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THE LIFE OF M. L. ANDREASEN - by Virginia Steinweg




ON A CERTAIN morning in the autumn of 1956, M. L. as usual dedicated his life anew to the Saviour he had served for more than sixty years. As he did so, he had no inkling that four pages he would read that day, a reprint of Donald Barnhouse's article in Eternity magazine, would set off a series of reactions on his part that would long outlive him.

What did he read on those four pages? Barnhouse, an evangelical scholar, was giving his evaluation of present-day Seventh-day Adventism. M. L. took at face value this report from an outsider looking in, without waiting for confirmation.

A phrase caught Andreasen's attention: "Immediately it was perceived that the Adventists were strenuously denying certain doctrinal positions which had been previously attributed to them."1

Under what circumstances? Andreasen asked. He read the setting: Two years before, a researcher, Walter Martin, had been asked to write a book on Seventh-day Adventism, which was considered by evangelicals a non-Christian religion. To get firsthand information, Mr. Martin had made contact with Adventist leaders at their headquarters.

Further along M. L. read, "This idea is also totally repudiated." What idea was this? None other than what he considered the basic concept of the


sanctuary and the atonement葉he subject on which he had centered his thought all these years.

When privileged to spend some time at the home of Ellen White, he had especially examined the subject of the atonement and had copied a great number of quotations he had later used in his teaching. Of the fifteen books he had written, two were directly on this subject, as were several of the nine quarters of Sabbath school lessons he had been asked to prepare through the years.

Now he read this sentence: "They do not believe, as some of their earlier teachers taught, that Jesus' atoning work was not completed on Calvary but instead that He was still carrying on a second ministering work since 1844."2 What do they believe? he asked. "They believe that since His ascension Christ has been ministering the benefits of the atonement which He completed on Calvary."3

What a discovery! By the simple device of using the phrase "benefits of the atonement" describing Christ's work in heaven, it could be implied that the atonement had been completed on Calvary. The only trouble was that Ellen White had written, "The great plan of redemption, which was dependent on the death of Christ, had been thus far carried out."4

But why should the brethren be so anxious to rephrase the standard Adventist doctrine? M. L. found the answer on another page of the article:

"The final major area of disagreement is over the doctrine of the 'investigative judgment' . . . a doctrine held exclusively by the Seventh-day Adventists. At the beginning of our contacts with the Adventists Mr. Martin and I thought that this would be the doctrine on which it would be impossible to


come to any understanding which would permit our including them among those who could be counted as Christians believing in the finished work of Christ."5

So that was the reason why there must be a rephrasing! "Investigative judgment" has to do with the atoning work being done by Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Early Adventist writers had been so impressed with the importance of this distinctive doctrine that they had not applied the word "atonement" to Christ's sacrifice on the cross.6 M. L. could see that the present trend was to swing to the opposite extreme, limiting the atonement to the cross, while calling the heavenly work merely the "application of the benefits of the atonement." In reality, as attested by Scripture and confirmed by Ellen White, both phases constitute the atonement.

M. L. knew that Ellen White had used the phrase, "the benefits of His atonement,"7 to refer to Christ's work in heaven. But he also knew that in the same book she had written, "As the priest entered the most holy once a year to cleanse the earthly sanctuary, so Jesus entered the most holy of the heavenly, at the end of the 2300 days of Daniel 8, in 1844, to make a final atonement for all who could be benefited by His mediation, and thus to cleanse the sanctuary."8 "This atonement is made for the righteous dead as well as for the righteous living."9


Regarding the sacrifice of the cross, she had written, "The brightness of the Father's glory, and the excellence and perfection of His sacred law, are only understood through the atonement made upon Calvary by His dear Son."10 "The intercession of Christ in man's behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross. By His death He began that work which after His resurrection He ascended to complete in heaven."11

In almost all of the fifteen books M. L. had written on theology, he had devoted the last chapters to describing, in varying ways, the final work of atonement. For example:

"At the end of the twenty-three hundred days [1844] a people shall arise who will have light on the sanctuary question, who follow Christ by faith into the most holy, who have the solution to break the power of the mystery of iniquity, and who go forth to battle for God's truth. Such a people is invincible. It [sic] will proclaim the truth fearlessly. It will make the supreme contribution to religion in its advocacy of the sanctuary truth."12

"The final demonstration of what the gospel can do in and for humanity is still in the future. Christ showed the way. He took a human body, and in that body demonstrated the power of God. Men are to follow His example and prove that what God did in Christ, He can do in every human being who submits to Him. The world is waiting for this demonstration (Rom. 8:19).


