he is called the only begotten of the Father." J. N. Loughborough, Insert A-1, Lest We Forget, Volume 4, Number 2, Second Quarter, 1994

Consequently, they accepted that he naturally inherited his Father's divine nature.

"The divinity and pre-existence of our Saviour are most clearly proved by those scriptures which refer to him as "the Word." [quotes] John i, 1-3. This expresses plainly a pre-existent divinity." J. H. Waggoner, Review and Herald, October 27, 1863 'The atonement'

"We are well aware that there has been much disputation on the subject of the sonship of Christ in the religious world, some claiming that he is nothing but a man as to origin, being only about eighteen hundred years old; others that he is the very and eternal God, the second person in the trinity. This last view is by far the most widely entertained among religious denominations. We are disposed to think that the truth lies between these views." H. C. Blanchard, Review and Herald, September 10, 1867, 'The Son'

"Since Christ is begotten of the Father, he must therefore be of the same substance as the Father; hence he must have the same divine attributes that God has, and therefore he is God." O, A. Johnson, Bible Doctrines, page 34, Lesson IX, 'God the Father' 1917

In response to a book published by the Methodist Church written by M.C. Bringgs charging SDAdventists with teaching errors including the seventh day Sabbath and denying Christ's divinity, EJ Waggoner wrote:

"But when the doctor [Briggs] states that Seventh-day Adventists deny the divinity of Christ, we know that he writes recklessly."
"We have no theory to bolster up, and so, instead of stating prepositions, we shall simply quote the word of God, and accept what it says."
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" John 1:1. "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" John 1:14.
"We believe in the divinity of Christ, because the Bible says that Christ is God"
"From these texts we have proof not only that the inspired writers call Jesus the divine Son of God, but that Jesus himself claimed to be God." E. J. Waggoner. Signs of the Times, March 25, 1889, article 'The Divinity of Christ'

"That Christ is divine is shown by the fact that he receives worship."
"If Christ were not God, then this [worship] would be idolatry" Ellet J. Waggoner, Signs of the Times 'The Divinity of Christ (continued)', April 8, 1889

"He [Christ] who was born in the form of God took the form of man." In the flesh he was all the while as God, but he did not appear as God." "He divested himself of the form of God, and in its stead took the form and fashion of man" A. T. Jones, General Conference Bulletin, March 4, 1895, 'The Third Angel's Message - No. 23'

W.W. Prescott's Christology

According to the SDA Encyclopedia, William Warren Prescott (1855-1944) graduated from Dartmouth College in 1877. He served as principal of high schools in Vermont, and published and edited newspapers in Maine and Vermont prior to accepting the presidency of Battle Creek College at the age of 30 (1885 to 1894). While still president of Battle Creek College he helped found Union College and became its first president in 1891. Then late in 1892 he assumed the presidency of the newly founded Walla Walla College.

Because of his reputation as a Biblical scholar he was called upon to make a world tour (1894-1895) to hold Bible institutes and to strengthen developing educational interests. Part of that tour took him to Austrailia where Ellen White had been commissioned following the 1888 General Conference turmoil. Prescott presented a series of eight sermons at the Armandale Camp Meetings at which Ellen White attended and made the following comments:

"We are at this time in our camp-meeting having a feast of precious things. The word is presented in a most powerful manner. The Holy Spirit has been poured out upon Brother Prescott in a great measure…. Brother Prescott has been bearing the burning words of truth such as I have heard from some in 1844. The inspiration of the Spirit of God has been upon him. Unbelievers say, "These are the words of God. I never heard such things before." We have had the truth presented in clear lines. Bro. Prescott has never had such power in preaching the truth as he has had since coming to this meeting. The unbelievers sit with their eyes riveted on him in amazement, as the truth comes forth from his lips, vitalized by the Spirit of God. When I consider the responsibility resting upon all who hear this heaven sent message, I tremble at the word of the Lord.... An intelligent knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent, is the essential knowledge, for "this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3)." Letter 19, 1895, p. 4. (To S. N. Haskell, Nov. 6, 1895)

"I have just been listening to a discourse given by Professor Prescott. It was a most powerful appeal to the people. Those not of our faith seemed deeply interested. They say, "there is no life in our churches, everything is so cold and dry; we are starving for the bread of life." The people are of the very best class of society, of all ages; noble looking men of white hair, sit and listen as for their life. Some men who are superintendents of Sunday Schools, are as eager to get the discourses as they see our reporters taking notes in shorthand. They say, "I do not want to lose one idea." All the words, they say, are precious…. All say, "never did we have the privilege of hearing the Bible made so plain and brought to that simplicity in explanation, that we can not help but understand it…" "Maggie Hare is reporting Professor Prescott's discourses and my talks, for publication. Professor Prescott's sermons will never seem the same, I fear, as when given by the living preacher: for the words are spoken in the demonstration of the Spirit, and with power, his face all aglow with the sunshine of heaven…. I think I may safely say I have never in my experience seen so large a number attending meetings not of our faith who are so hungry for the truth." Manuscript 19 also dated Nov. 6, 1895

A week later she wrote to Dr. Kellogg to discuss the meetings. A portion of the letter is found in Manuscript Releases. She identifies Prescott's messages as coming from the Lord, "new light," concerning "His preexistence" and "His personal dignity" as "truth in clear and simple style."