When it has been accomplished, the end will come. God will have fulfilled His plan. He will have shown Himself true and Satan a liar. His government will stand vindicated."13

As if M. L. had not been sufficiently shaken, he read other statements in the Barnhouse article that disturbed him: "The position of the Adventists seems to some of us in certain cases to be a new position; to them it may be merely the position of the majority group of sane leadership which is determined to put the brakes on any members who seek to hold views divergent from that of the responsible leadership of the denomination."14 "Put the brakes on" and "divergent views" sounded, M. L. wrote later, like a return to the days of the Inquisition. He must not be reading correctly.

M. L. went back to the first page of the reprint and reread a statement concerning variant teachings in the church regarding the mark of the beast and the human nature of Christ. In regard to these teachings, the Adventist brethren were described as stating to Mr. Martin "that they had among their number certain members of their 'lunatic fringe' even as there are similar wild-eyed irresponsibles in every field of fundamental Christianity. This action of the Seventh-day Adventists was indicative of similar steps that were taken subsequently."15

This last sentence Andreasen apparently considered a call to take up sentinel duty.

Soon The Ministry magazine announced that greatly enlarged answers to Mr. Martin's questions were in the process of being prepared and would be published in book form:

"This editor's office in the General Conference


building proved a hallowed spot where some six earnest men, sometimes more, sat around the table searching the precious Word of God. . . . It was soon realized that if these questions and answers could be published, it would aid greatly in making clear our position on the major phases of our belief."16

A subsequent article explained the process used in preparing the book:

"Probably no other book published by this denomination has been so carefully read by so large a group of responsible men of the denomination before its publication as the one under consideration. Some 250 men in America and in other countries received copies of the manuscript before it was published. The preliminary manuscript work by a group of some fourteen individuals had been so carefully prepared that only a minimum of suggestions of improvement were made. There was, however, a remarkable chorus of approval."17

Who were these 250 men who had received copies before publication? Andreasen wondered. The answer was in The Ministry.

"The manuscript, after being carefully studied by a large group here, was sent to our leadership in all the world divisions. In addition, it went to the Bible teachers in our senior colleges and the editors of our major journals. Copies were also sent to our union and local conference leaders in North America."18

According to M. L.'s friends, it greatly bothered him that anyone would think that sheer numbers could necessarily add up to expertise. No post in the church automatically made a man a theologian. It was not the task of men whose major work was administrative to be arbiters of truth.


Such men were elected to see that the business of the church was carried on in an efficient manner. An administrator had no more right to assume the role of a theologian than a theologian had the right to assume the role of an administrator. For even though the ability might be there, training and experience was, in most cases, lacking. So theological matters were for those who had been able thoroughly to study the subject over many years. As for college teachers, M. L. had heard some admit that they had not studied the atonement.

One thing M. L. knew: he who probably could have detected serious pitfalls in the presentation of the atonement and of the nature of Christ had not been given the opportunity. Even one unwisely chosen word in a written exposition of truth could cause embarrassment.

M. L. gave consideration as to why he had not been among the 250 readers of the manuscript. He could not deny his age. It was six years since his name had been read for retirement that day at the 1950 General Conference. He had written at that time, "Active service has not ceased. I have no disability." Indeed, it had been all his younger, second wife could do to keep up with him after his retirement. He had been in constant demand as a speaker. She would chauffeur him to as many as four appointments on a Sabbath.

More than two years after M. L. retired, a Review editor made some belated comments under the title "Our Elder Statesmen":

"These living heros of the faith linger with us in the late afternoon of life, and we esteem their counsel a priceless heritage from the past. . . . We think of the vast reservoir of wisdom, sired by experience, in the wide circle of the Fraternity of Retirement. Men's minds do not go into retirement at the time they become eligible for sustentation. Why should


we not draw more often and systematically upon this reservoir of wisdom and experience for counsel to meet the problems of today?"19

Some have thought that another possible reason for M. L.'s not having been among the 250 readers went back to when he had first moved to the Seminary in Washington in 1938. He had been invited to hold evening classes on the sanctuary service, which employees of the Review and Herald and the General Conference had enjoyed attending. Could it have been that other scholars who were not invited to give evening classes on their specialties had felt a bit envious of his popularity as a teacher?

More recently, in connection with his preparing Sabbath school lessons for the first two quarters of 1957, M. L. had been asked to update his commentary, Isaiah, the Gospel Prophet. When the manuscript was ready, M. L. had been told it was not going to be published. The department head who had made the contract had retired, and the Book and Bible House managers had taken the opportunity to vote to have no more lesson helps for a while, possibly because those of recent years had not sold out. Had M. L. not felt it a matter of principle to insist that the publishing house reimburse him the $3,000 he had asked for the expense of his time, secretarial help, and so on, the brethren might have been more kindly disposed toward him.

When Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine came off the press, M. L. read the 720-page volume with care. He was pleased that an adjective he had objected to in a Ministry article, final,20 applied to the atonement on the cross, had


been omitted. But he could not find any reassuring statement, such as had appeared in the article, to the effect that Christ's present ministry in heaven forms an integral part of the atonement.21 Instead of a clear-cut presentation, he found this: "When, therefore, one hears an Adventist say, or reads in Adventist literature容ven in the writings of Ellen G. White葉hat Christ is making atonement now, it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is now making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made on the cross."22

This sentence loomed so large in M. L.'s evaluation that he seemed completely unimpressed by the high scholarship evidenced elsewhere in the book, including such special features as forty-two pages on "Champions of Conditional Immortality," thirty-eight pages on "Basic Principles of Prophetic Interpretation," and two chapters on the scapegoat.

Other matters disturbed M. L., such as the omission from a Sabbath school quarterly on Revelation of the study on the mark of the beast. He connected this with Mr. Martin's contacts with the brethren. Then one day, while he was visiting a former chairman of the E. G. White Board of Trustees, a courtesy copy of the latest minutes arrived. His host passed them over for M. L. to read without having read them himself, just as a matter of interest. M. L.'s eye caught a phrase about appending a few notes to certain Ellen G. White writings, explaining "our understanding of the various phases of the atoning work of Christ."


As the slightest tremor can startle an earthquake survivor, M. L. feared what might happen next. Could not such notes undermine the authority of the Ellen White writings? he asked.

In actuality, the men working with the evangelicals had discovered that the phrase in Early Writings regarding "the benefits of His atonement" had been of great help to those scholars in understanding the sanctuary ministration. The brethren had therefore suggested that this passage might be used as an appendix note or a footnote in a place or two in The Great Controversy. The board chairman was leaving in a few hours for an overseas trip, hence more than a quarter of a year passed before the board decided not to append the notes.

Meanwhile, M. L. had been exchanging letters with headquarters. He was not satisfied with the answers which included, 'T have discussed this with the brethren concerned and would like to leave the matter there." Again, "I have considered the matter to which you have referred as closed."

From this M. L. concluded that he had worn out the welcome for his letters to the leaders in Washington. Under the strong conviction that something must be done, he began mimeographing a series of letters on the atonement, which he mailed to former students, and possibly to others who sent him postage.

M. L. recalled that during his first months as an Adventist, while still in his teens, he had been exposed to discussions among the "Iowa gang" of ministers. He had once commented, "In retrospect I doubt that the meetings I attended were the best for a young convert. ... I was astonished at the freedom with which they discussed personalities." Now, in his own written discussions, he found himself using such sentences as: "Our leaders are on the wrong track." "Pray for the leaders. They are taking upon


themselves more responsibility than they can bear." "They are very near taking the last step. God save His people."23

For M. L. the scholar, the great focal point of the church was sound doctrine, emanating from Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. From the administrative point of view, the great focal point of the church was expressed by the president of the General Conference in his opening talk at the 1957 Spring Council, in which he stated principles that needed emphasis at this time:

"What holds our denomination together? We cannot by force hold a single individual in the church. It is all voluntary. Our people are united because they believe in God's church and in the leadership, be it president or church pastor. We must retain this confidence by our example, by the life we live, the way we live, the way we act, by what we say, and the way we say it. ... We must be earnest, but never extreme, neither fanatical nor overliberal."24

Thus, for the chief administrator, any words directed against the leadership constituted a threat to the very unity of the church.