"I have been privileged to witness the past five weeks that which has given me much joy to see a people eager, hungry, and earnest to hear the Word of God presented in clear and new light. The Word of God has been presented in the demonstration of the Spirit and with power. The Lord has sent Professor Prescott to us not an empty vessel, but a vessel full of heavenly treasure that he can give to every man his portion of meat in due season. This the people of God everywhere want."... "The Lord is working through His ministers and through the hears. They testify, I never heard such wonderful expositions of the Bible before. Another says, The Bible seems to be a treasure-house full of precious things. After the meetings close many testimonies are born of the great good this meeting is doing. As they see Maggie Hare taking the precious truths in shorthand, they act like a flock of half-starved sheep, and they beg for a copy. They want to read and study every point presented. Souls are being taught of God." "Brother Prescott has presented truth in clear and simple style, yet rich in nourishment. Elder Corliss has given many discourses and Bible readings that are highly appreciated. Brother Daniells and Brother Colcord have held forth the word of light in clear and positive lines. The Lord has used these ministers to His name's glory."

Abundant evidence has been given that the Holy Spirit of God has spoken to men through human agencies…. Large numbers testify that they have never heard the Word administered with such power and in the manifest demonstration of the Spirit as at this meeting. God has said in the heavenly courts to His heavenly intelligences, "Let there be spiritual light to shine amid the moral darkness of accumulated error and fables, and reveal truth." The Messenger of the covenant has come, as the Sun of Righteousness, to arise and shine forth upon the eager listeners. His preexistence, His coming the second time in glory and power, His personal dignity, His holy law uplifted, are the themes that have been dwelt upon with simplicity and power." Nov 17, 1895 (Letter 113) to J. H. Kellogg also partially in 2MR No. 122, p. 165

Then on November 21, in Melbourne, Ellen White reported on her experience at the camptmeeting where Prescott spoke. Her comments were published in the Review & Herald a few months later:

"In the evening Professor Prescott gave a most valuable lesson, precious as gold. The tent was full, and many stood outside. All seemed to be fascinated with the word, as he presented the truth in lines so new to those not of our faith. Truth was separated from error, and made, by the divine Spirit, to shine like precious jewels. It was shown that perfect obedience to all the commandments of God is essential for salvation of souls." "The Lord is working in power through his servants who are proclaiming the truth, and he has given brother Prescott a special message for the people. The truth comes from human lips in demonstration of the Spirit and power of God."
"The meetings have been well attended by the people of Armadale and Malvern, both afternoons and evenings, and on Sundays and Wednesdays large numbers have come from the distant suburbs. The people say: 'You cannot appreciate the change of feeling about your meeting and work. It has been commonly reported that you do not believe in Christ. But we have never heard Christ preached as at these meetings.' 'There is no life in our churches. Everything is cold and dry. We are starving for the Bread of Life. We come to this camp-meeting because there is food here.' As they see our stenographers reporting the discourses, they plead that they be printed soon, and placed within their reach. " Melbourne, Nov. 21 Review & Herald Jan 7, 1896 The Austrailian Camp-Meeting

These extensive comments by Ellen White serve to establish her endorsement of the message and its benefit to the people. The following year, she was still speaking in glowing terms of Prescott's benefit to the work in Australia.

"I write a few lines to you this morning by lamplight. Before receiving this, you will have met Professor Prescott. We would glady have retained him in this country [Australia], but we dared not do this, for it would have savoured of selfishness. We hope he will do the brethren much good in South Africa, and that he will be received cordially, in brotherly love. He has the truth in the heart, as well as on the lips. God is with him, and will work by him if our brethren will receive him as one who bears to them a message from God. May it not be true of them, as of the people of Nazareth, that Jesus could not do many mighty works because of their unbelief. There is no virtue in refusing to receive the light which God shall send, and we need every ray of light from heaven." 11MR No. 859 [To S.N. Haskell] Letter 38, May 30, 1896

Ellen fears that the truths that he was presenting might not be accepted as if she could portend the future. Indeed, the teaching of that time is no longer accepted as truth, but today labeled as error.

Prescott's Eight Presentations at the 1895 Armandale Campmeeting:

1. October 20, "Abiding in Christ and Walking in Christ," The Bible Echo, December 2 & 9, 1895
2. October 23, "Sermons in Stone," The Bible Echo, December 16 & 23, 1895
3. October 23, "The Kingdom of God; or The Great Controversy Between Good and Evil," The Bible Echo, February 17 & 24, 1896
4. October 31, "The Word Became Flesh," The Bible Echo, January 6 & 13, 1896
5. November 2, "The Faith of Jesus, The Commandments of God, and The Patience of the Saints," The Bible Echo, January 20 & 27, 1896
6. November 5, "God or Caesar, Which?," The Bible Echo, March 2, 9, & 16, 1896
7. November 9, "Christ Our Example," The Bible Echo, February 3 & 10, 1896
8. undated, "The Law in Christ," The Bible Echo, April 20 & 27, May 4, 11, 18, & 25, June 1, 1896.

It is now of interest to examine what Prescott was presenting at this time. The Review and Herald published a series of articles after his return in 1896 entitled "The Christ of Judea." These may be obtained from the online SDA website beginning with Review & Herald March 10, 1896 Vol 73, No. 16 p. 152 (8 of 16 in the Deja Vu reader). The following excerpts illustrate his teaching on the preexistence of Christ and his origin as the begotten of the Father.

"We have seen how by birth Jesus took upon himself our nature. The object of bringing this point very emphatically before the mind is that we may see the nearness of Jesus Christ as our Saviour. He has become one with us, and joined himself to us by ties which will never be broken, because to-day and for eternity Jesus Christ is one with us in humanity, still bearing this human flesh. "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." 1 Tim. 2:5. He thus connected the human family with God once more." Review & Herald, March 17, 1896.

Two years later, with the publication of the Desire of Ages (with which Prescott played an instrumental role in its editorial content) such expressions would become prominent. After presenting the incarnation and Christ's humanity, he deals with his heavenly origin.

"Jesus Christ established a new family, of which he became the head. "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and after ward that which is spiritual. The fist man is of the earth, earthly: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly." 1Cor. 14:45-49. So Jesus Christ the Lord from heaven, the last Adam, in entering into this relationship with the human family, became the head of this family just as Adam was the head of the divine-human family originally.

In full agreement with A.T. Jones (as we have already noted) he, too, believes in the divine spirit birth of Christ, "begotten of the Father" in eternity.

Jesus Christ was God in heaven, and he came to this world, and was born of the flesh, and thus he who had been born of the Spirit was afterward born of the flesh, and by this double birth this family was established, --the divine human family of which he is the head, - in order that we who have already been born of the flesh, may by his grace and the power of the same Spirit, be born of the Spirit, -- that is, every member of this divine-human family is twice born. W. W. Prescott, Review and Herald March 17, 1896, 'The Christ of Judea'

"Now as Christ partook of our nature by birth, so we must partake of his nature by birth. As Christ was twice born, -- once in eternity, the only begotten of the Father, and again here in the flesh, thus uniting the divine with the human in that second birth,-- so we who have been born once already in the flesh, are to have the second birth, being born again of the Spirit, in order that our experience may be the same, -- the human and the divine being joined in a life union" W. W. Prescott, Review and Herald, April 14, 1896, 'The Christ for to-day'

He then extends Christ's origin from the Father to Christ as the Source of his own Holy Spirit:

"One who is born of the flesh can express himself only; but the flesh of one who is born of the Spirit is used to express Christ. Christ by his spirit dwells in the inner life, and the organs of sense are used to give expression to his words and acts. We submit everything, that he shall express himself in our life. That is the Christian life. This life is made possible to us from the fact that that was the very life that Christ lived himself. He wrought into humanity a divine life. The life which he imparts unto us for living this life, is the resurrection life, the life of victory." W.W. Prescott, Review and Herald, April 21, 1896, "The Christ for to-day' continued.

Prescott is intensely concerned that the reality of Christ living in us be grasped and made real.

"God desires that Christ's life should be made manifest in our mortal flesh. Christ came here and wrought all this in our flesh, as our substitute, as our representative, for this express purpose, and those who think that Christ's work for us was completed on earth, lose the very heart and soul of Christian experience. If Christ's work was completed for us on earth, his life was simply an example which we are to copy. But Christ's work is not completed; Christ's work is going on for us to-day in heaven, where he is ministering in our behalf. The Christ for to-day is the one who lives in us, and works in us. "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Phil. 2:12, 13. Ibid.

Ellen White would take up this same thought in identifying the Holy Spirit and the Comforter with Christ himself, the only one who overcame sin in human flesh, the only one who can provide "the soul of his life" to us, the only way we can experience victory over sin.


Ellen White's Christology
The modern view of Ellen White's understanding of the Godhead is that over the course of her life she experienced a fundamental change from a belief in the eternal Father and His begotten Son (which was heavily influenced by her domineering husband) to a fully orthodox triune Godhead composed of three absolutely co-eternal first, second and third persons.