An administrator is not expected to be an expert on all subjects. He is surrounded by specialists to whom he refers some matters, confident that all will be well taken care of. Therefore, when the chief administrator had received several letters from M. L., he discussed their contents with the specialists then wrote to him stating that he considered the matter closed, and earnestly entreating him to cease his agitation.

M. L. offered to go to Washington for a hearing, on the condition that he could have a copy of the


proceedings. A tape recording was suggested, and he understood that he would receive one. However, further correspondence revealed that it would not be prudent to give him a tape. M. L. thereupon decided that a hearing was impossible.

Other persons besides M. L. were concerned about Questions on Doctrine. One of these affirms that he was authorized by M. L. to print and circulate "Letters to the Churches," rewritten from the atonement messages. This naturally increased the number of readers. Some others reprinted and circulated them without M. L痴 permission, which made it appear that he was abetting their movement.

Through it all, however, M. L. wanted nothing to do with offshoots. It is reported that one day a committee came to his home in Glendale. They wanted him to become the leader of their group. As soon as he understood their mission, he rose up and with all dignity showed his visitors the door.

In June, 1958, the General Conference convened in Cleveland, Ohio. M. L. was conspicuous by his absence; he was not a delegate. But he was apparently in the speakers' thoughts. The opening sermon was on "The Blessedness of Unity." Another was on "The Intercessory Ministry of Christ." On the first Sabbath, near the end of his sermon on "The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints," the reelected president of the General Conference said,

"The sole hope of our salvation, Christ, His atoning sacrifice on Calvary, the final phase of His atoning ministry now going on in the heavenly sanctuary, must by word and voice be clearly proclaimed to the world so that people will understand and appreciate this fundamental Biblical teaching. The sacrifice and ministry of our Lord and Saviour have not been too clearly understood, nor too deeply appreciated, even by our own people. Through a fuller comprehension of it, the preciousness of our


Lord, as well as our own personal relation to Him, will be greatly clarified and enhanced."25

A month before the General Conference session, the Review had carried an associate editor's article, "Can Truth Be Popular?"

"The distinctive truths proclaimed by Seventh-day Adventists for more than a century have never been popular in theological circles, and it is futile to expect that they ever will be. . . . Were Seventh-day Adventists to yield their distinctive teachings in order to win and wear the robe of theological respectability, they would doubtless be accepted by other Christian bodies. But in so doing they would be traitor to the truths that have made them a people. . . . They would no longer be Seventh-day Adventists."26

The editor in chief continued along the same vein nine months later:

"There is a subtle temptation facing Adventists today葉his day of our increasing popularity葉o feel that if we rephrase our beliefs a little, setting them forth in less disturbing form, we can have good fellowship on all sides. . . . Greatly would the evil one like to persuade us to fall into that trap. . . . The Advent message is poles removed from the modern religious thinking that would give us a foggy, inspirational kind of emotion as a substitute for rugged doctrines, and those sharply etched concepts of God and His requirements, that are vital to true religion."27

On January 5, 1960, at the age of 83, M. L. wrote in a personal letter, "I can still see a little, hear a


little, think a little. I go swimming practically every day. I thank God for my health. Also I preach quite regularly, but mostly I write."

Part of his writing was tinged with the critical spirit he had observed in some of those who had been through the 1888 General Conference. The editor in chief wrote in the Review in July of that same year,

"It is incredible that critics should seek to find in the Bible prophets and Mrs. White's writing a precedent for their critical course of action. They stand guilty of presumption in placing themselves on a plane with the prophets. . . . No, the critics are not inspired men."28

M. L. had been acting as a critic because "I knew it was time to sound the alarm. . . . I have received my orders from God, MEET IT, MEET IT. And I must be true to my Lord."29

His faithful wife of more than fifty-two years was no longer by his side to remind him that the Bible prophets were to deliver their message, "whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear." Once they had delivered it, they were to go home. "Annie would have straightened him out in two minutes," it has been observed, "but he refused to go home." Instead, he stood up and shouted all the louder.