Let's examine the evidence in her own words for a persistent position and continued belief in the literal begotten Son of God who proceeded and came out from the eternal Father before the angels or anything else was created, having the same original, self-existent, immortal life, sharing the same eternal Spirit, and given the same authority, dignity, power and divine perfection of his Father. This view never changed throughout her life. Notice the following statements separated by nearly forty years:

"Says the true Witness, the only Begotten of the Father, 'Blessed are they that do his [the Father's] commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the City.' Rev. xxii, 14." Ellen White, Review and Herald, June 10, 1852

"Praise and adoration were poured forth for the self-denial and sacrifice of Jesus; that he would consent to leave the bosom of his Father, and choose a life of suffering and anguish, and die an ignominious death to give life to others." 1 Spiritual Gifts p. 26 1858

"And the Son of God declares concerning Himself: "The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting. . . . When He appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him." Proverbs 8:22-30." Patriarchs and Prophets p. 34 1890

Though she initially left out in the ellipsis those references to his being "brought forth", nine years later she began to boldly quote the entire passage.

"'The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old,' Christ says. 'When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment; when He appointed the foundations of the earth; then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him.' " Signs of the Times, February 22, 1899

"Through Solomon Christ declared: "The Lord possessed Me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth." Signs of the Times Aug 29, 1900

"The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father. He was the surpassing glory of heaven. He was the commander of the heavenly intelligences, and the adoring homage of the angels was received by him as his right. This was no robbery of God. 'The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way,' he declares, 'before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth."" E. G. White, Review and Herald, April 5, 1906

Next, follow the focus on the begotten Son of the Father from 1891 to 1912, a span of nearly 20 years:

"He was indeed more than a teacher come from God; he was the only-begotten Son of the Father, the one sent into the world to save those who should believe on him." E.G. White, Signs of the Times, November 23, 1891

"Joshua represents the people of God standing in the presence of their Redeemer. Satan, with his masterly accusing power, is resisting the plan of Christ for the redemption of his people. The Majesty of heaven, the only begotten of the Father, responds to Satan's claims. "The Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?"" E.G. White, Review and Herald, June 20, 1893

"He was the only-begotten Son of God, who was one with the Father from the beginning. By him the worlds were made." E.G. White, Signs of the Times, May 28, 1894

"Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven the King declared that none but Christ, the Only Begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will." PP p. 36 1890

"The Son of God had wrought the Father's will in the creation of all the hosts of heaven; and to Him, as well as to God, their homage and allegiance were due." PP p. 36 1890

"Jesus was the Majesty of heaven, the beloved Commander of the angels, whose delight was to do his pleasure. He was one with God, in the bosom of the Father; yet He thought it not a thing to be desired to be equal with God while man was lost in sin and misery. He stepped down from his throne." Bible Echo and Signs of the Times 3-15-1893

"Who is Christ? He is the only begotten Son of the living God. He is to the Father as a word that expresses the thought-as a thought made audible. Christ is the word of God… Christ was the likeness of God, the brightness of his glory, the express image of his person." Youth Instructor, June 28, 1894

"The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom Him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind." Review and Herald, July 9, 1895

"Christ should be uplifted as the first great teacher, the only begotten Son of God, who was with the Father from eternal ages." Ellen White, Special Testimonies On Education, p. 230 1895

"But the Lord's arrangement, made in council with his only begotten Son, was to leave men free moral agents to a certain length of probation." E.G. White, Review and Herald, December 21, 1897

"The Lord saw us in a sad condition, and sent to our world the only messenger that he could trust with his great treasure of pardon and grace. Christ, the only begotten Son of God, was the delegated messenger. He was ordained to do a work that even the angels of heaven could not accomplish. He alone could be trusted to do the work required for the redemption of a world all seared and marred with the curse. And in this gift the Father gave all heaven to the world." Ellen White, Review and Herald, February 15, 1898

"The dedication of the first-born had its origin in the earliest times. God had promised to give the First-born of heaven to save the sinner." Desire of Ages, p. 51 1898

"The apostle Paul speaks of our Mediator, the only-begotten Son of God, who in a state of glory was in the form of God, the Commander of all the heavenly hosts, and who, when He clothed His divinity with humanity, took upon Him the form of a servant." Ellen White, Youth's Instructor, October 13, 1898

"Christ, the only begotten Son of God, left the royal courts and came to this world, and through him God poured forth the healing flood of his grace." E.G. White, The Youth's Instructor, March 30, 1899

"In the depths of omnipotent wisdom and mercy the Father took the work of salvation into His own hand. He sent His only begotten Son into the world to live the law of Jehovah. The law, revealed in the character of Christ, was a perfect manifestation of the Father." E.G. White, The Bible Echo, November 20, 1899

"Before the foundations of the world were laid, Christ, the Only Begotten of God, pledged Himself to become the Redeemer of the human race, should Adam sin." Ellen White, Signs of the Times, August 2, 1905

"In order fully to carry out his plan, it was decided that Christ, the only begotten Son of God, should give himself an offering for sin. And in giving Christ, God gave all the resources of heaven, that nothing might be wanting for the work of man's uplifting." Review and Herald, May 2, 1912

Thus, because of his divine origin, Christ existed before his incarnation.

"Another dangerous error, is the doctrine that denies the divinity of Christ, claiming that he had no existence before his advent to this directly contradicts the plainest statements of our Saviour concerning his relationship with the Father, his divine character, and his pre-existence." Spirit of Prophecy Vol 4, p. 347 1884 (reprinted in GC 1888, p. 524)

"It was poverty that as He passed to and fro among the subjects He came to save, scarcely a solitary voice called Him blessed, scarcely a solitary hand was stretched out in friendship, and scarcely a solitary roof proffered Him shelter. Then look beneath the disguise, and whom do we see?-Divinity, the Eternal Son of God, just as mighty, just as infinitely gifted with all the resources of power, and He was found in fashion as a man." (1888 Materials, 28) 1887 letter to EJ Waggoner

"Christ was the Son of God; He had been one with Him before the angels were called into existence. He had ever stood at the right hand of the Father; His supremacy, so full of blessing to all who came under its benignant control, had not heretofore been questioned." Patriarchs and Prophets p. 38 1890

"The existence of Christ before His incarnation is not measured by figures" Signs of the Times, May 3, 1899.

"The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father." Signs of the Times, April 26, 1899, R&H, April 5, 1899; and 1 SM, p. 247

"Before Christ came in the likeness of men, he existed in the express image of his Father." Youth's Instructor, December 20, 1900

"The Word existed as a divine being, even as the eternal Son of God, in union and oneness with His Father. From everlasting He was the Mediator of the covenant…Before men or angels were created, the Word was with God, and was God." Review and Herald, April 5, 1906; Evangelism p. 615-616

"The world was made by him, "and without him was not anything made that was made." If Christ made all things, he existed before all things. The words spoken in regard to this are so decisive that no one need be left in doubt. Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore." Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, April 5, 1906, 'The Word made flesh' Christ was "with the Father from all eternity." Acts of the Apostles p. 39 1911

Because he was the begotten Son, he was equal with God

"God's dear Son…had the preeminence over all the angelic host. He was one with the Father before the angels were created" Story of Redemption, p. 13.

"The divine Son of God was the only sacrifice of sufficient value to fully satisfy the claims of God's perfect law. The angels were sinless, but of less value than the law of God. [Jesus was equal value] They were amenable to the law. They were messengers to do the will of Christ, and before him to bow. They were created beings, [Christ was not] and probationers. Upon Christ…no obligation was laid…to undertake the work of atonement. It was a voluntary sacrifice." Review & Herald Dec 17, 1872

"Behold the Saviour of the world, in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Faith and Works p. 16; Manuscript 36, 1890; Review and Herald Feb 24, March 3 1877

"'God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son,'-not a son by creation, as were the angels, nor a son by adoption, as is the forgiven sinner, but a Son begotten in the express image of the Father's person, and in all the brightness of his majesty and glory, one equal with God in authority, dignity, and divine perfection. In him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Signs of Times, May 30, 1895

"The greatness of God cannot be measured or comprehended. And that doctrine that denies the absolute Godhead of Jesus Christ, denies also the Godhead of the Father; for no man knoweth the Son but the Father. The mightiest created intelligence cannot grasp divinity. The principalities and powers of heaven are overwhelmed with the vastness of the theme of Christ's character and the mystery of the union of divinity and humanity." Signs of the Times 06-27-1895

"Christ was "Far higher than any of the angels, equal with the Father in dignity and glory." Signs of the Times July 30, 1896; 5SDABC p. 1130.

"He was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent…He is the eternal, self-existent Son." Manuscript 101, 1897; Evangelism p. 615-616

"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." EGW Signs of the Times, Aug. 29, 1900; Evangelism p. 615-616

"Christ was God essentially, and in the highest sense. He was with God from all eternity, God over all, blessed forevermore. The Lord Jesus Christ, the divine Son of God, existed from eternity, a distinct person, yet one with the Father. He was the surpassing glory of heaven. He was the commander of the heavenly intelligences, and the adoring homage of the angels was received by Him as His right. He was equal with God, infinite and omnipotent." Review and Herald, April 5, 1906. SDABC Vol. 5 p. 1126.

"It was Christ who from the bush on Mount Horeb spoke to Moses saying, "I AM THAT I AM."…"And to us He says: "I AM the good shepherd." "I AM the living bread." "I AM the way, the truth, and the life."…I AM the assurance of every promise. I AM; be not afraid." The Faith I Live By p. 47

But Christ received His equality and position from His Father through inheritance.

"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 as His own presence. The word of the Son was to be obeyed as readily as the word of the Father. His Son He had invested with authority to command the heavenly host." EG White, Story of Redemption, p. 13.

"The King of the universe summoned the heavenly hosts before Him, that in their presence He might set forth the true position of His Son and showed the relation He sustained to all created beings." Patriarchs and Prophets p. 36 1890

"Our great Exemplar was exalted to be equal with God. " 2 Testimonies, p. 426.