During the years of controversy, five of Andreasen's books were regularly listed in the Christian Home Library Series, of which the announcement read: "Each book going into this series was good yesterday, is good today, and will be equally good tomorrow. Each is worthy of a permanent place on your library shelves." After November 17, 1960, this announcement continued to appear in the Review,


but without Andreasen's titles being included in the list. (The book Prayer rejoined the list during the fourth quarter of 1966.)

In spite of his difficulties, the veteran had not lost his spirit of fight nor his sense of humor.

It is a wonderful thing to live in such a time and under such circumstances as these. I am enjoying life as never before. "To be living is sublime." So I will keep on doing what I have done: write a little, rest a little until my good friends think I have given up, am sick, or passed on. Then I come to life again, and continue my work.30

But the denomination could not condone M. L.'s activities. Therefore, on April 6, 1961, the members of the General Conference committee assembled in Spring Council reluctantly voted to suspend his ministerial credentials. This was done for (1) bringing discord and confusion into the ranks by voice and pen, and for (2) refusing to respond favorably to the appeals to make a statement of his differences to the General Conference except on his own particular terms.31 "It was a sad, sad meeting. We all honored Elder Andreasen. We loved him."32

In a personal letter, Andreasen wrote, "As you may know, I have had my credentials 'suspended.' . . . I didn't know about it till later. But I am an SDA . . . I am of good courage. 'Stay by the ship is somewhat hard when they throw you out." He had previously written, "Three times I heard Sister White repeat that, 'Stay by the ship.' Good counsel."

That summer, two former students came to visit him, resolved not to mention his troubles. The first thing he said was, "Well, they've suspended my credentials." With tears in his eyes he added, "I've


not left the church. I have no intention of leaving the church."

But in spite of his second wife's devotion in giving him the best possible physical care, M. L.'s body could not withstand the grief that assailed him, especially during the long nights. He even wrote letters to God. No longer was he permitted to preach even one sermon on Sabbath. That his zeal for what he understood to be the Lord's cause should have gotten him into this predicament was more than he could take. He developed a duodenal ulcer that eventually began to hemorrhage. Less than a week before his death, which occurred on February 19, 1962, he was taken to the hospital. His heart was not strong enough for surgery.

He spent his last night at home praying and weeping over his sad situation relative to the ministry of which he had formed a part for almost sixty years. His wife sent word to the General Conference president, who was in the vicinity at the time, explaining that M. L. wanted to see him. He went, accompanied by the president of the Pacific Union Conference.

The three had met together on previous occasions, when the results had been unsatisfactory. Now they talked together frankly about past experiences and actions. M. L. made it plain that although he differed regarding some of the procedures followed in handling his case, he wanted to be at peace with his brethren and with God. He wanted no animosities. The president responded in kind. Then each prayed. The bitterness was eliminated. At last the old warrior was ready to leave the whole matter in the Lord's care. There were tears of gratitude in his eyes as the visitors left. "Now I can die in peace," he told his wife.

On March 1, 1962, the General Conference Committee voted to restore M. L.'s ministerial


credentials and to list his name in the Yearbook along with the other sustentees. But M. L. never learned of this action; he had already gone to his rest.

Eight months after M. L.'s death, the following "Letter From Our President" appeared in the Review:33

"True faith in God will lead us to believe that when we have brought to the attention of responsible bodies our personal convictions, then God can be depended upon to overrule any errors men or committees might have committed. It is unfortunate for anyone to take the position that if his view is not accepted, the brethren are therefore wrong; and it is doubly wrong for a person to begin to broadcast his view in an endeavor to compel acceptance of it. How much better it is to rely on God to work things out after we have made our proper approaches. As one has well said, 'If God cannot rule, He overrules.' More than once we have seen this happen. But too often we are tempted, like Peter, to strike out on our own with human weapons to defend what we believe to be right. The result usually is confusion and harm to the work we love. . . .