"Looking unto Jesus we see that it is the glory of our God to give. 'I do nothing of Myself,' said Christ; 'the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father.' 'I seek not Mine own glory,' but the glory of Him that sent Me. John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18. In these words is set forth the great principle which is the law of life for the universe. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father's life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all. And thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life." Desire of Ages p. 21, 1898

"The Scriptures clearly indicate the relation between God and Christ, and they bring to view as clearly the personality and individuality of each. [Hebrews 1:1-5 quoted] God is the Father of Christ; Christ is the Son of God. To Christ has been given an exalted position. He has been made equal with the Father. All the counsels of God are opened to His Son." EGW, 8T 268 1904

"The unity that exists between Christ and His disciples does not destroy the personality of either. They are one in purpose, in mind, in character, but not in person. It is thus that God and Christ are one." 8T, p. 269 1904

The worked together in creating all things.

"Especially was his Son to work in union with himself in the anticipated creation of the earth and every living thing that should exist upon the earth. His Son would carry out his will and his purposes, but would do nothing of himself alone. The Father's will would be fulfilled in him." EGW, Spirit of Prophecy V.1, p. 18 1870

"After the earth was created, and the beasts upon it, the Father and Son carried out their purpose, which was designed before the fall of Satan, to make man in their own image. They had wrought together in the creation of the earth and every living thing upon it. And now God says to his Son, 'Let us make man in our image.'" The Spirit of Prophecy, V.1, pp. 24, 25 1870

"The Father consulted Jesus in regard to at once carrying out their purpose to make man to inhabit the earth." EGW, Signs of the Times Jan. 9, 1879

"The Sovereign of the universe was not alone in His work of beneficence. He had an associate-a co-worker who could appreciate His purposes, and could share His joy in giving happiness to created beings. (John 1:1, 2). Christ, the Word, the only begotten of God, was one with the eternal Father-one in nature, in character, in purpose-the only being that could enter into all the counsels and purposes of God. (Isaiah 9:6) (Micah 5:2)" Patriarchs and Prophets p. 34 1890

"In the beginning the Father and the Son had rested upon the Sabbath after Their work of creation." EGW, Desire of Ages p. 769 1898

And in planning our redemption.

"The great plan of redemption was laid before the foundation of the world. And Christ, our Substitute and Surety, did not stand alone in the wondrous undertaking of the ransom of man. In the plan to save a lost world, the counsel was between them both; the covenant of peace was between the Father and the Son". The Signs of the Times, December 23, 1897, par. 2.

"The plan of redemption was arranged in the councils between the Father and the Son." Review & Herald, May 28, 1908 par. 12.

"Even the angels were not permitted to share the counsels between the Father and the Son when the plan of salvation was laid." Ministry of Healing, page 429.

"The plan of salvation devised by the Father and the Son will be a grand success." The Signs of the Times, June 17, 1903 par. 2.

"Before the fall of man, the Son of God had united with his Father in laying the plan of salvation." Review & Herald, September 13, 1906 par. 4.

Satan and his fallen angels still seek to obscure the fact of Christ's begotten origin.

"Angels were expelled from heaven because they would not work in harmony with God. They fell from their high estate because they wanted to be exalted. They had come to exalt themselves, and they forgot that their beauty of person and of character came from the Lord Jesus. This fact the angels would obscure, that Christ was the only begotten Son of God, and they came to consider that they were not to consult Christ." EGW, TDG p. 128

She made a distinction between the Father, Jehovah, the only true God, and His Son.

"He was not the Father but in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and yet He calls to a suffering world, "Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Ellen G. White, Letter 8a, July 7, 1890, To M. J. Church, Manuscript Release Volume 20, MR1444)

"The man Christ Jesus was not the Lord God Almighty" 5SDABC p. 1129, ms 140, 1903.

"The Son of God shared the Father's throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One encircled both." PP p. 36 1890

"Jehovah, the eternal, self-existent, uncreated One, Himself the Source and Sustainer of all, is alone entitled to supreme reverence and worship." Patriarchs and Prophets 305.4, 1890

"The stately tread of the Lord Jehovah and of his Son" on Sinai. ST, Dec 11, 1879 "Jehovah is the only true God, and He is to be reverenced and worshiped." 6T p.166, 1901

They are two distinct individuals.

"I have 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 in the express image of My Father's person." Ellen White, Early Writings, page 77 1851

"From eternity there was a complete unity between the Father and the Son. They were two, yet little short of being identical; two in individuality, yet one in spirit, and heart, and character." Ellen G. White, Youth's Instructor December 16, 1897 [almost but not quite]

"The heavenly council before which Lucifer had accused God and His Son, the representatives of those sinless realms over which Satan had thought to establish his dominion,-all are there to welcome the Redeemer. They are eager to celebrate His triumph and to glorify their King." "But He waves them back. Not yet; He cannot now receive the coronet of glory and the royal robe. He enters into the presence of His Father. He points to His wounded head, the pierced side, the marred feet; He lifts His hands, bearing the print of nails. He points to the tokens of His triumph; He presents to God the wave sheaf, those raised with Him as representatives of that great multitude who shall come forth from the grave at His second coming. He approaches the Father, with whom there is joy over one sinner that repents; who rejoices over one with singing." Ellen White Desire of Ages p. 834 1898

"The Lord Jesus came to this world to represent the Father. He did not represent God as an essence pervading nature, but as a personal being. Christians should bear in mind that God has a personality as verily as has Christ." Ellen G. White 'A Warning of Danger'. St. Helena, Cal., Sept. 23, 1903. To the Teachers in Emmanuel Missionary College, Spalding and Magan's Unpublished Manuscript Testimonies of Ellen G. White, page 324, 1903

"The relation between the Father and the Son, and the personality of both, are made plain in this scripture also: "Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts, saying, Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: And He shall grow up out of His place; And He shall build the temple of Jehovah; . . . And He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; And He shall be a priest upon His throne; And the counsel of peace shall be between Them both." Ellen G. White, Testimonies to the Church Volume 8 'The Essential knowledge' 1904, see also Review and Herald March 3, 1904

"Our ministers must be very careful not to enter into controversy in regard to the personality of God. This is a subject that they are not to touch. It is a mystery, and the enemy will surely lead astray those who enter into it. We know that Christ came in person to reveal God to the world. God is a person and Christ is a person. Christ is spoken of in the Word as "the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His person." Ellen G. White, Talk given on May 18, 1904, Sermons and talks, Volume one, page 341, Manuscript 46, 1904, 'The Foundation of our Faith'

"Christ is one with the Father, but Christ and God are two distinct personages. Read the prayer of Christ in the seventeenth chapter of John, and you will find this point clearly brought out." Ellen G. White to the delegates at the 1905 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Takoma Park Washington D. C., May 19, 1905, Review and Herald, June 1, 1905, 'The Work in Washington'

But in becoming one of us, he is not only our elder Brother, but once again the Son of God.

"In His humanity He was a partaker of the divine nature. In His incarnation He gained in a new sense the title of the Son of God. Said the angel to Mary, 'The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God' (Luke 1:35). While the Son of a human being, He became the Son of God in a new sense. Thus He stood in our world-the Son of God, yet allied by birth to the human race." EGW, 1SM 226, 227

There is a plain and consistent continuity of belief in the begotten Son of God throughout the course of Ellen White's ministry. The Son received all things from his Father: eternal life and spirit, divine character, His own name, creative power, authority, glory and honor. He is not a son by creation or adoption, but a Son begotten.

Ellen White was impressed by the grandeur of Waggoner's Christlogy. "It presents the law and the gospel, binding up the two in a perfect whole" Testimonies to Ministers p. 94. Her subsequent writings reflect this change in her understanding. While her previous works emphasized Christ's subordinate role as the Son, ("The Son of God was next in authority to the great Lawgiver. R&H Vol. 41, No 1, Dec 17, 1872), hereafter she is credited with portraying Him as fully God, eternally self-existent, with life in Himself "original, unborrowed, underived." Desire of Ages p. 760 1889.

The Desire of Ages Turning Point
It is recognized that the publication of The Desire of Ages by Ellen White in 1898 sparked a dramatic change in the Church's view on the divinity of Christ, catapulting Him from the mere Son of God to God Himself.

"When the voice of the mighty angel was heard at Christ's tomb, saying, Thy Father calls Thee, the Saviour came forth from the grave by the life that was in Himself. Now was proved the truth of His words, "I lay down My life, that I might take it again…I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." Now was fulfilled the prophecy He had spoken to the priests and rulers, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 10:17, 18; 2:19." DA (1898) p. 785.

This was bolstered by the appearance of a phrase, previously borrowed and published two years earlier in the Review and Herald: "original, unborrowed, underived."

"In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived. 'He that hath the Son hath life.' 1Jn 5:12 The divinity of Christ is the believer's assurance of eternal life." DA (1898) p. 530.

M.L.Andreason at age 24 in 1902 was so shocked by this statement that he eventually made a trip to California in 1909 to see Ellen White at Elmshaven, convinced that these were not her own words.

"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. It was so with other statements. As I checked up, I found that they were Sister White's own expressions." "The Spirit of Prophecy," chapel address at Loma Linda, California, November 30, 1948, Adventist Heritage Center, Andrews University.