"It would be folly for any leader to maintain that he is above erring or for any board to assume that it is infallible. But 'God leads in a mysterious way His wonders to perform.' . . .

"The prayer of faith is a mighty weapon in the hands of the faithful Christian. We should employ it more. The many earnest prayers of God's people in behalf of His work and church leaders we confidently believe are heard in heaven. He answers in His own divine way, at times even leading His church in what may appear to be the wrong


direction. But we can trust Him to bring His people triumphantly through at last into the Promised Land."

While denominational literature has adopted the phrase "the benefits of His atonement," every effort is put forth to make clear to the world that Seventh-day Adventists believe that an important part of the atonement is taking place in the heavenly sanctuary. A little more than a year after M. L.'s death, F. D. Nichol's Answers to Objections, which M. L. had stated set forth correctly the position of the church on the atonement, was published in a new compact edition, priced to sell widely. In 1969, seven years after his death, four of Andreasen's books were re-published to begin a new library named the Shield Series. These titles read: The Sanctuary Service, The Faith of Jesus, The Sabbath, and A Faith to Live By.

1 Donald Barnhouse, editor, "Are Seventh-day Adventists Christians?" Eternity, Sept., 1956.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ellen G. White, Testimonies (Mountain View, Calif: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1948), vol. 2, p. 211.

5 Barnhouse, op. cit.

6 ". . . which atonement, so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of his [Christ's] work as priest" ("Fundamental Principles," Signs of the Times, June 4, 1874; quoted in L. E. Froom, Movement of Destiny [Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1971], p. 514).

7 White, Early Writings, p. 260.

8 Ibid., p. 253. (Italics supplied.)

9 Ibid., p. 254.

10 White, Signs of the Times, Aug. 25, 1887 (quoted in L. E. Froom, Movement of Destiny, p. 514). (Italics supplied.)

11 覧覧, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1888), p. 489 (quoted in Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine [Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1957], p. 682). (Italics supplied.)

12 M. L. Andreasen, The Sanctuary Service (Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1937), p. 274.

13 Ibid., p. 279.

14 Barnhouse, op. cit.

15 Ibid.

16 R. A. Anderson, "Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine," The Ministry, June, 1957, p. 24.

17 R. R. Figuhr, "Questions on Doctrine," The Ministry, January, 1958, p. 29.

18 Anderson, op. cit.

19 Raymond F. Cottrell, "Our Elder Statesmen," Review and Herald, April 16, 1959.

20 "That is the tremendous scope of the sacrificial act of the cross預 complete, perfect, and final atonement for man's sin."有. E. Froom, "The Priestly Application of the Atoning Act," The Ministry, February, 1957. (Italics supplied.)

21 "The atonement is twofold庸irst a single, comprehensive act, then a continuing process or work of application. . . . It takes the two phases to have a complete, effectual, applied atonement. . . . These [are] two complementary aspects of the one indivisible atonement."Ibid.

22 Questions on Doctrine, pp. 354, 355.

23 Andreasen, "Atonement VII," Jan. 19, 1958, p. 7.

24 Figuhr, " 'A Sound From Heaven,'" The Ministry, June, 1957, p. 26.

25 Figuhr, "The Faith Once Delivered to the Saints," Review and Herald, June 23, 1958, p. 56.

26 Cottrell, "Can Truth Be Popular?" Review and Herald, May 15, 1958.

27 Francis D. Nichol, "Warning Lesson From Bogus Books," Review and Herald, Feb. 26, 1959.

28 Francis D. Nichol, "Are the Critics Also Among the Prophets?" Review and Herald, July 21, 1960.

29 Andreasen, "Suspension Story," p. 1.

30 M. L. Andreasen, "The Living Witness," p. 5.

31 Minutes of the Spring Council filed in General Conference archives.

32 Arthur White, letter to Thomas A. Davis, Oct. 23, 1978.

33 Figuhr, "A Letter From Our President," Review and Herald, Oct. 4, 1962, p. 5.

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