Later he wrote "This statement at that time was revolutionary and compelled a complete revision of my former view--and that of the denomination--on the deity of Christ." (Without Fear or Favor, p. 76)

Actually, this expression was not original with Ellen White, it was borrowed and derived from John Cumming, D.D., F.R.S.E. of London in his Sabbath Evening Readings on the New Testament - St. John published by the John P. Jewett Co., Cleveland, OH in 1856. On page 5 Cumming writes:

"'In him was life,'-that is, original, unborrowed, underived. In us there is a streamlet from the Fountain of Life; in him was the Fountain of Life. Our life is something we receive, something that the Giver takes back again to himself, -over which we have no control, and for which we must give God the account and the praise. But in Jesus was life underived, unborrowed;"

A Bibliography of Ellen G. White's Private and Office Libraries - compiled by Warren H. Jones, Tim Poirier, and Ron Graybill lists Cumming's Sabbath Evening Readings on the New Testament as one of Mrs. White's Office library books and from which she would have had opportunity to read. However, it is of interest that Cumming does not mention a triune Godhead. He only asserts the Deity of Christ.

Later, in the 1905 Letter 309 (Medical Ministry p. 7) , Mrs White borrowed even more from Cumming:

"In Jesus is our life derived. In Him is life, that is original, unborrowed, underived life. In us there is a streamlet from the fountain of life. In Him is the fountain of life. Our life is something that we receive, something that the Giver takes back again to Himself."

Nor was Cumming the first to use these words. William E. Channing employed them in 1819 during a discourse presented in Baltimore entitled "Unitarian Christianity."

"We earnestly maintain...that our Father in heaven is originally, essentially, and eternally placable, and disposed to forgive; and that his unborrowed, underived, and unchangeable love is the only fountain of what flows to us through his Son." "We understand by it that there is one being, one mind, one person, one intelligent agent, and one only, to whom underived and infinite perfection and dominion belong." The Works of Willam E. Channing, 1882, p. 371

Although in this instance it was love and perfection that was "unborrowed, underived" rather than everlasting life, it is ironic that this expression receives such attention and reverence by those defending a Trinitarian Ellen White when its roots stem from a staunchly anti-Trinitarian source.

The expression was first used by EGW in a R&H article in 1896, and the year following in Signs of the Times:

"In Him was life, original, unborrowed, underived. This life is not inherent in man. He can possess it only through Christ. He cannot earn it; it is given him as a free gift if he will believe in Christ as His personal Saviour. "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (John 17:3). This is the open fountain of life for the world." EGW, 1SM pp.296, 297

In other words, "He [man] can possess it [life, original, unborrowed, underived] only through Christ. He [man] cannot earn it [life, original, unborrowed, underived]; it is given him as a free gift if he [man] will believe in Christ as His personal Saviour."

Notice "life, original, unborrowed, underived," the same kind of life that Christ had, is given to man as a free gift and that our life is derived from Jesus. In this sense, Jesus is our Father consistent with Isaiah 9:6, Isa 22:20-23, Heb 2:13, Isa 8:18. He is the head of the Church, as His Father is the head of Christ, 1Cor 11:3. Christ bestows this same life to us, because He received it from His Father. Jesus said

John 5:26 ____"For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself."

So, Christ, the Son of God, inherited "life, original, unborrowed, underived" from His Father. Christ is the only one who has this life by birth; He inherited it by being brought forth from God. The Son received this life as He has everything else, every other power, from His Father.

"All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father's life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all." Desire of Ages, p. 21

"Only He who alone hath immortality, dwelling in light and life, could say, 'I have power to lay down my life, and I have power to take it again.' All the human beings in our world take their life from Him. He is the spring, the fountain of life."

So, to what extent did Christ's divinity still reside within Him?
And to what extent did Christ lay aside His divinity before leaving heaven?
Christ said that He laid down His life (psuchen, soul) and has power to take it again.
However, the issue is not ability or power but authority which, Jesus says, comes from His Father.

John 10:18 ___"this commandment (authority) have I received of my Father"

The message of Christ's all sufficient power to restore His image in fallen man, while rejected by many leaders at the conference, was gladly received by others who heard it presented as Jones and Waggoner accompanied by Ellen White traveled about the country.

Yet, Ellen White's concept of the Holy Spirit was still synonymous with the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God.

"The reasons why the churches are weak and sickly and ready to die is that the enemy has brought influences of a discouraging nature to bear upon trembling souls. He has sought to shut Jesus from their view as the Comforter, as one who reproves, who warns, who admonishes them, saying, 'This is the way, walk ye in it.'" Review and Herald, August 26, 1890.

"Let them be thankful to God for His manifold mercies and be kind to one another. They have one God and one Saviour; and one Spirit-the Spirit of Christ-is to bring unity into their ranks." EGW, 9T 189 1906

When Ellen White cautioned that advancing truth would not contradict old truths, her statements on the persons of the eternal Father, the begotten Son, and the Comforter were consistent with those views originally held; she was not in opposition to the early pioneers but enhanced their understanding in a fuller more personal way.

The Father remained the ultimate source of all things; the Son remained the divinly begotten of the Father; and the Spirit was now understood to be the very person and personal presence of the Father and the Son. The identification of this vital third power, personality and person of the Godhead was not some radical change in direction, but a matured realization of just who the Spirit is. The reason this became a renewed focus in that later part of her life is explained in Part II.

Continue Adventist History Part II